Kafka’s Joke Book

By John McNamee (from https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/kafkas-joke-book )


Why did the chicken cross the road?

It had been crossing so long it could not remember. As it stopped in the middle to look back, a car sped by, spinning it around. Disoriented, the chicken realized it could no longer tell which way it was going. It stands there still.


“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?” Alois asked again, more insistently.

And so it went for years. It wasn’t until his deathbed Alois realized he was on the outside of the door.


“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

“I don’t know,” Gregor told the faceless interrogator for the fiftieth time.

“We can’t help you if you won’t work with us. Perhaps another day in the machine will convince you to cooperate.”


What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?

Nothing after Albert’s inexplicable transformation. Every breath was agony.


A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asks, “Why the long face?”

“I was born into servitude, and when I die, my feet will be turned into glue,” replied the horse.

The bartender realized he would not be getting a tip.


[Wearing arrow through head] This arrow does not bring the release I so desperately crave.

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Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

Link to the article in the Washington Post.
April 27, 2012

(Thomas E. Mann is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This essay is adapted from their book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,”)

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.
…snip…

We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

 

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Putin and Bannon (and Trump) agree on the need for “traditionalism” to guard against the loss of national, cultural, religious values & identities

Sometimes the The Atlantic Monthly has articles like this, It’s Putin’s World, that just change your basic understanding of the world.

In this case, Putin has inverted the Cold War narrative. Back in Soviet times, the West was the enemy of godlessness. Today, it’s the Russian leader who seeks to snuff out that supposed threat.

Putin and Bannon both share the view that (quoting Putin):

…many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization.  They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious, and even sexual …

By succumbing to secularism, the West was trending toward “chaotic darkness” and a “return to a primitive state.”

What’s tough to get your head around is that a significant portion of middle America feels the same way and feels strongly that the Trump administration is the only one listening.

And middle America feels in sync with Putin’s defense of traditional national, cultural and religious identities.   By mid 2016 86% of Republicans did not view Putin unfavorably.

Is Trump really sucking up to Russia because they’re ideological buddies?  I.e,, not just because of financial leverage or straight blackmail.   Wow.

And look how this plays out for the Trump administration.  According to Bannon:

“We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what [Putin’s] talking about as far as traditionalism goes,” Bannon said. He shared Putin’s vision of a world disastrously skidding off the tracks—“a crisis both of our Church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” The word crisis is used so promiscuously that it can lose meaning, but not in this case. “We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict,” Bannon said, exhorting his audience to “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”

Just to be clear, “the new barbarity” here includes liberalism, secularism, acceptance of alternative sexualties, and godless capitalism.   And the only way to cure it is with a “brutal and bloody conflict”

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Six Reasons for Trump’s Rise that No One Talks about

The actual article’s title is How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind

The six themes are:

  1. It’s Not About Red And Blue States — It’s About The Country Vs. The City
  2. City People Are From A Different Goddamned Planet
  3. Trends Always Start In The Cities — And Not All Of Them Are Good
  4. The Rural Areas Have Been Beaten To Sh*t
  5. Everyone Lashes Out When They Don’t Have A Voice
  6. A**holes Are Heroes

The article concludes:

“It feels good to dismiss people, to mock them, to write them off as deplorables. But you might as well take time to try to understand them, because I’m telling you, they’ll still be around long after Trump is gone.”

 

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America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide.

From the article “Farewell, America” by Bill Moyers:

America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.

Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently. We are likely to be a pariah country. And we are lost for it. As I surveyed the ruin of that country this gray Wednesday morning, I found weary consolation in W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939, which concludes:

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

I hunt for that affirming flame.

This generally has been called the “hate election” because everyone professed to hate both candidates. It turned out to be the hate election because, and let’s not mince words, of the hatefulness of the electorate. In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us.

We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist.

If there is a single sentence that characterizes the election, it is this: “He says the things I’m thinking.” That may be what is so terrifying. Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities? Who knew that after years of seeming progress on race and gender, tens of millions of white Americans lived in seething resentment, waiting for a demagogue to arrive who would legitimize their worst selves and channel them into political power? Perhaps we had been living in a fool’s paradise. Now we aren’t.

This country has survived a civil war, two world wars and a Great Depression. There are many who say we will survive this, too. Maybe we will, but we won’t survive unscathed. We know too much about each other to heal. No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things. Nor can we pretend that democracy works and that elections have more-or-less happy endings. Democracy only functions when its participants abide by certain conventions, certain codes of conduct and a respect for the process.

the article continues with more, and then ends with:

But the disempowered media may have one more role to fill: They must bear witness. Many years from now, future generations will need to know what happened to us and how it happened. They will need to know how disgruntled white Americans, full of self-righteous indignation, found a way to take back a country they felt they were entitled to and which they believed had been lost. They will need to know about the ugliness and evil that destroyed us as a nation after great men like Lincoln and Roosevelt guided us through previous crises and kept our values intact. They will need to know, and they will need a vigorous, engaged, moral media to tell them. They will also need us.

We are not living for ourselves anymore in this country. Now we are living for history.

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Autocracy: Rules for Survival (nybooks.com)

Autocracy: Rules for Survival

  • Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.
  • Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
  • Rule #3: Institutions will not save you.
  • Rule #4: Be outraged.
  • Rule #5: Don’t make compromises.
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No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along – Charles Blow’s uncompromising rejection of Trump after Trump’s apparently conciliatory meeting at the New York Times

No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along

You don’t get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can’t simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never — never — forget that.

I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather to speak up for truth and honor and inclusion. This isn’t just about you, but also about the moral compass of those who see you for who and what you are, and know the darkness you herald is only held at bay by the lights of truth.

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The Electoral College Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President (The Atlantic)

The Electoral College Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President

As Michael Signer explains in his book, the framers were particularly afraid of the people choosing a demagogue. The electors, Hamilton believed, would prevent someone with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from becoming president. And they would combat “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” They would prevent America’s adversaries from meddling in its elections. The founders created the Electoral College, in other words, in part to prevent the election of someone like Donald Trump.

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The Right Way to Resist Trump (NYTimes)

The Right Way to Resist Trump

..the Berlusconi parallel could offer an important lesson in how to avoid transforming a razor-thin victory into a two-decade affair.  Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.

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Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy (Wash Post)

I think this article from the Washington Post pretty much sums it up for me:

Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.

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