Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015


What exactly is Neoliberalism?
The most common criticisms of neoliberalism, regarded solely as economic policy rather than as the broader phenomenon of a governing rationality, are that it generates and legitimates extreme inequalities of wealth and life conditions; that it leads to increasingly precarious and disposable populations; that it produces an unprecedented intimacy between capital (especially finance capital) and states, and thus permits domination of political life by capital; that it generates crass and even unethical commercialization of things rightly protected from markets, for example, babies, human organs, or endangered species or wilderness; that it privatizes public goods and thus eliminates shared and egalitarian access to them; and that it subjects states, societies, and individuals to the volatility and havoc of unregulated financial markets.

Each of these is an important and objectionable effect of neoliberal economic policy. But neoliberalism also does profound damage to democratic practices, cultures, institutions, and imaginaries. Here’s where thinking about neoliberalism as a governing rationality is important: this rationality switches the meaning of democratic values from a political to an economic register. Liberty is disconnected from either political participation or existential freedom, and is reduced to market freedom unimpeded by regulation or any other form of government restriction. Equality as a matter of legal standing and of participation in shared rule is replaced with the idea of an equal right to compete in a world where there are always winners and losers.

The promise of democracy depends upon concrete institutions and practices, but also on an understanding of democracy as the specifically political reach by the people to hold and direct powers that otherwise dominate us. Once the economization of democracy’s terms and elements is enacted in law, culture, and society, popular sovereignty becomes flatly incoherent. In markets, the good is generated by individual activity, not by shared political deliberation and rule. And, where there are only individual capitals and marketplaces, the demos, the people, do not exist.
Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos, Zone Books
Neoliberal rationality — ubiquitous today in statecraft and the workplace, in jurisprudence, education, and culture — remakes everything and everyone in the image of homo oeconomicus. What happens when this rationality transposes the constituent elements of democracy into an economic register? In vivid detail, Wendy Brown explains how democracy itself is imperiled. The demos disintegrates into bits of human capital; concerns with justice cede to the mandates of growth rates, credit ratings, and investment climates; liberty submits to the imperative of human capital appreciation; equality dissolves into market competition; and popular sovereignty grows incoherent. Liberal democratic practices may not survive these transformations. Radical democratic dreams may not either.
Zone is known as a boutique publisher of academic high theory, and following the logic of boutique publishers of art and design, they put their designers' names up front.
It's standard issue elite vanguardism, and a model of the neoliberal imagination. The aestheticization of everything, including politics.
World-leading visionary, innovator, designer and author, Bruce Mau is committed to creative, healthy, ecological and economic abundance. His 25-year record of success through design thinking includes collaborations with such groups as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, MTV, MOMA, Herman Miller, Shaw Industries, The New Meadowlands Stadium, American Airlines Arena, Arizona State University, and countries such as Guatemala, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia.

Mau is the author and designer for several award-winning books, including Life Style; S, M, L, XL (in collaboration with Rem Koolhaas) and the iconic and celebrated ZONE BOOKS series. Translated into 17 languages, Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth has been an inspiration with his aphoristic articulation of his personal philosophy and design strategies.
Political theory is political design. Political participation requires a political art, a subjective self-aware engagement in real time. Design can be no more than as aestheticized functionalism, the definition of culture under the technocratic logic of which neoliberalism is the capitalist apotheosis. As in the prescriptions of and the performativity of theory, the practice is bounded by strict necessity.
So, too, our Collegiate Gothic, which may be seen in its most resolutely picturesque (and expensive) phase at Yale, is more relentlessly Gothic than Chartres, whose builders didn't even know they were Gothic and missed so many chances for quaint effect.
Theory, design, illustration, as opposed to art (and architecture): democracy requires more than the first order curiosity of functionalism. Virtue ethics can exist only as practice and require curiosity in layers, a second order curiosity that feeds on and demands both experience and art: hypotheticals that bleed, that draw us in and surprise us or terrify us. Democracies like aristocracies are maintained by people with a flexible, permeable, consciousness and self-definition of which academics more and more are incapable, even as their arguments more and more point in the right direction.

Brown describes the practice of democracy and the idea of participation, while placing herself above as an observer of the participation, or lack thereof, of others. She's incapable within the logic of her own self-definition of practicing what she preaches, even as what she preaches is on point.

I'm seeing a lot more history titles, including some that sound lovely.  They publish one book by an author I quote too often, and I have no problem with well made books; I'm bourgeois and good design is good design. But history is an art, and the hierarchy is clear to historians if not -I repeat again and again and again- to philosophers. Foster is still an editor at October and I'm not going to go read him again, but maybe things are moving faster. It's a corollary to the fading of theory even as described by theorists, as both are corollaries of the return of respectable intellectualism outside the groves and shadows of academe. And maybe at some level they've realized to their chagrin that much of the academy has taken Bruce Mau as an ideal, and that Caroline Bynum is a better one.

I've used the MacDonald quote enough, but it belongs with posts on Clement Greenberg and Eliot
And Broch
And the ethical demand made of the artist is, as always, to produce “good” works, and only the dilettante and the producer of kitsch (whom we meet here for the first time) focus their work on beauty. 
I just realized after all this time, that I've never made a tag for Kitsch. Now I have.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A repeat from 2010.

Read it out loud, to yourself if no one else is around.

Huizinga, The Waning Of the Middle Ages
Chapter One: The Violent Tenor Of Life
To the world when it was half a thousand years younger, the outlines of all things seemed more clearly marked than to us. The contrast between suffering and joy, between adversity and happiness, appeared more striking. All experience had yet to the minds of men the directness and absoluteness of the pleasure and pain of child-life. Every event, every action, was still embodied in expressive and solemn forms, which raised them to the dignity of a ritual. For it was not merely the great facts of birth, marriage and death which, by the sacredness of the sacrament, were raised to the rank of mysteries; incidents of less importance, like a journey, a task, a visit, were equally attended by a thousand formalities: benedictions, ceremonies, formulae.

Calamities and indigence were more afflicting than at present; it was more difficult to guard against them, and to find solace. Illness and health presented a more striking contrast; the cold and darkness of winter were more real evils. Honours and riches were relished with greater avidity and contrasted more vividly with surrounding misery. We, at the present day, can hardly understand the keenness with which a fur coat, a good fire on the hearth, a soft bed, a glass of wine, were formerly enjoyed.

Then, again, all things in life were of a proud or cruel publicity. Lepers sounded their rattles and went about in processions, beggars exhibited their deformity and their misery in churches. Every order and estate, every rank and procession, was distinguished by its costume. The great lords never moved about without a glorious display of arms and liveries, exciting fear and envy. Executions and other public acts of justice, hawking, marriages and funerals, were all announced by cries and processions, songs and music. The lover wore the colours of his lady ; companions the emblem of their confraternity ; parties and servants the badges or blazon of their lords. Between town and country, too, the contrast was very marked. A medieval town did not lose itself in extensive suburbs of factories and villas ; girded by its walls, it stood forth as a compact whole, bristling with innumerable turrets. However tall and threatening the houses of noblemen or merchants might be, in the aspect of the town the lofty mass of the churches always remained dominant

The contrast between silence and sound, darkness and light, like that between summer and winter, was more strongly marked than it is in our lives. The modern town hardly knows silence or darkness in their purity, nor the effect of a solitary light or a single distant cry.

All things presenting themselves to the mind in violent contrasts and impressive forms, lent a tone of excitement and of passion to everyday life and tended to produce that perpetual oscillation between despair and distracted joy, between cruelty and pious tenderness, which characterize life in the Middle Ages.

One sound rose ceaselessly above the noises of busy life and lifted all things unto a sphere of order and serenity: the sound of bells. The bells were in daily life like good spirits, which by their familiar voices, now called upon the citizens to mourn and now to rejoice, now warned them of danger, now exhorted them to piety. They were known by their names: big Jacqueline, or the bell Roland. Every one knew the difference in meaning of the various ways of ringing. However continuous the ringing of the bells, people would seem not to have become blunted to the effect of their sound.

Throughout the famous judicial duel between two citizens of Valenciennes, in 1465, the big bell, "which is hideous to hear," says Chastellain, never stopped ringing. What intoxication the pealing of the bells of all the churches, and of all the monasteries of Paris, must have produced, sounding from morning till evening, and even during the night, when a peace was concluded or a pope elected.

The frequent processions, too, were a continual source of pious agitation. When the times were evil, as they often were, processions were seen winding along, day after day, for weeks on end. In 1412 daily processions were ordered in Paris, to implore victory for the king, who had taken up the oriflamme against the Armagnacs. They lasted from May to July, and were formed by ever-varying orders and corporations, going always by new roads, and always carrying different relics. The Burgher of Paris calls them " the most touching processions in the memory of men." People looked on or followed, " weeping piteously, with many tears, in great devotion." All went barefootted and fasting, councillors of the Parlement as well as the poorer citizens. Those who could afford it, carried a torch or a taper. A great many small children were always among them. Poor country-people of the environs of Paris came barefooted from afar to join the procession. And nearly every day the rain came down in torrents.

Then there were the entries of princes, arranged with all the resources of art and luxury belonging to the age. And, lastly, most frequent of all, one might almost say, uninterrupted, the executions. The cruel excitement and coarse compassion raised by an execution formed an important item in the spiritual food of the common people. They were spectacular plays with a moral. For horrible crimes the law invented atrocious punishments. At Brussels a young incendiary and murderer is placed in the centre of a circle of burning fagots and straw, and made fast to a stake by means of a chain running round an iron ring. He addresses touching words to the spectators, "and he so softened their hearts that every one burst into tears and his death was commended as the finest that was ever seen." During the Burgundian terror in Paris in 1411, one of the victims, Messire Mansart du Bois, being requested by the hangman, according to custom, to forgive him, is not only ready to do so with all his heart, but begs the executioner to embrace him." There was a great multitude of people, who nearly all wept hot tears."

When the criminals were great lords, the common people had the satisfaction of seeing rigid justice done, and at the same time finding the inconstancy of fortune exemplified more strikingly than in any sermon or picture. ...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

addendum to the post below on arguments over the politics of "religious liberty". 

I'd forgotten about Kelo

Friday, April 17, 2015

Perry Link
In teaching Chinese-language courses to American students, which I have done about thirty times, perhaps the most anguishing question I get is “Professor Link, what is the Chinese word for ______?” I am always tempted to say the question makes no sense. Anyone who knows two languages moderately well knows that it is rare for words to match up perfectly, and for languages as far apart as Chinese and English, in which even grammatical categories are conceived differently, strict equivalence is not possible. Book is not shu, because shu, like all Chinese nouns, is conceived as an abstraction, more like “bookness,” and to say “a book” you have to say, “one volume of bookness.” Moreover shu, but not book, can mean “writing,” “letter,” or “calligraphy.” On the other hand you can “book a room” in English; you can’t shu one in Chinese. 
I tell my students that there are only two kinds of words they can safely regard as equivalents: words for numbers (excepting integers under five, the words for which have too many other uses) and words that are invented expressly for the purpose of serving as equivalents, like xindiantu (heart-electric-chart) for “electrocardiogram.” I tell them their goal in Chinese class should be to set aside English and get started with thinking in Chinese.
You cannot "translate" Mallarmé or Pushkin.
You cannot "translate" Mallarmé or Pushkin.
You cannot "translate" Mallarmé or Pushkin.
You cannot "translate" Mallarmé or Pushkin.


How many times do you repeat the obvious?
Claire Messud
One of the most widely read French novels of the twentieth century, Albert Camus’s L’Étranger, carries, for American readers, enormous significance in our cultural understanding of midcentury French identity. It is considered—to what would have been Camus’s irritation—the exemplary existentialist novel.

Yet most readers on this continent (and indeed, most of Camus’s readers worldwide) approach him not directly, but in translation. For many years, Stuart Gilbert’s 1946 version was the standard English text. In the 1980s, it was supplanted by two new translations—by Joseph Laredo in the UK and Commonwealth, and by Matthew Ward in the US. Ward’s highly respected version rendered the idiom of the novel more contemporary and more American, and an examination of his choices reveals considerable thoughtfulness and intuition.

Each translation is, perforce, a reenvisioning of the novel: a translator will determine which Meursault we encounter, and in what light we understand him. Sandra Smith—an American scholar and translator at Cambridge University, whose previous work includes the acclaimed translation of Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française—published in the UK in 2012 an excellent and, in important ways, new version of L’Étranger.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Onion. Americas Finest News Network

WASHINGTON—After several seconds spent sitting motionless and glaring directly into the camera, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly began Sunday’s video announcing her 2016 presidential bid by warning the nation not to fuck this up for her. “Listen up, assholes, ’cause I’m only saying this once: I’ve worked way too goddamn hard to let you morons blow this thing for me,” said Clinton, repeatedly jabbing her index finger toward the viewers at home while adding that if they thought she was going to simply sit back and watch them dick her over like they did in 2008, they were out of their fucking minds. “Seriously, don’t you dare even think about it. If you shitheads can just get in line, we can breeze through this whole campaign in 19 months and be done with it. Or, if you really want, we can do this the hard way. Because make no mistake, I’m not fucking around. Got it?” Clinton then ended her announcement by vowing to fight for a better future for all working-class families like the one she grew up in.
Duncan Black, 2013: "I like Hillary Clinton. I worried a bit about some of the idiots she has surrounded herself with. But happy for her to run."

Duncan Black, April 2015: It's "Not Too Late" for someone else.

repeat from 2008, not for the first time [some of the links might be dead]
I finally watched this yesterday

"It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know... I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards. You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political it's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it. And some people think elections are a game, they think it's like who's up or who's down. It's about our country. It's about our kids' futures, and it's really about all of us together. You know, some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds, and we do it, each one of us because we care about our country but some of us are right and some of us are wrong, some of us are ready and some of us are not, some of us know what we will do on day one and some of us haven't thought that through enough.
Dowd: Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?

Atrios responding to Dowd: "Because only boys are allowed to cry. Or something. These people are all broken. Complete monsters."

Gitlin: Hillary Teared--and Edwards Blinked

Pollitt: Hillary Shows Feeling, is Slammed

Listen to Clinton's words, and ask yourself what exactly she's crying over. The response has been based on the assumption that Clinton was describing and reacting to the pressure of campaigning itself, but that's not it.
"You know... I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards."
She's crying because she's scared of what will happen to the country if she doesn't win. Dowd hints at this and no one else even comes close, but it's front and center: "It's not easy" trying to save us from ourselves. The performance and response have been equally embarrassing to watch. Does Clinton even know what she's doing? Does Katha Pollitt?

Hillary Clinton suffers from being a Clinton, as well as having one of the most unappealing public personae of a national politician in recent memory. Dick Cheney is creepier and scarier, to be sure, but "fake" is the only word that captures the impression Ms. Clinton makes every time she opens her mouth.
Interesting that Leiter of all people should be so observant. He has an instinctive understanding of psychology, reading performance for subtext, but he's unwilling to read that back into his larger intellectual interests, or his understanding of his own behavior.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Belle Waring undermines every argument by every "philosopher" and social "scientist" at Crooked Timber, but no one notices, least of all her.
My mom worked at MCI negotiating real estate rights so that they could put up cell towers and ensure coverage. Sometimes property holders had them over a barrel because there was nowhere else for miles around; at other times they had their choice of spots. She had a great team who was intensely loyal to her. Did her manager understand what the fuck her job even was about? Sort of. But did his manager understand even vaguely how to do her job, or what doing it successfully would mean? NO. Not even a little. They would issue conflicting diktats within weeks. They demanded she cut overall money paid out in her unit 10% by giving the appropriate number of workers unwarranted bad performance reviews. She took most of the pay cut herself and divided the remainder evenly among her team; the business, not understanding the source of her underlings loyalty and effectiveness, would shift them out to failing teams and then not understand why they didn’t do great there. My mom was not a math person or a law person or anything; she had been a serious, I’m living in a commune run by Dennis Hopper hippie who had to learn on the series of jobs she hustled, from paralegal up through to this serious managerial position. It’s wrong to conceptualizer this in terms of noble engineers and quants who can do math vs evil Liberal Arts-trained bosses who can’t. It’s just the normal office workers of the world vs Dilbert’s pointy-headed boss. And if anything your infuriating manager is an MBA, not an English Lit. major.
repeat here and elsewhere: the only ethic of service commonly recognized in the US is the military. "I served" or "Did you serve" refer to military service.

I've said before the Waring is the smartest one of the bunch. If she focused she might be a good writer, but she's lazy and also in a lot of pain, physically and psychologically. I don't blame her for copping out, but it leaves her open to a kind of criticism that others can avoid.

As long as I'm playing art critic to the authors at CT. Quiggin is a good photographer.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


"Yes but the point is, surely… This is the point of blank verse, "The lady shall speak her mind freely, or the blank verse will halt for it."  Hamlet says this. You don't have to think; you think after the line, not before it, or not during. The line is the thought. This is the point of iambic pentameter."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Delacroix, (1850)
14 February
I am beginning to feel a violent dislike for people like Schubert, the dreamers like Chateaubriand (this began a long while ago), Lamartine, etc. Why will nothing of theirs endure? Because it is utterly untrue. Does a lover gaze at the moon when he is holding his mistress in his arms? It may be an excellent plan when one begins to grow tired of her! Lovers do not weep together, they make no hymns to infinity, and very few descriptions.  The hours of true enchantment pass so swiftly, and they are not spent like that. The sentiments in the Méditations are false, as they are also in Raphael, by the same author. These vague yearnings, this chronic melancholy, describe no real human being; it is the school of sickly sentiment and a very poor advertisement for it. Yet women pretend to be infatuated with all this nonsense. It must surely be out of modesty, for they know perfectly well what to believe about the real issue in love. They praise the writers of odes and invocations, but attract and deliberately seek out healthy men who are responsive to their charms.

Mme P[otocka] called today, with her sister Princess de B[eaveau]. She at once noticed the nudes, the Femme impertinente and the Femme qui se peigne. 'What is it that you artists, all you men, find so attractive in this?' she said. 'What makes it more interesting to you than any other object in its nude or crude state; an apple, for instance?' 

Friday, April 10, 2015

update to a recent post: "The humanists who followed the scholastics did not need the pronunciato, and no one has needed it since."

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The romance of orthodoxy is mannerism

Arguments over "religious liberty" are a waste of time. Liberals are as confused as conservatives.

Holbo quotes Dreher
On the conservative side, said Kingsfield [Dreher’s pseudonymous law prof. correspondent], Republican politicians are abysmal at making a public case for why religious liberty is fundamental to American life.
“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate it, and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”

Kingsfield said that the core of the controversy, both legally and culturally, is the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992), specifically the (in)famous line, authored by Justice Kennedy, that at the core of liberty is “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” As many have pointed out — and as Macintyre well understood — this “sweet mystery of life” principle (as Justice Scalia scornfully characterized it) kicks the supporting struts out from under the rule of law, and makes it impossible to resolve rival moral visions except by imposition of power.

“Autonomous self-definition is at the root of all this,” Prof. Kingsfield said. We are now at the point, he said, at which it is legitimate to ask if sexual autonomy is more important than the First Amendment.
For liberals like myself, this is a topsy-turvy view. I think of religious liberty as an aspect of individual liberty. I’m not sure I endorse Kennedy’s exact phraseology, but it’s close enough for government work. Dreher and Kingsfield take almost the opposite view. For them religious liberty functions as a check or curb on individual liberty. Their concern is to maintain a safe space for orthodoxy. This is quite explicit later in the post.
The professor brought up the book The Nurture Assumption, a book that explains how culture is transmitted to kids. 
“Basically, it says that culture comes through your peer group,” he said. “The most important thing is to make sure your kids are part of a peer group where their peers believe the same things. Forming a peer group is hard when it’s difficult to network and find other parents who believe what you do.”
Individual liberty and the state: Wickard v. Filburn is foundational to modern liberalism.
repeats of repeats. The same points in different contexts.
And again, as to the New Deal, both modern liberals and conservatives ignore that the biggest result was the economic unification of the country. Most modern conservatives are in favor of US economic dominance, and without Wickard v. Filburn and other decisions the US would not have become what it is. Similarly the civil rights cases had as much to do with economic efficiency, and liberal self-love, as concern. Read Derrick Bell’s dissent in What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said. Capitalism requires the collapse of public and private; private life has shrunk and continues to.
As to liberal pretensions: Wickard v. Filburn helped secure US domination of the post-war world. Democracy might have been stronger if the decision had gone the other way. And then there's Derrick Bell on Brown. [not the same link as above]
The market trumps community and individualism, collective and individual conscience, always.

The romance of orthodoxy is mannerism. Rawlsian scholasticism is mannerism, not modernism.

"Mr. Chesterton’s brain swarms with ideas; I see no evidence that it thinks."

etc. etc.  And I'm still getting hits from the LRB, a fair number from the Oxford Union. I'll be in London in a month. You should invite me.

see also the ACLU's contradictions.
When Christian educator Bill Jack ordered a cake last year from Azucar, a Denver bakery, he had a special decoration request for owner Marjorie Silva. He wanted the cake to say "God Hates Gays" with a drawing to match. Silva refused, and now she's facing a half-baked complaint from Jack alleging he was the victim of religious discrimination.

Jack and others are touting this as equivalent to what happened at Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012, and they are pointing to both cases as reasons to support laws allowing businesses to discriminate against gay couples. As you have likely heard by now, Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips turned away gay couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins from shopping for wedding cakes, citing his faith as the reason. The couple filed a discrimination complaint and the ACLU stepped in to represent them. An administrative judge and then the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that yes, they had suffered illegal discrimination. Masterpiece and Phillips are now appealing that decision.
Also Volokh
But while Jack has succeeded in getting publicity for his cause, he doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. Colorado law bans discrimination by a wide range of businesses, but only when the discrimination is based on “disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry.” This means that a store may not specifically refuse to sell cakes to gays, or sell them to (say) Baptists. It may well mean that it may not specifically refuse to sell cakes for use in same-sex marriages, or in Baptist events. It may even mean that it may not specifically refuse to inscribe messages that identify buyers as gay (e.g., “John and Bill’s marriage”), or as Baptist (e.g., “Baptist Church Picnic”).

But nothing in the law bans discrimination based on ideology more broadly. A store can refuse to sell to someone because he’s a Nazi, or a Communist, or pro-life, or pro-choice, or pro-gay-rights, or anti-gay-rights. A store can likewise refuse to inscribe cakes with Nazi, Communist, pro-life, pro-choice, pro-gay-rights, or anti-gay-rights messages, if it’s discriminating based on the ideology of the message, rather than the religiosity of the buyer.

Here, there’s no reason to think that Azucar Bakery discriminated against Jack because of his religion, or even because of the religiosity of his message (though I don’t think discrimination based on religiosity of message is barred by the law in any event). I suspect that if the message had read “Gay is unnatural” or “Gay is disgusting” — with no reference to religion — Azucar would have refused to write that message, too. To win on a religious discrimination claim, Jack would have to prove that he would have been served based on his religion, and he can’t do that if the Azucar people credibly testify that they would have rejected such an anti-gay message regardless of whether or not it was religious. (Nor can Jack argue that this was “creed” discrimination; in such statutes, “creed” simply means “religion.”)

I do think there are serious Free Speech Clause problems with some application of public accommodation discrimination laws, such as to wedding photographers; but that is a separate matter. Here, the law simply doesn’t even purport to prohibit refusals to write messages on cakes based on the messages’ ideology.
Volokh links to Volokh
I’m pleased to report that I filed a friend-of-the-court brief, on behalf of the Cato Institute, Dale Carpenter, and myself, arguing that wedding photographers (and other speakers) have a First Amendment right to choose what expression they create, including by choosing not to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies.
According to the logics above, religion is distinct from ideology and people are separable from their beliefs. The latter is easier in some cases than others: are the Jews a people?"

"Affirmative action" was and is problematic. The simplest way to apply it would be to base it on economic status, but that would never pass. Think of what would have happened if Reconstruction meant 40 acres and a mule for freedmen and for poor white trash.

In the US, you can be fired for membership in a political party.

Pedantry is lousy model for politics and an even worse model for politics in a democracy.
more above.

And I'd forgotten about Kelo

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

"They're letting a Jew in the building"

Corey Robin: Do the Jews Really Not Belong in the United States?
Last September, Joe Biden spoke to a group of invited guests, including leading American Jews, about Israel as a haven for American Jews:
Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.
I found that a rather stunning comment from a sitting vice president. So I wrote about it for my column at Salon.
Yet no one has remarked upon the fact of a sitting vice president telling a portion of the American citizenry that they cannot count on the United States government as the ultimate guarantor of their freedom and safety. The Constitution, which the vice president is sworn to uphold, guarantees to American citizens the “Blessings of Liberty” and equal protection of the law. Despite that, despite “how deeply involved” Jews “are in the United States,” the occupant of the second-highest office in the land believes that American Jews should look to a foreign government as the foundation of their rights and security.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner: Some thoughts on being Jewish in contemporary polite society
There is much talk going around now about so-called Jewish privilege: That we can blend in, that we’ve “made it” here in America. But privilege only exists when you’re comparing one people to another people, and I’m not sure why we do that. Does anyone benefit from this kind of one-upsmanship? I would not trade my problems—which, to be clear, are that the country that I can flee to for asylum is under threat of nuclear annihilation by Iran and random, unprovoked attack by its neighbors—with anyone else’s. It sucks all around.

Privilege has two meanings: One is that those who are privileged are elevated somehow. The other is that they are different. I renounce the notion that Jews—Jews, being told to stay home from their synagogues for their safety, Jews being kept out of schools and ridiculed in the street, all this, right now in Europe—have the first kind of privilege. But the second, we have it in droves:

It is my Jewish privilege to have very few blood relatives because the rest of them were murdered in the Holocaust. It’s my privilege to have to keep my mouth shut at casually racist remarks, because “you know what I mean, like a JAP, everyone says it.” It is my privilege to have thought twice about accompanying a celebrity to Paris as I profiled him, then let the clock run down on the offer so that I could only interview in Los Angeles. It is my Jewish privilege that the word lampshade makes me cringe, that the word camp—camp!—makes me cringe. It is my privilege to always wonder what I should have been doing differently, how I am a disgrace to the martyrs of the Holocaust because my outrage and sadness is confined to my Direct Messages.
Various repeats
"...as a German Jew living in the Netherlands and working in Belgium, I really do not need your lectures on these matters." 
"...my own expected happy homecoming into German society wasn't necessarily working out as planned. One of the teachers at the Gymnasium told me that Heinrich Heine wasn't really a German' poet, but rather was a 'European' poet. My absurdly well-meaning and wonderful hostfather regularly repeated that 'Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland' " 
Jews still don’t believe that the world won’t turn on them. It’s hardwired into their systems. They can’t accept that the Holocaust is a distant memory for most of the world’s population and they get upset when they are not perceived as perennial victims, even though they hardly look like victims anymore. But historical memory today is almost an oxymoron. People hardly remember the Vietnam War, and even 9/11 is a starting to be a fading memory for younger Americans.”  
"We are living in a time of exploding nationalisms. The blacks in America are the first to abjure the idea of assimilation, to realize the inherent lie in the concept of melting pot. Through black nationalism has developed a new black pride and hence the ticket to liberation

Today’s young American Jew is a good bit slower. He desperately wants assimilation: Jewishness embarrasses him. He finds the idea of Jewish nationalism, Israel not­ withstanding, laughable. The leftist Jewish student is today’s Uncle Tom. He scrapes along, demons­trating for a John Hatchett, asham­ed of his identity, and obsessed with it. He cannot accept the fact that he is seen as a Jew, that his destiny is that of the Jews, and that his only effectiveness is as a Jew. But he wants to be an 'American,' a left­ist American, talking liberation and aspiring WASP. He is a ludicrous figure." 
"There are a lot of jews on the upper east side. But while I was walking down 84th street in the early 90’s (on lunch from a job site) I passed two well dressed old women leaving a building. One commented to the other: 'They’re letting a jew in the building' 
It’s still an issue."
I knew I'd told the story somewhere. The post itself is as bad as anything else at CT that relates to class, but a few of the comments are great.

WaPo: Millennials are just about as racist as their parents
When it comes to explicit prejudice against blacks, non-Hispanic white millennials are not much different than whites belonging to Generation X (born 1965-1980) or Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964). White millennials (using a definition of being born after 1980) express the least prejudice on 4 out of 5 measures in the survey, but only by a matter of 1 to 3 percentage points, not a meaningful difference. On work ethic, 31 percent of millennials rate blacks as lazier than whites, compared to 32 percent of Generation X whites and 35 percent of Baby Boomers. (Question wording and methodology at the end).
No fucking shit.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

repeat from November 2013. and a link to the post that followed it.

Two photographs from the Auschwitz Album, images of people on the way to their death. I'm going to use them to discuss art.

I'm tired of people defending art because of something they want it to be. I'm tired of defenses of art as a means of "truth", and the use of that term without irony. The image on the left is made of pixels, as the original is silver halide on paper. And the child depicted was no more or less deserving of concern than the other figures in these photographs. If it's the most affecting image, the most painful to look at, if the child draws our sympathy more than the others, it's because of the presentation: the isolated figure, lagging behind, the slightly oversized head turned away,  the turn making us need to imagine a face, hands in pockets and small legs, an image of adulthood in childhood. If this is the figure we're drawn to, if this is the child we most want to help, whose loneliness in her fate fills us with rage, it's got everything to do with art and nothing to do with justice, or justice as fairness, but the reflex and the anger are part of being animal, and human. We've chosen her as we would choose our own child, because art has given us the illusion that she's close. And the others may mean less to us, or more than they would without her reflected light. Either way, there's no justice. Justice is impersonal; it's blind.

Humanity is in particularity and partiality; the universal is literally inhuman, and there's no way to resolve the contradiction without sacrificing one or the other. The unreflective unity of the particular and universal in the name of religion, the unity of art and science, is barbarism. The contemporary intellectualized and fantasized unity of art and life is fascism. Nietzsche knew the difference, though he didn't always face it, and when he did it was only with words. But unlike Borges who didn't knew the difference, or learned it very late, he left the library at least often enough to die of syphilis. People now confuse barbarism and fascism as they confuse humanism, which allows for contradictions, with anti-humanism, which doesn't. The Enlightenment as it's come down to us is more associated with the latter than the former.

It's inhuman to deny intimacy, even the illusory intimacy of art.  Yet if we communicate only through forms and gestures, the difference between communication of the dead and living and of the living amongst themselves is a difference only of degree.  Good artists know that art's defined by irony because they know that communication itself is defined by it, and it's hard to con a con. And art may be a lie, but it's less of one than claims of artlessness. Art is commitment limned by irony; camp is irony as art; kitsch is camp without irony.

Another example of art, another image that claims our sympathy, of a child with the burdens of adulthood. And the odds are very strong, though still not strong enough, that this girl is still alive.

Only a tiny minority of Israeli Jews fit the description of Nazis, and the state though founded on the ideology of blut und boden, blood and soil, does not fit the description of a Nazi state. But Israel is founded on the ashes and the memories of the survivors of Auschwitz. The victims of extremist particularity, without irony, have themselves become ideological particularists, arguing that irony regarding their own lives is an insult to their memories and to their dead. Israel is founded on particularity as justice, denying the contradiction between particularity, partiality, and universalism. In the minds of most Israelis Israel is just by definition.

Barbarism needs no defense, it simply is; it's dynamic because it's honest, violent because it can be, not because it needs to be. Israel is founded not only on conquest but on the erasure of that conquest, even in the memories of those who committed it. If they could have shrugged it off the state and the society would be stronger than it is, but it was too late: a colonial enterprise in the era of decolonialization was bound to fail.  Fascism was a pedant's parody of monarchy, after the age of monarchy was over. Culture without the possibility of irony is kitsch. The lie of "liberal" Zionism has done more damage to Israel and Zionism than all the attacks and protests of the Palestinians combined.
A repeat from January 2013, because sadly it will never grow old. It's been getting a fair amount of hits recently. Taruskin is smart, but he overplays his hand absurdly.

Richard Taruskin. For use here and maybe elsewhere. Annotations here and in the links.
..."The relation of the music to the action is unaccountable," he thought, unable to comprehend the reason why Shostakovich would have "the heroine and her lover strangle her husband on a large stage-sized four-poster bed to a lively dance tune." But the reason is clear enough: the dance tune is there to dehumanize the husband, and to diminish the heroine's crime to a matter of cruelty to animals at worst. What condemns him is nothing more than the fact of his being a part of Katerina's hated environment: he is the beneficiary of the social system that oppressed his wife, and that suffices to just justify his "liquidation." And all of this is conveyed to us by the music alone….

In one way only was Shostakovich faithful to Leskov: in his shockingly
naturalistic portrayal of Katerina's sexual passion. It is lust, pure and
simple, that he portrays; ignited by a rape, it turns Katerina into a love-slave, giving the lie to the claim that she is a liberated, aggressive woman in an age of feminine passivity, that her audacity is another justification for her crimes. In fact, the carnal theme is exaggerated in the opera beyond anything in Leskov. The rape music reaches its climax with an unmistakable ejaculatio praecox, followed by a leisurely detumescence. The salacious trombone glissandos that portray the behavior of Sergei's member achieved instant world fame when an American magazine dubbed them an exercise in "pornophony."...

"The music croaks and hoots and snorts and pants in order to represent the scenes as naturally as possible. And 'love' in its most vulgar form is daubed all over the opera. The merchant's double bed is the central point on the stage. On it all the 'problems' are solved…. This glorification of merchant-class lasciviousness has been described by some critics as satire. But there can be no question of satire here. The author uses all the means at his disposal and his power of musical and dramatic expression to attract the sympathy of the spectators for the coarse and vulgar aims and actions of the merchant's wife, Katerina Ismailova.  Lady Macbeth is popular among bourgeois audiences abroad. Is it not because the opera is so confused and so entirely free of political bias that it is praised by bourgeois critics? Is it not perhaps because it titillates the depraved tastes of bourgeois audiences with its witching clamorous, neurasthenic music?"
The third paragraph is Stalin. The quote at the top is Elliot Carter.
"The Opera and the Dictator: the peculiar martyrdom of Dmitri Shostakovich", The New Republic, March 20, 1989. The last paragraph.
In the liberal West, as we have been proudly reminded in recent weeks, we do not believe in banning works of art. If it is because we believe that they cannot threaten life and morals, then we are more vulnerable than we imaged to the dehumanizing message of this great opera. If it's because we believe that ethics has no bearing on aesthetics, then the process of dehumanization has already begun. If, for its inspired music and dramatic power, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is to hold the stage today, it should be seen and heard with an awareness of history, with open eyes and ears, and with hearts on guard.
Moralists are a confused bunch. "If it is because we believe that they cannot threaten life and morals" It isn't.  [leading here].  "Democracies have freedom of speech not because governments grant it but because the government is not granted the power to take it away." [leading here] The speech of both members of the American Nazi Party and of Sarah Silverman, on stage or on the street, is protected by the 1st amendment.

Taruskin on John Adams' Klinghoffer
"Music's Dangers And The Case For Control" NYT Dec 2001
In a fine recent essay, the literary critic and queer theorist Jonathan Dollimore writes that ''to take art seriously -- to recognize its potential -- must be to recognize that there might be reasonable grounds for wanting to control it.'' Where should control come from? Unless we are willing to trust the Taliban, it has to come from within. What is called for is self-control. That is what the Boston Symphony laudably exercised; and I hope that musicians who play to Israeli audiences will resume exercising it. There is no need to shove Wagner in the faces of Holocaust survivors in Israel and no need to torment people stunned by previously unimaginable horrors with offensive ''challenges'' like ''The Death of Klinghoffer.''

Censorship is always deplorable, but the exercise of forbearance can be noble. Not to be able to distinguish the noble from the deplorable is morally obtuse. In the wake of Sept. 11, we might want, finally, to get beyond sentimental complacency about art. Art is not blameless. Art can inflict harm. The Taliban know that. It's about time we learned.
More from, the Guardian  Interview with the librettist in 2012.   Taruskin attacked Barenboim in the same piece. Barenboim responds.  See also Nir Rosen and Joan Rivers

[if the video's gone: Sarah Silverman, The Aristocrats]

The Musical Mystique TNR, 2007
Belief in the transcendent human value of creative labor has always invested German romantic aesthetics with the trappings of a secular or humanistic religion. In the twentieth century, such a theory of art could be seen as a bulwark against totalitarianism. Adorno held it up as a counterforce also to the instrumentalizing and rationalizing tendencies of "administered" capitalist society, which turns human subjects into objects of economic exploitation. Since he was trained in music, he held up classical music in its least compromising forms (epitomized in the famously esoteric work of Arnold Schoenberg) as the chief example of "truth-bearing" art, as opposed to the dehumanizing popular music churned out by the culture industry for mass dissemination. 
Skeptics of this viewpoint, while often appreciating the loftiness of its aspirations, have pointed to the ease with which high ideals can shade into complacency, autonomy into irrelevance, and disinterestedness into indifference. My admittedly tendentious diction ("serve," "vehicle") signals my own skepticism as to the genuineness of its disinterestedness. This skepticism is not mine alone. Many have noted the relationship between this highly individualistic and self-celebrating concept of art and the social emancipation (or more accurately, the social abandonment) of artists with the demise of reliable aristocratic patronage, and suspected it of seeking a compensatory advantage. "Materialist" historians have long investigated the relationship between its high-minded claims and actual marketing strategies. 
Particularly as it pertains to music, the doctrine of aesthetic autonomy was pre-eminently a congeries of German ideas about German art that consoled and inspired the Germans at a particular point in German history. Even in the nineteenth century, it never won much credence in France or Italy or Russia (though Britain was susceptible). Now that the whole twentieth century has run its course and German music has run aground, the claim of universality is threadbare...
["...it never won much credence in France" (a link to Baudelaire)]
And then later
To ask "what does it mean?" is death for music; but to ask "what has it meant?" can be illuminating. The one imposes arbitrary limits, the other welcomes all comers to share in the pleasure of engagement and response…. 
Higher is not automatically better; but opponents of snobbish pretension would be foolish to lose sight of the reality of the high-low gamut.
From the introduction to On Russian Music
It is yet another unfortunate consequence of the "poietic fallacy" that these pieces should have been read as attacks on Prokofiev- and "personal" one's at that, since they do not always reflect my opinion of the quality of the music, but rather my reaction to the ethical issues that its performance raises. He may not be altogether be altogether spared, but the "blame", if that is what one choose to call it (or the "problem", as I would prefer), is shared by all of the participants in our contemporary art world: composer, performer, audience, critics, mediating structures and institutions. “What is under critique in these pieces is not ‘the music itself’ but the whole network of social relations that comes into play in the maintenance of the activity we call ‘classical music’
Continuing an argument made first in an op-ed in the NY Times in 1991 that's not on the web, though the letters to the editor are.

Taruskin defines the "poietic" fallacy as "the conviction (or in practice the default assumption) that composers are the only significant historical agents in music and that scholarship should be an aspect of their defense against social mediation." 

The first paragraphs of Chapter 20, "Prokofieff's Return"
In January of 1990 Kurt Masur, soon to be appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, led the San Francisco Orchestra in a program that included Sergey Prokofief's familiar cantata based on his music to Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 film, Alexander Nevsky. The program had been set long in advance, and I was hired to write the notes for it. I did so during the summer of 1989, and was forced to confront anew the old problem of "political" art.
… Both film and music were shamelessly hyperbolic, dramaturgically blatant. They were, in short, propaganda. Could such a project possibly give rise to a first class work of art?  
"Like it or not, the answer is yes" I wrote in 1989, and went on to praise Prokofieff's music for its outstanding stylist and technical qualities, particularly the deftness, the originality, and the expressiveness of the orchestration. I felt I was making an effective answer to that complacent dictum that we tend to mouth in the West without reflecting: that art, to be authentic, must be politically or even morally "disinterested" (read: aloof). I quoted a letter that Ned Rorem had recently written to the editor of the New York Times, in which he had rehearsed his old refrain that "the more an artwork succeeds in politics the more it fails as art". Alexander Nevsky, I contended, succeeded both as politics and as art, and put the lie to what I called Mr. Rorem's smug and self-validating platitude. 
And then I went to the concert. Between the summer of 1989 and the beginning of 1990 the world had changed. Not three weeks before the performance, the contorted corpses of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu had shown up on television, the most startling evidence yet that totalitarian authority in Europe had suddenly collapsed.
The last
"Suffering and great as the ninetenth century whose complete expression he is, the mental image of Richard Wagner stands before my eyes," wrote Thomas Mann at the beginning of an immortal essay. We might not wish to claim a comparable greatness for Prokofieff. His sufferings were imposed, and his century was awful, the most atrocious and spiritually vacant in human history. But between man and times there was the same fatal congruence. As we say good riddance to the century, we may also find ourselves saying farewell, and sorry, to the man.
I'm not much interested in John Adams' music or in contemporary "classical" music. It's either academic or vulgar. And the struggle of Zionists to allow themselves to come to terms with their culpability is not something I'm able to take very seriously, at least intellectually. But art is concerned with honesty more than intellect. I love Titian's paintings for Philip II; I wouldn't expect a 17th c. European Protestant or an Amerindian to enjoy standing in front of a portrait of the leader of his torturers. That's another issue. Velazquez, in his works, has a conflicted even ironic distance from his own claimed beliefs that adds an intellectual aspect to his art, but I wouldn't use that to demand more. If I refuse to see Zero Dark 30, as I refused to see The Hurt Locker it's more from the fact that I'm too near to the events while at the same time too aware of world outside the American imagination to have the patience to watch America begin -and no more than that- to come to grips with the events of the past 10, 40 or 100 years. The US is responsible for more destruction than bin Laden was ever be capable of.  Chomsky is right: "Uncontroversially" George Bush's crimes "vastly exceed bin Laden's." But that says nothing about the films as art, only about my ability to be a disinterested observer, not objective but removed. There's an issue when a culture becomes so insular and defensive that even a disinterested viewer finds little to look at, but there's a lot to look at in American culture.

I can't help but add Charles Rosen's review of Taruskin's Oxford History, in the NYRB.
Quoting Taruskin
William, (Guillaume), seventh count of Poitiers and ninth duke of Aquitaine (1071–ca. 1127), was the first European vernacular poet whose work has come down to us. The tradition, socially speaking, thus began right at the top, with all that that implies as to “highness” of style, tone, and diction…. A troubador’s subject matter was the life he led, viewed in terms of his social relations, which were ceremonial, idealized, and ritualized to the point of virtual sacralization. In keeping with the rarefied subject matter, the genres and styles of troubadour verse were also highly formalized and ceremonious, to the point of virtuosic complexity of design and occasional, sometimes deliberate, obscurity of meaning.
while adding this
I shall make a poem out of [about] nothing at all:
It will not speak of me or others,
Of love or youth, or of anything else,
For it was composed while I was asleep
Riding on horseback.
And this, and this. The last is hanging on the wall above my desk. It cost a pretty penny.
Taruskin now has his own tag, including posts where he's not mentioned, but where his association with law is relevant.

I saw Zero Dark 30