Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Andrew Marr, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism
Looking back, the first time I referred to it was 2006.  I thought of it again today after seeing some hits on a post from November about the protests at Yale and Mizzou.

I've said for years that we'd be better off if political reporters behaved like they worked for TMZ, but the indignation of the kid journos in Missouri, in their own minds, was righteous indignation. They didn't understand journalism and neither did most of their defenders. Journalists aren't philosophers any more than lawyers are. They're ambulance chasers.

Marr
A rite of passage for all young provincial journalists is known as the death knock — going and knocking on the door of a house which has just lost a family member, preferably in horrific or embarrassing circumstances. At my Newcastle course we were taught the art of charming an.d sympathizing one's way across the doorstep, and the absolute necessity, while taking notes, of trying to remove, preferably but not necessarily by agreement, any photos of the bereaved from the mantelpiece. The job of getting these stories can be a horrible, soiling experience which puts people off reporting for life. One of my fellow trainees on that course, Fiona Anderson, who now works for the BBC in London, started by reporting for the local paper in Kettering and had a very similar reaction to. Christiansen sixty years earlier: 'I had to do one story about an old guy who was decapitated by a lorry, and I told the editor and subs that the police hadn't told his family what happened to him.' She thought the grisly details had been left out of the newspaper, but as soon as she was out of the office, they were put straight back in again; she had to go and 'doorstep' the bereaved family the following morning:
I arrived just after the paperboy had dropped the paper on the mat, and it was all there. His wife was saying, 'But I didn't know that happened' and I ... well, basically, I just made her a cup of tea. Then there was a house fire with three kids in hospital. I think two died overnight and I had to go round and bang on their door the next morning and I felt like a piece of shit. Then one of our printers had a son who was killed in a car crash and again I had to go round . . . it was all too dose and I just had to get out. 
Barry Norman's experience of doorstepping was less harrowing. He had landed up at the tabloid daily the Sketch, a paper he dearly loathed, as a trainee gossip writer, and he didn't excel. He recalled, for example, being sent to interview a fox-hunting peer, whose wife had run away with the master of foxhounds:
His Lordship answered the door, which threw me a bit because I'd been expecting a butler. 'Who are you?' he asked. I told him. 'What do you want?' I told him that too, in a faltering sort of way — 'Well, you know, your wife and the master of foxhounds . . . gone off together . . . I was just wondering what you . . 'What the hell's it got to do with you?' he said and right away he had me. I was stuck for an answer, knowing perfectly well that his marital unhappiness had nothing to do with me or the prurient readers of the Daily Sketch. I was mumbling something about letting him put his side of the story when he slammed the door in my face. I couldn't blame him; I'd have done the same.' 
The story could serve as a morality test about intrusive, but interesting, journalism. Norman solved his dilemma by telling his news desk that he was continuing to harass the cuckolded aristocrat, while actually sitting in a local café doing a newspaper crossword. It was a good human answer, and bad journalism.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My value free science can beat up your ideology

"I’m a Weberian"
Brad DeLong has a post where he looks to be trying to resurrect the Left-neoliberalism wars, issuing minatory warnings about the dangers of a perspective in which:
There is a Movement, the Movement is good because the Movement is supported by the class whose interest is the general interest and by Correct Ideological Thought, and all progressives must support the movement.
He furthermore quotes an old post of mine so as to revive his previous suggestion that I’m a card carrying member of this purportedly disastrous tendency. I’m a genuine admirer of much of Brad’s work – but not of when he gets on his full Redbaiting (which usually seems to happen when he is personally exercised, or when someone says something that could be construed as being rude to Larry Summers). Some clarifications, in response to Brad’s post:

1) Contrary to Brad’s suggestion, I’ve never argued or even hinted that I believe there is a universal class whose interest is the general interest. Indeed, I vehemently disagree with the proposition. For better or worse, I’m a Weberian rather than a Marxist, and a social democratic squish to boot....
Delong
The technocratic view is that there will be a bunch of competing ideological views and material interests pulling and hauling, and that by always wading in and joining the tug-of-war side that has the better policy idea at the moment in the issue under dispute one will get better governance and higher societal well-being.
"The technocratic view" "the irrationalism of others"
And Shalizi

This is getting longer.

The same old racism

The New Racism 
This isn't a very well thought out post, but, hey, that's why it's a blog. Back in my day (the 80s-90s) there was of course racism. Everybody (white) in my neighborhood knew where the one black family lived, and I doubt anyone ever talked to them. But one thing was different. There seemed to be an exception carved out for athletes/actors/performers/etc....
The New Racism is directed at Beyoncé

"Everybody (white) in my neighborhood knew where the one black family lived, and I doubt anyone ever talked to them."

Those People

I remember an interview with Eddie Murphy where he described being threatened with assault by people who didn't recognize him immediately, and after they had they asked for autographs as if nothing had happened. From "Hey, nigger!" to "Hey Eddie!" without skipping a beat.

Thursday, April 21, 2016



The second video is billed as a great story but it's annoying, less because it's a description of asshole behavior than it's an awed description of asshole behavior. And I have a hard time thinking Prince had never heard Fela until 2004. Everyone I knew who was listening to either of them in 1981 was listening to both.

Brilliant pop stars are in a situation always verging on tragedy. Fame and genius become mixed together. And there's the genius of Barnum and the genius of music, which are related but not identical. Prince was a brilliant, fragile, sexy motherfucker.

Dirty Mind
It won't last.

From the Super Bowl.  I couldn't find a good embeddable video of the performance without commentary.




He was the first "pop" performer, absent the pretensions of rock and roll and the underground (self-styled or not), and the non-commercial intellectualism of post war jazz, that interested me. He was the first serious entertainer, in the sense of Hollywood, Vegas, and Broadway, in the age of spectacle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blindness and Insight

continuing, and earlier. More for the archives. Technocracy and Sapir/Whorf. The impoverishment of thought among the apparat, our licensed intellectuals. etc.

Daniel Davies is pathological (the beginning and the first two footnotes)
The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living

I have a piece up on the New Yorker blog, on the same theme as Damien Hirst’s 1991 shark-in-formaldehyde artwork[1], as applied to big banks and their remarkable inability to write contingency plans for what they would do if they needed to declare bankruptcy, despite being point blank ordered by the regulators to do so.

It’s actually in my opinion, the single most toxic aspect of the culture of big banks. Greed and dishonesty are all very bad[2] but they are to a large extent self-limiting processes. Greedy people have loss-averse utility functions, which limits their willingness to risk total destruction for gain. ...

[1] Which is itself apparently in the process of disintegrating and giving off toxic fumes as it does so, a metaphor I considered but rejected as perhaps too laboured.

[2] Pre-emptively: anyone who has been asked not to comment on my threads is still banned. If you are wondering whether your ban might have expired, it hasn’t. If you are genuinely unsure whether you are banned or not, tread carefully. In general the subject of whether I am an apologist for big banks has been done to death and I do find it irritating even when you’re not being excessively personal.
repeats. Davies, with the obvious rejoinder.
A “tragic dilemma”, as I understand it, is a situation in which consequentialism gives a clear answer about which alternative is better, but the answer in question is unpalatable. I don’t see why, in such a situation, consequentialism should be described as “crass” rather than, say, “jolly sensible”.
A tragic dilemma is the choice between feeding you child and cancer medicine for your wife.
Parallels, repeats. "It's still no secret that contemporary philosophy is under the spell of the Other." Starting here will end here.

Back to the present. Brighouse. Dilemmas of Educational Ethics
I wrote last year about the Justice in Education project at Harvard, which has developed a series of case studies posing difficult moral questions concerning educational decision-making. Meira Levinson and Jacob Fay have just published a brilliant volume, Dilemmas of Educational Ethics: Cases and Commentaries, containing 6 cases, with 6 responses to each case by a variety of authors – most of them academics (from a variety of disciplines, and including Howard Gardner, Mary Patillo, Diana Hess, Tommie Shelby, Christopher Winship, and Elizabeth Anderson) but also by teachers, administrators, and one legislator.

The first case in the book concerns social promotion. It takes the form of a debate among a group of teachers, some giving reasons why a particular girl should graduate from middle school (appealing to evidence that children who are held back drop out at high rates; that her academic failure is not really her fault because i) her science class, which she failed, was taught by a sub who was, by his own admission, incompetent, for most of the year and ii) her family circumstances essentially made learning impossible); others giving reasons for holding her back (she’s not ready for the academic demands of high school; it sends a bad message to both her and other students if the school graduates students who are known not to have reached the minimum academic threshold needed to pass their classes). It doesn’t require a huge amount of background knowledge in order to generate intelligent discussion. So that was a good starting point, and, in fact, my students came up with good points on both sides that I had never thought about, despite having read the commentaries and discussed the case several times.
The pedant's relation to subjectivity and emotion ranges from cold indifference to pained. "Geek" subjectivity is "Emo". Brighouse has dedicated years of his life to concern over the "inegalitarian" love of one's own children. His posts at CT are divided almost equally between discussions of utopia and wistful obituaries for comedians and music hall performers. Stephen Fry is "the greatest living Englishman".  G.A. Cohen was Canadian, but even if he were English he wouldn't make the cut, and he was perfectly happy to admit it: "I just think that I'm not a morally exemplary person, that's all." I doubt anyone at Oxbridge would ever be considered, and I doubt it's occurred to Brighouse to ask why. In light of that the post quoted above could be considered "progress".

Leiter posts a long quote from the NDPR to mock it
Annals of Strange Reviews for  Books
"From the usually excellent Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (which frequently falls short in this particular area, alas, I am guessing because one can't get serious philosophers to review stuff like this)"
As the Anglophone reception and appreciation of François Laruelle's work grows, it is worth reminding ourselves of the radicality of its ambition to be a thoroughgoing non-representational style of theorising and thinking. Carried out in the name of the destruction of onto-theology, the overcoming of metaphysics, the excess of the Real, or the deconstruction of presence, the attempt to think outside of traditional representational categories and to do so by means of novel philosophical styles or gestures is, of course, typical of much twentieth-century European philosophy, particularly that coming out of France. It may be tempting, therefore, to view Laruelle's writing as simply one further, albeit idiosyncratic in the extreme, example of philosophical and stylistic invention that places its impossible object of thought in excess of thought itself. Yet, as Laruelle has consistently argued at least since the early 1980s, philosophy has never gone, nor can ever go, far enough in its suspension, destruction or deconstruction of representational thought. Notions of radically withdrawn, ungrounded Being, of transcendence or alterity that would be otherwise than Being, or of difference that would detach philosophy and ontology from all logic of foundation or totality and place the very notion of Being itself under erasure simply do not, for Laruelle, go far enough. For in the end such notions remain conceptual and representational if only because they represent being as withdrawn, as difference in excess of ontological foundation or ground. For Laruelle, any kind of ontology, be it differential, negative, or given in the mode of an exacerbated apophasis, does not and cannot do justice to the radical immanence of the Real.
My recollection is that Michael Rosen coined a label for stuff like this.
The paragraph is easy enough to understand.

Google says that Laruelle is the promulgator of a dogma he calls "non-philosophy". Ray Brassier is a fan (and Leiter up to now has had no problem with him). All of this records philosophers' attempts at prescription when description is the only option left. If all philosophy is merely literature, at least philosophers are serious about it. According to Graham Harman Jerry Fodor thinks he's a better writer than Shakespeare. Now some philosophers are concerned with "experience" and others write novels.

"It's no secret...". The link's a discussion of Ludlow. The case goes on. Also more on Leiter and Carrie Jenkins. I'm still getting hits for my screen shots of the Leiter Events page that was taken down when he threatened to sue. It's all the childishness of people proud of their own maturity.

Another example of Emo intellectualism.
I am going slightly out of depths with this post, traversing into the territory of yet-to-be-formed thoughts, which could either be speculations or reflections; responses, or idiosyncratic musings. Part of it emerges with the experience I’ve had so far working ethnographically, and from my previous research encounters and readings; but the other part is deeply contemplative, troubling even. Here, I wish to work with another concept that can be read along with ‘subalternity’ as I discussed in the last post – that of ‘margins.’

Therefore, I would like the reader to be aware of the tentative nature of the thoughts expressed in this post, and the assumptions that guide them, and the delicate nature of the interventions that I make.

I began to think of margins more concertedly after I attended a lecture by Pnina Werbner recently, where she spoke about political revolution in the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements in 2011, and the aesthetics of effervescence and despair. She spoke of how such movements needed to be backed by politics so as to materialize the changes that guide them in the first place. Despite apparent failures, she argued that such movements do have an impression on the world: narratives, strategies, and so forth, which steer and shape protest politics in the world. While I am in agreement with her argument, I do think one element that was left relatively under-theorized – and one I think is crucial – is that of the margins of such politics.

I use the term ‘margin’ in a very specific sense in this post. In the first sense, I use margins to denote a space created by social and political forces, but with an important caveat that the social forces I am talking about can be broadly characterized as counter-hegemonic forces. Margins, while hierarchized, are not simply peripheries to an imagined center (I am also skeptical of ascribing a direct spatial link, which I explain below).
Earnest inarticulate stumbling and 15 uses of "I".

related: Two discussions of empathy: for, and against.

Brassier
The pre-modern worldview that lasted several millennia and spanned the transition from poly- to monotheism, is one in which the world and human existence are intrinsically meaningful. (I say “is” rather than “was” because this worldview continues to persist today, even among educated people.)
Irony is not a modern invention.
Like most people, I am very heartened by the revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, and Lybia, and have nothing but admiration for the courage of the protestors who have risked life and limb in the attempt to transform a situation that had become intolerable. I find the attempt to characterize these revolts as manifestations of the desire for Western-style capitalist democracy, and thereby enlist them as ideological victories for neo-liberalism, rather preposterous, and I hope that whatever mode of government comes to supplant those of the toppled dictatorships, it will not simply be the brand of corrupt oligarchic ‘democracy’ that the US and Europe so cynically promote.
Bourgeois revolts viewed from the intellectual bubble economy of the library.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

research

Picasso in 1923
I can hardly understand the importance given to the word research in connection with modern painting. In my opinion to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing. Nobody is interested in following a man who, with his eyes fixed on the ground, spends his life looking for the purse that fortune should put in his path. The one who finds something no matter what it might be, even if his intention were not to search for it, at least arouses our curiosity, if not our admiration. 
Among the several sins that I have been accused of, none is more false than that I have, as the principal objective in my work, the spirit of research. When I paint, my object is to show what I have found and not what I am looking for. In art intentions are not sufficient and, as we say in Spanish, love must be proved by deeds and not by reasons. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing. 
We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know how to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. If he only shows in his work that he has searched, and re-searched, for the way to put over lies, he would never accomplish anything. 
The idea of research has often made painting go astray, and made the artist lose himself in mental lucubrations. Perhaps this has been the principal fault of modern art. The spirit of research has poisoned those who have not fully understood all the positive and conclusive elements in modern art and has made them attempt to paint the invisible and, therefore, the unpaintable. 
They speak of naturalism in opposition to modern painting. I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art. Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not.
Velazquez left us his idea of the people of his epoch. Undoubtedly they were different from the way he painted them, but we cannot conceive a Philip IV in any other way than the one Velazquez painted. Rubens also made a portrait of the same king and in Rubens' portrait he seems to be quite another person. We believe in the one painted by Velazquez, for he convinces us by his right of might. 
From the painters of the origins, the primitives, whose work is obviously different from nature, down to those artists who, like David, Ingres and even Bouguereau, believed in painting nature as it is, art has always been art and not nature. And from the point of view of art there are no concrete or abstract forms, but only forms which are more or less convincing lies. That those lies are necessary to our mental selves is beyond any doubt, as it is through them that we form our aesthetic view of life.
and 1927
It was just at this period that we were passionately preoccupied with exactitude. One can only paint out of a view of reality, which we tried through dogged hard work (how we applied ourselves to this side of things!) to analyze in pictorial terms. ... How anxious we were lest something slip through our clutches (Que de scrupules de laisser échapper quelque chose). ...

Moreover. this feeling for exactitude is one I have always held onto in my researches. There is no painting or drawing of mine that does not respond exactly to a view of the world. One day I'd like to show drawings done in my synthesizing mode (dessins à forme synthétique) next to ones of the same subject done in a classical manner. People will my concern for exactitude. They'll even see that the [synthetic] drawings are more exact
"The philosophical role of illness – and how it can teach us to live reflectively"
Serious illness is a great calamity. It is unwelcome, violent, frightening and painful. If it is life threatening, it requires the ill person and their loved ones to confront death. Illness causes pain, anxiety, incapacitation; it limits what the ill person can do. It can cut a life short, stop plans in their tracks, and detach people from life, suspending the previous flow of everyday activity. In short, illness is almost always unwelcome but must be endured, as it is also unavoidable. We “each owe nature a death”, as Freud put it.
The link, in the original,  now an obscure reference, is to a BBC biography.
The author, (on the right side of the page)
Havi Carel
Professor of Philosophy, University of Bristol
Disclosure statement
Havi Carel receives funding from the Wellcome Trust (Senior Investigator Award 103340).
Investigators are researchers.
My current research explores the phenomenology of illness. I am interested in augmenting the naturalistic approach to illness with a phenomenological perspective. I believe that as embodied persons we experience illness primarily as a disruption of lived body rather than as a dysfunction of biological body. But medicine has traditionally focused on returning the biological body to normal functioning, and has therefore worked from within a problem-focused, deficit perspective that ignores the lived body. A phenomenological approach can provide a framework for incorporating the experience of illness into the medical naturalistic account, by providing a rich description of the altered relationship of the ill person to her world.
Belles lettres as research. Anglo-American philosophy is now claim-jumping experimental psychology on one side and literature on the other.

Rules of submitting to Granta: "Please do not submit book manuscripts, academic essays or reviews."
No fucking footnotes. "Experience" and literature. Follow the links.

The research model of art, and politics. Follow the motherfucking links. Learn something.

"Continental and Anglo-American philosophy are collapsing in on themselves and on each other"
continuing

Monday, April 11, 2016


a reel

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Call it insider football: Manchester City is owned by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Paris Saint-Germain is owned by The Qatar Investment Authority

First games of The Champions League Quarter-Finals
Today
PSG  2-2  Man City
Wolfsburg  2-0  Real Madrid
Game 2, Tues. April 12

Yesterday
Bayern  2-0  Benfica
Barcelona  2-1  Atlético
Game 2, Wed. April 13
Philosophy as trolling. Gerald Dworkin reviews Mearsheimer's Why Leaders Lie
Here is Mearsheimer’ definition. “Lying is when a person makes a statement that he knows or suspects to be false in the hopes that others will think it is true. ”(16) I think this is quite close to the definition that most ordinary people would give if we think that “in the hopes” is roughly equivalent to “intends.” But, as one might guess, each and every part of it has been challenged as either unclear or not necessary by philosophers who work on the definition of lying.

Making a statement? Was there lying involved [in] Operation Mincemeat, the scheme by the British to deceive the Nazis about the Normandy invasion, by planting a dead body with a fake letter in his pocket, off the coast of Spain. Planting a statement is not making one.
Does one "plant a statement" in "hope" or with "intention"? Pedantry: art for art's sake.
...What does Mearsheimer have to say about the morality or[sic] lying? After defining utilitarianism as the view that “lying sometimes makes sense, because it serves a useful purpose” in contrast to the “absolutist” who thinks lying never makes sense, i.e., is never justified, he goes to to state his view. ...

Matters are not helped by the fact that he is making a distinction between utilitarianism and the moral dimension of lying. The latter is beyond the scope of his book. But utilitarianism is almost always thought of as a particular type of moral theory. I think I understand what is going on here. For Mearsheimer, utilitarianism is just a way of thinking about things in terms of whether they produce certain useful results for the liar, or those whose interests he is promoting.
"I think I understand what is going on here." Playing dumb as rhetorical trope. He stays with it throughout.
...If he only used “makes good sense” as a way of saying “produces useful results” this would be fine. But in the first quote he says Kennedy was “right” to lie. This sounds like a moral claim; the ones he was going to avoid.
Playing word games.
I think it is fairest to Mearsheimer to think of making (good) sense as always meaning making good strategic sentence, i.e., likely to lead to benefits for the nation they lead.
As if the book were a manuscript found on a beach, words on paper by an unknown author. Dworkin wants to pretend there's no context, but it's too late; he's introduced Mearsheimer already as "a distinguished political scientist".
...Mearsheimer’s definition of a lie--making a knowingly false statement in the hopes others will think it true--makes the hope/intention of the liar to bring about a certain consequence in the mind of the hearer--a false belief--an essential component of a lie. So any explanation of the wrongness of the lie will have to rely exclusively on that intent to bring about a certain consequence of the lie. The wrongness of the intent is a function of the badness of what it tries to bring about--false belief. Why is false belief bad? Because we need true beliefs to promote our welfare and avoid harms. This is the explanation given by utilitarianism considered as a moral theory.

Now this theory may, in fact, be the correct explanation of the wrongness of lying. If so, the definition plays a proper role. But, if an alternative explanation is correct, one which gives no, or much less weight, to the intent to deceive, then the definition will have ruled out examination of an alternative explanation.

What might be such an alternative explanation? One which argues that lying is wrong independently of whether the lie is intended to change the content of the hearer’s mind. It is wrong because the speaker is inviting the listener to take the speaker as presenting the content of the speaker’s mind. He is being truthful. He is authorizing the listener to take his statement as an expression of his beliefs; not necessarily their truth-value. In fact, this authorization still holds even if, by some chance, what the speaker believes false turns out to be true.

...Such a theory is presented in an important new book by Seanna[sic] Shiffrin, Speech Matters.
Seana Shiffrin, Speech Matters, Princeton, 2015
Many philosophers start to craft moral exceptions to demands for sincerity and fidelity when they confront wrongdoers, the pressures of non-ideal circumstances, or the achievement of morally substantial ends. But Shiffrin consistently resists this sort of exceptionalism, arguing that maintaining a strong basis for trust and reliable communication through practices of sincerity, fidelity, and respecting free speech is an essential aspect of ensuring the conditions for moral progress, including our rehabilitation of and moral reconciliation with wrongdoers.
Moralizing pedantry and anti-politics. She argues that lying is not protected free speech. And of course "moral progress", and "rehabilitation of and moral reconciliation with wrongdoers" are goals, not truths in themselves, so we're back to some form of utility, the utilitarian value of honesty and truth.

"How do I look, dear?"
"Fat and depressed."

Somewhere on this page I have a youtube video of Jim Carrey in Liar Liar.

Like Brighouse, no sense that our relations to friends, family, and strangers, are different by default and by necessity. No sense from Leiter that Shiffrin's moralism relates to Beyerstein and thus to what Leiter links to here, to mock.
First, at the very beginning of their relationship, John placed J.C.’s hand on John’s (clothed) groin while they were watching a movie in a dormitory room. J.C. now contends that the sexual contact was unwanted. John denies that the contact was non-consensual, and contends that it was simply the first step in their sexual relationship. Among other things, he notes that the two of them had sexual relations for the first time the very next day, and that they continued to have such relations for most of the next two years. He also contends that J.C. afterward recounted the episode in a humorous manner to friends, although the university would not accept his evidence of that fact.
Otherworldly abstraction leads to pedantry and moralism. Not all pedants are moralists; that solves nothing.

Shriffrin refers also to "sincerity", (I quoted the blurb, but checked the book).
We're back to the distinction between law and lawyers.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

continuing
Outrage as Muslim pupils exempt from shaking female teachers' hands in Swiss district
(AFP) - Male Muslim students at a school in northern Switzerland will no longer have to shake hands with their female teachers, following a ruling that was on Monday causing an uproar in the country.

A school in the northern municipality of Therwil, in the canton of Basel, reached the controversial decision after two male students, aged 14 and 15, complained that the Swiss custom of shaking hands with the teacher is counter to their religious beliefs if the teacher is a woman.

They argued that Islam does not permit physical contact with a person of the opposite sex, with the exception of certain immediate family members.

The local Therwil council did not support the school's decision, "but will not intervene as (it) is the responsibility of the school to set the rules," spokeswoman Monika Wyss told AFP in a statement.

The decision triggered an outcry across Switzerland with Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga insisting on Swiss public television Monday that "shaking hands is part of our culture."
She Was Asked to Switch Seats. Now She’s Charging El Al With Sexism.
...Ms. Rabinowitz was comfortably settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section on El Al Flight 028 from Newark to Tel Aviv in December when, as she put it, “this rather distinguished-looking man in Hasidic or Haredi garb, I’d guess around 50 or so, shows up.”

The man was assigned the window seat in her row. But, like many ultra-Orthodox male passengers, he did not want to sit next to a woman, seeing even inadvertent contact with the opposite sex as verboten under the strictest interpretation of Jewish law. Soon, Ms. Rabinowitz said, a flight attendant offered her a “better” seat, up front, closer to first class.
Adam Shatz on the Hebdo editorial, in the LRB
It isn’t clear whether France’s values are being upheld or perverted by such a far-reaching defence. As Arun Kapil put it to me, ‘the laïcards are the new fundamentalists.’ The 1905 law on the separation of churches and the state, which established laïcité, was based on the neutrality of the state towards religious institutions; it not only stripped the Catholic Church of its powers, it also freed Jews and Protestants to practise their faith more freely. Today’s defenders of laïcité, on both the right and the centre left, have abandoned any pretence of neutrality. It’s no wonder that, for many Muslims in France, including the silent majority who seldom if ever set foot in a mosque – Charlie’s ‘very large iceberg’ – it seems like a code word for keeping them in their place.
A few of the comments are good too.
Nov 2015, an article in the IBT, Why Do American Muslims Fare Better Than Their French Counterparts?
“Our data found that Muslims in the U.S. are employed and educated at very similar levels to the general population,” says Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at Pew. “In Western Europe, Muslims tend to lag the overall population in socioeconomic status.”

Part of that lag can be attributed to the types of Muslim immigrants that have settled in the U.S. versus those who've settled in Europe. Many Muslims came to the United States after the Imigration Act of 1965, and included highly skilled and educated workers. The Muslims migrating to Europe, however, have tended to be economic migrants who labored in factories or came as guest workers.

But even the working class Muslim immigrants in the United States have hope for the future and a belief in upward mobility -- a sense that doesn’t exist among French Muslims.
A new book from Harvard, Why Muslim Integration Fails in Christian-Heritage Societies, comparing Muslim and Christian immigrant communities in France.
The research is discussed in two posts at The Monkey Cage, in 2014 and 2015, before and after publication. The authors seem to think the position of Muslim immigrants as similar in the US and Europe.

The authors of the Harvard book also see a similar reaction to Muslims and Jews in France
Between September 2013 and September 2014, Marie-Anne Valfort partnered with the Institut Montaigne to conduct the largest résumé experiment ever fielded, with over 6,000 résumés submitted to actual job openings in the French labor market. This experiment involved male and female candidates of Lebanese origin and still found significant anti-Muslim (as well as anti-Jewish) discrimination in France. While a Christian male applicant must on average submit 5 résumés to receive a call-back for an interview, an identical Jewish male applicant must submit 7, and an identical Muslim male applicant must submit 20.
America is more more anarchic than Europe. Religious conservatives are welcome but the main public concern is money, and conservative social morality dissolves with success, since business requires to you work with people from other communities. Cultural conservatism hardens only with failure as a group. But we have a weak civic culture. The European civic culture that American liberals appreciate is precisely what locks out socially conservative immigrants, socially and economically.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Guardian
The editorial was published in English as well as French, suggesting it was intended for an audience beyond the magazine’s largely French readership. It has generated little response in France. 
There is no free speech in France. People defending Hebdo were defending Hebdo's speech, not a principle.

The full text.
For a week now, experts of all kinds have been trying to understand the reasons for the attacks in Brussels. An incompetent police force? Unbridled multiculturalism? Youth unemployment? Uninhibited Islamism? The causes are numerous beyond counting and everyone will naturally choose the one that suits best their own convictions. Law and Order fans will denounce the haplessness of the police. Xenophobes will blame immigration. Sociologists will rehash the evils of colonialism. Urban-planners will point to the evils of ghettoisation. Take your pick.

In reality, the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed. They are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale. Our noses are endlessly rubbed in the rubble of Brussels airport and in the flickering candles amongst the bouquets of flowers on the pavements. All the while, no one notices what's going on in Saint-German-en-Laye. Last week, Sciences-Po* welcomed Tariq Ramadan. He's a teacher, so it's not inappropriate. He came to speak of his specialist subject, Islam, which is also his religion. Rather like lecture by a Professor of Pies who is also a pie-maker. Thus judge and contestant both.

No matter, Tariq Ramadan has done nothing wrong. He will never do anything wrong. He lectures about Islam, he writes about Islam, he broadcasts about Islam. He puts himself forward as a man of dialogue, someone open to a debate. A debate about secularism which, according to him, needs to adapt itself to the new place taken by religion in Western democracy. A secularism and a democracy which must also accept those traditions imported by minority communities. Nothing bad in that. Tariq Ramadan is never going to grab a Kalashnikov with which to shoot journalists at an editorial meeting. Nor will he ever cook up a bomb to be used in an airport concourse. Others will be doing all that kind of stuff. It will not be his role. His task, under cover of debate, is to dissuade people from criticising his religion in any way. The political science students who listened to him last week will, once they have become journalists or local officials, not even dare to write nor say anything negative about Islam. The little dent in their secularism made that day will bear fruit in a fear of criticising lest they appear Islamophobic. That is Tariq Ramadan's task.

Take this veiled woman. She is an admirable woman. She is courageous and dignified, devoted to her family and her children. Why bother her? She harms no one. Even those women who wear the total, all-encompassing veil do not generally use their clothing to hide bombs (as certain people were claiming when the law to ban the burqa was being discussed). They too will do nothing wrong. So why go on whining about the wearing of the veil and pointing the finger of blame at these women? We should shut up, look elsewhere and move past all the street-insults and rumpus. The role of these women, even if they are unaware of it, does not go beyond this.

The visible part of a very big iceberg.

Take the local baker, who has just bought the nearby bakery and replaced the old, recently-retired guy, he makes good croissants. He's likeable and always has a ready smile for all his customers. He's completely integrated into the neighbourhood already. Neither his long beard nor the little prayer-bruise on his forehead (indicative of his great piety) bother his clientele. They are too busy lapping up his lunchtime sandwiches. Those he sells are fabulous, though from now on there's no more ham nor bacon. Which is no big deal because there are plenty of other options on offer - tuna, chicken and all the trimmings. So, it would be silly to grumble or kick up a fuss in that much-loved boulangerie. We'll get used to it easily enough. As Tariq Ramadan helpfully instructs us, we'll adapt. And thus the baker's role is done.

Take this young delinquent. H has never looked at the Quran in his life, he knows little of the history of religion, of colonialism, nor a great deal about the proud country of his Maghreb forefathers. This lad and a couple of his buddies order a taxi. They are not erudite like Tariq Ramadan, they don't pray as often as the local baker and are not as observant as the redoubtable veiled mothers on the street. The taxi heads for Brussels airport. And still, in this precise moment, no one has done anything wrong. Not Tariq Ramadan, nor the ladies in burqas, not the baker and not even these idle young scamps.

And yet, none of what is about to happen in the airport or metro of Brussels can really happen without everyone's contribution. Because the incidence of all of it is informed by some version of the same dread or fear. The fear of contradiction or objection. The aversion to causing controversy. The dread of being treated as an Islamophobe or being called racist. Really, a kind of terror. And that thing which is just about to happen when the taxi-ride ends is but a last step in a journey of rising anxiety. It's not easy to get some proper terrorism going without a preceding atmosphere of mute and general apprehension.

These young terrorists have no need to amass the talents of others, to be erudite, dignified or hard-working. Their role is simply to provide the end of a philosophical line already begun. A line which tells us "Hold your tongues, living or dead. Give up discussing, debating, contradicting or contesting".

This is not to victimise Islam particularly. For it has no opponent. It is not Christianity, Hinduism nor Judaism that is balked by the imposition of this silence. It is the opponent (and protector) of them all. It is the very notion of the secular. It is secularism which is being forced into retreat.

Above all, in a sense, this stops us asking perhaps the world's oldest and most important question - "How the hell did I end up here?". "How the hell did I end up having to wander the streets all day with a big veil on my head?" "How the hell did I end up having to say prayers five times a day?" " How the hell did I end up in the back of a taxi with three rucksacks packed with explosives?" Perhaps, very sadly, the only people who are still asking themselves that most important of questions are the unlucky victims. "How the hell did I end up here, six yards away from that big bomb?"

The first task of the guilty is to blame the innocent. It's an almost perfect inversion of culpability. From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts. And that is where and when fear has started its sapping, undermining work. And the way is marked for all that will follow.
Tariq Ramadan is a slippery fuck, a religious conservative who claims to be something else. And I have some sympathy for people who having gotten rid of a church now have to put up with an influx of supporters of another one. Unfortunately the history of European empires fogs the issue; that and massive European support for Islamist governments opposed both to secularism and democracy.
See also Todd's Zombie Catholics

Islam is modernizing and secularizing. Western powers have done their best to delay that.

continuing above
Adolph Reed
From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much
By far the most intellectually and politically interesting thing about the recent "exposé" of Spokane, WA, NAACP activist Rachel Dolezal’s racial status is the conundrum it has posed for racial identitarians who are also committed to defense of transgender identity. The comparisons between Dolezal and Republican Jenner (I’ve decided to opt for that referent because it is an identity continuous between "Bruce" and "Caitlyn" and is moreover the one most meaningful to me) began almost instantly, particularly as a flood of mass-mediated Racial Voices who support the legitimacy of transgender identity objected strenuously to suggestions that Dolezal’s representation, and apparent perception, of herself as black is similar to Bruce Jenner’s perception of himself as actually Caitlyn. Their contention is that one kind of claim to an identity at odds with culturally constructed understandings of the identity appropriate to one’s biology is okay but that the other is not – that it’s OK to feel like a woman when you don’t have the body of a woman and to act like (and even get yourself the body of) a woman but that it’s wrong to feel like a black person when you’re actually white and that acting like you’re black and doing your best to get yourself the body of a black person is just lying.
The limits of anti-racism
Antiracism is a favorite concept on the American left these days. Of course, all good sorts want to be against racism, but what does the word mean exactly?

The contemporary discourse of “antiracism” is focused much more on taxonomy than politics. It emphasizes the name by which we should call some strains of inequality—whether they should be broadly recognized as evidence of “racism”— over specifying the mechanisms that produce them or even the steps that can be taken to combat them. And, no, neither “overcoming racism” nor “rejecting whiteness” qualifies as such a step any more than does waiting for the “revolution” or urging God’s heavenly intervention. If organizing a rally against racism seems at present to be a more substantive political act than attending a prayer vigil for world peace, that’s only because contemporary antiracist activists understand themselves to be employing the same tactics and pursuing the same ends as their predecessors in the period of high insurgency in the struggle against racial segregation.

This view, however, is mistaken. The postwar activism that reached its crescendo in the South as the “civil rights movement” wasn’t a movement against a generic “racism;” it was specifically and explicitly directed toward full citizenship rights for black Americans and against the system of racial segregation that defined a specific regime of explicitly racial subordination in the South. The 1940s March on Washington Movement was also directed against specific targets, like employment discrimination in defense production. Black Power era and post-Black Power era struggles similarly focused on combating specific inequalities and pursuing specific goals like the effective exercise of voting rights and specific programs of redistribution.

...All too often, “racism” is the subject of sentences that imply intentional activity or is characterized as an autonomous “force.” In this kind of formulation, “racism,” a conceptual abstraction, is imagined as a material entity. Abstractions can be useful, but they shouldn’t be given independent life.
Neoliberalism as the primacy both of individualism and the individual imagination, and of "ideas" as opposed to practice.
In this kind of formulation, “racism,” a conceptual abstraction, is imagined as a material entity. Abstractions can be useful, but they shouldn’t be given independent life.
The links are from Leiter, linking to Ben Norton.  I don't think Leiter understands the implication of what he's reading.

Norton quotes from three pieces by Reed. The last is Marx, Race and Neoliberalism [pdf]
A Marxist perspective can be most helpful for understanding race and racism insofar as it perceives capitalism dialectically, as a social totality that includes modes of production, relations of production, and the pragmatically evolving ensemble of institutions and ideologies that lubricate and propel its reproduction. From this perspective, Marxism’s most important contribution to making sense of race and racism in the United States may be demystification. A historical materialist perspective should stress that “race”—which includes “racism,” as one is unthinkable without the other—is a historically specific ideology that emerged, took shape, and has evolved as a constitutive element within a definite set of social relations anchored to a particular system of production.
Norton adds:
In other words, we need anti-racist marxism and feminist marxism (and anti-racist feminist marxism), not identity politics.
Marxism is a conceptual abstraction. Abstractions can be useful, but they shouldn’t be given independent life.

Sunday, April 03, 2016


It begins at 2:42. It solves a lot of problems. Just a few shots, but it works.

Karl Bartos comments: "Was für fleissige Roboter! Ihr seid grossartige Musikanten! So einen tollen Musikunterricht hätte ich früher auch gerne gehabt. Schöne Grüße aus Hamburg!"

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Jian Ghomeshi's lawyer.
This is law. Law is process, not result. It is not "truth". This is legal formalism.
A new tag: Lawyers.  The tag for Law includes judges and philosophers.
"Lawyers are the rule of law."

Philosophers:  Leiter
What "philosophy" looks like when it ceases to be a Wissenschaft... 
...and becomes a set of sophomoric slogans and confusions. Quite amazing, as we've had occasion to note before.
Wissenschaft: the systematic pursuit of knowledge, learning, and scholarship (especially as contrasted with its application). Orig: German, literally ‘knowledge, science.’

Is there "progress in philosophy"?  Do physicists debate whether or not there is progress in physics?
repeats.
The power claimed of philosophy is the power of prescription. As description it’s just another form of literature, and no philosopher will accept what by their own definition would be a drop in status. Philosophers want all the clarity of engineering and the license of poetry. What they end up with is the authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church and the metaphysics of hippies. 
"Leiter’s authoritarianism is founded in insecurity, and their defense of civility is founded in fluff."
Did Ghomeshi's trial result in progress? No. And that's not an argument against trials and trial lawyers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Atrios as troll, a creature of the internet.

March 29
Everybody on the Internet is Wrong 
What I've found frustrating about the internet discourse surrounding the Dem primary is that so little of it has been about anyone actually trying to persuade someone. It's all "I am right, you are wrong." Yes it's the internet. No this should not surprise me. This is how internet discourse usually works. But I've found the level of "my internet-fu has not convinced you because you are stupid" to be weird. Some people like Clinton. Some people like Sanders. Donate money, make calls, knock on doors if you really want to make a difference. Arguing on the internet isn't going to make any difference. As I've said, I'm a Sanders sympathizer. I'm not trying to hide that. But there are good reasons to support Clinton. If I went all in on one side or another I'm sure I'd convince precisely zero people to vote for candidate X. Activism should be productive, not just narcissism.
"Some people like Clinton. Some people like Sanders".  Some people liked Gore and some people liked Bush. Some people liked Palin.
"America's Worst Humans" The World's Worst Humans" "Wanker of the Day"

March 27
Nobody Could Have Predicted
Everybody wins!
Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter 5-year-old civil war. 
The fighting has intensified over the past two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other as they have maneuvered through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.
March 24
All The World's A Stage 
Sometimes I think people fail to realize that we all have our roles to play. I don't advocate dishonesty, but it's my role to complain from The Left in hopes that things get pulled a little bit more to the left (recognizing that my superpowers are limited). Other people have their roles. It's how this game is played.
March 20th
My Obsessions 
One thing about having a blog which requires regular posts is that you have to have obsessions. I get that not all readers are interested in my obsessions of the week, but it's really the only way to keep this truck stop running. I gotta pick something and run with it. Otherwise I run out of things to say. I'm basically an introvert, in case that wasn't obvious.
"I like Hillary Clinton. I worried a bit about some of the idiots she has surrounded herself with. But happy for her to run."

logic is not philosophy. Psychology is not philosophy.

Ruth Marcus would have been livid......if she had lived to see this. Ruth told me years ago that Butler had great difficulty passing the logic requirement in the Yale PhD program in philosophy, and finally, Ruth took pity, and gave her a pass.I had the sense she later regretted that. On Butler, Martha Nussbaum got it right many years ago Critical Theory has been in a downward spiral for a long time now, but that an obscurantist posturing faker like Butler should be deemed its heir...oy veh.
repeats: Nussbaum and Butler
Butler defends principles in action that Nussbaum defends only in theory.
Modernism was the fantasy of writing with the assumption that from then on there would be only reading with and no reading against. To read tale against teller or to read against the grain would be gross error. Rebellion against this has always taken the form of the rebellion of youth against their parents, with the more sympathetic elders caught in the middle, trying to justify the revolt while trying to make it fit with what they know and what they are. So we get the obscurantist poeticizing of Derrida -the philosopher magistrate as wise old fool- and the blandness of Rorty and Nussbaum, struggling to find a way beyond technocracy while being mocked for the attempt by professional technocrats and lionized by amateur enthusiasts. The model of the Continental philosopher was as Pope and Antipope combined, a philosophical self that could contain an other, in a sense obviating the need for actual democracy. And now that Continental and Anglo-American philosophy are joining, out of necessity and the need for survival, we see parallels in Bruno Latour's Collective and David Chalmers' Extended Mind.
Palestinians are the next wave of civil right movement: shopkeepers, housewives and husbands. They’re leading themselves just as, in the past, American blacks, women and homosexuals led themselves. When forced to face real engagement Judith Butler became an articulate and plain spoken defender of Palestinians’ claims to basic civil equality. She defended liberalism when liberals who’ve attacked her refused to. That’s the important fact, not the theoretical gobbledygook that came before. Could it be that gobbledygook was emotionally necessary as a way to defend humanism in an anti-humanist age? Maybe “theory” as poetry kept humanism alive: the poetry of technocracy, fighting against itself. 
I don't know if Marcus was a Zionist, but there are plenty of mathematicians and physicists who are, while at the same time referring to themselves as "liberal". Would Marcus fail them?

see also Jon Elster
Leiter: The Case Against Free Speech
What's the "epistemic value" of Jabberwocky? Google the page for Tushnet.

Leiter again, and Knobe again
The fact that people are held responsible for thoughtlessness that results in a bad outcome while not given credit for thoughtlessness that results in a good one -an "asymmetry in responses"- is common knowledge. Here it's somehow a new and surprising thing, named for its "discoverer". Knobe may want to make a distinction between intention and responsibility but the author of the passage doesn't give it much thought, slipping from one to the other just as I assume the "folk" Knobe interviewed did. It's as if Knobe were surprised to see a woman on the street wearing a bikini while he doesn't notice that the road is running by a beach. Taking a break from his life in the library stacks -and not the stacks in the law library where he'd find discussion of why "ignorance of the law is no excuse"- he thinks he's discovered something new.
And Greene, again. From Leiter's link
For example, Greene conducted experiments showing that people react more negatively to the idea of pushing someone to their death in order to save five lives (a variant of the Trolley problem) than hitting a switch to drop someone through a trapdoor. 
“You can’t know this by introspection, you have to do an experiment."
Question: Why is an executioner called an executioner if he's only following orders?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

1
As I’m sitting there, already clearly embarrassed, I leaned over to the screener and explained to her what I think the anomaly is,” which she could clearly see was in her groin area. Despite the explanation, the supervisor still had to address the situation. Richards was escorted to a closed-off room, and two female officers explained that she had to endure a full body search. When she was asked if she had any prosthetics or implants, she explained, “I’m transgender. I have a penis.” The officers then “freaked out” and claimed they needed to go get male screeners, but Richards insisted, “No, I am legally female. I do not want to be screened by a man. You can screen me; I’m just telling you what it is. They were just unprepared for the situation.
The TSA workers “freaked out” and wanted to call for male scanners, but Petrovsky freaked out at the thought of male screeners.

A hypothetical: A high school football player decides he identifies as a transgender male identified lesbian. He, now she, changes nothing about her dress or behavior, and sues under title IX because there are no urinals in the girls bathroom.

New tag: Transhumanism and Transgender. It overlaps with others, as varieties of narcissism.

The issue isn't gender it's the subjectivism as law.

2
Poor Little Sisters
The simplest way to understand Zubik v Burwell is that the plaintiffs are arguing they would be traumatized, or triggered, by the act of filling out a form. It's an argument against participation in society because society doesn't give you everything you want, and then the demand that society recognize that fact because you are a member of society.  It's the argument of spoiled children.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

He came from the middle of Etobicoke, a wildly diverse part of Toronto, far from downtown, where well-to-do neighborhoods like his family’s meet with towering developments, home to booming communities of newcomers. Drugs were always a presence, including in the house where he grew up: His older brothers were reported to have been involved in the drug trade. Over a decade as a city councillor, he pursued a narrow, simple vision of his job, returning every call, tooling around in a beat-up minivan, talking to homeowners and apartment dwellers about their neighborhood concerns. His chief concern was not spending taxpayer money (especially not on things such as bike lanes, AIDS research, and watering plants at city hall that should probably be plastic, though exceptions could be made for things like police helicopters). His legislative record was obstruction and outbursts, but that suited people fine. Shy and awkward in person, he was comfortable on the phone and became a fixture on AM radio. The legend of Rob Ford, champion of the little guy — and, as some have argued, it really was a legend — grew.

...The private life that emerged from recordings and reports was full of an almost puerile racism and misogyny. He seemed to have enjoyed listing off racial epithets to his friends. In public, he had a penchant for backhanded racism, the kind that sounds like a compliment but in practice was corrosively condescending. He poured his time (and some of the city’s, too) into coaching students from a high school football team, many of whom were black. He persisted in describing them as fatherless kids who would have fallen into drugs and gangs were it not for him. He seemed, above all else, childlike, a teenager from the early ’80s transported into the mayoralty as if by body-swap. His friends were petty criminals. His home was a place of verbal and emotional abuse, at a minimum. He called his aides in the middle of the night, crying, from his father’s grave.

...This is what I believe about Rob Ford: He believed in public service. He only knew how to do it one way: returning calls, knocking on doors, haranguing low-level bureaucrats for quick fixes. He was never cut out to be a mayor. It is not enough to simply make some of your constituents feel better. He did not actually ameliorate these lives with the power a mayor has. But the impulse to do well by the little guy is genuinely what drove him, and was one of the things that put purpose into a terribly difficult life.

This is worth considering, in a season where Rob Ford is being widely compared to Donald Trump. For all the similarities between the movements both men inspired, Trump’s presidential campaign is driven by a deep cynicism and a willingness to strategically deploy hatred in any way that will benefit him, without bounds of shame or conscience. That was not Rob Ford. If Rob Ford had no shame, then he would not have lied. He was shameless about his lies, but his lies sprang from shame. It is hard to look in the mirror and say I don’t understand that.