Thursday, May 26, 2016

Filed under: Culture, Determinism, Naturalism, Fascism, Futurism and Data Culture, Utopia and Intentional Communities, Sexuality, Philosophy, Politics, Transhumanism and Transgender, Make it Idiot-Proof,

Peter Thiel
But I must confess that over the last two decades, I have changed radically on the question of how to achieve these goals. Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible....

As a Stanford undergraduate studying philosophy in the late 1980s, I naturally was drawn to the give-and-take of debate and the desire to bring about freedom through political means....

As a young lawyer and trader in Manhattan in the 1990s, I began to understand why so many become disillusioned after college. The world appears too big a place. Rather than fight the relentless indifference of the universe, many of my saner peers retreated to tending their small gardens. The higher one’s IQ, the more pessimistic one became about free-market politics — capitalism simply is not that popular with the crowd. Among the smartest conservatives, this pessimism often manifested in heroic drinking; the smartest libertarians, by contrast, had fewer hang-ups about positive law and escaped not only to alcohol but beyond it....

The events of recent months shatter any remaining hopes of politically minded libertarians. For those of us who are libertarian in 2009, our education culminates with the knowledge that the broader education of the body politic has become a fool’s errand....

The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron....

The critical question then becomes one of means, of how to escape not via politics but beyond it. Because there are no truly free places left in our world,...
On and on it goes.
If you inter-railed across Europe, only stopping with gay fascists, there aren’t many sights you’d miss. France’s leading post-war fascist was Edouard Pfieffer, who was not batting for the straight side. Germany’s leading neo-Nazi all through the eighties was called Michael Kuhnen; he died of AIDS in 1991 a few years after coming out. Martin Lee, author of a study of European fascism, explains, “For Kuhnen, there was something supermacho about being a Nazi, as well as being a homosexual, both of which enforced his sense of living on the edge, of belonging to an elite that was destined to make an impact. He told a West German journalist that homosexuals were ‘especially well-suited for our task, because they do not want ties to wife, children and family.’”

And it wouldn’t be long before your whistlestop tour arrived in Britain. At first glance, our Nazis seem militantly straight. They have tried to disrupt gay parades, describe gay people as “evil”, and BNP leader Nick Griffin reacted charmingly to the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in 1999 with a column saying, “The TV footage of gay demonstrators [outside the scene of carnage] flaunting their perversion in front of the world’s journalists showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures repulsive.”

But scratch to homophobic surface and there’s a spandex swastika underneath. In 1999, Martin Webster, a former National Front organiser and head honcho in the British fascist movement, wrote a four-page pamphlet detailing his ‘affair’ with Nick Griffin. “Griffin sought out intimate relations with me,” openly-gay Webster explained, “in the late 1970s. He was twenty years younger than me.” Ray Hill, who infiltrated the British fascist movement for twelve years to gather information for anti-fascist groups, says it’s all too plausible. Homosexuality is “extremely prevalent” in the upper echelons of the British far right, and at one stage in the 1980s nearly half of the movement’s organisers were gay, he claims.
etc.... etc.... [etc....] etc....
It’s always amused me how many people refer to queer theory and queerness as being attacked by the right, without defending it explicitly as being of the left. But Queerness isn't a critique of class and economics; it's defined as mocking bourgeois normalcy. Over the past two centuries both the left and right have done that and now especially there's confusion about who's doing it and why.

But what replaces normalcy? For the majority of whatever political, sexual, religious or philosophical persuasion, the answer's, "nothing".  Fantasies of permanent revolution, the entrepreneurial spirit, or the fabulous life are all fantasies of a minority; most people want stability and stability is boring. The focus of contemporary theory on systems of power relations assumes that if society and normalcy are coercive they must also be unjust. It's an argument from hypertrophied individualism, mixing Plato, Foucault and Ayn Rand with the accent on one or another according to preference, and stating either that the powerful are powerful because they are and that this therefore is just, or that rules will always be broken and we shouldn't defend them nor even the ambiguous relations of laws and their undoing -that being the definition of the arts and specifically of literature- but merely celebrate their breaking. All of this is based in turn on a romantic reading of Freud and a hatred of him for his mistakes, a fondness for de Sade and The Story of O, and/or a televangelist’s version of Adam Smith. If capitalism in it's ascendancy was the child of humanism, anti-humanism has become the philosophy of it's maturity. It's held variously that we are never conscious, that we do not behave responsibly in the face of desire, that we need to be free, that we're greedy, and that the greedy are the most free.
Click on the fucking links and learn something.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Drip... drip... slip... slip... Drift.
Beginning to see the light.  Still no self awareness.
Academic lawyers do a fair bit of pontificating too, though not nearly as much as the academic philosophers, and theirs is almost always confined to real politics. The really revolting aspect of some academic philosopher behavior on FB is its "high school with tenure" quality: back-stabbing, preening and posturing, endless displays of righteousness and "pearl clutching", faux solidarity with all the oppressed and "wretched of the academy" (less often the actual wretched of the earth), and so on. An awful lot of academic philosophers on FB come across as teenagers desperately seeking approval and affirmation. I've managed to "unfriend" most of the offenders, but it was really a kind of depressing and sickening spectacle while it lasted.

Why don't academic lawyers on FB engage in this kind of tawdry behavior? Academic lawyers, having gone to professional school and often worked as professionals in practice, may just be more mature as a group (though I also suspect there is a selection effect at work, i.e., those academic philosophers most prone to this behavior are drawn to FB). But another part of the explanation, I suspect, is that academic philosophers are more powerless than academic lawyers: many of the latter are actively engaged in policy work, law reform, and litigation on the issues they care about. All academic philosophers can do is posture and preen on FB.

But what's really interesting is how different the actual lawyers on FB are: there's none of the tawdry displays of virtue and righteousness, and there's hardly any of the pontificating. The explanation there is, I think, pretty simple: they are way too busy to indulge themselves this way. The same goes for most of the other regular people I'm friends with on FB. FB, alas, seems to be evidence that academics do have way too much time on their hands.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."
John Philpot Curran

"The behaviors attributed to me go fundamentally against what I believe, teach and write about.” Thomas Pogge

The academy is built on a collaborative model of intellectual life. Even the "discovery" of our self-interest is seen as the product of the practice of its opposite. Pogge is whining narcissist, in a culture of whining narcissists.
There is no aspect of scientific knowledge that mandates institutionalized instrumental reason in all aspects of life. There is no telos to the world beyond entropy, and even that puts too much of a glow on physical events. The 18th century was the age of enchantment with science, an enchantment morphing over time into various forms of a philosophy along a line also described in the arts, which themselves describe (again) not the world but our perceptions of it. Equality in the language of philosophy originates in the discovery or construction, by members of an elite, of the idea of equality, rather than in the recognition of the practice of it by the people, and has ended in the study of people by that same elite not as equal but alike: the study of each of us only in terms of the aggregate. And in this the logic of individualism becomes its opposite, except that the elite observers have quietly removed themselves from the game. The greatest heroes of technocracy are those who can predict the behavior of the middling and in this they have become middling themselves. But it’s these heroes who are left to make the decisions for the rest of us. 

Repeats: A lecture on feminism and the rule of law from Jian Ghomeshi's lawyer. I have more respect for her than the plaintiffs in these cases. I have pity for them, and pity isn't respect.  Marie Henein isn't a scientist or a pseudoscientist; she's an advocate playing her part in a game that she takes very seriously.

Adversarialism is predicted on the existence and equal authority of the other. We are all each others' others; the only question left is how to extend that understanding to our relations with outsiders, for whom the category of the other was imagined by scholastic philosophers who had no interest in adversarialism.

The philosophy of science -philosophy as science- is the philosophy of plumbing and race car engines, the philosophy of mechanical banality. Goals being assumed, utility defined, the politics is authoritarian. Democracy sees goals as open.  It requires tougher people, adults, willing to state opinions and stand by them. It's not for rubes or Hollies Golightly.  It's much more interesting. And it's sexier.

Lawyers, not judges, not philosophers are at the center of our legal system.

It's Rashomon, you idiots
Again
Frank Rich, Hillary Clinton's tears, etc. The comedians tag. Liberals used to complain about political commentary as theater criticism. Now they don't.
Hit the bastard, Ms. Clinton. Then keep doing it until he stops moving. And then hit him a few more times to be sure. 
People react to fear, not love.
They don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true. 
Do you think Mrs. Clinton remembers what fear did to her old law partner Vince Foster? He was a deputy White House counsel at the beginning of Mr. Clinton’s administration, one of the old Arkansas hands who’d never played in the big leagues before. Georgetown normally spits out strangers, but Foster charmed them; people were saying he’d get the Supreme Court before eight years were up.

Depending on whom you believe, Foster was either too damn good a lawyer, an upright smalltown guy who couldn’t bear to screw political enemies, or he knew too much about nepotism and embezzlement in the White House Travel Office. 
Either way, he stuck a gun in his mouth. 
Love doesn’t mean a thing when your back’s to the wall. You have to stare fear in the face and use it, by God. Take it up and beat the bastards back with it again, and again, until it’s your heel on their necks. Or it kills you. 
Take Muskie. Remember his corncob downeast Lincoln act? Kids turned out for him, and he looked like a guy who could stand with Brezhnev. We turned him into a bigot and a pansy, a drunk’s husband who takes pills and weeps in public. 
Hit the son of a bitch until he stops moving, then let the public keep hitting him as he lies there. Go to people’s fears. Or it’s your ass.
He's riffing on a famous, alleged, quote from Pauline Kael. The real quote:
“I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”
The Bruenig fiasco is amusing. The liberal consensus is breaking apart. The older generation is backing Clinton out of loyalty and youthful members of the apparat are split. I expected better of Joan Walsh, but Jessica Valenti has always been awful. Duncan Black's pathological equivocation:  "Your favorite candidate".  Running away from anything that frightens him, anything he perceives as ambiguous.
The geek need for binary simplicity.

"pathologically opposed to ambiguity" "throw/s up his hands" "pathologically anti-intellectual" "know-nothing" all repeats.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Keeping this at the top for now.


A few small changes and a coda, but it's probably still not done. Something I'm tempted to add; I haven't made up my mind.

I removed and archived the earlier post with the description of the process. I shouldn't have to explain.



Slavoj The Bear got in some trouble over this, mostly from earnest idiots of one sort or another.
He's not great, and never has been, but he's not bad. And he's willing to state the obvious: that immigrants want to come to Western Europe because they share the dream of Europe that European liberals (the ones the right wing call leftists) mock as shallow hypocrisy. And the same liberals coo over the arrival of dark skinned religious conservatives while expressing contempt for native born white ones.
Anyone wishing to understand why thousands of Western-born Muslims are leaving comfortable homes to fight with Isis would do well to watch Deeyah Khan’s powerful new film Jihad: A British Story.

The award-winning filmmaker spent 18 months interviewing some of the founding fathers of jihad in the UK out of a “personal obsessive curiosity” to find out what was driving young people to sign up to such a violent movement and by doing so, find ways to prevent it.

The film, which will be shown on ITV on June 15 as part of their Exposure series, includes extraordinary interviews with a number of British Muslims who were at the forefront of the movement to recruit, raise funds for and fight in wars ranging from Afghanistan in the 1980s through to Kashmir, Burma, Bosnia and Chechnya.

What many people fail to understand is that “this movement is not new”, says Khan. “It is three decades old in the west. The trend of taking western based people from the UK, Denmark, Belgium, began in the early to mid -80s and since then it’s been one conflict after the other. We are only seeing it now because Isis is so absolutely viscous and so public and they are using cameras to disseminate it. In the west our attention only woke up from 9/11 onwards.”
...Khan grew up in Norway to immigrant parents from Afghanistan and Pakistan and says she “understands very well the culture clash of coming from this in-between place”.

Khan’s father was liberal but rather than “arranging my marriage he forced me into a career that wasn’t (my choice)”. He believed there were only two professions where you were not judged on your gender and race – music or sport - and so he encouraged his daughter to become a singer, throwing away her toys from the age of seven and getting her to undertake intense music lessons.

His plan worked and Khan became a successful pop star at the age of ten, lauded as an example of multicultural Norway, but before long she was receiving death threats from members of the Muslim community who felt that a women should not be performing. Constantly being harassed on the street and fearing for her life, Khan fled to London at the age of 18 but after achieving some success in the UK, the death threats started again and Khan ended up moving to the US and giving up performing music all together.
Deeyah Khan is not a leftist. She's a thoroughly Eurobougie glamour girl, who directed a Peabody winning documentary about honor killing in the UK. And here's the ITV page for the new one.
But she's not attacked by leftists.
Khan in the HuffPo UK.
The UK Government recently announced its Counter Extremism Strategy, a document which refers to 'British values' 54 times. Within this report, extremism is defined as 'the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.' These are certainly fine values -- which British governments have consistently failed to support.

Britain has been responsible for the undermining of democracy, turning a blind eye to abuses by its allies, using extraordinary rendition to get around the rule of law, passing over the denial of individual liberties to dissidents, and the evasion of the dismal situation for religious minorities. Ironically, David Cameron's first act after the unveiling of this act was setting trade deals with China, hardly notable for its democracy, rule of law, individual liberty or tolerance for different faiths. This was followed by a rock star reception for Indian PM Narendra Modi, whose rule has seen a shocking increase in Hindu supremacist ideology and attacks on minorities.
Zizek is an intelligent bloviator... we're back to Norman Mailer again, and Houellebecq (the links lead back to here) The worst thing about him is his philosophers' taste in art, which also affects his understanding of politics. But in the end he's a liberal, mostly in the good sense of the word. The worst thing about Khan is probably her music, but I haven't heard it so I can't be sure. Zizek the Stalinist and Khan the immigrant both understand liberalism better than most earnest liberals do.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Updating. Documenting drift.
When Thomas Pogge travels around the world, he finds eager young fans waiting for him in every lecture hall. The 62-year-old German-born professor, a protégé of the philosopher John Rawls, is bespectacled and slight of stature. But he’s a giant in the field of global ethics, and one of only a small handful of philosophers who have managed to translate prominence within the academy to an influential place in debates about policy.
Leiter
“It breaks my heart to have to say it,” said Christia Mercer, a former colleague from the Columbia philosophy department, “but it’s clear that Thomas uses his reputation as a supporter of justice to prey unjustly on those who trust and admire him, who then — once victimized — are too intimidated by his reputation and power to tell their stories.”

This is also my reaction.
Ludlow, McGinn "It's no secret". Rationalists rationalize.

Leiter links to IHE, on the threat to the liberal arts.
For Talbot Brewer, professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Virginia, the liberal arts need saving in part from the “black mirrors” so many of us are glued to each day. Cellular phones, computers and, especially for children, television, facilitate a kind of “reverse-Weberian,” late capitalistic assault...

Calling attention a “vital resource,” Brewer described it as “the medium of passion, of friendship, of love. 
Not “reverse-Weberian", simply Weberian. And again, for Leiter the whole point of philosophy is that it is not art or fiction, but close to science.  He reads for text without subtext. As I repeat again and again, Leiter, like his friend Posner, is a technocratic anti-humanist.

Maria Farrell (start here or here) discovers "Post-Democracy"
I’ve been reading and re-reading Colin Crouch’s Post-Democracy on and off for about eighteen months, and just spotted a nice precis of it on OpenDemocracy in a piece by Kit de Waal about celebrity activism:

“The term ‘post-democracy’ was coined by Colin Crouch to refer to the fusion of corporate power with government, generating an elite politics based on a political-financial cycle in which money buys power and power rewards money. Post-democracy is a plausible imitation of democracy. It has a popular, consultative appearance, while the real politics of power and money consists of a continuing round of inter-personal transactions among elites.”

What makes Post-Democracy hard for me to digest more than a dozen pages at a time is not, I think, its relentless rightness, which I personally find more or less inarguable, but how little there appears we can do about it. My experience of reading it is basically ‘yes, this is better researched and thought through than I’d ever manage, and I agree; we’re basically fucked.’

I get that I’m experiencing nothing more than the cognitive dissonance of a social democrat who knows capitalism is awful and probably tending towards disaster – but more the chronic debilitating disease kind of disaster of, say, a slow-boiled lobster, than the explosive, revolutionary and strangely psycho-sexual climax of sudden foment and change – but who has neither the temperament nor the constitution for either ripping it up or walking away. (Hello Rosa Luxembourg. Like my hero Virginia Woolf, you would despise me, too.) But simply knowing this doesn’t help.

About a decade ago I was at a weekend conference in New York on what was then called ‘the new philanthropy’. The impeccably well-educated and well-spoken man who’d been Angelina Jolie’s fixer in the world of Davos and the UN system was there to say how great it was that celebrities were now getting down into development issues and doing things that governments didn’t have the will for. At the Q&A, I made myself a bit awkward by asking how democratic it was that those people could re-order policy priorities on a whim, and wouldn’t it be better if they just voted and paid their taxes like the little people....
A smart commenter replies quoting a post by her I'd decided not to read.
Oh I remember you. 
“The question isn’t whether the Easter Rising accelerated Ireland’s independence or made it happen at all; it’s whether it was worth the death of one bow-legged tenement child. Of course it wasn’t.
If you don’t have faith in the people to create democracy why do you mourn its passing?
From the older post
In 1916, my great-grand father, Eoin MacNeill, was the head of a dissident army, the Irish Volunteers. At its height, before many left and volunteered to fight in World War I, the Irish Volunteers numbered about eighty thousand men.
The befuddled sister of a Weberian "liberal" and wife of a career military officer, she prays daily for the health of the Pope, and mourns our fallen state.

The Farrells are from the gentry. They are not "the little people", but for Maria celebrities are vulgar. Her brother's clan, the technocrats, are the new aristocrats, but like her he's never understood the switch. And both in different ways pretend to be defending democracy. I'm with Norman Mailer

Weber's technocratic elite, the masters of "value-free science" could never exist separately from the capitalist elite. They're siblings. Again, see Leiter's friendship with Posner, and Henry Farrell's interest -liberal academia's interest- in libertarianism, which outside of the academy is no more or less than a cult. Technocracy is not democracy. The link's a google site search. Search the web; it's still mostly me. And still obvious.
---
But we can take hope from our own history. Amid unrelenting upheaval and popular anger, the Renaissance left a legacy that we still celebrate as one of humanity’s brightest. It also left wisdom, in both its triumphs and disasters, to help us steer through similar storms. Looking through a Renaissance lens, what to do now becomes startlingly clear. We need to welcome genius. To understand that disruptive change and technological revolutions can spread both immense good and harm. To celebrate diversity and overcome prejudice. To raise public and private patronage. To embrace change, and strengthen public safety nets in ways that embolden us all. To build new crossroads and welcome migrants. To tear up the (mental) maps that unhelpfully divide people. To stoke virtues – especially honesty, audacity and dignity. To champion collective endeavours as well as individual freedoms.

The Renaissance offers lessons on how to magnify the flourishing under way. It also offers warnings about what happens when we fail, in a time of great change, to renew our social bargain with one another.

This is our age of discovery. We can succumb to its pressures, close our borders and our minds to new people, ideas and technologies, and thereby surrender the possibilities inherent in humanity’s present circumstances. Or we can seize this moment, navigate the crises of our own time and co-create a blossoming that the world will still talk about in 2500.

Flounder or flourish? The choice is ours. 
Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna’s Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance is published by Bloomsbury/St Martin’s Press 
Ian Goldin is director of the Oxford Martin School and professor of globalisation and development at Oxford University (@ian_goldin). Chris Kutarna is a two-time Governor General’s medallist, Commonwealth scholar and fellow at the Oxford Martin School (@ChrisKutarna).
According to his Oxford student profile Kutarna was the lead China research on this tome:
Globalization is about Americans outsourcing product development and services to other countries. Globality is the next step.
Globalization has never been about American outsourcing. Globality is packaging and book sales.

"This is our age of discovery." The Industrial Revolution which hasn't ended is being rebranded in the language of Madison Avenue and B. school to refer to the Renaissance as opposed to the Enlightenment. That's the only relevant data point, except for the fact that Kutarna seems to have published a novel in Mandarin.
---

More of the same at The Boston Review

What Is Education For?
Opening the Debate, Danielle Allen: Preparation for democratic citizenship demands humanities education, not just STEM.
Samuel Moyn:  Rights vs. Duties, Reclaiming Civic Balance
The second piece isn't part of the symposium.  It should be.

repeats, repeats, repeats.
Rules can't be contradictory; obligations will conflict. The formalism of truth vs the formalism of process. Liberalism, technocracy and science (and pseudoscience), vs republicanism, democracy, and law (and art).  More of the same.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

repeats: "My husband had sex with me while I was in a drunken state. Should I divorce him?"

New
Imagine the following case: Two recent college grads meet in a bar, talk, begin kissing, and go to her apartment. After a little more talking, they resume kissing there. He undresses her and initiates sexual intercourse. She neither objects nor resists. He leaves, and they have no further contact. A month later, she files a criminal complaint with police, complaining that this was rape because she never expressed verbal consent and was physically passive.

Under the law as it has been from time immemorial, the woman's complaint would be rejected because her failure to say no or resist would be considered consent.

But under proposals that will be put to a vote on May 17 at the annual meeting of the American Law Institute, the nation's most prestigious drafter of model laws, the man could be charged with of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
The new feminism is the old anti-feminism.

Ttranshumanism and Transgender.
The new law isn't concerned with safety but with the demand that the state confirm self-identity. “On the definition of gender identity,  accepts that gender is not a binary.”  Wrong. The law is predicated on the reinforcement of binaries according to ideological commitment.
repeats
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.
New
CHESTER, Vt. — The way A J Jackson tells it, he kept his head ducked down and pretended to fiddle with his cellphone as he walked into the boys’ bathroom and headed for a stall at Green Mountain Union High School here.

But the way some of his classmates see it, A J was still Autumn Jackson, a girl in boys’ clothing, who had violated an intimate sanctum, while two boys were standing at a urinal, their private parts exposed.

“It’s like me going into a girls’ bathroom wearing a wig,” Tanner Bischofberger, 15, a classmate of A J Jackson’s, who was not one of those in the bathroom, said this week. “It’s just weird.”
Why does "AJ"'s discomfort with "his" biology take precedence?
The instituting of subjectivism into law undermines the rule of law.

All of the above originates in rationalism which begins with a focus on and faith in the individual imagination. Neoliberalism is liberalism taken to its logical conclusion.

Language is ambiguous by definition, and law is a blunt instrument. Biological distinctions are matters of fact, at least compared to demands founded explicitly in desire.

A comment I tried to post at Opinio Juris
The rule of law is the rule of "rules" written and made public, and includes rules for the amendment and repeal of rules. You could follow rules in deciding to create the office of dictator if you provided rules for the end of his reign. "The end of the war" would suffice. "Until Hell freezes over" would not. The point is a guaranteed return to debate.

Pace Raz and Dworkin, we live in a Rashomon world. That's why we have lawyers, and why lawyers and philosophers have different jobs, and why in a democracy philosophers are much less important. Like the famous story of a panicked Kurt Gödel claiming to have found flaws in the Constitution, the problem wasn't the Constitution it was Gödel's mathematicians' logic. He wasn't wrong, but he didn't understand how language works. 
What's a valid "interpretation"? Words on a page are facts, like rocks and sand. What we debate are meanings and we do that endlessly. The rule of law in a democracy is the rule of public debate, with little points of quasi-solidity: sentences written down for all to see.

"Kurt Gödel meet David Addington". I googled their names together after I wrote that the first time. The relation was obvious but the only reference I found was Balkin and Levinson. I should've guessed. 
Mathematicians and engineers skew far right as to politics. Pedants are horrified by "lawyering". As Joe Jamail says, "Lawyers are the rule of law." Lawyers, not judges, not philosophers, not engineers.
"Kurt Gödel, David Addington" still works.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Frank Rich, Hillary Clinton's tears, etc. The comedians tag. Liberals used to complain about political commentary as theater criticism. Now they don't.

AXELROD: Talk to be about Hillary Clinton as an opponent to him, and what...
STEWART: I've never run against her, so I don't...
AXELROD: ...what would you be saying about her if you were doing your show right now?
STEWART: What I think about Hillary Clinton is, you know, I imagine to be a very bright woman without the courage of her convictions because I'm not even sure what they are. So, I would suggest that, when I watch her campaign - - when I watch her campaign, it reminds me of -- and again, I'm throwing out references that mean absolutely nothing to anybody, so I will continue to do that -- she reminds me of Magic Johnson's talk show, and I won't say anything else.
AXELROD: You had that thought too, huh?
STEWART: If you ever watch Magic Johnson's tele-- Magic Johnson was a charming individual, but he wasn't a talk show host, and when you watched his show you could almost see Arsenio's advice to him, in real time rendering, so he would sit and he would go, "Uh, my first guest tonight -- Oh, Arsenio said, enthusiasm is something that's sell is -- "my first guess tonight is Cher, everybody." But he never seemed authentic and real to his personality. It seemed like he was wearing an outfit designed by someone else for someone else to be someone else, and that is not to say that she is not preferable to Donald Trump, because at this point, I would vote for Mr. T over Donald Trump. But, I think she will be in big trouble if she can't find a way, and maybe I'm wrong. Maybe a real person doesn't exist underneath there. I don't know.
AXELROD: You worked -- you dabbled on the government side when you were advocating for the Zadroga Act for 9/11 survivors. Did you work with her, when she was Senator of New York, on that?
STEWART: No.
AXELROD: So you never had any...
STEWART: I worked with Kirsten Gillibrand.
AXELROD: Mm-hmm. I see. So, she was out of the Senate by then.
STEWART: She's terrific. Kirsten Gillibrand is terrific.
AXELROD: So, Hillary was out of the Senate by then. Now, you must've had her on your show. STEWART: Yes.
AXELROD: And what was that like?
STEWART: Really cool. It's -- look, there are politicians who are either rendering their inauthenticity in real enough time to appear authentic, and then there are politicians who render their inauthenticity through -- it's like when your computer -- you want to play -- if you have a MAC and you want to play a Microsoft game on it...
AXELROD: Yes, yes.
STEWART: ...and there's that weird lag.
AXELROD: Yes. No, I mean...
STEWART: That's Hillary Clinton.
AXELROD: ...that's big problem. There's like a seven second delay and all the words come out in a perfectly... STEWART: Right.
AXELROD: ...politically calibrated sentence.
STEWART: Right. Now, what gives me hope in that is that there's a delay, which means she's somehow fighting something. I've seen politicians who don't have that delay and render their inauthenticity in real time and that's when you go, "That's a sociopath."
AXELROD: That's an uplifting message there. The...
STEWART: By the way, as far as uplifting messages, I have never in my life experienced what I experienced in my one day of lobbying down in Washington, D.C.
AXELROD: Yeah, I want to ask you about...
STEWART: And let me just say, like for however I painted it on the show, it's so much worse than you could possibly imagine. It is a cesspool. There are some good people trying to survive within the lava, but it's a f---ing horror show. No disrespect.
AXELROD: No. STEWART: There is...
AXELROD: Just the fact that you're at the Institute of Politics where we're trying to encourage young people to get into the public arena.
STEWART: Can I say this? Get into it and don't get it on you. I've never -- I was down there with firefighters who had spent a year on the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center. The guy that I was with, Ray Pfeifer, had a titanium rod in his leg that was breaking because of the metastasized cancer that was roiling through it that he got from being on the pile. We had the scientific evidence with us. You cannot imagine the disrespect, the lack of compassion, that was exhibited towards this man and this cause by individuals in higher ogce. It was -- I will never recover from it.
AXELROD: So, here's my -- here's my theory, because I can't sit in front of a thousand young people and not say this; you know, you have to -- if you turn away, and you walk away from this and you just seed -- seed all of that to the people you're talking about, you're going to get what you get and it seems to me that there's some obligation to go in there and try and change it. You say go in there and don't get it on you...
STEWART: Yes.
AXELROD: ...but, we need that. We need that. We need that. No, but this is the most public spirited...
STEWART: When I say, "Don't get it on you" I don't mean, don't engage. I mean, take appropriate precautions, wear a HAZMAT suit. Bring your ideals. Whenever I speak to -- and we used to do this thing every year where we'd bring the press secretaries for all the Senate and all the House people that wanted to come in and they would say to me, "So, what can my candidate to have a successful appearance on your show?" And I would say, "He could, or she could, say what she thinks about the issues concerning America."
AXELROD: And he says, "Is there any other way to do it?"
STEWART: But they would say, "But what should I tell them? What works best?" "When people say what they believe." "What's that?" And honestly, like, I know you think that I'm being hyperbolic. I recognize that you don't understand this. I am not -- they are as unaware of their own machinations as you could possibly imagine. It's -- and I'm not even saying its malevolence.
"No idea's original, there's nothin new under the sun. It's never what you do, but how it's done."
Mailer, Kubrick, and Baudelaire,  Russell, James and Santayana, (de Boeldieu, and
von Rauffenstein) vs one dimensional men
4: THE LIBERAL PARTY
There was a party first, however, given by an attractive liberal couple. Mailer's heart, never buoyant at best, and in fact once with justice called "sodden" by a critic, now collected into a leaden little ball and sank, not to his feet but his stomach. He was aware for the first time this day of a healthy desire to have a drink for the party gave every promise of being dreadful. Mailer was a snob of the worst sort. New York had not spoiled him, because it had not chosen to, but New York had certainly wrecked his tolerance for any party but a very good one. Like most snobs he professed to believe in the aristocracy of achieved quality—"Just give me a hovel with a few young artists, bright-eyed and bold"—in fact, a party lacked flavor for him unless someone very rich or social was present. An evening without a wicked lady in the room was like an opera company without a large voice. Of course there were no wicked ladies when he entered this room. Some reasonably attractive wives to be certain, and a couple of young girls, too young for him, they were still in the late stages of some sort of extraordinary progressive school, and were innocent, decent-spirited, merry, red-cheeked, idealistic, and utterly lobotomized away from the sense of sin. Mailer would not have known what to do with such young ladies—he had spent the first forty-four years of his life in an intimate dialogue, a veritable dialectic with the swoops, spooks, starts, the masks and snarls, the calm lucid abilities of sin, sin was his favorite fellow, his tonic, his jailer, his horse, his sword, say he was not inclined to flirt for an hour with one bright seventeen-year-old or another when they conceived of lust as no more than the gymnasium of love. Mailer had a diatribe against LSD, hippies, and the generation of love, but he was keeping it to himself. (The young girls, incidentally, had been brought by de Grazia. Not for nothing did de Grazia bear a resemblance to Sinatra.)
    But we are back with the wives, and the room has not yet been described. It was the sort of room one can see at many a faculty party in places like Berkeley, the University of Chicago, Columbia—the ground of common being is that the faculty man is a liberal. Conservative professors tend to have a private income, so their homes show the flowering of their taste, the articulation of their hobbies, collections adhere to their cabinets and odd statements of whim stand up in the nooks; but liberal instructors, liberal assistant professors, and liberal associate professors are usually poor and programmatic, so secretly they despise the arts of home adornment. Their houses look one like the other, for the wives gave up herculean careers as doctors, analysts, sociologists, anthropologists, labor relations experts—great servants of the Social Program were lost when the women got married and relinquished all for hubber and kids. So the furnishings are functional, the prevailing hues of wall and carpet and cloth are institutional brown and library gray, the paintings and sculpture are stylized abstract, hopeless imitation I. Rice Pereira, Leonard Baskin, Ben Shahn, but bet your twenty-five dollars to win an assured ten dollars that the artist on the wall is a friend of the host, has the right political ideas, and will talk about literature so well, you might think you were being addressed by Maxim Gorky.
    Such were the sour and near to unprintable views of the semi-distinguished and semi-notorious author as he entered the room. His deepest detestation was often reserved for the nicest of liberal academics, as if their lives were his own life but a step escaped. Like the scent of the void which comes off the pages of a Xerox copy, so was he always depressed in such homes by their hint of oversecurity. If the republic was now managing to convert the citizenry to a plastic mass, ready to be attached to any manipulative gung ho, the author was ready to cast much of the blame for such success into the undernourished lap, the overpsychologized loins, of the liberal academic intelligentsia. They were of course politically opposed to the present programs and movements of the republic in Asian foreign policy, but this political difference seemed no more than a quarrel among engineers. Liberal academics had no root of a real war with technology land itself, no, in all likelihood, they were the natural managers of that future air-conditioned vault where the last of human life would still exist. Their only quarrel with the Great Society was that they thought it temporarily deranged, since the Great Society seemed to be serving as instrument to the Goldwater wing of the Republican party, a course of action so very irrational to these liberal technologues that they were faced with bitter necessity to desert all their hard-earned positions of leverage on real power in the Democratic party, a considerable loss to suffer merely because of an irrational development in the design of the Great Society's supermachine. Well, the liberal technologues were not without character or principle. If their living rooms had little to keep them apart from the look of waiting rooms of doctors with a modern practice, it was exactly because the private loves of the ideologues were attached to no gold standard of the psyche. Those true powers of interior decoration —greed, guilt, compassion and trust—were hardly the cornerstones of their family furnishings. No, just as money was a concept, no more, to the liberal academic, and needed no ballast of gold to be considered real, for nothing is more real to the intellectual than a concept! so position or power in society was, to the liberal technologue, also a concept, desirable, but always to be relinquished for a better concept. They were servants of that social machine of the future in which all irrational human conflict would be resolved, all conflict of interest negotiated, and nature's resonance condensed into frequencies which could comfortably phase nature in or out as you please. So they were servants of the moon. Their living rooms looked like offices precisely because they were ready to move to the moon and build Utope cities there—Utope being, one may well suppose, the only appropriate name for pilot models of Utopia in Non-Terrestrial Ecologically Sub-Dependent Non-Charged Staging Areas, that's to say dead planets where the food must be flown in, but the chances for good civil rights and all-out social engineering are one hundred percent zap!
    As is invariably the case with sociological ruminations the individual guests at this party disproved the general thesis, at least in part. The hostess was small, for example, almost tiny, but vivid, bright-eyed, suggestive of a fiery temper and a childlike glee. It was to pain Mailer later to refuse her cooking (she had prepared a buffet to be eaten before the move to the theater) but he was drinking with some devotion by then, and mixing seemed fair neither to the food nor the bourbon. It was of course directly unfair to the hostess: Mailer priding himself on his good manners precisely because the legend of his had manners was so prevalent, hated to cause pain to a hostess, but he had learned from years of speaking in public that an entertainer's first duty was to deliver himself to the stage with the maximum of energy, high focus, and wit—a good heavy dinner on half a pint of bourbon was likely to produce torpor, undue search for the functional phrase, and dry-mouthed maunderings after a little spit. So he apologized to the lady, dared the look of rejection in her eye which was almost balanced on a tear—she was indeed surprisingly adorable and childlike to be found in such a liberal academic coven—and tried to cover the general sense of loss by marshaling what he assumed most radiant look, next assuring her that he would take a rain check on the meal.
    "Promise?"
    "Next time I'm in Washington," he lied like a psychopath. The arbiter of nicety in him had observed with horror over many a similar occasion that he was absolutely without character for any social situation in which a pause could become the mood's abyss, and so he always filled the moment with the most extravagant amalgams of possibility. Particularly he did this at the home of liberal academics. They were brusque to the world of manners, they had built their hope of heaven on the binary system and the computer, 1 and 0, Yes and No—they had little to do therefore with the spectrum of grace in acceptance and refusal; if you did not do what they wished, you had simply denied them. Now Mailer was often brusque himself, famous for that, but the architecture of his personality bore resemblance to some provincial cathedral which waning orders of the church might have designed separately over several centuries, the particular cathedral falling into the hands of one architect, then his enemy. (Mailer had not been married four times for nothing.) If he was on many an occasion brusque, he was also to himself at least so supersensitive to nuances of manner he sometimes suspected when in no modest mood that Proust had lost a cell mate the day they were born in different bags. (Bag is of course used here to specify milieu and not the exceptional character of the mothers, Mme. Proust and Mrs. I. B. Mailer.) At any rate, boldness, attacks of shyness, rude assertion, and circumlocutions tortured as arthritic fingers working at lace, all took their turn with him, and these shuttlings of mood became most pronounced in their resemblance to the banging and shunting of freight cars when he was with liberal academics. Since he—you are in on the secret—disapproved of them far more than he could afford to reveal (their enmity could be venomous) he therefore exerted himself to push up a synthetic exaggerated sweetness of manner, and his conversations with liberal ideologues on the consequence consisted almost entirely of overcorrections of the previous error.
    "I know a friend of yours," says the ideologue. A nervous voice from the novelist for answer. "Yes? Who?" Now the name is given: it is X.
    Mailer: I don't know X.
    The ideologue proceeds to specify a conversation which M held with X. M recollects. "Oh, yes!" he says; "of course! X!" Burbles of conversation about the merits of X, and his great ebullience. Actually X is close to flat seltzer.
There had been just this sort of dialogue with a stranger at the beginning of the party. So Mailer gave up quickly any thought of circulation. Rather, he huddled first with Dwight Macdonald, but Macdonald was the operative definition of the gregarious and could talk with equal facility and equal lack of personal observation to an Eskimo, a collector from the New York Department of Sanitation, or a UN diplomat—therefore was chatting happily with the world fifteen minutes after his entrance. Hence Mailer and Robert Lowell got into what was by all appearances a deep conversation at the dinner table sometime before food was laid out, Mailer thus doubly wounding the hostess with his later refusal.
    We find, therefore, Lowell and Mailer ostensibly locked in converse. In fact, out of the thousand separate enclaves of their very separate personalities, they sensed quickly that they now shared one enclave to the hilt: their secret detestation of liberal academic parties to accompany worthy causes. Yes, their snobbery was on this mountainous face close to identical—each had a delight in exactly the other kind of party, a posh evil social affair, they even supported a similar vein of vanity (Lowell with considerably more justice) that if they were doomed to be revolutionaries, rebels, dissenters, anarchists, protesters, and general champions of one Left cause or another, they were also, in private, grands conservateurs, and if the truth be told, poor damn emigre princes. They were willing if necessary (probably) to die for the cause—one could hope the cause might finally at the end have an unexpected hint of wit, a touch of the Lord's last grace—but wit or no, grace or grace failing, it was bitter rue to have to root up one's occupations of the day, the week, and the weekend and trot down to Washington for idiot mass manifestations which could only drench one in the most ineradicable kind of mucked-up publicity and have for compensation nothing at this party which might be representative of some of the Devil's better creations. So Robert Lowell and Norman Mailer feigned deep conversation. They turned their heads to one another at the empty table, ignoring the potentially acolytic drinkers at either elbow, they projected their elbows out in fact like flying buttresses or old Republicans, they exuded waves of Interruption Repellent from the posture of their backs, and concentrated on their conversation, for indeed they were the only two men of remotely similar status in the room. (Explanations about the position of Paul Goodman will follow later.)
Lowell, whose personal attractiveness was immense (since his features were at once virile and patrician and his characteristic manner turned up facets of the grim, the gallant, the tender and the solicitous as if he were the nicest Boston banker one had ever hoped to meet) was not concerned too much about the evening at the theater. "I'm just going to read some poems," he said. "I suppose you're going to speak, Norman."
    "Well, I will."
    "Yes, you're awfully good at that."
    "Not really." Harumphs, modifications, protestations and denials of the virtue of the ability to speak.
    "I'm no good at all at public speaking," said Lowell in the kindest voice. He had indisputably won the first round. Mailer the younger, presumptive, and self-elected prince was left to his great surprise—for he had been exercised this way many times before—with the unmistakable feeling that there was some faint strain of the second-rate in this ability to speak on your feet.
That last line... Arendt was right.

Monday, May 09, 2016

He caught a lot of flack for it.
Yes.

"Reality based community"
There are scholarly men, to whom the history of philosophy (both ancient and modern) is philosophy itself; for these the present Prolegomena are not written. They must wait till those who endeavor to draw from the fountain of reason itself have completed their work; it will then be the historian's turn to inform the world of what has been done. 
Emmanuel Kant  
[W]hen we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
Karl Rove

Sunday, May 08, 2016

One (via Leiter)
The problem I see with utilitarianism, or any form of consequentialism, is not that it gets the wrong answers to moral questions. I think just about any moral theory, worked out intelligently, and applied with good judgment, would get just about the same results as any other. Mill developed utilitarianism with great humanity and insight. Perhaps that is why many utilitarians (those with less humanity, insight and judgment) say he is not a true utilitarian. I have said to two of my friends: David Lyons and John Skorupski — both excellent philosophers, who have made a deep study of utilitarianism — that they are my favorite utilitarians. The reaction of both was the same: “But I am not a utilitarian!” To this my reply was: “Ah, so that explains it.”

Consequentialist theories begin with a very simple and undoubtedly valid point: Every action aims at a future end, and is seen as a means to it. (This is precisely Kant’s conception of action.) So one rational standard of action is how well it promotes the end it seeks. Another standard is whether it aims at ends which are good. Both of these, but especially the former, depend on judgments of fact. Utilitarians are usually empiricists who think they can solve every problem by accumulating enough empirical facts. They do not realize that thinking as well as experience is necessary to know anything or get anything right.  ["Thinking" means "thinking with great humanity and insight"?] Philosophy is about getting the facts right, but it is also about thinking rightly about them. ["Humanity and judgement" and "rightly": the contradiction between humility and moralism] Philosophy is more about the latter than the former. That’s why empiricist philosophy always tends to be anti-philosophy (and is often proud of it) [in favor of "science"or opposed to it? (see Hume, below)]. People are often most proud of precisely those things of which they should most be ashamed. (The rightward side of American politics illustrates this very well.) [And academic pedantry is leftist?]

The big problem for consequentialism is that facts of this last form are hard to obtain except for a few determinate ends in the fairly short run. Consequentialist theories pretend that we can set some great big ends (the general happiness, human flourishing), provide ourselves with definite enough conceptions of them to make them the objects of instrumental reasoning, [was Hume an intrumentalist?] and then obtain enough reliable information about what actions will best promote them that we could regulate our conduct by these considerations alone. In fact people do not know enough about themselves and what is good for them to form a sufficiently definite conception of the general happiness (or whatever the end is) to establish definite rules for its pursuit. [Well there goes a truckload of academic literature out the window]

Further, we cannot predict the effects of our actions, [click the fucking links] especially our collective actions over generations or centuries, to use instrumental reasoning toward these big final ends to tell us what we ought to do. As a result, it is possible to use the simple point that it is rational to choose the right means to your ends to develop very elegant abstract formal theories of rational choice, and then turn these into what look like moral theories. Philosophers tend to be ravished by the formal beauty of such theories, and they don’t pay much attention to the fact that our human limitations make them pretty useless in practice, while the simple point about instrumental reasoning is too shallow to be of much real moral interest. [Lazy rationalism. Hume was an empiricist, right?]

When consequentialist theories are developed in terms of an equally shallow psychology of the good — such as a crude form of hedonism — the results can sometimes strike sensible people as revolting and inhuman. People can be reduced to simple repositories of positive or negative sensory states, and their humanity is lost sight of entirely. When people think that moral problems can be solved by some simple strategy of calculation, that sets them up for ghastly overreaching. They think they can turn everything into a “science” the way mechanics was turned into a science in the seventeeth century. [rationalists rationalize] They want to turn everything over to technocrats and social engineers. They become shortsighted or simplistic about their ends, and they disastrously overestimate their ability to acquire the information they need to make the needed calculations. Utilitarians of the caliber of Mill and Sidgwick do not do these things, at least on particular moral issues about which they reflect as human beings. [yes another fucking link]

...Marx is thought of as an implacable foe of capitalism. But go back and read the first section of the Communist Manifesto. Notice how it contains a paean of praise for the way capitalism and the bourgeoisie have both enriched the human powers of production and also enabled us to see with clear vision the nature of human society and human history. It has taken me a long time to realize where I most disagree with Marx. His assessment of capitalism is far too favorable. He took its instability, inhumanity and irrationality to be signs that it was a merely transitional form, which had delivered into humanity’s hands the means to a much better way of life than any that have ever existed on earth. Marx could not bring himself to believe that our species is so benighted, irrational and slavish that it would put up with such a monstrous way of life. He thought that it was inevitable that people would find a better way. We now see that this was not so. Capitalism has not proven to be a transitional form, a gateway to a higher human future. Capitalism now seems more likely a swamp, a bog, a quicksand in which humanity is presently flailing about, unable to extricate itself, perhaps doomed to perish within a few generations from the long term effects of the technology which seemed to Marx its greatest gift to humanity. Capitalism has proven to be a far more terrible system than Marx could ever bring himself to imagine. Those who are so deluded as to find something good in it, or even feel loyalty toward it, are its most pitiful victims. [moralizing fatalism]
Two
David Hume, who died in his native Edinburgh in 1776, has become something of a hero to academic philosophers. In 2009, he won first place in a large international poll of professors and graduate students who were asked to name the dead thinker with whom they most identified. The runners-up in this peculiar race were Aristotle and Kant. Hume beat them by a comfortable margin. Socrates only just made the top twenty.

This is quite a reversal of fortune for Hume, who failed in both of his attempts to get an academic job. In his own day, and into the nineteenth century, his philosophical writings were generally seen as perverse and destructive. Their goal was “to produce in the reader a complete distrust in his own faculties,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1815–1817. The best that could be said for Hume as a philosopher was that he provoked wiser thinkers to refute him in interesting ways. As a historian and essayist, though, Hume enjoyed almost immediate success. When James Boswell called him “the greatest Writer in Brittain”—this was in 1762, before Boswell transferred his allegiance to Dr. Johnson—he was thinking mainly of Hume’s History of England, which remained popular for much of the nineteenth century. “HUME (David), the Historian is how the British Library rather conservatively still catalogued him in the 1980s. 
["History is like foreign travel. It broadens the mind, but it does not deepen it."]

...Still, it is probably the rise of so-called “naturalism” in philosophy that best explains Hume’s newfound appeal. [Contemporary naturalism is just the sort of pedantry Hume mocked. Is Santayana popular again?] Naturalism has several components, all of which were prominent in his work. Hume stressed the similarities between people and other animals: a century before Darwin’s Descent of Man, he argued that there is no great difference between the minds of humans and the minds of some creatures in zoos. (Hume also anticipated Darwin in implying that certain mental traits function to aid reproduction.) He treated religion as a natural phenomenon, to be explained in psychological and historical terms—which tended to annoy the pious—and he argued that the study of the mind and of morals should be pursued by the same empirical methods that were starting to cast new light on the rest of nature. Philosophy, for Hume, was thus not fundamentally different from science. This outlook is much more common in our time than it was in his.

Hume’s response to the allegation of universal skepticism was that the author of the Treatise—who, he pretended, was someone else—had meant only “to abate the Pride of mere human Reasoners.” He advocated “Modesty…and Humility, [back to Montaigne and Erasmus, and Humanism, not the anti-Humanism of pedants. Humanism is not optimism. Look it upwith regard to the Operations of our natural Faculties.” As for the foundations of morality, Hume anonymously protested that the author of the Treatise had merely denied that “the Propositions of Morality were of the same Nature with the Truths of Mathematicks and the abstract Sciences.” The book did not dispute the fact that there was a difference between right and wrong; rather it maintained that this difference reflects humanity’s “internal Tastes and Sentiments”—which, according to Hume’s pamphlet, ought not to be received as a shocking idea.
"Still, it is probably the rise of so-called “naturalism” in philosophy that best explains Hume’s newfound appeal." The return of the descriptive naturalism of literature and history and the fading of prescriptive pseudoscience. Philosophers are coming to terms with the fact that Modernism is dead. The Enlightenment is dead. Hume's humanism was the humane pessimism of the Renaissance, not the optimism of pedants.

Allen Wood (first link): "I think it is already clear that Rawls is the greatest moral philosopher of the twentieth century." Rawls was to philosophy what Tolkien was to literature. But Tolkien will last longer.

Another one that I'm not going to go on about.
"Holy Wars: Secularism and the invention of religion"
Relativism and Religion: Why Democratic Societies Do Not Need Moral Absolutes
Carlo Invernizzi Accetti
Columbia University Press, $65 (cloth) 65 fucking dollars.

The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions
Michael Walzer
Yale University Press, $18 (paper)

Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
Princeton University Press, $29.95 (cloth)

Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report
Saba Mahmood
Princeton University Press, $24.95 (paper)
"Accetti’s singular insight is that Catholic and secular theorists of democracy, for all their differences, agree on one fundamental assertion: ethical relativism is a problem for democracies."

blasts from the past
Idiot McGinn
I am struck by this passage from Tocqueville: "I have previously stated that the principle of the sovereignty of the people hovers over the whole political system of the Anglo-Americans. Every page of this book will reflect certain fresh instances of this doctrine. In nations were it exists, every individual takes an equal share in sovereign power and participates equally in the government of the state. Thus he is considered as enlightened, virtuous, strong as any of his fellow men." Toqueville's point is that democracy presupposes that each person is as competent and virtuous as any other. But of course this is false: people differ widely in intelligence and virtue. Note that he says "considered" not "really". So democracy rests on a lie. How, then, to defend democracy? Well, if truth, reason, virtue, etc are not objective qualities that people exemplify to varying degrees, but are rather relative to each person, we have a way out: everyone is as smart and good as anyone else to himself. Then democracy rests on no lie, since everyone really is cognitively and morally equal. Relativism steps in to save democracy from its noble lie. Thus relativism finds a foothold. But relativism is rubbish; so where does that leave democracy?
Relativism is foundational to democracies. Democracy is strictly formal as to process and relativist as to absolutes. That's the fucking point.
I shut down an absurd debate about the roots of secularization once with the simple comment that secularization is the simple result of coexistence: once a Catholic girl fucks a Jewish boy it's the beginning of the end for religion qua religion.
To put it in terms of law: modern democratic justice is a Muslim judge hearing the case of a Christian accused by a Buddhist of robbery, defended by a Jew, with the state represented by a Hindu, before a jury of Animists and Jains. In order to function in such an environment you need to engage it in its entirely; you must answer not to one interest or another but to all. 
"The Tunisian “success story,” then, is not that all sides wanted democracy, but rather that all sides had no choice but to settle for democracy."

Necessity is the mother of secularism. Philosophy does not invent; it codifies. Practice precedes theory.

And Michael Walzer is a Zionist. The data is not on his side.

I do all this on autopilot. That's my only excuse.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

a repeat from years ago.
Faith.

(We have long been uncertain whether or not we should print this article, which we found in an old book. Our respect for St. Peter's see restrained us. But some pious men having convinced us that Pope Alexander VI had nothing in common with St. Peter, we at last decided to bring this little piece into the light, without scruple.)

One day Prince Pico dell Mirandola met Pope Alexander VI at the house of the courtesan Emilia, while Lucretia, the holy father's daughter, was in childbed. No one in Rome knew who the child's father was -the Pope, or his son the Duke of Valentinois, or Lucretia's husband, the Duke of Aragon, who was supposed to be impotent. The conversation was at first very sprightly. Cardinal Bembo records a part of it.
"Little Pic" said the Pope, "who do you think is my grandson's father?"
"Your son in law, I imagine" answered Pic.
"Eh! how can you believe such nonsense?"
"I believe it through faith."
"But don't you know that an impotent man cannot have children?"
"Faith consists," returned Pic, "in believing things because they are impossible. And besides, the honor of your house demands that Lucretia's son shall not be considered the fruit of incest. You make me believe even more incomprehensible mysteries. Do I not have to believe that a serpent spoke -since when all men have been damned- that Balaam's she-ass also spoke very eloquently, and that the walls of Jericho fell at the sound of trumpets?" Pic then ran through a litany of all the admirable things he believed.
Alexander collapsed with laughter on his sofa.
"I believe all that stuff, just as you do," he said, "for I know that only by faith can I be saved, and that I shall not be saved by my works".
"Ah! Holy Father," said Pic, "you have need of neither works nor faith. They are good for poor profane people like us, but you who are God's regent on earth can believe and do whatever you choose. You have the keys of heaven, and there is no chance of St. Peter shutting the door in your face. But for myself, who am only a poor prince, I admit that I should need potent protection if I had slept with my daughter, and if I had used the stiletto and the cantarella as often as your Holiness."
Alexander could take a joke. "Let us talk seriously," he said to Prince della Mirandola. "Tell me what merit one can have in telling God that one is persuaded of things of which in fact one cannot be persuaded? What pleasure can that give God? Between ourselves, saying that one believes what is impossible to believe is lying"
Pico della Mirandola made a great sign of the cross. "Eh! God the father!" he cried. "May your Holiness pardon me, but you are not a Christian"
"No, by my faith," said the Pope.
"I thought as much" said Pico della Mirandola.

-Voltaire.

Friday, May 06, 2016

The audience for the image is the same audience for official claims that US policy is predicated on  the defense of democracy: back and forth, unreflecting, unthinking. It was posted on Ben Rhodes' twitter feed.
Picture him as a young man, standing on the waterfront in North Williamsburg, at a polling site, on Sept. 11, 2001, which was Election Day in New York City. He saw the planes hit the towers, an unforgettable moment of sheer disbelief followed by panic and shock and lasting horror, a scene that eerily reminded him, in the aftermath, of the cover of the Don DeLillo novel “Underworld.”

Everything changed that day. But the way it changed Ben Rhodes’s life is still unique, and perhaps not strictly believable, even as fiction. He was in the second year of the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., writing short stories about losers in garden apartments and imagining that soon he would be published in literary magazines, acquire an agent and produce a novel by the time he turned 26. He saw the first tower go down, and after that he walked around for a while, until he ran into someone he knew, and they went back to her shared Williamsburg apartment and tried to find a television that worked, and when he came back outside, everyone was taking pictures of the towers in flames. He saw an Arab guy sobbing on the subway. “That image has always stayed with me,” he says. “Because I think he knew more than we did about what was going to happen.” Writing Frederick Barthelme knockoffs suddenly seemed like a waste of time.

“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”
"The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru". Art in the age of neoliberalism; he went into advertising. But he's working with Robert Malley and the Iran deal got done.
For those in need of more traditional-seeming forms of validation, handpicked Beltway insiders like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Laura Rozen of Al-Monitor helped retail the administration’s narrative. “Laura Rozen was my RSS feed,” Somanader offered. “She would just find everything and retweet it.”
Things have changed since Rozen used State Dept. experts to mock the social changes in Iran as a meaningless "lipstick revolution"

Tom Ricks is pissed
The profile of one Ben Rhodes running in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is not unsympathetic, which makes it all the more devastating.

Perhaps the key sentence is this: “His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.”

Rhodes comes off like a real asshole. This is not a matter of politics — I have voted for Obama twice. Nor do I mind Rhodes’s contempt for many political reporters: “Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

But, as that quote indicates, he comes off like an overweening little schmuck. This quotation seems to capture his worldview: “He referred to the American foreign policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.” Blowing off Robert Gates takes nerve.

...Rhodes and others around Obama keep on talking about doing all this novel thinking, playing from a new playbook, bucking the establishment thinking. But if that is the case, why have they given so much foreign policy power to two career hacks who never have had an original thought? I mean, of course, Joe Biden and John Kerry.
I don't give a shit about Biden but Kerry had to fight keep Clinton in check.
But the behind-the-scenes story of Mrs. Clinton’s role is more complicated than her public account of it. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration officials paint a portrait of a highly cautious, ambivalent diplomat, less willing than Mr. Obama to take risks to open a dialogue with Iran and increasingly wary of Mr. Kerry’s freelance diplomacy. Her decision to send her own team, some officials said, was driven as much by her desire to corral Mr. Kerry as to engage the Iranians.
Link from Phil Weiss, who adds more.

I barely read beyond the beginning of the piece on Rhodes.  I looked for the Rozen reference because she's been defending herself from critics. The author's tone is obsequious, backstabbing voyeurism. Ricks is an asshole. And Rhodes' bother is the president of CBS News. The whole thing's fucking joke.

If Ricks is a fan of Gates maybe he should stop being dismissive of Seymour Hersh.
Gates, as you know, in his book, was—had a very critical thing to say about the White House, about going public so early. And he said it’s because they named the SEALs. That wasn’t what his concern was. His concern is we violated an agreement we made with Pasha and Kayani to protect them. And the agreement was we wouldn’t let it be known that he was there, that the ISI was protecting him. They didn’t want their public to know it. And so, we were going to have it—as I said on air, he was going to have it done—we were going to announce it happened in the Hindu Kush and pretend that we did a strike with a drone, and there was an after-action report, etc. Only problem with that story, of course, is drones have—the Hellfires we have have 500—you know, a KT of napalm, enriched fire stuff. I don’t know if they’d have any survivors. The whole story they did, from what they call operational security, was a joke. They changed their mind at the last minute, not because a chopper went down—one of the two crashed. And if you remember, it crashed, and they had to blow it up because it had very advanced avionics and security—

[...T]he bottom line is Obama changed his mind because of politics, because the boys got to him. And Gates was enraged about that. He thought you do not double-cross the two guys that control the bomb. That’s the real story. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

"He was the first serious entertainer, in the sense of Hollywood, Vegas, and Broadway, in the age of spectacle."




A comment on one of these points out that none of these would be up if he were alive. He kept a tight control over everything.

I got in a twitter fight with Luc Sante over Prince and neoliberalism. He thought I was associating Prince with "the death of millions of people".  I ended up having to ask him if Sinatra was a Marxist. He deleted the tweets.

Prince was a sort of American genius, egotistical and isolate. He was a pop control freak like Kubrick and Cameron, but he was an instrumentalist. He was a mixture of seriousness and the theater of bullshit, of gospel and glam, musical sophistication and vaudeville. America is a strange country.
I used to describe David Murray as Prince without the commercial dreck attached. But what's dreck if it becomes a medium?

Monday, May 02, 2016

Being a political philosopher means ignorance is an excuse.
Brighouse
For what its worth, IF Zionists did work with the Nazis to facilitate Jewish emigration to Israel (and I am just going with Corey’s quote from Friedlander — I don’t know the history, so had no idea about this till now) it is very hard to think they did anything wrong. In the circumstances, what could be wrong with trying to get Jews out of Germany alive? It didn’t take a fortune teller to guess that things were likely to go pretty badly.
"IF" in capitals. The post itself is Davies. It's a fucking abomination.
Brighouse may as well be holed up in a cave somewhere reading St. Augustine.

What does it mean to be a citizen of a republic?

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Looking over the responses to the show at MoMA,  people miss the most obvious points. Degas and Turner were trained and successful academic painters who later moved into near abstraction, but Degas was a painter for the age of mechanization. Turner may have ridden trains and painted pictures of them, but his process was anti-mechanical.

 "Heads of a Man and a Woman (Homme et femme, en buste)". c. 1877–80. Monotype on paper, plate: 2 13/16 x 3 3/16” (7.2 x 8.1 cm) . British Museum, London.

Degas was a painter after photography. His blurring is the blurring of motion in a photographic image. His technics is touched by the mechanization of Seurat.

Three Studies of Ludovic Halévy Standing, c. 1876-1877, Charcoal on paper, 12 5/8 x 18 7/8" (32 x 48 cm),
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. 
Three Studies of Ludovic Halévy Standing, c. 1876-1877, Charcoal on paper, counterproof,
14 1/8 x 19 1/4" (35.9 x 48.9 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. 
He escapes the overdetermined by means of the underdetermined. He undercuts staid academicism not with relaxation but randomness. His work is never casual; it's observational and formalist. He's a conservative, and idealism can't be read into the work after the fact. He's not a painter against 19th century narrative tradition; he's not a Modernist; he's modern, with a connection to the present even greater than Manet, to the age of mechanical representation by way of Renoir (father and son), Jean Vigo, and Mizoguchi, to contemporary academic figuration, Jeff Wall and Thomas Struth, and Richter, and to abstraction by way of Seurat, to Gursky and to Richter again. Needless to say the big contemporary names stand in for the wide number of people with similar preoccupations, for whatever reason.

As I've said, Modernism is dead, modernity isn't.
"Forest in the Mountains (Forêt dans la montagne)” (c. 1890),monotype
in oil on paper, plate: 11 13/16 x 15 3/4 inches, MoMA, New York.
New and overdue tag for Degas