Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rembrandt, The Polish Rider, c.1655, Oil on canvas, 46 x 53 1/8 in. (116.8 x 134.9 cm)
Hackwork of the gods.
There's so much about it that's by the numbers and yet on the money. The genius is in the roteness.

Rembrandt could be a hack in the way Hals could never be. Hals was always a professional; like Rubens but not at his level. But something in this painting, the offhandedness of execution, casual to the point of boredom. I think of a dancer or a Vaudeville performer doing the show again, one more time, but perfectly. It cracks me up every time I see it. But I feel a shiver.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

updated, at the top, not the bottom. It seemed appropriate. And a second time. Serendipity

Austin American-Stateman: Violent arrest of teacher caught on video; officers face investigation
Officials are investigating an Austin police officer’s violent arrest of an African-American elementary school teacher who was twice thrown to the ground during a traffic stop for speeding and comments by a second officer who told her police are sometimes wary of blacks because of their “violent tendencies.”

Video from the previously unreported June 2015 incident was obtained by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV this week. The video shows the traffic stop escalating rapidly in the seven seconds from when officer Bryan Richter, who is white, first gives a command to 26-year-old Breaion King to close her car door to when he forcibly removes her from the driver’s seat, pulls her across a vacant parking space and hurls her to the asphalt.
Gawker: "Video Shows Unarmed Black Man Pleading With Arms Raised Before Getting Shot by Police"

WSVN News Miami
In his hospital bed Wednesday and speaking to 7News exclusively, Kinsey said, “When I went to the ground, I’m going to the ground just like this here with my hands up,” Kinsey said, “and I am laying down here just like this, and I’m telling them again, ‘Sir, there is no need for firearms. I’m unarmed, he’s an autistic guy. He got a toy truck in his hand.”

Kinsay said he was attempting to calm an autistic patient who ran away from a group home. Kinsey could be heard in the video saying, “All he has is a toy truck. A toy truck. I am a behavior therapist at a group home.”

Leiter:  "More on police violence and racism."

"A genuinely illuminating discussion from sociologist Randall Collins (Penn).... a really rich essay".

The phrase “war on cops” is partly correct. There also has been a war of police against black people. Both have been going on for a long time, and each reacts to the other. 
The recent argument is that violence is encouraged by black protests, mainstream supporters and officials who have caused police to withdraw from active policing, putting them in a defensive position with black criminals on the offensive. This is a part of the causal pattern, but it is embedded in a much larger process: counter-escalation of each side against the other. Both political mobilization and violence play a part in the escalation process, and this happens on both sides. A key mechanism is the emotions that pervade both camps: sometimes righteous anger, sometimes jittery tension that blows up little incidents and feeds the fire with atrocities.

...Only a small fraction of each side engage in violence; but for their opponents they become emblematic of the entire enemy camp. The emotions of the most volatile fringes drive the back-and-forth process.

The micro-sociology of emotions shows there is something practical we can all do to de-escalate the conflict.
...Individuals disappear from view; the cop you are ambushing may be one of the good guys who sincerely believes in community outreach; the black man whose car you are stopping may be a middle-class citizen. But at the moment of confrontation they all fade into the category of the stereotyped enemy.
"a middle-class citizen".

Two warring tribes, no discussion of the fact that one is made up of agents of the state.

The author's latest book "Napoleon Never Slept: How Great Leaders Leverage Emotional Energy". self-published at Amazon.

Monday, July 11, 2016

I had a little fun today with a geek academic, a black nerd PhD. He was earnest and irate, angry and moralizing, but missed the point entirely. Cops are now mil-geeks. They saw the woman as a threat, because she couldn't be anything else. The result is comic. As I said later, someone should find out the cops' names and send the pic to their mothers, and ask each of them what they think of their son's behavior: scared of a girl.

The image has spread because of the absurdity. Little military rationalists, rendered impotent.
The only appropriate response, and the best response as a matter of politics, is laughter.
The image is comic, but it's a shot of motion, and one of a series. The cops moved in a grabbed her and walked her back behind their lines, under arrest. It's all pathetic theater. And the woman was playing her part.
I just need you people to know. I appreciate the well wishes and love, but this is the work of God. I am a vessel! Glory to the most high! I'm glad I'm alive and safe. And that there were no casualties that I have witnessed first hand.
"I am a vessel!".  It's all political cosplay, teenage boys and teenage girls.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

He Toms from the heart.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Deborah Lipstadt, self-hating Jew.

Donald Trump’s "Inadvertent Anti-Semitism"
Trump may abhor anti-Semitism, but, however unconsciously, he instrumentalizes it and spreads it. Then he doubles down to defend doing so.
I thought I'd posted these before, but maybe not.

"The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.
We want to emigrate as a respected people"
It's a famous quote. Others are less so.
"The wealthy Jews rule the world; the fate of the governments lies in their hands. They start wars between countries, and when they wish, the governments make peace. When the wealthy Jews sing, the nations and their leaders dance along, and meanwhile the Jews get richer!” (Published by Herzl in a German newspaper)
Given the source, I don't question it.

See previous discussion of Jason Stanley, with a mention of Lipton at the bottom, and links to Amos Schocken and Sara Lipton.

We're back to ressentiment again (a link to the previous post). European Jews identifying with their torturers and abusing their own closest relatives, Palestinians, but also Mizrahi.

I've said a few times that  Muslims are "the new Jews", the new bookish intellectual outsiders. But I ignored the corollary, that they're the new urban elite and hated by the peasants. The Brexit mess woke me up a bit. And Sadiq Khan's smiling Blairism.

Jews, Muslims, and the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia.

A Bulgarian waiter I know explained to me that Muslims and Jews don't do physical work; they're in business and management. If they work in restaurants they work in their own restaurants. Leaving 10 minutes later I said goodnight to his north African coworker and we had a laugh.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Corey Robin on Elie Wiesel: "Trigger Warning: This post may upset you."

I replied to his post on FB pointing out the obvious: that the "sacralization' of the Holocaust (Robin's term) and the dehumanization of Palestinians are inseparable. He deleted my comment.
[Actually he didn't; he blocked my access to his page. It's still up and visible to me if I'm not logged in. But it's not visible on my "activity log" so I couldn't delete it even if I wanted to.]

Maria Farrell comments on Brexit, as any proper army wife would, quoting an angry mournful squib by a former military officer.  [history, again, of the obvious]

More from Pankaj Mishra, (quoted below)
In the neoliberal and technocratic worldview, the quantitative emphasis on what counts and what can therefore be counted (empirical data) has long obscured what does not count (subjective emotions). Today, GDP cultists and pollsters everywhere find themselves helpless before angry electorates convinced, as Belinsky was in his own hopeless situation, that ‘negation is my god.’ Nor can vulgar rationalism cope with the possibility that now universally emergent Underground Man may take pleasure in defying his rational self-interest.

Ressentiment in post-Thatcher Britain was long lucratively stoked by its tabloids, keeping left-behind masses roused with everyday ambushes of evidently globalised elites and their swarthy multicultural wards. It now seems that the vindictive passions were looking for a spectacular final act of negation.

The Etonians who ranged themselves on either side of a reckless referendum confirmed the cunning of unreason. Most of Sunderland’s – and England’s – electorate then found a chance to enact the Underground Man’s rebellion against an overpowering and demeaning reality. ‘Of course,’ he admits, ‘I cannot break through the wall by battering my head against it … but I am not going to be reconciled to it simply because it is a stone wall and I have not the strength.’
I shouldn't be surprised but I am that no one -or no one else- comments on Leiter's use of the term ressentimentI've said for years that somewhere Leiter says he has no friends in literature departments; in fact he was quoting Fodor. I've also quoted a friend (of mine) who's said that Fodor expresses surprise at colleagues with friends outside academia. And in fact Leiter "loves" literature, he just doesn't take it seriously. Literature includes the author as subject and object. Baudelaire and Dostoyevsky describe themselves as both master and slave. Where most people read Nietzsche as they read the others, Leiter takes him at his word. Bourdieu, a French bureaucrat rather than an American one, does the same with Flaubert.

Leiter, ressentiment, and "condescension from below"

The existence of "slave mentality", "victim mentality", or  "reaction formation", is not an argument in the defense of masters.

The search terms make no reference to race.
"Fiction deals with philosophical questions as such. Philosophy qua philosophy deals in fictional solutions."

continued in the next post.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Repeat from two years ago

"I can't imagine what this is like, but I love my husband. Without your son's heart he will die."
"Then he'll have to die."

Fiction deals with philosophical questions as such. Philosophy qua philosophy deals in fictional solutions.

The last few minutes, Mackendrick describing the exchange between Baker and Liddy's secretary, followed by the video of the exchange. Brilliant.

Most of the hearings took place doing summer vacation; I watched every day, making drawings of all the characters. Thinking back I remember it as my favorite TV show or one of the favorite movies of my childhood. I understood it as a ten year old just as Mackendrick describes.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

LRB: Where are we now? 

T.J. Clark
I voted Leave, without enthusiasm, mainly because I had promised to do so in Greece last July. What Dijsselbloem and Schäuble did to Greece back then seemed an indication of what the EU was truly for. It remains our best clue to how ‘Europe’ would act if a left government, of a nation less hopelessly enfeebled than post-Pasok Greece or post-Blair-and-Brown Britain, dared, say, to resist TTIP’s final promulgation of the neoliberal rule of law. Certainly the relevant point of comparison for the 17 million Leave votes is the No to ‘austerity’ registered by the Greeks, again in the face of all respectable opinion, a year ago. And everything will now be done, as then, to make sure the scandal of democratic refusal doesn’t get in the way of business. I have no doubt that already, behind the smokescreen of Article 50, Dijsselbloem and Schäuble’s intermediaries are sitting down with Carney and Osborne to settle the outlines of the no-but-on-the-other-hand-not-really.
Pankaj Mishra
‘Sunderland’s citizens,’ the New York Times reports, ‘seem to have voted against their own interests.’ Apparently, the city battered by Thatcherism is ‘a big recipient of European money’ and ‘also the home of a Nissan car factory, Britain’s largest’, and should have voted to remain inside the European Union. Versions of ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’ exasperation have proliferated since Brexit; so has the contention that those who voted to exit will not, after all, receive their expected benefits. But the Brexit result is another reminder that individuals and groups, especially those at the receiving end of neoliberalism, may not be inclined to validate rational-choice theory.
Also David Runciman, Neal Ascherson, et al.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

the circle is unbroken


"The Hamptons is not a defensible position... Very hard to defend a low-lying beach. Eventually people will come for you."

2. Jason Brennan again, and epistocracy, again.

Brennan, 2012: "Most People Shouldn't Vote"

2016: "Against Democracy"
This brings us to the central injustice of democracy, and why holding a referendum was a bad idea. Imagine, as an analogy, that you are sick. You go to a doctor. But suppose your “doctor” doesn’t study the facts, doesn’t know any medicine, and makes her decisions about how to treat you on a whim, on the basis of prejudice or wishful thinking. Imagine the doctor not only prescribes you a course of treatment, but literally forces you, at gunpoint, to accept the treatment.

We’d find this behavior intolerable. You doctor owes you a duty of care. She owes it to you to deliver an expert opinion on the basis of good information, a strong background knowledge of medicine, and only after considering the facts in a rational and scientific way. To force you to follow the decisions incompetent and bad faith doctor is unjust.

But this is roughly what happens in democracy. Most voters are ignorant of both basic political facts and the background social scientific theories needed to evaluate the facts. They process what little information they have in highly biased and irrational ways. They decided largely on whim. And, worse, we’re each stuck having to put up with the group’s decision. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who has the right and means to emigrate, you’re forced to accept your democracy’s poorly chosen decisions.

There’s a big dilemma in the design of political institutions. Should we be ruled by the few or the many? What this amounts to is the choice between being ruled by the smart but selfish or dumb but nice. When only a small number of people hold power, they tend to use this power for their own ends at the expense of everyone else. If a king holds all the power, his decisions matter. He will likely use that power in a smart way, but smart for himself, rather than smart for everybody. Suppose instead we give everyone power. In doing so, we largely remove the incentive and ability for people to use power in self-serving ways at the expense of everyone else. But, at the same time, we remove the incentive for people to use power wisely. Since individual votes count for so little, individual voters have no incentive to become well-informed or to process information with any degree of care. Democracy incentivizes voters to be dumb.

Going back to the doctor analogy, here’s the dilemma: Suppose you could choose between two doctors. The first doctor prescribes you medicine based on what’s good for her, not you. The second is a complete fool who prescribes you medicine on whim and fancy, without reference to the facts. Roughly, with some exaggeration, that’s what the choice between monarchy or democracy amounts to. Neither is appealing.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

I added new tags for Herzog, and Richter and Polke and Fassbinder.

This is funny.
You’re usually counted, alongside Werner Schroeter or Rainer Werner Fassbinder, among the directors who launched the new German cinema in the nineteen-sixties and seventies. Do you agree with this?
It’s a factual and technical coincidence. In reality, I never participated in any of their collective projects, I never shared their ideas, which I found mediocre, and I wasn’t friends with them. I grew up poor and worked in a factory, and considered them petits-bourgeois who played with the idea of world revolution and whose political analyses seemed absurd to me. At the time, I was considered a fascist for this. So I’ve always been solitary and isolated in my work.
It’s true that there was a lot of casual talk of revolution at that time; but nobody who loves the cinema remembers Fassbinder for his political views or cares very much about them. Fassbinder is an artist of enduring significance, and his “Berlin Alexanderplatz”—and not only that series—is greater than anything Herzog has done. 
And Schroeter, a true visionary who has worked more or less under the radar for forty years, knows the real meaning of professional solitude and isolation. His 1991 film “Malina” has an ecstatic ferocity that is in a different league from Herzog’s self-righteous sarcasms.
"...nobody who loves the cinema remembers Fassbinder for his political views or cares very much about them."

If you can't feel the reactionary sensibilities in Fassbinder, the taste of fascist shit, you miss the point.
Richard Brody is an idiot fop.

All art is "political". Politics has nothing to do with "intent".

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"Liberal secular modernity" is described most often as Weberian. Weber's model, the Protestant model of secularism, has failed. Secularism is inevitable.

Henry Farrell: Brad Delong is not a philosopher king.
Someone who is rightly entrusted with the authority to choose among such options is not a technocrat under any reasonable definition of the term. Instead, he or she is an enlightened autocrat – ideally a three thousand year old human-sandworm hybrid with untrammelled power, who is both wise and disinterested enough to find a solution that is to the collectivity’s long term benefit, and cruel enough to impose it, regardless of how it hurts specific people. Unfortunately, even if you buy the idea that this is politically legitimate (I don’t), the political economy of autocracy in real life is such that enlightened autocrats rarely, if ever, exist. People with untrammeled power rarely have the incentive to employ it in the collective interest. And hence, I think that Brad, although right to note that the problem stems from disagreements between different European democracies, is wrong to suggest that technocracy is the solution. It isn’t a solution, nor, plausibly, is it even technocracy.
The political world is a world of political enchantments. No one is above politics.

A well-meaning idiot in The Atlantic:  "The Meaningless Politics of Liberal Democracies. The desire for theocracy in the Muslim world can be partly understood through the failures of Western secularism."
Ben Affleck has become an unlikely spokesman for a view on Islam held by many on the American left. In 2014, the actor made a now-famous stand against Bill Maher and Sam Harris in defense of Muslims, arguing that it’s wrong to make generalizations about the religion based on ideological extremists and terrorists. “How about the more than 1 billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punch women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, and pray five times a day?” he said.

In his new book Islamic Exceptionalism, Shadi Hamid—an Atlantic contributor, a scholar at Brookings, and a self-identified liberal—calls Affleck’s declaration a “well-intentioned … red herring.” Islam really is different from other religions, he says, and many Muslims view politics, theocracy, and violence differently than do Christians, Jews, or non-religious people in Europe and the United States.

Perhaps his most provocative claim is this: History will not necessarily favor the secular, liberal democracies of the West. Hamid does not believe all countries will inevitably follow a path from revolution to rational Enlightenment and non-theocratic government, nor should they.
The last link above is to a piece by Hamid. Pushing the book on twitter he whined that people who want to argue with him should at least read the book.

My response to that tweet is the bottom on the left. After my second tweet he responded that my points were in his book, and after the fourth he responded, "OK, never mind", then he deleted all three tweets. The right is an old exchange with Dawkins.

"He liked the fragility of those moments suspended in time, those memories whose only function had been to leave behind nothing but memories. He wrote: "I've been around the world several times, and now only banality still interests me."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Eine Winterreise indeed

Caspar David Friedrich,  Two Men Contemplating the Moon, 1825-30, Oil on canvas,
 13 3/4 x 17 1/4 in. (34.9 x 43.8 cm)
Sigmar Polke, Lappländische Reise II (Lapland Journey II), 1984 Acrylic, oil, resin, pigment on canvas
 78 7/8 x 102 3/8 inches (200.3 x 260 cm)
Sigmar Polke, Druckfehler / Landschaft (Printing Error / Landscape), 1988, Resin and acrylic on fabric,
51 1/8 x 59 inches (129.9 x 149.9 cm)
I interrupted a pompous 20something art aficionado/theory-hack who was describing the work to a friend in terms of "the abject", to say that the best way to understand Polke was to think of Herzog or any well educated German man born during the war and now alone in the desert, or in the jungle, or at sea, or on the ice,  tripping on acid and screaming lyric poetry into the void. The pompous kid looked over his glasses and said, "I'm not familiar with his films."

Herzog, and Richter and Polke

The British class system.

The billboard on the truck has been photoshopped to show British football fans in France for the European Championship.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

"Violence is as American as apple pie"
As I said at the end of the post, I've forgotten too much.

David Estlund

And most of it's in the paper.

It's hard to describe how stupid the arguments are quoted below. It's hard to believe people build careers out of such shit. It's hard for me to believe; obviously I don't pay much attention.

I've been reintroduced to Corey Brettschneider. It's not fun.

Starting with Andrew Koppelman at Balkin, responding to Larry Alexander, responding to Brettschneider.

Koppelman, "Unparadoxical Liberalism"
Larry Alexander argues that liberalism is internally incoherent, because it contains a paradox: it is committed to toleration, but if it tolerates illiberal ideas and practices, it betrays itself.

The paradox does not exist. Liberalism aims to tolerate as much diversity as it can consistent with the preservation of the liberal project. It has distinctive reasons to tolerate illiberal ideas, since it aims to be adopted by the citizenry consciously and with a full understanding of the alternatives. How much diversity can in practice be tolerated is a contingent question dependent on the facts of any particular time and place. Whether domestic fascists, for example, need to be suppressed in order to avoid disaster, is a matter of prediction based on local knowledge. It is not a philosophical question.
Alexander, "Free Speech and 'Democratic Persuasion': A Response to Brettschneider"
Liberalism’s hallmark is its endorsement of certain basic freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association. Yet the content of some speech, religious doctrines, and criteria of association are inconsistent with liberalism’s tenets. Speech might advocate restrictions on speech as well as the abolition of democracy, the expulsion of religious and racial groups, and so forth. So might religious doctrines. And associations might require various “illiberal” conditions for membership and might seek to advance various “illiberal” goals. I shall refer to illiberal speech, religion, and association as “illiberalism” for short.

What should be the liberal state’s response to illiberalism? If it outlaws illiberalism, its credentials as a liberal state appear to be undermined. If it permits illiberalism, it licenses Robert Frost’s derogatory quip that liberalism can’t take its own side in an argument. Either way, liberalism appears self-contradictory and incoherent. It must either betray its principles or betray itself (and thereby betray its principles). Liberalism both appears to be possible — we’ve seen it done — and impossible (it can’t be done).

That is, in brief, the paradox of liberalism. Elsewhere, I have diagnosed the problem as one that stems from the impossible-to-realize idea of evaluative neutrality that defines the liberal freedoms. I there argued that the paradox was real and insoluble.

Corey Brettschneider believes he can avoid the paradox. He thinks the key is government speech and subsidies. I believe he is mistaken. The paradox remains.
Brettschneider, from the introduction of "When the State Speaks, What Should It Say? How Democracies Can Protect Expression and Promote Equality"
Traditionally, political and legal theorists have proposed two types of responses to hate speech. Some thinkers have stressed the need for a neutral approach to rights protection. This group broadly defends the United States Supreme Court’s current free speech jurisprudence, which does not protect threats or “fighting words,” but does protect what I call “hateful viewpoints.” Hateful viewpoints are opinions that are openly hostile to the core ideals of liberal democracy. In defining hateful viewpoints, it is important to emphasize that there is a distinction between the emotion of hate and the content of hateful viewpoints. Hateful viewpoints are defined not necessarily by their emotion, but by their expressing an idea or ideology that opposes free and equal citizenship. Those who hold hateful viewpoints seek to bring about laws and policies that would deny the free and equal citizenship of racial, ethnic, or religious minorities, women, or groups defined by their sexual orientation. The neutralist approach upholds free speech and protects hateful viewpoints from coercive sanction, despite their discriminatory content, because neutralism claims that the state should not endorse any values.
Liberalism as described in all three passages above is the liberalism of ideology, as "project". "We, The Enlightened" -and though it's unsaid, "The powerful", see all the references to the asshole John Stuart Mill- need to find a just way to deal with "They, The Unenlightened".

Rationalists rationalize. They can only be answered with facts.
The New York Times,  "Cuomo to Halt State Business With Groups That Back Boycott of Israel"

Zionism as ethnic nationalism, with or without the Nakba, is illiberalism, tout court. If you want to argue that a liberal won't pick his own side in a fight, that's all the evidence you need.

"The rule of reason devolves always into the rule of the reasonable as defined by the strong."
"Democracies have freedom of speech not because governments grant it but because the government is not granted the power to take it away."
Freedom of speech means that even though powerful, self-described liberals may rationalize the defense of illiberalism, facts clouded in a haze of ratiocination, the argument will continue, so that sooner or later they may come to recognize their mistake.  And during and after, other arguments will continue.  The state is not allowed to legislate what may or not be argued, only what and how actions may or may not be taken.

I remembered Koppelman is a defender of special status for religious speech, debating Leiter.
They're both idiots. How do you separate religious from non-religious speech? American Exceptionalism, The American Dream, Cartesian Dualism, all fundamentally religious in origin. Dualism is transubstantiation. Leiter's belief in the academy is absurd. "We hold these truths to be self-evident" Truths?

Contra the pedantic academic ruling class, toleration is not Our toleration of Them, but of each other, as democracy and liberalism, as practiced and before theory, are founded in a large group of people, made up of smaller groups, coexisting. Democracy is founded in conflicts, and law is conflict resolution, not a search for truth.

Found on twitter, via the author.  "Learned Patriots: Debating Science, State, And Society In The Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Empire"
Yalçinkaya finds that for anxious nineteenth-century Ottoman politicians, intellectuals, and litterateurs, the chief question was not about the meaning, merits, or dangers of science. Rather, what mattered were the qualities of the new “men of science.” Would young, ambitious men with scientific education be loyal to the state? Were they “proper” members of the community? Science, Yalçinkaya shows, became a topic that could hardly be discussed without reference to identity and morality.

Approaching science in culture, Learned Patriots contributes to the growing literature on how science travels, representations and public perception of science, science and religion, and science and morality. Additionally, it will appeal to students of the intellectual history of the Middle East and Turkish politics.
The Ottoman intellectuals were right. Whether the author agrees I don't know. I haven't read the book. Liberalism as idea is the last of the great Modernist ideologies that sought to impose the authoritarianism of science on politics. The only form of society that will rein in the various forms of the "the research imperative", is republican.

Liberalism as cosmopolitan practice is not liberalism as ideology. I'd forgotten how stupid the academic arguments are. I searched my archives for Brettschneider's name only after I started writing.

I forget everything now.