Thursday, January 30, 2003

It's been a busy week and I've spent most of my free time drinking and trying to get laid; neither of which I've been doing much of lately.
I watched some of the speech with the sound off. The difference between Reagan and Bush is that Bush is an idiot who can't act. How anyone could refer to him as being capable of feigning 'moral seriousness' let alone attaining it, is beyond me. And Bob Herbert referred to his ability to make a 'Moving' speech. What idiocy. The problem with democracy is that at its worst it's government marked on the curve.

Let's see what else is new. I will not talk about Sullivan, Limbaugh or Instapuddle because I can not take any of them seriously enough to warrant the attention.

Orcinus has a post on the various definitions of Fascism. He writes in a faux 'scholarese' but what he says or links to is good enough. Yet he misses a very important point, the presence or absence of which allows me to go back to my comments on kitsch, and find something to write about tonight.
Fascism is a kitsch simulacrum of monarchy. It is the dream of an ideal its followers can never attain except by falsehoods, and is predicated on the absolute mediocrity of the dreamers themselves.
Fascism is the desire of the fat middle aged glutton for the body of the beautiful boy: that wants to be the boy, fuck the boy, and kill him out of jealousy. It says "I am a superman, not because I am noble, or strong, or just, or wise, or smart, but because I say so. And I have the gun, so you'll all agree it's true" Contra Foucault and the rest, not all relations are strictly power relations. Most social orders are structural and linguistic. Monarchism is a rule of law, of a kind of law. Despotism is the rule of power without law, except perhaps the law of the practical. The despot needs to stay alive. Fascism is the rule of illogic and hypocrisy. If I say the trains run on time, you will agree. Whether they actually do or not doesn't matter. The destruction of language, under the pressure of desire. The pederast from Opus Dei.
Bush could easily be described as showing signs of a fascist sensibility because he wants to be seen in a certain way regardless of how he performs his duties.

Fascism is the ideology of a certain type of adolescence, and begins with a love that turns sour with failure. If you want to understand something of the poetic of fascist idealism pick up a copy of David Bowie's Hunky Dory, a brilliant memento of fascist desire.

"I'm living in a silent film
Portraying Himmler's sacred realm
Of dream reality"
-Quicksand.

Thomas Pynchon couldn't say it better.

Monday, January 27, 2003

A few months ago I sent a letter to Nathan Newman arguing with him about a post of his on unions and immigration. He's back on that subject again and I still think he's missing the point. He understands why I disagree. Here is an edited and much improved copy of what I sent him in September.

"I'm a non-union carpenter in New York. I work mostly in Manhattan, from mid-range to high end. I've worked with men from The Caribbean, South America, Ireland, Poland, and China, both mainland and Taiwan. The Americans have been mostly college graduates with degrees in useless fields. My first foreman was a Yalie. I’ve worked with 60 year old men and alongside crews of 16 year old Ecuadorian laborers. The kids I met were here without their families.

I would say the unions are changing their tune because they need to increase their base; to play the game they have to ante up. Immigration is what drives this country. As one generation climbs the ladder or burns out they're replaced by the next. Immigrants are impressive, if only because they are so full of what makes this country interesting without having fully succumbed to its stupidity. They bring with them un-American ideas it takes generations to forget. Over a beer I can say, "Your American grandchildren will suck," and they'll laugh.

Not all immigrants come here to stay. There are many who come to make money and leave when they want to start a family, and this refers not only to men who want wives willing to stay at home, but also to women who would never want to raise a child here. An electrician I know, from Taiwan, fell in love with a Korean hooker in Queens. In six months she made enough money to open a shop back home, and none of her family would know how she made it. She told him this when she called to say goodbye on her way to the airport.

The operative term, to go back a bit and finish up, is 'burn-out'.
The answer is to find a reason to be in this country other than to make money. But America is money. From the culture of the rich to the culture of the angry poor. Money is why people fight to get here. The unions accommodate immigration because they have no choice. But as their new base rises on the economic ladder, it will leave them and will have to be replaced. And those who have not risen will despair. We need a movement for the working class that is not about climbing but respect, and that means stability. As long as there's gold at the end of the rainbow, that movement will not exist."

To argue that a constantly expanding labor pool is a good thing is absurd.

Friday, January 24, 2003

A clarification of my clarification (let's try again)
In case anyone misunderstood, the questions I have been going on about revolve around the problematic nature of technocracy, not race. The design of affirmative action is not only predicated on an assumption that economic relations are, for practical reasons, foremost among our social activities, but that from a neutral philosophical standpoint, they should be. This is the equivalent of arguing that since we need to eat, all philosophy should be a philosophy of food. The Soviets perfected this sort of mechanistic political theory, minus the Epicurean tendencies, and called it Stalinism.
Affirmative action as it has been organized is a warping of constitutional doctrine that was made necessary, as I've said before, by the political impossibility of a national system of primary education. But at the same time it acted to ensure the growth of the economic model of social activity. The technocracy may have in a sense 'done the right thing', but it did it for self protection and nothing else.
In order to maintain stability in an inherently unstable economic system that is based on social and economic inequality, it has been important to find ways to make economic life perhaps less painful, but no less numbing. This is what the various stop gap measures, including constitutionally questionable programs, are designed to do. But it is economic inequality across racial, ethnic and religious boundaries that is the root of the problem, and this is what these programs fail to address. If we have to distort the constitution to preserve our union, limits on economic freedom, including a cap on personal wealth, seem the most logical choice. Is this going to happen? I have not been making all these arguments because I think it's going to pop up as an issue any time soon. But I think if we are going to argue about principles we should know what they are. And we should acknowledge the difference between those principles and the situational logic we use to defend what we imagine them to be.

And yes, I know, we're going to war. But whatever The Guardian says, or however the hawks will use it, the issue was never Iraq it was and remains the aftermath, and none of the idiots in the White House have done anything to convince us they understand that simple fact.
The Times today described Powell as fuming at being 'stabbed in the back' by the French and Germans. Read the article. (link later) Are they supposed to behave as lackeys? Are they supposed to assume that the leaders of this country are as childish as they actually are? Why won't they just play ball? Because George Bush is not their fucking King that's why!
What arrogance. What stupidity. And that asshole is supposed to be the "Good" one.


A note before sleep.
Jack Balkin argues that 'symmetry', specifically in racial terms, is not necessarily a precondition for constitutionality. This is something I find odd. My assumption is that, when arguing for or about principles in a democracy, one should treat each individual in a given situation as interchangable with another. And within that assumption, I am interested in logical ways to maintain that balance of representation. "Equal protection of the law" can 'logically' mean only that, regardless of how those who wrote the words acted after the fact.

My assumption is that the forced removal of racial barriers in favor of 'social' equality came about because it was argued that the separation between social equality and civil equality- equality before the law- was artificial. Due to the of the amount of economic activity that takes place in the private, social, realm, it was deemed an unfair asymmetrical political relation if blacks were excluded from aspects of social life.
I think, however, that this argument for the collapsing of the economic and the social into one order, dominated as it obviously by economic interests, can be presented with clear conscience as damaging to democracy. I'll make this quick because I'm tired.
Law is a funny thing. You end up in the position of having to find the logic in illogical positions just to continue struggling in the direction you want to go in. I am not a lawyer, so when I hear of an illogical decision, and in a democracy I would refer to that as an argument for, or from, asymmetry, I throw it out even if the Supremes wrote it. [I'm not big on the terminology of logic, but symmetry again I read as meaning the terms are reversable: a+b=b+a. Or if there is a law A and two people B and W , then AB=AW] Lawyers can't do that. They have to use what they can, even it it means making reference to illogical decisions that can nontheless be used as a precedents. But by finding a history of asymmetry in a democracy, does that therefore make it logical? No.
Having legal precedent is not the equivalent of logic.

The conflation of economic and social man is a problem for a democracy. That we do so as a way of counterbalancing economic inequality, rather than questioning the economic equality itself, is not something that we should be proud of, since by going with the flow we give the game away.
What is interesting about those who criticise such decisions- even those critics who are racist- is that they are arguing-within the limits of their understanding- for a more democratic definition of society. Even though their democracy contributes to the disenfranchisement of an entire segment of the population, it does so not by attacking that segment but by wishing it would just go away. Of course it won't (but the distinction matters) They are nontheless making an argument against the cultural hegemony of economic man.

Leftist analysis, even sloppily written at 12:30 AM
still has its merits.


Thursday, January 23, 2003

Kitsch Justice.
I’ve said in earlier posts that it is not the story but the telling that convinces us; it is not the fact of Christ on the cross that affects us (if it does) but the description that plays on our sensitivities.
If I had a young son or daughter who became sick suddenly and died, I would feel a terrible loss. If, instead, my best friend told me that his young son had died, I would feel great sadness, but not as much as if it were my son. If an acquaintance told me that his young son had died, I would understand his sadness, but not feel the sadness I felt for the son of a friend. If I heard on the news that an avalanche killed 200 people in Katmandu, I would think about it for a few moments and maybe imagine the sadness of those I had never thought of nor would ever meet, and go back to what I was doing.
Is there a difference between any of the dead themselves? No. The difference is their proximity to me. And the art of storytelling is to increase, or mimic, proximity. The better the storyteller the better the sense of proximity. [I won’t go into movies here-by collapsing proximity almost entirely they verge on banality- so the best directors and the best films document not the illusion so much as a struggle with it]
What Original Intent theorists argue is that proximity is an illusion created by our use of language, and therefore should be irrelevant. I argued before that in the case of religion and art this is an argument for kitsch [see the link at the top of the post] but what is it in regards to law?
“Times change”, especially under capitalism. “Progress’, for good or evil
-and whatever the word itself means- rules the day. But change or no, we’ve created ‘rules’ in order to give our lives a little order, and on which we have come to an agreement. Even a king has rules he must live by -only a despot makes his own- but in a republic the citizens make the rules themselves rather than merely acquiescing to those of someone else. And we agree to follow them because they create a buffer between each of us, a neutral zone which though created by us is independent, and which we can use to judge the actions of each of us in a way that we consider fair.
How do we go about changing these rules? We have a master set of rules, from which all others must follow. This master set is not just a set of laws, though it does include laws, and rules of government and of lawmaking, but also of principles. And all of these, together act as more buffer zones. So we have rules, and rules governing how we make rules, and principles to which all of these rules must conform. It’s very baroque. It might have been simpler just to make one set of rules and forget about it. For example:

If it can be shown that someone is responsible for a death, by act or accident, he is thereby guilty of murder and should be hanged.

So if you shoot someone in a robbery: you are guilty of murder. And you are also guilty if you run over a little old lady after losing control of your car. Does it matter if the mechanic who worked on the car the week before forgot to tighten the steering column? According to our unambiguous law, it doesn't. There is no room to argue the definition of responsibility. You were the one behind the wheel.
The framers would not consider that a just law, and neither would most people. But the framers knew that language was slippery, so what they did was to create a precise structure not only to facilitate but to constrain debate. Language is often nothing but smoke and mirrors but nonetheless a courtroom is a place where we tell stories, and by necessity examine what it means to tell a story. Even if we place limits on how that story can be told, limits on types of questions that can be asked, limits on strategies, there is no escaping the ambiguity created by our speech. In law as in everything else, outside of “an open and shut” case, where science –and not the interpretation of science- has all the answers, there is no way to avoid it. But that is precisely what scares Justice Antonin Scalia. He is so afraid of the chaos that he fears will be produced, that he fears has been already produced, by our indiscriminate acts of interpretation, that he will defend a strictly mechanical order, out of fear, even to the point of producing patently unjust decisions. In denying language a role in communication, by saying in effect: "we can not afford to make the mistakes that language allows us to make," he's arguing for a legal philosophy of kitsch, for law and order rather than justice.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Eric Alterman: "I caught about 15 minutes of the weekend’s anti-war demonstration in Washington,D.C. on a C-SPAN rebroadcast while waiting for the Stones to come on Saturday night."

I didn't go to the parade, but if I were writing a bad review of it I wouldn't begin it quite this way.
Tony Blair has refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in Iraq. If you read the article it is not as bad as the headline implies, but still, there is something stupid about the conversation itself. Meanwhile in Germany.

If the tragedy of WWI destroyed, for most, what was left of the romance of monarchal authority, this war is going to prove that democracy will repeat the war as farce. Bush, Blair and Schroeder each represents, in his own way, the lowest common denominator of the political imagination of his constituents. All of them are cowards, but Bush is angry, while the others are looking over their shoulders at every step of the way: Schroeder at the German public and Blair for some reason, at our president, whom he seems to think outnumbers the voting population of Britain.
Our leaders have been beaten into submission by the crowd, to the extent that even when that crowd is talking sense, as they are right now in every country -including this one- they are unwilling or unable to listen. For our president, ignoring the popular will is the equivalent of teenage rebellion. He's mooning us.

If citizens of democratic states want leaders who are like them, Bush represents the American people: stubborn, arrogant, uneducated, and well meaning. Unfortunately, anyone who has those characteristics is also an easy mark, and easily corrupted. I've never seen anything simultaneously so idealistic and so corrupt as this administration.


Study: Schools Have Become resegrated.

Israeli Forces Demolish Palestinian Shops.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

"7: So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.

8: When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand."
Ezekiel 33:7 & 8
Read Nathan Newman on Al Sharpton and remember as well the name of the member state of the UN whose government was the sole political and economic partner of the white rulers of of South Africa.

If this doesn't satisfy your taste for post modern irony, I don't know what will. I myself don't know how to respond. It's all old news, but the 'Flash-movie' narrative brings it up to date, in a terrifying way. 'Disgust' doesn't do justice to my awareness that it was predictable; 'Indifference' doesn't describe my sadness, and 'Boredom' is too glib.
When I get over my anger I'm just fascinated.
A tribute to moral courage.

"Governor Ryan's action was shockingly wrong," Mr. Lieberman said in an interview on Friday. "It did terrible damage to the credibility of our system of justice"
[... ] Four of the seven Democrats who have already joined the presidential race or are likely to do so have longstanding views supporting the death penalty and have not changed their positions because of the circumstances in Illinois.
[...] Of the seven, only the Rev. Al Sharpton opposes the death penalty, as he has done for years.
Has technocracy become so pervasive that even those who are supposed to have an intellectual curiosity (in fact are paid to have one), who by all rights should be able to imagine alternatives to their own casual (causal) assumptions, need parlor tricks to "shake up" their "accustomed patterns of thought?" Is an appreciation of ambiguity no longer the hallmark of an educated mind? Or is such an appreciation somehow foreign to the American intellectual imagination? In my naiveté I linked to two sites yesterday and am now embarrassed by them both. But read them now, one after the other, and see if somehow they don't combine to exhibit some sort of cognitive dissonance, as if from with the same mind.

I'm flying to LA to have a drink with the ghost of Billy Wilder, but I'm broke, so send me some money on the paypal link. I've damn well earned it.

Friday, January 17, 2003

I'm going to have to find a witty name for a subcategory of my link list dedicated to culture and law.
Siva Vaidhyanathan
For anyone who will be in NY before the end of the month, Salander-O'Reilly has what will be the most beautiful show of the season. The largest terracotta in existence by Gian Lorenzo Bernini: the recently rediscovered Modello for the Fountain of the Moor. Bernini was the greatest technical sculptor in the history of the west, or of the world; his figures have a dynamism that's unmatched. Michelangelo is a better artist, but having been to Florence earlier in the year it was fascinating to realize how this sculpture made me understand why. I want to write more on it but in the meantime If you're in NY, go.


---
Now in the collection of the Kimbell.
I've been reading more on Balkinization.
Blogging was supposedly popularized by teenagers, but it is an example of the genius of democracy that such an idea can result in the chance to listen in on debates of this level. I grew up on a diet of constitutional argument; Intellectual bloodsport is my life. But it's more then that. It's what makes democracy function. And it's fun.
Thanks to Maxspeak: Jack Balkin on the question, and possibly the myth of symmetry in the legal doctrine on race. He says no policy is colorblind if its purpose and effect is primarily to benefit minorities, and goes on to defend such policies on the basis that conservatives give the game away with the policies they are willing to accept. This reminds me somewhat of Ronald Dworkin's recent arguments on abortion rights. Since most prolifers accept abortion in the case of rape or incest it's not the life of the fetus that is an issue, but their sense that the weight of the act itself is being ignored. So according to Balkin, the question is how to construct a just asymmetry, as the problem is for Dworkin to construct a morally serious sense of freedom.

My problem with Balkin's generalization is that it does not separate method from intention. [though not being a lawyer I don't know how that fares as a legal argument these days] Say I want to choose 5 people out of a group of 20 for a combat mission. If I decide that it would be better not to pick the 5 myself, but to put all the names in a hat, is that discrimination, or its removal as an issue?
If I wanted to inaugurate a national health system for all, would it be discriminatory because I was only concerned about the well being of the poor?

Thursday, January 16, 2003

I sent a note to Martin Wisse since he linked to my post on civil liberties in the US and commented on what he considers my cynicism. By printing only one paragraph he took my words out of context and made it seem that I am in favor of government restrictions. I am not.
As I wrote in the next sentence of the post, I oppose limits on civil liberties and I oppose internment camps on principle, not because of their supposed lack of efficacy. Whether or not they would be successful is a different matter. They might well be, under certain circumstances, and I think it is false to assume otherwise. But we should weigh the risks one way or the other rather than merely wag our fingers and claim moral superiority. The decision requires a colder logic. Then if we say that our freedoms should prevail, and I think they should, we can also say we understand the risks.

I'll put this another way. If I am still going to give qualified support to Chavez and may still even after a crackdown, am I supposed to pretend that everyone else always must play by the rules? No.
Are we in such a situation in this country now? Not by a long shot.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

This is in response to Nathan Newman's question concerning the relation of racist belief to specific principles of law. I wrote it last night but consulted with a few people before posting it:

One can believe in a principle that may on occasion have unpleasant side effects, the Miranda ruling for example: Our legal system is based on the assumption that the guilty should go free before the innocent are convicted of crimes. One can honestly think that the state should only rarely be involved in active coercion, even to the extent of allowing white males to maintain the social advantages they were born with, at whatever cost to blacks or women, simply because the state itself did not create those advantages. One can argue, strictly on principle, that the state should not 'legislate' social activity. I wouldn't do it. I would not make such an argument. But I wouldn't necessarily, call it a 'racist idea'. But at the same time I would not call such social manipulation ’natural’ to our democracy, any more than I would use that word to describe a rosebush in an arbor. I might think the plant healthier for the pruning, but it still raises important questions.

There was a debate at some point over affirmative action even within the civil rights community. The problem was that there was no way to force financial equity on a nationwide basis in elementary education. The unconstitutionality of funding discrepancies among the various states still seems obvious - but the issue was politically stillborn. The fallback position which was, like it or not, a quota system, seems a problematic response, but it was made necessary by the impossibility of inaugurating the obvious constitutionally suited and moral policy of national funding of all education.

Pickering, regardless of Ralph Neas' nice guy language, is accused of something else. And considering his position, we should not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a racist to see him disallowed from a higher bench. He should be toast
I like reading Atrios but sometimes in his work as a self described 'hack' he misses the bigger picture. It takes two to tango, son.
Also from Eschaton: John Nichols on Pickering.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

American politics is about style, not substance. Meanwhile Lieberman, like every democratic candidate in the last 30 years except Clinton, pitches substance. His corruption is irrelevant. It a mark of incompetence that those who suffer from it are oblivious.
People who attack the press for being biased against Gore miss the point. It was never about politics. The American people will follow the Devil to the edge of a cliff. They may recoil when you ask them to jump, but sometimes it's too late.

Liberals who get upset over the the possibilities of internment camps and other restrictions do not understand their own history, or the history of their country. It makes no practical sense for an empire in crisis to respect the civil liberties of its citizens as much as this one has. We have a way of life based upon the denial of such liberties for others. Democracy did not make us rich, capitalism did. Or rather what made us rich was an internal system of capitalist and multi-ethnic democracy which resulted, lo and behold, in a skill at domination and the greed that required it. But there is no reason to assume that after years of abuse, those who have suffered under us- or more specifically under our proxies- will follow the same rules we do.

I will defend those civil liberties, however, for the same reason that I oppose first -or second- use of nuclear weapons. I do not believe in pushing the button, ever. I am not a pacifist, but I am willing to accept the increased risk of defending the ideals of democracy even in a society that is objectively not democratic. How many people who are concerned about the rights of immigrants understand the importance of this decision?

Monday, January 13, 2003

I suppose I should have posted something on this sooner, but I assume that most of the people who come here either can guess my opinion on the subject, or know more about it than I do. But for those others I'll say, quoting Max Sawicky, that it's Capital on strike in Venezuela.
"Chavez has been reluctant to use state power to break the strike, despite the enormous damage to the economy. In the United States, a strike of this sort -- one that caused massive damage to the economy, or one where public or private workers were making political demands -- would be declared illegal. Its participants could be fired, and its leaders -- if they persisted in the strike -- imprisoned under a court injunction."
Sam Heldman is worried about a filibuster over Pickering but Dwight Meredith and Atrios argue that "mojo" as is a muscle that strengthens with use.
That may be true for us but not for the Senate. Don't look to the them for support, force them to follow. If the pressure builds, we won't need a filibuster. Not to sound melodramatic but it's up to us, or at least to Atrios and Josh Marshall.
Scalia says past court decisions give "some plausible support " for the inclusion of the words 'under god' in the Pledge of Allegiance. How can he make such an argument if he is a strict constructionist? Answer: He can't. Once you accept the notion of 'plausibility' you accept an ambiguity that strict constructionism does not allow; you accept doubt. For Scalia to say, as he has, that "the Constitution, as I interpret it, is dead" is an act of logical and rhetorical self-immolation. I have commented on that before. This time it isn't so tidy, but it's the same thing.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Joe Conason crows that the Bush foreign policy is crumbling, but tonight Colin Powell says in an interview on NBC that the President "has always said" he will act without foreign support if necessary. No one seems to have considered the possibility that the humiliating fiasco of Bush's Korea 'policy', culminating in his having to turn to a democratic governor for help, has done nothing but force him to find another way to strike back at his doubters, and at the doubters of America's strength. The argument follows that he can't back down twice.
In re: the draft and obligation.
I looked up Anthony Appiah's review of Ronald Dworkin's latest book Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality. I looked for my copy -of the review- but I must have thrown it out.
I'll begin by having a little fun with broad generalization: There are two basic orders that between them make up the defining mechanisms of all of human society. These are Desire and Convention.
More and more I am moving against the ideas of Left and Right to think more in these categories. It only makes sense, since so many disparate movements of the grass roots left can be described by a defense of the conventions of an independent social life. Workers' and peasants' movements, unions, community activism etc. Of course it can also include nativism and any number of other less pleasant 'isms' including monarchism. But at the moment when individualism seems to be the guiding principle of both left and right, in my country at least, it should be remembered that the roots of the left belong elsewhere.

Both Dworkin and Appiah seem to accept without question the notion that economic liberty is not only the most important liberty, but is the basis of all discussion of the subject. Appiah even confuses social conservatives' dislike for homosexuality, the proscription of which is seen as a necessary coercive force in defense of a collective social order- and explicitly restrictive of liberty- with an economic conservative argument based on the states' 'equal concern' with its citizens. The arguments are in fact opposed.The sense that we are all interested in economic 'Liberty' -in this context or in this meaning- or that the term is the centerpiece of all debate is absurd.

"Amartya Sen has identified one reason why nearly everyone agrees with Dworkin's egalitarian formula, his insistence on equal concern: it is that almost any serious political philosophy can claim to be consistent with it. Even a conservative who thinks the only function of government is to protect our liberties, and who holds that any government interference in the economy is immoral, will still claim to be treating everyone equally,"

Well, so much for the Catholic Church, Mainland China, Iran, all Islam to a degree, the social conservative movement in the US and everywhere else, and Baroness Thatcher, who still has many fans and who, famously, once stated that "we cannot have equality." And there are plenty of people who would agree with her.

But the problem is also that Dworkin seems to argue that we can resolve any conflicts between what he calls 'liberty' and 'equality' or that if seen in the proper light, the conflicts between them disappear.
I'm not sure where the use of these two terms, in opposition to one another, originated. I don't like them, specifically the latter, used this way. I prefer to think of 'obligation' rather than 'equality'. The advantages are obvious, but one is that it is not based on, or responding to, a Darwinian imperative. Equality seems to argue against nature in a way that obligation does not. 'Equality' in this context must also mean economic equality and not political equality. Otherwise why would it be opposed to 'liberty'? It gives the game away by defining the basis of social order as economic order, something that neither I nor most other people, accept. Most people when asked pick family and friends before money. You could say they pick 'equality' but 'obligation' is less condescending. After all every group has its own internal hierarchy, and unlike 'equality', 'obligation' makes no pretense.
---

On NPR yesterday I heard a piece about lawsuits by writers in Hollywood who can't get work because they're considered too old. The problem that interests me is that at some point someone may sue Knopf because they don't publish enough books by 50 years olds.
This is what happens when economic life becomes the defining factor of social life. All commercial speech becomes political and all political speech becomes commercial. Nike is a person, and I am a corporation. I think both the writers' arguments and those recently made by lawyers for Nike are ridiculous. And contra Dworkin's attempts to negate the force of the struggle between what the two poles of Liberty and Equality, the fight will go on, often in our own minds, as we insist upon our absurd 'freedoms' even as we demand our absurd 'rights.'

The left has much to learn from social conservatives, but in this country, more than any other, it has allied itself with economic conservatives- meaning Liberals in the classical sense- and one of the problems we now face is the degree to which that market philosophy is now under attack, justifiably, and throughout the world, more than it has been in decades.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

In a post that fits my mood, Nathan Newman, makes a point about the usefulness of being on good terms with the powerful rather than with their servants. Guiliani was a dog on a leash. Bloomberg was one of the men who bought the collar, but he is a much better mayor. That's not how N. Newman puts it, but it doesn't mean I'm arguing with him.
Nathan also passes on some news from Genoa.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

The pictures are still on the site, back where they belong. It felt too indulgent having them on the blog. It made my anger seem theatrical. And it isn't.

Monday, January 06, 2003

"i suppose i'm on the left, and i agree with talkleft that rengle's [sic] idea is preposterous and self-defeating...kind of like throwing a 2 year old in the deep end to teach him how to swim."
-comment from NWB on the draft.
Think about who, exactly, is being described as a 2 year old and you will understand both the author's point, and my frustration.

Why keep the American people from understanding their position? What is the point of arguing again and again that it is not 'we' but 'they' who are going to war? Is there anybody in this country who doesn't think that someone else makes all the 'real' decisions. Nixon thought it was the Jews. And god knows what the Bush family are afraid of, but it's obvious that GWB is competing with someone; and it's not Saddam Hussein.

I'm really beginning to understand the delusions of this country. Everyone wants to be left alone, to feel safe, in his own dream. Dreams are always so seductive. And they're all this country has.

Liberals are guilty conservatives. They act out of self interest and then beg to be forgiven. In such a world the choice is either to be a devil or the disciple groveling at his feet.
The devil at least gets my respect.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

This country has a romantic fixation on itself second only to that of Israel, or perhaps Serbia. I'll pity the Palestinians once they finally have their homeland.

Politics does little more then document our own stupidity. At least art on occasion shows us something more, if only by demonstating our awareness of the fact.
Whether you laugh at fate, or cry, it doesn't matter. Each only marks the difference between comedy and tragic drama.
An interesting statistical relationship develops if you flip a coin repeatedly. Each toss has a 50/50 chance of landing heads or tails (unless that is you use a nickel, which is unevenly weighted). But at the same time the odds change every time you throw the coin. What are the odds of coming up tails twice in a row? Or three times?
My sense of my own responsibilities in life fall the same way. As an American I feel personal responsibility for what is probably about to happen in Iraq. As an individual I feel none.

I am sick of arguing about the draft. I got caught up in it, and it was a mistake.
The amount of self-pity Americans are capable of indulging in amazes me. Our elected government is about to instigate a war that may result in the destruction of a country, and we are arguing about whether the invading force should be made only of volunteers.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

I've been posting alot on Stand Down. Here's the post on Korea which is the same here, but with 22 comments so far. And I've been getting involved in a shouting match about the draft.

First of all, I have no problem with compulsory service. Also:
"As I've said more than once in this debate, my father went to his grave thinking that after all of the effort, it was the end of the student deferment that stopped the American war. It was all of those housewives who said: "Of course I think the President is right... but they want to take my son!"

I have very fond memories of the Vietnam war. My father was the most respected draft counselor in Philadelphia and I used to sit on the floor with his students at our house and listen to him talk. I grew up around all the acronyms: SDS/ CCCO/ AFSC/ VVAW. Our phone was tapped. Lots of fun for a 6 year old. My mother at one time ran a lawyers' committee whose members ranged from movement types to a retired Marine. Their job was to put out out position papers on the rights of the enlisted. They all hated each other and she rode their asses until they came up with something. It's a story she still likes to tell, sometimes.

The people from Talk Left are opposed to the draft but their arguments are too indulgent. I agree with Max, but think once you make an argument you have to be willing to follow through with it. Talkleft's arguments are crap.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Just adding a few more. When I figure out more html I'll put them in a grid with more information. But until then, the link on the left for Paintings, will have to do.
And if I ever get the money to do a real site Here's a test for the front page. Give it a moment to load. Finally, as long as I'm spending the day on self promotion, here are two more links: one, to a dealer in New York I no longer work with, but who maintains an archive (click on 'artists') and another to a gallery in Dusseldorf.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

If only we had a press, or a political class, that could speak in such a tone.

Something -in progress- for the new year. You might notice a profile on the left.


"Who lost Korea?": A brilliantly timed gesture my the North and Bush is outflanked again.
On sunday I linked to post by Sam Heldman, which I've spent too much time rewriting, without resolution. The last two sentences read: "It would be nice to be reminded that the category [of the political] is a variable, but I'm still not sure it is- or that it should be allowed to be in a democracy (there's a big distinction there). Maybe what's invariable is our capacity for delusion."
What did I mean by arguing against 'allowing' something in a democracy? I think it meant I was tired and wanted to go do something else. Previously it read that the political was in fact variable, so basically I flipped the sentence and tried to cover my ass.
This all goes back to my comments on esthetics and the conversation I had with Sam a few weeks ago, in regards politics, cultural and artistic 'integrity'. From my end this began in late November and I've made so many posts on the subject that I would recommend reading the whole lot if you haven't already. But both he and I keep coming back to the same issues, which are important to each of us for deeply personal reasons: for him as a left wing lawyer attached to Southern culture and for me as an artist who grew up around high culture and left wing politics and law. For both of us the contradiction is between the love of a cultural heritage and an awareness of the baggage the culture and the love of it carries, though Sam gets a break since his love is for a working class culture and mine is for a more bourgeois or even aristocratic one (though I do have a Carter Family cd or two on my shelf, and still make my living humping sheetrock)

The post that ended with the question of what to 'allow' in a democracy, whatever the word meant to me at the time, was a response to his observations on the blindness of otherwise pleasant white southerners in relation to the symbols of politics and the confederacy. And obviously my last comment, no matter how brusk refers to moral, not literal disallowance. But even then, how do we police our own stupidity? I am going to be writing a lot more on this, since I think it is the only important philosophical issue worth debating. Ontology doesn't interest me much. But here's Sam's latest, including a great quote from William James. And I'll also recommend this week's New York Review, which isn't on the web yet, but has a good piece on the Jurgen Habermas and the roll of a humanist intellectual in politics.

I'm going for an early drink.