Friday, December 29, 2006

Thanks for the Memories
read
---
update Jan 1: Badger from Arab Links added a comment below. The post he mentions is here. I start of glibly but it gets better. I appreciate the compliment.

A christmas present from my sister:
My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism.
Marr's choice of title says a lot.

feliz año nuevo
End of Another Year..."
Riverbend

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The US and SCIRI vs Sadr.
Juan Cole
WaPo reports that the US military is saying that the raid was led by the 8th Iraqi Division. But the article also implies that the political leaders of Najaf were unaware of the planned raid. The Iraqi army still reports to US officers [An informed reader points out that 3 divisions do not, and that the 8th is one of these; regret the error]. And, the 8th Army is largely Shiite and likely linked to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, which means that the decision to raid the home of a Sadrist rival might not be purely a matter of law enforcement.
record keeping
Patty Weiss claims that her 35 years as a journalist was training for service in Congress. It really isn't. I have worked in the House, Senate, and executive branch. I was press secretary for Vice President Hubert Humphrey and professor of political communications in the Louisiana State University School of Journalism. I have known some of the brightest journalists in my time, including Walter Lippman, Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers.
They and others would laugh at the idea that what they did prepared them for public office. I have known many members of Congress. The best of them were teachers, lawyers and businessmen, almost all with prior political service. The only journalist among them was Jesse Helms of North Carolina; a TV anchor of experience, but no sense of decency. Weiss may have good qualities that qualify her for public office, but her career is not one of them.
Norman Sherman
Tucson

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Non-Arab-Arab again, this time a non-expert, on Somalia, Ethiopia and US proxy wars.

An expert agrees: Salim Lone in the IHT
The new UN resolution states that the world body acted to "restore peace and stability." But as all major international news organizations have reported, this year Somalia finally experienced its first respite from 16 years of utter lawlessness and terror at the hands of the marauding warlords who drove out UN peacekeepers in 1993, when 18 American soldiers were killed.

Since 1993, there had been no Security Council interest in sending peacekeepers to Somalia, but as peace and order took hold, a multilateral force was suddenly deemed necessary — because it was the Islamic Courts Union that had brought about this stability. Astonishingly, the Islamists had succeeded in defeating the warlords primarily through rallying people to their side by creating law and order through the application of Shariah law, which Somalis universally practice.

The transitional government, on the other hand, is dominated by the warlords and terrorists who drove out American forces in 1993. Organized in Kenya by U.S. regional allies, it is so completely devoid of internal support that it has turned to Somalia's arch- enemy, Ethiopia, for assistance.

If this war continues, it will affect the whole region, do serious harm to U.S. interests and threaten Kenya, the only island of stability in this corner of Africa.

Ethiopia is at even greater risk, as a dictatorship with little popular support and beset also by two large internal revolts, by the Ogadenis and Oromos. It is also mired in a conflict with Eritrea, which has denied it secure access to seaports.

The best antidote to terrorism in Somalia is stability, which the Islamic Courts have provided. The Islamists have strong public support, which has grown in the face of U.S. and Ethiopian interventions. As in other Muslim-Western conflicts, the world needs to engage with the Islamists to secure peace.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Non-Arab Arab. October 21st: Iraq: On SCIRI vs Sadrists

Dec 22nd: Connecting the dots
There are three events going on right now which I am quite surprised that few people are connecting the dots on:
-The Bush Administration's backing of an attempt to form a new Iraqi governing political coalition consisting primarily of the Shi'ite Islamist SCIRI, the Sunni Islamist Iraqi Islamic Party, and the Kurdish parties. This is being presented as a supposedly multi-ethnic "moderate" coalition aimed at isolating "extremists" and being the political part of a new path forward.

-The debate over a temporary boost of 15,000-30,000 additional US troops primarily into Baghdad. The public debate currently is between those who say a small number like this can't make any real difference and those who say "we've got to try something".

-Muqtada as-Sadr's supporters rejoining the Iraqi government after a boycott of several weeks. On the surface this looks like Sadr's boys just threw a temper tantrum when Maliki met Bush in Jordan a few weeks back and now they're returning to work as they always planned.
I believe these interpretations are wrong and these aren't isolated events. This is a concerted and yet-again quixotic effort by the Bush Administration to try to destroy Muqtada as-Sadr's power in the political and military arenas in the next few months. Even if they boot Sadr from the political arena (heck, even if they kill him and badly bloody his foot soldiers), it is going to fail as both the 2004 attempts to crush his movement failed, and it is going to result in yet more major blowback. In a nutshell, this is what I believe is really going on: continue
update: Sistani balks at US plan
and from Helena Cobban

Friday, December 22, 2006


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Just to recap
Stupid Fucking Idiots.
----

This is interesting. Arab Links:
Americans got their first report about the Istanbul conference [see below: Sunday 17th] this morning, via Juan Cole, who (1) called statements of Dulaimi "incendiary", but failed to mention the more enlightened comments that Harith al-Dhari made in rebuttal; (2) quotes a Shiite website that reported allegations about an arrest-warrant against Dulaimi, without telling readers that this was false; (3) failed to pay any attention to the more balanced Al-Jazeera summary of the Istanbul proceedings (mentioned here in a prior post). Cole presents a one-sided account, followed up with something equally incendiary (and false to boot). It is a case study in how to go about taking a contentious event, and instead of explaining the dynamics in an even-handed way, using it instead in a partisan way to fan the flames higher.
Cole's post is here
---

And the previous post from Arab Links. read the comments.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Orlando Patterson is an idiot.
Aside from the fact that I have no idea what in general terms "Freedom" is or means- try defining the word- it's fucking absurd for Patterson to argue this:
A basic flaw in the approach of the president and his neoliberal (a k a neoconservative) advisers was their failure to distinguish western beliefs about freedom from those critical features of it that non-western peoples were likely to embrace.
First of all does the Decider's American fundamentalist 'base' have any more interest in what Patterson sees himself as defending than the average conservative Sunni or Shia? Is Sam Brownback really that interested in John Locke? The world sees this country in it's strengths and weaknesses as more or less barbarian, while the American technocratic class continues to imagine we're either Imperial Rome or Sweden with nukes.
You're all a bunch of fucking idiots.
---
He likened the building, the Phare Tower, to a “layered dress” or a woman’s slip. “The skin becomes primary, the body secondary,” Mr. Mayne said. “It becomes metabolic, the skin. It moves.”
Experience and perception as opposed to ideal. Neither idealistic nor cynical (morally passive). The basic definition of the Baroque as opposed to Mannerist sensibility and the underlying principle of contemporary culture.
The neocortex is essentially asking the hippocampus to replay events that contain a certain image, place or sound,” he said. “The neocortex is trying to make sense of what is going on in the hippocampus and to build models of the world, to understand how and why things happen.”
These models are presumably used to direct behavior, Dr. Wilson said. They are able to generate expectations about the world and plausibly fill in blanks in memory.
Out of the raw material of perception we build models of the world and those models are what we experience as consciousness. The US is the one country in the world where the intellectual class is unable to see the possibility of anything other than a one-to-one ratio of model to external world as a moral crisis, while the majority of the people are happy to see the dream as the reality and a few cynics play them all for suckers. This is a country without a history of civilized, skeptical, humane irony. Is it any wonder I drink alone. [That's not true. I don't drink alone all the time, I also drink with immigrants and stockbrokers.]

Monday, December 18, 2006

Imaginary Arab
Check out the picture
The alliance of reformers and "technocratic" conservatives made a big election day splash with a highly publicized joint appearance at a polling station by the former Presidents Rafsanjani (on right), the "pragmatic conservative," and Khatami, the "reformer." In recent elections, reformists have split into several camps, whereas this time it was the conservatives who were divided.

Rafsanjani, whose political obituary has been written several times in the past, has beat all expectations in the most widely watched race -- the Council (or Assembly) of Experts. As I mentioned earlier, the COE is a small body without much day-to-day business but with enormous power, since it appoints Iran's supreme leader. Ahmadinejad was trying to get his mentor, Yazdi, elected. Yazdi will likely win a seat, but he's trailing significantly behind Rafsanjani, who is leading convincingly, as well as several other candidates. Symbolically, the results are striking, and the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, must be rather relieved.
more:
AFP
And tonight: The Guardian
Yazdi in 6th place.
Two posts from the past on the old WLIB and the politics of Air America
ArabLinks (entire post):
On Tuesday of last week, car-bombers killed 70 laborers who were waiting for the chance for day-work, in Tarayan Square, in a Shiite part of Baghdad. As an expression of their outrage over this, a Sunni group including religious authorities issued a statement, described as a fatwa, in which they proscribed killing of Muslims and killing of Shiites in particular. The authorities included people connected with the Islamic Party, with the Muslim Scholars Association, and with something called the League of Islamic Unity, and apparently they were Basra-based. I don't think there was any widespread notice of this at the time, but this morning Al-Hayat says Moqtada al-Sadr sent a delegation to Basra for the purpose of thanking the officials for their statement.

Apparently referring to the same statement, Al-Hayat explains that group of Basra Sunnis, composed not only of religious authorities but of tribal leaders as well, issued a statement in which they denounced "the terrorism to which the Iraqi people are being subjected", and expressed support for the unity or Iraq geographically and with respect to its people. Signatories of this statement included named people representing the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Sunni Waqf (religious endowments agency), the Islamic Party, and a number of others from the Sunni community of Basra.

A spokesman for the Sunni group warned of the spread of killings in Basra, but said Basra is different from other Iraqi cities, and what has happened in Baghdad won't be transferred here.

A report on this same exchange between the Sadr delegation and the Sunni group was carried by Aswat al-Iraq yesterday, and it said: The (above-mentioned) spokesman for the Sunni group added that there was a meeting between the Sadr representatives and the Sunni group, at which "a spirit of understanding and cooperation prevailed". He said they agreed on the need to support Iraqi unity, and to denounce terrorist operations and "anything that detracts from the unity and the fabric of Iraqi society".

I would like to underline his mention of "the fabric of Iraqi society", because it is the same phrase Al-Dhari used in his rebuttal of the Islamist at the Istanbul conference, when he warned him against turning the meeting into an anti-Shiite event. Shiites, he reminded the Islamist, are "part of the fabric of Iraqi society". (Quoted in this prior post, the last block-quote section at the bottom).

I think it is a good rule of thumb: If there is any reference to "the fabric of Iraqi society", readers of English-language newspapers and readers of the big blogs won't see it reported. I don't know why. We use "fabric" in exactly the same way. What could the reason be?
...
Read the last two paragraphs twice.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

read the comments, and follow the links.

Friday, December 15, 2006

link

Armatures and intellect. Figuration and abstraction in art. Religion not as faith but armature. The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita are books, in which gods are characters. Religion is law founded on smoke and mirrors: it's the laws that are the point, not the smoke.
Sociologists and lack of affect: why do these people annoy me so much? Smiley-faced studiers of other things.
The rhetoric of science, or Justice as Contract. The logic -predicated on what?- of culture as exoskeleton, as constraint, rather than constitutive -"Dude, subtext is for other people" "Economics is science" - and everyone must have the same desires, must be pretty much identical. Subjectivity not as constitutive but as a thing to be avoided. Individualism as argument in effect the end of the individual sense: Individualism is the triumph of generalization.

Narcissism, the fragile fantasy of the hypertrophied self matches the illusion of the opposite: the atrophied self. Autism is the narcissism of the deeply shy. Marx was either a failed scientist or a great novelist like Robert Heinlein and a determinist just like Ayn Rand, except Rand was better cause she was right.
What does it mean to see the construction of the adult self as a social act? What's the moral philosophy of the good craftsman? Libertarians: again, nothing left but gurgling infants and sociopaths.

How do you gauge the movement of a drifting boat? If we're defined by culture how do we remember what language was in the past? If you refuse to look behind you how can you judge what you've become, even for the purpose of description? Modernity becomes a narcissist, referring to itself for justification. History is the history of ideas through the history of craft. it's the history of what people were not what they wanted to be. Terrifying thought? The only way not to fall victim entirely to determinism is to be observant. Invention without observation is the invention of children. Scientists left to their own devices revert to infantile asociality. gurgling infants and sociopaths (again)
Dalibor Vesely.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Justice Deported
In Grand Island, Nebraska, site of another Swift plant, police chief Steve Lamken refused to help agents drag workers from the slaughterhouse. "When this is all over, we're still here," he told the local paper, "and if I have a significant part of my population that's fearful and won't call us, then that's not good for our community." In Greeley, hundreds of people, accompanied by the local priest, lined the street as their family members were brought out, shouting that they'd been guilty of nothing more than hard work.

ICE rhetoric would have you believe these deportees had been planning to apply for credit cards and charge expensive stereos or trips to the spa. The reality is that these meatpacking laborers had done what millions of people in this country do every year. They gave a Social Security number to their employer that either didn't belong to them, or that didn't exist. And they did it for a simple reason: to get a job in one of the dirtiest, hardest, most dangerous workplaces in America. Mostly, these borrowed numbers probably belong to other immigrants who've managed to get green cards. But regardless of who they are, the real owners of the Social Security numbers will benefit, not suffer.

Swift paid thousands of extra dollars into their Social Security accounts. The undocumented immigrants using the numbers will never be able to collect a dime in retirement pay for all their years of work on the killing floor. If anyone was cheated here, they were. But when ICE agents are calling the victims criminals in order to make their immigration raid sound like an action on behalf of upright citizens.

ICE has not, of course, accused the immigrant workers of the real crime for which they were arrested. That's the crime of working.

Since passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, hiring an undocumented worker has been a violation of federal law. Don't expect Swift executives to go to jail, however, or even to pay a fine. The real targets of this law are workers themselves, who become violators the minute they take a job.
"But regardless of who they are, the real owners of the Social Security numbers will benefit, not suffer."

IRAQSlogger.com

Article @ E&P

Helena Cobban
So basically, this company is mixing up the job of making available a free news-reporting service with that of hiring themselves out as private intel consultants/providers, offering themselves to the highest bidders. Very disquieting. In my experience, there is quite enough suspicion out there in the world about the role of journalists and the media without a company coming along that explicitly seeks to mix the role of journalists with that of intelligence collectors and analysts.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

From 2004: a reminder


could be my neighborhood.
On almost every issue the commenters at Starbuck's are well to the left of the posters. Immigration is a tough one, but even then the comments are engaged, and on foreign policy it's a bloodbath. What strikes me most is the tone: surprisingly free of eccentricity, high-purpose or the anger of political junkies (two of which I'm full of) and sounding more and more like the impatience and frustration educated citizens in every other country feel regarding US policy. This makes the arrogance of the next generation of responsible beltway and intellectuals like Ackerman even more annoying. The pros at Tapped still have an attachment to America as the necessary country, as they have an attachment to themselves as the necessary intellectuals.

But it's so over.
At Least in America They Understand the Notion of Cultural Difference:
The Guardian
...But while many Muslims here looked to Europe in the hope that it might provide a counterbalance to America's disastrous foreign policy, they also look across the Atlantic in horror at the experiences of their co-religionists. There lies the paradox: the country that has done more than any other to foment Islamic fundamentalism abroad has so far witnessed relatively little of it at home. "Europe is not coping well with the emergence of Islam," says the executive director of Cair, Nihad Awad. "It has taken a long time for them to accept that Islam is part of its future and also part of its past."

The different experiences have emerged partly, it seems, because the Muslim communities on either side of the Atlantic are so different. The patterns of migration have differed. A large proportion of Muslims who came to America arrived with qualifications and were looking for professional work. As a result, they are generally well educated and well off. According to a recent study by the Journal of Human Resources, the wages of Arab and Muslim workers in the US fell by 10% in the years following the terror attacks; but they are still better paid and better educated than non-Muslims.
Tuesday night weight-room demographics:
Approximately 50 people. 46 male.
Total Hispanic-30
--Mexican/Ecuadorian-20
--Colombian/Dominican/
--Puerto Rican-10
Brazilian-4
Eastern European-3
Arabic-(Egyptian)-2
Asian (Japanese)-1
South Asian (Pakistan/Bangladesh)-7
US born Black-1
US born White-2
---
Union: DHS Raids Grabbed Legal Workers

Josh Marshall and Laura Rozen (December 12).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Inane post by Lee Feinstein, a hack from the Council on Foreign Relations at TPMCafe. As usual the comments make it worthwhile. I'm in there too but on a side issue.
And Spencer Ackerman is another teenage putz. I've had a little fun with him on his page. He writes to express his opinions even while admitting he doesn't have the right to have them. A true Pundit. An American liberal in every sense of the word that makes me cringe. I do my usual bit; other people do it better at the first link above (or click here)
---
And again from Bruce Jentleson (ex Clnton State Dept./CFR/Gore etc.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Josh Buermann in comments here
An immediate withdrawal like you advocate would probably be deadlier for US troops than the actual way out. Over 70% of Iraqis want a timetable, same for Americans. A unilateral, "precipitous" withdrawal isn't the best way to manage the outcome. The ISG's disengenuous ploy was to bait-and-switch the policy actually preferred by most Americans, Iraqis, the insurgency, the government, Iraq's neighbors, and Democrats with the precipitous withdrawal supported by a few frustrated American nationalists.
I should have added this a while ago.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

R.I.P. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick
She was a good friend to my grandfather Earl. She was an American and a world patriot: her counsel--even at its most boneheaded--was always devoted to advancing the security of the United States and the cause of liberty and prosperity around the world."
American exceptionalism is an anomaly. America is not. The continuing power of that anomaly owes something to the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it owes more to the seemingly rational and morally neutral mechanisms of capital, and to the logic and mythology of individualism which feeds it. In the past this faith was seen as common sense but recently it has taken on the colors of an esoteric knowledge.

Esoteric schools of thought exist usually at the periphery of their traditions; their idealism places them apart from public life. When they become central it signals a new defensiveness, a closing-down, often reducing language to a core of messianism and rigorous formality: the rules tighten as the desire for release grows stronger. The purely material meets the purely psychic.
In religion the result is fundamentalism. In economics the asociality of mathematics is the model and the asociality of autism the result. And if observant Judaism and Islam meet in passing, they're going in opposite directions, and I'd rather have a child take up the faith of the Prophet than become a Hasid.

Delong attaches this to someone's comment: "Oh no. She did a great deal that I think was wrong. But she was well intentioned." An American in 2006 praising the moral power of intention. 40 years ago, it could have been anyone. But times have changed.
---
...Kill the Moor first.

Vit. You shall not kill her first; behold my breast: I will be waited on in death; my servant Shall never go before me.

Gas. Are you so brave?

Vit. Yes, I shall welcome death, As princes do some great ambassadors; I'll meet thy weapon half-way.

Lodo. Thou dost tremble: Methinks, fear should dissolve thee into air.

Vit. Oh, thou art deceiv'd, I am too true a woman! Conceit can never kill me. I 'll tell thee what, I will not in my death shed one base tear; Or if look pale, for want of blood, not fear.

Gas. Thou art my task, black fury.

Zan. I have blood As red as either of theirs: wilt drink some? 'Tis good for the falling-sickness. I am proud: Death cannot alter my complexion, For I shall ne'er look pale.

Lodo. Strike, strike, With a joint motion. [They strike.]

Vit. 'Twas a manly blow; The next thou giv'st, murder some sucking infant; And then thou wilt be famous.

Flam. Oh, what blade is 't? A Toledo, or an English fox? I ever thought a culter should distinguish The cause of my death, rather than a doctor. Search my wound deeper; tent it with the steel That made it.

Vit. Oh, my greatest sin lay in my blood! Now my blood pays for 't.

Flam. Th' art a noble sister! I love thee now; if woman do breed man, She ought to teach him manhood. Fare thee well. Know, many glorious women that are fam'd For masculine virtue, have been vicious, Only a happier silence did betide them: She hath no faults, who hath the art to hide them.

Vit. My soul, like to a ship in a black storm, Is driven, I know not whither.

Flam. Then cast anchor. Prosperity doth bewitch men, seeming clear; But seas do laugh, show white, when rocks are near. We cease to grieve, cease to be fortune's slaves, Nay, cease to die by dying. Art thou gone? And thou so near the bottom? false report, Which says that women vie with the nine Muses, For nine tough durable lives! I do not look Who went before, nor who shall follow me; No, at my self I will begin the end. While we look up to heaven, we confound Knowledge with knowledge. Oh, I am in a mist!

Vit. Oh, happy they that never saw the court, Nor ever knew great men but by report! [Vittoria dies.]

Flam. I recover like a spent taper, for a flash, And instantly go out. Let all that belong to great men remember th' old wives' tradition, to be like the lions i' th' Tower on Candlemas-day; to mourn if the sun shine, for fear of the pitiful remainder of winter to come. 'Tis well yet there 's some goodness in my death; My life was a black charnel. I have caught An everlasting cold; I have lost my voice Most irrecoverably. Farewell, glorious villains. This busy trade of life appears most vain, Since rest breeds rest, where all seek pain by pain. Let no harsh flattering bells resound my knell; Strike, thunder, and strike loud, to my farewell! [Dies.]

Friday, December 08, 2006

From Max:
IPS' Antonia Juhasz - It's Still About Oil in Iraq
WHILE THE Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.

Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.

The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.

It's spelled out in Recommendation No. 63, which calls on the U.S. to "assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise" and to "encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies." This recommendation would turn Iraq's nationalized oil industry into a commercial entity that could be partly or fully privatized by foreign firms.

This is an echo of calls made before and immediately after the invasion of Iraq.
more

Thursday, December 07, 2006

From Helena Cobban:

Reidar Visser: "The Iraq Study Group: Regionalisation Not Balkanisation".
In a remarkable rejection of partitionist winds that have blown through America over the past year, the Iraq Study Group (ISG) in its report of 6 December 2006 recommended a final big push for the Iraqi national reconciliation process, with the collective effort of regional powers as a potential catalyst.
Also Marc Lynch.

The consensus seems to be that the report gets better, or at least more serious, the further it gets from American politics.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


YMG. 1980
THAT WAS DIEM, THIS IS NOW

The class will come to order. Today's question is, what is the function of the Iraq Study Group?

Max speaks you listen
David Ignatius
DUBAI -- On the eve of the Baker-Hamilton commission's report, a top Iranian official set a tough condition for his country's help in stabilizing Iraq, saying that Tehran isn't interested in such cooperation unless the Bush administration sets a timetable for withdrawing its troops.

Ali Larijani, Iran's national security adviser, said in an interview that a U.S. plan for removing "occupation forces" from Iraq would be considered "a sign of a change in strategy." In that case, he said, "Iran would definitely extend the hand of assistance and would use its influence to help solve the problem."

The Iranian official made his comments after a speech yesterday to a conference here called the Arab Strategy Forum. His remarks were the clearest statement I've heard of how Iran views its role in the region following what he described as the failure of U.S. intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. His tone was triumphalist: In his view, America is bogged down in Iraq and "in dire need of change," while a newly confident Iran is positioning itself as a dominant power for the region.

...Harvard professor Graham Allison, who had a private talk with Larijani following mine, said: "In discussing Iraq after U.S. withdrawal he didn't seem to have a credible idea of what comes next."

As for the idea of a regional peace conference involving Iraq's neighbors, Larijani told me he favored a smaller group of countries that are committed to the "new paradigm" in Iraq flowing from its democratic elections and constitution -- both of which enfranchised Iraq's Shiite majority. "We are against a tribal democracy," he said.

Larijani said President Bush's statement in an interview with me in September, in which Bush recognized Iran's status as an important nation in the region, was "the first sign of having any respect for the long history and cultural background of Iran." But Larijani said the administration needed to accompany such rhetoric with a halt to its "adventurous moves" against Tehran. "The Iranian people might be great and gracious, but not naive," he said.

Larijani isn't proposing a grand bargain but a ruthlessly pragmatic one shaped by Tehran's view of current realities: Iran is up, America is down, and any post-Iraq settlement should reflect those facts. That's the steep price of Tehran's help.
A "steep price" only for the arrogant and foolish.

The Arab Strategy Forum is more important than Baker-Hamilton.
(and Broder is an idiot)
Miami Schweiz

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Josh Marshall is a Fucking Genius.

"I'd say we, or rather they, may be about set to have their Reformation. Or they may already be in thick of it."

If this is American liberalism, just shoot me and get it over with.

Yes it's the Islamic reformation. It's the fucking Islamic renaissance. We're witnessing the modernization and secularization of Islam. It's been building for decades, going on for years, and our stupidity is helping in an unnecessarily messy and dangerous way to bring things to a head. This has been obvious for a long time. Al Qaeda was always the end of something, not the beginning.
---

Meanwhile at Tapped:
The liberal elite has more in common with educated libertarians than with working people and the liberal political elite is made up more of economists and political 'scientists' than historians and professors of literature. "Analysis" and rationalism are hip, history and culture even as viewed in anthropological rather than esthetic terms, are not. "Progress" is a value even when its meaning remains undefined: is it low infant mortality or the number of plasma TV's?

Rather than making bargains with a libertarian minority, better and more egalitarian to work with the large number of moderate social conservatives on the economic concerns they share with the left and endeavor to educate them, without condescension, on why they have nothing to fear from outsiders.

Libertarians are a self-styled elite who like to pretend that they exist as windowed monads. Someone should explain to me what freedom is when before I am able to communicate I need to learn to speak, and preferably to do so well. Libertarians think it takes more intelligence and shows more moral worth to invent a new musical instrument than learn to play one that already exists. Why bother trying to learn to play the violin when it sounds just fine to me already?
And the [slightly more successful] corollary: Why do I have to grow up when I'm a mathematical genius?

The world outside our perceptions is ruled by numbers, the one we live in is ruled by language. Ayn Rand will not show you the way out, and "freedom" is the domain of sociopaths and gurgling infants rolling around in their own shit.

This debate under false pretenses is deluded and self-serving The stupidity is mind-boggling

Monday, December 04, 2006


3 from Michael Froomkin on Padilla and Guantanamo. The last from today.
Documents and photos here
It's all grotesque.
Blogging Beirut
looks like a party

courtesy edb

Animal Fight/The Conversation, 1999, oil on canvas, 78"x93", private collection, NY.

I've had this one up before I think. But now it's on the link to the left (and it's owned by someone else.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

12/07/2002
What is 'formalism' in the arts? Whatever it is, it is ubiquitous as of when...1850? And the definitions its partisans apply don't cut it. I'd rather describe it as a natural, as opposed to chosen, technique spontaneously generated by a culture to keep the insincere from being the merely banal.

Frank Sinatra spoke about how the Dorseys taught him the importance of phrasing, and phrasing- the control of time- is Sinatra's genius. The beauty is cold structure; there is no love in his love songs.
Someone, probably Greil Marcus, talks about the formalism of a Rolling Stones performance. How did white middle-class kids from a England manage to rip-off working class American culture (black, white, urban and rural-Jagger copped fake white accents as well) and succeed, unlike everyone else, in making everything they stole their own? Certainly no other band was simultaneously both as derivative and as original as the Stones. The secret is not that they stole, but that they made thievery their subject. Jagger's redneck accent - listen to Beggars Banquet- is more than a copy or a parody because every song, by anyone, is always just a performance. But Stones songs are explicitly that and nothing else: they contain no real love, no real hate, no real hicks, no real black music, no real American music and no real politics (that's what Godard didn't understand about them.) Of course those things were all there: in their absence. As with Sinatra, the theatricality does not undermine the art, it is the art. The subtlety is the doubleness, the shadow of a sincerity that is not there, in an art that is somehow made out of its lack. This honesty is why Godard was interested in them in the first place.
T.J. Clark talks about Picasso's analytic cubism in a similar way, not as describing anything of the world, anything outside the painting itself -a vase or a woman- in any meaningful way, but as bodying forth meaning of a differet sort, as describing the anxiety of a situation, of the attempt and failure and repeated attempt to describe the world, and of making the absurdity profound by way of a kind of skillful but still frenetic -too frenetic, verging on desperate- presentation of the whole ridiculous mess.

Again, I'm fascinated by art and the definition of society and how various periods and forms come to terms with the imprecise- and unidealistic- nature of democracy and of democratic art: that an art about the maker can be seen by some, Picasso for example, and the Stones, or Sinatra, as the product of crisis, and by others, as the nature of things.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Guardian/Observer
The US media have virtually ignored this story. The Observer is the first newspaper to have spoken to Janet Padilla, and this is the first narrative account to appear in print. The story turns on one extraordinary fact: playing a central role in the House of Death was a US government informant, Guillermo Ramirez Peyro, known as Lalo, who was paid more than $220,000 (£110,000) by US law enforcement bodies to work as a spy inside the Juarez cartel. In August 2003 Lalo bought the quicklime used to dissolve the flesh of the first victim, Mexican lawyer Fernando Reyes, and then helped to kill him; he recorded the murder secretly with a bug supplied by his handlers - agents from the Immigration and Customs Executive (Ice), part of the Department of Homeland Security. That first killing threw the Ice staff in El Paso into a panic. Their informant had helped to commit first-degree murder, and they feared they would have to end his contract and abort the operations for which he was being used. But the Department of Justice told them to proceed.
The vogue for intentionality is little more than symptom: of terror at the possibility of unintended consequences.
"I'm always right... But what if I'm wrong!!??"
Craftsmen are honest because in following their tastes before their ideas they elide or evade but do not lie.
Historians study the products of craftsmen in a relation to them of antagonistic reciprocity: each side must respect the other. This is how we learn about the past, not by focusing only on what was intended but what was said. Science stands opposed to such relationships. There is no subtext to number. By means of desire more than logic, reason now supplants adversarial method, and expertise undercuts the moral foundation of the rule of law.

---
Someone found me by googling "T.J. Clark and Vulgarity." In the post they found, I found this:
"Art has to have substance and weight to be worth remembering. And in times of crisis, that weight comes from fear."
I'm still laughing. not bad.

Rereading Farewell to an Idea, Clark's language reminds me of Pynchon. Perversely formal, erudite, sad.
But I can't leave it at that, since Clark is more conservative than Pynchon. He has the high-brow Modernist's distaste for vulgarity, and democracy is vulgar. Clark is closer to his friend Jeff Wall.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Webb
"At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.
Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.
“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.
Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon."
Max thinks so.
One more comment on Sinbad (see sunday). His description and read on Richard's apology as shallow and hypocritical, which it was. Watch how moves while he's talking, leaning back and addressing someone else off camera. Playing to three audiences. His timing is perfect. He's a craftsman with the psychological acuity of a writer (or a comic). It's an American thing, the division between the cultural and the intellectual. Fucking stupid.

This idiot debates logic with fundamentalists when he should be debating moral philosophy with Thomas Hobbes. Picking the easy targets to avoid the hard ones. It's the mark of a pedant not to know he's a pedant.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Untitled (Colorful), 2006, oil on canvas, 11"x14"

Sunday, November 26, 2006



(from Dennis Perrin who gets it.)



Sinbad. Even better.

On the other hand Kerim is simply wrong. And Anil Dash is V.S. Naipaul.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The rule of "reason" leads to the rule of truthiness. That's why we choose the rule of law. Richard Posner:
the duty of judges is "always [to] try to do the best they can do for the present and the future, unchecked by any felt duty to secure consistency in principle with what other officials have done in the past"
The point of using precendent or intention or any other interpretive device is to test one's arguments against others. Posner's argument is that of the man who tests his ideas only against himself: of the chess player who plays alone, spinning the board between moves, or the man who thinks he's good in bed because he always comes when he masturbates.
That's a good way to weaken your game.
---

A note to P.Z. Meyers
"suicide bombing becomes a particularly stupid act when one believes in one life and no reward in a paradise" 
No, it's a political strategy, and it works. Look at the data. [It doesn't. But Hamas called a halt to it that year (2006).

"It's all well and good to say science is limited… to understanding the entire freaking universe." 
No again. As long as we are animals and are susceptible to conditioned response, science does not understand everything in the universe. Your education does not render you immune to desires and assumptions. The most important question is how we limit the number of Rumsfelds in the world. [Rumsfeld is an atheist incompetent. Science answers every question but it does not grant us control
The bible, as no more than a book of stories, says more about that than Dawkins.

You argue with the religious but don't wonder about the function of religion. What's the function of the rule of law? Why not have the rule of experts? Brian Leiter is a friend of Richard Posner. Posner has little interest in the rule of law, or in democracy.

You don't argue from science you argue from an ideological foundationalism. Science is not about 'truth' it's about facts. You wrap yourself in a teleological argument like a cop who says he 'is' the law.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Anybody who finds shocking the news that Israeli Zionists steal land hasn't been paying attention."

Max has the links.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More on Gaza from The Guardian
update: no one around here is following this other than the experts, but it's big.

also: HC on Israel and Iran
good
BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel called off airstrikes on the homes of two militants Sunday after hundreds of Palestinians crowded around the buildings forming human shields, a new tactic that forced the army to re-evaluate its aerial campaign in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians began to gather around the homes shortly after the Israeli army ordered occupants out of them. Israel routinely issues such warnings before attacking buildings that it says are used to store weapons, saying it wants to avoid casualties.

Instead of leaving the buildings, the homeowners remained inside and were quickly joined by crowds of supporters who gathered on balconies, rooftops and in the streets outside.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Amos Elon on Yigal Allon
"In the intoxicating atmosphere after victory in a sudden war mystically named for the Six Days of Creation, Israel rejected Hussein's offer [peace if Israel withdrew from East Jerusalem and restored the rest of the occupied West Bank to Jordan]. It insisted that what was by then euphemistically called "reunited" Jerusalem (including the former Jordanian sector) would be Israel's national capital lanezach nezachim ("for ever and ever"). Israel further expected Jordan to cede the entire Jordan Valley from south of the Lake of Galilee to the Dead Sea, as well as much of the heavily populated Palestinian area between Jerusalem and Hebron, including Bethlehem. This was the so-called Allon plan of June 1967, named after Labor Minister Yigal Allon. Allon, later Avineri's boss in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, personally backed the first successful settlement attempt by religious fanatics (first as illegal "squatters") into the predominately fundamentalist Muslim town of Hebron. As a result, Hebron became the festering source of dark hatreds and violent clashes that culminated in 1994 with the massacre by a settler of thirty Palestinians praying inside the main mosque.

Between 1967 and 1978, Yigal Allon expanded his "plan" to include several other heavily settled Palestinian territories. At his urging, the original squatters' colony of Hebron was officially adopted and subsidized; the government built the settlers' houses on confiscated private land and surrounded them with barbed wire and searchlights from high watchtowers. (Pier Paolo Pasolini on a visit to Israel at the time was quoted as saying that only Jewish masochists would reconstruct in their own country the architecture of the Nazi concentration camp.) Parts of the main local mosque were handed over to the settlers to serve them as a synagogue. I remember asking Allon at the time why he insisted on approving such drastic steps. He answered, condescendingly, that the Palestinians "must simply learn" to live with us. As for peace with Jordan, he added, sooner or later Jordan simply had to make peace with Israel. It had no other alternative if it wished to survive."
Josh Marshall and his wife just named their son for Yigal Allon.
---

update and more:
"To be fair, the right didn't erase the Green Line. In my own research on settlement history, I found the instructions to do that in the office files of Yigal Allon, a leader of the socialist left in the country's early years."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

more record keeping

#41 "Why can’t we just lump mainstream economics, analytic philosophy and literary theory together and say that academic exercises based on falsely analogical pretensions to hard science and self-regarding rationalism will result inevitably in undynamic [brittle, inflexible] models that do a lousy job of describing the world of experience."

#52 "Left undisturbed or unopposed any form of thought will tend to distill itself down to a pure form, and purity is solipsism: it recognizes only itself. So philosophy becomes the philosophy of self-description as opposed to the attempted description of the world, and art becomes ‘art for art’s sake,’ as opposed to the description of perception and to the degree that it is possible, of the perceived.
‘Economic’ logic, in daily life, comes into conflict with other forms of obligation. It only makes sense that left on it’s own, opposed by nothing in an academic bubble, ‘economics’ would become what it has: the Greenbergian Formalism of the study of human behavior."

#87" What’s closer to physics as a subject of study: Poker or European history?
Who is closer to being a physicist: an automobile mechanic or an anthropologist?
Who would be better at describing the differences between the Swedish and Italian economies: a physicist or a historian?

I’d be happy to accept the claim that economics is closer to physics than are other social sciences if you’d accept the downgrading of economics, and economists, to the position and the prestige (give or take) of statisticians."

#107 "Autism is one of the defining characteristics of 20th century thought.
As I mention occasionally my one well known article is on autism and modern art: Jarry, Duchamp; to Warhol and conceptualism; Wittgenstein of course. The anti-theater of Robert Wilson. Formalist cinema. Orders that describe time as loss and a terror of death.
Atemporal perfection. The esthetic behind the logic of analysis and synchrony. etc etc."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Havng a lot of fun in other places

Religion is used as the foundation of social order, legal and otherwise. Mysticism is called esoteric knowledge because its role is secondary to that of the binding together of the group; a function performed by the continual retelling and reinterpretation of primary religious texts. Religion is law, and priests are judges. Go to Church on any sunday that's what you'll hear.
Religion is like Yiddish. It's been dying for 200 years and it's going to be dying for 200 more. What is not dying, or at least not so quickly -and not quickly enough- is [secular] foundationalism. Drives me fucking nuts.
I can't think of another reason Dawkins would be making a fool out of himself like he is.
"The sky is green"
"No dammit it's blue! BLUE! BLUE!
OPEN YOUR EYES!!"
"The sky is green"
D- takes gun and shoots self.
exeunt omnes.
---
Secular foundationalism is the metaphysic of individualism. Logically absurd, morally grotesque. And silly.
To replace one illusion with another while pretending otherwise is just hypocrisy.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

record keeping
posted elsewhere.
Jodi Dean, the college professor as intellectual self-pitying Goth. But wait, isn’t being like, Goth, with all that moping and makeup, just another form of the liberal individualism that I’m like so disgusted by? So I’m disgusted by myself! But you should be disgusted by yourselves too! Why aren’t you disgusted by yourselves!

But no dear, they’re not. They read science fiction and hang out with political scientists. Methodological individualism is, like, their thing. So what you gonna do?
---

When Europeans talk about Liberalism, there’re referring to the state of being of the modern bourgeoisie.
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois!” they say.
That’s the basis of every European conversation.
“Good morning”
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois!”
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois too!”
“Coffee?”
In America at least in big cities when we pretend to like foreigners, we talk about being Liberal instead of being bourgeois, because to attack liberalism seems to imply conservatism, or worse! That puts people in the position of arguing that Gramma’s manicotti is really not as good as the frozen kind because Gramma was a peasant who went to Church three times an hour while waiting for the second coming, and frozen manicotti is the wave of the future and besides, it feeds the masses, but anyway you don’t eat frozen manicotti because you go to La Maison de la Casa House or some other such for manicotti that is better than Gramma’s and that only cost $40 so why not? This is modern American liberalism.
“Achh! We must defend the collective!”
“My defense of the collective is better than yours!”
“Waiter!?”

And so your hero is the author of ‘The Selfish Gene” who argues that if the world were populated by atheists Donald Rumsfeld would never have been so stupid. But wait, does Donald Rumsfeld even go to church? What’s the cure for the man who has faith in himself?
“Achh!! What’s the test for self awareness!?”

“Mature arguments in defense of Social Democracy or any other form of social organization come from the depths of that community and are spoken in its language. That language is proprietary to its people. It is not the language of dreamers and odd men out, or of social scientists and technocrats. Their languages are proprietary to them alone.
Social Democracy is not an invention, it is a fact of social behavior that was first seen in it’s latency, then described, and finally defended. Invention is the dream of Randians, Chicago School Liberals and vulgar Marxists. The Scandinavian “model” is no more of an invention than Swedish.”
“And Esperanto was a failure.”

In all the world Americans are the one group you can count on never to say in response to some absurdity or another
“Achhh! That’s so like us!”
I’ve spent the last months listening to people plan ways to direct the electorate and the country, and after tuesday trying to divvy up the credit and the blame.
The people who succeeded on Tuesday did so not because they were inventive but because they were observant.
If liberalism is the liberalism of Dawkins and the Chicago boys, and the liberalism of those who never look at themselves in the mirror (or those who never look at anything else)
than it has nothing at all to do with the liberal arts, and everything to do with what they oppose.

The election on tuesday was a small victory for Social Democracy because it marked a victory of the logic of convention over the logic of desire. Middle America has changed enough to accept things it hadn’t in the past. The Avant Garde really isn’t needed any more; so what does it do? What has it done for a while? It’s gone off to defend itself, technocracy and the elite.
Zizek and me? Well, we’re just trying, rather awkwardly I must admit, to join the party (small “p")
---

"I’m not a liberal myself."
Really?
So lets try to define liberalism.
Is it the liberalism that refers to the world as something knowable through reason alone, and that sees knowledge as cumulative and science of one sort of another as the measure? Or is it the liberalism of the rule of law, which is based on the assumption of limitations and flaws in human awareness. A lawyer in a courtroom is under an obligation not to be objective but to be partial, so that he may be able to play his role in the rigorously formal structure known as the justice system. A lawyer, under penalty of law, may not partake of the neutrality of an objective seeker of truth.

The Constitution like the Bible is a text. Basing a system of government on a foundational document seems a rather sloppy way to run a railroad, especially since we all know where we want to go. But the founder and for years the one man band of the Philadelphia ACLU always referred to the ACLU as "a conservative organization."
Discuss.

"The Liberal Arts" begin as the intellectual and historical study of various modes of craft-making, examples of which are seen as paradigmatic of certain modes of thought. Intellectuals study objects often made without intellectual intent, but which are acknowledged well after the fact to be flush with intellectual complexity, an intellectual complexity often seen as outshining the works of the intellectuals themselves. Liberals of a certain sort ask: "How can this be!?"
Discuss

The rule of science opposes not only the rule of religion, but the rule of law, yet scientific doublespeak runs rampant. The notion, the dream, of objectivity makes as much sense as an ideal for journalism as it does for a courtroom, but somehow it's accepted. "Meme" is a weasel-word but somehow has become common usage, while the phrase "mistakes were made" still comes in for abuse. Why the different reaction? Because "ideas happen" hides behind scientific rhetoric.

Philosophers want to "know," and they despise systems that allow them only to participate. A lawyer may not be a philosopher in the courtroom any more than an actor may be one on the stage. Those conversations begin after the workday is done.

All of you are liberals of one of these two sorts. Pick one.
---

Liberals' concern with positive rights means that they defend the institutionalization of Pity as the equivalent of the institutionalization of Concern, and this even though concern as a function of the social can not be institutionalized.

But the doctrine of the primacy of ideas declares that if the mechanics are identical the results must be, so there's no difference between repression and "condemning judgement," and the words: "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother" have the same meaning whether said with a calm reserve or plaintive whine. Generalization and bureaucracy trump specificity, whereas art does the reverse. [The Europeans, being so innately social fetishize the reverse. There's a fun theme!]

The European left has always understood the arguments of the anti-bourgeois right. It's the bourgeois right that comes in for contempt. We haven't been so lucky, the bourgeoisie are all we have. We have no counterforce.
The primacy of ideas is the primacy of those who have them, while the possibility of the primacy of systems is looked on by American 'progressives' with horror, since it stands opposed to the freedom of the individual. But culture is more Burkean than liberal. The arts have always been conservative: they 'conserve.'
Why is a lawyer like a surfer?
And Why is Cal Arts like Richard Posner?
Helena Cobban writes about Jameela al-Shanti.
(See wed.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NY Times
CHICAGO, Nov. 8 — Democratic gains in Congress and among the nation’s governors were matched on Tuesday by a huge surge closer to the grass roots — in the state legislatures, where more than 275 seats and nine legislative chambers from Iowa to Oregon switched overnight from Republican to Democratic hands.

With those legislative victories combined with the six new Democratic governors elected on Tuesday, Democrats are now the one-party government in 15 states — including New Hampshire for the first time since 1874, and Colorado for the first time since 1960. No party has controlled as many as 15 states since the Republicans achieved that exact number after the 1994 election.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

More from the women of Hamas. The Guardian
Jameela al-Shanti is an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for Hamas. She led a women's protest against the siege of Beit Hanoun last Friday

Yesterday at dawn, the Israeli air force bombed and destroyed my home. I was the target, but instead the attack killed my sister-in-law, Nahla, a widow with eight children in her care. In the same raid Israel's artillery shelled a residential district in the town of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, leaving 19 dead and 40 injured, many killed in their beds. One family, the Athamnas, lost 16 members in the massacre: the oldest who died, Fatima, was 70; the youngest, Dima, was one; seven were children. The death toll in Beit Hanoun has passed 90 in one week.
continued
The Democratic congress will of course wait to condemn Hamas
The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas called on his fighters yesterday to "activate resistance" hours after an Israeli artillery strike killed 18 civilians, mostly women and children, from a single family in Gaza.
Khaled Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus, promised retaliation after a wave of artillery shells landed before dawn on a residential street in Beit Hanoun. Several homes were hit, all belonging to one family.

The attack sparked international condemnation and came a day after the Israeli military ended a six-day operation in Beit Hanoun that claimed more than 50 lives. More than 350 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by the Israeli military in the past five months. "Our condemnation will not be in words but in deeds," Mr Meshaal said. "All Palestinian groups are urged to activate resistance ."

Hamas agreed a truce that began 18 months ago, but it expired at the end of last year. Hamas militants have since fired rockets into Israel, but the call to arms risks a return to suicide bombings.

Israel's military halted all artillery strikes into Gaza yesterday and said it had appointed a general to investigate the shelling. The military admitted that it had fired "preventative artillery" into Gaza yesterday aimed at "launch sites" from which rockets had been fired the day before. The military suggested there had been a targeting mistake. "Initial information shows the artillery fire was directed at a location distant from the one reportedly hit," it said in a statement.
continued...

and more
A bit more on social democracy in the US.
The prerequisite for Social Democracy is not first and foremost a mature argument for its development; ideas are born out of events and Social Democracy begins with the fact of a middle class that has learned to protect it's interests. In this country the middle class has not done that for decades, preferring to defend a dream of the possibility of wealth. What we are seeing is the gradual return of the attention of the American middle class to its own cause.

Mature, rich arguments in defense of Social Democracy or any other form of social organization come from the depths of that community and are spoken in its language. That language is proprietary to its people. It is not the language of dreamers and odd men out, or of social scientists and technocrats. Their languages are proprietary to them alone.
Culture makes us first, then we may try to bend it one way or another.
---
The limitations of methodological individualism.
The definition of cowardice
Asked whether his announcement signaled a new direction in the war that has claimed the lives of more than 2,800 U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqis, Bush said, "Well, there's certainly going to be new leadership at the Pentagon."
He turns on a dime. Bush just showed his empty hand.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Riverbend
When All Else Fails...
… Execute the dictator.
Republican operatives will defend to themselves the immorality of their actions at voter suppression by saying that everyone else is as corrupt as they are.
"It's all politics."

If politics is the only issue, then there are no issues.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Explain later:

First, in re: your comments on Sascha Baron Cohen.
The only person immune to his ridicule is himself. That's a valid point, which you then use to let your mind take off into flights of unsupported literary and philosophical rambling. In doing so you duplicate his symptoms: the intellectual narcissism of someone who cocoons himself in his own ideas, and his own ideas about the world.

Ask 3 mathematicians from 3 different countries to write the number "5" on a blackboard, and the marks will all have the same meaning. Ask them to draw the same landscape and the drawings will be strikingly dissimilar. Each landscape will be different. Words exist somewhere between numbers and pictures, they're ambiguous, but you treat them like external objects.

You and Baron Cohen, like George W. Bush - though he's the only idiot- share the same narcissistic weakness: the world is or must be as you perceive it.

Ralph Nader attacked The Rockford Files as an example of violence on television. when a theme of the show was the main character's distaste for it. Rockfish had a gun but hated touching it and every time he was forced to hit someone his hand got hurt. The show was of all things, humane and funny.

The strength of Stewart and Colbert as opposed to Baron Cohen is in the touches of humanity, of real terror at the stupidity of the people they mock not as a terror of others but of themselves.
"Are people that stupid? Are WE that stupid"
Battlestar Galactica deals in a world of post-apocalyptic moral ambiguity and does so with more humanism than one would expect on television, let alone in televised Sci Fi. Your comments on that show are as absurd the right wingers' encomiums from past seasons.

As for the genealogy of Borat. My father could not bear to watch Faulty Towers. "That's not comedy, that's psychosis!"
---

Now on to this post, because they're connected:
"The solution to this, to use the answer implied in Aristotle, is reality."

There is no 'reality' there is only an argument over what it might be. What that argument requires are shared parameters among the beliefs of the people who are engaged in it. We need shared 'half-truths' to negotiate the ambiguity. Do we still have respect for the semi-failure of all acts of communication? Do we have faith in the "semi-failure" of government that defines a republic?

Yes. That's why people trust the honest insincerity of Stewart and Colbert's true fake news. But the lack of that respect, the weakness of the mind alone, is the flaw in Baron Cohen's mockery and Newberry's relentless intellectualizing. The isolated [misunderstood] genius is not a model for communication nor even for thought.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Fates are conspiring to destroy the Republican Party and nothing the Demcrats can do will stop it.
update: Now this is politics. The once slip is Ford's confrontation. That was a tactical mistake (the ad was racist but that's not the point)
Cliff Schecter gets it. And he's funny.

Friday, November 03, 2006

People Power and the women of Hamas
More on backwards logic.

note taking
I'll post this here since it's as far as I can get, on this site, from the Social Darwinism of Tyler Cowen.

Still nearly every comment here is backwards: par for the course for the intellectual life on the WWW. "The Primacy of Politics" or of "ideas" is a peculiarly modern peculiarly American idée fixe-

“In America, a nation that hates politics (and seems to hate them more with each election) how do we convince its people that politics is their salvation?”

-that is to say it is no more or less than the mirror image of the anti-politics of our cultural life. If any of you were more interested in observation than in intellectual object creation you'd recognize that ideas are generated by or within systems of communication and culture, not the reverse. Social Democracy is not an invention it is a fact of social behavior that was first seen in it's latency, then described, and finally defended. Invention is the dream of Randians, Chicago School Liberals and vulgar Marxists. The Scandinavian "model" is no more of an invention than Swedish. And as I keep trying to remind people, Esperanto was a failure.

The questions- I hesitate to say 'choices' -for the future are whether we get social democracy or hyper-capitalism. You could call the web an example of the sort of communicative network that would foster the former, but ironically or not in the Anglo American world the people who are most involved in the web are more comfortable with the latter. But as technology becomes normalized the romance and futurist logic always fade.

The lack of imagination of those who prize imagination over observation never ceases to amaze me.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

An American general in Baghdad called Iraq a "work of art" in progress yesterday in one of the most extraordinary attempts by the US military leadership to put a positive spin on the worsening violence...

"Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture. Blobs of paint become paintings which inspire," Maj Gen Caldwell told journalists in Baghdad's fortified green zone.
Man, I can't even begin...
"Mailer was a Left Conservative. So he had his own point of view. To himself he would suggest that he tried to think in the style of [Karl] Marx in order to attain certain values suggested by Edmund Burke..."
(Norman Mailer, The Armies of the Night [The New American Library, 1968], 185)

Courtesy of Russell Arben Fox

Have you no contradictions? You have no possibilities. ~ Vladimir Holan

Courtesy of Bint Battuta in Bahrain
Backwards logic.
Homer was at the end of a line, not the beginning. And Social Democracy was around long before it was an 'idea.'
Ideas come last.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The dream of objectivity will always fade into the logic of 'neutrality' and then into passivity. Neither Greenwald nor Klein get the joke.

Monday, October 30, 2006

"If you want to comment on Southern Appeal [link], you’re welcome to do so. But let’s add something to the discussion other than profanity and historically-ignorant remarks, shall we? When General Lee passed away, his death was mourned by those in both the North and the South. He was a man of profound character and integrity (something you would know if you had ever read something other than the Yankee propaganda you were spoon feed in high school). If you ever refer to the General in a disparaging manner again on my blog, you will be banned. Consider this your first and final warning on the matter."
posted without comment
Cognitive dissonance and Tony Judt
more later

Sunday, October 29, 2006

How do you argue with a closeted homosexual who says to everyone else and to himself that he's not gay? How do you argue with a man who says, and may actually believe [who knows?] that he's not racist?

What's the relationship of language to logic?
What's the relation of abstract reason to politics?
Same shit, different day.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hilarious
Just listen


I jumped in the river and what did I see?
black-eyed angels swimming with me
a moon full of stars and astral cars
all the figures i used to see
all my lovers were there with me
all my past and futures
and we all went to heaven in a little row boat

there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

I jumped in the river
black-eyed angels swimming with me
a moon full of stars and astral cars
all the figures i used to see
all my lovers were there with me
all my past and futures
and we all went to heaven in a little row boat

there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt
there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

PCHR Weekly Report: 12 - 18 October 2006
28 Palestinians, 17 of whom including 2 children and a woman are civilians, were killed by IOF.
Each of the two children was killed together with the father of each.
6 of the victims were extra-judicially executed by IOF in 3 separate attacks.
45 Palestinians, including 14 children and 4 women, were wounded.
IOF have continued to launch air strikes on houses and civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip; 5 houses were destroyed and a number of others were severely damaged.
IOF conducted 30 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and 6 others into the Gaza Strip.
IOF arrested 48 Palestinian civilians, including 7 children, in the West Bank, and 8 others in the Gaza Strip.
IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT; IOF arrested 3 Palestinian civilian at checkpoints in the West Bank
IOF have continued to construct the Annexation Wall in the West Bank; Palestinian farmers have been denied access to their agricultural lands to cultivate olives.
Moral seriousness is not moral responsibility. Manners are not actions.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Eid Mubarak

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Reporters engage in the objective discussion of the opinions of the electorate and the success or failure of political strategies. Policy experts on the sidelines bemoan the failures of the press and engage in the objective discussion of policy.
Neither are neutral, neither are objective. Both are passive, shallow, incurious, self-absorbed; their logic founded on if obscuring (only sometimes) a crude nationalism.

My fondness for the American people as a whole, mixed always with horror, becomes little else when I look at their elites.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I thought they'd just erased my comment, but they removed the entire post. M.J. Rosenberg: "Stifling Israel Criticism: With Link To Tony Judt Piece That Caused Ban"

[The link above is to google cache and dead. The heading but not the body now at Archive.org]

Rosenberg spends most of the time fighting idiots far worse than he is but he's still good for a laugh:
I want the occupation to end, which means negotiating an end to it with the Palestinians whether we like them or not, and thereby preserving a majority Jewish state called Israel forever
"Whether we like them or not." And on top of the same racial nationalism, straight out of Le Pen, Haider and Botha.

Here's a link to Helena Cobban and from her to Uri Avnery:
"IS IT possible to force a whole people to submit to foreign occupation by starving it?
That is, certainly, an interesting question. So interesting, indeed, that the governments of Israel and the United States, in close cooperation with Europe, are now engaged in a rigorous scientific experiment in order to obtain a definitive answer.

The laboratory for the experiment is the Gaza Strip, and the guinea pigs are the million and a quarter Palestinians living there...

Friday, October 13, 2006

To those of you here courtesy of Scott Lemieux, go back to Tapped.
If you want to understand what's wrong with the Democratic intellectual apparat, you should begin there.

I had a little fun, but Lemieux is an idiot. He's not serious, politically or intellectually. He doesn't want to waste his time communicating with the irrational -though that's what politicians do for a living- and he isn't interested as an academic should be in understanding the roots of irrationality. I may say that Zionism is racism, and logically it is, but it would do no good to argue the point with a defender of the Jewish "right of return" without my first having an understanding of the events of 20th century Europe.

Read my comments at Tapped and see if someone with a clear head would not see my arguments as anything but simple and direct.
---
I reread his post and caught the reference to rational action. If I'd read more carefully I would have caught it earlier.
Chicago School liberals.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Manu Chao - La rumba de Barcelona

Manu Chao - Desaparecido

MANA - Mariposa Traicionera
note taking
I’d think it’s really more intersting, to those of us who are not and never have been geeks, that a show on American television is portraying suicide bombing as an option worthy of debate.
And the language and imagery on last nights show was more akin to Gaza than Iraq.

“I think the show is relevant and is trying to do what science fiction is supposed to do, which is to examine society through a different prism.”

All good literature or not does that “serious” or not. Science fiction spends most of its time on big generalizations and big toys, not on details and precise (and self-aware) observation. Why else would this thread devolve into a debate between teenage boys about Lorne Green and wanting to make it with a chick who can turn into a cheetah. (You think the ersatz irony changes anything?) Edward James Olmos put it well (roughly from memory):

“The last thing I wanted to be doing was science fiction on cable, but if they keep writing it like this I’ll do it for the rest of my life.”

The question is why should sci fi be the apparently necessary vehicle for such discussion. Why are our best political pundits a stand up comic, a sportscaster and a theater critic? The answer should be obvious to anyone who doesn’t follow “political-science” fiction.

This country lags behind others in so many ways; and this country’s academic elite follow behind the rest.
So fucking stupid.
---

Read Baudelaire on Alfred Rethel and “Philosophic Art”
Or just google Alfred Rethel. I’m sure you’ll find his graphic work shockingly contemporary.
The link could fit here as well.

Rethel was an illustrator, nothing more. Baudelaire tries to examine what that means though he doesn’t use the term illustration. Battlestar Galactica is not an illustration; is not written as illustration but popular theater. It is not “philosophic art’ though the interest in it here is based on an outward similarity.

Illustration -”lit up”- is an image of something else. A work of art is a thing in itself. To see language as transparent is to use it to describe other things, as a geologist describes a rock (or as a philospher describes an idea). To see language as material is to use it to describe itself and what we perceive as its relation to the world: not to know what words mean but to ask.

Philosophic art – illustration- is an art of rules. Unphilosophic art as art is a record of their undoing in experience.
“BSG” is pop entertainment; but it’s miles ahead of most political commentary in this country simply because it’s honest.
“What’s Liberal About The Liberal Arts?”
Wrong question
“What Makes a Hit TV Show More Liberal than Brad DeLong?”

Better.
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“A stand-up comedian, sports commentator, and theater critic are our clearest political editorialists these days because American politics are entertainment not governance. It’s theater, bad theater, not the application of ideas and ideals to power.”

No. A stand-up comedian, sports commentator, and theater critic are our clearest political editorialists, because sports writers have historically been the best writers in the daily press and because comics and theater critics are skeptics who are capable of an ironic distance not only from others but from themselves. That’s their speciality.

But DeLong wonders about the neurochemistry of the people who still support Bush. Adult Europeans have been making laughing at pedants of his sort since the invention of the bourgeoisie.

Here’s Tyler Cowen on New Orleans:
Shantytowns might well be more creative than a dead city core. Some of the best Brazilian music came from the favelas of Salvador and Rio. The slums of Kingston, Jamaica, bred reggae. New Orleans experienced its greatest cultural blossoming in the early 20th century, when it was full of shanties. Low rents make it possible to live on a shoestring, while the population density blends cultural influences. Cheap real estate could make the city a desirable place for struggling artists to live. The cultural heyday of New Orleans lies in the past. Katrina rebuilding gives the city a chance to become an innovator once again.
You tell me if he’s playing this straight. I really can’t tell. When people are desperate they sing like they mean it and isn’t that something we enjoy? Isn’t that a “good.”
Here’s DeLong after I made a comment that he pulled from his site:

“Bullshit. You said things that were false. Hezbollah and Hamas are not “moderating.”
Look in the mirror, if you can.”

I sent him the USG reports that said otherwise. I’m still banned. And will someone explain DeLong’s Chomsky pathology? What’s DeLong’s ‘neurochemistry’ What the fuck is Cowen’s?

Consciousness is flawed. Theater critics understand this more than scientists, and certainly more than “political” scientists.
We need more theater critics, not less.—-

Again: “so fucking stupid”

done
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This is a site where I regularly find qualified defenses of Ayn Rand’s literary abilities, so lets just end the discussion of sci fi as such there.

But still, maybe you should read Baudelaire on “philosophic” art; maybe you should read Anthony Grafton on what it was the renaissance left behind; maybe you should wonder at the persistent taste for systematic oversimplification in times of crisis: at the diminution of methodology over time into decadent formalism, internally consistent but describing nothing outside its own consistency; pure brittle logic ill fitted to a vulgar world.

Political Science is to Political life what “Law and Economics” is to economic life, what Literary Theory is to literature, and what Analytic Philosophy is thought. Should I add: what sociology is to careful observation? What documentary is to film? What the myth of objectivity is to newspaper reporting?
What’s missing from all these things?

Knowledge is not wisdom, erudition is not judgment, and self-awareness is necessary for emotional and intellectual maturity. Can someone tell me how Tyler Cowen could be so stupid? So arrogant and unaware? So Rumsfeldian?

I’ve run into shitloads of such stupidity over the years. I had a little fun here at the expense of Donald Davidson, and Richard Dawkins and the “Dims.” At DeLong and Leiter and Posner. Do you think Rumsfeld or Cheney would be any less oblivious to their failure if they proclaimed atheism? I’m not going to go into the brittleness of Weimar.
Troll, at this point, maybe.
Stupid, no.

My stockbroker/doctor wants to start giving me blood pressure medicine. I have to give up on this shit.

Monday, October 09, 2006

How are scientists, as technocrats, any less dangerous to a democratic form of government than generals? Mad scientists are as common in American popular mythology as mad Generals are in others'.

Scholasticism noun - the system of theology and philosophy taught in medieval European universities, based on Aristotelian logic and the writings of the early Church Fathers and having a strong emphasis on tradition and dogma. • narrow-minded insistence on traditional doctrine.

Technocracy noun - ( pl. -cies) the government or control of society or industry by an elite of technical experts. • an instance or application of this. • an elite of technical experts.
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: from Greek tekhne ‘art, craft’ + -cracy .

Republic noun - a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch. • archaic figurative a community or group with a certain equality between its members. ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French république, from Latin respublica, from res ‘concern’ + publicus ‘of the people, public.’
Scholasticism

The Weimarization of the political life of this country is held in check not by radicals or reformers, and not by academics, but by popular culture.

Tyler Cowen
"Shantytowns might well be more creative than a dead city core. Some of the best Brazilian music came from the favelas of Salvador and Rio. The slums of Kingston, Jamaica, bred reggae. New Orleans experienced its greatest cultural blossoming in the early 20th century, when it was full of shanties. Low rents make it possible to live on a shoestring, while the population density blends cultural influences. Cheap real estate could make the city a desirable place for struggling artists to live. The cultural heyday of New Orleans lies in the past. Katrina rebuilding gives the city a chance to become an innovator once again."