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'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 we 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 do we limit the number of Rumsfelds in the world.
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 European’s 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.