Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Apropos self-serving self-description: Laura Rozen sends us, approvingly, to Paul Graham.

embarrassing

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"All these shows on Arab TV stations, like Star Academy or Super Star or even sports competitions, are intended to under mine pan-Arab identities and to further the qutri (narrow) nationalisms by pitting these states against one another."
Silliness like this reminds me leftists are useful mostly as reporters of (otherwise unreported) fact.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Again: The pause button for the jukebox is on the right.
Here we go,
Once upon a time not long ago,
when people wore pajamas and lived life slow,
When laws were stern and justice stood,
and people were behavin' like they ought ta good,
There lived a lil' boy who was misled,
by anotha lil' boy and this is what he said:
"Me, Ya, Ty, we gonna make sum cash,
robbin' old folks and makin' tha dash",
They did the job, money came with ease,
but one couldn't stop, it's like he had a disease,
He robbed another and another and a sista and her brotha,
tried to rob a man who was a D.T. undercover,
The cop grabbed his arm, he started acting erratic,
he said "Keep still, boy, no need for static",
Punched him in his belly and he gave him a slap,
but little did he know the lil' boy was strapped,
The kid pulled out a gun, he said "Why did ya hit me?",
the barrel was set straight for the cop's kidney,
The cop got scared, the kid he starts to figure,
"I'll do years if I pull this trigga",
So he cold dashed and ran around the block,
cop radioes it to another lady cop,
He ran by a tree, there he saw this sista,
a shot for the head, he shot back but he missed her,
Looked around good and from expectations,
so he decided he'd head for the subway stations,
But she was coming and he made a left,
he was runnin' top speed till he was outta breath,
Knocked an old man down and swore he killed him,
then he made his move to an abandoned building,
Ran up the stairs up to the top floor,
opened up the door there, guess who he saw?,
Dave the dope fiend shootin' dope,
who don't know the meaning of water nor soap,
He said "I need bullets, hurry up, run!"
the dope fiend brought back a spanking shotgun,
He went outside but there was cops all over,
then he dipped into a car, a stolen Nova,
Raced up the block doing 83,
crashed into a tree near university,
Escaped alive though the car was battered,
rat-a-tat-tatted and all the cops scattered,
Ran out of bullets and still had static,
grabbed a pregnant lady and out the automatic,
Pointed at her head and he said the gun was full o' lead,
he told the cops "Back off or honey here's dead",
Deep in his heart he knew he was wrong,
so he let the lady go and he starts to run on,
Sirens sounded, he seemed astounded,
before long the lil' boy got surrounded,
He dropped the gun, so went the glory,
and this is the way I must end this story,
He was only seventeen, in a madman's dream,
the cops shot the kid, I still hear him scream,
This ain't funny so don't ya dare laugh,
just another case 'bout the wrong path,
Straight 'n narrow or yo' soul gets cast.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ambiguity applies also to the contrast between the revolutionary language of the students, which was impregnated with Marxist rhetoric and nostalgia for the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik revolution, and the content of the movement. You could say that in 1968 we “spoke Marxist,” just as you say someone lisps or speaks through his nose, because at the university it was the dominant language. But it was to say things that weren’t Marxist at all.

Perhaps more than an ambiguity, it was an irony of history. The real legacy of May ’68, as we see in France today, is individualism, the rejection of civic sense and ideology, the rehabilitation of the idea that personal and financial success is a worthy pursuit — in short, a revival of capitalism. To borrow an expression of Lenin’s, we were useful idiots. Indeed, the uprising was more a counterrevolution than a revolution.

...the French have ended up convincing themselves that May ’68 was a sort of Parisian exception, even though it was part of a worldwide effervescence. Comparable uprisings took place in Japan, Latin America, Germany and Britain. Today, we mention those foreign examples only in passing, without making them part of our collective memory. For us, May ’68 remains a French phenomenon.
Notice what country is missing from that list? Except what happened here was not a revival of capitalism, but the development of hyper-capitalism. The 60's put the process of development into overdrive.
---

Continuing from my recent comments below and at Balkinization:
One of the effects of various New Deal and civil rights legislation was the thinning of the wall separating public and private life and the increasing dominance of a single and public measure of man: the measure of economics. This is where social and free market liberalism side against the "conservative" socialist left and the old right.
None of this had to be articulated or even understood at the time for it to be seen by us in retrospect as obvious.
We could ask even more bluntly if David Addington's understanding of the Constitutional separation of powers is wrong in the sense that one plus one doesn't equal three, or if mathematics and physics allow for Stare Decisis.

Again the question is not whether the constitution is "living" any more than it is whether language is current. We don't live in the past and we shouldn't pretend to. But we should look to the past to understand the present. Putting history before theory would seem the wise choice.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Global Policy Forum translates Al-Watan [Syria]
“The information mentioned there were three agreements and one memorandum of understanding and that they were as follows: A US-Iraq Investment Incentive Agreement, a US-Iraq Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, a US-Iraq Agreement for Economic and Technical Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding on Agricultural Cooperation. The sources added: “According to the US Department of State, Robert Zoellick (the US Secretary of State deputy at the time and the current head of the World Bank) signed the four agreements with Ali Abdul Amir Alawi (the Iraqi Finance Minister at the time who is currently residing outside of Iraq) during a meeting in the Jordanian capital Amman in July 2005”…

“The sources continued: “These pacts are closer to commandments imposed on Iraq than agreements between two independent states. They grant the American side immunity, all the traveling prerogatives from and into Iraq and the right to protect the undefined American missions with American military troops that can roam the country without any restraints”. The pacts also disregarded international laws and agreements by creating unprecedented bilateral laws granting all the rights to the occupation government and none to Iraq.

“Moreover, the agreements exempted all the American companies and individuals from taxes and customs in what contradicted even the controversial Iraqi investment law... The pacts also proposed a transitory plan through which the remains of the Iraqi public sector are to be privatized and destroyed. The sources added that legally “and according to the stipulations of the law that was governing the management of the Iraqi state throughout the transitory period at the time of the signing of the four pacts, the Cabinet would assign representatives to negotiate the international pacts and agreements with the consent of the presidential council”.
Via Badger
Legal scholars know about as much about law as priests do about religion or poets about art: they know what they want it to be, but not what it is.

Is David Addington's understanding of the Constitutional separation of powers wrong in the sense that one plus one doesn't equal three? Do mathematics and physics allow for Stare Decisis? If not, why not?
Stare Decisis is the moral foundation of the Church's political argument against Galileo, the Burkean argument against revolution and the logic behind Republican pandering to social conservatives -it's what they pander to, not why they do it- but I happily defend it as legal principle, in the name of the stability, continuity, and neighborliness.









In re: Baudelaire on "Philosophic" Art.
Watchmen, and Alfred Rethel from 1849, and 1851.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Slick Rick - Children's Story.
[There's a pause button on the jukebox: on the right, halfway down the page.]
"I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"The question before us is how we choose to define ourselves. The rules of conduct on the chessboard, the tennis court or the courtroom are a means to focus our attention. The game is always played by the living... Arguments either for or against a "dead hand," those of Libertarians or reactionary Catholics, miss the point."

Note taking, from my comments on Can Living Constitutionalism be Defended?
Has language ever been static?
Has there ever been a doctrine or document the meaning of which has remained unchanged over time?
Has the Bible ever been static? Has the Catholic Church ever been static. Can we hear and understand Mozart as he was in his lifetime? Bach? Shakespeare? The list goes on, and on, and on. The answer to all such examples is no. Run down every attempt in history to stop time, see what you end up with.
"Can Living Constitutionalism be Defended?"
Better, can the fact of it be denied?
It doesn't matter one way or the other what you want. First ask what is.
Can the meaning of a document become so twisted by rationalization that it becomes a parody of itself? Yes. Can debate become shallow? Yes. But the imposition of absolute meanings does not defend against intellectual sloppiness, it institutionalizes it.
This debate is stupid.
---

"That's the fundamental dishonesty that lies behind living constitutionalism."

Living constitutionalism is the law of the land in Canada. But you're still talking about law, and I'm talking about language and one is a subcategory of the other. I'm tired of listening to people argue about the idea of law who have no understanding of nor interest in the facts of language.
If you want to argue that the constitution has been broken rather than stretched, go right ahead, but the general logic undergirding your argument as it stands is founded on a falsehood. Theology may have a long history of brilliant arguments based on mistranslations but the mistranslations are still there.
I'll put it another way with another text. Mozart wrote symphonies as notation and editorial comment on paper. Rules: "B flat" "A minor." Comments: "quietly" "slowly" "quickly" "quickly but not frenetically" "fast!" Even seeing notes mathematically people still argue over how to interpret what he wrote. Mathematicians may prize Bach but the same questions apply.

When does a performance of Mozart become something we no longer recognize as Mozart? That's something we fight over and always will. There is no Mozart without argument. There is no Platonic form of his music that we will ever know, just as there is no Platonic form of the constitution. Every argument on such issues is an argument over logic and sensibility, over rules and values. Values are politics, and the debate is a game, argued like two men playing chess or tennis. Chess and tennis have rules too, but rules of conduct, specifically ethical rather than moral ones [no rules pertaining to "truth": no one would argue over the Platonic nature of the rules for chess or basketball.]

The question before us is how we choose to define ourselves. The rules of conduct on the chessboard, the tennis court or the courtroom are a means to focus our attention. The game is always played by the living, in the present. Arguments either for or against a "dead hand," those of Libertarians or reactionary Catholics, miss the point.
The logic of rules and rule following is the same for athletic or intellectual competition: the foundations are man-made. The Constitution is not there [and was not made] as a rule for us to follow but as a means to test ourselves, to be engaged with one another and to define ourselves in the present. Passivity before the constitution is immoral.

Monday, May 19, 2008

On Myanmar: Helena Cobban links to China Hand

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"The best part of this experience came after the fact - my wife gave me a beautiful edition in three volumes of the magnificent original unabridged Decline and Fall, and since then the pleasure and profit have been all mine as I enjoy the wonderful language, organization and scope of this masterwork"
noted

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Laws do not make communities, communities make laws."

I'd never put it so simply, but there it is all alone, for now. It's such a simple statement of the obvious, but still, it follows the logic of my point. The idea, law, or catch-phrase comes at the end of the process.
"Laws do not make communities, communities make laws." It's a cliche that no-one's heard of.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

“A Freedom House rating of ‘7’ should therefore be a decisive indication that no regime can legitimately sell resources from that country.” (p.25) His examples of countries that score a 7 are: Burma, North Korea, Somalia, and Sudan (on the civil liberties list) and Burma, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe (on the political rights list).”

What’s the statute of limitations for simple theft, as in the case of Empire. Does the law cover the expropriation of land from the native americans? The Balkans? Ireland? Does it cover Palestine?
What the authors of these absurdities fail or refuse to understand is that there is no one definition of justice, there is only the possibility of acceptable shared definitions. Justice systems, like tax systems, only function within systems of representation. Without representation, they’re perceived as tyrannical.

In the discussion of Cambodia and the Vietnamese invasion, the argument against invasion, as bad precedent, is superior in legal terms. The fact that a neighbor went in and overthrew the government is probably for the best. The fact that a country halfway around the world did not see as their obligation, or that others reminded them that it wasn’t, is also for the best.

Laws do not make communities, communities make laws. Liberals and Libertarians replace communities with laws, both fail.

“Justice, like taxation, without representation is tyranny”
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Liberal and libertarian legal theory claims to be the search for non-foolish consistency, often claiming to be based on it.
That’s both foolish and often criminally self-serving,
This is empirically obvious, but rationalist rationalize.
Nothing stops them. Ever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

From Crooked Timber
Viel hat von Morgen an,
Seit ein Gespräch wir sind und hören voneinander,
erfahren der Mensch, bald sind wir aber Gesang

Starting from the morning
when we became a conversation, and hear from each other
much have we experienced but soon we shall be song.
Of course, one could try to remain unimpressed by this, and insist that this is, after all, just poetic hyperbole. The idea that song could replace conversation is a Romantic conceit, not something to be taken too seriously. If one is going to take this tack at the point, though, why start by appealing to poetry in the first place?
Poetic hyperbole? Isn't the implication here that soon we shall be dead, and that song, or story, or history - recorded language- will be all that's left?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Note taking. My comments
It would make more sense to frame your argument as being against short term and short sighted “practical” instrumentalism in favor of “instrumentalism for instrumentalism’s sake.”
As I’ve said again and again, instrumentalism as such is what this site is about: science as opposed to culture and the intensive study of externalities, and of what you imagine to be externalities, as opposed to the nurturing of a conscientious, ironic, and humane self-awareness. The Humanities in the Anglo-American world, post Sputnik, have become wannabe sciences. Your argument is an argument for “pure” research.
You put yourselves on this slippery slope a few generations ago (or maybe a few hundred years ago).
---

"What's the function of law?
What's the function of religion?
Looking at it it becomes clear pretty quickly that religion doesn't have much to do with god, but that it is the original form of law. Before you ask how should law should change, ask how it does. How does god change?
Those two questions are the end of fundamentalism.

The dichotomy and our supposed need to choose between religion and technocracy or natural law and positivism, is a choice between one false foundation and another. Technocracy is no more valid a foundation than the Church, and Posner has no more respect for democracy than Scalia. It's amazing how the priesthood finds a way to propagate itself.
Laws are points in an endless debate, that's all. The debate is the foundation.
A response to a comment:

"'religion.... is the original form of law'.
Maybe, but only in a limited rule-giving sense."
But religion whether oral or written is still language, and begets interpretation; and one interpretation begets others, and then debate. The story just supplies the structure. As'ad AbuKhalil put it well in one of his posts on the mess in Lebanon:

"I was also displeased with the closure of Hariri media, as much as I detest them and as much as I believe that they have been engaged in acute sectarian mobilization that is exactly the same as of the propaganda of Al-Qa`idah. I will not enjoy writing in Al-Akhbar and attacking my opponents if they are not on an equal footing..."

Politics needs to be taken as seriously by its practitioners as sports are professional athletes. That's the logic of a courtroom, but trial lawyers understand this more than academics. My problem with legal realism is more than anything that it tries to undermine the game, choosing victory over process. The same is true of law and economics. Their values are assumed and unquestioned. What is public and social by nature is redefined as unsocial or even anti-social. We the people becomes we the elect and the logic of democratic process is sacrificed to the logic of spurious "truth"
I continue to be amazed when I'm reminded how many people see the choices as limited to either faith or technocracy, natural law, or positivism. Perception doesn't begin with naming, to a significant degree it ends with it: ending where/when/as communication begins.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gaza/Sadr City/Beirut

Syria Comment
As'ad AbuKhalil
Badger
Land and People. Linked by both AA and one of Josh Marshall's flacks, who may not know that the author, Ramy Zurayk also wrote this.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Duncan Black explains the relation of emotional to intellectual complexity to those who think it only applies to reactionary tribalists in Alabama and Tehran.
We're All Hacks
It's important to remember that none of us are above the fray, that we all have hackish tendencies to suppress information which doesn't fit our worldview and privilege information that does. We're more likely to excuse behavior from people we like and exaggerate the ills of people we don't like. I try to fight hackish tendencies especially during this intra-Dem battle, but I don't claim to have superhuman Nonhack powers.
Be grateful for small favors. If he were more intellectually "serious" in the model of political thinkers in this country that paragraph would never have seen the light of day. To be honest, Atrios consistently referred to himself as a hack for the first few years. I always liked him for that.
Gaza, Beirut, and Sadr City.

Badger

As'ad AbuKhalil - The Legacy of Rafiq Hariri: Dahlan Plan for Lebanon.

Jimmy Carter - On Gaza
The world is witnessing a terrible human rights crime in Gaza, where a million and a half human beings are being imprisoned with almost no access to the outside world. An entire population is being brutally punished.

This gross mistreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was escalated dramatically by Israel, with United States backing, after political candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament in 2006. The election was unanimously judged to be honest and fair by all international observers.

Israel and the US refused to accept the right of Palestinians to form a unity government with Hamas and Fatah and now, after internal strife, Hamas alone controls Gaza. Forty-one of the 43 victorious Hamas candidates who lived in the West Bank have been imprisoned by Israel, plus an additional 10 who assumed positions in the short-lived coalition cabinet.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Idea? Ideology? Philosophy? Aesthetic? What or how does this song mean? Is it an argument for rational action? For technocracy? Is it an argument against individualism? If so it's a pretty idiosyncratic argument. Is it fascist, or democratic in origin? In principle?

Kindheit

Saturday, May 03, 2008

American Missile strike on Sadr City hospital
More at Gorilla’s Guides

Badger links to AFP
A US air strike damaged a hospital in the Iraqi capital's violent Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Saturday, injuring 20 people, as American forces claimed to have killed 14 militiamen.

The US military said it carried out the strike in Sadr City, a bastion of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, where US troops in separate confrontations killed at least 14 militiamen since Friday.
"I can confirm that we conducted a strike in Sadr City this morning," a US military spokesman told AFP. "The targets were known criminal elements. Battle damage assessment is currently ongoing."
However, witnesses and an AFP reporter at the scene said the main Al-Sadr hospital had been badly damaged and a fleet of ambulances were destroyed.
Just outside the hospital, a shack which appeared to be the target was reduced to a pile of rubble.

The military said it destroyed a "criminal element command and control centre" at approximately 10 am (0700 GMT).
"Intelligence reports indicate the command and control centre was used by criminal elements to plan and coordinate attacks against Iraqi security and coalition forces and innocent Iraqi citizens."
Hospital staff said at least 20 people wounded in the air raid were taken to the same hospital which had its glass windows shattered, and medical and electrical equipment damaged.

Doctors and hospital staff were livid they had been hit.
"They (the Americans) will say it was a weapons cache (they hit)," said the head of Baghdad's health department, Dr Ali Bistan. "But, in fact they want to destroy the infrastructure of the country."
He charged that the attack was aimed at preventing doctors and medicines reaching the hospital which is located inside an area of increased clashes between American troops and militiamen.
The corridors of the hospital were littered with glass splinters, twisted metal and hanging electrical wiring. Partitions in wards had collapsed.
The huge concrete blocks forming a protective wall against explosions had collapsed on parked vehicles, including up to 17 ambulances, disabling the emergency response teams.
Nurse Zahra was recovering from the shock of the attack.
"I was very afraid. I thought I would die. Everyone was scared. They ran in all directions," she told AFP. "Now I am more sad than frightened because hospital facilities have been destroyed."
Hospital guard Alaa Mohamed, 26, was at a side entrance when the bombs exploded. "There were five missiles that exploded outside the parking lot," he said.
An AFP reporter saw three huge craters, each with a diameter of six metres (yards), created by the impact of the explosions. Youngsters climbed on top of the rubble and looked for anyone trapped underneath.
Residents said the shack that appeared to be the main target of the air strike was a transit point for Muslim pilgrims.
The AFP reporter witnessed several US helicopters sweeping above Sadr City amid a steady barrage of gunfire.
The strike came as the US military said it killed at least 14 Shiite fighters since Friday in a series of clashes around Sadr City.
The firefights which began at 7:20 am (0420 GMT) on Friday and have continued sporadically saw US forces use air support and tanks as they clashed with militants in the impoverished district of some two million people.
On Friday, an M1A1 Abrams tanks engaged "criminals" with one round from its main gun after Iraqi army soldiers reported being attacked by small arms fire from a house, the military said.
"Three criminals were killed in the engagements," the military said.
Later Friday, a US warplane also dropped a bomb and killed two others. Nine other militants were killed in other exchanges, some of them early on Saturday.
US forces have been clashing with Shiite militiamen since March 25 in Sadr City. Hundreds of people have since been killed, with followers of Sadr accusing the military of killing civilians.
But US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover said the militants were using "innocent civilians as shields for their activity."
From the archives:
"Something can be judged a work of it art if its arguments are rendered with an idiosyncratic subtlety beyond what is necessary to communicate its ideas, and which may even oppose them, but which so colors our perceptions that we can not separate the sensibility from the idea without feeling a loss."

I wrote somewhere that art is made by loving something so much you see it honestly or hating something so much you see it in its complexity. Eliot was among other things a philosopher and Marx a novelist.

The subtext of numbers in use (the subtext of an application of number) is in the form of language: extrinsic. The subtext of language in use is in another form of itself. Any use of language engages both. There is no linguistic argument against context -rhetoric and history- that is not self-defeating. The arguments of the self-described "reality based" community are predicated on standard American (now neoliberal) tropes. Self-interest is conflated with reason because the possibility of unreason has been removed from the "equation." A work of art made as such is an engagement in both reason and unreason, of argument and -even contradictory- subtext; a unification, a magnification and negation of opposing forces and arguments.
Invention is not communication.
Art isn't doing something well, it's doing something that communicates well all the reasons you have for doing it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

On Israel's 60th birthday, things to remember:
If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?

David Ben Gurion
---

We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land. We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that even now engages in ethnic cleansing, that violates international law, that is inflicting a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and that continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations.
---

But I can't do it. Whenever I try to mouth these words, a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit. Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become a poison.
Last two links, from As'ad AbuKhalil