Thursday, December 31, 2009

Not from AA but he reminded me
And an important image from my childhood.



Invited down to the ranch on Airforce II but my parents wouldn't let any of us out of school. The Vice President's Press Secretary had an ex-wife and two kids. And she had one more much younger from her new marriage. I didn't know I was invited until years later. Our phone was tapped by the FBI but maybe this was too early for that. By '66 my parents would have had other reasons for not allowing us to go.
That's about Johnson not Levine. AA says it well.

On Iran too

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of government supporters took to Iran's streets on Wednesday in a show of force against the opposition, with a senior cleric telling their leaders to repent or face death.
I thought the government was unpopular.

American liberals.

the trolley problem

I'm done this before with Michael Slote and self-other asymmetry, and Donald Davidson (click through again at the first link), but the trolley problem is the prime example.

Still rewriting:
Common sense morality is morality among equals.
Military logic combines consequentialism and an ethic of piety. The issues raised by the trolley problem are part of the justification for military command structure. The military may not pretend to have an absolute moral answer -and when they do they're a danger to our form of government- but for their purposes the answer is a given and they have to deal with the consequences. Officers and enlisted therefore are kept apart, fraternization is considered inappropriate. The men who make the decisions regarding who lives and dies are not allowed to become friends with the men who are the first to die, any more than they are allowed to call themselves their equals. You can't mix equality with such responsibility over others. These are the sort of formal kinship relations anthropologists have studied for generations and they have a purpose.

The inability of academics and liberal technocratic intellectuals to understand subjectivity as a constant in behavior, including their own, connects to all sorts of things. Democratic politicians do not "command" respect but they ooze superiority while claiming friendship. And the people who hate condescending liberals are often so offended by the condescension that they ignore the logic of the argument.

Consequentialism may be strictly logical but dictatorship is not, even the dictatorship of technocrats. And as I've pointed out again and again, the liberal defenders of consequentialism and of other forms of academic truth-seeking more and more are dismissive of democracy, and of community as constitutive of anything. Community thus is defined as a group of individuals who choose to have some things in common. In fact the reverse is true: people are almost entirely tokens and types who respond differently based on individual experience.

The only non-contradictory form of human organization is a functionalism seen otherwise in the culture of termites and ants. Liberal self-supporting academicism, consequentialism, Quine's naturalized epistemology et al., lead down the road to the elimination of the individual as such, in favor of low common denominators. Yet all are founded in individualism. And no one, meaning no one who claims to be interested in the trolley problem, has noticed its connections to the military and to formalized kinship relations, because no one has been willing to leave the world of truths and absolutes and accept and acknowledge the political world of socialization, cohabitation and subjectivity that they actually live in and work within so unreflectively.

There is no right answer to the trolley problem, there is only the ongoing process of choosing what we value. If any of these idiots had been less ideological (and more observant) there would be no discussion of the trolley problem as such. As it is it's central.

The cognitive revolution was founded on the pretense of the intellectually and perceptually stable subject. A knee-jerk response to the fears engendered by behaviorism and communism as well: cold war culture. If not for that everything above would be pretty basic stuff.

This all ties into a discussion of Shakespeare on another page.
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If the right-wing base prefers community to "objectivity" the same is true of the community of the academy and of followers of naturalized epistemology. Community, collectivity and language, always take precedence. That most born-again Christians will get in their cars and drive safely to the doctor to get a flue shot and most climate scientists will agree on the data confirming anthropogenic global warming says nothing about what's most important to either.
Note taking. All comments removed by admin.

A lot of good comments by others, but with few exceptions not really much defense of their importance even by those making them. They're all defending something and doing a good job of it. But what is it?

“the fiction of ideas ” vs the fiction of preferences and of preferences described in common form. When the fiction of ideas lasts, it’s not because of the author’s intent but in spite of it. The only immorality in craft is hypocrisy. There’s something hypocritical in fascist art, but there’s nothing hypocritical in a Titian portrait of the schmuck Philip II.

What Titian gives us is a complex description of the language and categories of meaning in the period. Categories of perception in Venice in 1550 are worlds away from those of Florence in 1520: the difference between flat and idealized images of substance and substance used to to describe immateriality. At the end of his life Titian was painting with his fingers. Try reading Kant for half an hour and then a page of Hegel. You feel like you’re suddenly on a different planet. Same thing

Mimetic art is the description of something you love so much you can be honest about it, or that you hate so profoundly and know so well that you show it in all its complexity. Marx and both Eliot work. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong about the subject only that you’re observant, articulate and honest in describing your response.

Shakespeare will be with us as long as Plato. But Plato’s taste for intellectual elegance is both his strength and his weakness. It’s only possible because Socrates is supplied with straw men to go against.
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“It’s now no longer fashionable to insist that the arts ought to have practical value beyond the pleasure they give us”
Fashionable is the word, there’s no logical reason. Read Jerome Groopman on doctors as diagnosticians and the risks of going straight to testing rather than close observation and examination. A diagnostician is and needs to be a connoisseur: someone who doesn’t let rules do his thinking for him. What role does a connoisseur have in naturalized epistemology? None. Is an idea ever as complex as a human being? No. So maybe we need connoisseurs of humanity, not experts. And that’s what trial lawyers and politicians and actors and novelists and confidence men and playas are.
Hamlet is not an idea and even as an invention he’s more complex than most people. That’s a bit much but it’s the sort of rhetorical flourish that gets people in trouble. I’ll live with it.
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“More to the point, though, we watch them again and again for the sake of the music of the verse.”
It’s more than that. The characters themselves are works of art: complex and contradictory and memorable unities, even if we can’t quite say of what sort.
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To add one more thing about the whole thread and my defense of a kind of thinking.
These sort of arguments are important even though, or even because, there’s no one answer. It’s still arguing about ideas one step removed, as sensibility. Conversation itself creates culture. Since arguing over preference sharpens your awareness of it and actually changes it, making whatever you think a more sophisticated version of what it was.
And the morality of Shakespeare lies in this, and in his and his characters’ relation to the audience and theirs to him. The plays are very directly about and for and played by “us.”

Matthias Wasser: Alexsandr Nevskii was my Star Wars. And I saw it first couple of times in a theater. You have a point (but not a “data point”). Eisenstein wrote wonderfully about the difficulty of creating three dimensional characters for the new revolutionary culture. He loved Noh theater as a classical form with cardboard cutouts… that weren’t. That worry on his part makes even the pure propaganda films like The General Line worth seeing.
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#98 “perhaps to describe Shakespeare as “amoral” would be better”
But he’s not amoral. Is Euripides amoral because he’s not Plato?
In as English harden chaotic because it’s not modeled on Versailles?
And Geo is the one arguing for Versailles. He’s the conservative. Shakespeare is radical by comparison, but he describes the radical so as to make it normative, and in a sense unthreatening.
Shakespeare’s order is unstable and protean but it’s an order. It’s just not something you can remove from the language of the plays: the subject matter and form are inseparable. There’s no takeaway without loss. The plays the thing. That’s the idea.
He doesn’t profess a philosophy he makes one manifest.
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124: Shakespeare clearly means us to think that Macbeth, Antony, et al are heroes, that there’s something sublime and awe-inspiring about their character and purposes.

"You, say that reality is under no obligation to be interesting. To which I'd reply that reality may disregard the obligation that that we may not"
Borges.

I think Geo doesn't understand the difference between reactionary intellectualized nihilism and a sympathetic interest in people as they are. Wilder's Double Indemnity like Macbeth has a central character as killer. And no one would justify his actions because they're interesting, without misunderstand the movie. It's not a mash note to Leopold and Loeb. Others have done that, and defended such things as necessary to counter bourgeois banality, but not Wilder, and not Shakespeare. To understand people you have to risk sympathizing with them, even if they're murderers or pedophiles or criminals of whatever sort. It's a standard line that authors needs to love all their characters, even the bad ones. And sympathy is risky, but not as risky as walling yourself off from experience. As I said on another thread refusing to ever take a drink is not a guarantee of being clearheaded. It could be another symptom of the opposite.

Count me among those who dislike Borges as a illustrator rather than an artist, and as a reactionary. But both Borges and Geo are interested in ideas more than people.
And by the way, the authors of mash notes to L&L are classed as a category of postmodernists and they are in the sense of being mannerists: imposing formal clarity on an unclear world. Like Borges. The mature post-modern is baroque. With Dworkin for example, neither legal positivism nor natural law theory but law as theater and argument as constitutive of justice. And with Shakespeare: conversation not truth is constitutive of society.
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As I’ve tried to make clear you’re not arguing about literature but about values. Geo says that Shakespeare is conservative and defends what others call a schoolmarmish conservatism. He criticism Shakespeare worship but defends idealized heroes. Are they even appropriate for a democratic culture? Is it fair to say that Shakespeare only indulges human foibles while offering nothing better? I think the plays themselves offer something better: a public discussion of human foibles
Was Shaw’s socialism ever viable? What was it rooted in but paternalism? Is paternalism ever liberal? Stop talking about literary “tastes” and start talking about moral preferences. You are already anyway.

Art is the manifestation of ideas in ordered form. The artist concentrates on the form, the critic concentrates on the ideas. Art by critics usually sucks. Historians are too smart to try. And the criticism by artists is as idiosyncratic the conducting of composers. But we learn from both the authors and their interpreters.

Q- Is Geo a liberal or a conservative? The fact that he may consider himself a liberal is irrelevant.
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I have one in moderation. I won’t repost it, since I have no idea what set it off. Or maybe it’s just me. But I want to add something that makes the same point.
The title of Geo’s book is “What Are Intellectuals Good For?” not “What are Poets Good For?”
There’s a lot of Platonism in modern criticism, even modern literary criticism. Just throwing that out as a defender of poetry over professors.

This whole debate is over philosophy by means of literature. Maybe you should make the philosophical debate explicit. In the wider scheme of things, is Shaw in fact a liberal? Are Geo’s arguments actually liberal?
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Shaftesbury in The Moralist (1709). seems to have been the first to stress the basic contrast between such “tailored” gardens and untouched nature “where neither Art nor the Conceit or Caprice of Man has spoiled” the “genuine order” of God’s creation. Even the rude rocks” he feels “the mossy Cavern. the irregular unwroght Grottoes, and broken Falls of Waters. with all the horrid graces of the Wilderness itself, as representing Nature more, will be more engaging, and appeal with a Magnificance beyond the formal Mockery of princely gardens.” It took only one further step to postulate that the gardens themselves conform to the “genuine order of nature” instead of contradicting it. Where Le Notre had said that good gardens must not look like woods, Joseph Addison in the Spectator of 1712 painted the image of an ideal garden which comforms to the laws of “nature unadorned” (as Pope was to express it seven years later).

…To conceive of a garden as a piece of “nature unadorned” is of course a contradiction in terms; for a Joshua Reynolds was judiciously to remark in his Discourses on Art, ” if the true taste consists. as many hold, in banishing every appearance of Art or any any traces of the footsteps of man it would then be no longer a garden.” He therefore prcfers the definition of a garden as “Nature to advantage dress’d”; and it was this concept (well expressed by Pope when he admonishes the gardener “to treat the Goddess [Nature] like a modest Fair,/Nor Overdress nor leave her wholly bare”

Erwin Panofsky, "The Ideological Antecedents of the Rolls-Royce Radiator" in Three Essays on Style
The Committee to Protect Journalists:
Reporter who covered Yemeni unrest is held without charge
Link from AA

Monday, December 28, 2009

On Yemen, read AA.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Original image courtesy of The Frick Collection

Thursday, December 24, 2009

note taking:
"Hmm. Does the law of non-contradiction admit of degrees of adherence?"
Can the law of non-contradiction be applied to human society, and
can it be applied to any human society that we could consider just?

A modernist would say yes/ a post-modernist would say no.
An 18th century Philosoph would say yes/ a 16th century Humanist would say no.

And there's a difference between relativism in an absolute sense and relativism as an acceptance of what we can know of the world. Relativism of some sort is a necessity for a democracy, otherwise if you want to follow Plato fully take the politics too.
The dream of a perfect grammar in politics becomes a defense of authoritarianism. That's the post-modern and the pre-enlightenment (still secular humanist) critique of modernism and of the enlightenment and the age of revolution.

And Engels in a different context your words could have been written by a someone at Volokh arguing with Jack Balkin, or Brian Leiter mocking Bruce Ackerman. Your argument is fundamentally conservative in that to follow it results in conservative [read: anti-democratic] policy.

References follow:
Thus the Renaissance conception of humanitas had a two-fold aspect from the outset. The new interest in the human being was based both on a revival of the classical antithesis between humanitas and barbartias, or feritas, and on a survival of the mediaeval antithesis between humanitas and divinitas. When Marsilio Ficino defines man as a “rational soul participating in the intellect of God, but operating in a body,” he defines him as the one being that is both autonomous and finite. And Pico’s famous ‘speech’ ‘On the Dignity of Man’ is anything but a document of paganism. Pico says that God placed man in the center of the universe so that he might be conscious of where he stands, and therefore free to decide ‘where to turn.’ He does not say that man is the center of the universe, not even in the sense commonly attributed to the classical phrase, “man the measure of all things.”
It is from this ambivalent conception of humanitas that humanism was born. It is not so much a movement as an attitude which can be defined as the conviction of the dignity of man, based on both the insistence on human values (rationality and freedom) and the acceptance of human limitations (fallibility and frailty); from this two postulates result responsibility and tolerance.
…The humanist, then, rejects authority. But he respects tradition.
Erwin Panofsky, “The History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline" in Meaning in the Visual Arts
“Humanism- Most generally any philosophy concerned to emphasize human welfare and dignity, and optimistic about the powers of unaided human understanding.”
Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.
Two definitions of Humanism. I prefer the first. Not hard to do considering I'm not a Modernist.
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In for a penny:
"It sounds as if you are denigrating modernity"
I'm not denigrating modernity. Or maybe I am but we're stuck with it. We're modern. Modern-ism is something else: enthusiasm and optimism regarding the technological advancements of modernity. Modernism involves a conflation of technological and moral progress. It gets more complex when you're dealing with someone like Eliot who is called a modernist when he's more a regretful modern. It's the same when thinking about humanism. Do you mean the humanism of humane irony or the later humanism of clarity and optimism? I think of the latter as a variant of post or anti-humanism. But I'm not any bigger on the optimistic enlightenment than I am on modernism. And for the record Surrealism and Duchamp weren't dealt with seriously in this country until the 60's and 70's, with the moves against Greenbergian modernist idealism. Surrealism is more a touchstone of post-modernism than modernism itself. See Rosalind Krauss.

Quine's naturalism begins with the arch rationalist's assumption that the self is a stable thing: acting and not reacting. And if that's not his argument then that doubt should be applied back to any speaker. This ties in in the 50's I guess to a distaste for behaviorism. A distaste that's more moral than logical.
But what happens when you apply formal systems or assumpions to the complexities of the social world? If you want to treat language as formal system go ahead, but don't delude yourself that it will still function as a representational one, representative that is of our experience. Numbers may or may not function as models but words are used in mimesis and mimesis is very personal. Don't even begin to talk about politics. It seems more like an escape from politics or with social engagement outside the academy.

If you want to talk about philosophy in the world look at the relation of ideas and behavior. You may want to see your ideas as representing yourself in the world, but actions do a better job of that. Arguing that we should all live by rules when we live (at our best) by principles and prudence is arguing for abstract reason from wishful thinking. Successful politics is always founded in empiricism, both the politics that civilized people despise and that they praise. But it's a functional streetwise empiricism, a different form of "realism" than that discussed here. What sort of a naturalized epistemology can we have when the agent of naturalization is so prone to going off?
And this means specifically that no one should confuse my argument with anti-realism. The relevant question to me is not the existence of the outside world but the problem of access and of moral responsibility. Someone should respond to my question about SCOTUS. And in general: if you don't have the capacity to describe your existing relations to the world: of social life; and politics, then you have little business discussing philosophy. And I say that assuming that for anything to be of broader philosophical interest it has to be seen to model something other than itself.

As to post-modernism. There is another division. There's the librarian model of de Man and Borges which is a sort of literary epicurianism (of language divorced from the world) which is connected to decadence and even anti-humanism but which helped lead towards a return to humanism. I think Garcia Marquez called Borges something like 'necessary', which wasn't meant simply as a compliment. And again: Duchamp and Surrealism and Krauss. Don't rely on Danto for Duchamp. Duchamp goes back to Baudelaire. He didn't want to be called a dumb painter because as he said: no one ever got called a stupid poet. And Eliot used readymades too, as collage: "Hurry up please, it's time." Duchamp is a literary trickster and if anything as conservative in his way as Eliot.
Playing off of outmoded forms of narrative that he couldn't quite let go of. He was a perv of the old bourgeois, but the pervy bits got him street cred with the punks.

Between modernity and modernism it's a mish-mash but they aren't identical. And the same with what follows, but if you want to imagine the American equivalent of European pomo-theorists you won't find them in the American academy. The unreliable subject is the subject of literature, and from there it became one of continental philosophy. The American academicized version of continental theory is like the perfect replica of the Parisian bistro in NY: a simulacrum without the context. And the unreliable author, whether Derrida, Deleuze, Zizek , Philip Roth or Norman Mailer, becomes in the academy the very very reliable expert in Unreliability Studies. The American academy is predicated on the reliability of American academics, when they are no more reliably aware of the external world than the rest of us. Humanism on the other hand, I am being snarky here is founded on the hope of a worldly academy, even occasionally a vulgar one.

And in relation of ideas to literature, complaining that the Europeans are just ripping off Montaigne is like saying Proust is ripping off Lady Murasaki. The point is the communication of ideas in the language of the present. It's the present that's being observed and described in literature. The world is the subject being represented through mimesis in language. People have been making chairs for thousands of years. If you and a friend are looking at a room full of chairs at the Metropolitan Museum you're not going to talk about the one thing they all have in common. If you're talking about novels you're not going to pretend the stories are "true." But there's probably more truth in the collected lies of Philip Roth than there is in the collected truths of Donald Davidson. The difference is that all Roth is trying to give an objective description of his subjective experience.
And maybe the Continentals are all lousy poets but in a very real sense what they were trying to describe was post-war Europe, while their American contemporaries were trying to describe absolutes. But maybe all the Americans succeeded in describing was post-war America. And that is what makes the Europeans smile.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


More from Guido: Model 2. A close-up. It's beautiful.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

back to behaviorism

Reading around professional philosophers' arguments (again) it's painful how even in discussing art they avoid the form that's the most threat to them and their self-designated status. I've read discussions of painting, photography and dance, but nothing on literature, other than fantasy/SF: the vulgar literature of illustration and intentionality. For academics more interested in breaking away from self-referential reason the references are to dance or other forms of notated perception that challenge them in ways only they themselves can articulate in language. Duchamp was right: no one ever called anyone a dumb poet.

Back to the last post: If Avatar is any good it will be because it describes the conflicted desires for individualism and community -the central theme of American life- in the language and symbolism of the first decade of the 21st century. If it succeeds it will be because it will be seen to describe the state of play. If it lasts it will be because it will be seen in the eyes of a future generation as having described the state of play in and around 2009. If people in the future find it emotionally compelling it will be because the language of America in 2009 was used in such a way to render it compelling in the future. And what is or is not compelling of course are the emotions of the filmmaker as they are embodied and articulated in his craft. In an art of megalomania there's no pretense of representing the world outside the author's perceptions of it. The best you can expect is an honest self-portrait.

"The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." No. It's always the case that the new is born unrecognized right under the nose of the old.
And we are returning to a model of behaviorism. As I said before Chomsky will be remembered for his journalist's empiricism long after his academic rationalism is forgotten. It already is.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

From 2004
On Rorty. The problem isn't anti-foundationalism it's anti-foundationalist philosophy. Philosophy is foundationalist by nature. Anti-foundationalist philosophy as an independent study as opposed to a philosophy of other subjects, of law, history, literature etc. is predicated on a return to control of an illusory enlightened awareness, as if the recognition somehow resolves the loss. The commingling of rationalism and anti-foundationalism is at the root -is the foundation, relatively speaking- of all the violent metaphysics of the European avant garde, both left and right. And Habermas is a nice guy, but so what?

Charlie Chaplin stands on a stage made of ice. He slips and falls. He gets up. He slips and falls again. He loses control. He negotiates with the inevitable. We laugh at him and at ourselves. Theater is anti-foundationalist, a winking lie. Common law like democracy itself is anti-foundationalist. It's not based on 'Truth' but on getting along.
So why the ridgidity of the British class system? That's for history and literature not philosophy.
The anti-foundationalism of craft is manifest only in practice. The facts of Avatar are the practice of corporate capitalism, high technology and personal (and vindictive) authoritarian individualism in the production of images of the tragic loss of a (fictitious) natural collectivist utopia. The film's ideas are as bound together with the means of their dissemination as those in any book by a professional philosopher. If only the reviewers of such books were as self-aware as film critics.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dahlan, and Dayton, again:
CIA working with Palestinian security agents
"Palestinian security agents who have been detaining and allegedly torturing supporters of the Islamist organisation Hamas in the West Bank have been working closely with the CIA, the Guardian has learned."
In the studio a couple of days ago struggling unhappily with scrap paper, knife, and masking tape, I imagined being asked what I was doing. The answer was that if I knew, I wouldn't be doing it.
"One of the defining features of social media, if not the defining feature, is its participatory nature. Anyone, everyone, is a content producer."

Writers and other craftspeople ("Emily Dickinson and Gustav Mahler and Paul Gauguin") are not content producers they're form producers. The devolution of interpersonal communication to data transfer is the problem in a nutshell.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The science of history has been thoroughly discredited; the one exception, so we're led to believe, is the history of the present. The present is timeless, primed in the popular academic imagination for one form or another of snapshot empiricism and the logical analysis of resulting data which will then be generalized into the past. Unfortunately for all this, communication across space is subject to the same ambiguities as communication across time: our access to the the thoughts of our grandparents is only somewhat more limited than our access to the thoughts of one another. Communities, even those founded on defending individual rational action, are made up of individuals using collective constructions and forms. We communicate in signs and symbols and the specifics of each, whether written or oral, visual or aural, are the product of the age; we are reactors before actors, framed before framing. But we want to claim ownership of our reactions. Everyone likes the sound of their own bullshit, and we become aware of others' enchantments before we become aware of our own. Understanding is reciprocal and social. We do not advance alone.

Sophistication is diagnosis and analysis by connoisseurship, and it describes good but never perfect judgement of when to trust others or ourselves. It can't be taught but can be fostered, and learning to recite and follow rules makes you less watchful. Technocrats are lousy diagnosticians: they test to the taught.

Intellectuals think now only in terms of ideas, which are thought to be like numbers or notes on a scale: concrete points. In fact ideas change before their names do. To say otherwise is the argument of the most conservative theologians in our academies and courts. And numbers may be static but notes though numerical are no more than the parameters of music made specific and whole only in performance. Musicians and audience focus on the ways in which each performance is unique. As I wrote once, my mother's Bach performances were awful because she was too self-consciously humble to perform, she merely read the notes; and unsurprisingly her intellectual passivity was attached to personal arrogance. An excess of rationalism in the schoolroom makes you stupid in the street. The street like the courtroom is a stage. Stupidity is being unaware of others: unaware that they're your mirror not your other.

You may want to argue that history is bunk but you'll make an exception for your own. You may argue against "the very notion of a conceptual scheme," but you won't translate Proust. You may argue that perspectives are illusion, but the presence of women and minorities on the Supreme Court is more than a political necessity. According to the Palestinians, their anger is a response to the extremism of others.  Are they wrong?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Since I'm on a graphics kick these days and I'm annoyed by argument, I thought I'd join the two. Going through the archives, and making it official with a new tag:
Make it Idiot-Proof.





Philip Roth is a practitioner of philosophical naturalism. Alex Rosenberg is an academic and a professor of a minor branch of the minor school of late 20th century scholastic philosophy.

Physicalism denies free will; it does not therefore undermine itself, only the arrogance of those who profess it. I'm a humanist because I choose to be for all the very logical reasons described below and elsewhere, or, following physicalism, because I have no choice. Read Rosenberg's arguments for every example where he lets manifestations of "enchantment" slide by unacknowledged. It's not as directly offensive as Steven Weinberg's arguments from 19th century racism and empire but it shares the same foundation. Weinberg:
As I say in the article, one of the things that makes me sympathetic to Zionism is that it represents the intrusion of a democratic, scientifically sophisticated, secular culture into a part of the world that for centuries had been despotic, technically backward, and obsessed with religion.
As Rosenberg writes at his #8:"History Is Bunk." No doubt Weinberg agrees. Platonists and rationalists are more put off by empiricism than imperialism, but good colonial administrators are empiricists and political realists. Idealists, moral realists, by and large stay home.

The level of academic anti-intellectualism these days just stuns me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009









Again: all models (in progress) working with Guido Garfunkel.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009





tutu [ˈtoō, toō]
noun
a female ballet dancer's costume consisting of a bodice and an attached skirt incorporating numerous layers of fabric, this being either short and stiff and projecting horizontally from the waist (the classical tutu) or long, soft, and bell-shaped (the romantic tutu).
classical tutu
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: from French, child's alteration of cucu, informal diminutive of cul ‘buttocks.’
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ruff |rəf|
noun
1. a projecting starched frill worn around the neck, characteristic of Elizabethan and Jacobean costume.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Copenhagen climate summit in disarray.
"Developing countries react furiously to leaked draft agreement that would hand more power to rich nations, sideline the UN's negotiating role and abandon the Kyoto protocol."

Coteret
Settlers prep to terrorize West Bank

The Leveretts link to Al Jazeera

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Leo Steinberg
Our teacher, Herr Säger, was a portly man of short temper. Any boy misbehaving would be struck smartly across the face. It was a daily occurrence—and one day, he hit me. I told mother, whereupon my parents went to see the headmaster to protest. This, after all, was the liberal Weimar Republic, a new age of progressive education, which condemned the physical chastisement of children as barbarous.
Accordingly, the headmaster expressed disbelief. Herr Säger, he said, was one of our most respected teachers, who surely would never lay hands on his boys. So he summoned Herr Säger, who denied having ever done so.
I knew nothing of this—until the next morning, when I was made to stand in front of the class to answer Herr Säger’s questions:
“Did you tell your parents that I hit you?”
“Yes.”

“Is it true? Did I hit you?”

“Yes, you did.”

Herr Säger turned to the class and called out:

“Boys, did I ever hit any of you?”
Stunned silence. They didn’t know what to say, since most of them had been struck many times. Herr Säger, raising his voice, repeated in a more menacing tone:
“Did I ever lay hands on any of you?”
Silence again, for a few seconds, until a boy in the front row caught on and said—“No, never!” Herr Säger relaxed, and at once the whole class of forty understood what was expected of them and chimed in: “No, never!”
At this, my tears started. Seventy-two years have passed, and still I remember that spokesman in the front row, looking triumphant, because he had found the right answer. Herr Säger turned back to me:
“Well, did I hit you?”
I nodded: “Yes.”
He pulled out the class record book, and intoned as he wrote these words, trenched in my memory:
“Steinberg nimmt es mit der Wahrheit nicht genau”—“Steinberg is not particular about the truth.”
Since the suburb of Zehlendorf was spared the Allied bombing of World War II, that document may still exist. There—in Zehlendorf-West, as in many places since—you will find it stated black on white that I am not to be trusted.

Friday, December 04, 2009


Models (in progress) with the help of Guido Garfunkel.




Velazquez Rediscovered.

In an age of specialization, people are less aware of what makes the best work what it is. They may sense it, but don't face it.
As a measure of quality technique is secondary, whether it's oil paint or piano playing. What's great in Velazquez is not simply that he's chosen to describe perception, the glow of light that hits the eye rather than the thing we want to call perceived, but that his work describes the weight that decision held for him. Velazquez was a devout Catholic, a defender of the universal church and the loyal servant of an absolute monarch, and yet he could not bring himself to paint absolutes. He painted perceptions because he understood as an empiricist of daily life that perceptions are all that we know. And we see for perhaps the first time in the history of western pictorial art not images and descriptions of faith but of the desire for faith, not the nobility of a political or religious order but the nobility of the need to believe, in what experience shows to be untrue.

Questions of technique or technical innovation are important to historians of form and style. Symphonic form and fresco had their heights, meaning each had a moment when it mapped the sensibility of an age so closely that it acted as a natural product or outgrowth: the age in microcosm. We study evolution in technique because every major form in its development was once necessity, required for the full description of a social, political, linguistic and moral reality. We should be willing to study devolution for the same reason, but by and large we aren't.

Technique is only interesting, or only profound, when acting as the model for, and more than that manifestation of, a form of consciousness. If you can't sense tragedy in Velazquez you can't understand the work; and if you sense it, it's worth understanding what it is and where it comes from. Similarly it makes little sense to study technique in Goya, or Manet, without admitting to their limitations in its use, and so the limitations of their chosen form itself, increasingly inappropriate to the modern age. Art critics are advocates, historians have no need to be: that's their advantage. It's clear to the disinterested eye that Goya was one of the last of the "Old Masters" in the 18th century, but it should also to be clear that he was one of the first "great illustrators" of the 19th. This means just what it sounds like it means.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Writing, rewriting.
"The greatest artworks of Modernism, as opposed to modernity, made between the 1870’s and WW I, are monuments to aphasia, to time frozen, to evocation and its denial: to representation in the absence of representation. Later abstraction, qua abstraction, where it exists (as formalism) is scholastic and empty. But there's always again the attempt to create or find the newest cause of or path to the sensation of crisis made static, if not solid. Modernist desire reappears up to the present, in the search for that electric buzz, of time and the world simultaneously acknowledged and denied."

Monday, November 30, 2009

"There’s a desperate falseness to the figuration in most of his work, the progression is towards a failure as mimesis and a focus on manifestation alone. The works embody and articulate a complex reaction to the world but the world exists more and more in the experience of methods and material. He’s “competing with the world.” [Anne Baldessari, Matisse Picasso, exhibition catalogue, MoMA/Tate, 2002. Page 126] But that’s not what he wants. And at his best with the conflicts at their peak there’s no pretense at resolution. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is so important to our understanding of the period because it is one of the few great moments of depiction in 20th century painting, and the last great act of depiction in Picasso’s career. His terrifying whores of Calle Avignon are not complex characters by the standards of art history as a whole but they’re more autonomous than we’re used to with Picasso, especially in his images of women. They look back at us as Manet’s barmaids and prostitutes do and Picasso tries to destroy them for that and fails, the proof, lying between the artist and his models his severed member on a plate. The greatness of the painting has everything to do with Picasso’s admission of defeat in the world beyond it. " [pdf-updated]

I'm catching some flack for this and I don't understand it at this point. Did Picasso ever paint another painting with subjects so dangerously alive? Alive is a relative term in art and especially in Picasso, but can there even be an argument? As with the preference for materiality over mimesis: what does it imply?

In other news: Switzerland bans Yarmulkes.
Johnson sends more troops to Southeast Asia

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From a letter -of mine- a couple of months ago. I like the way it lays things out:

Fried and Krauss, and Clark, all see the avant-garde as predictive or prescriptive. All I see is the current generation's desperate attempt to describe a world that didn't exist 20 years earlier: a continuing generation gap. And in the 19th century there's the problem that more and more artists seem less and less able to represent the world, so that over time all thats left for them to do -and they come to this over the course of decades- is to make not interesting depictions of things, but only interesting things; to the point that modern art only represents the world in the -general- sense that modern buildings do. But then popular art becomes the central forum for mimesis. And when abstraction is returned to the world it's returned to the world as authoritarianism. It were ever thus.

Reading Art and Objecthood first when I was about 20 was a bizarre experience for me. I recognized objects becoming figures, the beginnings of theatricality the end of idealism and the rest. I saw Smithson and baroque architecture. I didn't see the best art in the world but I saw the attempt of fine artists to make objects or non-objects that felt appropriate.
In the same way that artists found a way to make theater that they could call "performance art" This gets perverse pretty quickly and you end up studying minor practitioners of different fields who can be appropriated as artists. Studying Vertov for example in art school because he was a formalist but not Eisenstein, because what... he was popular?
Eisenstein thought Vertov sucked. He had a point.

Anyway Fried came off to me like the father who still thought it was 1948. but the world had changed. Art describes the world, no more no less. But the teleology of progress was so universal in intellectual circles, various versions of the avant-garde -esthetically philosophically, politically- that it was imagined we could or should put the cart before the horse.
Art is empiricism- the most honest empiricism that we have. It documents the struggle of ideas against preference: the brilliant cafe revolutionary, who's loyal to the conservative form (art) used to describe the radical idea. But there are no ideas outside form. As Kunstler said: "I'm not a radical. Radicals don't believe in the justice system. I'm a lawyer who defends radicals. That's not the same thing." The history of art over the last 200 years is the struggle between the conservative and the reactionary. Art is always conservative. It tries to conserve. The founder of the Penna ACLU said the same thing about his organization.

There are varieties of kitsch: the kitsch of desperation- of early Cezanne, bad Manet, and early Pollock; pompous laziness - god-awful Courbet! and Jules Olitski, and hypocrisy- The Paris Salon, fascist kitsch. Kitsch is very wishful thinking. And Modernism and modernity is full of that.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Which of the following comes closer to your view of the budget deficit -the government should run a deficit if necessary when the country is in a recession and is at war, or the government should balance the budget even when the country is in a recession and is at war?

Run a deficit 30% 33%
Balance the budget 67% 65%
No opinion 4% 1%

The poll asked this question: "Do you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election last year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him?" The overall top-line is legitimately won 62%, ACORN stole it 26%.

Among Republicans, however, only 27% say Obama actually won the race, with 52% -- an outright majority -- saying that ACORN stole it, and 21% are undecided. Among McCain voters, the breakdown is 31%-49%-20%. By comparison, independents weigh in at 72%-18%-10%, and Democrats are 86%-9%-4%.
Democracy without leadership is failure but in America the myth has come to be the people lead, so conservative leaders are aggressive cynics and liberal leaders are idealistic and passive, a passivity that among the wealthy is clearly self-serving: they make money the same way rich conservatives do. That's changing now, slowly, and the motion is from the ground up, the cultural ground of course more than the economic one. John Stewart, a rich man, engages conservatives not just their ideas. He faced Lou Dobbs directly, talking to him not just about him. Interesting that the right doesn't attack Stewart and Colbert much.

It's not about idealism but a certain sense of obligation. Intellectual political liberalism is premised on the rationalism of rational action, of individual self-interest bound by law. Intellectual social -tacit, or de facto- liberalism is founded on the understanding that people are linked by overlapping and conflicting social obligations, that selves and others are wrapped up together in ways that are never clearly defined, but deny and demand description, and re-description. Academic liberalism is modeled on the naturalism of the hard sciences, informal, cultural, liberalism on historically minded but non-academic empiricism. In the US absent a crisis, that liberalism is anti-political, fitting with the hyper-political rationalism of the competition. That's the transition now.

The NY Times' professional television watcher catches the subtlety that the political intellectual does not.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Der Lauf Der Dinge







Fischli and Weiss: Rube Goldberg, Calvino, Syberberg.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] has been playing completely by the book. The PA has been killing Palestinians to prove that he is prepared to serve Israel’s security interests. What did he get in return? Only a continuation of setttlements, home demolitions, land expropriations..."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Conflicts Forum on General Dayton (again).

Link is dead; the article is here

Sunday, November 08, 2009

"I cannot remember a more misleading statement than Mr Eric Russell Bentley’s in the Spring Number of the Kenyon Review, 1945: ‘The potentialities of the talking screen differ from those of the silent screen in adding the dimension of dialogue—which could be poetry.’ I would suggest: ‘The potentialities of the talking screen differ from those of the silent screen in integrating visible movement with dialogue which, therefore, had better not be poetry.' "

Erwin Panofsky, Style and Medium in the Motion Pictures
And earlier in the same essay
"Today there is no denying that narrative films are not only 'art'—not often good art, to be sure, but this applies to other media aswell—but also, besides architecture, cartooning and 'commercial design,' the only visual art entirely alive...

In the beginning, then, there were the straight recordings of movement no matter what moved, viz., the prehistoric ancestorsof our 'documentaries'; and, soon after, the early narratives, viz.,the prehistoric ancestors of our 'feature films.' The craving for a narrative element could be satisfied only by borrowing from older arts, and one should expect that the natural thing would have been, to borrow from the theater, a theater play being apparently the genus proximum to a narrative film in that it consists of a narrative enacted by persons that move. But in reality the imitation of stage performances was a comparatively late and thoroughly frustrated development. What happened at the start was a very different thing. Instead of imitating a theatrical performance already endowed with a certain amount of motion, the earliest films added movement to works of art originally stationary, so that the dazzling technical invention might achieve a triumph of its own without in-truding upon the sphere of higher culture. The living language,which is always right, has endorsed this sensible choice when it still speaks of a 'moving picture' or, simply, a 'picture,' instead of accepting the pretentious and fundamentally erroneous 'screenplay.' "
Brilliant, brilliant, man.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Looking through my archives, I found that I linked to this and quoted the same paragraph, in 2003. Nothing's changed,
But there is something poignant about the Zionist left's continuous attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable. Its criticisms of Sharon hark back to an idealised notion of a Jewish state in which democracy, decency and tolerance are the guiding principles. In moving forwards towards peace with the Palestinians, the left seeks to take a few steps back; consolidating the Jewish state, preserving its Jewish character, withdrawing from the quagmire of occupation and reinstating the values of a democratic and humane society. But to Palestinian ears there is something inherently wrong here: for us, there is a basic and inescapable contradiction between Zionism and democracy. If Zionism means anything, it means a Jewish state with a clear Jewish majority - and in Palestine this has necessarily been at the expense of Palestinian Arab rights.
Wiseman
And more on Levi-Strauss by Maurice Bloch.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Note-taking
I've written about this enough but it seemed like a good time to do it again.
If I'm running from a lion who's pawed a gash in my leg, my body is communicating information by means of the qualia of "pain," while a robot programmed for its own preservation will receive feedback in concrete quantitative terms. Biomechanical qualia are quanta: vast amounts of data known to us only in totality as sense.

Biological machines are capable of reason but are programmed also by conditioning, and reason and reflex can produce contradictory imperatives. If there's a "choice" to be made, which mechanism is it that "makes" the choice?

Consciousness is not complex calculation it's indecision. Create an indecisive computer, a neurotic computer, torn (having been given the imperative to survive) between the heuristics of conditioned response and calculation, and you'll have a conscious non-biological machine.

Mary the color scientist, seeing -sensing- color for the first time, will learn nothing new about color itself but will now give it a place among the trillions of sense impressions over the course of her life which she has compartmentalized, characterized, and like as not narrativized into her personal logic. She will have a new understanding of color not as independent but in relation to herself as a form of experience within the totality of her imagined and imagining life.
Mary will see, construct, and experience her red.
It will become a part of the totality of her experience and her conditioning.

More:
What exactly are qualitative states? In its definition of qualia at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begs the question. Perception is physical: experience, sandpaper etc. When animals sense we categorize things in the history of our perceptions (patterning as comfort) Our history is foggy, and facts and values are confused from the start. The machines we make do not have this complex conflicted relation to the world, they’re not desirous or anxious. They have no sense of telos, even a blind drive for survival.

It seems easier to want to ascribe qualitative states to man-made machines than to describe the mechanics of qualitative “experience” and “perception.” To a machine, the blueprint for a building and the building itself are identical, while animals require the presence of the building to understand the thing. And like the color red in doing that we’re not understanding the building or the color but our categorization of it, and all the details that we analogize in relation to what we’ve already stored away. We’re bombarded by perceptions and evocations resulting from perceptions. But all of that can be described in quantitative terms. What’s private -as experience- is that each of us contextualize the data according to our own history. Every animal has his or her own filing system and her own adaptive conditioning. Animals are drunken machines, each of us drunk in our own way.

The limits of conceptualism it seems to me is in the unwillingness to mark the distinction between blueprints and buildings, between ideas and experience, because ideas are universally available and one’s experience of a building is private and therefore secondary, But what this means is that the ability to communicate always private experience atrophies, while experience is still our primary relation to the world. This conversation above seems more about desire than the world we will always only know as experience, while shying away from real questions regarding our biological machinery.

Friday, October 30, 2009

As'ad AbuKhalil
Anna (who appeared with Mustafa Barghuti on the Daily Show) circulated a message about her appearance. I am citing from it (with her permission): "Last night Dr. Barghouti and I were on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart talking about Palestine. The show was overwhelmed with angry emails and phone calls prior to the appearance, and up until the last minute it seemed like they might cancel. During the taping the show had it's only heckler in 11 years.The entire staff were very nervous and may come to regret the monumental decision (and not make it again) as they will surely be inundated now that the show has aired..Many of you who watched the show on TV noticed that everything of real substance that I said was edited out. The major issues cut out were (1) the US role in aiding Israel, (2) the lack of adequate coverage in mainstream US media, and (3) the Palestinian-led movement for Boycott / Divestment / Sanctions (BDS) to nonviolently pressure Israel to comply with international law."
M.J. Rosenberg has been trapped into linking to a friend of AbuKhalil and Ali Abunimah and a supporter of the boycott.
More confusion, logical and moral, from Bernard Avishai. One of the commenters suspects Rosenberg of being an anti-Zionist.
Hemlines go up. Hemlines go down, [see Wednesday]
O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves,
Give me in due time, I beseech you, a little tobacco-shop,
With the little bright boxes
piled up neatly upon the shelves
And the loose fragment cavendish
and the shag,
And the bright Virginia
loose under the bright glass cases,
And a pair of scales
not too greasy,
And the whores dropping in for a word or two in passing,
For a flip word, and to tidy their hair a bit.

O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves,
Lend me a little tobacco-shop,
or install me in any profession
Save this damn'd profession of writing,
where one needs one's brains all the time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Not new but nicely done. Balkin
First, although it's clear that Justice Scalia would not have upheld segregated schools in the states, it's not clear that he would be able to strike down segregated schools in the District of Columbia. In particular, we don't have a good sense of what Justice Scalia thinks of the originalist case for Bolling v. Sharpe, which held that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, ratified in 1791, prohibits racial classifications by the federal government. Consider this: in 1791 black people were held in slavery. It's hard to argue that this clause, interpreted according to the expectations of the late eighteenth century generation that framed it, prevents the federal government from engaging in racial discrimination. Moreover, Justice Scalia has long been an opponent of reading the Due Process Clause to have substantive content. If so, why isn't Bolling v. Sharpe an impermissible form of substantive due process, as impermissible as, say, Roe v. Wade? If Justice Scalia believes that Bolling is correct, it can't be because of his originalist views. Rather, it is, as he would say, a case where courts just made new rights up.

And, of course, if Bolling falls, then so too must the Adarand decision, which held federal affirmative action programs to a standard of strict scrutiny. Indeed, Justice Scalia's view, stated in a concurrence to Adarand itself, is even stronger-- he believes that race conscious federal affirmative action is almost always unconstitutional; as he puts it, "government can never have a "compelling interest" in discriminating on the basis of race in order to "make up" for past racial discrimination in the opposite direction." But if so, what is the basis for that conclusion, given his views on original meaning originalism? It certainly is not consistent with the attitudes or actions of the framers in the Reconstruction Congress that enacted the Fourteenth Amendment. They passed various educational and welfare statutes designed for the benefit of blacks, including free blacks who had not been held in slavery.
I'm reading Erasmus and Luther. Luther as Salafist, searching for truth in dogma. Scalia is more the anti-reformist Churchman, inflexibly defending hypocrisy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

John Brown and reaction again. Last reference here

Rothstein's discussion is shallow as always; but it's important to note that we're seeing a right-wing Zionist forced to the position of the liberal Zionist -wringing his hands over terrorism rather than shaking his fist- as liberal Zionists are being forced to the left, to positions once held only by anti-Zionists. This discussion still mostly among and for an audience of Jews, but Palestinians are beginning to make appearances where they would not have been seen even two years ago.

Hemlines creep up, hemlines creep down, the normative changes with changes in experience. Ideas don't lead, they follow.
People are stupid, but there's nothing else to do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the long run, it will probably be better for the Administration and future Administrations not to say that Fox and its successors are not "legitimate" journalists, but that they are not actually objective journalists; instead they are members of a new party or partisan press. That model of the press may be legitimate in the twenty-first century, but politicians have no obligation to treat it as they treated an earlier model of journalism.
Jack Balkin should know better than to imply that there's such a thing as objective journalism. Still, his response is the best so far.

More Max Roach; younger and working harder. Something a little mannered -affected- creeps into the later performances. But I don't remember that so much seeing him in the years before he died.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The first time I saw him play this it he'd simplified the central motif down to its basic elements. Played slowly, it was the history of the drum: heartbeat, march, swing; the human, the martial, and the dance. I think I began to cry before I knew the reason.
The great orator of the trap set.

Mop Mop

Purdie Shuffle

Friday, October 23, 2009

Michael Slackman and the NY Times vs the facts.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right."
Pat Buchanan wants for America what Joshua Marshall, M.J. Rosenberg, and every other liberal Zionist wants for Israel.
How to explain the disconnect? I don't know.
---
Actually, it's obvious: the reactionary is in relation to the normative, not the objective.
See as always, John Brown.

The leaders of the American revolution were reactionaries in the minds of the British, because to the British revolt was reaction. In fact it was not, but it could have been; that's always the danger. For a revolt to succeed it has to replace one set of normative relations with another. Revolution is never normative and an esthetic of permanent revolution is opposed to the very idea of normative stability. Revolt as reaction becomes self-destruction.

Israel wants to see Palestinian revolt as reaction, and Israeli policy over decades has been designed to that end: support for Hamas against Fatah, the strategic indifference to Yassin, and the expulsion of the pacifist Mubarak Awad. But Hamas is revolt and not reaction, whereas Beck and Buchanan are reaction, simply because they have nothing else to argue from but that.

Zionists, in America at least, could lead normal lives for the same reason Europeans early in the age of Empire could do so: any normative order operates by inclusion and exclusion, and what can be excluded fully can be rendered morally irrelevant. But as outside things move close, becoming neither normative nor fully excluded, when proximity becomes not yet acknowledged intimacy, the mind begins to lose its balance. Sensing the artificiality of moral order and the objective reality of crime, the normative imagination, unwilling to change, twists into perversity. Exclusion and indifference becomes half-conscious rage.

Technocrats are not good diagnosticians.
---
addendum: the anxiety of the perverse.



process or product.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It does seem to me that all people of goodwill would welcome the news that it had become possible to proceed otherwise [i.e. in ways that tapped into our nobler, rather than our more selfish, motives] perhaps, for example, because some economists had invented clever ways of harnessing and organizing our capacity for generosity toward others.
Liberal idealists try to institutionalize concern without understanding that institutionalized concern manifests only as pity. There is no care without caring: empathy is a practice not a function. Conservatives understand this and the self-serving hypocrisy of idealist abstraction and their cynical response is institutionalized contempt.

Concern is intimate empiricism: it can be fostered by institutions but can not be institutionalized. I've said this before but the above quote from Cohen, and the discussion around it, are a perfect example of liberal indulgence that will always end in righteous sentimentalism and self-pity. The discussion of hate crimes law and then Freakonomics and my jottings in response brought me back to that quote.

In reference to Levitt and Dubner: the proper response to their contrarian idealism is not game theory or falling back on "conventional wisdom"

Friday, October 16, 2009

And again. [continuing from here]
Naturalized epistemology is mostly a matter of esthetics, analogizing science: a brittle esthetics of names and ideas rather than one constituted of and concerning the ambiguities of naming. So now these idiots are defending their rationalist anti-humanism as humanism and instrumentalism for instrumentalism's sake. Technocracy as valid culture.
Most liberals have no understanding of the rule of law. Liberals are optimists, and the rule of law is founded in pessimism. The argument for the rule of law is fundamentally conservative.
I've always known but its depressing to have to argue it again and again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009




Picasso, Mandolin and Guitar, 1924. Oil with sand on canvas, 55 3/8 x 78 7/8 inches. Guggenheim Museum, NY.

The painting has always annoyed me; predicting the future a la Jules Verne, but instead of a submarine we get a surprisingly accurate portrait of the artist as an old man, 40 years ahead. And I've never been a fan of Arcimboldo.
It was part of the template for cartoons from the late 50's and early 60's, Warner Bros. and Disney -cubist and surrealist design motifs- through many others, including Dufy and Ludwig Bemelmans. Look at the window and the door on the right: the flat shadows and light. In the flatness of a reproduction it's easier to see. None of this makes it any better, any less contrived or over-determined.
Actually I've always hated this fucking painting. It's Pop without irony.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Liz Cheney states the obvious, which the democratic leadership and many following cannot.
"I think what the committee believes is they'd like to live in a world in which America is not dominant. And I think if you look at the language of the citation, you can see that they talk about, you know, President Obama ruling in a way that makes sense to the majority of the people of the world," said Cheney. "You know, Americans don't elect a president to do that. We elect a president to defend our national interests. And so I think that, you know, they may believe that President Obama also doesn't agree with American dominance, and they may have been trying to affirm that belief with the prize. I think, unfortunately, they may be right, and I think it's a concern."
Like liberal Zionists finally forced to face their contradictions, American liberal internationalists are being asked to become what they pretend.
---
The Republicans were right on hate crimes legislation. The ACLU caved on this issue years ago, and it was and is disgusting.
No mention from Blair that there have been almost no rockets coming out of Gaza since Hamas announced the currently-operant ceasefire there on January 18-- but despite that lack of rocketings, the Israeli siege is harsher even than it was prior to last winter's war.

No mention of the roughly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees being held in Israeli jails. They include more than two dozen elected Palestinian MPs and thousands of others elected for purely political reasons. Shalit, by contrast, was on active military service and thereby knowingly ran the risk of being taken as a prisoner-of-war.

What a dishonest schmuck Blair is. (Nothing new there.)
smiled at the last, considering who it is.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Visser
New DNO Revelations: While He Was Influencing the Shape of the Iraqi Constitution, Peter Galbraith Held Stakes in an Oilfield in Dahuk.

HC, earlier in the week on Galbraith and Afghanistan

Friday, October 09, 2009

A good soldier in the army of film.
8. Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking. Traveling on foot. The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully. The athletic side of filmmaking. The creation of your own shooting permits. The neutralization of bureaucracy. Guerrilla tactics. Self reliance.

9. Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.

10. Related, but more reflective, will be a reading list: if possible, read Virgil's "Georgics", read "Hemingway's "The short happy life of Francis Macomber", The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee M. Hollander (in particular the Prophecy of the Seeress), Bernal Diaz del Castillo "True History of the Conquest of New Spain".

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Read the comments

Sent by a friend. Not sure about the circumstances but it's pretty good either way.
[It's Venturi]
update: Archinect
On Goldstone, Fatah, Dahlan et al. read AA. Even when he's wrong he's smart. Unlike Josh Marshall.
Saree Makdisi
"Reports have been circulating in the Arab, Israeli and European media that Abbas and his associates may have been prompted to take this extraordinary action because Israel had been threatening, had they continued with their support of the UN resolution, to withhold its release of a share of the radio spectrum that would have allowed the creation of a new Palestinian mobile phone company, Wataniyya: the product of a joint venture between Qatari investors and the Palestine Investment Fund, to which Abbas himself and one of his wealthy sons have personal connections. Palestinians have suggested that simple corruption and cronyism may have motivated Abbas’s decision. The PA and the circle of officials attached to it have certainly had their share of corruption charges—most shockingly, perhaps, when Ahmed Qureia, then the so-called Prime Minister of the PA (again, “so-called” because Prime Ministers usually have countries to govern, and the PA is anything but a country), was accused of selling cement to the Israelis to build their wall in the West Bank. The corruption of the PA and the narrow circle of Fateh party officials running it, clinging to it, and benefiting from it, is one of the main reasons why Fateh was swept from office in the 2006 Palestinian elections in favor of Hamas: most people then were voting against Fateh and its corruption and general hopelessness, rather than for Hamas (which had, and has, little to offer other than simply not being Fateh: a credit which goes only so far). It’s possible, of course, that corruption and cronyism were not the motivating factors for Abbas’s decision to withdraw Palestinian support for the Goldstone report...

These, then, are the possibilities before us: not only does the PA not represent the Palestinian people, it is also, on top of that, either corrupt to an almost unimaginable level; or it is profoundly incompetent and guilty of squandering the rights and hopes of a people that it is unentitled to claim to lead; or it is interested not in its people’s rights and hopes but rather in perpetuating its own status as the day-to-day caretaker of a permanent Israeli occupation—in which case it is no less collaborationist than the Vichy “government” of Nazi-occupied France in the 1940s. Corruption; incompetence; collaboration: ah, the agony of choice.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nice about the Watteau exhibition since I've been there three times by now. Old people, and old couples, smiling and talking, sometimes too loudly (and the guards walk over). They see the romance and the sex, and understand and share the wistfulness.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

M.J. Rosenberg seconds Ali Abunimah [previous post] but in doing so links not to Abunimah or As'ad AbuKhalil but to the Jerry Haber [The Magnes Zionist.] Again and again now you see Zionist liberals forced to choose between Zionism and liberalism, between dehumanizing the Palestinians absolutely and understanding them not as problem or idea but as fully human. Liberal Zionists never wanted to see themselves as racist, though objectively they were, but now they're being forced to face the contradictions. All sadly, happily or indifferently predictable.

update: Helena Cobban runs down the response: Palestinian society supports Goldstone, criticizes Abbas. The U.S. pressure was a big mistake.

Friday, October 02, 2009

EI: Abbas helps Israel bury its crimes
One would think, then, that the self-described representatives of the Palestinian people would not casually throw away this weapon. And yet, according to Abbas ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, the Ramallah PA shelved its effort at the request of the Americans because "We don't want to create an obstacle for them."

This latest surrender comes less than two weeks after Abbas appeared at a summit in New York with US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu despite Obama abandoning his demand that Israel halt construction of Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Also under US pressure, the PA abandoned its pledge not to resume negotiations unless settlement-building stopped, and agreed to take part in US-mediated "peace talks" with Israel in Washington this week. Israel, meanwhile, announced plans for the largest ever West Bank settlement since 1967.

What makes this even more galling, is the real possibility that the PA is helping Israel wash its hands of the blood it spilled in Gaza for something as base as the financial gain of businessmen closely linked to Abbas. [link: The Independent]

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Vermeer v. Watteau at the Metropolitan




Very complex questions of preference. At the most abstract becoming questions almost or even of morality.


Also Robert Frank
Vermeer has always bothered me. I assumed he used a camera obscura but the work's famous "photographic" qualities are after all mechanical qualities, and his sensibility is manifest in a sort of estheticized mechanically produced affect. It's not the technique that's the problem. Photography is a technology, soft focus is a trick, producing a reflexive response. Vermeer is a great painter that's not the issue.