Monday, December 27, 2010

More old/new. Still working. p.48 [PDF]
Yves Saint Laurent was three when he pointed out to his aunt that her shoes and dress didn’t match. His statement can be designated a truth in the terms of the system in which he had already, and precociously, educated himself. But systems are always changing and are always in the process of becoming. Society is always changing and representational systems ossify into formal systems that outlast their role as representation. Forms are still used even as they become brittle. And as I described in Manet and Picasso, and now with Duchamp, this is the crisis that defines modern art, which is no more or less than the art of a culture in crisis. Sometimes forms are taken up in new ways, as in Duchamp’s literary objects. Sergei Eisenstein’s favorite author was Dickens. With film the 19th century tradition moved onto a different track, so in art school we studied Vertov. Man with a Movie Camera was adopted as an example of the fine art—non-narrative—avant-garde, by which definition Eisenstein in inverse relation to his actual importance, was a maker of popular film.

Eliot’s poetry as is memorial, describing a desire to hold on to what one loves even after it’s dead. But he found a strange way to bring the dead to life. He used modern forms to describe an anti-modern philosophy and he ended up leaving behind one of the greatest descriptions that we have of the interior life of a modern conservative. If G.A. Cohen had the clarity of Eliot, he could have written a great novel about the dream and failure of communism in the west. And he would have been able to give communism a better defense than he did. What he lacked was an ability to articulate his own tragedy. He and his work will end in obscurity because both will be useless to history.

The abolitionist John Brown was a political vanguardist, avant-garde and outlier, and a more directly moral man than Lincoln. But the fact that Brown was right, simply and straightforwardly, in his absolute condemnation of slavery and slaveholders doesn’t make him a more important man. Lincoln’s moderation, his political and rhetorical expertise, even considered as partially corrupt, make him the more complex figure, precisely because Lincoln could communicate with those for whom Brown would have no patience. Lincoln was more representative of the complexities of the white, and majority, American imagination.

Brown’s politics was the fanaticism of the slaveholder’s brother, not the anger of the slave. Frederick Douglass thought the raid on Harper’s Ferry was much too dangerous. The genius of Lincoln stems from his relationships, belonging to the dominant party—moderate only in its own terms—of white America, and to the dominant language of American culture. That’s not a defense of Lincoln over Brown, or of corrupt moderation over radical action; both played their part. But any complex defense of either of them, including the possibility that Brown’s last raid was not foolhardy but a suicide mission, with the intent of driving the nation towards a final civil war, would have to be among other things, a defense of their self-awareness and of their political art. Both are important in the sense that Demoiselles d’Avignon is important: as useful to our understanding of history. But we return to them not to find answers but to ask questions that are still relevant to us, about emotions and moral responsibility, about our relations to each other.

My discussion to Harper’s Ferry and suicide missions is not the same as Karlheinz Stockhausen’s claim that the attacks on New York in 2001 were a work of art, let alone a great one. The attack was no more than spectacular stunt that killed thousands of people and led nowhere. It was in a very real way anti-political: a “fuck you”, “epater le bourgeois!” and it’s precisely the old avant-garde assumption that such violence is or ever could be an artistic gesture that allowed Stockhausen to say something so stupid. Taking Brown’s last acts seriously, as political strategy, the clear parallel is to Hamas, who are neither romantic idealists nor nihilists, but are committed as most experts agree to very specific and limited political goals. Hamas. like John Brown, and unlike al Qaeda are engaged.

The image of Palestinians in the western imagination is a perfect contemporary example of change in normative language. Over 30 years Palestinians have moved from absence to presence in our culture, while little about their own experience has changed at all. And any sociological analysis of that change in our perceptions would have to cover the entire political spectrum. Culture functions through relations of distance and proximity. Palestinian absence in the west was physical. But for Israel where they’ve always been physically present the most universal parallel is simple enough: the presence and absence of women. The original shock and continuing ambiguity of Manet’s Olympia has to do with the full presence of the central figure. She’s looking directly at us, without being very interested. The boredom itself was once shocking. But Manet made art out of the indifference of a naked whore the same way Duchamp made art out of a urinal, by moving something that was always in the world, from the background of our experience to the foreground. The change for Palestinians has been slow but simple moral logic has played no bigger a role from 1947 to 2010 than it did in 1860. The new Palestinian presence has allowed us to engage them and their experience for the first time. The Palestinian problem, modeled on the Jewish, Negro, or Woman, problems, has become the Israeli-Palestinian problem. But acknowledgement is no more than that. There is no way to work outside of time, to shorten the process of assimilation by imagining as philosophers do, an oxymoronic aperspectival view. All we can do is demonstrate the uselessness of arrogant presumption and the rhetoric of truth, and argue for replacing them, not with a fallacious truth of rhetoric, but the truth of process.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Adding more to the paper. Why not post it here.

"If the anthropocentric civilization of the Renaissance is headed, as it seems to be, for a 'Middle Ages in reverse'... " Erwin Panofsky wrote those words in 1955, in the introduction to a collection of his essays. The introduction, “The History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline”, is a resigned but damning criticism of the culture of instrumentalization, so it’s fitting that his definition of humanism now seems largely forgotten. In the older originating definition of the term, Erasmus was the humanist, not Luther; now Luther’s descendants are called humanists. Looking over the literature on Pollock, from Greenberg on, the references to the “Gothic” aren’t surprising. It’s become clear to me where my childhood associations of Pollock and Uccello begin. But you have to look farther into the past or to historians, not philosophers or theorists of the present to understand the implications. The reconstruction of humanism begins with a return to history, and a focus not on how various forms are distinct, isolated from one another, but how they’re related: tied together. I’ll end this with another passage from Clark, from Farewell to an Idea, the beginning of the chapter on Pollock: on Flaubert and Pollock and the fantasies of Modernism in modernity. You’ll hear echoes of Henry James on Eliot and of Bourdieu and Greenberg in their faithful taking of people at their word, following others’ fantasies as ideas rather than as descriptions of desire (and as echoes of/in a closet). As a critique of Bourdieu, [here] the passage is devastating
Farai un vers de dreit nien:
non er de mi ni d'autra gen,
non er d'amor ni de joven,
ni de ren au,
qu'enans fo trobatz en durmen,
sus un chivau.

(I shall make a poem out of [about] nothing at all:/it will not speak of me or others,/of love or youth, or of anything else,/for it was composed while I was asleep/riding on horseback.)

William IX of Aquitaine

Once Upon a Time. When I first came across the lines by the duke of Aquitaine some years ago, naturally I imagined them in Jackson Pollock’s mouth. They put me in mind of modernism; or of one moment of modernism which I realized I had been trying (and failing) to get in focus ever since I had read Harmonium or looked at Le Bonheur de vivre. Two things were clarified. Not just that modern artists often turned away from the detail of the world in order to revel in the work of art's "essential gaudiness," but that the turning away was very often associated with a class attitude or style not unlike Duke William's, or, at least, an attempt to mimic that style - its coldness, brightness. lordliness, and nonchalance. Its "balance, largeness, precision, enlightenment, contempt for nature in all its particularity."' Its pessimism of strength.

You might expect such an effort at aristocratic world-weariness on the part of bourgeois and even petty-bourgeois artists, operating in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries not the eleventh and twelfth, to bear some strange fruit.

Largeness and lordliness, after all, were not likely to be these artists' forte. Take the novelist Gustave Flaubert, for (central) example, at the beginning of work on Madame Bovary in 1852: already chafing at the he bit of reference that seemed to come with the form he had chosen and dreaming of "a book a about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would he held together by the internal strength of its style ... a book which would have almost no subject or at least where the subject would be almost invisible, if such a thing is possible.” What strikes me as truly strange in Flaubert's case is not so much the project he outlined for himself - though as an ambition for a novel rather than a sestina or a set of haiku it has its own pathos – as the distance between the book he imagined and the one he actually wrote. No book has ever been fuller than Madame Bovary of the everything external which is the bourgeois world. Fuller in its heart of hearts, I mean; fuller in its substance; in the weight it gives to words themselves. It is as if the more intense a bourgeois artist's wish to dispense with externals and visibilities, the stronger will be their hold an the work's pace, structure, and sense of its own objectivity. Or maybe we could say that what brings on the word "bourgeois" at all as a proper description of Madame Bovary is exactly the deadlock within it between a language so fine and cold that it hopes to annihilate the emotions it describes as it describes them, and an absolute subjugation to those emotions and the world of longing they conjure up. A deep sentimentality, not relieved but exacerbated by a further (ultimate) sentimentality about language – call it belief in the arbitrariness of the sign.
See also earlier posts: on Clark (Cafe Concerts), Eliot, Greenberg's snobbery (and cultural insecurity) and Marie Lloyd. All now plugged into the paper.
In order of appearance:
One
Two

See also the previous post
The artist as preacher, side show barker, and snake oil salesman. The Confidence Man.
"Artists. All Charlatans." (Flaubert)
"Men let your wallets flop out,
And women open your purses!"

...Webcor, Webcor

Friday, December 17, 2010



Jeff Wall: [Referring to Delacroix] Violence is only a theme in this kind of art; the art itself isn’t violent. That makes it very different from, even opposed to, the art of the avant-garde, which expresses aggression against the idea of art itself. This aggression is no longer viable. I don’t think its necessary or possible to go beyond the idea of bourgeois art -that is of autonomous art- towards a fusion of art and its context. Or if its possible it isn’t very desirable. We have learned how the aggression against autonomous art was consistent with aspects of totalitarianism, from the Stalinist period for example, and how state violence could benefit from that kind of aesthetic. The concept of art as autonomous, and therefore less amenable to that kind of instrumentalization, is a central concern of the modern, and I’m most sympathetic to that.

A-MB/RM: Modernity and avant-garde, to you, are two separate things?

JW: We can’t confuse them anymore.
A Democratic, a Bourgeois Tradition of Art: a Conversation with Jeff Wall,
Selected Essays and Interviews.
No choice
Prominent Hebrew University demographer Sergio Della Pergola recently told the Jerusalem Post that Jews already constitute just under 50% of the population in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip combined. In effect, a Jewish minority rules over a majority population that includes 1.4 million Palestinian (second-class) citizens of Israel, 2.5 million Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and another 1.5 million under siege in the open-air prison known as the Gaza Strip. All credible projections show that Palestinians will be the decisive majority within a few years.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

[reusing old graphics]




From the paper [see the link on the side of the page]

Again: the problem isn’t one of Analytic or Continental philosophy any more than one of (academic) left or right. The problem is philosophy itself: the placing of ideas over their enactment. If in the beginning was the word, then our world begins with God. If in the beginning was the act, then it begins with us. The Derridean critique of Logocentrism is little more than a critique of those who would be speak before their maker. Derrida is an exegete for whom secular literature is parasitic . Even when he could have been direct and to the point, as in his dismemberment more than deconstruction of John Searle’s arguments, in the essays published in Limited Inc , his indirectness shows as little more than the false modesty of an ostentatiously self-deprecating priest, constantly referring to a higher authority. His ‘performance’ as an author reminds me of my mother’s painfully deferential attitude when playing Bach; painful precisely because of her refusal to perform, as if to do so would be to usurp his authority. Derrida’s philosophy is as opposed to art as is any other form of Modernist intellectualism. How does his whispering discussion of “…the other” fit with the vulgar realities of theater or law? If an actor plays Macbeth, a fictional character, written by William Shakespeare, where’s the self? Can you imagine the theater reviews of Derridean passivity as applied to Hamlet? Deconstruction is nothing but the manifestation of hypertrophied individualism, overdetermined and under analyzed, glossed-over by the sincere desire to be something more. And sincerity is like intention, meaningless. Better the powerful insincerity of Olivier or a trial lawyer at the bar. Better philosophically, better politically.

The contemporary “theory of art”, if not of literature, music or film, begins not with art but with philosophy, with an individualism that’s foreign to the arts. The aristocratic arts have become bureaucratized to match the intellectual aristocracy of management. It was popular until recently in art/intellectual circles to argue against “mastery”, not against mindless technique in favor of communicative skill –not against Jazz fusion and for Charlie Parker or against Yes and for the Clash- but against craft as such in favor of the moral and intellectual mastery of ideas and the mind. And this bookish authoritarianism when allied to the pretensions of the academic bourgeois, left and middle, was called truth. th. In the acknowledgements of her intellectual biography of Clement Greenberg aptly titled ‘Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses , Caroline A. Jones thanks Benjamin Buchloh, historian, critic, and theoretician of high-seriousness in contemporary art, for his “stimulating aperçu regarding the ‘administrative sensibility’ of post-Greenbergian conceptual art.” It’s left at that.
It should be clear by now my point is that craft is less individualist than reason, whether the reason of the analytics or of the craftiness of theory, though as I’ve said, foreign thought is less translated than transliterated. And its readership is barely more sophisticated than Donald Davidson in his arguments against “conceptual schemes”. Americans are naïve about themselves. European socialists and social democrats are not American liberals and the writings of academics enamored of French theory are no more French than Johnny Hallyday is Elvis. Middle class Europe took working class America and made it sophisticated, removing the vulgarity. American middle class vulgarity takes European sophistication and replicates it in the university and mall. American theory is bureaucratized and humorless, self-indulgent and childish. It’s anti-cultural. Derrida was engaged as the product of culture. He was a priest. The argument against him, and its damning, is that he’s trying to use the language of the high church, or the high temple, to describe democratic responsibility, trying to reconcile a univocal God with a multivocal world. But the moral law of democracy says that meanings don’t come from God, or from above, but from below.
The aristocratic arts can’t represent or defend democracy any more than science can. Which is why in Europe unlike the US the aristocratic tradition still plays a role. The model of the intellectual as Bourgeois-Anti-Bourgeois or of the high and low against the middle, includes elements that are both radical and reactionary, and people are unafraid to criticize the banalities of democratic culture as they see it. This doesn’t happen so openly in the US and when it does, the superiority of the aristocrat, flaneur, or connoisseur is transformed into the snobbery of the technocrat and expert, even the expert in French theory. The insouciance of the boulevardier becomes the pedantry of middle management.
What is pure art according to the modern idea? It is the creation of an evocative magic, containing at once the object and the subject, the world external to the artist and the artist himself.

What is Philosophical Art according to the ideas of Chenavard and the German school? It is a plastic art which sets itself up in place of books, by which I mean as a rival to the printing press in the teaching of history, morals and philosophy.
-Baudelaire
Our works will not be judged for what we want from them but for what they appear be in others’ eyes. Numbers model but language represents. Formal structures can be tightly structured but their relation to the world is fluid. The authors of the Constitution understood that. Foucault understood that more than Derrida. The American intellectualism of bureaucracy, of theory and philosophy, of Social Text and Quine, doesn’t understand it at all.


----

Monets sell high at auction because they’re pretty not because they’re important, which is not to say that they aren’t both. Warhol sells for glamour not for terror, though their relation was his theme. That’s how the market for valuable commodities works. ...
Holbrooke

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Ron Vawter on One Life to Live.
The Wooster Group
[Thanks Clay]

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Friday-Fucking-Lunch-Club
(every-fucking-day)
Arguing with law professors comment removed
[all the comments are now stripped. I don't think I was arguing with Pasquale]
"Italian rules allowing candy makers including Nestle SA to label their products as “pure chocolate” breach European Union law, the region’s highest court said.

Permitting chocolate made from pure cocoa butter to be called “cioccolato puro,” or “pure chocolate,” clashes with EU-wide measures which allow chocolate laced with vegetable fats to be marketed as chocolate, the tribunal in Luxembourg said."
German roofers were under pressure from the EU a few years ago because in Germany you were not allowed to start your own company without 7 or 8 years of experience, and other countries were far less strict. But German roofers were considered the best in Europe. At the same time small batch cheese makers in Switzerland are under pressure now from industrial cheese manufacturers in Germany, who buy up all the milk.

Brad DeLong has come out in favor of cardboard tomatoes for the masses.
you have to either live in the countryside or live in the city and be really rich to say that rubber tomatoes suck. For those humans who live in the city and are not really rich, rubber tomatoes provide a welcome and tasty and affordable simulacrum of the tomato-eating experience.
The foundation of democracy is in citizens having and understanding conflicting interests: self-interest/fraternity, greed/pride, the obligations of a soldier/the obligations of a citizen [in a democracy those are opposed]. I know men who've sold for many millions, over decades,  to multimillionaires and billionaires, but who aren't more than millionaires themselves. For themselves, enough's enough. They're proud of what they sell. I was raised to know there's greed in the world. I was raised to think that greed is vulgar and a waste of time. Realism is realism concerning others; Yes? Were you raised to hold yourself to a higher standard? Maybe not. Neoliberalism says there is no higher standard, that non-contradictory law/contract is all there needs to be. [see: democracy, above]

And since you're linking to a discussion on your own page: Rawls was an idiot. The essence of law in a democracy is the practice of adversarialism: public argument. There is no "truth" beyond process. Philosophy is not foundational it's parasitic. But philosophy is foundational to neoliberalism.

I hope that answers your questions. Maybe now we can talk about democracy in Egypt and US support for kings, dictators and Israel. Zionism is racism (and liberal Zionism is an oxymoron).
Simple logic.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

SUBJECT: THE GREAT GAME, IN MESOPOTAMIA: IRAQ AND ITS
NEIGHBORS, PART I

...SAUDI ARABIA -- ANTI-SHIISM AS FOREIGN POLICY?
Iraqi officials view relations with Saudi Arabia as among their most problematic, although they are usually careful with U.S. officials to avoid overly harsh criticism, given our close relations with the Saudis.

SUBJECT: TERRORIST FINANCE:
... [D]onors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.

Other countries watching this exchange will marvel at Washington's weakness. A nominal U.S. ally that receives $1.5 billion in annual aid makes a mockery of democratic rights -- and is answered with mild and low-level expressions of regret and promises to do nothing other than "raise concerns where appropriate." The Obama administration appears to be thoroughly intimidated by Hosni Mubarak - when what it ought to be worried about is who or what will succeed him ."
FLC
The cognitive dissonance in the US press on foreign policy matches that on tax cuts and the deficit. Or maybe it's just that sham elections make it harder to ignore corruption. Or maybe it's just that sham elections are a sign of weakness, and weakness makes people nervous. People are impressed by the Saudis and by Republicans, and not afraid to show contempt for Mubarak and Democrats. The Darwinism of the schoolyard.
"The political men of Greece, who lived under popular government, did not know any other force capable of preserving it than virtue. Those of our own day speak to us of nothing but manufacturing, commerce, finance, wealth, and even luxury."

Montesquieu, On the Spirit of the Laws

Friday, December 03, 2010


Hitchcock. The Lodger, 1927
Taruskin [it all begins here]
About ten years ago I received out of the blue an offprint of an article from the University Pennsylvania Law Review called Law, Music, and Other Performing Arts, by Professors Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas and Jack Balkin of Yale. It was ostensibly a review of Authenticity and Early Music a collection of essays edited by Nicholas Kenyon, then the editor of Early Music magazine, and published by Oxford University Press in 1988 to which I had contributed. I read it with fascination and gratitude, the latter simply because the authors had so well understood the position I had taken in the debates about what was then known as authentic performance practice. in music My musical and musicological colleagues seemed unable to hear what I was really saying when I said that their ideas of historical performance practice, on which the. claim of authenticity was based, derived from a selective reading of history in the service of a modern -or, more strongly, a modernist- ideology. They thought I was claiming that what they were doing was incorrect or misguided or deceitful; but what I meant to imply (and even said outright on occasion) was that their accomplishment was actually far more important and authentic than they claimed or even realized, since it made them the authentic voice of their time, which was our time.

…In their review Levinson and Balkin focused on the claim of privilege to which proponents of "authenticity" felt themselves entitled by virtue of their superior knowledge (or so they claimed) of composers' intentions. The law professors understood that my strictures were not addressed only to this particular claim of privilege but to any and all such claims that sought to circumvent the judgment and preferences of listeners-that is, those most immediately affected by performance decisions. They understood and endorsed my equation of the authenticists' claim to objective knowledge of history with the modernist claim to objective knowledge of musical structure, and my contentions, first, that no one's knowledge of cultural artifacts can be the product of anything other than interpretation; second, that all interpretations are to be judged on a continuum; and third, that the only proper judges are living listeners, not dead authorities, be they composers, theorists, or instrument builders.

All works of art. I argued (and they agreed), are subject to social mediation. It is, indeed, the price of living. Social mediation is what renders works of art intelligible, and it is what gives them continuing relevance, And social mediation inevitably changes whatever it mediates. There can be no appeal to a higher authority, I said (and they agreed), and any attempt at such an appeal is in fact a covert assertion of the appellant's own authority, I wanted to hug them when I read the sentence I am about to quote, which so succinctly encapsulated everything I had been trying to say. "His complaint is that authenticists, like other ideologues, try to discredit competing presentations as 'incorrect' or, indeed, incompetent, when the proper focus should be on whether the performances are more or less enjoyable and artistically effective." Yes indeed, and doesn't it seem obvious. Ought it to require a musicologist and a pair of legal scholars to come up with such a truism? Maybe not, but apparently it does.
We define the present according to our values. You can argue if you want that our values are determined by material reality and that "intention" is illusion, but you cannot argue that ignoring questions of value solves the problem. If it did than being a "moderate" in the present in the US would be no different than being a moderate in 1939 in Berlin.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The real issue is, who is feeding Wikipedia on this issue -- Wiki -- Wiki -- WikiLeaks on this issue? They're getting a lot of information which seems trivial, inconsequential, but some of it seems surprisingly pointed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what are you referring to?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, for example, there are references to a report by our officials that some Chinese leaders favor a reunified Korea under South Korea.

This is clearly designed to embarrass the Chinese and our relationship with them. The very pointed references to Arab leaders could have as their objective undermining their political credibility at home, because this kind of public identification of their hostility towards Iran could actually play against them at home.
Concern about US clients, kings and dictators, having to answer to their people.
The China leak is bad news (or maybe not) for everybody.

The intellectuals are above it all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Guardian UK. The headline on the front page reads:
"US embassy cables leak sparks global crisis"
Sunlight
AA
FLC
[12/11. The arguments below and in related posts are included, in one form or another, in the paper linked on the right side of this page]

Academic neoliberalism: Bourdieu
“Shall we allow the social sciences to reduce literary experience –the most exalted thing we have, along with love- to surveys about leisure activities, when it concerns the very meaning of our life?” Such a question, lifted from one of the innumerable timeless defenses of reading and culture, would certainly have unleashed the furious mirth that the well-meaning commonplaces of his day inspired in Flaubert. [Preface]

"When for a certain time the human soul has been treated with that impartiality invested by the physical sciences in the study of matter, then an immense step will have been taken. It is the only way for humanity to rise a little above itself. It will then consider himself candidly and purely in the mirror of its works of art. It will be god-like, judging itself from on high. Well, I consider this feasible. It is perhaps, as for mathematics, just a matter of finding a method.” Gustave Flaubert. [p. 175]

The reading of Sentimental Education The Rules of Art is more than a simple preamble aiming to prepare the reader to enter into a sociological analysis of the social world in which it was produced and which it brings to light. It requires the interrogation of the particular social conditions which are the origin of Flaubert's Bourdieu's special lucidity, and also the limits of that lucidity. Only an analysis of the genesis of the literary field in which the Flaubertian Bourdieuian project was constituted can lead to a real understanding both of the generative formula at the core of the book and Flaubert's Bourdieu's craftsmanship in putting it to work [la mettre en oeuvre], objectifying in one fell swoop this generative structure and the social structure of which it is the product. [p. 47 (modified)]
I've done the same thing now three times in one month.

More stupidity from Bourdieu below. The empiricism of bureaucracy.
---

Jumping forward in time, see T.J. Clark. He does a better job than I do.
What strikes me as truly strange in Flaubert's case is not so much the project he outlined for himself... as the distance between the book he imagined and the one he actually wrote. No book has ever been fuller than Madame Bovary of the everything external which is the bourgeois world.
Bourdieu reads for intention and assumes others will read him in turn as he wants to be read. His friends may but strangers won't.
note taking posted elsewhere
From the blurb for Grosz' "Chaos, Territory, Art" linked above
Instead of treating art as a unique creation that requires reason and refined taste to appreciate, Elizabeth Grosz argues that art-especially architecture, music, and painting-is born from the disruptive forces of sexual selection. She approaches art as a form of erotic expression connecting sensory richness with primal desire, and in doing so, finds that the meaning of art comes from the intensities and sensations it inspires, not just its intention and aesthetic.
Find and Replace
Instead of treating scholarship as a unique creation that requires reason and refined taste to appreciate, Elizabeth Grosz argues that intellectual activity-especially theory, philosophy, and the humanities as such-is born from the disruptive forces of sexual selection. She approaches the humanities as a form of erotic expression connecting sensory richness with primal desire, and in doing so, finds that the meaning of works comes from the intensities and sensations they inspire, not just their intention.
I got two responses to that on the page, neither of which responded to the fact that the substitutions work.

You cannot remove politics from language. A note to Jack Balkin from 2003.
Balkin, and Taruskin

I should probably refer to the two of them more often. I don't, mostly because can't think of any time in my intellectual life when their supposedly surprising arguments were anything but a given. And I'm talking about listening on on dinner table conversations as a 10 year old.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bourdieu, from On Television
But journalistic forces and manipulation can also act more subtly. Like the Trojan Horse, they introduce heteronomous agents into autonomous worlds. Supported by external forces, these agents are accorded an authority they cannot get from their peers. These writers for nonwriters or philosophers for nonphilosophers and the like, have television value, a journalistic weight that is not commensurate with their particular weight in their particular world.

…What I find it difficult to justify is the fact that the extension of the audience [made possible by television] is used to legitimate the lowering of the standards of entry into the field. People may object to this as elitism, a simple defense of the citadel of big science and high culture, or even an attempts to close out ordinary people (by trying to close off television to those who with their honoraria and their and showy lifestyles, claim to be representative of ordinary men and women, on the pretext that they can be understood by these people and will get high audience ratings). In fact, I am defending the conditions necessary for the production and diffusion of the highest human creations. To escape the twin traps of elitism and demagoguery we must work to maintain or even to raise the requirements for the right of entry –the entry fee- into the fields of production.
You can see why American academic liberals like him. He’s certainly not a radical democrat. He makes claims for aestheticism and high art that Anglo-American social scientists would never make [he’s French!] but he renders culture, or Culture, non-threatening. He's Modernist, a concerned technocrat. And that he claims to understand culture makes him more of a vulgarian, not less.
Josh Marshall lies:
The hard reality is that there's no lack of plans -- there's a lack of political formula on either side to get there. That, or outside pressure.
"On either side." Israeli expansion has never stopped. Israel doesn't want peace it wants victory.
Helena Cobban
A repost from three weeks ago: interview with Khaled Mashal, at Open Democracy
August last year: Neve Gordon

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Italian rules allowing candy makers to label their products as “pure chocolate” breach European Union law, the region’s highest court said.

Permitting chocolate made from pure cocoa butter to be called “cioccolato puro,” or “pure chocolate,” clashes with EU-wide measures which allow chocolate laced with vegetable fats to be marketed as chocolate, the tribunal in Luxembourg said.
Pride has no place in economic logic. Sometimes the results are interesting.
Lovely and voluptuous, the actress Ingrid Pitt was given a choice early in her film career: pornography or horror. Ms. Pitt, who had spent her childhood in a Nazi concentration camp, later scoured Europe in search of her vanished father and still later was forced to flee East Germany a step ahead of the police, chose horror. It was a genre she knew firsthand.

...Ms. Pitt was born in Poland on Nov. 21, 1937. Her precise given name has been lost to time; British news articles have often rendered it as Ingoushka Petrov. Her father was German, her mother a Polish Jew, and in 1942 the Nazis picked the family up. Separated from her father and older sister, she was sent with her mother to the Stutthof concentration camp.

They were held there for three years. In interviews Ms. Pitt spoke of having seen her mother’s best friend hanged and her own best friend, a little girl, raped and beaten to death by guards. She recalled lying in the straw, dreaming of being someone else.

After the war she and her mother trudged from one refugee camp to the next, searching for her father and sister. They eventually found them, but by then her father was a broken man. He lived only five years more.

As a young woman Ms. Pitt was determined to be an actress. In the 1950s she joined the Berliner Ensemble, directed by Helene Weigel, the second wife of Bertolt Brecht, and based in East Berlin. A vocal critic of the East German Communist government, Ms. Pitt was pursued by the police on the night of her debut performance, in Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.”

Fleeing, she jumped into the River Spree with her costume on, only to be fished out by an American serviceman, Laud Roland Pitt Jr. In fitting dramatic style, she married him soon afterward. That marriage ended in divorce, as did her second, to George Pinches, a British film executive.

Ms. Pitt began her screen career with several minor films in Spain; that she spoke no Spanish was apparently no impediment. Her first significant picture in the United States was “Where Eagles Dare” (1968), starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.
This led to an audition for James Carreras, then the head of Hammer. As Ms. Pitt recounted in a 1997 interview with The Guardian of London, she prepared meticulously:

“I turned up at Jimmy’s office in a maxicoat, a mane of hair, lots of makeup and high leather boots,” she said. “I walked up to him, threw open my coat like a flasher. I was wearing the tiniest and lowest-cut minidress you can imagine.”
She added: “He took me, darling, but not in the way film moguls are said to.”

...Though horror films made her famous, Ms. Pitt rarely watched them. “I don’t want to see horror,” she told The New Zealand Herald in 2006. “I think it’s very amazing that I do horror films when I had this awful childhood. But maybe that’s why I’m good at it.”
Ingrid Pitt 1937-2010
Pitt of Horror

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Compare and contrast
1
One key to Germany's miracle is the mittelstand, as the family-owned small and mid-size manufacturing firms that dominate the economy are known. Last week, I visited AWS Achslagerwerk, a factory of one such firm, in the farmlands of Saxony-Anhalt, about two hours west of Berlin. As in many such companies, this factory turns out specialized products: axle-box housings for Chinese and German high-speed trains, machine tools requiring climate-controlled precision measurement. With annual revenue of 24 million euros, the factory has won a significant share of the world market, though it employs only 175 production workers.
2
Until Greece can find a way to disentangle the private sector from the family and find another way to allocate resources — free from the intergenerational, class and gender inequities of the family unit — no amount of reform will make a difference.

The European Union and the I.M.F. should forget about dismantling Greece’s (already puny) welfare state and increasing labor flexibility in the (already flexible) private sector. The public sector does need restructuring, but the resulting unemployment will only strengthen the dominance of the family. A better solution would be to create a real public safety net that would help free young Greeks from the supportive yet suffocating grip of their families.
Economics is an aspect of culture.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Posted again: On Korea
and here

update 11/24.
It's a bouncer's job to suppress violence not escalate it. Bumping chests with an angry drunk gets you fired. Ask bouncer. Ask a bar owner.
North Korea is an irrational actor, threats are counterproductive. They're so fucking counterproductive it's just stupid. South Korean military exercises are a given. The US should not be joining them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"The American middle class is guilty of two great crimes against American cities. First they left. Then they came back."

The above forwarded by a friend. Originally attributed to Michael Sorkin, who says he can't take credit, but wishes he could.
"The history of modern intellectual life more even than the history of modernity needs to be written by a historian from Mars".

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I've said this before: every time someone talks about objectivity vs bias in the American press, ask if there are any respected news outlets that are not explicitly pro-US.

The danger of Republican intransigence is that their interests are less over policy than politics itself, and they seem more loyal to the party than the country. In the language of the previous post, they have more interest in winning than they do respect for the process.

Democracy is a form of game: if the police search your house without a warrant the rules say it doesn't matter what incriminating evidence they find. A foul is a foul. But there is no referee in politics, so the job is left to the players themselves who are obliged to show respect for each other and for the institutions of which they have shared membership. Fraternal obligations of this sort are as important as rules. Social groups are founded in systems of reinforcement, so that trust relations can be kept between parties even when obligations are not followed, or when your roles in the group are adversarial.

There are other games of governance with different rules, but these also are underlaid by trust. Others with no rules at all. Monarchism is a game, but fascism is a pseudo-game where the rules and obligations are a sham. That's why fascism is so dangerous. It's also unstable.

It's a mistake to refer to truth values in games. They're simply decision-making processes, and by definition the process matters more than the results in each case. The result that matters is longevity.

The logic of liberal technocratic idealism weakens the game-playing of culture (in our case the culture of democracy) either by a focus on claims of truth that acts to undermine the primacy of procedure or by building models based on rules, which by definition cannot contradict one another, and not on obligations which by definition are in conflict. A system of rules alone results in a society of children.

Case in point: objectivity which becomes neutrality, except when it doesn't.

The people are used as pawns in arguments among members of the elite. For those who think the debt is the most important issue, the fact that the majority think otherwise is irrelevant; the electorate are either correct or misguided depending on which side you're arguing. But you can't come out and attack the people for stupidity when you disagree with them without being accused of elitism.

Contradictions aren't the problem, the unwillingness to face them is the problem.
I'm more concerned with jobs than with the debt.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The impressions are great, but it's a technical skill. What's best is the timing and the interplay. And you can see the effort; they're both working very hard on the fly.

I think what makes me laugh is the timing of the mutual exasperation. In word and gesture it works rhythmically as a kind of duet. It's a mixture of overt theatricality and realism. "You'wre only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"

Another kind of less convincing theatrical performance.


He waffles back and forth between arguing for "truth" and for subjective engagement. Sincerity is the protestation of honesty, it's an attitude not a function. That misunderstanding is behind what his audience reads as his mannered self-importance. He's not quite able just to defend honesty to his own educated opinions as in itself a valid methodology, so he acts and over-acts to convince us of more, going so far as to defend the moral integrity of corporations. He's an insecure suitor of public opinion. There's a lot of BS in his spiel but there's also real struggle. It's true [it is the case] that the ideal of objectivity devolves into neutrality, and that facts get in the way of maintaining the illusion. But it's also the case that interpretation is not only necessary but as subjectivity, inevitable: fact, value - value, fact. Honesty isn't the pretense at objectivity it's the awareness that others have their own opinions and a willingness to offer your own in good faith. Thinking of it in terms of sports, it's seeing your argument as part of a competition where you're more loyal to the game itself than victory. Which brings us back to the great and democratic tennis match in the first video.
---

If the videos are lost:
Scene from The Trip, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, dueling impersonations of Michael Caine.
Olbermann on Countdown, "False promise of objectivity proves  'truth' superior to 'fact'"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You may recognize the face.

Friday, November 12, 2010


The sooner we widen the popular understanding of everyday normalcy, the sooner we widen the definition of its opposite. I don't like the rich for being rich, though I like some of them in spite of it. I don't like billionaires at all. The culture of greed is monoculture/antidemocratic; diversity is a good.

If the Video's gone: Anti-Bullying, NOH8 Campaign. Gene Simmons
Marc Lynch and Robert Fisk on Lebanon. Annotations by FLC.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Open Democracy interview with Mashal

Sunday, November 07, 2010





[If the video is inaccessible search here]


Lawrence Lessig
In 1955 , a man got an idea (yes, that is ambiguous) for a new kind of social network. Here’s the important point: He built it. He had a bunch of extremely clever clues for opening up a social space that every kid (anyone younger than I am) would love. He architected that social space around the social life of the kids he knew. And he worked ferociously hard to make sure the system was stable and functioning at all times. The man then spread it to other places, then other communities, and now to anyone. Today, with more than 500,000,000 people served, it is one of the biggest networks in the history of man.
Lawrence Lessig is a fucking idiot.
I love the melancholy poetry of reactionary homosexual Fordist anti-humanism, even as I understand that it's founded in pain and self-hatred. But I don't give a shit if Lessig believes he's "recovered" from his childhood experiences. "Saint" Genet argued against prison reform because prisons made him what he was. Lessig should be so honest.

Poetry is observation not creation. "Creativity" is no more than inventiveness, and inventiveness is the intelligence of precocious preadolescence, of the mind before experience. To refuse as an adult to face the impact of experience is not to refute it but to deny it. "The Social Network is wonderful entertainment". The Social Network is a half-way decent work of popular art, constituted first, as all art is, in the asking of questions: "Who are we?" "What do we value?" I don't give a damn about his sexuality, but everything I've read by Lessig beyond his basic arguments is founded in ridiculous assumption; the inner logic is rigid and perverse. He claims to be interested in culture but doesn't know what it is. I'll say it again: the people behind The Social Network are more interesting than the people behind Facebook. "That undergraduate is now a billionaire, multiple times over. He is the youngest billionaire in the world." And we're supposed to be impressed by this, and by the socialism of bees.

Zadie Smith on Geeks.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Car bombs
IDF spokeswoman completely denies hinting Israel coordinated Gaza hit with Washington

I did not, in any way, say that," said the spokesman. DPA told Haaretz that they spoke with the IDF spokeswoman and had agreed to publish an additional story in which she was given an opportunity to clarify her remarks.
Asked whether Israel had coordinated the hit on Mohammed Nimnim, a commander in the Army of Islam group, with its American ally, the spokesman did not respond.
She did, however, refer to the tight relationship between the army and the U.S.
"Without getting specifically into more details, I can tell you there is very good cooperation between us and the Americans," she said.
"We have an ongoing relationship with the Americans, as well as with other forces, and from time to time we pass on information as with other sources," she said.
Nimnim, 37, was killed instantaneously when his car exploded outside a police station in Gaza City. Witness suggested the car was hit by a missile, while some media reports attributed the explosion to a planted bomb.
Palestinian security officials said later that they believed the explosion was caused by a bomb concealed under the drivers' seat.
Israel initially refused to comment on the attack but the IDF later confirmed it had carried out a joint operation with the Shin Bet security service.
Aside from the general weakness of democrats when it comes to politics,  Obama is a black man who's lived most of his life in a white man's world. He's a Prep School Negro: he's succeeded by coyness. He doesn't want to be seen as angry, and now he's being lectured by a white southerner, a bitter, reactionary, closeted homosexual.

Another sign of the problem (once you've followed the first link): the film's being shown mostly on the prep school circuit.

On the film: I doubt the girl who says "they wanted to touch my hair" went to the school the director and I went to. That would shock me. The son of the first black graduate was in my class and the editor of the school paper. He was a lifer; I started there at 6th grade. His mother taught there and for 12 more years after we left. His parents and mine had both been active in the movement in Philadelphia in the 60's.

The head of admissions was from the old light-skinned black aristocracy, married to a white man who was the founding director of the Philadelphia ACLU. My mother worked with him for 20 years (my father was on the board of the ACLU of Pennsylvania ). A. Leon Higginbotham sent at least one of his kids to the school, and the family lived up the block from us. I remember a speech to the students where he claimed that we were going to be the intellectual and moral leaders of the country. I remember it mostly for my anger. One of the newer teachers, black but very much not from the background of the Higgenbothams and the others, had done work in prisons and wore a dashiki. At 13 I'd tried awkwardly to ingratiate myself and it backfired. No great compliment or criticism to say we both enjoyed our outsider status, but that they weren't in any way equivalent.

I was an outsider in my neighborhood when I was young, but no one blamed me for being white, or acting white, so it wasn't much of a problem. We moved in 20 years after white flight. Our next door neighbors had been the block-busters. There was tension at first, with the suspicion that we were block-busters in reverse, buying to flip. When we stayed the worries went away. The neighborhood didn't change.

My brother's experience was different. My parents kept me out of public school, though they were never happy about it. Both were products of public education, but my brother had gone to one of the toughest high schools in the city as one of the only white students, and they chose to blame everything on the environment outside the home. My sister had made it into an elect city school, but they didn't want to take a risk with the younger son. A few years before she died I mentioned to my mother that I'd realized I'd always felt a constant low-level anxiety around the white working class. She scoffed at my rediscovery. "Of course. When your brother was bused out [briefly] he was terrified."

I told the editor I wanted to submit a piece on the change I felt after years at the school in my relations with old friends in my neighborhood. He thought my idea was too much to publish. Around the same time he wrote a piece about having Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden as babysitters. He's now at Ann Arbor, and he's written a book on black power in Philadelphia. His mother's on the lecture circuit.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Ai Weiwei
However Ai suspects that the order may be linked to two high-profile campaigns that have embarrassed and angered the Shanghai government in recent years. In 2008, Ai was instrumental in turning the case of Yang Jia, a man who stabbed six policeman to death after being arrested and beaten for riding an unlicensed bicycle, into an internet cause-celebre. This year Ai made a documentary to highlight the plight of a Shanghai-based activist-lawyer called Feng Zhenghu, who spent more than 100 days marooned at Tokyo's Narita airport after being refused entry to China eight times by Shanghai officials.

Last year Ai underwent cranial surgery after being beaten by police in Sichuan province when he went to give evidence in support of another activist, Tan Zuoren, who was jailed for investigating the collapse of thousands of schools in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008.

Ai, who is a relentless user of the microblog Twitter, is best known for co designing Beijing's Olympic stadium, the Birds Nest, which some hoped would herald a more open China. Ai has since renounced that work as a "fake smile".

"I think the intention is not have Mr Ai back in Shanghai after my involvement in those two cases," Ai added, "this is not about money. They have agreed to pay me back the money. It's about China after the Olympics, after the [Shanghai] Expo. These officials have no basic sense of truth. No morals." [Hey! They're paying you back!] To mark the demolition of the studio, Ai has issued an open invitation, via Twitter, to a party this Sunday at which he will serve 10,000 river crabs, a local delicacy but also an extravagant jibe at local officialdom.

In Chinese the word for river crab, "hexie", sounds very similar to that for "harmony", the ideological buzzword of the current regime which is frequently used ironically by Chinese internet users – as in "my new art studio has just been 'harmonised'."
Buyer beware. Ai is an "architect" who once showed a client a set of drawings then built something different and cheaper, splitting the cash with the contractor. The other building his contractor built on the site was designed by a boutique American firm, and if anything that was a bigger disaster, though the worst that could be said of the contractor in that case was that he did what he was told and laughed all the way to the bank. I'm sure Ai got a cut of that too.  At this point I'm willing to bet Ai signed on to the stadium project -as "artistic consultant"- always planning to attack it once it got built and he got paid, mixing politics, showmanship and greed. A brilliant way to play the game. All of this reflects on the work but not on the question of whether it's any good or not.


Study in Perspective: The White House, Tiananmen Square, Eiffel Tower, 
3 from a series of 7 Gelatin silver prints, each: 15 5/16" x 23 1/4", 1995-2003
Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, B/W prints each: 47 5/8" x 58 1/4"), 1995
As he said later, the 3 photographs are now more valuable than the 2000 year old pot he destroyed.
Lebanon: Gynecology Honor and the STL

Guantanamo: The Bell Curve for Muslims
The emotional testimony ended what had been a raucous day of cross examination of the prosecution’s forensic psychiatrist, who had called Khadr “Al Qaeda royalty” and assessed him as danger to Canada.

Michael Welner interviewed Khadr for about eight hours over two days this summer, but told the court he had spent 500-600 hours on the case.

Part of his assessment relied on the research of Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels, who has claimed that “massive inbreeding within the Muslim culture during the last 1,400 years may have done catastrophic damage to their gene pool.”

The author of Among Criminal Muslims, also has called the Qur’an “a criminal book that forces people to do criminal things.”

Welner appeared to become increasingly agitated as Khadr’s lawyer, Air Force Maj. Mathew Schwartz, challenged his credibility, saying Welner had delivered “hours and hours of hearsay-filled testimony.”

Welner defended his work as “cutting edge.”
Israel
Olmert: "Terror's origin is Islam."

Avnery: For years, the occupation authorities favored the Islamic movement in the occupied territories. All other political activities were rigorously suppressed, but their activities in the mosques were permitted. The calculation was simple and naive: at the time, the PLO was considered the main enemy, Yasser Arafat was the current Satan. The Islamic movement was preaching against the PLO and Arafat, and was therefore viewed as an ally.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Jan van Eyck (and Assistant), The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment, ca. 1430 Oil on canvas,
transferred from wood, The Metropolitan Museum, NY

Monday, November 01, 2010

Oligarchs and Absinthe Shots
Mr. Prokhorov, standing a head above everyone else in the room, surveyed the crowd. Rumors circulated that this was Nicole Kidman’s apartment, adding a bit of sex appeal that grew stronger as it was translated from Russian to English and back again. Someone claimed that Mick Jagger lived downstairs. People smiled and stopped the waiter with the caviar for one more bite.

Vladimir Yakovlev, the co-founder and editor of the magazine, briefly thanked the crowd before handing the microphone to his deputy, Masha Gessen, who read her speech from her iPad. Copies of the magazine were fanned across coffee tables — the cover carried an unflattering photo of Mikhail Gorbachev — but people paid more attention to the waiters carrying trays of absinthe shots.

...As plates of scallops and beef stroganoff floated around the room, a woman with a microphone climbed the staircase and tried to silence the “the snobs and ultra-snobs,” as she described the crowd. Moments later, Cassandra Wilson, the Grammy-winning chanteuse, emerged and, eyes closed, began to sing. The Russian conversations carried on, and the party livened up as a brass band took over and the dance floor filled with rowdy moves that included a couple that broke out in push-ups. For dessert, a waiter offered a fancy wine push-up pop. “It’s like a jello shot,” he said.

Because people are already totally in love with the Russian gazillionaire who is going to help ruin Downtown Brooklyn, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s magazine, Snob, is establishing a new home on New York newsstands this Wednesday, according to The Observer. "Russians living abroad have been rediscovering Russia," deputy editor in chief of Snob, Masha Gessen, told the Wall Street Journal. The lifestyle magazine hopes to promote this rediscovery and cater to the country’s elite class.
Jan van Eyck
I'm less bothered by the new barbarism than by the self-conscious intellectual culture that's unable to come to terms with it, that's unable to reconcile claims to liberalism, earnest idealism, and good intention, with a taste for high-living in service to the powerful. It's easier to have respect for honest bastards than their passive apologists. The people responsible for The Social Network may be more interesting than the people responsible for Facebook, but where does that leave Masha Gessen or her brother and the other editors of N+1?

Look at the smile. That's the face of a great bastard. You can't help but like him.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

AbuKhalil The sense from Lebanon.
I just returned from Lebanon last night. There is much nervousness about what is happening and what will happen. It is all about the Hariri tribunal and its much anticipated--not by me--decision. The US Middle East Zionist policy making apparatus is up in arms: because the March 14 movement is in such disarray. Jeffrey Feltman foolishly assumed that his visit to Lebanon (in the wake of his visit to Saudi Arabia) will be sufficient to revive a corpse. Feltman even thought he was being witty when he called on the Iranian president to learn from Lebanon's "pluralism". I wonder if he dared to ask the Saudi Wahhabi king to learn from the pluralism of Lebanon too. Feltman is furious at the transformation of Walid Jumblat: one of the most skillful--and most unprincipled--politicians in Lebanon. His value is not so much in the size of his constituency which is very small, but in his abilities in political rhetoric and sloganeering. The best gift that Hizbullah has ever attained--outside of Iranian support--is the stupidity of Sa`d Hariri. This is the talk of the town. You hear Sunnnis and Shi`ites, pro-March 8 and pro-March 14 all talk about the stupidity of this lucky or unlucky man--depending on the outcome. It is not that he has not shown any signs of progress or learning or even accumulated experience but he has squandered one political opportunity after another. He is mocked widely for spending so much time outside of Lebanon. He leaves for Al-Riyadh to receive orders form the Saudi King or his lieutenants at the drop of a hat. He has even squandered his fortune in stupid business moves: he bought the share of his brother Baha' only to lose much of it later. But make no mistake about it: I learned that much of the Hariri expenditure in Lebanon is in fact Saudi money--and mostly from the budget of Prince Muqrin who may be replaced soon, probably by a son of Prince Salman. There is so much going on in Lebanon: just like Lebanon in the 1950s, so many foreign and domestic intelligence services are in conflict in Lebanon. This is a place infested with spies--not only Israelis. I am told one of the spies for Israel (who has not been arrested for lack of evidence) is a high ranking Lebanese Army officers who was slated to succeed Jean Qahwaji as commander-in-chief (Qahwaji is bitterly anti-Israel and fiercely anti-Lebanese Forces. He has sent a private message to Lebanese Forces that any attempt to "descend on the ground" will be met by force by the Army). That Lebanese officer has not been expelled: he has been removes from all his powers and allowed to sit home and watch the sunset. There is much alertness vis-a-vis Israeli spies. I would dare say that the Lebanese Army intelligence in cooperation with Hizbullah and even the Intelligence Apparatus (a Hariri arm inside the Lebanese Internal Security Forces) have dealt the most sever blow to Israeli intelligence work since the creation of the Zionist entity. I can't think of any bigger blow to Israel's intelligence by any Arab government or the PLO since 1948. If the Western media are not part of the conspiracy to protect Israel and its interests and if the Western journalists are not by and large cowards in terms of their unwillingness to defy the Israeli military censor, they would be in the front of this story. Image if the tables are in reverse: if these are Israeli successes against say Hizbullah or Syria's intelligence. Don't forget that a high ranking Israeli military officer in Israeli military intelligence with responsibilities that cover Lebanon had killed himself at his desk last year. Where is the Western media. Not all Israeli spies are handled by Lebanese state: some are handled quietly and privately by Hizbullah. And some spies are turned over by Hizbullah to Lebanese Army intelligence. I am told that even the lousy Syrian regime has been able to capture Israeli spies although none of the cases have been announced for fear the regime let it known that it makes mistakes. Egyptian intelligence is very active in Lebanon: they are now controlling the Salafite groups and criminal gangs in and around Tripoli. To be sure, former general Jamil Sayyid (who is obsessed with his unfair imprisonment by Hariri tribunal for four years while forgetting about injustices under his rule during the era of Syrian control) named the Egyptian diplomat handling Lebanon on behalf of `Umar Sulayman (chief of Egyptian Intelligence. Bizarrely, chief of Arab Relations in Hizbullah, Hasan `Izziddin, met with the guy a day afterwards but I am told that he improvised. Hizbullah is now handling Lebanon with far more effectiveness but the stories of corruption of high officials (the political wing) are spreading. I feel that since 2006, Hizbullah suffered from the absence of Hasan Nasrallah who used to manage and micro-manage affairs of the party. But some political figures of Hizbullah are now disliked and mocked by constituents. This does not affect the "resistance branch" of the party which is kept apart and separate from the political wing. I have not met with Hasan Nasrallah in the last three recent visits to Lebanon. I did not even ask for an interview this last time Some said that "they" are displeased with me because I have been critical of the party in my weekly articles in Al-Akhbar and in this blog, especially my long articles detailing "the manifestations of Hizbullah's sectarianism" which had appeared in Al-Akhbar but have not been translated into English. Some have even complained to me that I refer to Hasan Nasrallah as Hasan Nasrallah in my articles in Al-Akhbar while I was told that even his rivals in Lebanon refer to hims as Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah. I explained, not that I have to explain, that I abhor and avoid titles of any kind in my Al-Akhbar articles. I am told that the skill in which Hizbullah has politically handled Lebanon in recent times is due to the re-entry of Syria as the key decision maker on behalf of March 8, and the realization that Hizbullah and its allies have really screwed up since the assassination of lousy Rafiq Hariri--one of the worst men in Lebanese history and probably second only to Bashir Gemayyel--the worst Lebanese EVER. I have heard stories about the corruption of Michel Sulayman: so add that to corruption of Nabih Birri (speaker of parliament) and the wide corruption of Harri Inc and you understand the place better. Sulayman--who has no political power to speak of--tries to appear sympathetic to every person he meets, and even from rival camps. After all, he was first anointed by Husni Mubarak. People are very afraid and nervous in Lebanon: strangers and politicians ask me what will happen next. I don't do fortune telling but I dont see a civil war. The place will continue to be on the verge of civil war but a wide escalation into a civil war is very unlikely because the balance of power is so heavily tipped in favor of Hizbullah. Hizbullah has no plans to take over Lebanon all at once. They know that their sectarian identity and structure limit its ambition. That is a major handicap politically speaking in the wake of successful Saudi sectarian warfare in Lebanon. I see that Israel will resort soon to covert operations/terrorism to strike at Hizbullah. I am told that the Hizbullah official who was killed in Burj Abi Haydar during the clash there was in fact the work of a lone sniper--probably on behalf of Israel. I learned that reportedly goons of Salim Diyab (militia leader for Hariri family) was behind the burning of the mosque in Burj Abi Haydar during that few hours of clash between Hizb men and men loyal to Ahbash (a pro-Syrian militia). One scenario has it that the clash was instigated by Syrian intelligence. People ask me if they should store food: and I invariably ask them to store Hummus. I don't like Beirut: it is too noisy and too dirty and too pretentious and too sleazy and too ugly and too lost and too dazed and too polluted and too stressful and too corrupt and too fake. I find I am more comfortable in places outside of Beirut. I really liked Tripoli last summer but if only I can strip it of religious and conservative and sectarian influences. I bet I would ve liked that city in the 1960s and 1970s. I can't live or retire in Lebanon. It stresses me too much. Of course, there are good and great people there: people who fight against racism and sexism and for boycott of Israel and against any normalization with that entity. I often generalize but I know that my generalizations are more about the political and popular cultures of Lebanon. I have more to say but I feel I should stop. I need to plant a potato.
Friday Lunch Club adds editorial highlights to Rami Khouri

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A comment on Stewart and Colbert, here.

Jon Leibowitz and Barack Obama share an outsiders' insecurity. And Stewart has an advantage: he's not trying to get elected. He had an opportunity today to be more than a smart comedian and he didn't take it. By that I don't mean that he copped out in terms of some ideal of politics but that he copped out of the possibilities of his own politics. Solely on his own terms I think he made a mistake.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

[see also earlier post]

Simon Blackburn defends quasi-realism (preprint)
...The crucial passage in Egan’s paper reads as follows:
For me to be fundamentally in error, I need to have some moral view that’s (a) stable, and (b) mistaken. But given Blackburn’s account of moral error, this can’t happen. For my moral belief that P to be stable is for it to be such that it would survive any improving change (or course of improving changes). For my moral belief that P to be mistaken is for there to be some improving change (or course of improving changes) that would lead me to abandon P. So on Blackburn’s account of moral error, a moral belief is mistaken only if it’s not stable. So for me to be fundamentally in error, I’d need to have some moral view that was (a) stable, and (b) not stable, which I pretty clearly can’t have.

So if I’m a reflective quasi-realist, I can know in advance, just by thinking about what moral error is, that I can’t be fundamentally morally mistaken. (Egan 2007: 214)
Now unfortunately this is not quite right, and the extent to which it misses being an accurate formulation of anything the quasi-realist ought to accept is critical. It is not quite right that for a belief that p to be stable is ‘for it to be such that it would survive any improving change (or course of improving changes)’. This gives a criterion of stability in terms of whatever is an improving change. Whereas as we have seen, officially stability is a matter of surviving anything that the subject would regard as an improving change, either antecedently, or post hoc. Without this conflation, the result that a moral belief is mistaken only if it is not stable does not follow, and the contradiction does not follow either. To see this, let us distinguish the two ideas more carefully. It is the difference between:

(M) If something is entrenched in my outlook, in such a way that nothing I could recognize as an improvement would undermine it, then it is true.
(I) If something is entrenched in my outlook, in such a way that nothing that is an improvement would undermine it, then it is true.

The first of these is the gun Egan would point at the quasi-realist: the a prioricity of (M) would deliver a kind of first-person smugness that I was concerned to avoid. The second is very different. It talks of immunity to actual improvement: something at least close to Crispin Wright’s notion of superassertibility. And it may be a priori that if something is immune to all actual and possible improvement, then it is true—given a natural connection between improving and getting towards the truth. But (I) is not a problem, for it introduces no asymmetry between myself and others. If I hold (I) to be a priori true, I should equally hold its impersonal version to be so:

(I´) If something is entrenched in anyone’s outlook, in such a way that nothing that is an improvement would undermine it, then it is true.

For that matter, neither version of (I) introduces anything specific to ethics: it may be a priori that if someone’s belief that the film starts at eight o’clock is immune to improvement, then it is true. For if it were false, then an improvement is clearly on the cards, namely replacing it with the truth. Deflationism about truth is quite compatible with (I´). A deflationist will interpret it as a generalization corresponding to the schema ‘if p then an outlook which includes ¬p is capable of improvement’ and under any acceptable interpretation of improvement, this will be something to be asserted.

So a swift rebuttal on my part would be simply to reject the conflation between (M) and (I).
Blackburn's analogy: "if someone’s belief that the film starts at eight o’clock is immune to improvement, then it is true. For if it were false, then an improvement is clearly on the cards, namely replacing it with the truth."

And mine:


Venus de Milo front and side views

Outlook/Viewpoint/Point of view. My analogy takes outlook literally to mean a view from a place, in this case in front of the statue. The side view is off limits.


Analogy is a literary device. Blackburn's "swift rebuttal" is lawyer's rhetoric and mine is no better. But we can respond to him in other ways and with arguments that should be obvious to any educated non-philosopher:

How forceful would arguments for the equality of women have been without arguments by women? Is there a substantive [non-political] reason for women and minorities to be represented in government? Why do we separate the executive and legislative, the prosecution and defense?

I've said all this before and none of the points are original. Blackburn is struggling to hold on to an ideal of moral individualism, and quasi-realism only makes sense if you let go of it. Lawyers are under no requirement to believe in the truth of their clients' arguments. Their only obligation is to represent them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'll point to this out again and again, because every time the subject comes up the only response is defensive anger.

Empiricism and the Cartesian subject: "The only morality beyond question is my own. I define myself; other definitions apart from those of friends who are as well-meaning as I am, are irrelevant."

Is there a moral difference between pushing a man off a bridge and flicking a switch that starts a motor that moves a bar that knocks him off?  Is there a moral difference to the man being pushed? The Anglophone philosophers' favorite, the Trolley Problem, doesn't ask.

Continental philosophers try to construct or invent a fluid self in rhetorical language, a romanticized idealized self/other; they try to bridge in language a gap that's unbridgeable in the world. Continental philosophy is literature.  Anglo-American technocrats write how-to manuals and try to will that gap away.

I pick and choose from the same cast of characters, but for real estate I rely on Atrios.

Duncan Black
Getting A Little Less Hellish All The Time.
While people generally think of gentrification as the process wealthier residents displacing poorer ones, it's also about revitalizing retail/commercial corridors that have become a bit, well, hellish. When I first got to the urban hellhole there were only a few locations I would think to direct visitors to, not because the city had nothing else to offer, but because areas were a bit spotty if you didn't have a destination in mind. Now there are many more.
His neighborhood
...prior to the government intervention and development provided by Hope VI, the neighborhood was predominantly African American, however, since federal intervention the community is 67% White, 12% Black, 15% Asian, and 6% Latino.
[The stats are from Wikipedia and unsourced. This seems to confirm them]

Duncan Black
While I think quite often concerns about urban gentrification are a bit misplaced, an exception to that is when the poor get priced out of areas with access to decent mass transit. [etc.]
The Guardian
Councils plan for exodus of poor families from London.
Ministers were accused last night of deliberately driving poor people out of wealthy inner cities as London councils revealed they were preparing a mass exodus of low-income families from the capital because of coalition benefit cuts.

Representatives of London boroughs told a meeting of MPs last week that councils have already block-booked bed and breakfasts and other private accommodation outside the capital – from Hastings, on the south coast, to Reading to the west and Luton to the north – to house those who will be priced out of the London market.

Councils in the capital are warning that 82,000 families – more than 200,000 people – face losing their homes because private landlords, enjoying a healthy rental market buoyed by young professionals who cannot afford to buy, will not cut their rents to the level of caps imposed by ministers.
Atrios and Zadie Smith

Monday, October 25, 2010

Technocrats don't know what cosmopolitanism is, they only know what they want it to be. As with discussions of humanism they refer to their assumptions, and philosophy professors and historians follow different definitions of that word. [Realism in philosophy and political science are unrelated, so the problem is entirely different.]

Historically, cosmopolitanism is an assumption of universalism only as overlaying the particular. It's the acceptance of contradiction, not the assumption that it can, will, or even should be overcome. Technocracy cannot value the particular. It couldn't function if it did, and overdetermined particularism as narcissism is blowback. What's been missing from this argument is that it's not a blowback from technocracy as such but from the idealization of technocracy as "Modernism". Modernity, as a fact, needs to be separated from its romance.


I've referred more than once to the anti-humanism of science culture and of the culture of tattoos and tribalism. Click through again to find the description of the photo below, or just click here.

Science Tattoos and Chefs' tattoos
Also to the humanism implicit in the transformation of contemporary Islam.

2004: A protester against a proposed ban on headscarves, Lille, Northern France. Notice the tricolor.

2004 Tehran

Tattoos act now as a form of ideologizing armor: a mark of overdetermined individualism in a culture and age of anonymity. The equivalent in Islam would be the radicalized sons and daughters of assimilated immigrants, girls who adopt the burqa in rebellion against their parents' wishes, transforming an act of public discretion into an act of aggression, accepting the western judgment of foreignness and using it as a weapon. Defensive radicalism is always a sign of insecurity. The settler extremists are deeply insecure in their overdetermined Jewishness. But who's to judge confidence from insecurity, conservative from reactionary?
From 2006 [but going back 20 years earlier]
In the five lectures on psychoanalysis Freud says that as the result of a successful treatment repression is replaced by "a condemning judgement". He doesn't explain the difference between the two. What's the difference between "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother" and "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother"

["What then, becomes of the unconscious wishes which have been set free by psycho-analysis? along what paths do we succeed in making them harmless to the subject's life? There are several such paths. The most frequent outcome is that, while the work is actually going on, theses wishes are destroyed by the rational mental activity of the better impulses that are opposed to them. Repression is replaced by a condemning judgment carried out along the best lines. That is possible because wheat we have to get rid of is to a great extent only the consequences arising from earlier stages of the ego's development. The subject only succeeded in the past in repressing the unserviceable instinct because he himself was at that time still imperfectly organized and feeble. In his present-day maturity and strength, he will perhaps be able to master what is hostile to him with complete success."]
If life is social life then others judge us as we judge them. It's up to our audience to decide if our performative displays are open or defensive. And we are the audience for others' actions. As I've said -and everything here I've said before- in Turkey the hijab is more modern than the symbolism of the military.

2003
Earlier tonight my neighbor told me he's gotten a break; he's not going to do any time. He was arrested a few months ago for pistol-whipping someone on the subway in a drunken rage (the gun was legal). And he's going to be able to keep his job. I told him I was happy for him, which I am. He showed me the head of Jesus that he's having tattooed on the left side of his chest and stomach. He said the one his mother won't be so happy about, also of Jesus, will be on the other side; the face will have horns and will be screaming in pain. I said Jesus had had a hard life. He said it was probably closer to the expression Jesus had on his face before he died. We talked for a few minutes. He said it doesn't matter what side you worship, you'll will be taken care of, but that now he's worshiping "the better angel." I said life is complex. He said no, it's simple. It's just hard.