Sunday, August 29, 2010

Five years later, a richer, whiter New Orleans.
Statistically, New Orleans is experiencing something of a boom. But don't be fooled about the reason why.
Repeat, from a few months ago.
Duncan Black's neighborhood was majority black before the redevelopment that brought him in. It's now 67% White and 12% black.

"I generally think concerns about the ill impacts of urban gentrification are overblown."

"Contretemps at Cato" again (see below). Another tack.
Brink Lindsey's article in support of a future war against Iraq.
Well, I beg to differ. Iraq is no joke: The crimes that the Baathist regime there has committed and may intend to commit in the future are deadly serious business. Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has invaded two of its neighbors...
The first of those two invasions -the attack on Iran- was supported by the US. Lindsey knew this. If he regrets his support for the war, does he regret lying in defense of his position? Read the whole thing. As someone wrote on the thread at CT, it's hard to see it as argued in good faith. Either way it's argued by an idiot. But it's not a question of politics and bedfellows but of whom you choose actively to defend and why. Friendship needs no defense, but friendship doesn't require you to defend a friend's position. An inability to separate friendship and opinion weakens both.

Another example (and another repeat). Two obituaries by Brad Delong.
Jeane Kirkpatrick
Let me express my condolences to her two surviving sons John Evron and Stuart Alan Kirkpatrick, whom she loved beyond all measure.
She was a good friend to my grandfather Earl. She was an American and a world patriot: her counsel--even at its most boneheaded--was always devoted to advancing the security of the United States and the cause of liberty and prosperity around the world.
William Safire
Let the record show that William Safire spent the last 35 years of his life being loyal to his longtime boss Richard Nixon: trying not so much to build Richard Nixon up but to tear everyone else he thought he could--Bert Lance, Jimmy Carter, Nancy Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton--down to Nixon's level...
If DeLong had had a family connection to Safire he would have found a way to write something more respectful. Kirkpatrick's record of corruption in defense of what she would consider moral is no more or less public than Safire's. When DeLong defends Kirkpatrick he's putting friendship and family loyalty before politics, though he won't admit it. Friendship is fundamentally emotional, and DeLong's response is an example of the "tribalism" that technocrats call anti-modern. He'd be horrified to admit he's acting like a Sicilian peasant (or a Neapolitan aristocrat).

When Henry Farrell defends Lindsey and Wilkinson he's claiming also that friendship with people of good faith comes first. But that argument again falls flat, clearly at least in Lindsey's case. And I can't see where the possible existence of good faith helps Wilkinson much. But Farrell is trying more than anything to defend his own relation to their larger ideas. He's defending his own dreams of a social democratic/libertarian hybrid by defending those who might help foster it, even if they're purblind rubes and idiots. His loyalty is less to them than to his fantasy.

Slow change in language: Ali Abunimah in the NY Times.

It shouldn't be so hard for "rational" "logical" and "reasonable" people to recognize the obvious, but it is. And that's because people are not "rational" "logical" and "reasonable", they operate on patterns of assumption. The facts haven't changed in Israel in 40 years.
The conflict in Northern Ireland had been intractable for decades. Unionists backed by the British government saw any political compromise with Irish nationalists as a danger, one that would lead to a united Ireland in which a Catholic majority would dominate minority Protestant unionists. The British government also refused to deal with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, despite its significant electoral mandate, because of its close ties to the Irish Republican Army, which had carried out violent acts in the United Kingdom.

A parallel can be seen with the American refusal to speak to the Palestinian party Hamas, which decisively won elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006. Asked what role Hamas would have in the renewed talks, Mr. Mitchell answered with one word: “None.” No serious analyst believes that peace can be made between Palestinians and Israelis without Hamas on board, any more than could have been the case in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein and the I.R.A.

The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable. Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?

As for violence, Hamas has inflicted a fraction of the harm on Israeli civilians that Israel inflicts on Palestinian civilians. If violence disqualifies Hamas, surely much greater violence should disqualify the Israelis?

It was only by breaking with one-sided demands that Mr. Mitchell was able to help bring peace to Northern Ireland. In 1994, for instance, Mr. Mitchell, then a Democratic senator from Maine, urged President Bill Clinton — against strenuous British objections — to grant a United States visa to Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader. Mr. Mitchell later wrote that he believed the visa would enable Mr. Adams “to persuade the I.R.A. to declare a cease-fire, and permit Sinn Fein to enter into inclusive political negotiations.” As mediator, Mr. Mitchell insisted that a cease-fire apply to all parties equally, not just to the I.R.A.
Friday Lunch Club

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Veronese Collage, Final. Printed at 11"x 14"

Murakami/August, 12"x 16"
The opponents of Park51, the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” have decided that the litmus test for identifying “good Muslims” is to ask them whether they regard Hamas as a terrorist organization.

...It was only two years ago that Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress were removed from the US terrorism watch list — that was 15 years after Mandela had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Substantive due process in argument.
"Contretemps at Cato" Defending Will Wilkinson and Brink Lindsey.
Quoting Wilkinson (From the 4th link in the first line, here)
5. The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein. This is the first intellectual book I ever reviewed in print. I gave it a mixed review in the Northern Iowan. (I think I had some misgivings about some of the race and IQ stuff, but I understood that it was not a book about race.) A sociology professor either sent me an email or wrote a letter to the editor (I don’t remember which!) condemning me for not condemning the book for being racist. This was my first taste of the excitement and frustration of participating in public intellectual life. I was impressed with Murray’s fortitude and grace in the face of what seemed to me to be outrageously unfair, truly scurrilous attacks. And it helped me understand the difference between trying hard to honestly think through tough social problems because you care and mouthing comfortable pieties in an effort to get credit for caring.
Henry Responds [back and forth]:
"to the contrary – the discussion of Herrnstein and Murray in Kieran’s post can reasonably be read as a quite eloquent and extremely pointed comment – “

"Henry, I didn’t say anyone here approved of the book. But you enjoy the white man’s luxury of magnanimity."

"? ? ? I’m presuming this is a slur of some class, but it’s honestly too cryptic for me to understand, let alone be insulted by …"
I wasn't perfectly clear, but I'm not sure I should have had to be. A black man wouldn't be as generous to Wilkinson as Henry and Kieran Healy are, and I doubt most Iraqis would have much to say to Lindsey. Is Henry saying it should be otherwise?

With Wilkinson as with Orin Kerr, Farrell make an argument for personal civility as morality. That's valid to a point: the point where due process undermines moral substance. And that point is a one of contention: it only exists as a floating place for argument, landing temporarily at one point or another. The linked post is an example.
Agree or disagree with Henry, his stance/bias/point of view is fundamentally conservative. And he doesn't see, or can't imagine, any point other than his own. To him, implicitly if not always explicitly, his view is not a "perspective" originating from a point in space, but a consciousness spread out over every inch of an open field, as a disembodied presence. [We've been here before] He argues one side -for sincerity and civility- without seeing the other. He condescends to simple anger. But am I ready to assume that Lindsey feels the full weight of the the deaths of Iraqis on his conscience? That Wilkinson is fully cognizant of the place of racism in American culture? That any of them understand the Palestinian reality? And to understand the "the Palestinian reality" is to understand a subjective reality, like his own. Subjectivity is a given. But discounting his own he is able to discount others'.

Henry argues about ideas, that's true for all of them; but you have to intuit the relation of ideas to bodies. Late in the discussion of Greenwald and Kerr he seems to begin to understand
Orin – as Belle suggests in the post I linked, one can create a hypothetical in which the sound utilitarian thing to do is to torture an innocent three year old to death. Does this tell us anything useful about whether it is right or wrong to torture three year olds to death? Are we merely negotiating over the circumstances under which torturing three year olds is OK and not OK...?
But they all exhibit a kind of blindness more offensive than simple racism. It's the moral cowardice of a certain kind of intellectual: the innocence of childhood maintained into adulthood.

Farrell believes while claiming not to, that's the lie. He defends Wilkinson and Lindsey because he likes them, because they have something in common; the defense of principle is secondary. He's acting out of preference without being able to admit it. He exhibits a youthful lack of irony, and more importantly for an intellectual he doesn't understand why irony is necessary.
Doing these cases,” he wrote, “I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate. I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying. I was no longer entirely what my professional duties demanded, the old taxi on the rank waiting for the client to open the door and give his instruction, prepared to drive off in any direction, with the disbelief suspended."
Naturalist epistemology, language without irony [without politics], in imitation [as allegory] of the hard or formal sciences, as reason not without but in denial of subjectivity [the view of the subject], ends in failure.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aber etwas fehlt

Sitting in a bar reading Limited Inc.. One table away a young couple were facing a crisis. It would be hard to count the layers of falseness and dissembling, of performing for and lying to each other and themselves, of false confidence, feigned indifference, contempt and self-abasement, all as reflex. It was a less sophisticated version of Derrida and Searle. Ressentiment

A work of art is both fundamentally a thing unto itself -though affected by others and events- and a communicative act. The same was true of the couple's actions, as self-directed formalism and outward-directed performance. And most of the communication was in subtext. The spoken "I love you" was secondary to the unspoken, "I can walk away". And beneath that were all the communicated subtleties, if communicated is the right word, in gestures read by the audience but most likely not by the performers.

A novel is a thing crafted out of a plot, and judged as that. It's less an essay than a house. Language, as event and communication is an aspect of life. Philosophy and theology are parasitic on that. Literature, art, is both descriptive and formal. History, describing both art and the world, is observational and secular.

Derrida wants to replace the historian of art with the philosopher of art. Searle represents those who oppose history itself.
And we're suppose to choose one or the other.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

“We prefer division and no elections to reconciliation and elections.”

The Economist
Western policymakers, now straining to get direct talks to resume between Israel and the PA, with luck in the next few weeks, seem in no mood to promote a new round of elections that could lead to another triumph for Hamas. Fatah, the faction they favour, is fractious and disorganised. Faced with Egypt’s proposal for a new caretaker government to succeed the rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza and to prepare for elections there, the American administration and the European Union have both balked. “The last thing many in Europe want is for Hamas to regain an executive role in the West Bank,” says a European official. “We prefer division and no elections to reconciliation and elections.”
Bones have been discovered in a villa on Ile Verte, near Grenoble, belonging--she admits it--to the clandestine offspring of Mme. P.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A neighbor who Nasruddin didn't like very much came over to his compound one day. The neighbor asked Nasruddin if he could borrow his donkey. Nasruddin not wanting to lend his donkey to the neighbor he didn't like told him, "I would love to loan you my donkey but only yesterday my brother came from the next town to use it to carry his wheat to the mill to be ground. The donkey sadly is not here."

The neighbor was disappointed. But he thanked Nasruddin and began to walk away. Just as he got a few steps away, Mullah Nasruddin's donkey, which was in the back of his compound all the time, let out a big bray. The neighbor turned to Nasruddin and said, "Mullah Sahib, I thought you told me that your donkey was not here. Mullah Nasruddin turned to the neighbor and said, "My friend, who are you going to believe? Me or the donkey?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Feisal Abdul Rauf of The Cordoba initiative is a new age Sufi.

Unfortunately at some point sticking to principle can become counterproductive. Politics is messy, and those opposed to messiness on principle are opposed to politics. A reader writes to Brian Leiter
I thought you and your readership might find the video at the following link quite interesting. It's by the marginally sentient folks at and it might be the finest example of a genuine ad misericordiam fallacy presently in captivity (a rare species one would think). Warning: it might make you physically ill, if you've recently eaten.

I fear for the future not only of our country, but of intelligent discourse, and the human race.
Whatever else you can call it, a video of people who lost family members on 9-11 speaking in opposition to Cordoba House is no more founded on a logical fallacy than a video of holocaust survivors protesting a Catholic convent within the perimeter of Auschwitz. The question is whether the analogy between the two is strong enough to warrant the comparison. I think it isn't and that the entire episode was ginned up by the right, but at some point that's irrelevant.

Remember that Brian Leiter is in favor of regulating hate speech, and examples like the challenges to Cordoba are where such restrictions lead. The construction of the mosque is being called an insult, and who's to say it isn't for some people. Should we care? I assume Leiter would have argued against the Nazis' right to march in Skokie, but the ACLU defended them. The Nazis were trying to cause trouble and the backers of Cordoba House were not, but it found them.

In politics prudence is a valid principle, and the fact that other principles conflict with it does not invalidate it or them. Politics comes down to cases.

Both the letter writer and Brian Leiter ignore the most obvious example of the ad misericordiam fallacy in contemporary culture: the argument that European Jews, having suffered greatly at the hands of Europeans, had the right to expel non-Europeans from their lands.

"I fear for the future not only of our country, but of intelligent discourse, and the human race." You fear for the future while knowing nothing about the past.

Josh Marshall argues that the defense should also argue from strategy. But he doesn't argue the case with any force and in any event it's too late.
The Secret Killers: Assassination in Afghanistan and Task Force 373

From The Economist
Via AA.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I harp on Israel partly because as a subject it's the best example -most consistently in the public eye- of avoidance, elision, misreading and mislabeling among those who would see consciousness as unified: the technocratic "reality based community" in academia and politics. American left-liberals are unified in their opposition to recent economic policies and mostly so on our various wars, but they don't engage actively in mapping out the history of their transformations. People don't move to the left any more than to the right, by and large if not absolutely, they're moved.

Chris Bertram again tries to justify engaged neutrality.

Duncan Black comments on the Cook Report downgrading the chances of 10 House Democrats, 8 of whom are conservative "Blue Dogs" and therefore, though he doesn't mention it, from districts populated by constituents divided both amongst and within themselves on issues of liberalism and conservatism, economics and social policy.
I admit it's quite nice feeling that for the first time in forever I can actually root for a few bad Dems to lose their seats.

Inevitably the beltway gas bags will tell us that when they lose it's because Obama is too liberal and we're a center right nation blah blah blah. It's the same story they've been telling since I've paid attention.
The Blue Dogs are no or less more ahead of the pack in their districts than Anthony Weiner is in his. With the opposition offering firm leadership in retreat from the responsibilities of democracy, Democrats without a clear mandate from their constituents are in a holding pattern, which is seen correctly as weakness.

Most politicians don't have the intelligence or strength to lead. When leadership is required in the defense of principle, or even the defense of what they themselves may think the best course of action, they hedge.

This goes back to the of the myth of objectivity and its relation to political passivity. It's as important to fight as to have something to fight for; adversarialism is mandated engagement. Maybe it would be better to have elected representatives be more like lawyers: have them draw lots to pick the sides of an issue with the winner obliged by law to act on the platform he was given whether he agrees with it or not.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Mosque in Ground Zero
The controversy continues. The original idea is lousy: a kitsch of sorts but why should religious kitsch be denied to Muslims when it is a habit among all religious groups in this country. Of course, the debate is more than filled with much more than a tinge of racism and bigotry that you expect when the debate is about Muslims in the US. Support for the Palestinians becomes evidence of terrorist inclinations and sympathy. It is really ironic that when Muslims try to appease the country in which they live in and they try to win popular sympathy they get slapped on the face. This is one example. By the way, according to the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, mosques should not be constructed adjacent to one another because the idea of the mosque was to congregate as many Muslims as possible, and there are already two mosques only blocks from the site. But the ADL is clear: they dont mind if a mosque is constructed provided it is on the moon.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Originally here, but I've come across a lot of related discussions recently. It seemed appropriate for other reasons as well, having to do with the philosophy of expertise: Timothy Williamson telling just so stories about why we tell stories, and Joshua Marshall trying to avoid or elide the fact that Palestinians are Muslims, and that he's a Zionist. "We grew up in America where Islam, as a domestic social or cultural reality, was close to invisible." And this from someone who's called the founding of Israel "a necessary crime".

There's no understanding of consciousness without acknowledging that it's multilayered and conflicted, that our actions often contradict our words and each other. No amount of expertise will change that.
What is consciousness?
-What is pain, as an aspect of consciousness?

Pain evolved as a way to make us aware of damage or disease, and as a mechanism by which our bodies make it difficult for us to engage in things that make that damage worse. If I'm working and strain a muscle, the pain tells me not to use the muscle so that it will heal more quickly, or it allows me to gauge the degree to which the muscle is or is not capable of doing its job. But pain is not a simple signal or transfer of data, it is a kind of gestalt, the result of a bombardment of data which we "experience" as a specific form of "qualia".

Imagine that I'm out hunting and am attacked by a lion, who claws me leaving a deep gash in my leg. I run away but the pain slows me down. If I run I increase the injury, but if I stay I'll be killed. The choice is obvious yet my body continues to experience a division. Endorphins and adrenaline are partial overrides but they're autonomic, and very rarely if ever does the pain or the division go away completely. Pain has a regulating function that has nothing to do with decision-making itself. It's not subject to rational controls and yet it's part of what we call consciousness.

We rely both on rationality and instinct. If we react habitually in a given way to a specific range of situations, but now face a problem that fits largely in that range but logically demands an alternate response, something has to give way to allow us to break the pattern. But it doesn't give way easily. We can't turn off instinct any more than we can turn off pain. Habit is reflex and reflexes have a purpose. A neurotic activity is one that the mind has been conditioned to perform because at some unconscious level it facilitates psychic continuity and by logical extension physical survival. Neuroses continue patterns learned in childhood, affecting our relations with people and experiences that have little to do with those of the past except in terms of structure. We never stop being influenced by this sort of learned response, or by others more benign; everybody is neurotic.

It's common now for people to talk about mental activity in biological terms. There are studies of behavior that link social activities to chemicals and genetics. Yet there are also studies showing that an infant’s brain constructs itself by reinforcing the most often used neural pathways. We're born with an immense number of connections and through the act of living apparently we program ourselves, experiencing not only psychological but also biological adaptation. And once such adaptation is complete, it can't be erased. This seems to me to be a more interesting explanation for our linguistic capabilities than Chomsky’s LAD or innate universal grammar. Rather than specific tools that allow us to create and acquire language, and that apparently wither away within a few years if not used, why not imagine a network that may or may not be constructed? If we think of the mind as a glass that can be filled with different sorts of liquids, that blend together each time we add more, then this doesn't fit what we know. But if we think not in terms of liquids but solids this explanation makes sense. If we fill a glass first with sand, then with gravel, and then with dirt, how can we reverse or rearrange the order? Adding more sand at the top will change the ratio of sand to gravel, but the same amount of sand is at the bottom of the glass. A 14 year old without language would have great difficulty picking it up because the synaptic pathways, the foundation of her psyche, will have been constructed without it. It would be interesting to think that in some instances mental disorders which we now associate with chemical imbalances could be reattributed, chemicals included, to learned responses.

We call living creatures sentient, conscious, or aware, but these words only describe the sensations of our experience of ‘consciousness’. We slide quickly into tautology. What separates us from computers is not consciousness, which we have had such a bad time trying to define, but the unconscious. Desire and fear, reflexes and pain stay with us even when they're inappropriate. If we don't follow them we still sense their shadow. Our desires/instincts/neuroses may also be contradictory, or even self-destructive. But all of them are sensory before they're intellectual. Consciousness is the state produced by the body/brain's negotiation of the conflict between conditioned response and reason. That is its beauty and why we find it so difficult to understand. We experience consciousness as one thing, but only can define it as the space between two. We experience it a as a thing ‘being’, but can only define it as the place where it exists.

The first moment of indecision is the first act of consciousness. Any creature capable of indecision is conscious.
11/09 Consciousness in machines
...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.

...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.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

note taking
Posted elsewhere in response to a post and a comment. The reference to the "egalitarian ideology' of US students is just sad.
Michael E. Smith: The problem is with U.S. students who are used to an egalitarian ideology and want to be pals with the Mexican workers. So they use the familiar terms of address in Spanaish (tu), which makes the workers think that either the students are being overly familiar (with attractive US female students and young male workers this can lead to various awkward encounters), or else that the students are being hierarchical and dominant (since the familar form is also used by people in a dominant position to show their superiority over people in a lower position).

Anyway, I’ve figured out a lot of this kind of thing over the years, but I have never seen any papers or written discussions that might help orient unsophisticated US students to the social realities of life and work in Mexico the social realities of life and work in Mexico.


As opposed to the realities of class relations everywhere.

I've been a construction worker with a crew of immigrants, the white guy among latinos. I've worked as a carpenter/supervisor with an assistant, a 21 year old street kid from the Caribbean, and gang member. We negotiated a friendship based on the knowledge that we both had responsibilities to higher-ups, but also that I had advantages due to education, technical ability and race. But he came to understand that I would not knowingly take advantage of my position. I didn't proclaim that, I only tried to demonstrate it. I would very specifically not render him invisible in the presence of others, coworkers, my "equals", clients etc. who would otherwise be happy to ignore him. I told him if he ever caught me locking him out in that way, he should make that clear to me in no uncertain terms; but not for both our sakes when clients were around. I taught him skills, he told me stories.

I know a couple, heirs to a large fortune, who'd lived the bohemian life in their 20's. In their mid 30's they decided to go back to their roots, and bought a sprawling apartment in midtown and hired a staff of servants. 6 months later they fired them all and hired a new set. They learned the hard way: your servants can't be your friends. Your friends become offended when you ask them to clean your bathroom.

On Zuckerberg-
His fondness for the Potlatch as he imagines it ties into the new billionaire class's even newer fondness for gift-giving. First power comes from taking, then from giving away. It's always annoyed me that only conservatives and not liberals were bothered by George Soros, whose intelligence is that of the speculative sociopath, now buying adoration where where he once bought fear. For what it's worth, I've known people who worked with him, and also servants.

"It can actually be tremendously rewarding to buy a honkin’ big piece of meat from someone who you will never meet again, take it back to your hotel room, and eat the entire thing by yourself, completely alone."

That strikes me both as a perfect description of the model -as opposed to the reality- of American ritualized exchange (and all exchange: from academia to wall street is ritual exchange) and therefore as a reaction -a reflex- against imagined collectivism. That is it's part of the American frontier now suburban imagination of individualism. I realize the language included irony but maybe not enough to cover the depth of the root.

And all of this ties into Kerim's "research bleg" for discussions of collaboration vs ethnography, which I would call needs to be seen as less a dichotomy than an ongoing responsibility. Hence my suggestion that he look up Joe McGinniss and Janet Malcolm. Should intellectuals, taking that title as seriously as it's often imagined, give first loyalty to ritual exchange among their own kind -class, race, profession (the academy-JSTOR)- or should they feel obliged more than others to balance and ironize their native relations with an equally strong set of relations with, students, cab drivers, dish washers, the women who clean up the faculty lounge, as well as in some fields officially designated "informants"?

Thomas Strong: “That strikes me both as a perfect description of the model -as opposed to the reality- of American ritualized exchange (and all exchange: from academia to wall street is ritual exchange) and therefore as a reaction -a reflex- against imagined collectivism.”…

Maybe though it’s a fantasy that animates all cultural systems. I’m probably with Levi-Strauss here: ‘eating by oneself’ (or not) is a problem at the cusp of what it means to be ‘social’. I’m probably also, however, with Sartre, and whatever it was he said about ‘l’enfer’…


If hell is other people, then language is hell.

When I first heard the terms "emics" and "etics" I thought of poemics [sic] and poetics, of poets and critics. Sartre was a critic [who wrote plays]. For better or worse -and even if I’m a bad one- I’m a poet. My question as always is this: what are the po-emics of criticism? What were they in Elizabethan England, inter-war and post-war France? And what are they now in the US?
The reference to demonstration and proclamation above is important since the academy is based on shared assumptions, and though demonstration is primary to all communication it's elided in a social world centered around the discussion of abstraction. In the larger world, in interaction among groups, there's less assumption because less trust. My relations with my assistant were openly political, I couldn't take for granted that he would see me as I saw myself and I couldn't take for granted that his perceptions would be mistaken.

We interact by judging and being judged. Communication is layered, in text and subtext, word and gesture. Others' judgments of ourselves are the equal of our own, and when we die they're more than that. The ideology, or again poemics, of Smith's students wasn't egalitarian it was self-absorbed. Though the people I argue with refuse to recognize subtext in their own actions, they operate by them -acting on reflex- just as much as the people they're paid to study.
Three by Tony Judt.
Bush’s Useful Idiots
Israel: The Alternative.
The Wrecking Ball of Innovation

He was a serious conservative. Liberals waste time debating idiots at The National Review; to his credit, he did his best to ignore them. He was an arch sexist, with a gentleman's condescension towards the fairer sex, and his view of history was simplistic- "The historian’s first responsibility is to get it right-to find out what happened in the past, think of some way to convey it which is both effective and true, and do it. "- but he wasn't dumb. He praised Leszek Kołakowski for his interest in "spiritual values" while being too lazy to say what that phrase was supposed to mean; he became a critic of Zionism late. But he was an adult in a world without many of them.

As'ad AbuKhalil and Elias Muhanna on Nasrallah.

Friday, August 06, 2010

August 6 1945

Thursday, August 05, 2010

No contradiction. As I say, even granting everything else, it seems to me entirely wrong to think that I am entitled to what I would have under justice.
So one is obliged [by objective justice?] to use normative means [objectively just or not?] in this objectively unjust society to obtain outcomes that would be normative in an objectively just society.

Is justice a process or a result? Is it a wave or a particle?

This is where idealist liberalism falls apart. Idealism demands action, so is in effect authoritarian. Liberalism accepts that some things can't be known, demanding only a close reading of cases and continuing debate [Again, this leads to another contradiction that can't be avoided: the role of the military in a democracy.] Liberalism as a form of realism, defined as humanism before the 18th century, doesn't try to solve every problem but tries to foster the ability in people to think clearly and perceptively, not to demand clarity where there is none, but to engage ambiguity without fear.

Seeking the ‘Eye’ for Art.
The article ignores the fact that being able to read and intuit situations and gestures is foundational to social life. Most fans are critics, and good diagnosticians, of any sort, are connoisseurs. The article would be better written without the defense of elitism but the subject is fine art so it's limited to that; no one would ever attack the 'elitism' of the NBA players association.

The problem arises for democracy when there's only one measure of success, when there's only one elite and they alone are claimed to represent a universal value called "truth." It does us all a disservice when assumptions trump perception, but these days schools teach the former more than the latter, teaching what to think not how.

Democracy is founded in structured forms of public argument; justice is due process, not result. Questions of substantive due process come down not to truth or falsity but what we value, and value is a form of high preference. In describing our preferences we describe our relations to one another and the world as we experience it; the external world is something else entirely.

Expertise without connoisseurship is knowledge without understanding, intellectually passive, and passivity in any form undermines democracy.

[As always for the history of the graph click on the "make it idiot-proof" tag.]

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The most eye-opening sections of “The Korean War” detail America’s saturation bombing of Korea’s north. “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” Mr. Cumings writes, “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.” The United States dropped more bombs in Korea (635,000 tons, as well as 32,557 tons of napalm) than in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. Our logic seemed to be, he says, that “they are savages, so that gives us the right to shower napalm on innocents.”
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