Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eric Schliesser
Weber was too good a student of Nietzsche to fail to realize that "many old gods" always resurface even in secular ages, but in different guises. (iii) The religiosity we experience today is not wholly a reversal (although there may be some of that); today's religiosity is the (bastard?) off-spring of disenchantment (not to mention the disorder that comes from our hybrid financial-military-scientific-pharmaceutical states), in particular, the obsession with authenticity or sincerity.
Eric Schliesser
I am, however, skeptical of all manner of academic efforts that seem primarily aimed at DE-legitimatizing Israel as a Jewish state.


It's too fucking easy.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

With all that I've said recently, this post is the best thing Atrios has ever written on race. It's written at the level of abstraction, with the intelligence of a smart technocrat.
Without getting into this fully, it provides an excuse to point out that even relatively small amounts of racial bias sprinkled through the system can ultimately lead to rather large difference in outcomes, due to perfectly rational responses by those affected by racism. The basic story is that if you have to work 10% harder to do as well, you're probably going to work less hard. In economist speak, if the marginal benefit is less than the marginal effort you aren't going to bother. The stories of those exceptional individuals who rise above the system are heartwarming, but as a society we compare those individuals with the people who were born on third and narrowly manage to stay there even as they inexplicably and repeatedly try to steal second. When kids born to insane privilege barely manage to navigate their way through their teen and college years, it's absurd to expect a significant number of kids facing racism and other barriers to all hit homers their first time on the field.

Monday, December 26, 2011

updated twice

Clark Glymour at Choice and Inference
I am sometimes credited with the remark, due to Nelson Goodman, that “there are two kinds of people in the world: the logical positivists and the god-damned English professors.” While it’s a cute summary, I don’t agree. Departments of English provide sinecures for good authors who lack a mass audience and would otherwise go hungry or not write; they contain people who know a lot about the history of literature, and someone ought to know that. Similar plaudits apply to some faculty in history and in modern languages. Humanities departments also house faculty whose principal work is a great deal of foolishness, garbed in neolexia, who spread it to undergraduates. Nothing would be lost and something would be gained if these people were pruned from universities and offered work with brooms.
Two comments. The first was accepted after a period in moderation, then removed, then returned. The second was accepted (again, after first showing up on my screen as "awaiting moderation") then removed. It was badly written so I rewrote it and resubmitted it. It hasn't appeared.
Glymour first conflates philosophers of a certain type with literature professors and then literature professors with writers. He attacks the moral cowardice of those associated with literary philosophical academy, but few writers are academic. Proust was not a college professor; neither was Faulkner, Hemingway, Orwell or Beckett. It should concern all academics perhaps that so few linger to describe the aftermath of war, and if I'm going to choose among analogists of science I'll choose Primo Levi over Carnap. In formal logic out of M.C. Escher Glymour manages to attack the foundations of feminism and then accuse feminists of having no concern for rape victims. There's nothing else to say to that. It's too confused even to be offensive.

To stay within his limits: who's more responsible for the machineries of mass destruction in the 20th century, literary philosophers or Glymour's preferred, physicists and engineers? Levi after all isn't famous for his day job, except for how it served him as a writer. And if you like NASA, you can thank Werner von Braun. Ford invented Fordism; Gramsci only bought in.

The strength and weakness of science is in its amorality. The urge to unify science and morals is one of the moral disasters of the age. It calls us back to the 12th century, to pre-Renaissance anti-humanism. It would help us greatly if logicians stopped calling themselves philosophers. Democracy is a formal process but relativist as to truth. There are all sorts of philosophical and moral reasons for government to be designed this way, but logicians have never been happy about it. They should be honest enough with themselves and the rest of us to admit that it's democracy that bothers them.

Mathematics, computer science and logic are not philosophy, because engineering is not architecture.

Engineering is not architecture. Try disagreeing and arguing the point. See where it gets you.
The second comment was posted in response to another, on philosophy as offering advances in scientific methodology.
I should have added this below, or at least been more explicit, but it fits here. Aside from the moral failures of formalism in use (failures under a socially defined sense of morality that most of us accept) there are strictly intellectual ones. There’s no need to read specialist publications to witness the spectacular failure of mathematical modeling in economics, any newspaper will do. See also my reference to feminism, feminism as exemplary of knowledge resulting from experience, specifically the experience of a subset, albeit about half, of the total population. Abstractions begin as generalizations. Mathematical models are beautiful structures of assumption.

Questions of formalism qua epistemology are double: regarding whether a given model succeeds in doing what’s claimed for it, and regarding appropriate use. Both questions engage philosophy and neither are formal.
update- I really have to be careful reading this stuff. Previously I'd quoted an opinion as Glymour's when it's one he claims to oppose. My confusion arose from the fact that they're not that different.

The range of Alex Rosenberg's arguments could be combined and simplified to say, "physicalism and determinism for thee, dualism and free will for me". The Churchlands are like Puritan believers in predestination who nonetheless dress simply and with the utmost [predetermined?] false modesty to demonstrate that they're among the elect. Glymour's, "When is a Brain Like a Planet?" (available here), concerns questions of when our gods or godlike properties appear, not whether they do. The last sentence reads: "When it thinks, the brain is like a planet." I have to admit I'm not sure where to place it on this scale.

Android epistemology. Sad.
Again and again and again: Consciousness is not the product of unified complexity. It's the manifestation of a divide, between physical processes of calculation and conditioned response.

If you want an intelligent android, build a confused android.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

This is getting interesting. [See earlier posts]
Ron Paul Jesus
For some reason there are certain people in political life whose (in)fallibility is of supreme importance, both for their supporters and detractors. On THE LEFT I used to see this a lot with Noam Chomsky, with people who liked him saying things like, "I haven't ever seen him be wrong about anything," while his detractors would point to any little mistake as proof he was a tremendous liar bent on the destruction of the United States and perhaps THE WORLD.

by Atrios at 11:22
"...any little mistake"

TNR Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul.

TPM 10 Shocking Quotes From Ron Paul’s Newsletters
1. “Order was only restored in LA when it came time for the blacks to collect their welfare checks. The ‘poor’ lined up at the Post Office to get their handouts (since there were no deliveries) — and then complained about slow service.” -Report on LA riots, June 1992

2. “I’ve been told not to talk, but these stooges don’t scare me. Threats or no threats, I’ve laid bare the coming race war in our big cities. The federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS (my training as a physician helps me see through this one.)” -Direct mail ad promoting Paul’s newsletters, written from Paul’s perspective, 1993

3. “It is human nature that like attracts likes. But whites are not allowed to express this same human impulse. Except in a de facto sense, there can be no white schools, white clubs, or white neighborhoods. The political system demands white integration, while allowing black segregation.” -‘The Disappearing White Majority,’ January 1993
...
Atrios' politics regarding local issues, of land use, and gentrification have always been shallow and self-serving, and his dealings with issues of race have been similarly flat.[same link] I'd only recently looked back to his older comments about Palestine and Palestinians. He's a nasty piece of work.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Leiter and Rosenberg again. Leiter mocks Wieseltier's response but call's this "a more substantial review".
And Rosenberg argues that naturalism implies a left wing politics. The argument runs from the denial of free will. Scientism deconstructs the idea of a meritocracy. A determinist is going to be soft on crime because you can’t punish and ask retribution if there is no responsibility
A determinist will or will not be soft on crime but he will have no choice either way. He will or will not write books or teach philosophy or have a drink at 5pm on April 23rd 2112, but he will have no choice. He will or will not coin the term "nice nihilism" but he has no choice.

Physicalism requires that Alex Rosenberg and Lady Gaga have no choice but to be what they are. Lady Gaga might agree, but she's smarter than he is.
---

Archives
By DAVID K. SHIPLER Special to The New York Times ();
October 23, 1979,
,Section , Page A3, Column , words

[DISPLAYING ABSTRACT]

JERUSALEM, Oct. 22--A censorship board composed of five Cabinet members prohibited former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin from including in his memoirs a first-person account of the expulsion of 50,000 Palestinian civilians from their homes near Tel Aviv during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Full text reproduced here

"History is bunk", as Rosenberg argues, "iff" all knowledge is bunk, no more than marking of the motion of bosons and fermions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

D. Black
I'd like some more commentary on my general point, that non-right wing nutcase economists have been too soft on the right wing nutcase economists.

My observation from when I was in that world was that... most (majority, not supermajority) economists were probably DeLongish Democrats. More than people would think, anyway. But there was a bias against left-leaning (mostly center left-leaning) economists ever piping up in public, even if that was the prevailing sentiment. It was really kind of weird.
It's not "really kind of weird" it marks the modes of basic human relations and behavior: replace economics with Zionism. But arrogance makes it worse. Repeats.

Atrios in 2002:
David Duke, president of Americans in Support of Palestinian Freedom.
The organization is fictional, David Duke is not.

Yglesias, in 2002
After the last depressing news from the Middle East I think we have to start asking just how inhumane it would be for Israel to just expel the Palestinians from the occupied terroritories. [sic] The result would probably be out-and-out war with the neighboring Arab states, but Israel could win that.
Both, recently
DB: "I think a major consequence of the lack of reading non-fiction other than textbooks is that when in late high school or college teachers want research paper type things, the students have a lot of trouble largely because they've never read any."

linking to Yglesias:
"Like a lot of people I know, I read a lot and what I read is mostly nonfiction. But as Dana Goldstein points out in a great piece lots of Americans read very poorly and schools teach reading almost exclusively through fiction"
Tedra Osell yesterday at CT: Reading Coates Reading Eliot
He’s no callow undergrad and he writes better than anyone I can think of, which means reading him is not merely the familiar pleasure of observing students’ first encounter with a familiar novel. His frame of reference is totally intellectual but not “academic” in the conventional sense: rigorous but really fresh.
Her language makes me cringe.
Osell includes 8 links from Coates. I'll post two:
Into the Canon: Middlemarch
'All the Light I Can Command'

The powerful tell stories and call them truths. Hitchens in his piece on Isaiah Berlin linked below quotes Czeslaw Milosz: "Irony is the glory of slaves."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Castles In The Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata & The Masters Of Studio Ghibli
Saturday, December 17 - Thursday, January 12
IFC Center, NY
This post continued from another. I've moved everything there.
Easier to read in order.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Egypt.
Corey Robin on Hitchens. Recommended by Glenn Greenwald, via Chris Bertram in a comment at CT. The links in my comment are from other commenters on the post.
Robin's addendum
Update (11:45 am)
Many seem to view Hitchens’s undeniable talent as a writer as a mitigating factor in their assessment of his legacy. Such arguments have a long history. On this question, I take my cues from one of our finest critics:
The simple yet appalling fact is that we have very little solid evidence that literary studies do very much to enrich or stabilize moral perception, that they humanize. We have little proof that a tradition of literary studies in fact makes a man more humane. What is worse — a certain body of evidence points the other way. When barbarism came to twentieth-century Europe, the arts faculties in more than one university offered very little moral resistance, and this is not a trivial or local accident. In a disturbing number of cases the literary imagination gave servile or ecstatic welcome to political bestiality. That bestiality was at times enforced and refined by individuals educated in the culture of traditional humanism. Knowledge of Goethe, a delight in the poetry of Rilke, seemed no bar to personal and institutionalized sadism. Literary values and the most utmost of hideous inhumanity could coexist in the same community, in the same individual sensibility….

…I find myself unable to assert confidently that the humanities humanize. Indeed, I would go further: it is at least conceivable that the focusing of consciousness on a written text which is the substance of our training and pursuit diminishes the sharpness and readiness of our actual moral response. Because we are trained to give psychological and moral credence to the imaginary, to the character in a play or a novel, to the condition of spirit we gather from a poem, we may find it more difficult to identify with the real world, to take the world of actual experience to heart…The capacity for imaginative reflex, for moral risk in any human being is not limitless; on the contrary, it can be rapidly absorbed by fictions, and thus the cry in the poem may come to sound louder, more urgent, more real than the cry in the street outside. The death in the novel may move us more potently than the death in the next room. Thus there may be a covert, betraying link between the cultivation of aesthetic response and the potential of personal inhumanity.

—George Steiner, "To Civilize Our Gentlemen,” in Language and Silence
I'd written a couple of basic comments and ignored the quote. An anonymous commenter didn't.
Steiner is saying that the humanities do not improve us, but, rather, they degrade us, or at least give us cover for self-degradation. How you don’t read that as a condemnation of the arts, I don’t know. I am of the opinion that pleasure is an important part of life, and that insisting that it serve “a greater good” in every case is foolish and joy-killing.
Anon defends the arts as pleasure but not their central function. Pleasure is inevitable so it's smart to understand what you enjoy, so that you may understand yourself. My longer comment
Until just now I hadn't read the quote from Steiner; I'd dropped by earlier to make a general comment on Hitchens, then I got dragged in.

Anon is right about the Steiner; the vulgarity is shocking, but it begins with Corey Robin's introduction: "Many seem to view Hitchens’s undeniable talent as a writer as a mitigating factor in their assessment of his legacy."

That just blew me away. Robin means to refer to Hitchens not as a writer but as a 'stylist': not the same thing. Here are two examples of Hitchens as a writer.

On Isaiah Berlin in the LRB, in 1998

The Vietnam Syndrome, on the legacy in Vietnam of Agent Orange, in Vanity Fair in 2006

Yes, the arts humanize: they bring things near, but intimate relations or their facsimile result in loyalty. You love what is near you also because it is near, and that can shut out what is still distant. Hitchens as I said above was a Modernist. He had ideals that by association with the people he knew and the ideas he respected and then again with himself, over time turned inward. His hopes turned into fantasies. He looked in the mirror and thought he saw the world. It's a risk we all face. Robin and Steiner represent a softer but no less ideological variant of Hitchen's fatal flaw as a thinker: they have more sympathy for ideas than for people, and are so arrogant that they allow their ideas to replace the world in their imaginations. That's the end of openness and curiosity. I'll repeat a comment [here] after my discovery of that godawful rag, Jacobin: In 100 years a group of earnest right-thinking bourgeois left-liberals will start a journal and title it "Hamas".

It's hard to engage fully with the present. It's morally necessary and necessarily morally dangerous. There's a risk for all of us of fantasies becoming not reality but 'our' reality. And that's not real. Hitchens' end was tragic in every sense.
A commenter responds: "...I’ll leave aside ‘Anon is right about Steiner’ – he isn’t, but there’s no point in saying so. What really struck me is your later comments:
‘Robin and Steiner represent a softer but no less ideological variant of Hitchen’s fatal flaw as a thinker: they have more sympathy for ideas than for people’.
This seems to assume that your own ideas aren’t ideological? What are they, then? I could just as well accuse you of ignoring the cries in the street, but don’t, because it’s not explicitly there in what you write?
I suppose if I knew what this meant:
‘Yes, the arts humanize: they bring things near, but intimate relations or their facsimile result in loyalty’
I’d understand more of your take on ideology?"

My response
Do you love your family and friends? If so, why? Are they any more deserving of love than others?

You love what you love because it’s near to you, the familial is the familiar. If you read a report about a man run over by a truck in Ouagadougou, the only thing that makes you “feel” a response to one man’s death is the ability of the author to bring you close to the event and return that man to life in your imagination. The author’s skill creates imagined proximity and you may feel moved, when otherwise you might have been indifferent. After all, people die every day. The author’s skill is called “art”.

The experience of European Jewry is close to us, the experience of Palestinian expulsion is not. I know people who will not sit or stand beside anyone who might call themselves a Zionist. They’re Palestinians and their anger is that strong. Is it unjustified? If so, why? As I said in a comment on the follow-up post, the word “Nakba” does not appear on this page. Why not? 3/4 of a million people cleansed from their land.

Irene Gendzier [linked here Dec 8]

Picking Apart the NYT/Zionist Narrative on the Nakba [linked here June17]

Read the second one. I got it from Nir Rosen. His response: “Fucking Brilliant!”

I’m not a moralist; moralism is a lie. My father’s family are Zionists and on occasion I stand next to them in public. Am I wrong? Take away the bloodthirsty rhetoric and Hitchens was a moralist, and especially late in his life a thoroughly corrupt one. Cory Robin is only a moralist but that’s not a good start.
The arts are dangerous. That’s why Plato was scared of them. But the politics of Platonism has always ended in barbarism.

Earler comments on Corey Robin's page are reposted on this one. See the tag below.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mr. Wall said he had come simply to make art, and because he had been invited. Regarding the conversation about Israel, he said, “I’m not here to help anyone to resolve these matters.”
Contrary to art world mythology Jeff Wall has always been a conservative, in the best, most serious meaning of the word. The same is true for Struth.

Hooray the War is Over

"But the accounts are just as striking for what they reveal about the extraordinary strains on the soldiers who were assigned here." Just as striking apparently as the fact that Marines "killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers."

Junkyard Gives Up Secret Accounts of Massacre in Iraq
The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.

The documents — many marked secret — form part of the military’s internal investigation, and confirm much of what happened at Haditha, a Euphrates River town where Marines killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.

Haditha became a defining moment of the war, helping cement an enduring Iraqi distrust of the United States and a resentment that not one Marine has been convicted.

But the accounts are just as striking for what they reveal about the extraordinary strains on the soldiers who were assigned here, their frustrations and their frequently painful encounters with a population they did not understand. In their own words, the report documents the dehumanizing nature of this war, where Marines came to view 20 dead civilians as not “remarkable,” but as routine.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In re: keeping politics out of science. The fight over Plan B is a fight over values not science.

I've done this all before. Daniel Callahan on the "research imperative"
Though unfamiliar to most scientists and the general public, the term expresses a cultural problem that caught my eye. It occurs in an article written by the late Protestant moral theologian Paul Ramsey in 1976 as part of a debate with a Jesuit theologian, Richard McCormick. McCormick argued that it ought to be morally acceptable to use children for nontherapeutic research, that is, for research with no direct benefit to the children themselves and in the absence of any informed consent. Referring to claims about the “necessity” of such research, Ramsey accused McCormick of falling prey to the “research imperative”, the view that the importance of research could overcome moral values.

That was the last time I heard of the phrase for many years, but it informs important arguments about research that have surfaces with increasing force of late. It captures, for instance, the essence of what Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel laureate for his work on genetics and president emeritus of Rockefeller University once remarked to me: “The blood of those who will die if biomedical research is not pursued will be upon the hands of those who don’t do it.”
Lederman is a medical Stalinist, offering war communism in the war on disease. Millions for NASA or for water purification plants? Cancer research or poetry? The questions do not concern science.

Hermann Broch
For the esthetic in general as an expression of the supreme ultimate value of a system can influence the result of ethical action only secondarily, just as “wealth” is not the main goal but the side effect of individual commercial activity. And “wealth” itself is an irrational concept. It is an almost mystical process, the setting of ethical values: Arising from the irrational, transforming the irrational to the rational, yet nonetheless it is the irrational that radiates from within the resulting form.
Or if the desire to preserve life is logical, the logical can become illogical.
Science is a tool. Values are to things as emotions are to plant life. Love is a rose in our imaginations not the world.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Irene Gendzier: Why the US recognised Israel
... Developments on the ground in Palestine, however, could not be ignored. On May 3, eleven days before Britain’s departure from Palestine, the US Consul in Jerusalem reported on the collapse of Palestinian government with the warning that “unless strong Arab reinforcements arrive, we expect Jews overrun most of city upon withdrawal British force.” [1] The same officer reported in April on the steady advances of Jewish forces in “aggressive and irresponsible operations such as Deir Yassin massacre and Jaffa,” as well as what occurred in Haifa in the same period. The US Consul reported that British and others agreed in early May 1948 that “Jews will be able sweep all before them unless regular Arab armies come to rescue. With Haifa as example of Haganah military occupation, possible their operations will restore order.” [2] What kind of order? Haifa was known to the British, Iraqis and Americans chiefly through its oil refinery that processed Iraqi oil through IPC pipelines. Its takeover was unacceptable to the Iraqis and led to the destruction of the existing network of relations between Palestinian and Jewish workers.

Shortly thereafter, Robert McClintock, then with the US delegation at the UN, speculated that the Security Council would soon be confronted by the question as to “whether Jewish armed attack on Arab communities in Palestine is legitimate or whether it constitutes such a threat to international peace and security as to call for coercive measures by the Security Council.” [3] It was again McClintock who observed that if Arab armies entered Palestine leading Jewish forces to claim “that their state is the object of armed aggression and will use every means to obscure the fact that it is their own armed aggression against the Arabs inside Palestine which is the cause of Arab counter-attack,” the US would be obliged to intervene.[4]

Finally, some ten days before Britain’s departure, US Secretary of State, George C Marshall provided select diplomatic offices with his assessment of the condition of Arab regimes. He had few illusions as to which would survive.
Whole govt structure Iraq is endangered by political and economic disorders and Iraq Govt can not at this moment afford to send more than handful of troops it has already dispatched. Egypt has suffered recently from strikes and disorders. Its army has insufficient equipment because of its refusal of Brit aid, and what it has is needed for police duty at home. Syria has neither arms nor army worthy of name and has not been able to organize one since French left three years ago. Lebanon has no real army while Saudi Arabia has small army which is barely sufficient to keep tribes in order. Jealousies between Saudi Arabia and Syrians on one hand and Hashemite govts of Transjordan and Iraq, prevent Arabs from making even best of existing forces. [5]
Marshall’s remarks about Egypt were corrected by the US Ambassador who pointed out that Egypt’s ill equipped army was the result of British refusal to provide the Egyptians with viable equipment. The Transjordan military, as Marshall pointed out, was similarly dependent on British officers. Despite such conditions, Marshall warned that “this does not mean however that over long period Jewish State can survive as self-sufficient entity in face of hostility of Arab world.” And as he emphatically concluded, “If Jews follow counsel of their extremists who favor contemptuous policy toward Arabs, any Jewish State to be set up will be able survive only with continuous assistance from abroad.”

Furthermore, before and especially after Israel’s declaration of independence, US officials denounced the treatment of Palestinian refugees and called for their repatriation, an issue that was endorsed by the US President who had earlier taken the initiative in calling on the British, then still in Palestine, to permit the admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees into Palestine

[1] May 3, 1948, The Consul General at Jerusalem (Wasson) to the Secretary of State, FRUS 1948, V, part 2, p.889.
[2] May 3, 1948, The Consul General at Jerusalem (Wasson) to the Secretary of State, FRUS 1948, V, part 2,p.889.
[3] May 4, 1948, Draft Memorandum, FRUS 1948, V, part 2, pp.894-895.
[4] Ibid. p.895.
[5] May 13, 1948, The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic Offices, FRUS, 1948, V, part 2, pp.983-984.
more

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


USA repeatedly shipped arms supplies to Egyptian security forces

On 1 December, a US State Department spokesperson confirmed that “export licences were approved to two US companies for the export of tear gas and other non-lethal riot control agents to the Egyptian Government. And the most recent export license approval occurred in July”.

"These licences were authorized during a period where the Egyptian government responded to protests by using excessive and often lethal force. It is inconceivable that the US authorities did not know of evidence of widely documented abuses by the Egyptian security forces. These licences should not have been granted," said Brian Wood.

A US State Department spokesperson said on 29 November, “we haven’t seen any real concrete proof that the Egyptian authorities were misusing tear gas.”
The Maspero Massacre was on October 9th. Michael?
Atrios links to Belen Fernández on Thomas Friedman.

I doubt he knows who she is or where she writes.
It would be interesting to think I'm wrong.

Interview at Jadaliyya

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Vancouver Sun
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia may consider acquiring nuclear weapons to match regional rivals Israel and Iran, its former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said on Monday.
As AA pointed out, not a peep from Israel.

He's also happy with the low voter turnout in the Egyptian elections. That's not so smart.
There's an ongoing discussion of Originalism at Balkinization, centering on JB's new book. The discussion itself is silly; Balkin's arguments are brilliant only in the context of that silliness. My comment on one of the threads
Let me explain it to you kids.
The problem was never originalism it was fundamentalism.

Wise old man Jack Balkin is playing Erasmus, subverting his opponents' argument by undermining its claims to exactitude. In admitting defeat, his old argument wins: we're all originalists now, debating the living meaning of originalism. The reactionaries' argument is no longer reactionary.

To paraphrase Nino: "The English language as I interpret it is a dead language." He's an idiot. A reactionary peasant. The Constitution is living because language is living. That terrifies him. It's anarchy! No, it's just sloppy. Life is sloppy.

But that fight matters less than it used to, since the real questions have left the courts and gone back to electoral politics. The age of the juridical vanguard is over; that's why some who are addicted to the old process are now questioning judicial review.

They miss the point

We have a reactionary court, so street [I should have written "electoral"] politics is back to center stage. Don't mourn, organize. It will all switch back in 50 years and strategies will change again.
Determinism, Culture, Philosophy, Politics,



Herzog, Nobody Wants to Play with Me, 1976

From Roger Ebert

Friday, December 02, 2011

Schliesser
I am, however, skeptical of all manner of academic efforts that seem primarily aimed at DE-legitimatizing Israel as a Jewish state. I have no trouble admitting that Israel was founded on historic injustice(s) many of which it continues to perpetuate. But I don't think Israel is particularly special in this regard (sadly), and I have never seen an argument for an academic boycott of Israel that wasn't also part of a wider campaign (including the persistent analogy with South Africa)--again, this is not to deny there are all kinds of second class citizens in Israel.
How is it possible that a state built and maintained in the interest of one community (as ES describes and defends it above: "a Jewish state") not relegate its other citizens to secondary status?
But I don't think Israel is particularly special in this regard (sadly)...
He's left defending what he's sad about. At the very best he's no more than an ethnic separatist and he should admit that he wants Arab citizens of Israel to leave.

My comments were removed as was Schliesser's response, which included this:
The folk that tend to obsess about Zionism, in particular, tend to have a peculiar focus.

Mondoweiss

Every text will have a subtext or a context that's read or seen first by outsiders. Schliesser can't think of himself as a bigot. He refers to his philosophical interest as scientific, but a Palestinian housewife can offer the rebuttal to his logic more powerful than any by those he would consider peers.

As always:


Recent posts at NewApps include "Increasing the percentage of female full professors"; "Freedom University", about college professors in Georgia organizing to teach illegal immigrants; "Take the pledge! Support UC Davis colleagues! Demand Katehi's resignation!", on the pepper spraying at UC Davis. The post on Israel and the Shalem center is real discussion, something that wouldn't have happened even 5 years ago, but it's not on the same level. Any of the others could just as well have the Palestinians as subjects: "Increasing the percentage of Arab full professors" in Israeli universities, teachers volunteering in refugee camps. The Palestinians are moving into our consciousness but Israelis are our friends: we treat each differently. That will change too, but that will not change the way things change.

I don't care about Schliesser's bigotry, only about the intellectual model that says it can't exist.
---
update: the debate is heating up
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And now it's over. They can all agree about the rights of women in the American academy.

Schliesser's definition of nationalism conflates the nationalism of the French at home and in Algeria. To the Palestinians the Israelis are Pieds-Noir, and an Israeli university the equivalent of a Chinese school in Tibet, or one run by the BJP in Kashmir. The Palestinians are not wrong to think that.
I'll fix it later if I get around to it, and maybe add some images.

There's kind of artist who gets derives his politics from his fictions. The actor Gary Sinise plays a cop after Jack Webb, [link jumping forward to 2013] his politics out of a cardboard character. Watching him you can sense he believes his own lies. I get the same sense from Borges, who conflates winkingly his ability as a story-teller to bring fantasies into existence, with his wish to make the fantasies come true in the world. But his work is decadent in a knowing way: that's the wink, but the irony is thin. At the end of The Rose of Paracelsus, he wants you to be surprised, to inhale a little sharply, at what is in fact no more than a simple language trick. Like a story by Saki but with metaphysical pretensions.
Before putting out the lamp and returning to his weary chair, he poured the delicate fistful of ashes from one hand into the concave other, and he whispered a single word. The rose appeared again.
Sinise is a liar who wants to believe his own lies; Borges is much smarter and hedges. But hedging is not honesty.

Borges
I would define the baroque as that style that deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its own possibilities, and that borders on self-caricature. In vain did Andrew Lang attempt, in the eighteen-eighties, to imitate Pope's Odyssey; it was already a parody, and so defeated the parodist's attempt to exaggerate its tautness. 'Baroco' was a term used for one of the modes of syllogistic reasoning; the eighteenth century applied it to certain abuses of seventeenth-century architecture and painting. I would venture to say that the baroque is the final stage of all art, when art flaunts and squanders its resources. The baroque is intellectual, and Bernard Shaw has said that all intellectual art is humorous. This humor is unintentional in the works of Baltasar Gracian, but intentional, even indulged, in the works of John Donne.
That's the best description I've read, both of Borges' work and the culture that promotes it.

Panofsky: "Barbara and Baroco"

Two recent posts here:
"The decadence of mannerism presents as the self-narrativizing of a concrete idealism, attempting to inoculate itself against increasingly dominant narrative (relativist) culture. Mannerism is the model of aristocratic art in an age of incipient democracy. The baroque is the same model of conservatism in the age of a fully ascendant democracy: the age of theater."

"Mannerism describes the aristocratic sensibility in an age of incipient democracy. The baroque is the same model of (describes) conservatism in the age of a fully ascendant democracy: the age of theater.
History shows that in art as in democracy (as in all culture whether wise men approve or not) practice precedes theory."

Compared to Borges, the conservatism of Clint Eastwood and the reactionary confusion of Mel Gibson are both fully theatrical, as opposed to baroque, and honest. But that's too simple. Rubens is conservative and baroque in the age of Rembrandt, but he is liberal (as Velazquez is almost in secret) in the context of his own conservative world..


For all those who think of Richter as a "conceptualist", the truth is that he's just a painter. If his work leads intellectuals to ask questions that's something else.

Video courtesy LVMH.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

note-taking. posted elsewhere.
"Philosophers" imagine themselves intellectual engineers, as others are called Financial Engineers, the professional title of the "inventors" of credit default swaps (buildings that fell down). The term is an analogy. Philosophical engineering is like economic "science" without the risk of failure. Unlike economists you have no data to ignore.

There's no conflict between careerism and the teaching of philosophy, but careerism and philosophical enquiry are in conflict. Logic is technical, but logic is formalism and formalism is not second order thought. Second order thought concerning formalism is the history of formalism.
Philosophical thought is second order curiosity. It cannot be technical.

Leiter posts a note from Bertram
Many smart philosophers are thinking and writing about migration and borders at the moment, and yet this drivel is what the NYT gives us in their The Stone section. Unbelievable!
The Psychology of Walls and Fences
On a large historical scale, walls must be a blessing. And not only for the remarkable — if unuttered — philosophical and cross-cultural conversation that takes place continuously between those who built walls, on one hand, and those who want to tear them down, on the other. Above all, walls help keep the world alive and history in motion. A wall is always a provocation, and life is possible only as a response to provocations; a world without walls would soon become stale and dry. After all, history itself may be nothing more than an endless grand-scale game where some built walls only for others to tear them down; the better the former become at wall-building the braver the latter get at wall-tearing. The sharpening of these skills must be what we call progress.
The post has a Borgesian formalism. It's not very original, but Bertram is offended. He demands the proper form, as Leiter does, even if it produces nothing of lasting value. They're defending their model of intellectual life and of the academy; a model that includes political science and economics in all the ways they're implicated in neoliberal crap. What "philosopher", using that academic model, has had anything useful to say about what AA hates to call the "Arab Spring"? Bradatan, in the Times, is describing the desire to defend. Bertram and Leiter defend. Zionists defend.

Leiter accuses the author of an article on Habermas, in Spiegel, of "condescension from below."
From last week. Reposted for obvious reasons. Pat Lang
"... An Iran specialist, with whom I spoke recently, posed a challenging question: At what point are the Iranians forced to take action against this clandestine war? There have been bombings, kidnappings and assassinations on the streets of Tehran that have been impossible to conceal from the Iranian population. Is this going to prove to be a war delay/war avoidance strategy, or a provocation that leads Iran to retaliate and provide Israel or others with the pretext for general war? This question is yet to be answered. So far, the Iranians have been restrained, choosing not to even retaliate with a low-level attack on Israeli or American targets outside of the region..."
Iran won't start a war, but that won't stop others from blaming Iran if there is one.
NLR: Dylan Riley on Tony Judt.
It's very good.

From DeLong, whose comments are better read as symptom than analysis.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


It's worth watching the whole thing.
Egypt's elections @ Arabist

Monday, November 28, 2011

RAND Forecasting the Future of Iran
Political Issues
• President Ahmadinejad will remain influential in Iran and will see only a slight reduction in power prior until his second Presidential term ends naturally in 2013.
• Iran’s next Supreme Leader is likely to be only slightly more moderate than Supreme Leader Khamenei. Ayatollahs Rafsanjani and Shahroudi are currently the stongest candidates, with Shahroudi being favored over Rafsanjani.
• The current system of velayat‐e faqih appears stable, and further conservative shifts in the system as seen in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election are unlikely.

Economic and Civil Society Issues
• There is substantial pressure for economic reform in Iran, which has only been partially met by the reforms introduced in January 2011 (which occurred after data collection for this study ended).
• The IRGC’s influence appears unlikely to grow significantly in the next few years, and may even diminish.
• The influence of Iran’s bonyads will likely hold constant or grow slightly in the coming years.
• Recent setbacks experienced by the women’s movement in Iran are likely to be short‐lived and completely reversed within the next few years.

Foreign Policy and National Security Issues
• US‐Iran relations will continue to remain primarily informal and halting.
• Iran will not submit to full IAEA compliance, but is unlikely to restart its nuclear weapons program unless there are significant changes to Iran’s internal calculus.
• Iran will develop a strategic relationship with Iraq that will not be destabilizing to or compromise the new Iraq government. Domestic and international pressure will prevent the nations from developing the closer alliance sought by Iran’s leaders.
• In Afghanistan, Iran’s relations will be less influential than in Iraq, and will be focused on stability and economic opportunities.
• Iran’s relations towards Israel are unlikely to change. Iran will continue its calculated rhetoric, antagonizing Israel and supporting the Palestinians while avoiding direct confrontation.
Swoop November 28th – December 4th, 2011
Despite the elaborate rhetoric surrounding the “pivot” to the Pacific represented by President Obama’s Asian trip, the ongoing reality of the US engagement in the Middle East continues to intrude. The imposition of new Iran sanctions, rising worries about Egypt and urgent exchanges with allies about Western policy toward Syria indicate that traditional US concerns will not fade. Further, the November 22nd Republican foreign policy debate in which the Administration faced strong criticism for its Iraq and Afghan policies ensure that these non-Asian issues will remain current. Indeed, the renewed turmoil in Egypt has rekindled an age-old debate in Washington regarding the tension between stability and democracy. The State Department’s public position has been to urge to military authorities to press forward as quickly as possible to civilian rule. Behind the scenes, however, there are rising concerns that public order is at risk - which in turn might open the door to extremists. In private messages, the Saudis have urged Washington to play things cautiously. US officials are taking encouragement from what they see as positive developments in Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya but nonetheless remain acutely aware that a peaceful transition in Egypt holds the key to regionalstability. Anything short of that risks throwing the region into disarray. At a time when the Administration is seeking to generate regional solidarity on a tougher policy toward Iran this possibility is most unwelcome. In the same region, US relations with Turkey remain of interest. Officials much welcome Turkey’s tough attitude to Syria, but are concerned by what they see as Turkey’s increasingly increasingly strident criticism of Israel. Overall they see Turkey as trying to “rewrite the rules of the Middle East” in ways that are challenging to the US. To return to Asia, there are signs that the tensions between China and the US over green technology support are worsening. Each side has now started an investigation of the other. Overall, trends in US-China relations tend to emphasize scratchy disagreements rather than areas of cooperation.

Thursday, November 24, 2011




Corrupt Congressman or college professor. On the evidence above it's a tough call; and the Congressman has a better grasp of the English language.

ANWAR has enough oil to supply the US for one year, and it won't affect the global price.

Monday, November 21, 2011


The cop warns them that they are about to get "shot". James Fallows wastes a paragraph quoting someone who wonders what that might mean. Meanwhile the kids are telling each other to cover their eyes. They know exactly what it means. Of the number of people screaming about this, what percentage have said anything about Egypt?
More.

FindLaw: Headwaters Forest Defense v. County of Humbolt
The students have a case [they should win it] but I'm not sure I agree with the decision as a matter of law. The protesters' original interest was in saving trees not changing law. What happened to the trees?

The headline for Fallows' piece reads: "The Moral Power of an Image:" This is what ran below it. I outlined the important bit in red.

Politics being sidetracked by law is one thing, Josh Marshall worries about politics getting sidetracked by bigger politics.
Last week I met a person heavily involved with OWS in New York. And I told him that something seemed to have changed in the previous couple weeks — basically that the dominant imagery had become about confrontations with the police rather than the core economic messages which had been more dominant previously. In most cases it didn’t seem to be the fault of the OWS protesters. It was peaceful or mainly peaceful protests getting met by excessive police responses. But still, at the level of imagery and message, the end result can be the same. And in this case, I’m not talking about the ridiculousness and movement-character assassination on Fox News. I’m talking about coverage that lacks that sort of committed bias.

Something similar is at play with this pepper spray incident at UC Davis. Yes, this is horrific. And in my mind at least it puts a spotlight on a more general trend in the country — which is increasingly tech-based and/or militarized policing strategies. But how much do the acts of the campus police at UC Davis have to do with economic inequality and the ownership of the state by the super wealthy? Unless you’re up for a Chomskian analysis of our present moment, pretty little, I think. And a lot of the people I talk to in OWS totally get this.

...A number of longtime readers wrote in over the weekend saying things to the effect of ‘I’d been equivocal on OWS until now but seeing these images have galvanized me, made me think it’s a fundamental moment for the country or that this is an iconic moment, etc.’ ...But again, an iconic moment about what? The issue of police brutality and militarized or quasi-militarized policing is a legitimate and very important issue, entirely unto itself. But the the campus police at Davis or the NYPD for that matter aren’t what’s driving the rising inequality of American society.
I've never before thought of Josh Marshall as stupid.
NYT
American military aid and personal relationships between American and Egyptian commanders give the United States great influence, and the two sides are in daily communication formally and informally, Mr. Sullivan said. But American military officials keep their messages private, as they should, he said.

“We should not make it look like we’re deeply involved in trying to solve this,” he said. “Most Egyptians would not appreciate that.”
One more for Michael Berube

Saturday, November 19, 2011


In the end the police are asked to leave, and they do.
Pat Lang
"... An Iran specialist, with whom I spoke recently, posed a challenging question: At what point are the Iranians forced to take action against this clandestine war? There have been bombings, kidnappings and assassinations on the streets of Tehran that have been impossible to conceal from the Iranian population. Is this going to prove to be a war delay/war avoidance strategy, or a provocation that leads Iran to retaliate and provide Israel or others with the pretext for general war? This question is yet to be answered. So far, the Iranians have been restrained, choosing not to even retaliate with a low-level attack on Israeli or American targets outside of the region..."
link: FLC
Legitimacy of Saudi Regime Challenged, National Press Club Membership Suspended



Sam Husseini
On Monday I went to a news conference at the National Press Club, where I am a member, titled “His Royal Highness Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia.” I asked a tough question at the news conference — a question that dealt with the very legitimacy of the Saudi regime. Before the end of the day, I’d received a letter informing me that I was suspended from the National Press Club “due to your conduct at a news conference.” The letter, signed by the executive director of the Club, William McCarren, accused me of violating rules prohibiting “boisterous and unseemly conduct or language.” After several days of efforts, I’ve been able to obtain video of the news conference. The video shows that I did not engage in any “boisterous and unseemly conduct or language.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Onion vs. Alex Rosenberg
Sean Rocha on Peter Schjeldahl
Peter Schjeldahl wanders blind through the Met’s new Islamic wing.

Can Schjeldahl be unaware how profoundly this “Renaissance wedding” was shaped by Islamic life, language, thought and design even as Europe stood apart from Islam as a religion? For reasons of geographic proximity, political competition, and economic trade there is no culture on earth with which Christendom has engaged more deeply, for more centuries, with greater exchange in both directions than with the Islamic world. Indeed, a very great part of what we know about the Greek philosophy we regard as the foundation of Western culture is through Arab translations and exegesis, with figures like Averroes and Avicenna serving as the bridge between us and Aristotle. This is one way among many in which, from Moorish architecture in Spain in the west of Europe through southern Italy to Constantinople/Istanbul in the east, centuries of cohabitation have left what is European inextricable from what is Islamic. Artistically, this transmission can be seen in everything from porcelain, carpets and illuminated manuscripts to mosaics and Mudejar architecture. There are differences, to be sure, just as there are differences between Greek and Roman, but an art critic’s role is to tease out the influences and references within a work — to find those points of exchange — not to retreat into some mythical idea of isolated creation.

Sean’s articles and photographs have appeared in The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, New York magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Slate, and The Cairo Times. In addition, he is the correspondent and resident voyageur for Le Monde d’Hermès, wandering the globe to capture in words and images the unique view on the world of the French luxury house Hermès.
I'll take what cosmopolitanism I can, where can I get it.

Link from Issandr El Amrani, Arabist
Rashid Khalidi Note also where it was published.
Dennis Ross has finally left the building. Since the Carter administration, Ross has played a crucial role in crafting Middle East policies that have prolonged and exacerbated the more than six-decade conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. His efforts contributed significantly to the growth in the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories from well under 200,000 in the 1980s to nearly 600,000 today. It is in no small measure due to him that the two-state solution is all but dead.
Greenwald Why the Washington Post won’t fire Jennifer Rubin
That’s all fine as far as it goes, but what about the question posed by the reader: wouldn’t Rubin have been fired for promoting this hate-mongering had it been directed at Jews and Israelis rather than Palestinians? Pexton’s email response, published by the reader who emailed him, was this:
Off the record, I think it’s quite possible. But the ombudsman does not hire or fire people here. I only comment.
...What’s particularly remarkable is that Pexton is admitting (albeit wanting it kept secret) what any honest observer knows to be true: that there is a very high likelihood — I’d say absolute certainty — that Rubin would have been fired had she promoted a post like this about Jews and Israelis rather than Arabs and Palestinians.

But this is the insidious, pervasive bias that has long been obvious in a profession that relentlessly touts its own “objectivity.”
As always: there is no objectivity. There can never be a science that frees us from perception; we live by perceiving/perception necessitates politics. Any science of experience can only undermine experience as function and therefore is anti-political, but scientists are people and people are political. There can be no freestanding philosophy that does not respond to this conflict.

Democracy, or representative and divided government, freedom of speech and the press, adversarialism: all are founded on a realistic and general assessment of the requirements of a thriving political life; they are not the result nor are they chosen to fit the requirements of a mythological "value free" science. Science as a tool of scientists is political, but there can be no political science.

The dream of a science of history died a long time ago; political science and academic philosophy are the last of the academic and modernist ideologies of synchrony. Israel is the last modernist utopia.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adam Lindeman

The 1% of the 1%
Let’s start with the Monopoly money art. What is it? It’s the art that sells for prices that no one can imagine or understand, like two large abstract paintings by Gerhard Richter, one that made $21 million at Sotheby’s last Wednesday and another that capped out at the same sale at $18 million. Only a year ago a similar and perhaps better one fetched $10 million at auction, a price that seemed awfully high at the time, so how can it be that a 79-year-old artist’s work has doubled in a year of financial crisis? What makes these results even more strange is the rumor that these pictures had been on the market for a while, with no buyers anywhere near these levels. But let’s not forget the early and important black and white photorealist Richter painting that didn’t find any takers in the sale at Christie’s last Tuesday night. The photorealist paintings are the more significant and historic works from Mr. Richter’s oeuvre, and yet the historically “important” art found no buyer while the pretty, colorful abstractions sold for double their presale estimates.
Cattelan at the Guggenheim
In late 2008, not long after the fall of Lehman Brothers, Mr. Cattelan celebrated the financial crash by floating a face-down, dead Pinnochio in the reflecting pool at the bottom of the Guggenheim museum. This apparent suicide of the fabled character (not coincidentally a lying Italian with a long nose) was a clear metaphor for the death of art, the marionette come to life being the classic metaphor for art, while the artist is symbolized by Geppetto, his “father,” the woodcarver. (The piece is called Daddy Daddy.) What better symbol could there be for a moment when the financial crisis threatened to trigger an art-market crash? I didn’t bother to regret all my missed opportunities, because that was then and this was now. Even with my entire Bloomberg screen flashing blood red for days, I broke down and bought Daddy Daddy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Independent
Six Palestinians seeking to emulate the "freedom rides" in the segregated southern United States of the 1960s by travelling in a West Bank-to-Jerusalem bus alongside Jewish settlers were arrested by Israeli police yesterday.
Jadaliyya
Turkish Politics, Kurdish Rights, and the KCK Operations: An Interview with Asli Bali
I think the AKP has shown itself to be truly in the model of its own former opponents on the Kemalist or secular side of Turkey, organizing precisely around the same ultra-nationalist positions as those parties did; whether in terms of its orientation towards Abdullah Öcalan, who remains in detention in Turkey and was convicted and is serving his prison sentence, or whether in terms of the general attitudes towards peaceful political organizing, or in terms of their tolerance for elected political officials, or in terms of the reach of their operations against academics, progressive publishers, basically every potential part of civil society that supports Kurdish autonomous political organizing. So the AKP has shown itself to not be a source of hope on this question.
AFP
The United States has deployed Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq for surveillance flights in support of Ankara's fight against Kurdish rebels, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
Richard Silverstein
The Guardian’s Julian Borger quotes a former Iranian government official as conceding that the explosion at an Iranian missile base was the work of the Mossad, news I was the first to report here based on a confidential authoritative Israeli source
AT
TEHRAN - Deadly explosions at a military base about 60 kilometers southwest of Tehran, coinciding with the suspicious death of the son of a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, have triggered speculation in Iran on whether or not these are connected to recent United States threats to resort to extrajudicial executions of IRGC leaders.
Craig Murray
"... Since I became a notorious whistleblower, several of my ex-friends and contacts have used me to get out information they wanted to leak, via my blog. A good recent example was a senior friend at the UN who tipped me off in advance on the deal by which the US agreed to the Saudi attack on pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain, in return for Arab League support for the NATO attack on Libya. But this was rather different, not least in the apparent implication that our Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, was engaged in something with Werritty which went beyond official FCO policy.

...My source says that co-ordinating with Israel and the US on diplomatic preparation for an attack on Iran was the subject of all these meetings. That absolutely fits with the jobs Gould held at the relevant times. The FCO refuses to say what was discussed. My source says that, most crucially, Iran was discussed at the Tel Aviv dinner, and the others present represented Mossad. The FCO again refuses to say who was present or what was discussed...
Links from FLC, AA, and elsewhere.

AA: "Is there a doubt that Western and Arab attitude toward the Syrian regime has nothing to do with its repression and killing?"

Repeat. Crooke: The Great Game in Syria

Sunday, November 13, 2011

T.J. Clark on Gerhard Richter.  Clark's well known dislike of Duchamp. No discussion of Warhol.
Clark and Richter look downwards; Warhol's gaze more horizontal (or more ambiguous). He's less educated and more observant than either of them. Questions regarding sympathy are more complex.

  
Gerhard Richter, Confrontation 2, and 3, both 1988
Warhol, Electric Chair, 1967-68
Warhol, Double Elvis, 1964

Friday, November 11, 2011

Not much to add.
British business urges the Chancellor to invest in infrastructure, cut taxes and simplify regulations
Encouraging business and investment

SIR – In the run-up to the Chancellor’s autumn statement we are writing to express our concern about the impact of continuing global uncertainty on the British economy, shown by recent growth figures.
We do not believe there are any simple solutions to stimulating growth, but this letter sets out a few changes of emphasis which we believe would have a disproportionately positive impact.
We should begin by stating our general support for steps to reduce the British deficit. The economic strategy that the Government announced last year, which has deficit reduction as a central objective, is a necessary prerequisite for long-term economic stability and growth.
Our three recommendations are: a commitment now to increasing investment in infrastructure before the end of the Parliament; an adjustment to personal taxes to increase demand and encourage wealth creators; and standing firm on simplifying regulatory processes and resisting burdensome additional regulation from Brussels.
Turning to these in order: the current turmoil in southern Europe will have implications for several years. In these circumstances Britain needs to shore up its economy by re-invigorating its investment in economically productive infrastructure. The announcement of a long-term, planned, acceleration of investment will provide an immediate and important confidence boost together with a sustainable increase in economic activity and jobs in the medium term.
Britain’s infrastructure needs are substantial; Infrastructure UK estimates we need to invest some £200 billion, from both public and private sectors, over the next five years in vital networks.
The Comprehensive Spending Review set out the Government’s commitment to a series of crucial infrastructure projects, including Crossrail and the Tube upgrades, yet public net investment is nonetheless set to fall by around 15 per cent a year (a cut of nearly 50 per cent by 2014/15, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies).
We urge the Government to restore investment to pre-recession levels by the end of this Parliament. The strategic framework set out by Infrastructure UK, informed by the new local economic partnerships’ views on local, economically productive projects, provides a sound basis for prioritisation.
Given the state of public finances, an increase in public investment should seek to maximise leverage of private sector balance sheets. Projects with income associated, such as tolled roads and bridges should be particularly encouraged and we would welcome the Treasury developing new public-private finance models to replace and improve on the PFI. As part of this work, we would encourage the Government to consider stimulating projects which are at the margin of commercial returns by accepting a greater risk where the project is in the public interest.
Secondly, we would encourage an acceleration of the Government’s commitments on two areas of tax policy: increasing the personal allowance and restoring 40 per cent as the top rate of income tax.
Raising the personal allowance will boost the disposable income of those households who spend a high proportion of their discretionary income and thus boost aggregate demand.
The Treasury has estimated the cost of raising the personal allowance by £630 to £8,105 in April 2012 to be £1 billion. We would like to see an increase of at least a further £1,000 in April 2012.
An early removal of the temporary 50 per cent tax rate would attract wealth generators to the United Kingdom and support the entrepreneurs we need to help us grow the economy and provide jobs. We await the conclusions of the HMRC evaluation of the sums raised by the 50 per cent rate; however, we are confident that the cost to the Treasury, if any, in the short term will not be material and that the advantages over the life of this Parliament in terms of generally increased economic activity will more than outweigh any direct costs.
These changes to tax policy are equitable and would boost demand and confidence at a modest short-term cost to the Exchequer.
Finally, turning to regulation, we welcome the overall thrust of government policy and appreciate that simplification is easier said than done.
We would, in particular, urge the Chancellor to continue with the Government’s “one-in, one-out” approach to regulation; to ensure that European employment directives are implemented so as to preserve the maximum flexibility for employers; and to implement the National Planning Policy Framework and the wider Plan for Growth.
Taken together, we believe these immediate actions would boost confidence, stimulate demand and set the United Kingdom on the right course to grow in the longer term.

Baroness Valentine
Chief Executive Officer, London First
Anton Valk
Chief Executive Officer, Abellio
Roger Madelin
Joint Chief Executive, Argent Group
David Tonkin
Regional Managing Director, UK Atkins
Alan Pepper
Chief Executive, Avanta
Sir Nigel Rudd
Chairman, BAA Airports
Tony Pidgley
Chairman, Berkeley Group
Harold Paisner
Senior Partner, Berwin Leighton Paisner
Bob Rothenberg
Senior Partner, Blick Rothenberg
Chris Grigg
Chief Executive, British Land
Hugh Seaborn
Chief Executive, Cadogan Estates
John Burns
Chief Executive, Derwent London
Michael Marx
Chief Executive, Development Securities
Anthony Arter
London Senior Partner, Eversheds
Beverley Aspinall
Managing Director, Fortnum & Mason
George Kessler
Group Deputy Chairman, Kesslers International
Francis Salway
Chief Executive, Land Securities
Dan Labbad
Chief Executive Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Lend Lease Development
Robert Elliott
Senior Partner, Linklaters
Sir David Rowlands
Chairman, London Gatwick Airport
Patrick Seely
Managing Director, Mooreland Partners
Simon Johnston
Senior Partner, Nabarro
Annette King
Chief Executive Officer, OgilvyOne UK
Ian Powell
Chairman and Senior Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Harvey McGrath
Chairman, Prudential
Adrian Wyatt
Chief Executive Officer, Quintain Estates and Development
Jasminder Singh
Chairman & CEO, Radisson Edwardian Hotels
Andy Raynor
Chief Executive, RSM Tenon
Ian McAlpine
Senior Partner, Sir Robert McAlpine
Mike Putnam
President & CEO, Skanska
Gareth Pearce
Chairman, Smith & Williamson
John Treharne
Chief Executive Officer, The Gym Group
Mike Nichols
Chairman and Chief Executive, The Nichols Group
Vincent Clancy
Chief Executive Officer, Turner & Townsend
Professor Malcolm Grant
President and Provost, UCL
Basil Scarsella
Chief Executive Officer, UK Power Networks
David Joyce
Chief Operating Officer, Vinci
Steve Purdham
Chief Executive Officer, We7
Maspero



IPA: Military Trials “Crushing Egyptian Revolution”
---
Michael Berube: "Has anything big happened in Egypt or Tunisia lately?"
See Nov. 7th
Gareth Porter
The report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published by a Washington think-tank on Tuesday repeated the sensational claim previously reported by news media all over the world that a former Soviet nuclear weapons scientist had helped Iran construct a detonation system that could be used for a nuclear weapon.

But it turns out that the foreign expert, who is not named in the IAEA report but was identified in news reports as Vyacheslav Danilenko, is not a nuclear weapons scientist but one of the top specialists in the world in the production of nanodiamonds by explosives.
Porter credits Bernard at MoA
A rundown of links on Iran at Arabist

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Only Nixon could go to China

Technocrats against technocracy; experts "discover" the importance of non-experts. Two posts by Henry Farrell:
The Rise of the Technocrats. The title itself is absurd.
Nudge and Democracy, linking to a piece by HF and Cosma Shalizi in New Scientist: 'Nudge' Policies are Another Name for Coercion

Two days earlier, HF posted a defense of utopian literature, the technocrat's light entertainment of choice.

I won't begin to run down the list of authoritarian or anti-democratic arguments published at CT, but I will note the most recent, from Nov. 1st: ‘We have faith in our citizens’ – why? I'll admit that I think Niamh, their most recent addition, is a bit behind the curve.

I wish I could say that a scientist's understanding of democracy could be enough, but it's not. The knowledge of feminism, the feminism of men, is not enough. Democracy and curiosity, like pedantry and bigotry, begin in experience and practice not it theory; but the first links above are another example of leftward drift, or a drift towards the social, that as I've said is beginning to separate proud neoliberals from those who never wanted to admit that's what they were.
---
"Another nudge", from July.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

From Leiter: Occupy the Airwaves-Episode 6: Political Philosopher John Rawls and Occupy Wall Street: A Discussion with Stanford Professor Joshua Cohen. I posted a comment, quoting Robert Paul Wolff. I posted the same quote on this page in May of last year.
On September 17, 1969 I sent a letter to eleven senior members of the philosophy profession, asking them to serve as co-signers with me on a motion to be presented to the annual meeting of the Eastern Division of the APA, calling for the establishment of a Standing Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession. Alice Ambrose and Morris Lazerowitz [who were husband and wife] came on board, as did Justus Buchler [whose wife taught philosophy], and Sue Larson and Mary Mothersill, both of Barnard. Maurice Mandelbaum, who along with Lewis White Beck had read my Kant manuscript for Harvard, was sympathetic, but pointed out that as the incoming APA president, if he signed he would be in the position of petitioning himself. A good point. The great Classicist Gregory Vlastos also said yes, as did Ruth Marcus, whom I knew from my Chicago days, when she was at Northwestern. Morty White was supportive, but declined to sign for fear that if the motion passed, he would be expected to serve on the committee, something he said he could not do because of writing obligations. That left Jack Rawls, who declined to sign. In retrospect, this does not surprise me. Although Jack was on his way to becoming the world’s leading expert on justice, he never seemed to be there when action was needed.
More:
Joshua Cohen "...is also editor of Boston Review, a bi-monthly magazine of political, cultural, and literary ideas, and a member of the Apple University faculty." [Apple University: "...Apple and Steve Jobs planned a training program in which company executives will be taught to think like him, in 'a forum to impart that DNA to future generations.' Key to this effort is Joel Podolny, former Yale Business School dean."]

Under "links" the page includes a link to a post on the Opinionator blog at the NYT: Rawls on Wall Street. The author, Steven Mazie, is the author also of Israel's Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State

The mediocre politics isn't the issue.

Victoria Nuland is married to Robert Kagan
First paragraphs and last: Kitler and the Sirens
In 2004, after I gave an artist’s talk in a gallery in Berlin, a group of people strode up to speak to me. They were, they told me, followers of the media theorist Friedrich Kittler, members of his entourage – or, to give it its semi-official name, the Kittlerjugend. They used this last term not without irony; but it was the type of irony that masks seriousness, in the way that Hamlet’s pretending to be mad acts as a cover for him actually being mad. The shoulders of the lead delegate, a charismatic Russian émigrée named Joulia Strauss, were wrapped in a hand-woven silk shawl bearing a large reproduction of al-Jazeera’s test pattern. My art project, they informed me (it involved a narrative of radio transmission and network infiltration), met with their approval – that is, with the approval of the man himself, or at least (and perhaps equally importantly) of his aura.

Great, I said. I’d heard all about Kittler: ‘Derrida of the digital age’ whose vision combined the circuitry of Lacan’s models for the psyche, and Foucault’s archaeological conception of all knowledge and its systems, with the material hardware of technological transcription and recording: typewriters, tape recorders, film projectors and their non-analogue offspring. We all went to a bar. The next day, the Jugenddelegation whisked me off to a screening, in another gallery, of Debord’s In Girum Imus Nocte. The gallery was operated by a media-activist group called Pirate Cinema; its whole programme was composed of illegally downloaded films. They’d been hit with a punitive fine for this some months earlier, which the German Bundeskulturstiftung had paid for them. I asked if Pirate Cinema were part of the Kittlerjugend. No, Strauss said; but they have good relations with them – they’re also his former students. And so, she added, are half the members of the Bundeskulturstiftung’s grants committee.

...Afterwards, he told me he’d been testing out the Sirens episode in the Odyssey. He took the three most prominent sopranos from the German National Opera and placed them on the very rocks on which Homer locates them (these can be identified with total accuracy, he assured me) and, instructing them to sing, had himself conveyed past them in a yacht, to see if they could actually be heard. The rocks, he explained, don’t drop directly down into the sea but slope in with a shallow incline that makes it impossible for boats to pass close by. The singers were inaudible. Maybe there’s more other noise now, I suggested: aeroplanes, motorboats, general modern static. Not at all, he insisted: the spot is extremely isolated; there’s no noise pollution there at all. ‘Which means,’ he concluded, ‘that Homer was deliberately setting a false trail: what he’s telling us between the lines is that Odysseus disembarked, swam to the rocks and fucked the sirens.’ Maybe he’d been a porn actor after all. I asked who’d funded the project. The Bundeskulturstiftung, he said. Can you imagine the Arts Council, with its craven adherence to government criteria of ‘productiveness’ and ‘outcomes’, footing the bill for such a venture?
Not long afterwards, Strauss sent a hand-woven shawl to my newborn daughter. Lines from Hölderlin’s Bread and Wine were embroidered on it:
wozu Dichter in dürftiger Zeit?
Aber sie sind, sagst du, wie des Weingotts heilige Priester,
Welche von Lande zu Land zogen in heiliger Nacht.

what use are poets in desolate times?
But they are, you say, like the high priests of the Wine God,
Who wandered from country to country in the sacred night.
When I thanked her by email, she replied with three words: ‘Deutschland wird Griechisch!’ (‘Germany becomes Greek!’) We corresponded again last month, after Kittler’s death. ‘The arrival of the gods,’ she said, ‘took place after the four machines that kept him alive were turned off.’ He’d given the command himself: his last words were ‘Alle Apparate auschalten’ – switch off all apparatuses.
Obituary in the Guardian
But doubtless Kittler attended Bayreuth for opera rather than celebrity worship. Indeed, his lifelong obsession with music was such that the most important event of his undergraduate years was attending a lecture by György Ligeti. Later, he wrote several essays for Bayreuth festival productions of Wagner. By the time of his death, one volume of a projected monumental tetralogy on music and mathematics had been published.

Arguably, Pink Floyd meant more to him than Foucault. In his 1993 book Dracula's Legacy, he meticulously analysed the band's song Brain Damage from the 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon, arguing that its three verses move from mono to stereo to "maddening" surround sound – the hi-tech version of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk. According to admirers, he would have liked to have played in the band.
Like brilliant drag queens, some avatars of absurd self-indulgence evade criticism simply by virtue of commitment.