Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Practice precedes theory
note taking. posted -by me- here and here
Wilmers [NYT] seems to think of banking as a social exercise. HIs 'rational self-interest' is bounded by a sense of obligation.
"honorable profession"
"involved in their communities,"
"the prudent extension of credit that furthers [the] commerce [of others]"

Gamblers are fundamentally asocial but good ones do well even in a crisis. Wilmers has imbibed or was raised into a moral ideology that obliquely or not abjures the 'objective' model of individualism. He's a practicing social democrat.
The idea of the social isn't very interesting. It isn't even very social.

Nocera:
In person, Wilmers does not immediately strike one as a rabble-rouser. At 77, he is soft-spoken, a bit reticent, and almost excessively polite. “I personally believe that there isn’t a more honorable profession than the banking industry,” he began. “Most bankers are very involved in their communities, and they can stand up and be counted. I saw a poll recently,” he continued, “that showed we are now considered the third worst profession. That bothers me.”

On the other hand, it didn’t exactly surprise him. In the run-up to the financial crisis, the giant national banks — which he viewed as a distinct species from the typical American bank — had done things that deserved condemnation. And, he added, “They are still doing things that I don’t think are very good.”

Such as? “It has become a virtual casino,” he replied. “To me, banks exist for people to keep their liquid income, and also to finance trade and commerce.” Yet the six largest holding companies, which made a combined $75 billion last year, had $56 billion in trading revenues. “If you assume, as I do, that trading revenues go straight to the bottom line, that means that trading, not lending, is how they make most of their money,” he said.

This was a problem for several reasons. First, it meant that banks were taking excessive risks that were never really envisioned when the government began insuring deposits — and became, in effect, the backstop for the banking industry. Second, bank C.E.O.’s were being compensated in no small part on their trading profits — which gave them every incentive to keep taking those excessive risks. Indeed, in 2007, the chief executives of the Too Big to Fail Banks made, on average, $26 million, according to Wilmers — more than double the compensation of the top nonbank Fortune 500 executives. (Wilmers made around $2 million last year.)

Finally — and this is what particularly galled him — trading derivatives and other securities really had nothing to do with the underlying purpose of banking. He told me that he thought the Glass-Steagall Act — the Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banks — should never have been abolished and that derivatives need to be brought under government control. “It doesn’t need to be studied for two years,” he said. “I would put derivative trading in a subsidiary and tax it at a higher rate. If they fail, they fail.”

As Wilmers continued on in this vein, I found myself nodding in agreement. I also couldn’t help thinking back on remarks I’d heard Jamie Dimon give at a recent Chamber of Commerce event. Dimon, who made more than $20 million last year at JPMorgan Chase, is widely viewed as the best of the big bank chief executives. But he’s also become the most vocal defender of the status quo. “To people who say the system would be safer with smaller banks doing traditional banking, well, the system would be safer if we also went back to horse and buggies,” he told the Chamber audience. “That is a quaint notion that won’t work in the real world.”

At the M&T annual meeting earlier this year, Wilmers told the company’s shareholders that the bank’s mission was to “find ways to continue to attract deposits, make sound loans and grow in accordance with our historic credit quality standards.”

How quaint, indeed. And how refreshing.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The continuing turn to narrative, and the emerging acknowledgment of the subsidiary role of the fine arts. Two weeks ago an art critic in the NY Times reviewed a show of dresses by a recently deceased fashion designer and another now defends filmmaking
But it is also hard not to feel impatient and to wish Mr. Weerasethakul would go the extra miles to give his vision the kind of narrative and metaphorical coherence of his more conventional but also more captivating “Uncle Boonmee.”

This is an old problem. The defender of the avant garde will argue that breaking with tradition enables the emergence of new forms of consciousness that the kitschy conventions of popular entertainment usually block. Be that as it may, Mr. Weerasethakul’s fragmenting, multiscreen approach is conventional in its own way. It focuses attention as much on how we experience projected moving imagery and puzzle together narrative in our own minds as it does on its ostensible subject matter. In that respect, its appeal is academic. But it doesn’t do anything much more advanced than Mr. Weerasethakul’s experimentalist heroes did back in the 1960s.

What is more disappointing is that in its self-consciously anti-stylish style, it muffles its own heartbeat: the story of young men caught in the unpredictable flux of history trying to imagine a better future.
"The defender of the avant garde will argue that breaking with tradition enables the emergence of new forms of consciousness"

Philosophers of course are still committed avant-gardists but there's no record of vanguardists of any stripe living up to that claim, at least in any way that they should be happy about. To say otherwise is to argue that Bill Ayers and the Weathermen are more important to the history of the U.S. in the 1960's than Martin Luther King and the SCLC. The best the cultural avant-garde could claim once is to have humanized its present. And to understand the intellectual vanguard now is to recognize that academic philosophers want to be called scientists for the same reasons investment managers want to be called financial "engineers."

The Fine Arts section of the Times has been shrinking for years. It's half the size it was even 10 years ago.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The show's been up for a bit, but they've been tweaking it. The press release went out yesterday. Co-curator with J.T., for the gallery.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
FABRIC AS FORM at Tilton Gallery
8 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10021
May 26 – July 9, 2011

The depiction of fabric, of folds, of draped cloth crosses the barriers of style, time, and continents. From ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, 4th century Ganhara Indian sculpture and 6th century Khmer art, though European Middle Age illuminations, Romanesque and Gothic sculpture, to Rubens, Titian, Durer, Delacroix, Gainsborough, Sargent, and Rodin, the painterly illusion and sculptural manifestation of draped fabric has clothed figures, adorned scenes and infused art with movement and abstract form. The grand sweeps of form inspired by what fabric used to do informs contemporary art as well, as abstract metaphor in the metal folds of Lynda Benglis sculpture, the draped mixed media works by Senga Nengudi and in the folded metal sculpture of John Chamberlain. Folds of actual cloth also appear in works that incorporate fabric by David Hammons and Richard Tuttle, and in the sweeping cloth of installations by younger artists such as India Lawrence, Scott Anderson and Martha Tuttle. Contemporary photographs by Bill Jacobson, James Welling and Barbara Morgan take up where Japanese prints and Renaissance etchings left off to bring movement in the form of cloth to their images, whether realistic or essentially abstract.

An historical stylistic element gives sway to visual form, and the story of its use changes with every era and culture. Fabric as Form brushes the surface of this subject and presents a visual gallop through the ages to sample the different approaches, metaphorical uses, and simply, visual examples of delight. Tilton Gallery invites you to an exhibition that allows your eye to roam. Fabric defines form. Form defines fabric. Historical meaning and formal analysis both define and defy the visual reality of each work of art.

Included are works by:

Scott Andresen, Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlain, Henri Pierre Danloux, Honoré Daumier, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Albrecht Dürer, Nicolas Edelnick, Madame Gres, Zaha Hadid, David Hammons, Wenzel Hollar, Bill Jacobson, Christoffel Jegher, Titus Kaphar, Torii Kiyomasu I, India Lawrence, Issey Miyake, Barbara Morgan, Senga Nengudi, Brie Ruais, Katsukawa Shuncho, Martha Tuttle, Richard Tuttle, Rembrandt van Rijn, James Welling, Charles White.
Recently, Mr. Romer has been been an advocate of a concept he calls “charter cities,” in which a poor country would turn over a piece of land to be managed by a more affluent country or countries.
"You can trust me, I have an extended mind."
Obama, Hands off our Spring
The first wave of Arab revolutions is entering its second phase: dismantling the structures of political despotism, and embarking on the arduous journey towards genuine change and democratisation. The US, at first confused by the loss of key allies, is now determined to dictate the course and outcome of this ongoing revolution.

What had been a challenge to US power is now a "historic opportunity", as Barack Obama put it in his Middle East speech last week. But he does not mean an opportunity for the people who have risen up; it is a chance for Washington to fashion the region's present and future, just as it did its past. When Obama talks of his desire "to pursue the world as it should be" he does not mean according to the yearnings of its people, but according to US interests.

And how is this new world to be built? The model is that of eastern Europe and the colour revolutions; American soft power and public diplomacy is to be used to reshape the socio-political scene in the region. The aim is to transform the people's revolutions into America's revolutions by engineering a new set of docile, domesticated and US-friendly elites. This involves not only co-opting old friends from the pre-revolutionary era, but also seeking to contain the new forces produced by the revolution, long marginalised by the US.

As Obama put it last week: "We must … reach the people who will shape the future – particularly young people … [and] provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned." To this end he has doubled the budget for "protecting civil society groups" from $1.5m to $3.4m.

The recipients are not only the usual neoliberal elements, but also activists who spearheaded the protest movements, and mainstream Islamists. Programmes aimed at youth leaders include the Leaders for Democracy Arabic project, sponsored by the US state department's Middle East partnership initiative. A number of Arab activists, including the Egyptian democracy and human rights activist Esraa Abdel Fattah, were invited to an event hosted by the Project on Middle East Democracy in Washington last month – one of many recent conferences and seminars. Meetings between high-ranking US officials – such as the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer – and the Muslim Brotherhood took place in Cairo last month, while the deputy chairman of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party has recently returned from a visit to Washington to "discuss democratic transition".

Washington hopes that these rising forces can be stripped of their ideological opposition to US hegemony and turned into pragmatists, fully integrated into the existing US-led international order. Dogma is not a problem, as long as the players agree to operate within parameters delineated for them, and play the power game without questioning its rules. It remains to be seen, however, if they risk losing their popular base in return for US favours.

Containment and integration are not only political, but economic...
From a paper [SSRN] linked at Balkinization
Living constitutionalism is largely dead. So, too, is old-style originalism. Instead, there is increasing convergence in the legal academy around what might be called “new textualism.” The core principle of new textualism is that constitutional interpretation must start with a determination, based on evidence from the text, structure, and enactment history, of what the language in the Constitution actually means.
This ties into the new themes in philosophy. The focus on the "actual" meaning of the Constitution is akin to the focus on "objects" and is founded on the same error: that what we perceive is identical to what exists beyond our perceptions.

"...what the language in the Constitution actually means." I really thought we were beyond this shit.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Emotive communication as rhetoric, true lies and performance
And Mr. Costello inhabited his characters completely when he sang: all the ache, all the venom. None was more telling than “I Want You,” a slow, seething, self-lacerating and furious confession of passion and need, with jabs of bitter lead guitar. It didn’t feel like show business at all. Maybe that was the real proof of Mr. Costello’s showmanship.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This is all a repeat, but it's necessary.

John Protevi is a philosopher.
...Because we all know that one could craft criteria so that it does, or doesn't, depending on one's desires. That strikes me as not the sort of thing we'd like on our blog.
John Mortimer was a lawyer.
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.
We reason always in service to desire. There is no arguing otherwise. Lawyers are paid craftsmen, and Protevi sounds like Antonin Scalia.
...Because we all know that one could craft criteria so that it does, or doesn't, depending on one's desires. That strikes me as not the sort of thing we'd like on our society.
The model of a "living" Constitution which is the liberal model of legal interpretation, is that it applies to all texts: a Constitution, a Beethoven Sonata, or The Genealogy of Morals. The living Constitution describes a living language. And it's the only model that describes the history of changes that have already occurred. Meanings change through argument, but we always argue from the present and from contemporary sensibilities. The Constitution is what we desire it to be, within the constraints of language. In the future people will desire something else.

Democracy is due process: results are secondary. The process of democracy is argument, and there are a lot of arguments breaking out, so there's real politics. even among academics: 1, 2, 3

The Palestinians are still objects of debate, or at best concern, rather than subjects to be listened to. For liberals the main theme in the end is self-regard. John Quiggin wonders why he's seeing a resurgence of "Reality-based journalism?"
The fact that, with no observable exceptions, the Republican Party relies on delusional beliefs for most of its claims about economics, science and history has been obvious for some years. But, until recently it’s been outside the Overton Window. That seems to have changed,
He's seeing change, but are the Palestinians?
The only change is in normative language and reference. The Palestinians, unlike homosexuals (now), are still outside, beyond the boundary. Anthropogenic global warming is somewhere in-between. What's grotesque in liberalism, seen in Quiggin's use of the terminology of the "Overton Window" is that the term can never be used to refer to the user's own limitations.
I've been reading Bruno Latour and bits and pieces on the Extended Mind (mentioned earlier) Thinking of reading Harman. I'm beginning to see the themes: the world as collective as seen through an expanded diversified networked self.

The Israeli philosopher says to the Palestinian farmer: "I see myself in you and you in myself."

The Palestinian farmer responds: "You can't speak for me, so why pretend?"

The other is other. The expanded, networked, self will act according to it's own bias. The philosopher as a type is comparable (as I've said) to the Continental European legal role of Investigating Magistrate. Both originate in the Church.  However much the philosopher magistrate wants to claim an expanded, networked consciousness, he is still only a self: the sexist who calls himself a feminist; the asshole who claims to be "a nice guy".

The other is other. The defense attorney's other is the prosecutor. By law s/he can be nothing else. A class on feminist theory taught by a man to male students is not enough. It will not do the job. There can be no discussion of feminism without the presence of women. There can be no discussion of the Palestinians without Palestinians. Various claims to "see the other in myself" are pure rhetoric and wishful thinking. Embodied consciousness is not an idea it's what we are. And what we are are individuals defined by individual perceptions. That we can not live or thrive alone is something else entirely. You can not understand the need for community without understanding the borders of the self.

Philosophers want judges to be at the intellectual and moral center of our justice system, but they aren't. Ambulance chasers are at the center of our justice system. I had a short email exchange with Protevi, but it wasn't helpful.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Met is swamped with viewers for the Alexander McQueen show. The roped-in waiting line runs along the main corridor of the 19th Century painting galleries, which because it's filled now with people waiting more than looking, is as loud as the main hall of the building.

Here's the crossover marketing in action.

I won't repeat my argument. The show isn't very interesting and the installation's vulgar, but that's not to diminish its significance or the significance of the public response.

At the same time, the Frick has rehung Giovanni Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert, after sending it to the Met for analysis, in a temporary installation in the Oval Room. The Bellini, "is a masterpiece of spiritual poetry that has enthralled generations of visitors to The Frick Collection," but the curators, in a move as perverse as anything in the McQueen show, have added two more Van Dyck's to the others that usually flank the central staging area, surrounding and dwarfing St Francis with what are now Baroque giants, almost pagan gods, depicted in monuments to earthly luxury and pomp.


It's a great room and for the same reasons the public are lining up a few blocks away at the Met. The themes are identical, but handled here on a much higher level by curators of or near the same generation as McQueen and the designers of his retrospective.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

note taking. Synthese again, at scienceblogs/pharyngula.
Philosophers still argue among themselves whether or not what they do is "garbage", so perhaps they should be more cautious throwing accusations of "non-epistemology" at outsiders.
And empiricists should be cautious taking sides in arguments that are fundamentally theological.
update: a reply that misses my point completely, and a rejoinder.
And empiricists should be cautious taking sides in arguments that are fundamentally theological.
"When theologists stop making claims about what is real I will stop engaging them for empirical evidence."
---
A smart defender of ID can point to debates among philosophers as evidence that their own arguments should be taken seriously. Defenders of evolution should not be defending philosophic pretension to science.
That last should not be understated.
Myers himself is a model of scientist as anti-political, therefore anti-intellectual.

Previously
Leiter
New Apps etc.

5/21: And again at New APPS
I'll repeat and expand on what I said elsewhere:
A smart defender of ID could -and probably should- point to debates among philosophers as evidence that their own arguments should be taken seriously. Those wanting to defend the teaching of evolution should therefore not become trapped into defending philosophic pretension to science. Evolution should be defended in the most vulgar terms foundational to common understanding. The arguments of philosophers, as opposed to scientists, should be avoided like the plague.

It's obvious the EIC's of Synthese had no idea of the politics involved in what I can only imagine they saw as another special issue on a specific question of epistemology, and therefore of no consequence in the wider political and intellectual world. When they found out that some people took the underlying issues seriously enough to be angry, they freaked. This is not to their credit. At the same time, given all I've read over the past years, including the discussion linked above, accusations of "non-epistemology" hurled by academic philosophers make me laugh. I write this as someone whose mother was attacked in writing as evil incarnate for her work at the ACLU, and as a vile representative of the perversities of liberalism. I shudder to think of the abuse if any of her critics had ever found out she'd never been to law school or that her Ph.D. (strictly speaking AbD) was in English Literature.
The first paragraph of Panofsky's What is Baroque?
The late Scholastic logicians devised amusing helps to memory by which the many forms or figures of syllogism (conclusions from a major and minor premise) could be remembered. These mnemonic devices consisted of words of three syllables partly real and partly made up for the purpose. Each syllable stood for one of the three propositions, and the vowels therein signified the character of these propositions. The vowel a, for instance, denoted a general and positive statement; the vowel o, a partial and negative one. Thus the nice name Barbara, with its three as, designates a syllogism that consists of three general and positive propositions (for instance: 'All men are mortal all mortal beings need food consequently all men need food"). And for a syllogism consisting of one general and positive proposition and two partial and negative ones (for instance: "All cats have whiskers some animals have no whiskers consequently some animals are not cats"), there was coined the word Baroco, containing one a and two os. Either the word, or the peculiarly roundabout fashion of the main of thought denoted by it, or both, must have struck later generations as particularly funny and characteristic of the pedantic formalism to which they objected in medieval thought , and when humanistic writers, including Montaigne, wished to ridicule an unworldly and sterile pedant, they reproached him with having his head full of "Barbara and Baroco," etc. Thus it came about that the word Baroco (French and English Baroque) came to signify everything wildly abstruse, obscure, fanciful, and useless (much as the word intellectual in many circles today). (The other derivation of the term from Latin veruca and Spanish barueca, meaning, originally, a wart and by extension a pearl of irregular shape, is most improbable both for logical and purely linguistic reasons.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Obama:
FLC
Arabist
Weiss

etc...
note taking. a two-fer (related). posted (be me) elsewhere
The extended mind hypothesis is no more than a fantasy of the hypertrophied self. The fact that we make cues and markers from the world around us, and that we create or build our subjectivity out of our experience of the world is not news. Mnemonic devices are not a recent discovery, or even a recent rediscovery. And then there's Proust. All this is evidenced in science and art. But the notion that the self itself is external to our bodies is no more than religious fantasy. And on top of that the politics are neoliberal and reactionary. If my self extends out into the world than my cell phone and my car and my girlfriend are all aspects of me, and I have to right to speak [equally] on their behalf. If they are objects in the world that I have only partial access through my perceptions, then my obligation is curiosity, and humility, even in relation to inanimate objects.

We construct our internal worlds out of our experience of the external world. Everything in science leads to to say they're tied together. Nothing leads us to say they're identical, even less that our minds encompass the world, That's nothing more than colonialism as cognitive science. I can't speak for my girlfriend, any more than Israel can speak for Palestinians.

I've come to understand recently what professors of philosophy are talking about when they refer to the new relations of Analytic and Continental philosophy: they now share poeticized fantasies of the expanded, [but] empathetic, self, speaking for the other. But we're individuals tied together. Individuality is not individualism. Aestheticized -poeticized- individualism is no more than an ideology, a theological fantasy.
scienceblogs.com/pharyngula
The essay in Synthese is titled "On the Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design" but professional philosophers are still debating whether or not philosophy is "garbage" and therefore non-epistemology.

At the moment I'm reading arguments, made by respected philosophers (respected even by Brian Leiter) for the "Extended Mind Hypothesis", which argues that "the human mind has never been ‘bound and restricted by the biological skin-bag, … the ancient fortress of skin and skull' " and for "freeing ourselves from mere bio-chauvinistic prejudices."

Bio-chauvinism!!

If philosophers can't tell valid reasoning from garbage they should leave the arguments to scientists, and specifically to scientists who pay less attention to philosophers. Another reason to read Lewontin.
Of course there's no hard and fast rule for valid reasoning about the world. I made that point in a final comment.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nir Rosen in Al Jazeera
Western media fraud in the Middle East

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nir Rosen (on Facebook) is right: "fucking brilliant!"
NY Times March 20 1947
Whatever the degree of their superiority complex, however, the Jews are certainly confident of their ability to bring the Arabs to terms - by persuasion if possible, by might if necessary. The program of the largest terrorist group, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, is to evacuate the British forces from Palestine and declare a Zionist state west of the Jordan, and "we will take care of the Arabs."
NY Times May 14 2011
After Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, armies from neighboring Arab states attacked the new nation; during the war that followed, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes by Israeli forces. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were also destroyed. The refugees and their descendants remain a central issue of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday/Friday
The show at Tilton is up.

Fabric as Form
Jack Tilton Gallery
8 East 76th St

I'm co-curator: nothing by me in it. But it began for me years ago, so I may as well link to the history.

Or use the tags below.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

note taking. posted [by me] elsewhere
I think it should be hard now for anyone to deny the political aspects of what we call "knowledge", given the the things I've read on this page "thick with certain problematic assumptions", given those "stunned by Plantinga's close involvement" or concerned for the "redemptive power of philosophy and one's own religion," given that Noam Chomsky could write "[u]ncontroversially" George W. Bush's crimes "vastly exceed bin Laden’s," and be attacked as irrational, and given that one of the guest editors at Synthese is a board certified 9-11 truther. Chomsky the linguist is a rationalist who discounts empirical data that contradicts his assumptions. And I'm writing this on the anniversary of the Nakba.

The best guard against irrationality isn't reason, its a knowledge of history.
The Synthese Affair
And here
63 years.
Ali Abunimah
Gideon Levy
To be is to be the value of a bound variable
W.V.O. Quine.
I can't think of a better example of mid-century Mannerism.

Rereading Panofsky's "What is Baroque?" Passages on Bronzino.

Christ at the Orgy, 1552
The "Nakba": 63 years.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tim Parks
I’m English and live in Italy. During March, within two or three days of each other, I received: from The New York Review, four novels by the Swiss author Peter Stamm; from the Italian newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, in English and Italian; and from a New York publisher, a first novel, Funeral for a Dog, by the young German writer Thomas Pletzinger. The last was accompanied by some promotional puff that begins: “Pletzinger is German, but you wouldn’t know it from his debut, which is both wise and worldly.”

What a wonderful insight this careless moment of blurb-talk gives us into the contemporary American mindset! ...
"Fog in Channel. Europe cut off."
It's too early for summer repeats.
Political scientist Henry Farrell, in comments, links approvingly to a profile of Paul Krugman
A few years ago, Krugman, having decided that he was going to be writing about politics and so he should know more about it, did a very Krugman thing. He didn’t talk to people who worked in Washington. Instead, he started to read the political-science literature. Krugman had never understood the press coverage of politics, which seemed to emphasize its most irrelevant aspects. Why dwell on a presidential candidate’s psychology when the trends in unemployment would tell you who would win an election? But viewed through the prism of political science, politics began to seem much more familiar to him. There was a mathematics to it—you could assemble data, draw correlations, understand what was essential and what was noise. The underlying shape of politics came sweeping into view: If you arranged members of Congress from left to right based on how they voted on welfare-state issues—Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance—it turned out that this left-to-right axis could predict every other vote: On Iraq expenditures, on abortion, whatever. “When you realize the fundamental divide in U.S. politics is just this one- dimensional thing, and that is how you feel about the welfare state,” Krugman says, “that changes things.”
An actual scientist responds...
Even biologists who have made fundamental contributions to our understanding of what the actual genetic changes are in the evolution of species cannot resist the temptation to defend evolution against its know-nothing enemies by appealing to the fact that biologists are always able to provide plausible scenarios for evolution by natural selection. But plausibility is not science. True and sufficient explanations of particular examples of evolution are extremely hard to arrive at because we do not have world enough and time. The cytogeneticist Jakov Krivshenko used to dismiss merely plausible explanations, in a strong Russian accent that lent it greater derisive force, as “idel specoolations.”

Even at the expense of having to say “I don’t know how it evolved” most of the time, biologists should not engage in idle speculations.
twice.
In trying to analyze the natural world, scientists are seldom aware of the degree to which their ideas are influenced both by their way of perceiving the everyday world and by the constraints that our cognitive development puts on our formulations. At every moment of perception of the world around us, we isolate objects as discrete entities with clear boundaries while we relegate the rest to a background in which the objects exist.
I've linked to the first piece by Lewontin before.
Politics is complicated, even in this country.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Trita Parsi at FP
One of the great bluffs in the foreign policy community in the previous decade was that Israel would have no choice but to attack Iran's nuclear facilities unless Washington stepped up and took military action first. With predictable frequency since the mid-1990s, reports emerged claiming that Israel was months, if not weeks, away from bombing Iran. And every time a new dire warning was issued, a new rationale was presented to convince the world that the latest Israeli warning was more serious than the previous one. The Israeli threats, however, were bluffs all along. Israel did not have the capacity to take out Iran's nuclear facilities. But the huffing and puffing ensured that the American military option remained on the table; that Washington would not deviate from the Israeli red line of rejecting uranium enrichment on Iranian soil; and that the Iranian nuclear program was kept at the top of the international community's agenda.

But the persistent bluffing also carried a price. ... [more]
funny
Al Jazeera knew all along that Parvatz left Damascus on May 1 (FLC, here)... As to why Al Jazeera decides to sort of speak truthfully, today, on Parvatz' whereabouts, I figure that as the tempo decreases in Damascus, focus needs to shift elsewhere... [.FLC reported that Parvatz was in Iran and that even her US senator knew that, on May5.]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rump Modernism:
I read that he [Wael Ghonim] has just signed a deal to write a book for Westerners about the Egyptian "revolution." That is a book I won't read. (I give him credit for donating all proceeds to the families of victims of Mubarak repression). If the Egyptian uprising wants to progress toward a revolution, it has to push aside all lame liberal voices.
I'm not a fan of Ghonim, the man from Google, but AbuKhalil's radical idealism or reactionary authoritarianism -take your pick- is stupid. He's sounding more and more like Brian Leiter, another snobbish intellectual aristocrat (adding a specifically aristocratic/vanguardist argument for violence). Add to that also the anger of the native colonial elite. All dated; and all too fucking predictable.
---
5/11
More stupidity

Sunday, May 08, 2011

McClatchy: While Bahrain demolishes mosques, U.S. stays silent.

Laleh Khalili at Jadaliyya: What Churchill Said

Saturday, May 07, 2011

"We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic."

The image of Samar, then 5 years old, screaming and splattered in blood after American soldiers opened fire on her family’s car in the northern town of Tal Afar in January 2005, illuminated the horror of civilian casualties and has been one of the few images from this conflict to rise to the pantheon of classic war photography. The picture has gained renewed attention as part of a large body of work by Chris Hondros, the Getty Images photographer recently killed on the front lines in Misurata, Libya.
I've asked this question before about other examples of photojournalistic "art": Could you have taken it?

The paragraphs below were written by an art critic not a style writer, and did not appear in the style section but in the section now named Art & Design.
A hairstylist friend of mine used to place leather bondage gear in her downtown shop window to scare off what she called “the wrong element,” meaning anyone wanting a nice wash and trim. She wanted to be sure that if you sat in her chair, you were ready to accept whatever look she decided on for you, because it would change the way you saw yourself in the world. That was the deal.

“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a survey of the career of the British fashion designer who died last year, a suicide at 40, is similarly about control and change. The show, or rather what’s in it, is a button-pushing marvel: ethereal and gross, graceful and utterly manipulative, and poised on a line where fashion turns into something else.
40 years ago the explicit collapsing of categories would have been unthinkable. In 1994 when the New Yorker published an issue of articles on the fashion scene its writers were accused of slumming.*


Frank Gehry: "One of my greatest influences is the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini."


Descartes: "History is like foreign travel. It broadens the mind, but it does not deepen it."
Eric Hobsbawm
Why brilliant fashion designers, a notoriously non-analytic breed, sometimes succeed in anticipating the shape of things to come better than professional predictors, is one of the most obscure questions in history; and for the historian of culture, one of the most central.
Contra Descartes, as I've said a thousand times, language is change. "The primacy of the theoretical" will become always the primacy of fashion. The dream of a "scientific philosophy" is just that.
____

I saw the show this afternoon.
McQueen wasn't a couturier he was a costume designer; and that gives both the credit they deserve. But as with almost everything put on by the Costume Institute the installation turns the Met into Madame Tussaud's. It's more vulgar -more bought and paid for- than the Guggenheim at its worst.

And I'll say again that the arts that cater only to the tastes of the various pseudo-aristocracies under capitalism lend themselves easily to kitsch. "Live the fantasy" is a tag-line in the fashion world, but whether the fantasy is of beauty and eternal youth or intellectual significance the basic structure is identical. And again there's something about Americans and the British and their relationship to France. A popular definition of kitsch is to be "more Catholic than the Pope", and McQueen's work -more French than the French- is as desperately overdetermined as an english language discussion of French theory. What's interesting about Gehry, and I've said this before too, is that his interest in Bernini doesn't originate in the academy. He sees the old world with fresh eyes.

Academics tend to forget that invention begins with observation, and that erudition is only a tool. The librarian is never the best model for intellectual life.
---

* The issue is now on the web. One article in particular caused a bit of a stir. Below are the last paragraphs of Hilton Als' profile of Andre Leon Talley
“Look, LouLou!” Talley shouted. “The color of this ring is divine, no? Just like the stone you gave me!”

“What?” LouLou de La Falaise asked, barely disguising her boredom.

“This ring, child. Just like the stone you gave me, no?”

LouLou de La Falaise did not respond. She nodded toward Roxanne Lowitt, and Lowitt instructed her to stand behind Maxime de La Falaise and Talley. LouLou de La Falaise said, “I will stand there only if André tries not to look like such a nigger dandy.”

Several people laughed, loudly. None louder than André Leon Talley. But it seemed to me that a couple of things happened before he started laughing: he shuttered his eyes, his grin grew larger, and his back went rigid, as he saw his belief in the durability of glamour and allure shatter before him in a million glistening bits. Talley attempted to pick those pieces up. He sighed, then stood and said, “Come on, children. Let’s see something. Let’s visit the house of Galliano.”

Friday, May 06, 2011

Ahmadinejad and Mashaei.
Also here.
And last year

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Duncan Black
I'm not sure why people are surprised and even upset that some teenagers don't know who the hell bin Laden is.
...The kids are fine. It's our elite overlords that are all screwed up.
American liberals identify with American children as American conservatives identify with those they see as American adults. And this is the result:
NYT
Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights on the most recent national civics examination, and only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, according to test results released on Wednesday.

At the same time, three-quarters of high school seniors who took the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unable to demonstrate skills like identifying the effect of United States foreign policy on other nations or naming a power granted to Congress by the Constitution.
Amusing to be jumping back and forth from arguing with people who think I read too much Heidegger and Nietzsche, to writing about Issey Miyake and Madame Grés.
And again (my comments, continuing from here)
There's nothing Nietzschean about learning from precedent, or pointing out the obvious parallels between the various disastrous attempts to "naturalize" the humanities [or if you want to indulge pop references: to see the relation of the cloistered academic Modernism of Quine to the tortured puritan Modernism of his nephew Robert, the junkie guitarist]. I have to admit when I first heard Law and Economics described as the new Marxism I didn't know enough to get the joke.

The argument that philosophy "invents concepts" and "makes futures possible" is predicated on the assumption that philosophical ideas have no parallel in other forms of culture. The evidence shows otherwise. But in modern philosophy myopia is a given, if not an imperative. It's a form of academic exceptionalism with its own parallels, in the US specifically.

I don't quibble over the representational power of formalist mathematics, but the lie of the representational power of formalist language played a major role in most of the great crimes of the last century. The attack on economic science by defenders of philosophical science is well deserving of mockery.




Zaha Hadid Pavilion installation time lapse

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

my comments elsewhere
"All philosophers that enter the public sphere -- Heidegger, Mill, Socrates, Adam Smith, Rousseau, etc -- can expect that people will be interested in more than just their arguments, but also how those arguments relate to their public activity."

By their nature all philosophies enter the public sphere. Quine's politics descend from his philosophy.

Eric Schliesser is a promoter of a "scientific philosophy" that whether he likes it or not tracks attempts at "scientific" economics or "scientific" history. All three are based on faith more than reason and all three will suffer the same fate.
There's no evidence that philosophers "make future(s) possible". None.
Modernists attempts to defeat history have gone from tragedy...
The Patriot Reflex

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Tariq Ali
In 2006 on my way back from Lahore I encountered an acquaintance from my youth. Shamefacedly he confessed that he was a senior intelligence officer on his way to a European conference to discuss better ways of combating terrorism. The following conversation (a lengthier version can be found in The Duel: Pakistan on the Flightpath of American Power) ensued:
‘Is OBL still alive?’
He didn’t reply.
‘When you don’t reply,’ I said, ‘I’ll assume the answer is yes.’
I repeated the question. He didn’t reply.
‘Do you know where he is?’
He burst out laughing.
‘I don’t, and even if I did, do you think I’d tell you?’
‘No, but I thought I’d ask anyway. Does anyone else know where he is?’
He shrugged his shoulders.
I insisted: ‘Nothing in our wonderful country is ever a secret. Someone must know.’
‘Three people know. Possibly four. You can guess who they are.’
I could. ‘And Washington?’
‘They don’t want him alive.’
‘And your boys can’t kill him?’
‘Listen friend, why should we kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?’
Now the Americans have killed the goose themselves. What was the bounty promised and to whom? Would that they also now brought to an end the war and occupation that was supposedly fought to take out Osama and that has already led to civilian casualties that are, at the very least, four times higher than the casualties of Twin Towers. Will they? Like hell they will.
Peter Bergen (apparently) on CNN: "Killing bin Laden is the end of the War on Terror. We can just sort of announce that right now."
Not hardly.
Ted Koppel
The Israeli government is so concerned that America's adversaries may miscalculate U.S. intentions that it is privately urging Washington to make it clear that the U.S. would intervene in Saudi Arabia should the survival of that government be threatened.
Watch for the reference to the Shiite "minority" in Bahrain.
Obscene. And pathetic.

From FLC and AA