Monday, February 27, 2012

Brian Whitaker in The Guardian:
"Syrians should beware of some of their foreign 'friends' "

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beyond the Fall of the Syrian Regime, at MERIP.
via Arabist
Amrani posts a synopsis.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Representatives from Syria's internal opposition groups will not be at the conference. One administration official told The Cable that Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford had urged in internal discussions that opposition council leaders from Damascus and Homs be included in the Tunis meeting but ultimately they were not invited.
Daily Star
A Syria-based opposition group said it was boycotting the international "Friends of Syria" meeting being held on Friday in Tunis on the future of the country, complaining of exclusion and fearing escalated militarization.

The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC) denounced what it described as attempts to leave the door open to militarize the uprising against the regime of Bashar Assad, and for foreign military intervention.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crooked Timber, Kieran Healy, from 2007, in re: their discussion of old roomie's book in 2012.

My comment at the first link, grammar repair: "...but un-self-aware"

The post and comments: the defense both of socialized caregiving and the caregiving of servants. The defense of 24/7 Nanny service. The worries about increasing privatization of caregiving (meaning the caregiving of family) as if families care for each other more now rather than less.

The source, the post at Scatterplot
”He took the job because it was a dream job for him, a chance to do something exciting, fun and interesting. He was “owed” in our relationship because he had already moved twice for my job. His first choice would have been for him to have the good job without the travel, but that wasn’t an option. To be honest, I’m selfish enough that I would have preferred that he keep his bad job and make my life easier, but I cared about him, agreed he was owed, and knew why he really wanted to do it, so I signed off.”
"He was owed", not even "I owed him".
Communication as contract: between the selfish and self-conscious, but un-self-aware. All the grey areas in a relationship described as lines. I’m sure she feels the children were “owed” too. It was unreadable.

Many of these posts overlook the structural constraints on her choices. Her story perfectly illustrates the fact that parents and children suffer the more we privatize caregiving.
Which reminds me of Harry Brighouse on Legitimate Parental Partiality
These relationships are inegalitarian in deep ways. The parties to partial relationships can exclude others from the mutual benefits their association yields and have special responsibilities to one another that give them the right, and sometimes the duty, to further one another’s interests. To give scope to these relationships is to limit what may be done in pursuit of equality. Samuel Scheffler calls this observation (when made in an appropriately hostile manner) the ‘distributive objection’ to special responsibilities: ‘the distributive objection asserts that the problem with such responsibilities is not that they may place unfair burdens on their bearers, but rather that they may confer unfair benefits...special responsibilities give the participants in rewarding groups and relationships increased claims to one another’s assistance, while weakening the claims that other people have on them’. Participants in these protected relationships benefit twice over. They enjoy the quality of the relationship itself, and they enjoy the claims that the relationship enables them legitimately to make on one another, at the expense of those excluded from the relationship.
2007 #33
24/7 nanny coverage means hiring three full-time (8 hour shift) nannies, down to two when your kid is able to sleep through night regularly. Having a nanny on shift does not mean you never interact with the kid. It can mean that while your playing outside he or she is doing the kid’s laundry. It means that when a colleague returns your calls while your playing or feeding your child, you can take the call without yelling for your spouse to stop what she’s doing to watch your child. I’ve seen the stress-levels that dual professional couples with dual-nannies display around the house. It’s a lot less than the stress-levels at mine, where there are no nannies.

Why assume that nannies still have kids at home? Some have adult children or have not yet had children.
[Krugman, now famously: "Pretty soon, we’ll be having serious, completely un-self-conscious discussions in major magazines about the servant problem." At the beginning of that post he links to DeLong. of all people]

In the discussion of Graeber's book, this passage quoted in comments, from elsewhere (not David), stands in well for many of the arguments:
Our belief in negotiated commitment – that people are not obligated to relationships they did not choose – is like one of those devastating European germs that white settlers spread throughout the world three centuries ago. We are immune; our families are based on negotiated commitments and (though they are far from perfect) work quite well in that environment – as long as we can maintain the social safety net….
Liberals have a vision of how the world should be. I believe in that vision. It is a fairer, more just world than has ever existed before. It is better adjusted to the realities of modern life. And it is, in my opinion, the only vision of the future that does not eventually lead to competing fundamentalisms fighting a world war.
"Our belief in negotiated commitment – that people are not obligated to relationships they did not choose". The fantasy of the end of community and the triumph of the individual free will. If contracts are between strangers, liberalism has turned even our partners and our children into strangers.

David's book seems as sloppy as his political arguments: his failure is that he's an individualist with fantasies of community.

The point is to understand the constitutive function of community and the fantasies of individualism -the reality of the community of individualists: the herd of independent minds- without having fantasies about anything.
UK to free Gerry Adams
Three in a row
The search for exemplary ideas or the struggle for exemplary behavior: what should take precedence?
Nigel Warburton: So do you think that individuals have any responsibility to redistribute their own wealth when they are benefactors of genetics and good behavior that's resulted in them being richer than other people?
Cohen: Yes I do think that but I also think a person's not a hypocrite if he votes for a government that is going to take away say 30 percent of his income but doesn't volunteer that 30 percent. It's human and natural that it's easier to give away your 30 percent when everybody else is having to give away their 30 percent by law. It's difficult to expect a person who lives in a particular social niche to depress the circumstances of himself and his family below a certain level even for the sake of principles that he sincerely affirms.

Warburton: We're sitting in All Souls College in Oxford; it's a very plush room. You have servants effectively coming to look after you; you have meals laid on. Now that for many people is an incredible luxury. Some people would say, if you're a real egalitarian you shouldn't wait to be taxed.

G.A. Cohen: The basic question is, if you have a salary -I don't want to say exactly what my salary is but obviously it's maybe two, three times the average wage in the society- and you don't believe that you ought to get all that, which I don't. Then you believe that you ought to sacrifice quite a lot of it which I don't -I give away some but not very much- and the explanation is that I'm a less good person than I would be if I were as good as I could be. You know I just think that I'm not a morally exemplary person that's all. That's the reconciliation.
"...a person's not a hypocrite if he votes for a government that is going to take away, say 30 percent of his income but doesn't volunteer that 30 percent."

"I just think that I'm not a morally exemplary person that's all."

I've transcribed the entire interview. G.A. Cohen now has his own tag.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Continuing from the last post. The beginning of the post at CT. The quote, linked from the source at The Atlantic:
Laura McKenna
Jonah, did you ask your French teacher about why you got that B on that assignment? At 5:00 p.m. today, you have an orthodontist appointment. We’ll pick up Thai food on the way home and then you’ll finish your English homework. Don’t forget to put a book cover on your essay. A book cover always bumps a grade up half a point. Your dad can check your math when he gets home. Do you want tofu in your green curry or chicken? Ian, do you want noodles?

Every once in a while, you step back from yourself as a parent and say, “Dude! Did I actually just say that? I used to be cool. Did some alien take over my brain and turn me into this Mom Machine?” No crab-faced alien can be blamed for transforming me from a slacker in a black dress into what I am today. According to sociologist Annette Lareau, I’m a product of my social class.
From an interview with G.A. Cohen
I wrote a book called "If you're an Egalitarian How Come You're so Rich?" And the final chapter discusses fourteen reasons people give for not giving away their money when they're rich but they profess belief in equality, twelve of which are, well, rubbish. I think there are two reasonable answers that a person who doesn't give too much of it away can give and one of them has to do with the burden of depressing yourself below the level of your peer group with whom you're shared a certain way of life, and in particular, depriving your children of things that the children around them favor. And also, and slightly separately, the transition from being wealthy to being not wealthy at all can be extremely burdensome and the person who has tasted wealth will suffer more typically from lack of it than someone who's had quote unquote the good fortune never to be wealthy and therefore has built up the character and the orientation that can cope well with it.
The Times: Affluent, Born Abroad and Choosing New York’s Public Schools
Miriam and Christian Rengier, a German couple moving to New York, visited some private elementary schools in Manhattan last spring in search of a place for their son. They immediately noticed the absence of ethnic diversity, and the chauffeurs ferrying children to the door.
And then, at one school, their guide showed them the cafeteria.
“The kids were able to choose between seven different lunches: sushi and macrobiotics and whatever,” Ms. Rengier recalled. “And I said, ‘What if I don’t want my son to choose from seven different lunches?’ And she looked at me like I was an idiot.”
For the Rengiers, the decision was clear: Their son would go to public school.
“It was not the question if we could afford it or not,” said Ms. Rengier, whose husband was transferred to the city because of his job as a lawyer and tax consultant. “It was a question of whether it was real life or not.”
McKenna: "Don’t forget to put a book cover on your essay. A book cover always bumps a grade up half a point."

Cohen: "...the burden of depressing yourself below the level of your peer group with whom you're shared a certain way of life, and in particular, depriving your children of things that the children around them favor."

Rengier: “It was a question of whether it was real life or not.”

The desire to have your children learn from their own experience of the world.

Everyone is a product of their social class. The Rengiers come off well; no one else does. McKenna is just vulgar, but I'd forgotten how close Cohen comes to sleaze.
The science of foreign policy at The Duck of Minerva [also from Dec., here, and here], and of domestic life, at Crooked Timber

A final comment from the first
"There's a range of opinions here that varies from qualified pro-US hegemony to extremely cynical about it."
Qualified support on the one hand and cynicism on the other. Is opposition too 'unscientific'?

"...orthogonal point about the origins of anti-sodomy laws" [reference to the second bracketed link above]
Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800
Desiring Arabs

I once asked a Marine on a milblog whether he was a soldier first or citizen. His response was "Semper Fi". That's an alarming response from a soldier whose job is the defense of a democracy. So are you a scholar or a citizen?

Are there any foreigners on your link list? Anyone from the Middle East? A blog on international relations written by and referring only to Americans (give or take a few Euros) is like a blog on gender theory written by and referring only to men, the one objectively nationalist as the other is objectively sexist.

The fiction of objectivity results in the fact of moral passivity.
See the second bracked link above, on Iran. Disgusting.
Linked in another comment: Bacevich[!] at Tomgram: "Uncle Sam, Global Gangster"

Crooked Timber. Comment deleted
"No crab-faced alien can be blamed for transforming me from a slacker in a black dress into what I am today. According to sociologist Annette Lareau, I’m a product of my social class.”

Do we use sociologists now as a crutch, as calculators for self-awareness?

“Mrs Yanelli cleans the home of a Sociology professor…”
I'm the child of academics. There were no servants in our house. Money was not the issue; the decision was based on principle. I am the product of my class and of my parents' awareness of class. I had a girlfriend who told her grad students the should have no time to clean their own homes. They had enough money, thanks to her, to pay someone else to clean. This thread represents the worst of slacker yuppiedom; utter blindness to what you are as people in the world.
"According to sociologist Annette Lareau, I’m a product of my social class.”
No fucking shit.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Freedom isn't to do whatever you want to do, it's to do what you ought to do"
Atrios' confused response
I've long had a big whiff of this kind of thinking in our oddly conformist libertarians. Freedom to some of them means the freedom to win the game if you play well enough.
Santorum is not a Libertarian (but he is a Catholic Compatibilist).
Gene Healy, of Cato
To borrow from Mitt's rhetorical stylings, I'm not severely conservative, but I do have a case of Stage IV libertarianism. And anyone who shares that condition will find Santorum's rise particularly vexing. The former senator from Pennsylvania is libertarianism's sweater-vested arch-nemesis.

In a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg last summer, Santorum declared, "I am not a libertarian, and I fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

..."This idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do," Santorum complained to NPR in 2006, "that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues ... that is not how traditional conservatives view the world."

That version of conservatism has a new standard bearer, and he's rising in the polls.
"Freedom isn't to do whatever you want to do, it's to do what you ought to do." In his nonsensical way he's almost right, but that depends on whether your definition of freedom refers first to individuals or to individuals as members of a community. The freedom to engage in collective decision-making is not the freedom to do what you want, it's the freedom to vote on what you will be told to do.

4:30-"You've confused a war on your religion with not always getting everything you want. It's called being part of the society. Not everything goes your way. I don't let my kids eat ice cream every night. They wish I did, but even they know that doesn't make me the Hitler of ice cream"
Jon Stewart for community values.

Popular performers are predictably close to the culture curve as self-conscious intellectuals are predictably behind it. A favorite: 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.
In a republic elected representatives make the law. Protected rights are mostly rights of thought and argument, not action, to preserve the right of the electorate to change the law that governs them. If the community wants socialized medicine it gets it.

More and more our technocrats are unelected rulers, and even those who defended them in the past as defenders of "liberalism" are concerned. Libertarianism in one form or another was considered intellectually respectable until very recently. Liberal elites are becoming divided as they're forced to chose between their status and their claimed beliefs.
In recent weeks, US officials have been falling over one another to denounce the brutality of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. President Obama has accused it of committing "outrageous bloodshed" and called for Assad to stand down; Hillary Clinton has referred to the Syrian leader as a "tyrant"; Elliot Abrams, deputy national security adviser under George W Bush, has called Syria a "vicious enemy".

I can't help but wonder what Maher Arar must make of such comments.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who shot Anthony Shadid in 2002 in Ramallah (II)
A well-known Western correspondent in the Middle East sent me this (he/she permitted me to cite without identifying him/her): "It was the Israelis. Not surprisingly the wording is mealy-mouthed. I had a few drinks with Anthony and his wife in the bar of the American Colony the evening he was shot (it was not a serious wound). He said he clearly saw the shooter was an Israeli soldier, and if I recall correctly he was treated in an Israeli field hospital. There never was any doubt who shot him.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chris Hedges on the "Black Bloc." Not great but not bad.

David Graeber responds. "An Open Letter to Chris Hedges" accuses Hedges of eliminationist rhetoric
Surely you must recognize, when it’s laid out in this fashion, that this is precisely the sort of language and argument that, historically, has been invoked by those encouraging one group of people to physically attack, ethnically cleanse, or exterminate another—in fact, the sort of language and argument that is almost never invoked in any other circumstance.
The last time we met you responded to my questions about violence with a shrug and a laugh, saying, "kids like to have a little fun."

Since we are talking about Gandhian tactics here, why not consider the case of Gandhi himself? He had to deal with what to say about people who went much further than rock-throwing (even though Egyptians throwing rocks at police were already going much further than any US Black Bloc has). Gandhi was part of a very broad anti-colonial movement that included elements that actually were using firearms, in fact, elements engaged in outright terrorism. He first began to frame his own strategy of mass non-violent civil resistance in response to a debate over the act of an Indian nationalist who walked into the office of a British official and shot him five times in the face, killing him instantly. Gandhi made it clear that while he was opposed to murder under any circumstances, he also refused to denounce the murderer. This was a man who was trying to do the right thing, to act against an historical injustice, but did it in the wrong way because he was “drunk with a mad idea.”
Letter from Birmingham Jail
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.
I'm not making an argument for nonviolence. I'm making an argument for political maturity. David, I get the sense that your last book is pretty good; straightforward revisionism from the historical record. Stick to that.

Graeber's piece is in N+1.
A book review from last year by Bruce Robbins
In taking up the topic of the Arabs and the Holocaust, Gilbert Achcar, a Lebanese leftist who teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, is therefore choosing to venture out from the pro-Palestinian lines just at the point where all the Zionist guns are already aimed. His book admits the worst about his fellow Arabs and goes on as it can from there. It’s hard to tell whether the undertaking is very brave or very foolhardy
"His book admits the worst about his fellow Arabs"
Imagine Robbins using such a phrase about Americans, or Jews. "His book admits the worst about his fellow Catholics" Would he do it? Would he get away with it?

Nikhil Pal Singh in Jadaliyya
When I told the Israeli border official who interviewed me that I was going to Ramallah, she sneered and wrinkled her brow: “okay.” Why would anyone go there, she seemed to say. There was no mistaking her disapproval. Looking at my US passport, she wanted to know about my family tree: my father's name and my father's father's name. “Tirlok Singh,” I recalled hesitatingly. "I was a baby when he died," I added with a bit more conviction. For a moment, she scrutinized my visage for some un-discernible trace, or sign. Then I was allowed in, rather more easily than I had imagined.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Patrick Cockburn in The Independent
"All the evidence points to sectarian civil war in Syria, but no one wants to admit it"
...The sectarianism of the Syrian opposition is persistently played down by the international media, but power in Syria is distributed along sectarian lines, just as it was in the recent past in Iraq, Lebanon and Ireland. Even supposing an anti-sectarian opposition, democracy in Syria means a loss of power for the Alawites and their allies and a gain for the Sunni.

Given that Sunni make up three-quarters of Syria's 24 million population, their enfranchisement might appear to be no bad thing. Unfortunately, many of the government's most committed opponents evidently have more fundamental changes in mind than a fairer distribution of power between communities. Core areas of the insurgency, where the Sunni are in the overwhelming majority, increasingly see Alawites, Shia and Christians as heretics to be eliminated.

Television reporting and much print journalism is skewed towards portraying an evil government oppressing a heroic people. Evidence that other forces may be at work is ignored. An example of this came on Friday when two suicide bombers struck security compounds in Aleppo, killing 28 people and wounding 235 others. The obvious explanation was that Sunni suicide bombers, mostly operating through al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia, who have been attacking Shia-dominated security forces in Iraq, are now doing the same in Syria. But, fearing their moderate image might be tarnished, spokesmen for the opposition swiftly said that the suicide bombings were a cunning attempt by the Syrian security forces to discredit the opposition by blowing themselves up. The BBC, Al Jazeera and most newspapers happily gave uncritical coverage to opposition denials of responsibility or said it was an open question as to who was behind the bombings.

As in Libya last year, the rebels invariably get a positive press. The increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict is understated. Syria is rushing headlong into a conflict that will tear the country's communities apart.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

So you knew what was going to happen next. Suddenly, conservatives are telling us that it’s not really about money; it’s about morals. Never mind wage stagnation and all that, the real problem is the collapse of working-class family values, which is somehow the fault of liberals.

But is it really all about morals? No, it’s mainly about money.
It's about both.

Brooks (quoted below) I'll repeat it
Democrats claim America is threatened by the financial elite, who hog society’s resources. But that’s a distraction. The real social gap is between the top 20 percent and the lower 30 percent. The liberal members of the upper tribe latch onto this top 1 percent narrative because it excuses them from the central role they themselves are playing in driving inequality and unfairness.
"In the south they let the niggers live next door as long as they didn't get uppity. In the north they let them get uppity as long as they didn't move in next door." Conservatives may make money off of gentrification but they don't move into neighborhoods until after they've lost their "vibrancy". Liberals are more adventurous; they move in next door to the niggers and throw them out. A friend of mine used to live in Bushwick. His conservative Italian and Irish neighbors referred to gentrifiers as "the liberals". The Latinos would just call them rich white kids.

Repeats (ad infinitum) Atrios
"I generally think concerns about the ill impacts of urban gentrification are overblown."

"David Duke, president of Americans in Support of Palestinian Freedom."
Back to Corey Robin

Chris Bertram
"Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."
If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right.
He was quoting and responding to me.  I replied at the time saying yes, that was my point.
My comments have since been removed.

Individualism is an ideology
Nir Rosen, the battle for Homs, in Al Jazeera.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

AA: What happened in Homs
Nir Rosen sent me this: "so media accounts of yesterday's fighting in Homs are not exactly accurate. they make it seem as if this is Hama in 1982 all over again and Homs has fallen. In fact the armed opposition controls more territory in Homs than ever before and yesterday's attack did not result in any loss of territory. Yesterday opposition fighters defeated the regime checkpoint at the Qahira roundabout and they seized a tank or armored personnel carrier. This followed similar successes against the Bab Dreib checkpoint and the Bustan al Diwan checkpoint. In response to this last provocation yesterday the regime started shelling with mortars from the Qalaa on the high ground and the State Security headquarters in Ghota. a couple of stray mortars also fell in the Qusur neighborhood. shelling started at 8:30 PM and lasted until 4 AM. There was no fighting in Homs, just shelling from these safe locations (from the point of view of the regime), suggesting they are unable to actually attack Khaldiyeh with regime fighters. its an interesting new phase. also, no opposition fighters were killed in the attack. and up to 130 people in Khaldiyeh were killed and 800 wounded (like i said not fighters). now thats a lot of people but if you were watching the news yesterday you would think that Homs was destroyed while in fact this attack can also be seen as a sign of the regime's weakness in the city. i have never seen a conflict covered as poorly as this one, with less interest in empirically collected data and more reliance on hysteria and manipulation and rumor."

Friday, February 03, 2012

At FP. Finish Him.
"Without international intervention, there's a good chance that Syria's dictator, Bashar al-Assad, could still rule for years."

From comments:
And from a guy who purports to be a scholar and professor.
Do they not get newspapers anymore at Georgetown? No TV, internet? The US history of using war as our primary tool of foreign policy, and of demanding and facilitating "regime change" does not seem to work out well. Is the professor unaware of the last nine years in Iraq? 10+ years in Afghanistan? Chaos in Libya and Egypt? How about the regime change the US wrought to put the Shah in power in Iran, or pick your Latin American thug o' choice. Any jolly successes there?

Oh yes and Yemen's Saleh, now in the US for "medical care."

Can we please stop deciding inside the US which world leaders are allowed to live, and which will die by our hand and then being shocked to find ourselves on the receiving end of terror acts in return?

This kind of article is just simplistic, jingoist hate. Save it for RedState and dump this crap from

Peter Van Buren