Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chris Marker
July 29th 1921 - July 30th 2012

Happy birthday, and goodbye.



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mishra
The British empire, George Orwell wrote, was "despotism with theft as its final object". So what has made imperialism an intellectual fashion in our own time, reopening hoary disputes about whether it was good or bad? After five years as a colonial policeman in Burma, where he found himself shooting an elephant to affirm the white man's right to rule, Orwell was convinced that the imperial relationship was that of "slave and master". Was the master good or bad? "Let us simply say," Orwell wrote, "that this control is despotic and, to put it plainly, self-interested." And "if Burma derives some incidental benefit from the English, she must pay dearly for it."

Orwell's hard-won insights were commonplace truisms for millions of Asians and Africans struggling to end western control of their lands. Their descendants can only be bewildered by the righteous nostalgia for imperialism that has recently seized many prominent Anglo-American politicians and opinion-makers, who continue to see Asia through the narrow perspective of western interests, leaving unexamined and unimagined the collective experiences of Asian peoples.
I'm not going to argue with Ferguson and the rest. They're idiots and they're losing, though it's taking too long. It's liberals who miss the point.

"Orwell's hard-won insights were commonplace truisms for millions..."

The hard-won insights of white American liberals regarding Jim Crow were truism to American blacks. The hard-won insights of men regarding sexism were truisms to women. The hard-won insights of heterosexuals regarding bigotry and sexual orientation were truisms to non-heterosexuals. The hard-won insights of Zionists regarding the barbarity of Zionism are truisms to Palestinians, and that fight's not done.  Zionism is the last colonial project still defended by those who call themselves liberal, and as those liberals continue to abandon past beliefs they should not be allowed to forget.

Programmatic political liberalism as currently defined has not and can not come to terms with the inevitability of fundamental error. Liberals live in the present, ignoring their own past, or one half of their own present

Batman in Singapore (for John Holbo)

Populism
Henry Farrell 7/19/11
Policy is not made, in the US or anywhere else, through value-neutral debate among technocrats about the relative efficiency of different proposed schemes. Hence, the need for a theory of politics – that is, a theory of how policy proposals can be guided through the political process, and implemented without being completely undermined. And this is all the more important, because (on most plausible theories of politics) there are interaction effects between policy choices at time a and politics at time a+1. The policy choices you make now may have broad political consequences in the future. Obvious examples include policies on campaign spending, or union organization, which directly affect the ability of political actors to mobilize in the future.
Henry Farrell 7/24/12
The problem is that the Nolan brothers don’t just want a story about the self-realization of powerful individuals – they want a story with a theory of politics. Specifically, they somehow need to connect the struggles among a tiny number of exemplary (in positive and negative senses) elite actors to the Matter of Gotham – the teetering back and forth of the city between chaos and fragile political good health. The model that they choose is an explicitly aristocratic one.
Henry Farrell imagines a world of theorists who exist beyond the world of actors: a metaphysical aristocracy in every sense of the word. Designers of perfect systems for imperfect people always seem to give themselves the benefit of the doubt. And DeLong goes from Condorcet to Mojo Nixon

Friday, July 27, 2012

in re recent discussions of art and aristocracy. More of the same.

Mark Flood at Luxembourg and Dayan
From the press release
Since the 1970s, Mark Flood has occupied the role of an “artist’s artist,” a protected insider’s secret for those who have encountered his work or known his band Culturcide. Working in relative obscurity in his native Houston, Texas, Flood came of age in a Big Oil town in boom times and witnessed at close range the onslaught of corporate and celebrity culture that came to define America in the 1980s. Situated at the intersection of art, music and social critique, his art rescues the relics of abandoned popular culture from the realm of waste in collages that transform celebrities into grotesque caricatures; altered advertisements stripped of their commercial identities; and found ephemera transposed across canvases. Every corner of American mass cultural output provided fodder for Flood’s early works; no popular culture figure or brand— whether David Lee Roth or Newport cigarettes—was safe from his scissors or microphone. Funny and irreverent, but also pointed, poisoned, and poignant, Mark Flood’s early work is both an enduringly powerful lens on America and a sophisticated, anarchic continuation of high art’s love affair with the readymade.
And in the NY Times
Q. You’ve described Houston as an “oil-stained, overdeveloped parking lot, packed with cars, littered with advertising, designed for profit, not people.” Why have you stayed there all these years?

A. I don’t hear any anger in that description. Merely truth telling, which freaks people out. I’ve just always liked Houston. I could operate there. I could drive around. I had a pickup truck. And it was a city that fed my work with something — I call it reality. Houston is more real than most places, more real than New York.

Q. When you worked as an assistant at the Menil Collection, you were close with the renowned curator Walter Hopps. How did an art-world job change your view of the art world?

A. It was wonderful for me to be around people who were so obsessed with art. They were very obsessed and very willful — willful rich people. It’s why I love this place. [He gestures at the gallery around him.] I hate parasitical art bureaucracies. I hate nonprofit organizations. I love willful rich people who are obsessed with art. The context always determines the meaning of a work of art.
The cultural avant-garde was always playing to an audience of aristocrats. The rebellion was against the moralizing hypocrisy of the middle class. Most punk was and is anti-political

Mark Flood was a founding member of Culturcide [as Perry Webb]. Felix Salmon, friendly with most liberal economics bloggers, is an embarrassment, truly awful.





Duncan Black from 2003
Morford on SF
This is pretty good:
It's that odd dumbstruck jolting feeling you get as soon as you step more than 25 miles away from this most progressive and funked-out and deeply flawed and self-consciously screwy of kaleidoscopic American urban metropoli: oh my freaking God, what is happening to the world? This is what you say. To yourself. Probably.

Because suddenly you find yourself pummeled with many of those lovely bleak horrible things you've somehow become so inured to while living in S.F., those things you might've slowly come to hope don't really exist quite so violently and vehemently anymore. But of course they do.

It happens when you step off that plane in some -- let's say -- "differently evolved" part of the country and don't see a single ethnic person for four days and can't get a decent organic basil-and-goat-cheese omelet to save your life and all the theaters are playing Adam Sandler and the concept of fresh sushi means "less freezer burn than the corn dogs." Elitist? Whatever.

Sexism. Racism. Guns. Jingoism. Jesus fetishism. Psychopatriotism. Rampant pseudo-religious family-values faux-ethical circle jerking masquerading as Christian humility. Wal-Marts like giant florescent-lit viruses. Strip malls like a stucco plague. Ho hum, ain't that America. It so is.

Let's face it: We in S.F. live in a cultural bubble. A giant tofu-huggin' gay-lovin' lusciously fed hippie liberal sunshine-y cocoon that might as well get blasted by terrorists and die of AIDS and drop off into the ocean for all the relevance it has to the rest of the world -- that is, if my rabid monosyllabic gun-lickin' hate mail from, say, the psychopatriot Freeps over at freerepublic.com or the bilious dittoheads of lucianne.com is to be believed.

And they're right -- sort of. It's so very true. We are freaks and crazies and tend to shrug it all off, we in our radical prosaic goofy normalcy. We live in "the Granola State," full of "fruits and nuts and flakes." (Isn't that cute? That's about as clever as it gets, slam-wise. The poor things. They try so hard).
The snobbery of Bloomsbury, or the Eternals, transferred to Berkeley [as always I repeat myself too much], popularized, Americanized and dumbed down.

Flood's early work has a viscerally intelligent, adolescent rage. It's not very interesting but not offensive, in the sense that would I care about. The music is an angry concept. The recent paintings are crap, and his defense of "art" is boilerplate. The work and his defense of it replay on a very small stage the decline of Modernism: from youthful conflict made manifest in form to middle-age, complacency, and formalism.  It's interesting to read him alongside Morford, Atrios and Brad DeLong.  But as far as decadence goes Amalia Dayan is more interesting than any of them.
I'd missed it.
Hoberman: Andrew Sarris (1928-2012)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bassam Haddad. My 50 Minutes with Manaf
updated

Continuing from earlier posts, including repeats.
Atrios
"Wednesday Graphic Novel Blogging
Watchmen was actually really good. I thought the movie was... I dunno. I'd read the book and still had no idea what the movie was about."
In fact the movie "demonstrat[ed] a remarkable, at times almost demented, fidelity to the original."

Back to the arguments in the first link above, on Farrell's dislike of The Dark Knight Rises. Liberals are individualists, debating libertarians because they take them seriously. Conservatives are simply mocked. But libertarians, like fascists, conflate individualism and aristocracy, celebrating heroes over whatever system they claim to defend. Historically at least, conservatives defend systems over individuals. The rule of law is conservative; the ACLU is a conservative organization. (see below)

Watchmen, the book and the movie, are equally reactionary and equally a mess. That the book succeeds where the movie fails is a matter more of art than intellectualism. That contemporary liberals don't understand their own contradictions, prejudices and preferences, is a mark of the decadence of the age.

DB again
Really Bad
Yes this is really horrible and stupid.

But, hey, it's Rahm...
The link is to Glenn Greenwald.
Rahm Emanuel’s dangerous free speech attack.
Should government officials be able to block businesses from opening or expanding due to disagreement with the political views of the business’ executives? Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel evidently believes he should have this power.
From the past, Bertram
The right frame, in my view, is to think of the state as “we, the people” and to ask what conditions need to be in place for the people, and for each citizen, to play their role in effective self-government. Once you look at things like that then various speech restrictions naturally suggest themselves.
From five days ago.

I'd like to be able to have a sophisticated conversation on art and politics, either or both, but it ain't gonna happen.

Greenwald opposes hate speech laws: he's written on them in the past and links here in an update to the ACLU page on Skokie. He's also the only well known blogger linked regularly by members of the white reality based community who has a link to As'ad AbuKhalil on his sidebar.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Great title
CS Monitor: "Does the CIA really have no idea about the nature of Syria's rebels?"
From 2008
"Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment..." but not steadily.
The moral chaos and narrative confusion of Hong Kong cinema. Both memorable and forgettable, shallow and rich. The shot of The Joker leaning out the car window feeling the wind on his face really is a moment of "pure cinema," of silent, filmic, poetry. The naturalism in the hospital scene of The Joker and Harvey Dent, Two Face, is unnerving: the two characters simultaneously grotesque cartoons and fully human, the rage so obviously specific and personal.

Terminator II was a sort of collective artwork. Hollywood qua Hollywood and America, occasionally produce a kind of one-off epic cinema. The Dark Knight is smaller, intimate by comparison, and stranger. 
 
You could call Heath Ledger's performance "Stuart's Revenge," (compare the voices) but Franken's character is a cartoon. Cartoon villains show no fear until their last moments. Mostly they die cowards. Ledger's Joker is terrified throughout, but conquers fear by running towards it without stopping. To call him "evil" is to make him a cartoon when the film does the reverse. The Joker is played as human in the depths of psychosis and only from there as our dream. Seeing the touches of skin where the makeup is smeared off his forehead makes the terror that much greater. And as at least one critic has noted Aaron Eckhart's Two Face, goes even deeper.
see also here,
and here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Henry Farrell doesn't like The Dark Knight Rises.
Moreover, it’s a specifically anti-political notion of politics. Max Weber, who thought long and hard about how to resolve an ethic of Nietzschean self-realization with the everyday realities of politics emphasized that the true political vocation lay in the reconciliation of heroic ends with the often sordid realities of political struggle and bargain-making.
And somehow Max Weber's politics is better. The perversity of people who criticize others' politics because they know their own politics are pure.

He links to Jacobin. For discussion of those idiots go here, and here.
The best answer to the shallow hypocritical bourgeois left-liberalism of Jacobin is the equally bourgeois left-liberalism of Jadaliyya.

Henwood: "There's a Marc Jacobs boutique in Ho Chi Minh City??"

In 100 years a group of earnest right-thinking bourgeois left-liberals will start a journal and title it "Hamas".

I haven't seen the new one but The Dark Knight is one of the best films of the last decade, and the first scene is brilliant.


I defend free speech because it keeps us honest. Liberal defenders of the market as a corrective to assumption never seem to imagine themselves capable of the laziness they take for granted in the rest of us. Designers of perfect systems for imperfect people always seem to give themselves the benefit of the doubt. The market is only one model of adversarialism; it requires an equally structural adversary. And Christopher Nolan is a more intelligent more interesting and more honest man than Farrell. A comment on the CT thread: "Why is it that the culture of late capitalism yearns to return to an idealized Middle Ages?”. The author is smart enough to mention Harry Potter but not smart enough to note the general intellectual fixation on fantasy. The writers at Crooked Timber read those books for pleasure. Nolan has a better understanding of the present because he has a better understanding of himself; fantasy isn't only his habit it's his subject. Again recent, so more a reprise than a repeat. And since Henry again declares his fanboy love (perfect timing) I'll repeat my repeats: Klub Kid Kollectivity: I'm alone. I'm everyone. We live in an anti-humanist age.
In for a penny, in for a pound.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Schliesser on July 23rd
"We hereby commit ourselves not to accept invitations to male-only events. We call on others to join us."
on July 19th
"I don't call for an academic boycott of the Feyerabend conference. "

"we should try (i) to get our own academic houses in order (I mention my concern over plagiarism in context) before (ii) we try to use boycotts for other political ends--we end up being way too selective (not to mention futile)"
Nothing more to say. For recent history go here

"I am not a promoter of a 'scientific philosophy,' I inherited it as a tradition (or 'school')"

Mohan Matthen responds:"Let me say that I do NOT support their call. I will NOT decline invitations on this basis." My comment above -quoting Schliesser- appears there.

I wouldn't pay any attention if they were engineers or chemists; I wouldn't expect chemists to have a sophisticated understanding of politics. But that there's no reason either to expect that of philosophy professors is a problem for historians, of philosophy and of the culture at large.

A brilliant one sentence description of a trait that unfortunately he sees only in others, Atrios, on gun nuts blaming the dead: "Heroism isn't generosity to them, just a sense of personal infallibility."

The last few posts: an impressive array of examples of cognitive dissonance.

Myanna Lahsen: Experiences of Modernity in the Greenhouse [PDF]
This paper identifies cultural and historical dimensions that structure US climate science politics. It explores why a key subset of scientists—the physicist founders and leaders of the influential George C. Marshall Institute—chose to lend their scientific authority to this movement which continues to powerfully shape US climate policy. The paper suggests that these physicists joined the environmental backlash to stem changing tides in science and society, and to defend their preferred understandings of science, modernity, and of themselves as a physicist elite—understandings challenged by on-going transformations encapsulated by the widespread concern about human-induced climate change.
You can find a discussion and link to another paper here

repeats: all cognition is cultural

From my childhood.
Absent friends

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"The irrationalism of others"

Brad DeLong today:
IN MEMORY OF ALEXANDER COCKBURN, AS HE DESERVES TO BE REMEMBERED

Alexander Cockburn, 1980:

"if ever a country deserved rape it's Afghanistan. Nothing but mountains filled with barbarous ethnics with views as medieval as their muskets, and unspeakably cruel too…"
Brad DeLong a few years ago, as I reminded him in a comment that he didn't let through.
R.I.P. JEANE J. KIRKPATRICK

Let me express my condolences to her two surviving sons John Evron and Stuart Alan Kirkpatrick, whom she loved beyond all measure.

She was a good friend to my grandfather Earl. She was an American and a world patriot: her counsel--even at its most boneheaded--was always devoted to advancing the security of the United States and the cause of liberty and prosperity around the world.
The handicrafts Cockburn refers to elsewhere in that famous quote are war rugs. I like them, but they're sad documents.

And he was writing during the time when the US was giving millions to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who threw acid in women's faces. Kirkpatrick bears partial responsibility for the deaths of thousands of people; Cockburn bears responsibility for being an ass.

Kirkpatrick
Authoritarian regimes really typically don't have complete command economies. Authoritarian regimes typically have some kind of traditional economy with some private ownership. The Nazi regime left ownership in private hands, but the state assumed control of the economy. Control was separated from ownership but it was really a command economy because it was controlled by the state. A command economy is an attribute of a totalitarian state
I'd pick Cockburn over Kirkpatrick without having to think about it.
Brian Leiter writes a review in the NDPR.
Of course, most people are just regurgitators of pablum, vectors of ideological and commercial forces at work in the broader culture, so what they "disclose" is only, in their eyes, a mark of their individuality.
For DeLong, Leiter, Waldron, Duncan Black, Schliesser, Shalizi, et al. (a long list) "most people" by definition can refer logically only to people other than themselves.

Neither Leiter nor Waldron understands the logic behind freedom of speech. I doubt any of them do.

Susie Bright: "Andrea Dworkin was a great pornographer"

All of us are most people most of the time.
When the Army Was Democratic.
see below
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£13tn = $21tn

Friday, July 20, 2012




Schliesser
Sexism in Philosophy, or "The-Everybody-Did-It” (TEDI) Syndrome, or Hiding In The Herd (HITH) mentality

[What follows is based on ongoing conversation with my co-author, Merel Lefevere.--ES]

Institutions (that is, legally or corporately sactioned rules to be followed) can be designed or have been developed for solving particular problems or for particular aims. Yet, in the fullness of time outcomes under these institutions can reveal a pattern of unintended side-consequences. Let's say that one such unintended side-consequence is the fixation of certain (informal) norms or a pattern of exclusion. If some group (the insiders) benefits from this side-consequence they will sooner or later notice it often before the people who do not benefit from these. Human nature being what it is, often the disadvantaged outsiders are the first to speak up about the unintended side-consequence. The outsiders are at a disadvantage when they do so because if the side-consequence is really harmful they are fighting it with relatively slender resources while trying to figure out what the hell is going on. One especially pernicious aspect of the toy-example described here is that all the insiders think they have clean hands. While they actively benefit from an outcome pattern, they can always claim that none of them intended it or actively promoted it. So, when individuals are called out on, say, the informal norms and how these facilitate the pattern of exclusion, the more outspoken of the insider will fall back on variants of what we may call "The-Everybody-Did-It Syndrome" or (TEDI). Many other insiders prefer Hiding In the Herd (HITH) and focus on their work, career, etc.

In the real world we find TEDI annd HITH among bankers defending their bonuses even in the face of tax-funded bailouts as much as among academic philosophers defending a shameful pattern of sexual exclusion. TEDI is indicative of collective negligence and, if noticed, it becomes a collective action problem. Short of abolishing the institutions entirely (i.e., revolution, which is always dangerous for its potentially far worse unintended consequences to all), the best that can be hoped for is a change in the informal norms with which the institutions operate. This can happen when enough of the insiders are convinced that it is in their enlightened self-interest to change systematically how the rules are interpreted/applied or to alter the informal norms. Sometimes change comes from moral clarity, but in practice the insiders decide that it is not worth their energy to keep defending a crappy practice (to their peers, tax-payers, etc). The sad thing is that philosophers are no wiser than bankers in these matters.

wrong said...
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."
"One need not be a standpoint theorist to realize that not having Palestinians at the main table impoverishes the discussion." [adapted from Schliesser. The original referred to women]

Either "standpoint" is substantive or it is not. There's no need to get into the debates over degree. As often as not that's led to absurdity.

Eric Schliesser said in reply to wrong...
Why would you think I object to the idea that not having Palestinians at the main table impoverishes the discussion? I would very much welcome more inclusive conferences in Israel.
By the way, you clearly think this is some clever attack on me--but I don't call for an academic boycott of the Feyerabend conference. Rather, I think they should cancel and re-group (or revisit their program if that still can be done).

wrong said in reply to Eric Schliesser...
It's not about academic boycotts it's about perspectives, as theory and fact.
You defend an Israeli table as such, as just. People refer to Israel as "a Jewish and a democratic state" Is that possible?
Majorities either can or cannot be said "justly" to speak for minorities: men for women, heterosexuals for homosexuals, whites for black, Germans for Jews, Jews for Palestinians.
Is representative politics -and that's what this debate is about- justifiable as substance or simply as practical necessity, as epitomeology or obligatory annoyance?

I've always assumed representative government was built to accommodate standpoints as fact but now I'm reminded that "standpoint theory" is a recent development.
I'd forgotten things I learned when I dating a graduate student years ago.

The academy and democracy have always had an uneasy relationship.

Eric Schliesser said in reply to wrong...
Wrong, it would be nice that in your attempt to play *gotcha* with me you kept your facts straight. (Given that you are a fake email address, I will give you the benefit of the doubt this once, but if you keep doing that and in the absence of a verifiable email address, I will remove further comment from the thread.) First, I have not used the rhetoric of "a Jewish and democratic state" (certainly not in the thread to which you refer). Even the quote you highlighted above ought to make it clear that I abhor that kind of rhetoric, and I certainly do not defend an "Israeli table as such" (whatever that means). You are conflating me with some imagined evil-doer. Second, in that thread I try to articulate a very minimal principle: that we should try (i) to get our own academic houses in order (I mention my concern over plagiarism in context) before (ii) we try to use boycotts for other political ends--we end up being way too selective (not to mention futile) in (ii). It's that principle which makes my views on these matter relative consistent. (You may not like the principle, but it is at the principle you should direct your sarcasm.) Third, there is an important dis-anology, I am not trying to discredit universities that hot or the topics discussed at male-only-keynoted workshops. All I am trying to do is try change a norm within academic philosophy. Finally, we agree that the academy and democracy have always had an uneasy relationship--something I have written about on this blog.

wrong [posted with working email address] said...
"Why would you think I object to the idea that not having Palestinians at the main table impoverishes the discussion? "
"I am, however, skeptical of all manner of academic efforts that seem primarily aimed at DE-legitimatizing Israel as a Jewish state. "
State=Table
"But I don't think Israel is particularly special in this regard (sadly)" Maybe you don't consider Israel a democratic state, in which case you're defending it as a non-democratic state under the logic of EDI or HITH.
Peter Beinart: "I'm not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I'm actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel's security and for its status as a Jewish state."

My argument is simple: A Jewish State for a Jewish people iff a German state for a German people.
You may disagree, and I would accept that. I'm asking for either a consistent logic, or a defense of casuistry / situational ethics.
I'm hearing an amalgam that works as neither.

Eric Schliesser said in reply to wrong...
The Germans have their state, too.
You should take your disagremeent with Beinart elsewhere.

wrong said...
The Germans changed theirs laws in 2000. As it is, as Jason Stanley noted a few years ago:
...my own expected happy homecoming into German society wasn't necessarily working out as planned. One of the teachers at the Gymnasium told me that Heinrich Heine wasn't really a "German" poet, but rather was a "European" poet. My absurdly well-meaning and wonderful hostfather regularly repeated that "Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland" (which is, as Schneider points out, a common theme among Germans of a certain generation). Whenever I told people I was of German descent, they would argue with me -- then upon discovering that I was Jewish, would say "Oh, so you're not German, you're Jewish" (strangely, I never heard anyone say to someone, upon discovering that they were Christian, "Oh, so you're not German, you're Christian"). Among my German friends, there was a pervasive sense of the strangeness of other cultures, which alternately manifested itself as either irrational disdain or irrational admiration.
Stanley either exhibits or makes use of the common confusion regarding Jews as believers in a faith and as an ethnic group. Christians are not "a people". Israel was founded as a secular state and as a homeland for the Jewish people, not the Jewish religion.
"So, when individuals are called out on, say, the informal norms and how these facilitate the pattern of exclusion..." An explicit attack of the logic of Zionism written by a defender of the thing itself. Schliesser and Smilansky.
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Schliesser removed the last comment but left the earlier ones, explaining his decision in an email. I appreciate that he left the others up, but not the distinction.
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more above
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I've quoted the email since so I'll add the relevant part here as well:
"...as a German Jew living in the Netherlands and working in Belgium, I really do not need your lectures on these matters."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Ok By Me
I'd be fine with with a genuinely urban casino plunked somewhere appropriately..."

Arrogant and intellectually lazy. That's being generous.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I stopped reading Robin Yassin-Kassab soon after I started. The tone was awful, a moralizing commitment to righteous anger and self-love. He was a future neocon.

He's not there yet but he's getting closer. As predictable as it is stupid

IPA: Accuracy.org

Charles Glass
Rirkrit Tiravanija has made a career as an "artist" by copying early happenings and performance art and re-staging them with multi-ethnic flavors. Now he's made a movie. I'm less interested for the moment in whether or not it's any good -it might be very good- than by the fact that it's been reviewed by a film critic.

Christian Marclay's career has had a similar arc, though he's white European; he's re-formatted mid-20th century sound art for the age of the turntable and the remix. His work is sometimes charming, derivative but educated, and often not. Guitar Drag is an exception, though mostly if you understand that it was made in response to the murder of James Byrd Jr., something referred to in early reviews but now mentioned less and less.
I haven't seen The Clock. It sounds like a nice piece (here also reviewed by a film critic).

At MoMA, there are two floors dedicated to painting and sculpture.
The 5th Floor, Painting and Sculpture I, covers (roughly) 1880 to 1940
The 4th floor, Painting and Sculpture II, covers 1940 to 1980
The second floor, Contemporary Galleries, includes all media -works the curators choose to categorize as "art" and not by medium (Cindy Sherman is an "artist" not a "photographer") from 1980 to the present.

Painting and Sculpture I now includes a room of films by D.W. Griffith.
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Too recent to call it a repeat, call it a reprise: La Grande Illusion
Blunt language in the New York Times
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats — holding firm against extending tax cuts for the rich...
"for the rich."

People have not changed things; people have been changed.
American liberals liked Clinton, who was to the right of Canadian conservative Brian Mulroney.

"You have to either live in the countryside or live in the city and be really rich to say that rubber tomatoes suck. For those humans who live in the city and are not really rich, rubber tomatoes provide a welcome and tasty and affordable simulacrum of the tomato-eating experience."

...my mental model of Tyler often sit[s] on my shoulder while I blog, making polite and well reasoned libertarian criticisms of my arguments..."
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Atrios
The Worst People In The World
Are these people.
The link is to an article in the American Prospect
"The Beltway's Destructive Obsession with the Deficit
To many in official Washington, hypothetical debt crises are more important than mass immiseration."
Robert Reich was co-founder of The American Prospect.

Monday, July 16, 2012

"condescension from below",  etc.
The sincere paternalism of earnest academics.
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Between John Gray and Zizek, Zizek wins.
Repeat: This is what it looks like when he loses.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Leiter
Unethical prayer?
Saul Smilansky (Haifa) considers some cases.
Ezra Pound replies:
O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves,
Give me in due time, I beseech you, a little tobacco-shop,
With the little bright boxes
piled up neatly upon the shelves
And the loose fragment cavendish
and the shag,
And the bright Virginia
loose under the bright glass cases,
And a pair of scales
not too greasy,
And the whores dropping in for a word or two in passing,
For a flip word, and to tidy their hair a bit.

O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves,
Lend me a little tobacco-shop,
or install me in any profession
Save this damn'd profession of writing,
where one needs one's brains all the time.
[update: I haven't read the piece -I'm not going to pay for it or search it out- but my response was more dismissive than critical.

The prayers he refers to are forms of special pleading, and I'm not impressed by anyone who claims to have discovered[?] that special pleading and justice as we define it are at odds. The only caveat would be that it offers more evidence of Israelis beginning to come to terms, honestly, with the logic and legacy of Zionism, and the evidence is there even if the author makes no mention of Israel and still claims to be a Zionist. That's how change works.
Some deny that Zionism is racism; no one denies that it's exceptionalism. update 2: see Schliesser above]

Leiter, again
Alva Noe: Philosopher of Rock 'n' Roll!
Here.
"The Myth of the Particular"
Alva Noë is even more stupid than Colin McGinn.

Generalizations are not the highest form of thought; they're both the ideal and the average. It's much harder to recognize and then communicate specifics.  Musicians, actors, poets, artists and connoisseurs, trial lawyers and medical diagnosticians are specialists in particularity. They're "Particularists". It's Bertram's term; he should be more proud of it, but he doesn't understand how broadly it applies.

Successful pop stars are performers, acting through the tropes and contradictions of their peers. By the logic of academic philosophers, we should all be listening to Emerson Lake and Palmer.

Springsteen's weakness is the weakness of American liberalism: sincerity over seriousness.

-Clement Greenberg vs T.S. Eliot and Marie Lloyd

Serious leftists are Burkeans, and David Brooks is not Kevin Phillips.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Henry Farrell on Tyler Cowen in 2012: Perfect Competition and a Pony.

And in 2007:
...my mental model of Tyler often sit[s] on my shoulder while I blog, making polite and well reasoned libertarian criticisms of my arguments..."
Tyler Cowen in 2006
To be sure, the shantytowns could bring socioeconomic costs. Yet crime, lack of safety, and racial tension were all features of New Orleans ex ante. The city has long thrived as more dangerous than average, more multicultural than average, and more precarious than average for the United States. And people who decide the cheap housing isn't safe enough will be free to look elsewhere—or remain in Utah with their insurance checks.
Shantytowns might well be more creative than a dead city core. Some of the best Brazilian music came from the favelas of Salvador and Rio. The slums of Kingston, Jamaica, bred reggae. New Orleans experienced its greatest cultural blossoming in the early 20th century, when it was full of shanties. Low rents make it possible to live on a shoestring, while the population density blends cultural influences. Cheap real estate could make the city a desirable place for struggling artists to live. The cultural heyday of New Orleans lies in the past. Katrina rebuilding gives the city a chance to become an innovator once again.
Henry Farrell has changed. His awareness has changed -you could say it evolved- but he will never discuss or try to model that change, because to it justice would be to describe something beyond his preferred sense of his own agency.

In my first mention of Cowen on this site, in 2005, I quoted Patricia Storace on Marjane Satrapi
It is not toward the idea of God that Satrapi is irreverent; it is toward a too credulous approach to the ambiguities of human motives and the temptations of moral aspiration. She sees how religious faith may serve as an exemption or protection from the discipline of self-knowledge, can function as a way of freeing a person from the work of moral inquiry, can create an environment in which a person's will and desires are so identified with the divine that he feels anything is permitted to him. Satrapi is the moral equivalent of an insomniac; she allows herself no moral repose. In a powerful and funny moment, after a conversation with her mother about the need to forgive people who had done harm in the service of the previous regime, Satrapi draws herself making speeches about forgiveness to a mirror, rapt in the image of her own invincible goodness. Satrapi may very well be a believer in God; it is above all toward herself that she is an agnostic.
Henry Farrell et al. have changed their opinions but not their assumptions. Agnosticism towards themselves is still out of the question.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"The sociology of modern knowledge production empowers the scholar over the humanist, and the collective / communal enterprise of scholarship over the inspiration of the individual thinker."

Tying things together.
Jodi Rudoren
NAZARETH, Israel — Three young Palestinian women sat on the floor at a summer camp this week surrounded by Legos and 3-year-olds. As the toddlers played, the women taught them the color of each block, repeating the words in Arabic, azrak for blue or akhdar for green.

But the seemingly simple scene here in the Galilee was actually caught up in some of the most contentious issues confronting Israeli society: How do Arabs reconcile their identity as citizens of a Jewish state? What is the appropriate role for a growing Arab minority in a state determined to be democratic and Jewish?
Even the idiots at Crooked Timber will have to face the obvious at some point. They could never bring themselves to write that last sentence, but they've never had to. The basic facts haven't changed much in 60 years, but it's taken that long for "objective reality" to find its way into "our" discourse.

What is the appropriate role for a growing Turkish minority in a state determined to be democratic and German?

"Liberalism" as an ideology and program is not synonymous with liberalism as a mode of behavior. Practice precedes theory; Sophocles did not read Aristotle.
Beinart: I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian... I'm not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I'm actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel's security and for its status as a Jewish state.
The asshole Shalizi from the the first time around. I'll include the quote from Batuman.
"Adventures of a Man of Science", Elif Batuman’s wonderfully-titled review of Graphs, Maps, Trees in n+1 magazine, is a quite nice essay but it also provides what looks like a typical example of the kind of mere plausibility I have in mind:
Perhaps the Holmes stories are not half-baked versions of the “correct” mystery story, but a different kind of mystery story, wherein the nondecodability of clues is not a bug, but a feature. Conan Doyle was writing during the conquest of England by industry and rationalism; perhaps his readers wanted stories about the kinds of magic that are possible within the constraints of science. Holmes categorically rejects the supernatural, not in order to show that the new, rational rules preclude magic, but in order to show that you can still have magic even if you play by the rules. Decodable clues came a “generation” later, with Agatha Christie and the first World War, and became more rigorous after the second—by which time readers wanted to be reminded that the world was still rational. [pp. 146--147]
First of all, it seems bizarre to say that Britain was being conquered by “industry and rationalism” in the 1890s, long after the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and all its social consequences, utilitarianism, etc. (Indeed, Mr. Lecky might want to have a few words...)
It gets worse as he goes on.

Fantasies of engineered utopia came of age only in the 20th century; Max Weber died in 1920; and in the age of Google, we have "steam punks". Shalizi is too arrogant and too stupid to imagine himself as part of a history, even as he and all his friends read nostalgic comic books.

REPEATS
Richard Lewontin, a scientist not a statistician, quotes Conan Doyle
“But the Solar System!” I protested.
“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently: “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or my work.”
Serendipity: a recent visitor reminds me of an earlier discussion of Carlin Romano, debating Jason Stanley, at Leiter's. I made a few comments, one of which was allowed in. Part of my response to Marcus Stanley, beginning with his own words, words that could have been written by Shalizi.
"The sociology of modern knowledge production empowers the scholar over the humanist, and the collective/communal enterprise of scholarship over the inspiration of the individual thinker."

You have that precisely backwards. The humanist is embedded in culture by calling, the mathematician only by default, while embedded by choice in a private world of universals. What would you call the communal enterprise of neoclassical formal economics? Would you call it worldly or unworldly? Formal philosophy is formal economics with no need to ignore evidence.
More here.
It was M. Stanley's reference to sociology that reminded me of the obvious vis-a-vis Shalizi.

To go back to the top. How can we model the changes in society?
Ideological liberalism, based on the primacy of the theoretical, cannot model outside pressure. It doesn't even try. Models are from above and change comes from below. The fight for civil liberties, of ethnic minorities, women and sexual and social minorities was not led from above. The new vogue for theories from above, from Bruno Latour to the "expanded mind" hypothesis, are all models of a benign authority embodying elements of the world outside itself.
As a model of liberalism, it's a model for hypocrisy.
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update: I should add a link to this

Thursday, July 12, 2012

count me in favor of slavery

Duncan Black, Matthew Yglesias, Uncle Miltie and Greg Mankiw are opposed.

Atrios
"It is one of my personal pet peeves, but old people who call for drafting teenagers really really enrage me. For millions of reasons."

The link is to Yglesias: "Thomas Ricks argues in a New York Times op-ed that we should get around this difficulty by enslaving teenagers." The reference to slavery was the the giveaway (scroll down a bit).
In his testimony before the commission, Mr. Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, "General, would you rather command an army of slaves?" Mr. Westmoreland replied, "I don't like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves." Mr. Friedman then retorted, "I don't like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.
So once again (see giveaway above) the market is natural and democracy is not. But life in a state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, and democracy, direct or representative, is opposed to the more 'natural' autarchy by being based on shared responsibility. Personal liberty is secondary.

Modern liberals indulge optimistic assumptions of their own enlightenment. They fantasize a community of rational individualists governed by law and their own reason. Yglesias argues that life is good for skilled workers, because although employers want to pay their workers as little as humanly possible, skilled workers are in demand and have bargaining power. Repeating what I wrote below:
Yglesias' friends are skilled workers. If he started a company and hired a few of his friends he would not pay them as little as possible; he would feel obligated to pay them enough that they maintained a mutual respect.
In order for Yglesias to respect unskilled workers he should get to know them. Under a different legal regime he would have been forced for period of time to live with them not as servants but as equals.

At the link (giveaway again) I repeated a passage from an email in an exchange with Sam Rosenfeld from 2004. I lean on it I bit too much. I lean on these too. Use google. Yglesias in 2002.
After the latest 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.
Duncan Black:
"David Duke, president of Americans in Support of Palestinian Freedom, a D.C.-based human rights group, said 'Since last year, we have gotten well over 200 complaints of human rights abuses. It's time our lawmakers recognize these injustices.'"

That was of course a fake news story. Everyone get the point?
The point is that technocratic liberals, using their own definitions of themselves and their beliefs, cannot model their own blindness.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Leiter: Gottlieb on Romano
Here, and the book is about as bad as one would expect given the author's almost total ignorance of philosophy.
Democracy needs better defenders than Romano, but I doubt the book is any worse than the review. Leiter and Romano deserve each other: poles of American mediocrity, the schoolman and the careless, the puritan and drunk.

Leiter posts two paragraphs from Gottlieb.
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are not the founders and titans of philosophy, according to Romano; rather, they hijacked it. The notion of philosophia was fluid in Plato’s time, and Romano wishes that the usage and practice of the less famous Isocrates, a rhetorician and educationalist, had caught on instead of that of his slightly younger contemporary. Isocrates (“A Man, Not a Typo,” as Romano headlines him) wrote that “it is far superior to have decent judgments about useful matters than to have precise knowledge about useless things.” For him, philosophy was the imprecise art of public deliberation about important matters, not a logic-­chopping attempt to excavate objective truths. Isocrates, Romano says, “incarnates the contradictions, pragmatism, ambition, bent for problem solving and getting things done that mark Americans,” and his conception of philosophy “jibes with American pragmatism and philosophical practice far more than Socrates’ view.” Romano writes sorely of “the triumph of Plato and Aristotle in excluding Isocrates from the philosophical tradition” and announces that “Isocrates should be as famous as Socrates.”

My first thought about this claim was that it is simply nuts, which is also my considered view. Romano offers no explanation of how Plato and Aristotle managed to achieve the nefarious feat of obliterating the wonderful Isocrates. The only demonstrable sense in which they excluded him from the philosophical tradition is that their work eclipsed his, just as the music of Johann Sebastian Bach eclipsed that of his older brother Johann Jacob. Puzzled by Romano’s high estimation of the relevance of Isocrates, even to the broadest conception of philosophy, I reread some of his discourses and emerged none the wiser, though I did remember why I had so quickly forgotten him the first time around. Where are Isocrates’ penetrating treatments of the soul, virtue, justice, knowledge, truth, art, perception, psychology, logic, mathematics, action, space or time? And if philosophy would be better off not trying to talk about such things, what exactly should it be talking about?
The best definition of "philosopher" I can can come up with is self-described intellectual who prefers judges to trial lawyers. In their defense of truth philosophers almost always defend authority, if only their own, while pretending to live in a world where Sophocles (c. 496-406 BC) read Aristotle (384–322 BC) and not the other way around.

Philosophy is poetry that follows the dictates of a church.  I've said that too many times: Socrates like the Pope was an orator against rhetoric.

Gottlieb's last paragraph, not quoted by Leiter
Also, politics is one arena in which Americans do not appear, to this foreign observer, to be especially practical-­minded at the moment. They seem disfigured by tribal dogmatism, and thus not well constituted to devise utilitarian solutions to everyday problems.
"Both sides do it!" Philosophers, even those who claim to be empiricists in theory, have never been very good at in fact. American liberalism is a weak brew.
Where are Isocrates’ penetrating treatments of the soul, virtue, justice, knowledge, truth, art, perception, psychology, logic, mathematics, action, space or time? And if philosophy would be better off not trying to talk about such things, what exactly should it be talking about?
The soul does not exist.
Virtue and justice are defined by society.
Knowledge should be theorized by practitioners.
There are no truth, only facts and events.
Art is for artists and their audience to debate.
Perception and psychology, space and time, are dealt with in both art and science.
Logic and mathematics are studied by logicians and mathematicians.
Action should be theorized by those who engage in it.

Any free-floating philosophy unmoored to specific practice is linguistic art with pretensions to science, still the definition of theology.

Art is the description of experience, of subjectivity, of our world as sense. Science is the struggle to see beyond sense, but is still a struggle of sense.  The unending search for truth is the endless search for facts. Science can't justify science; desire justifies science.

Abstaining from alcohol won't make you sober; affirmations of atheism won't conquer faith. Leiter's defense of the academy is based on privilege and party loyalty. He writes on Nietzsche as Scalia writes on the constitution: ex cathedra, with the popish rhetoric of truthiness.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quiggin: "What’s happening here, I think is a manifestation of the fact that, in the US context, tribalism generally trumps ideological consistency."

Farrell: "Corey Robin has two posts on Friedrich von Hayek’s admiration for Augusto Pinochet..."

Repeats

"...in the US context."
No; it's in the nature of animal existence. But you can't try to compensate for something while denying it exists.
Both the links shown in the jpeg are to comments written by me.

Monday, July 09, 2012


The first 10 minutes or so of footage shot on Saturday. No cutting. Lime Rock Park. Northeast Grand Prix.
John Protevi
"Ostrom begins by reviewing evidence for strong reciprocators, which contradicts [Rational Choice Theory's] assumption that rational egoists (utility maximizers driven only by external rewards / punishments) are the only type of agent that needs to be modeled to account for social behavior. Thus we need to model different ratios of strong reciprocators and rational egoists and how those ratios change over time given different conditions."

Strong reciprocators are conditional altruistic cooperators and conditional altruistic punishers. They are concerned with fairness of process rather than only outcomes. Thus they have internal motivations.
Grateful to know that my elementary school teachers were not figments of my imagination.

Popular long-time liberal blogger, "Digby".
"To me this is the most startling observation of the book. (Not the only one, mind you, just the most startling.) If he's right, that income inequality always ends up rigging the game on behalf of the elites, then the whole liberal project of "equality of opportunity" is called into question, right? Opportunity alone is never going to cut it."
Not sure what to say.

Protevi, again, in a different post
Deleuze and Guattari say of art that it is a mode of thought, like philosophy and science, but that it thinks in "percepts and affects" rather than in concepts or functions, the respective media of philosophy and science. Furthermore, art requires material that will preserve the work of art; by means of the material, art "extracts" a bloc of sensation (percepts and affects). Without getting into the details, it's the lack of a preserving material that makes sport a bad fit under the concept of art Deleuze and Guattari lay out.
So actors and musicians aren't artists while playwrights and composers are.

Protevi responds: "Yeah, it's pretty clear they mean the plastic arts when they say 'art.' Though there is a big Deleuze and the arts discourse I don't follow and I'm sure there's ways to talk about performance in Deleuzean terms."

Tennis is performance.
We've been here before [so many times]

Henry Farrell
Matthew Yglesias has a post responding to my post below. My original intention was to roll it into an update – I then decided it was worth responding to on its own because it exemplifies a number of common mistakes in thinking about markets. In order:
(1) Arguments about freedom do not equate to arguments about economic efficiency.
(2) Market outcomes are not ‘natural’
(3) Market outcomes have no inherent normative weight
(4) Actually existing markets do not clear by magic
(5) Neo-classical economics, as it is usually deployed by policy technocrats, tends systematically to obscure rather than to enlighten
Each of those numbers introduce from two to four paragraphs, including quotes from the idiot/asshole Shalizi. The length of the whole thing is a bit more than 1600 words.

Yglesias' post is titled "Life Is Good for Skilled Workers".
Maybe there are two companies in town running roughly similar businesses that require the use of some unskilled labor. Both firms are concerned about the problem of employee theft, and both firms are also interested in paying their workers as little as possible. At one firm, they're offering the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and they're losing some product. At another firm, they're offering $8.25 an hour but searching employees and experiencing less loss to theft. Sometimes people get so fed up with that bullshit that they quit and go across town to the lower-paid, less pleasant job. Other times people get fed up with trying to make ends meet on a minimum wage job, so they quit and go across town and subject themselves to humiliating searches in exchange for more money. Sad stories all around, but telling the higher-paying firm that its business model is illegal and it has to switch to the lower-paying one isn't going to make the stories any less sad.
Yglesias' friends are skilled workers. If he started a company and hired a few of his friends he would not pay them as little as possible; he would feel obligated to pay them enough that they maintained a mutual respect.

repeats of fucking repeats.
A friend of Matthew Y.
And for the record (don't post this), Yglesias as an individual has a great, self-aware sense of humor and is much more starkly honest (if also unapologetic) about his own elitism than most liberals. Take him out for a beer and I think you'd find that.
continued

Friday, July 06, 2012

"In 1948 I tore a large sheet of brown paper to get little rectangular pieces that I piled up, and with which I erected a rather unstable column. In 1954 I straightened out a piece of corrugated cardboard with a surface area of a square meter. Since 1957, without interruption, I have been smoothing out the silver paper from cigarette boxes. In 1962 I began to detach the filters from cigarettes, with which I created long strips; in the case of the Murattis I was startled to note an extremely interesting granular stratification. In 1958, under the guidance of Mr. Sergio Vercellino, a resident of Vagliumina (Biella) and an agriculturalist, I cut, with a scythe, about 3 m(3) of grass. In 1950 about twenty small ice cream glasses, which I collected with some difficulty, were inserted one inside the other so as to form an arch. In the same year I filled a little plastic box with some twelve little matchboxes, and with a great deal of difficulty I bought a packet of Marlboro which I soon took apart, flattened and stretched out. In 1949 I had rolled up a meter of yellow fabric and put my little finger in it to form a kind of tower of Babel. In 1953 I took a red or blue rubber band and stretched it with the four fingers of my right hand to form a square. A pile of sand about 30 cm. high was made in 1949, in Alassio, where I also dug a big hole until I found water. The first pile of matches and the first bundle of pencils date back to 1947. There were also countless works either with salt water or aqueduct water, or with other liquids of various kinds. Using a pencil as a ruler I cut up a poster in 1948, and in the same year, if I remember correctly, I poured an inkpot into a glass full of sawdust. In april 1951 I melted tinfoil and other metals and poured them into some water. The first experiments with a sheepskin that I squashed against some glass, not to mention the experiment of of pouring liquid sugar on a marble kitchen table, took place in 1952-53. Bending a piece of rubber between two fingers, rolling a sphere on a plane inclined by myself to this end, rolling up a soft wire inside a pencil, mixing different colored powders, these are the works carried out between March and April 1949. From 1946 onwards, I have continuously poked fires with the help of various materials. In 1954 it took me three days to glue together a manuscript that I had torn into a thousand little pieces; two hours were enough to put in a vertical position, in a line, 342 matches; it took me a moment to put a weight on a spider's web; I took advantage of the early hours of the afternoon to strip off the bark of a tree to see its smooth, moist surface."

Alighiero e Boetti, born December 16, 1940
See also Adam Curtis
While Haredim account for less than 10 percent of Israel’s seven million citizens, and Arabs 20 percent, their high birthrates mean that about 46 percent of today’s kindergartners come from the two groups, growth that is “challenging the basic formula” of Israeli society, according to Aluf Benn, editor of the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz.

“These groups don’t want a larger slice of the pie, they want a different recipe,” Mr. Benn said in an interview. “If Israel defines itself as a Jewish democratic state, the Arabs would do away with the Jewish part, and the ultra-Orthodox at least in their dream would get rid of the democracy. They respect the authority of the rabbis.”
“If Germany defines itself as a German democratic state, the immigrants would do away with the German part"

A link from A AbuKhalil
Moreover, the idea that German residents of foreign heritage are a drain on state finances is wide of the mark, according to the book. True enough, people of non-German descent pay less tax than their "native" counterparts (7,400 Euros per year per head to 10,800 Euros), but they also receive less in pensions and benefits. What's more, the authors say, "As a proportion, more migrants are productive than native Germans."
And as always, Beinart: "I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian... I'm not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I'm actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel's security and for its status as a Jewish state."

A Jewish state for a Jewish people iff a German state for a German people

I'm a political realist. That line isn't directed at Likudniks (who would by and large agree) but at "liberal" Zionists and their defenders, and at pedants who claim sophistication is synonymous with sophistry.
[The tags, "Drapery Project", and "Fabric as Form", refer or are related to an unrealized project proposal and an exhibition curated with Jack Tilton at the Tilton Gallery in the summer 2011. ]
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Richard Avedon in the NY Times. Michael Kimmelman 1994
Has there been an exhibition that generated more noise before it opened than the Richard Avedon show that is now at the Whitney Museum of American Art? Not this season, anyway.

First came the collective groan after David A. Ross, newly installed as the museum's director, proposed it as one of the largest retrospectives ever contemplated at the Whitney. Those who knew that Mr. Ross had enjoyed successes with two previous Avedon exhibitions at museums he headed, in Berkeley, Calif., and Boston, weren't surprised. But more than a few people were taken aback that his first move at an institution dogged by charges of trendiness was a gigantic display of the work of a master of fashion photography and celebrity portraiture. Since then, despite being scaled back, the show has caused an alarming buzz around the museum, like an approaching V-1.

...Ms. Livingston seems to have gone out of her way to comply with Mr. Avedon's desire that he be taken seriously as an artist, and not thought of as a fashion photographer: out of 200 photographs in the retrospective, 10 are fashion shots. If you expect Dovima and the elephants at the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris, forget it. Forget Sunny Harnett leaning over the roulette wheel at the casino at Le Touquet. I don't know whether the closer analogy is a Picasso retrospective without Cubism or a Woody Allen one without the comedies, but in either case, the disservice is to Mr. Avedon.

Because his fashion photographs are great, and the rest rarely are, despite their technical brilliance. The asylum inmates and celebrities made to look like them, the drifters from the American West and American muck-a-mucks in South Vietnam, the passengers on the Third Avenue El and revelers at the Brandenburg Gate are here in numbers that only expose Mr. Avedon's limitations. If all portraits are on some level self-portraits, as he likes to say, that may explain why Henry Miller, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Groucho Marx resemble one another in his photographs. But it doesn't make their portraits compelling.
Roberta Smith in 2009
Five years after Richard Avedon’s death at 81 the International Center of Photography is setting the record straight. Avedon was indeed a great artist, and his fashion photographs are his greatest work.

This may not be quite the way Avedon wanted it. His own pursuit of greatness often involved playing down the half-century of fashion magazine work he did for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue as little more than a day job and emphasizing his portraiture, which he produced voluminously. At least that’s how it seemed with his last big New York retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 1994; that 50-year survey included, shockingly, fewer than a dozen examples of the fashion work.
Holland Cotter 2012
If you were reasonably sentient in the 1960s and early ’70s, as some of us were some of the time, you’ll remember how far beyond strange those years were. And all of their surrealness comes back in this knockout show of Richard Avedon’s colossal photomurals at Gagosian.
See also

Thursday, July 05, 2012

‎Daily Press Briefing: July 3, 2012
Video at the link is queued up to this exchange:
*MS. NULAND:* We have no reason to believe that it [Human Rights Watch report on Syria] is not credible. It’s based on eyewitness accounts, and they’re reporting from a broad cross-section of human rights figures inside Syria.

*QUESTION:* So the next time Human Rights Watch comes out with a report that’s critical of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, I’ll assume that you’re going to be saying the same thing, correct; that you think that the report is credible, it’s based on eyewitness accounts?

*MS. NULAND:* As --

*QUESTION:* And you’re not going to say that it’s politically motivated and should be dismissed?

*MS. NULAND: *Matt, as you have made clear again and again in this room, we are not always consistent.

*QUESTION:* So, in other words, anything that Human Rights Watch says that is critical of someone you don’t like, that’s okay; but once they criticize someone that you do like, then it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on?

*MS. NULAND:* Matt, I’m not going to get into colloquy on this one.
The questioner is the AP's Matt Lee. He and Nuland have a history.

Also here
"Rilly, I had no idea"
 [partial repeat]
"What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late ’60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It’s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won."

"Perhaps more than an ambiguity, it was an irony of history. The real legacy of May ’68, as we see in France today, is individualism, the rejection of civic sense and ideology, the rehabilitation of the idea that personal and financial success is a worthy pursuit — in short, a revival of capitalism. To borrow an expression of Lenin’s, we were useful idiots. Indeed, the uprising was more a counterrevolution than a revolution."
Read one against the other. Anderson refers almost entirely to the hippies, the middle class rebels; Guillebaud obviously has no option but to talk about both students and workers. Anderson puts "black president" and "multiculturalism" as two of the changes, but says nothing about class divisions within what he would call liberalism and the "left".

Guillebaud
It was the strike, not the student revolt, that truly paralyzed the country for three long weeks. The paradox is that these two movements never encountered each other. The students marching toward the factories to “meet the workers” found the doors closed. The unions didn’t want them: the workers found the students disorganized and irresponsible.
And the civil rights movement was the organized rebellion of lower middle class blacks.

Anderson
But what the left and right respectively love and hate are mostly flip sides of the same libertarian coin minted around 1967.

...In that letter from 1814, Jefferson wrote that our tendencies toward selfishness where liberty and our pursuit of happiness lead us require “correctives which are supplied by education” and by “the moralist, the preacher, and legislator.”

On this Independence Day, I’m doing my small preacherly bit.
And I'm going to reread D.H. Lawrence on Benjamin Franklin.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

note taking. comments posted elsewhere. More fun with "professional philosophers"; almost nothing new.
"Philosophers should close ranks if they want their compensation to begin to approach that of physicians and other professionals."

2 cheers for commenter #1 and Alvin Plantinga. [see the thread] The first takes greed as a priori, the second the divinity of Christ. Call it the immanent frame.
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[Again: nothing new. Continue only if you're bored.]
"given the abysmal treatment of educators by a public who believes that gain from trade in competitive markets is the only mechanism of cooperative benefit worth mentioning

...Those beliefs stem from an inbred bias in economic theory which might have been confined to that discipline, but for the efforts of a handful of billionaires who detest paying taxes."

Commenter#1 is defending corruption as a mode of self defense. And he refers to "opportunity cost."
Maybe he should have gone into banking.

"The conclusion is that not commenting on the work of other philosophers is the only professional attitude to take."

Ideas are not lives. Philosophy professors are not sued. You're arguing not that the ideal "free exchange of ideas" is a pleasant fiction, you're opposing the thing itself: opposing the ideal of philosophical inquiry in the name of the philosophers' career. And you're blaming billionaires for your own corruption.

I understand the trap you're in, but at the same time it's an argument for leaving serious philosophy to amateurs. You're proving yourself worthless.
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Competition works when it's between people who play the same "game": tennis players, mathematicians, car salesmen and those who share religious faith. Outside that it doesn't work, and in any event it's not a value in itself. Plantinga is a theologian and Alex Rosenberg is... a schmuck -but whatever- the point is that they are not playing the same game by the same rules.

Filial piety has its own problems. Meet Peter Moskos, [and previously] a sociologist who did his fieldwork as a cop and who makes his living impressing liberal academics with his street smarts.
"Had I been there and seen everything, would I have turned in the cop? I doubt it. That same stomping cop may have saved the life of me or a friend some other time. That's what makes it so tricky. When you have a job where you need people to cover your back and save your life, you're going to cut them a lot of slack. How can you not? Hell, we all make mistakes."
Thought experiment: A heart surgeon accused of rape. He's saved more lives than most cops.

Read the comments about Serpico and his testimony in '97. My girlfriend at the time was the daughter of a NY City cop. She put it simply. "Cops hate Serpico. He was a rat."

Here's more on the lower middle class integrity Moskos defends.
He does so implicitly and explicitly, though without the sort of examples I've supplied.
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Anonymous @ 3:29
"The idea that I lay the blame for my own corruption at the feet of a handful of billionaires is mistaken. The point about the mechanisms of cooperative benefit was lost. What are the others? Why is that important? Philosophy claims to clarify the confusions of other disciplines--here is a case study. (I won't be more specific than that--it's too rich a field to be given away altogether.)"

3:29 Meet Frank Serpico.

it's too rich a field to be given away altogether.

Distribute freely.
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Anonymous college professor 10:45
"It's not enough to dismiss competitive markets as a game"

I take games seriously. You assume too much.
But those who identify animal experience with numerical value have that tendency.

Self-Government is a game without referees, but game designers see themselves as something other than game players. If they defend democracy (and there's no guarantee they do) they need to imagine it existed first as a philosophical program rather than as the product of an antagonistic cooperation among people capable of an ironic understanding of their own desires: people of a rich, complex, divided intelligence. Designers think top down, and democracy (like all culture in fact) moves in the other direction.

We have a surfeit of designers in academia at the moment. "Look! I've built a 9 string violin!" That's fine, but how good are you at playing it?

Politics and society are founded in reciprocal performance, but game designers indulge the superiority of technocrats: they identify with reason, like cops who've slid from seeing themselves correctly as representing the law to seeing themselves as personifying it. "To the pure all things are pure", as Paul says. If your professional title is Philosopher or Artist, or Economist, or Priest, you begin to lean on the rhetorical authority of the title. We have evidence that this has occurred in all four cases. And as long as we're on the subject of evidence:

Son, my reference to a girlfriend was a reference to the relevant data she supplied. Yours was an attempt at least at name dropping. I had another girlfriend who argues that mathematics is not science, because its not empirical. You could argue that Scientist is just a title like Philosopher but I don't think you want to. You could argue that she's wrong, but it's not an argument that interests me. My only argument is with those who identify words, which are used as a means of "representing" the world of experience, with numbers that may or may not model it. Just for fun:

1- Language is a common form. Experience is private. Representation in common form is a function of social life.
2- Model makers, eschewing representation. [eliding the role it plays in their own use of language] are/have always been authoritarian.
3-Authoritarianism is a famously violent and unstable form of government.

A- Philosophical inquiry and careerism are antithetical by nature.
B-Chemistry and careerism are antithetical or not, depending on context.
C-The supposed equivalence of speculative metaphysics and natural science, has given us philosophical careerism.

It's returned us to the 13th century. And Ghirlandaio was a painter of the renaissance.

Anonymous College Professor 10:46
"For the life of me, I'm not sure that the life of someone who says, 'That same stomping cop may have saved the life of me ...' is worth saving."

I wouldn't go that far. I just think it's amusing, and important if you're trying to follow historical change, that he calls himself a "liberal".

Alex Rosenberg: 'History is bunk"
Descartes said pretty much the same thing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

BBC: "Behold, the British establishment, panicked" [Barclays]

FT: "Police search Sarkozy home and offices"
Summer repeats. 2009 (again)


Velazquez Rediscovered.

In an age of specialization, people are less aware of what makes the best work what it is. They may sense it, but don't face it.
As a measure of quality technique is secondary, whether it's oil paint or piano playing. What's great in Velazquez is not simply that he's chosen to describe perception, the glow of light that hits the eye rather than the thing we want to call perceived, but that his work describes the weight that decision held for him. Velazquez was a devout Catholic, a defender of the universal church and the loyal servant of an absolute monarch, and yet he could not bring himself to paint absolutes. He painted perceptions because he understood as an empiricist of daily life that perceptions are all that we know. And we see for perhaps the first time in the history of western pictorial art not images and descriptions of faith but of the desire for faith, not the nobility of a political or religious order but the nobility of the need to believe, in what experience shows to be untrue.

Questions of technique or technical innovation are important to historians of form and style. Symphonic form and fresco had their heights, meaning each had a moment when it mapped the sensibility of an age so closely that it acted as a natural product or outgrowth: the age in microcosm. We study evolution in technique because every major form in its development was once necessity, required for the full description of a social, political, linguistic and moral reality. We should be willing to study devolution for the same reason, but by and large we aren't.

Technique is only interesting, or only profound, when acting as the model for, and more than that manifestation of, a form of consciousness. If you can't sense tragedy in Velazquez you can't understand the work; and if you sense it, it's worth understanding what it is and where it comes from. Similarly it makes little sense to study technique in Goya, or Manet, without admitting to their limitations in its use, and so the limitations of their chosen form itself, increasingly inappropriate to the modern age. Art critics are advocates, historians have no need to be: that's their advantage. It's clear to the disinterested eye that Goya was one of the last of the "Old Masters" in the 18th century, but it should also to be clear that he was one of the first "great illustrators" of the 19th. This means just what it sounds like it means.