Sunday, June 30, 2013

John Cassidy in The New Yorker on Snowdon and the press, including Josh Marshall (see Bertram).
Marshall responds
Some of this actually connects up with what I’ve written about ‘thick citizenship' and my critique of dual-citizenship. I think our equality and shared community as citizens rests on our citizenship being more than a matter of travel documents and accidents of birth.
Marshall defends the US, not as a republic, but as such.
His arguments for citizenship, in context, here.  With all his mocking of Republicans on racism and DOMA etc. his blindness is almost complete.

google site search, talkingpointsmemo.com: "white people"

I'd never read Marshall's original post on Snowdon, and in fact on Manning as well. It's impressive.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Walking up Park Ave at sunset. A new normal, boring, etc. The first time the Empire State building was lit for gay pride was July, 2011, when the legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act.
A conversation with a non-academic well-versed in the western canon, though less so anything contemporary, at least in terms of academic political theory. I tried to explain ongoing arguments about liberalism and conservatism. He kept stopping me to say he didn't know what those words meant without more explanation. "The meanings have changed so much over the past 200 years." I said that's the problem I was having, since the people I argued with seemingly had no knowledge that the old aristocratic right was anti-capitalist, being based on land not business. The old model of conservatism accepted self-interest as a given but nonetheless saw nobility, humility and self-sacrifice as an ideal.  Modern conservatives are merely aping the mannerisms of those they'd defeated, and liberals are similarly individualistic. "That's what all the French are on about".  He looked at me with the expression of someone pleasantly surprised to know I understood the obvious, but he didn't want to take my word regarding the opinions of anyone he hadn't met or read. Finally in frustration I blurted out that if I make the point that the supposed mystery of the Cambridge spies can be explained by seeing them as monarchists striking back against the barbarism that destroyed the world they knew or claimed to know, the response from erstwhile liberal academics almost always is not even disagreement or amusement but incomprehension.  He shrugged. He understood.
He's a Priest.
Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development.
"If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right."
repeat, since Holbo's back at it.
Modern liberalism begins in universalism, treating various people's interests as equal or equivalent. But the global view of individuals as actors has given us an asocial model of morality:

"If her interests have the same value as his, then my interests must have the same value as yours."
In a short conversation with a libertarian a few months ago, I said my disgust begins with their opposition to democracy, since democracy is founded on individual responsibility, not individual freedom.  He agreed that libertarians don't  like democracy,  but said he was impressed that I would argue against freedom. "Most liberals aren't so honest" I said they can't face their contradictions, and that I'm not a liberal.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A good continuation of the previous post.

It makes perfect sense that DOMA and VRA would fall together. I've known plenty of white racist homosexuals. John Roberts' cousin may be a lesbian but she's still is still family, and still white. Of course it connects by analogy to the status of Zionism. And once race is no longer an issue we'll still have the poor.

A friend on facebook "liked" Against Equality. It reminds me that the avant-garde is always attracted to fascism, replacing life with art. Labeling one's sexuality special is no better than labeling one's ethnicity special: claims of superiority more than anything are based on insecurity.

repeats 2002
What replaces normalcy? For the majority of whatever political, sexual, religious or philosophical persuasion, the answer's nothing.  Fantasies of permanent revolution, the entrepreneurial spirit, or the fabulous life are all fantasies of a minority. Most people want stability, and stability is boring.
I've gotten used to hearing complaints now that homosexuality has become boring.

More from 2003, and recently.
Also, Laud Humphries
His biographers give a detailed account of the manuscript Humphreys worked on during his final years but never finished. It was to be a book revisiting one of the themes in Tearoom Trade – the idea he called “the breastplate of righteousness.” That phrase was borrowed from an epistle by St. Paul, while the argument owed a lot to the Frankfurt School’s analysis in The Authoritarian Personality. 
Men he had observed having anonymous sex in a public place often turned out to be ardent champions of law and order. Unable to control themselves in that part of their lives, they put on the defensive "breastplate," redoubling their efforts elsewhere: “Motivated largely by his own awareness of the discreditable nature of his secret behavior,” wrote Humphreys in his dissertation, “the covert deviant develops a presentation of self that is respectable to a fault. His whole lifestyle becomes an incarnation of what is proper and orthodox.”
and here
In the unfinished manuscript left at his death, Humphreys described meeting with a prominent Dixiecrat politician and his wife in 1948. When the politician left the room, she started to undo Humphreys’s tie so that they could all have a little party, as was their wont.
The biography of Humphreys explains that “this archconservative longtime segregationist served as U.S. Senator from South Carolina from 1954 until shortly before his death in 2003.” But the at least the authors don’t actually, you know, name him.
It's not a mark against psychology that it can be turned against its practitioners any more than its a mark against law that prosecutors are required to face advocates for the defense. The mark is against the authority of judges, and philosophers all claim to be judges.
Corey Robin's confusion.
Why would a liberal opposed to the Hobbesian vision of absolute power resort to such a Hobbesian style of argument? Because Montesquieu, like Hobbes, lacked a positive conception of human ends, true for all people, in which to ground his political vision. Montesquieu’s liberalism was not the egalitarian liberalism of the century to come, nor was it the conscience-stricken protoliberalism of the century it had left behind. Unlike Locke, whose argument for toleration was powered by a vision of religious truth, and unlike later figures such as Rousseau or Mill, whose arguments for freedom were driven by secular visions of human flourishing, Montesquieu pursued no beckoning light. 
"...Montesquieu pursued no beckoning light." And we're supposed to see that as a weakness.
In the same way that journalists call high-level leakers in the executive branch “White House officials” and low-level guys like Snowden “narcissists” or “losers,” so do they dole out accolades like “Secretary of State” to mass murderers like Henry Kissinger while holding the Snowden-like epithets in reserve for Al Qaeda, Communists, the Militia Movement, and the Weather Underground.
So where does that leave us? I’m not sure. As Jim Naureckas put it on my FB page: “Is the problem treating the retailers of violence as if they were psychotic or regarding violence wholesalers as though they were sane?
“On Language and Violence: From Pathology to Politics,” [PDF]
In 1965, George Steiner asked, ‘Is there any science-fiction pornography?” Mostly rhetorical, the question was a typically Steinerian prompt to a typically Steinerian rumination on the relationship between sex and language. With its ability to alter "the co-ordinates of space and time," to “set effect before cause," science fiction would
seem the natural workshop of pornographic invention. But it wasn't. “Despite all the lyric or obsessed cant about the boundless varieties and dynamics of sex, the actual sum of possible gestures, consummations. and imaginings is drastically limited," Steiner wrote. "There just aren't that many orifices." These limits necessarily meant there was precious little, and certainly nothing new, to say about erotic arousal. "The mathematics of sex stop somewhere in the region of soixante-neuf; there are no transcendental series"—and thus there could be no science-fiction pornography, at least not in the sense of “something new, an invention by the human imagination of new sexual experience.” Yet, here we are, more than years later, swimming in porn...
Steiner was writing about porn, not sex. There will never be an end to love songs, but Robin's too stupid to notice.  Update:  I'm forgetting the history.  Steiner is to Robin as George Scialabba is to Henry Farrell.

Steiner
The simple yet appalling fact is that we have very little solid evidence that literary studies do very much to enrich or stabilize moral perception, that they humanize. We have little proof that a tradition of literary studies in fact makes a man more humane. What is worse — a certain body of evidence points the other way.
Scialabba
… Search [in Shakespeare] for statesmanship, or even citizenship, or any sense of the commonwealth, material or spiritual, and you will not find the making of a decent vestryman or curate in the whole horde. As to faith, hope, courage, conviction, or any of the true heroic qualities, you find nothing but death made sensational, despair made stage-sublime, sex made romantic, and barrenness covered up by sentimentality and the mechanical lilt of blank verse.
Robin
It should be no surprise that violence, sex's Siamese twin, should inspire a similar performative contradiction from our leading intellectuals. How many times have we been told by writers that violence is a nullity about which there is nothing interesting or new to be said, only to discover, from these very same writers, that there is much that is both interesting and new to be said about it? Throughout her career, Hannah Arendt spoke at length, often imaginatively, about violence, without ever questioning her notion that "mute violence" was sheer redundancy. Elaine Scarry began The Body in Pain with the claim that pain's "resistance to language is not simply one of its incidental or accidental attributes but is essential to what it is"—and then spent more than three hundred pages demonstrating, sometimes inadvertently, that that was not the case.
...How can we square this notion of violence as a linguistic nullity with the riot of talk that surrounds it? The example of pornography might prove instructive. The sexually forbidden naturally provokes a sense of titillation and curiosity, which, when satisfied, is succeeded by feelings of mute depression—whether because it is only the taboo that makes the sexual act in question exciting or because a proper acquaintance with the act reveals that it is not all that one imagined it would be. Perhaps violence operates in a similar fashion: when we hurt or destroy a feared or hated object, we experience a sense of loss because the object that aroused such passion within us is now no more or is sufficiently subdued to claim our attention no longer. As Forster wrote in A Passage to India, "The aims of battle and the fruits of conquest are never the same; the latter have their value and only the saint rejects them, but their hint of immortality vanishes as soon as they are held in the hand." And so we drift—from dirty talk to silence, from violence to the void.

...Why is it that when confronted with extremist violence and its defenders, whether on the right or the left, analysts resort to the categories of psychology as opposed to politics, economics, or ideology?  ...If we are to go down the road of psychoanalyzing violence, why not put Henry Kissinger or the RAND Corporation on the couch too?
As if Kissinger's psychology had not been the a great subject for analysts and comedians. And Forster's observations likewise concern psychology, not actions themselves but actors' internal states: the waxing and waning of desire.  More than anything Robin seems to argue from a need to guarantee his own moral purity.  Why else be so blind?  Freud would have a good time with his elisions.

"With due respect to Arendt, it is difficult to accept her proposition that violence is mute when philosophers expend so many words trying to figure out what it is." Robin dreams of clarity. He likes his problems solved, in hand. He wants to replace experience with its description. repeat: Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain is a stupid book.

Robin
I was recently reminded of this bifurcated approach to violence by two articles in the same issue of The New Yorker: In one, a profile of Oriana Fallaci, Margaret Talbot tells how Fallaci's father inspired and encouraged his teenage daughter to work against the Fascists in Italy. Roused by her fathers example, a pig-tailed Fallaci “carried explosives and delivered messages‘ and led escaping American and British POWs across dangerous minefields. When Fallaci's mother later discovered what her daughter had been doing, she scolded her husband, "You would have sacrificed newly born children! You and your ideas." But then she softened: “Well, but I had a feeling you were doing something like that.” Talbot relates this story without comment, allowing it to serve as the capstone of a charming—and entirely political—tale of one family's idealistic rebellion against evil.
At the back of the magazine, David Denby takes a different tack with a vaguely similar story. This time the setting is the Middle East, and the topic is a new documentary, “The Cult of the Suicide Bomber," a dense political history of suicide bombing. Denby is not interested, however, in the politics of the bombers: “The real center of interest, for me, at least, lies in the families of the young men who died.” But his interest is frustrated by the refusal of these families to express their grief in public, leading him to wonder whether they have any grief at all. One Iranian mother says of her son, who died in battle (presumably on a suicide mission during the Iran-Iraq War), “He became a martyr for God.” Such statements lead Denby to conclude that the parents “speak as if the boys had attained a purely official identity, as if they were not their own dead children.’ (How
these comments are any different from a Midwestem father telling a reporter, twenty years after the fact, that his son died defending his country in Vietnam, Denby does not explain.) Denby is equally frustrated by the fact that the parents insist on seeing their sons’ destruction through a political or religious lens and that "any kind of psychological explanation is ignored.”
Denby's mediocrity is just that, and hardly worth the effort.  From Margaret Talbot's New Yorker piece on Fallaci
They live at our expense, because they’ve got schools, hospitals, everything,” she said at one point, beginning to shout. “And they want to build damn mosques everywhere.” She spoke of a new mosque and Islamic center planned for Colle di Val d’Elsa, near Siena. She vowed that it would not remain standing. “If I’m alive, I will go to my friends in Carrara—you know, where there is the marble. They are all anarchists. With them, I take the explosives. I make you juuump in the air. I blow it up! With the anarchists of Carrara. I do not want to see this mosque—it’s very near my house in Tuscany. I do not want to see a twenty-four-metre minaret in the landscape of Giotto. When I cannot even wear a cross or carry a Bible in their country! So I BLOW IT UP! ”

The magnificently rebellious Oriana Fallaci now cultivates, it seems, the prejudices of the petite bourgeoisie. She is opposed to abortion, unless she “were raped and made pregnant by a bin Laden or a Zarqawi.” She is fiercely opposed to gay marriage (“In the same way that the Muslims would like us all to become Muslims, they would like us all to become homosexuals”), and suspicious of immigration in general. The demonstrations by immigrants in the United States these past few months “disgust” her, especially when protesters displayed the Mexican flag. “I don’t love the Mexicans,” Fallaci said, invoking her nasty treatment at the hands of Mexican police in 1968. “If you hold a gun and say, ‘Choose who is worse between the Muslims and the Mexicans,’ I have a moment of hesitation. Then I choose the Muslims, because they have broken my balls.”
Robin, in another article he links to
For whenever liberal intellectuals are confronted with political extremism, the knotty social intelligence that normally informs their work unravels. The radical is reduced to a true believer, his beliefs a litany of crazy proverbs, his personality an inscrutable paranoia. Whether the cause is communism or the Black Panthers, feminism or the abolitionists, the liberal resorts to a familiar ghost story - of the self, evacuated for the sake of an incoming ideology - where, as is true of all such tales, the main character is
never the ghost but always the teller.
In a recent post at CT, on Auschwitz, there's side discussion of Claude Lanzmann and his choice not to ask, "why?" [repeat: Adam Shatz on Lanzmann.] But Lanzmann's decision was based not on an opposition to psychology but a respect for it, and for what cannot be spoken: the specificity of events in individual lives. Robin refers to "sex's Siamese twin" but he doesn't understand either because he doesn't understand intimacy, at least as it can be made to manifest in language and in art.

Robin prefers ideas and generalizations.  It's true that whatever ideas we have of violence itself are bound to be repetition.  This was the point of the arguments he refers to, to rebut.  But questions revolve around context, justification and history. [update: Reflections on Violence, by Arendt, reposted on the main page this month in the NYRB]  And Robin ignores the value of testimony.  He says he's interested  in "positive conception[s] of human ends, true for all people",  and therefore can't be much interested in any individual voice.  The authors' caveats he denounces function as rhetorical statements of humility, made by people who have not themselves experienced the horror of violence but who have chosen to discuss it. Elaine Scarry has never been tortured and cannot claim to speak for those who have.  I'll give her credit for that.  Arendt was not a surviver of the camps.

Robin's not interested in individual voices, or even in his own voice; if he paid more attention he'd see its contradictions, flaws and frailties. Moralists are always hypocrites.
The reason I bring together Nietzsche and the Austrians (as opposed to other figures) is that a similar project animates their thinking: the effort to repulse the socialist challenge of the late 19th and 20th centuries and, behind socialism, the elevation of labor and the laborer as the centerpiece of modern civilization.
"Labor and the laborer" are ideas. They're a theme and object of study, a centerpiece on someone else's table.

More on psychology and politics in the next post

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Manet in Venice

Saturday, June 22, 2013





Koons. My reflection standing in for Parmigianino's. Pistoletto, for comparison. Koons is more Bronzino than Parmigianino: sharp and perverse.

Koons and Paul McCarthy in the NYT. Roberta Smith

McCarthy's work is shallow and derivative: boring, emotionally and visually unspecific, rehashing the work of every existentialist shock-jock artist from the generation that preceded him, in New YorkCalifornia or Vienna,  50 years after Meat Joy and Flaming Creatures. And once the shock is gone, if it existed, there's little left other than the idea of inversion. It's an old idea, meaning more than 100 years, and the art of ideas doesn't age well, unless the art outlasts the ideas themselves and is seen now as specific to its place and time in a way that continues to stand out. And again McCarthy's work is unspecific. He can't even claim as Baldessari does to be a "closet" formalist. He's a lazy maker of objects dabbling in self-consciously "bad" movies in a time when John Waters has musicals on Broadway and David Lynch and Tim Burton are household names. Martin Landau won his oscar in 1995.  Koons by comparison has an eye, one that reminds me now of Kubrick. I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it before.

Monday, June 17, 2013

USA Today: 3 NSA veterans speak out on whistle-blower: We told you so.
Josh Marshall, TPM:  Five Revelations From The Edward Snowden Live Chat
Marshall again:  FACEOFF: Obama and Snowdon "Debate"
repeat: Bertram
This potential disabling of insubordination strikes me as the real worry here, rather than concerns about “privacy” in and of itself. I guess that’s unlikely to worry journalists like Joshua Micah Marshall who “basically identify with the country and the state” and think of the state as “something you fundamentally believe in, identify with, think is working on your behalf.” For such people, the struggle against injustice is – perhaps with “notably rare exceptions” – something in the past.
Alexa

Sunday, June 16, 2013

AA
Western media, since the Syrian uprising, has become so lazy: they feel that they now are on the same page with the Saudi and Qatari media so they simply copy from those media, even lies, fabrications and rumors. Many have reported that there is a big rift between Hamas and Hizbullah and that Hamas was kicked out of the southern suburbs of Beirut. This turned out to be untrue and the leaders of both parties have been holding secret meetings in the suburbs to reconcile differences. They formed a special committee for coordination.
NYT (op-ed)
For nearly two years, the Obama administration has described the Syrian regime as having “lost all legitimacy” and “clinging to power.” And yet, it has surprisingly endured. That’s because neither assertion is really accurate. Mr. Assad still has strong support from many Syrians, including members of the Sunni urban class.
And yet we hear the again and again about the Alawites, Hezbollah and Iran.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bertram
Responding to concern about PRISM and the issue of whether intelligence collaboration with the US enabled British agencies to circumvent legal restrictions, Foreign Secretary William Hague told us that “law-abiding citizens” have nothing to fear. Not only do I not wish to be the kind of person Hague thinks of as “law abiding”, more generally it is social movements that willfully break the law that are most likely to bring about change and to threaten established power and privilege. And it is just such movements, and their leaders, who are at risk from pervasive state surveillance of our communications.

My brief, but unscientific reactions to the whole project. First, I’m sympathetic, I really am, to the idea that people should work and consume less and that we should attend more to real life quality. But this doesn’t seem very realistic in my own life for two reasons: first, even if my employer were sympathetic (unlikely) I feel very hard pressed now to produce the level of research output necessary for me to stay competitive with other academics (not just in the UK, but elsewhere). I suspect this generalizes to many people in professional jobs: we couldn’t achieve the kinds of things we want to in our careers on those kinds of hours. This isn’t necessarily a problem, so long as there isn’t compulsion. Some (many) people have shitty jobs with low intrinsic rewards: removing the burden of work for them would be an unqualified good thing. Second, it is all very well Juliet Schor telling us to transition to a low hours/lower consumption economy. I’m cool with consuming less. The problem is that I, and just about everyone else, has taken out huge mortgages and bank loans to pay (in part) for the consumption we’ve already had. Hard to reduce the hours unless (or until) the debt goes away. Third, there was distressingly little discussion of the politics of this. Whatever the real social and economic benefits, the French 35-hour week wasn’t a political success (perhaps because it was watered-down) and Sarkozy was able to campaign effectively on behalf of the “France qui se lève tôt”. Some kind of post-mortem on this experience would have been helpful, albeit that it took place in a different, pre-crisis, environment.
I'm not going to moralize about levels of moral and political responsibility. Every example of language use, spoken or written, is made of text and subtext/s. Moral and political philosophers in the Anglo-American tradition pretend their words are exempt, that subtext is for others. It isn't.

Bertram's "scientific" imagination licenses his own mediocrity. Assume the mediocrity of all, and you get what you wish for.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Robin: "Arbeit Mach Frei"
Taking workplace feudalism up a notch
A New York-based real estate firm Rapid Realty has offered its 800 employees a 15% pay raise if they tattoo the company’s logo onto their bodies, and the offer is snowballing, according to CBS New York. So far, nearly 40 employees accepted the challenge, AOL Jobs reported.

Employees who agreed to get inked said getting a substantially larger paycheck was motivation enough to get a tattoo. In a video, Brooklyn-based broker Adam Altman said the ink would be a reminder to work harder.  “I don’t see myself going anywhere, and if I have it on my arm, it’ll force me to keep going and working hard [sic],” Altman said.
repeats: "Technocrats don't know what cosmopolitanism is, they only know what they want it to be."

---
Graham Harman was in town a few weeks ago.  A spiel then some beer, with a few people. Interesting that he defends art as such.  He mocked analytic philosophy, and said Jerry Fodor had written an op-ed somewhere complaining that more people read Shakespeare than philosophy, when philosophers, using himself as an example, were much better writers. I haven't found the op-ed and it's hard to imagine Fodor being so stupid, but Harman used that to defend literature as philosophy not philosophy as literature, to defend Shakespeare not Derrida.

Still, as a philosopher and therefore defending philosophers and their ideas as models, he's forced to make two moves, both following an anthropocentric or biocentric fallacy.  He extends experience and sense to a description of the material world [from memory]: "Fire cannot know the texture or the smell of cotton, it only knows that cotton burns." Art is our happy doomed attempt to describe every aspect of cotton as we experience it and relate to it in any context: as wet or dry, in war and peace. But the infinite multiplicity of our experience of objects then becomes the impossibility of objects as such; Harman's arguments become religious.  And this is only because for Harman, as the biologist Richard Lewontin would say, words and not objects are the matter.  Novelists use stories to describe the world; philosophers make worlds out of wordplay. The world is not wordplay.

Secondly, even if perspectivism is our reality, he needs some way for us as philosophical beings to have access to the universal, so even if fiction writing is philosophically valid it remains secondary to philosophy as designs in the mind of designers take precedence over experience.  Philosophers look for first causes because they need to identify with them. Harman can't escape the desire to identify with the maker of the master plan.  Most novelists, actors,  legal advocates (if not legal philosophers), and many scientists are happy playing in the muck, avoiding -again referring to Lewontin- “idel specoolations”. And artists even as designers are designers among designers, arguing superiority first and foremost as craftsmen.

Harman's a great fan of Latour, whom he described as "a very serious Catholic".  I told him he was a humanist; he was nonplussed. I said not by the 18th century definition, which is almost anti-humanism, but the original, Renaissance, definition. I said "Erasmus". He said "Thomas More" and smiled. "I never thought of that".

I told one of his fanboys it was all nothing new, but that it was good. It's necessary to balance commitment and irony, and it's a hard thing to do. To my surprise his eyes widened a bit and he agreed. Call it progress.

But philosophers fantasize a unified consciousness, and that's the mistake. Harman's recent book is on Lovecraft, less a literary artist than a literary illustrator, and as a friend said, Harman's not a great writer.
Still, he's a writer.

repeats.  Zadie Smith: "But to live variously cannot simply be a gift, endowed by an accident of birth; it has to be a continual effort, continually renewed."

On Latour and David Chalmers etc. repeats of repeats, recently and linking back.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Bertram remembers some things, and not others.
But he's good on Josh Marshall; read the comments as well.

As with Zionism, events and/or increased knowledge force people to choose. Still, he links to James Scott: the same romantic fixation on ideas.

Farrell is an ass
An anthropologist takes the time to remind us of the obvious.

Belief Is the Least Part of Faith
In a charismatic evangelical church I studied, people often made comments that suggested they had complicated ideas about God’s realness. One devout woman said in a prayer group one evening: “I don’t believe it, but I’m sticking to it. That’s my definition of faith.”

It was a flippant, off-the-cuff remark, but also a modern-day version of Pascal’s wager: in the face of her uncertainty about God’s existence, she decided that she was better off behaving as if God were real. She chose to foreground the practical issue of how to experience the world as if she was loved by a loving God and to put to one side her intellectual puzzling over whether and in what way the invisible agent was really there.

The role of belief in religion is greatly overstated, as anthropologists have long known. In 1912, Émile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern social science, argued that religion arose as a way for social groups to experience themselves as groups. He thought that when people experienced themselves in social groups they felt bigger than themselves, better, more alive — and that they identified that aliveness as something supernatural. Religious ideas arose to make sense of this experience of being part of something greater. Durkheim thought that belief was more like a flag than a philosophical position: You don’t go to church because you believe in God; rather, you believe in God because you go to church.
Sad that she has to explain this to American "secular liberals", but she does. Though she wouldn't have to explain it to secularists in most other countries.
And she didn't add that faith becomes ideologized when the culture it supports becomes seen as threatened.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Duncan Black
Apparently Some Stuff Happened This Weekend 
Haven't had a chance to dive into it fully, but my basic belief is that aside from civil liberties issues, the security/surveillance state industry is just a giant grift, a big scam there to enrich certain communities in Northern Virginia. That it is a net good is bullshit, that it makes us "safe" is bullshit, and that "making us safe," as opposed to perpetuating its own existence and fattening the wallets of its members and those that play along, has much to with anything that goes on is bullshit. 
I'm sure the Men in Black could pay me a visit and convince me otherwise. What do I know? There are known unknowns and unknown unknowns, and I can't claim knowledge of any of them. Much of what is "intelligence work" is boring, and stuff produced from that work is probably useful and the people who do it are probably doing good work for good reasons. But the unholy alliances with big businesses and third party contractors and the empire of well-paid informants and agents is just bullshit in which everyone takes their cut of your money. 
...from someone I'm not exactly a fan of.
I love DC; at Little League game, dads are talking about catastrophic consequences of Snowden on contractors they work for
You do the hokey pokey
and you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about.
And one down:
Stuff To Do 
I don't think Pennsylvania is exactly known for its natural beauty. Like just about anywhere it has some, of course, but it's certainly not what it's known for. A bit surprised Ricketts Glen State Park doesn't get a bit more wider notice. Been a few times in my life, and the Falls Trail is one of the nicer hikes I've been on.
The photo on the left is from the Falls Trail. The image on the right is from Fairmount Park. At that link you'll find another.


Poor people don't have cars. I'm not going to link to his comments on gentrification again.

Atrios is pathologically anti-intellectual. Even when he's right he dumbs down the issues. Dictatorship in itself a not grift; it's one form of laziness and cowardice, and laziness, cowardice, and corruption are always hand in glove. When Atrios is wrong, lazy and blind to the self-serving origins of his own arguments it's just embarrassing.

"I know and have friends and acquaintances who are African-American..."
"David Duke, president of Americans in Support of Palestinian Freedom."

It's not embarrassing; it's worse than that.

I haver two bets with myself: one about Atrios, that his father-in-law was in the South Korean military;  and another about Corey Robin, that he owns the building he lives in.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Greenwald/The Guardian

Edward Snowden: "I do not expect to see home again."

repeat.
Rick Perlstein:
"...Philip Agee was never part of any solution, just another facet of the shadow world’s ever proliferating strangeness."
Disengagement is passivity. American liberals are becoming engaged; the culture of American liberalism is changing.
The academy is changing; intellectual academicism is not.

Friday, June 07, 2013

PRISM
by KIERAN HEALY on JUNE 6, 2013
Bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge. … This consists on the one hand of technical knowledge, which, by itself, is sufficient to ensure it a position of extraordinary power. But in addition to this, bureaucratic organizations, or the holders of power who make use of them, have the tendency to increase their power still further by the knowledge growing out of experience in the service. For they acquire through the conduct of office a special knowledge of facts and have available a store of documentary material peculiar to themselves. While not particular to bureaucratic organizations, the concept of “official secrets” is certainly typical of them. It stands in relation to technical knowledge in somewhat the same position as commercial secrets do to technological training. It is the product of the striving for power.
Dan Nexon 06.07.13 at 2:45 am
Weber. 
seth edenbaum 06.07.13 at 4:00 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation. 
Dan Nexon: “Weber.”
"They then chuckle together in a self-congratulatory academic manner"

Take it away, commenter “Marfrks”
http://crookedtimber.org/2010/04/01/greenwald-v-kerr/comment-page-6/#comment-309996

“I have been a lawyer for many years, and then got a chance to teach at a non-lawyerly academic institution. I loved it; I loved playing in the garden of the mind. Eventually, however, it became clear to me that academics and non-academics have very different approaches to ideas. Academics, though it sounds odd to say it, don’t take ideas seriously. For academics, ideas are games,”

All the above without a single mention of US foreign policy, no more anti-democratic now than before. You can’t support freedom at home while opposing it abroad, especially not in the age on electronic communication.
Healy responds to events with in-jokes and glib affectations of superiority; Nexon seconds, closing the circle. "They then chuckle..": Farrell's sardonic take on McGinn. The creepiness is the same. The only difference is the sex.

repeats: Healy, Nexon, McGinn. Rationalists rationalize; superiority to politics is anti-politics, laziness, decadence.  Marfrks like Greenwald is an advocate. If you're paid to be biased you understand what it is and how it creeps in. Objectivity does not exist; self-awareness cannot be naturalized.
Old discussion of Farrell, Greenwald, and Kerr, here and here.
---

McGinn contra Judt.
And I'd forgotten about Bertram
QS 06.03.12 at 9:58 am
You’ve turned sexual harassment into an intellectual game, that is where the “creepiness” originates. How do you moderate that? You don’t. You realize that your ability to treat the issue so dispassionately, playing the game of Find the Universal, probably has something to do with your maleness and position outside this particular terrain.

Sexual harassment was banned not because we found the Universal Principle Against Harassment but because women and men who believed it to be wrong fought successfully for prohibition. These people were likely motivated by a variety of ideas and experiences. The way we keep the libertarians marginalized is not by abstract philosophical games but by appealing to this concrete history.

Chris Bertram 06.03.12 at 10:06 am
QS: your latest tells me that you see political philosophy as it is usually practised as involving a profound mistake. You are entitled to that opinion. It is not one that I share.
It's all there. Idiots.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Any state has to allow for the distinction between insiders and outsiders, which is why arguments that "no one is illegal" are more romance than viable policy.  But democracies and republics are built on laws that descend from principles of universal civil and political rights, and if the divide between citizen and foreigner becomes too broad, if foreign and domestic policy are not just separate but contradictory, there's no way for one not to affect the other. You cannot support freedom at home while opposing it abroad; the inconsistency itself is a recipe for disaster.  The right and the left both understand this. Liberals don't.

The sudden howls of indignation are pathetic.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


Niamh Hardiman at CT
Who will bring about political reform, and what are the political incentives for doing it? The question comes from an earlier post. Is there a road-map for exiting from a sub-optimal equilibrium in the way political institutions function? I don’t know the answer. 
In Ireland, parties in opposition seem to agree that the lack of accountability of the executive to parliament is a problem. But why would they voluntarily cede the advantages of executive autonomy when in power themselves?
If you build your logic around the lowest common denominator it becomes hard to imagine anything higher. To say that politicians "should" value something more than their own short term interests is to no longer make arguments that can be defined as "value free". Republicans see their duty to the party now as more important than their duty to the state. Yet it's difficult for liberals to criticism them specifically for that because demanding more is accepted tacitly if not openly as unreasonable.

I've read the same arguments for years about presidential power. It's seen as illogical to think that Obama should choose to cede power back to congress. Naturalism of this sort leads to moral passivity.

obvious. repeats. etc.
A couple of days old
The military is an extremely important actor in Turkish politics. Traditionally, there has been a faustian pact between Turkish society and its armed forces to ensure the government could not endanger Turkey’s sacrosanct secularism. But over the past decade, the military has been unprecedentedly co-opted into supporting the AKP party. A series of high-profile sackings of generals set the stage for a neutered military leadership, despite the fact that many below top level may feel differently.

Over the course of the past day though, they have been quietly supporting the protesters. They have refused to cooperate with Police requests to use military zones for transportation. At a military hospital in Istanbul they refused to treat police officers, instead handing out gas masks to dissidents. As this exchange between a policeman and soldier attests, relations between the two armed groups are indeed frosty at present. Part of the dialogue translates as:  
Policeman: “Next time we should also throw gas bombs here [a military zone].”
Soldier: “If you do it, we will find something to throw to you as well, rest assured.”
From Arabist

Erdogan's won every election.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Atrios
Repetition
What Daniel Hallin (via Jay Rosen) called the Sphere of Legitimate Controversy seems to be changing. Since Serious People don't acknowledge dirty hippies, it's hard to know whether we've had anything to do with that.
yes, repetition.

Atrios again
Merit  
Ezra picks some highlights of a speech by Helicopter Ben to Princeton graduates. 
The concept of success leads me to consider so-called meritocracies and their implications. We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, meritocracies may be fairer and more efficient than some alternatives. But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it. A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate–these are the folks who reap the largest rewards.
As if Duncan Black or Ezra Klein would have defended that argument 12 years ago.

And Bertram likes Robert Hughes.
"So what Brasilia became in less than 20 years wasn't the city of tomorrow at all. It was yesterday's science fiction. Nothing dates faster than people's fantasies about the future.
This is what you get when perfectly decent, intelligent and talented men start thinking in terms of space, rather than place, and about single, rather than multiple meanings."
Always the anger of the committed, even as the commitment changes.
Consistently unaware of what and where they were in the past; unable to understand themselves, or change.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

An article in the Times on changing museum policies and downloading.
The Rijksmuseum
“We’re a public institution, and so the art and objects we have are, in a way, everyone’s property,” Mr. Dibbits said in an interview. “With the Internet, it’s so difficult to control your copyright or use of images that we decided we’d rather people use a very good high-resolution image of the ‘Milkmaid’ from the Rijksmuseum rather than using a very bad reproduction,” he said, referring to that Vermeer painting from around 1660.
It's not mentioned in the article, but the Met now allows downloads, not high quality but enough for the web. The original file of the Hals I posted recently is 3.1mb.
When you go to the page for a painting, click on "full screen" and a download link appears on the lower right.
Aaron Swartz was too good for this world
"Aaron wasn't built for a world of red lines and strict rules," Wikler says. "He moved in and out of institutions, he didn't fit into boxes and that was OK be cause he was also obsessed with never hurting anyone. He was monk-like. And the prosecution, all the way through, showed no hint of remorse or recognition of what might have been wrong, even in his death. There's just something wrong with a system where people have power to do that to someone like Aaron."

There is a particular tragedy, too, in realising that Aaron Swartz was one of the few people equipped with the skills and idealism to want to change that system for the better. In the end, says Stinebrickner-Kauffman, there is no explanation that could possibly make sense of his suicide. "He just… " she breaks off, searching for the right words. "It was just too hard." She crosses her arms loosely on the table. The sentence floats between us. It seems like the only thing there is left to say.
"I took the children with me, for they are too good for the life that would follow, and a merciful God will understand me when I will give them the salvation ... The children are wonderful ... there never is a word of complaint nor crying. The impacts are shaking the bunker. The elder kids cover the younger ones, their presence is a blessing and they are making the Führer smile once in a while. May God help that I have the strength to perform the last and hardest. We only have one goal left: loyalty to the Führer even in death. Harald, my dear son — I want to give you what I learned in life: be loyal! Loyal to yourself, loyal to the people and loyal to your country ... Be proud of us and try to keep us in dear memory …"
Since his death, his family and closest friends have tried to hone his story into a message, in order to direct the public sadness and anger aroused by his suicide to political purposes. They have done this because it is what he would have wanted, and because it is a way to extract some good from the event. They tell people that the experience of being prosecuted is annihilatingly brutal, and that prosecutors can pursue with terrible weapons defendants who have caused little harm. One of the corollaries of this message is that Swartz did not kill himself; he was murdered by the government. But this claim is for public consumption, and the people closest to him do not really believe it. They believe that he would not have killed himself without the prosecutors, but they feel that there is something missing from this account—some further fact, a key, that will make sense of what he did.

Despite his public presence, he was small and frail and shy and often sick, and people wanted to protect him. He was loved intensely, as a child is loved.
An indulged and indulgent narcissist.

"Aaron Swartz was one of the few people equipped with the skills and idealism to want to change that system for the better." Bullshit.

Rick Perlstein on Aaron Swartz:
I remember a creature who seemed at first almost to be made up of pure data, disembodied—a millionaire, I had to have guessed, given his early success building a company sold to Condé Nast, but one who seemed to live on other people’s couches. (Am I misremembering that someone told me he crashed in his apartment for a while, curling up to sleep under a sink?)
Only slowly, it seems, did he come to learn that he possessed a body.
earlier here