Tuesday, August 26, 2014

There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering,”

Corey Robin posts a letter from a political theorist
Dear Chancellor Wise, (and Members of the Board of Trustees, and the UIUC community of faculty, staff, and students),

I wrote to you when I heard about the Steven Salaita case a couple of weeks ago and hoped you would reconsider. As I told you then, I am Jewish and was raised as a Zionist, and I was moved by the case. I write now in the hope that you might find some measure of empathy for this man. Please bear with me for 2 pages.
It's unbearable.
...That is what I thought. I also, though, felt something. I felt that whoever wrote that tweet was tweeting his own pain. And I felt there was something very amiss when he was chided for his tone, by people who were safely distant from all of it, while he was watching people he maybe knew or felt connected to die as a result of military aggression. This, frankly, seemed evil. And then to have the major charge against him in the UIUC case be that he lacked empathy: now that seemed cruelly ironic. The real charge, it seems to me, is that he suffers from too much empathy.

What kind of a person would Prof Salaita be if he did not respond more or less as he did!? What kind of a teacher? What kind of community member?
Three more tweets by Salaita, the first in reference to two US born members of the IDF who were killed:
“It turns out American college kids aren’t very good at ground combat.”
"You may be too refined to say it, but I'm not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing”
"Jeffrey Goldberg’s story should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv."
Not much empathy, and a fair amount of stupidity, but if anyone needs a better defense of the argument that freedom of speech should not be limited to freedom of polite speech, it's here, and not in the way Bonnie Honig intended.

Salaita empathizes explicitly with one side in a war, and in his anger refuses to empathize with the other, the side it's commonly assumed we should support. Honig defends Salaita's right to be angry while she herself is not, implying almost that she cannot be because she's not a member of his community. She empathizes with his anger while pleading with her masters to share not in his anger but in her empathy. The quote from Mother Teresa is a bit unfair but it shows the slow gradation, with no lines of division, between passive voyeuristic pity, to engaged but distant empathy, to anger, to rage. And here again is where Mother Teresa meets the Trolley Problem, why contemporary scholasticism is as conflicted as Aquinas. Rationalists rationalize, and the doctrine of double effect wills away linguistic and moral ambiguity in defense of a binary relation that has no basis in anything beyond an emotional imperative.

How could a Jew be angry about Gaza, or the occupation, or the Nakba? Why should a German be angry about the Holocaust? I can think of a lot of reasons.

Why do we have prosecutors and defense attorneys in formalized antagonism? It's easier for Salaita to be angry than it is for Honig, but maybe she should be strong enough to make the choice to become angry, to move beyond her tribal allegiance, not only to Zionism but to theory as opposed to action.

And again we get back to everything I'm on about: the passivity of objectivity.
Technocracy demands that the majority replace the world of experience, of conflicting obligations judged by them as individuals, with an inflexible model of law: all of them, or us, limited to an identical internally consistent ideology of self. The model is authoritarian.
"If her interests have the same value as his, then my interests must have the same value as yours."
An objective viewpoint, imagined as outside social relations and with the goal of seeing the equivalence/equality of all, by definition is a view from above. This "scientific" process, focused on the making of generalizations (the analysis of equivalence), is also by definition amoral; questions of morality are allowed only after science has had its say. Popular, "common sense" morality says values should come first, teaching an ideal of service or self-sacrifice. And this is still the model for the military, subject to rank, where you follow orders from above but freely sacrifice for your fellows/peers. But military piety and democratic responsibility are in conflict and our now professional military does not teach its recruits to understand the full weight of their moral responsibility as citizens and soldiers. In the Euthyphro Socrates asks, “And is, then, all which is just pious? or, is that which is pious all just, but that which is just, only in part and not all, pious?” A citizen soldier has to make his own decisions even about when to make his own decisions. This doesn’t collapse self and other, it divides self from self. And this division is something neither our military nor our liberal philosophers concerned with solving trolley problems are willing to accept. 
Along with the logical, objective, model of the equivalence of all, modern economic thought begins in accepting our tendency towards individual self-interest, which liberals see as needing to be policed, again as if objectively and militarily from above. But this moral passivity has led to a realist acceptance; focusing on the mean puts downward pressure on the mean. The ‘scientific’ acceptance of greed as a ‘fact’ results in an increasing tendency to see greed as ‘truth’.

Contradiction, the divided self, is the first principle of democracy: to judge knowing you are also judged, to see not only formal rules that remove the need for judgment but also your own conflicting obligations to self and others, that require it, obligations that aren’t mutually exclusive but flexible, and breakable, and reparable, in time.
More empathy: an argument against (but not really) at the Boston Review. Reading it reminded me of something from last year. Those comments apply.

This comment by Tom Farsides made me laugh.
...this is an appalling essay. Bloom knows that “empathy” is a vague term and that many uses of it refer to processes and experiences that are highly valuable in multiple ways. By using the term imprecisely and inconsistently – but contentiously - he is fuelling an academic non-debate of the worst sort, where people who have little obvious real disagreement talk past each other and confusion reigns to no good effect. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"academic freedom" and "hate speech", my page, and the latter at Leiter's.

Leiter writes a review in the NDPR, "The Harm of Hate Speech"
Jeremy Waldron makes a spirited, if somewhat meandering, case for the legal regulation of "hate speech," one that American scholars in particular would do well to consider. Such regulation is unconstitutional content-based regulation of speech in the U.S., but is common in most other Western democracies. Is there a good reason for the U.S. to be the outlier here? As Waldron notes in passing, in the U.S. "the philosophical arguments about hate speech are knee-jerk, impulsive, and thoughtless", which is at least partly due to confusion about what is at stake. Waldron observes that "hatred is relevant not as the motivation of certain actions, but as a possible effect of certain forms of speech", and thus the real issue is "the predicament of vulnerable people who are subject to hatred directed at their race, ethnicity, or religion"
...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.
Also my page, on Tushnet
It says something about the decline of this country that a specialist in Middle East Studies writing about Kuwait gives a better defense of free speech than a professor of American constitutional law does writing about The U.S. 
 And of course, Brighouse, against free speech
I would say, in fact, that the first amendment tradition has a terribly distorting effect on American public discussions of free speech.  
...I think there is a very strong case that hateful epithets can be distinguished and treated differently from propositional content, and do not merit protection under “the right to speak what one sees as the truth”.
and Bertram the same
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.
For more by both the above go here (and follow the instructions for sources)

On Salaita, Leiter links approvingly, to this
Wise argues, “What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.” Of course, this standard is ridiculous: individuals should be free to say personal and “disrespectful” things about others (for example, everyone should be free to say that Wise’s argument here is both stupid and evil, without facing punishment from the respect police). Respect is not a fundamental value of any university, and being “disrespectful” is not an academic crime. But it’s notable that Salaita really didn’t say anything personal about anyone. So here Wise greatly expands the concept, declaring that not only persons but “viewpoints themselves” must be protected from any disrespectful words. I am puzzled as to exactly how a free university could possibly operate when no one is allowed to be disrespectful toward any viewpoint. Presumably, Wise will quickly act to fire anyone who has ever disrespected or demeaned Nazism, terrorism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Since all “viewpoints” are protected, then biology professors must be fired for disrespecting creationism as false, along with any other professor who is found to believe or know anything.
My comments
“Respect is not a fundamental value of any university, and being “disrespectful” is not an academic crime.” 
Salaita: “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” 
The post has been linked by a respected academic who agrees with it while also (unmentioned in his link) being a supporter of “hate speech” laws. I won’t offer an opinion on whether or not the quote from Salaita can be classified as hate speech, but I don’t have to because I oppose the laws made to regulate whatever it is. 
The author of this post tries to separate the formal and structural (the integrity of academia etc) from the normative. Not gonna happen. 
The pale of the academic normative is broader than the pale of the common normative, but they shift in tandem. You should leave discussion of academic “freedom” to libertarians and focus on tenure as due process and academic independence -best defined as “once past the post, you’re in” – as better for society than its opposite. Salaita was let in and he followed the rules. Wise hasn’t.
The academy isn't removed from politics; tenure and academic freedom grant those allowed to teach a distance from its consequences. Larry Summers is allowed to say whatever he wants about the intelligence of women. J. Phillip Rushton and Arthur Jensen never lost a job as a result of their opinions on race and IQ. Even John Yoo has a job. Colin McGinn and Peter Ludlow got in trouble for the opposite of yelling "fire" in a crowded building -whispering "pussy" in a private room- but as exceptions to the rule they're of a kind.

Salaita's tweet in context, here.  It takes away somewhat from my use of it as illustration, but since we've gone down the slippery slope from "hate speech" to "trigger words", it still works. As with hate, the trigger is in the mind of the beholder, and if the beholder is prejudged as "victim" and as needing protection, then who or what is the protector? This is where liberal concern becomes a defense of Holly Golightly and Hollies go lightly, the opposite of liberalism.

Arendt, "Zionism Reconsidered"
Not less dangerous and quite in accord with this general trend was the sole new piece of historical philosophy which the Zionists contributed out of their own new experiences; "A nation is a group of people ... held together by a common enemy" (Herzl)-an absurd doctrine containing only this bit of truth: that many Zionists had, indeed, been convinced they were Jews by the enemies of the Jewish people. Thereupon these Zionists concluded that without antisemitism the Jewish people would not have survived in the countries of the Diaspora; and hence they were opposed to any attempt to liquidate antisemitism on a large scale. On the contrary, they declared that our foes, the antisemites, "will be our most reliable friends, the antisemitic countries our allies" (Herzl). The result could only be, of course, an utter confusion in which nobody could distinguish between friend and foe, in which the foe became the friend and the friend the hidden, and therefore all the more dangerous, enemy.
The paradox of needing hate and hate speech to define yourself; the paradox of fascism. The photograph below is a fascist image, and a partial model of the Zionist self-image.

"The pale of the academic normative is broader than the pale of the common normative, but they shift in tandem." Maybe I need to add another circle.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Whether or not it was historically inevitable, anti-science denialism is now a core component of rightwing tribal identity in both Australia and the US.
The only hope for sustained progress on climate policy is a combination of demography and defection that will create a pro-science majority.
As I say in the article, one of the things that makes me sympathetic to Zionism is that it represents the intrusion of a democratic, scientifically sophisticated, secular culture into a part of the world that for centuries had been despotic, technically backward, and obsessed with religion.
Whether or not it was historically inevitable, Zionism is now a core component of rightwing tribal identity in both Australia and the US. The only hope for sustained progress on policy is a combination of demography and defection that will create a majority committed to equality.

Ali Abunimah has been linked now in posts at Crooked Timber and Freddie deBoer is writing for Andrew Sullivan.

again, and again, and again: how does change happen? drift

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

repeats, but this is a good line.
"As always in the misdirected Platonism of political theory, facts and events are ignored... But in politics as in physics events take precedence."
Add Daniel Weinstock to the list below.

More comments.

Seth Lazar is a philosopher at ANU.
David EnochChaim GansFrancis Kamm

Rationalism as pathology

Monday, August 18, 2014

Those People
In the suburb/exurb of my teen years, there was one black family living in the neighborhood. And, yes, everybody in the neighborhood knew precisely which house they lived in. I'm not saying they faced any overt hostility (maybe they did? don't know), or were excluded from the social activities of the neighborhood, though it wasn't a neighborhood with many neighborly social activities. But there was a black family. We knew where they were.
"blahs", "poors", "friends and acquaintances", and voting for the nigger.

"It is no secret that contemporary philosophy is under the spell of the Other"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rauchway:  "Academic freedom predates free speech." "...this anti-elitist day and age." etc.

"Some notes on Ferguson, Missouri"  The notes themselves are fine.
The Ghost of Panofsky.
I say Rawls is Tolkien; Raymond Geuss says Rawls is Rand.

I think I made the better call.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014



The Wisconsin protests were more interesting and more important than Occupy Wall St.

Egypt supports Wisconsin
Another comment on another post. "All Tech is Social", by Claude S Fischer
If all tech is social then bureaucracy is cool; but it's not, is it?
Tech is neither social or asocial; it's inanimate. Tech-fetishists however are asoclal. Tell me about the social life of techs and I'll point you to Gambetta's Engineers of Jihad or Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France 1753-1815   
People who are really into printing presses aren't so interested in words. Every word has many meanings, and numbers by comparison are simple; I think you'll see where that leads cause it's led there already. 
It's techs who argue for the end of print; they're happy with the socialism of termites and bees. It's up to others to find a way to do something interesting with the crap they design. And to do something interesting  is to find a way to use it to slow things down, to return to the ambiguities of language that techs themselves abhor.
Techs and philosophers, Modernists and sociologists. Deleuze liked to refer to Borges, the reactionary anti-storyteller, the self-hating writer of fictions, the impotent nihilist. Still, all of it describes a return to narrative, to communication the only way it's possible, as subjectivities and common forms. Tech isn't social; the social is social (another comment at the Boston Review). But that relates to Fischer's post, so here we go again. Another comment, a bit sloppy
I should have added this before, in reference to the increase in social activity:
Simon Waxman, "Market Basket's Fair Deal" on this site. I posted two links in comments. 
Yes, there is a return to the social, but it's got nothing to do with tech except the way we see it. Modernism and the idealism it carried are dead. Ideological individualism is fading as a model of justice. The question is whether what follows is feudalism, individualism without idealism, or democracy.  
Science sees the individual and the individual act or event as valuable only as an aspect of the aggregate. The average is "truth" which is transposed to the ideal. Measuring to the mean puts downward pressure on the mean. Objectivity becomes passivity, exemplified here. If you want to defend tech as such, then defend the fact that Buzzfeed is now valued at more than three times the value of the Washington Post. But journalism high and low is thriving; it's the earnest complacent middlebrow that's fading, in journalism as elsewhere, inside and outside the academy.  The model of objectivity has faded; subjectivism is atomism and barbarism. Free debate is not social idea it's social form: collective by definition, not command. It requires both commitment to your own opinion and to the form of debate itself; to victory and the rules of the game. Pedantry is not a model for adulthood. Adults need to be able to contradict themselves and shrug. 
If you want to understand the rise of the social you need to understand not just that the humanities are dying as an academic subject but why, and why those things the humanities study and claim to elevate are thriving.  When The Name of the Rose came out I recognized it immediately as an allegory of the death of Modernism and of the bureaucratic academy, and of the rebirth of Humanism, in its original sense. As someone who grew up hating Tolkien and Tolkienism, the culture of fantasy and fantasy games, of overgrown preadolescence (Borges for the more happily sexless) it's interesting to think that the success of the Harry Potter books has less to do with fantasy, games and tricks, good and evil, the binaries beloved by geeks than that they seem to be an articulate description of the problems of people, of adults and children. Magic's not the central theme it's a McGuffin. By comparison you could do a good study of the shared literary and philosophical weaknesses of Tolkien and Rawls.
More comments at the Boston Review. see previous

On Human Shields The subheading on the front page reads, "If Hamas uses civilian shields, is the IDF responsible for their deaths?"  The author, Seth Lazar is described as a "Research Fellow in the Philosophy Department at Australian National University."

His webpage at ANU
Seth Lazar’s research is in ethics and political philosophy, with a focus on the ethics of war and killing. His work includes articles on war and self-defence [sic] in Ethics and Philosophy and Public Affairs, as well as papers on associative duties, corrective justice, rights, and citizenship. 
Both my comments, with Lazar's response
"Israel alleges that Hamas and its allies are using civilians as human shields, by storing military supplies close to civilian dwellings, building tunnels beneath mosques and homes, and firing at Israel from positions close to civilian buildings.
Based on this claim..."
Once again an actual war is used as an excuse to discuss the idea of war; it's Weberian specialization taken to its logical conclusion. And since you're dealing in hypotheticals there's no reason to look at the record. In discussions of philosophy, the actual policies of both Israel and Hamas become irrelevant. Yet in your position as a critical advisor to the Israelis (you're not writing for either Hamas or the Palestinians) it's implied, with all the pseudo-objectivity of the academic passive voice, that there's no need for the Palestinians to have advocates of their own. And then you slip in sentences like this: "The innocent civilians who have been used as human shields by Hamas must not be used again by the IDF as a means to deter the use of such tactics in the future." Blank statements bracketed only elswhere by ifs.I asked a marine once if he saw himself as as a soldier first or as a citizen. He said, "Semper Fi!".  Citizens if not philosophers should be aware of the followoing.
With all due respect, Amos, we’re reverting to this talking point that Hamas is using human shields. Again, there is absolutely no evidence for this. It’s Israel’s word against the United Nations, against Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Breaking the Silence Israel, as well as the National Lawyers Guild.
I posted the above, along with several other links, including discussions of human shields, in a comment on this same site last week. [also here] It's too soon to have to repeat them. Read them. The rest below are new.
CBS June 2013
A United Nations committee focused on youth rights accused Israel Thursday of failing to stop the mistreatment of Palestinian children in military and police custody.
The group's report accuses Israeli forces of using Palestinian children as human shields, and alleges that detained children in some cases face torture, solitary confinement and threats of sexual assault.
Assembled by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, the 21-page document comes three months after a UNICEF paper criticized the "systematic and institutionalized" mistreatment of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military.
July 26th 2014
Ayman Abu Toaimah, 32, a resident of Khuza’a recalls, “As Israeli invading troops advanced to the village they besieged it and used residents as human shields. When the Israeli army arrested people and then released some of them, they were told they are free to go back to the village, but as they were fleeing they came under fire and some of them shot dead. These people were used as human shields.”
Abu Saleem, 56, a resident of Khuza’a echoed Abu Toaimah, “Israelis claim that Hamas is using us as human shields– how? This is a lie, we do not see fighters in the streets. It’s them, the Israelis who used us as human shields in Khuza’a andShuja’iyeh. They turned our houses into military posts, terrified residents in the houses. They attacked innocent civilians with their bombs, and missiles, they attacked chicken farms, they burned our crops, they have no mercy.”
Max Blumenthal Augist 6 2014
Within one of Tel Aviv’s most densely populated neighborhoods sits Ha’Kirya, the army’s headquarters, a gigantic complex of monolithic buildings that house the offices where attacks on Gaza are planned. The uniformed officers and soldiers who work inside take lunch in the cafes and shop in the malls surrounding their offices, embedding themselves among the civilian population. A military base is nestled in the middle of the campus of Haifa University while Hebrew and Tel Aviv Universities offer military officers free tuition, encouraging their enrollment and allowing them to carry weapons on campus. It is hard to find a henhouse, flophouse, or fieldhouse anywhere in Israel without some kind of military presence.
I'll add one more BBC 2006, on another definition of "human shield"
Along with the girls had come old men, neighbours and militants.All of them were ready to defy the Israeli air force. They were ready to put themselves in the line of fire.
But they knew too that a similar human shield tactic had worked a few days earlier.
The Israelis had backed off knowing that to strike would cause large numbers of civilian casualties which would, of course, have played very badly in the court of international opinion.
For years Palestinians have been completely at the mercy of the Israeli air force.But they clearly believe that now they have found a weakness.
And again, as I did last week: Helena Cobban, explaining to HRW why it's absurd to refer to the actions described by the BBC above as war crimes.
Seth, the point of abstracting from the empirical claim is to focus on the moral argument that is being based on it. If you can show that the moral arguments that follow from the claim fail, then you have a lever of persuasion against people who disagree over the factual claim. This doesn't mean that the facts don't matter—that would be an absurd view—it just means that there are different things that you can do with 1000 words, and this is one of them. So I don't disagree with the sources that you cite—I'm just pursuing a different line of response. You're questioning the empirical premise; I'm questioning the normative premises, but the result is the same: we both aim to show the argument is unsound. I think that it's actually more fruitful sometimes to focus on the normative premises, because they seem more tractable than the factual ones and less subject to hysterical disputation. But both approaches are necessary.
I phrased the sentence you quote (from the penultimate para) badly. It is logically consistent with there being no civilians who have been used as human shields, but that's not clear enough. It would have been better to write: 'If any innocent civilians have been used as human shields by Hamas, they must not be used again by the IDF as a means to deter the use of such tactics in the future.' Nothing in the article is intended to take any stand on whether the factual claim is true (I reiterate this in the last paragraph, so I thought it should be pretty clear).
I literally don't understand what you mean by saying that I've implied that the Palestinians don't need an advocate of their own. Can you say more? As to who I'm writing this for: I'm writing in response to some arguments made by defenders of Operation Protective Edge (including, most recently, the Israeli PM), for anyone who's interested. 
SE [A bit sloppy]
The question is "Why".
This is a debate about current events. It's the equivalent of an argument before a bar, of either sort, and you cede ground in the moment in order to regain it, hypothetically, at a higher more abstract level of moral, philosophical, and (let's face it) academic seriousness. But only an incompetent trial lawyer would choose your mode of argument at the expense of mine: the point is to win. There's no need for abstraction at this point. And yet you choose it. 
Boilerplate Marx: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it."  Philosophers as academics debate the accepted meanings of words; the point is to change them. Gandhi and Martin Luther King did not argue among accepted meanings. Neither did John Brown, and neither do Hamas. 
Disinterested reason judges things as they seem to be, not as they should be; the result is moral passivity in the name of science. But the argument for adversarialism, engaged reason, is that all sides are best served by advocacy. The argument for the existence of prosecutors and defense attorneys is the same as the argument for trade unions. But philosophers idealize the role of judges and idealize their role as judges, and as bosses, as the powerful. And once again, here's the result. 
The change in the position of Palestinians vis-a-vis Israel and the west has had nothing to do with the arguments of experts and everything to do with the fact that Palestinians now live in the west, and people have heard their stories as the stories of neighbors. All the crap about the Enlightenment meant nothing by comparison, because it didn't apply to them, and now it does. "They" became "Us", as the Jews have been "Us", at least since 1945 (and no I don't believe that either; no Jew does). 
I'm not going to run down a list in my life of the failures of academic politics. It's too long. The most serious, most honorable thing about Chomsky is that his politics at their best are not the politics of specialization but of citizenship. His arguments all concern mundanities: "This happened, then this happened, then this." Beyond that his political philosophy is useless, precisely because it devolves to cheap rationalism. " 'They' are powerful and corrupt."  Who and what "we" are is left to fantasy, in its way a fantasy you share.
Again and again: Philosophy is necessary as a supplement to practice; philosophers prefer to see their ideas, and themselves, as setting the conditions for practice from somewhere beyond it. To philosophers, ideas are primary; practice is rote: there can be no such thing as a good violinist.  It all devolves to Platonism, and they'll find a way to justify their own preferences as "truth". Diderot chose Greuze; Deleuze chose Francis Bacon, Zizek chooses Udi Aloni. If art is the product of social life and philosophers prefer art that illustrates their ideas, what sort of society would they prefer? 

The answer to Weberian specialization is educated amateurism, but technocrats despise amateurism as much as they despise democracy. "Well-above average for a journalist" As if a philosopher were above average by definition. The evidence shows otherwise.

Focusing just on the question of methods: I disagree that the only practical approach to this dicussion is to focus on the empirical question. One reason why it's important to consider the moral principles without at the same time considering the facts is that doing so allows people who disagree radically about the facts (and much else) to have a reasonable and civilised discussion about the moral principles. I think you have a much more combative view of the role of intellectual discussion than I do. The adversarial system that you describe looks quite unappealing to me, and doesn't look like a model for a thriving democracy. Sometimes adversarial institutions have their place, but especially when passions are as high as they are in this particular area, I think a much more deliberative model is appropriate. As to whether the adversarial model will be more effective at fighting injustice: who knows. But since it makes a point of alienating the 'adversary', I'd be willing to bet that it won't help much. In philosophical argument and public debate, as in the pursuit of justice generally, non-violence is normally the way forward.
One reason why it's important to consider the moral principles without at the same time considering the facts is that doing so allows people who disagree radically about the facts (and much else) to have a reasonable and civilised discussion about the moral principles.
Neither of us would have a polite discussion of moral principles with a Holocaust denier, and more often then not even at their best, with the best minds, such discussion ends up as fiddling. But Mozart doesn't piss me off, and that's a major point. On another comment at BR (I'm haunting this place these days) I compared Rawls to Tolkien as popular writers of fantasy. Raymond Geuss says the best comparison to Rawls is Ayn Rand. He gives Rawls less credit than I do, and I hate Tolkien.
The adversarial model is the model for democracy. The deliberative model is the model for debate within an elite, and I prefer my elite to have some sense of irony. John Mortimer was a lawyer not a philosopher.
Doing these cases,” he wrote, “I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate. I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying. I was no longer entirely what my professional duties demanded, the old taxi on the rank waiting for the client to open the door and give his instruction, prepared to drive off in any direction, with the disbelief suspended."
By your logic as I said we wouldn't need unions; there would have been no need for a black led civil rights "movement", movements being adversarial, or for women to become "feminists" which is an adversarial label. Only outside pressure brings major change to a system. Read King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, specifically the references to "white moderates". 
At the moment at least we have a truce and it seems like Israel has acceded at least to some of Hamas'  very reasonable demands. We'll see how long it lasts. Israel has the bad habit of breaking truces, and that's going to be harder to do now that people in more parts of the world have begun to pay attention.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Philosophical expertise is BS.
Now it's official, so let's move along.
From his link
Philosophy: it's junk science. Experiments have shown that people can't tell crime from justice. Now one US philosopher claims that even experts can't judge truth accurately. What's the science behind the taste?
I switched a few words. The post and link are about wine-tasting, but there's no difference.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Israel supported Hamas in its beginnings [repeats, and 123] Yassin was killed in March 2004

Al-Ahram Weekly, Jan 29-Feb 4 2004
Khaled Amayreh,  "Running out of time" I'm reproducing the whole piece.
In an ostensible departure from its traditional all-or- nothing approach, the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas, has proposed a protracted peace with Israel in return for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Hamas founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, told reporters in Gaza earlier this week that the movement would be willing to end armed resistance in return for a "true and genuine" Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Yassin, who escaped an Israeli assassination attempt a few months ago, said "the historical rights of the Palestinians [an allusion to the expulsion by Israel of the bulk of Palestinians from their historical homeland in 1948] would be left for future generations."

Yassin's remarks were echoed by Abdul-Aziz Al- Rantisi, the second highest-ranking official in Hamas. He told reporters on 25 January that Hamas would consider a 10-year truce with Israel if it withdrew from all the territories occupied in 1967. Rantisi was quoted as saying that the movement had come to the conclusion that "it is difficult to liberate all our land at this stage", adding, "we accept a state in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."

Yassin's and Rantisi's remarks indicate that Hamas may well be moving closer to the mainstream strategy adopted by the PLO, namely the creation of a viable Palestinian state pursuant United Nations resolutions and the formula of land for peace.

One Hamas official, who asked for anonymity, told Al-Ahram Weekly this week, that "we can't ignore reality. Israel is a fact. Yes, it is a malignant fact, but nonetheless it is a fact." The official added. "we recognise the reality of Israel, but we can't and we won't recognise Israel's moral legitimacy since Israel was created through ethnic cleansing, aggression and genocide."

Hamas's pragmatic overture is likely to facilitate renewed Egyptian efforts to reach a cease-fire or truce between Palestinian resistance groups and Israel. Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman is due to arrive in Ramallah later this week for talks with PA leader Yasser Arafat. Suleiman might also travel to Gaza for talks with Palestinian faction leaders.

Egyptian efforts coincide with mounting Palestinian frustration over the stalemate which the US-backed roadmap seems to have reached.

The fact that US President George W Bush's State of the Union Address contained not a word about Israel's separation wall, or indeed the wider Palestinian- Israeli conflict, was interpreted by the Palestinians as signifying that the US administration was effectively abandoning the Arab-Israeli conflict, at least until the American elections nine months from now.

For the Palestinians, however, the matter goes beyond a mere election-related non-engagement. PA official Sa'eb Erekat told reporters this week that "American non-engagement in the peace process amounts to a green light for Sharon to cage the Palestinians."

Despite a virtual suspension of Palestinian resistance attacks, Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians continued unabated. On 21 January, Israeli army bulldozers once more rolled onto the streets of Rafah, flattening more than 40 homes. The wanton destruction, resembling recent scenes from the earthquake-devastated Iranian city of Bam, prompted UN Commissioner Peter Hansen to describe the demolitions as "obscene and callous beyond imagination... I can't find the words to express my horror. It is pathetic, pitiful...."

One Palestinian official accompanying him intimated that in a private conversation, Hansen described the demolitions in Rafah as "similar to what the Nazis were doing in Europe", adding, "Of course, he can't say it publicly lest he lose his job."

Israel's "final solution" (the code-name of the IDF operation in Rafah), was followed by the killing of at least five Palestinians, including an 11-year-old boy in Gaza. According to eyewitnesses, 11-year-old Muhsen Daour was hunting birds outside his home in southern Gaza when Israeli soldiers shot him in the head. In response, the Israeli army issued the usual terse statement, saying "the army is investigating the death of a Palestinian boy".

Another Palestinian, injured by the IDF near the northern West Bank town of Tulkarem, died after the soldiers refused to allow him through the checkpoint. "He was bleeding, and the soldiers were watching passively. We pleaded with them to allow us to transfer him to hospital to save his life. They said no, and he bled to death," said one eyewitness.

Israel's ongoing aggression, as manifested in the continued building of the wall, along with the perceived connivance of the US with the Israeli government, are convincing Palestinian officials that the Palestinian goal of creating a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank is becoming unrealistic and impractical.

This week, Arafat reiterated what Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said two weeks ago, warning that the prospect of achieving Palestinian statehood was fading very fast. In Arafat's words, "Time is running out for the two-state solution."
Jeffrey Goldberg quotes from an interview with Amos Oz in Deutsche Welle, a Zionist talking to a friendly German:
Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusual way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?

Deutsche Welle: Go ahead! [!!]

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

With these two questions I pass the interview to you.
Goldberg, the beginning of the piece:
It is too early to say anything definitive about the Hamas decision to apparently break the ceasefire and attack an Israeli position, except that if it is true, as reports indicate, that Hamas militants came through a tunnel and carried underground and back into Gaza a live Israeli captive, then this moment could represent not another terrible, dispiriting incident in a terrible, dispiriting mini-war, but a fairly decisive turning point in which all swords are unsheathed.
Israel said it was during the truce; Hamas said it was before. Israel had said it would not stop destroying tunnels during the truce, so who knows?  Israel said of the Hamas fighters detonated a suicide vest. That was a lie. Most likely he was killed by Israeli soldiers following the 'Hannibal protocol": better for Israel that he die than be captured. Hamas called an end to suicide bombings in 2006. On human shields, again, see links here. The tunnels have been used only for attacks on military targets.

Nathan Thrall in the LRB, Hamas's Chances. It's a good companion to the piece by Mouin Rabbani and both show Amos Oz for what he is.

A reader sends a note to AbuKhalil
"On Amos Oz. He’ll try to deny – what are his options? Telling the truth is not what he’s best at.  I encountered Amos Oz in the early 90’s at a Hillel meet and greet.
After the superficial accolades, we were able to interact.
My friend and I asked him why he didn’t develop any nuanced Palestinian characters. He replied that since he doesn’t know any Arabs in the bedroom (of course, in his world, Arabs could not be Jews), he couldn’t include them as complete characters or people in his writing. That’s the level at which he functioned, and possibly the one at which he continues to operate. Quite revolting."
5 or more posts from Atrios in the last week on Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Comedy from Henry Farrell in 2007.
The paper tries to answer the question of why America invaded Iraq and, more broadly, what the invasion of Iraq says about America’s strategic position, foreign policy choices and public opinion over foreign policy. Snyder, Shapiro and Bloch-Elkon (henceforth S,S,B-E for convenience) argue that one needs to understand both international and domestic factors in order to answer this question. Unipolarity – the US’s unchallenged position as the most powerful state in the international system – explains why the US could consider engaging in imperial policies.

that also... means that the crazies are much less likely to exert meaningful political influence than they were in 2001-2004.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The pure beauty of ideas is that they're certain, while facts are debatable.

Friday, August 01, 2014


At the Boston Review: "Taking Just War Seriously".  From Leiter, who refers to author as "Harvard's Frances Kamm"
At Opinio Juris: Tali Kolesov Har-Oz And Ori Pomson, "The Use of Human Shields and International Criminal Law". The authors are descrinbed as "teaching assistants and LL.B. candidates at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Law Faculty."

I'll repost my comment at BR here. My comment at Opinio Juris is an abbreviated version, with a link to BR.  Most of the comments at Opinio Juris are derisive, good, or better: "De Gaulle’s call of June 18, 1940 to the French to join him and resist the Nazis would be – under this view – an example of the mens rea under the logic expressed here." It would be nice to see such substantive argument in the comments at Crooked Timber.

My comments at BR. Every link a repeat, but it's nice to have them in one place.
The essay above is more than anything else an excuse to extemporize philosophically on the subject an ongoing war. It's a discussion of ideas. The pure beauty of ideas is that they're certain, while facts are debatable. References to data are in the footnotes and refer to disscussions elsewhere. Footnote III: "Whether Hamas uses civilians as shields and whether Israel gives adequate advance warning was debated on the PBS Newshour on July 24."From the Newhour transcript
With all due respect, Amos, we’re reverting to this talking point that Hamas is using human shields. Again, there is absolutely no evidence for this. It’s Israel’s word against the United Nations, against Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Breaking the Silence Israel, as well as the National Lawyers Guild.
Human Shields in Lebanon 2006
Reports from the ground in Lebanon confirm that the IAF has expanded its target envelope, hitting sites that were considered off limits just 48 hours previously. Unfortunately, as nearly every military expert knows, precision weapons are not that precise -- and a miscue of even ten meters can make a huge difference. This is what happened at Qana. Nor, it seems, do IDF officers take seriously the more graphic defense of IAF targeting, as justified because Hezbollah uses human shields. Israel also co-locates many of its basing operations in cities and amongst the civilian population -- simply because of the ease of logistics operations that such co-locations necessitate. "The human shield argument just doesn't wash and we know it," an IDF commander says. "We don't expect Hezbollah to deploy in the open with a sign that says 'here we are.'"
There are other definitions, and Helena Cobban, an editor at Boston Review, discusses them well. Also from 2006
The text of the HRW press release is now available on-line. It is titled OPT: Civilians Must Not Be Used to Shield Homes Against Military Attacks.In Sarah Leah’s emails to me she has stressed two points: (1) The point, also made in the press release, that ““Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm’s way is unlawful.” And (2) that for Palestinian military commanders, in particular, to ask civilians to act as “human shields” in this way represented an unlawful attempt to pur civilians at potential risk.I have pointed out to her that by these lights, for Mandela (who was a military commander, much more than Ismail Haniyeh– who was quoted in the HRW release– ever was) to call for South Africa’s non-whites to engage in nonviolent mass actions against the apartheid regime, which were often very risky indeed, would also likewise have been considered “unlawful” or even– as HRW grandiosely terms the situation in Gaza “a war crime.”
Now that we're done with that, lets widen the context.The West Back and Gaza are occupied territories, and Israel refuses to accept that definition, legally or morally.2004 
"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Haaretz."And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, was speaking in an interview with Haaretz for the Friday Magazine."The disengagement is actually formaldehyde," he said. "It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."
I've quoted that passage for years and it's been used recently by Mouin Rabbani in the the LRB:"Israel 'Mows the Lawn'" Read it to find out the meaning of that phrase, and what it means as well to put Gaza "on a diet" Read it before thinking about "Just war"Michael Walzer is a Zionist. Liberal Zionist Peter Beinart, defines Zionism 
I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian. I'm not asking it to allow Palestinians who were forced out (or fled) in 1948 to return to their homes. 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. What I am asking is that Israel not do things that foreclose the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, because if it is does that it will become--and I'm quoting Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak here--an "apartheid state."
Chiam Gans defends Liberal Zionism
In his book “The Law of Peoples,” John Rawls makes a distinction between people in terms of their moral perfection. At the top of the ladder he places “liberal” peoples – those who maintain democracy and equality among themselves. After them, he ranks peoples that he calls “decent” – the type that does not maintain democracy or equality, but instead has a hierarchy of rights pertaining to different groups and communities. At least such people protect the human rights of those under their rule.
What profound generosity from the heart of the conqueror. Zionism is and has always been Jim Crow. The occupation is run under Apartheid. Liberal Zionism is an oxymoron, and yet people who describe themselves as Zionists describe themselves as liberals. I'm not a stickler for Aristotelian logic in a messy world, but those who are, who pride themselves on their pedantry, should be more careful.
Corey Robin, out of jail, back at Crooked Timber and changing the subject, with links to the magazine named after 18th century vanguardists.
"Capitalism is, among other things, a massive process of ego formation, the creation of modern selves, the illusion of individual autonomy"
An illusion which all above indulge.

It's not that they're making intellectuals' poetry out of other people's misery, it's that they condescend both to poets and the miserable.