Monday, December 28, 2015

Lemmy 1945-2015
repeat.

Lemmy (embedding is disabled)
"You came from a fairly sort of middle class background, didn't you? How come you've turned out like this?"
"This is middle class"
and again
and again

On Hawkwind: "A bit more violent than Brahms but that's what it is."

"She was a bookbinder by profession, and then she had an uncontrollable urge one night to take all her clothes off and paint herself blue. Which was probably a throwback to the Roman invasion of Britain -- you think 'woad,' y'know?..."
---

Something I didn't mention the first time around. In the first interview, from the early 80's he complains that critics don't say much about the music.
You get reviews of your bullet belt. You get reviews of how loud it was. You get reviews of what the crowd looked like. You get reviews of how ugly you were when you didn't have a shave that day; but you very rarely got anybody taking the music apart and looking at it.
Recently when anyone asks about what the next show or the next album will be like he gives a one word answer: "Louder!"

Somewhere in the last 20 years I remember Godard saying that one must love old fools and wise young men. These days the smart angry pop stars of the past, JLG included, often find it easier to play Falstaff. There's tragedy in that.


16 years old when I went to the war,
To fight for a land fit for heroes,
God on my side, and a gun in my hand,
Chasing my days down to zero,
And I marched and I fought and I bled
And I died & I never did get any older,
But I knew at the time, That a year in the line,
Was a long enough life for a soldier,
We all volunteered,
And we wrote down our names,
And we added two years to our ages,
Eager for life and ahead of the game,
Ready for history's pages,
And we brawled and we fought
And we whored 'til we stood,
Ten thousand shoulder to shoulder,
A thirst for the Hun,
We were food for the gun, and that's
What you are when you're soldiers,
I heard my friend cry,
And he sank to his knees, coughing blood
As he screamed for his mother
And I fell by his side,
And that's how we died,
Clinging like kids to each other,
And I lay in the mud
And the guts and the blood,
And I wept as his body grew colder,
And I called for my mother
And she never came,
Though it wasn't my fault
And I wasn't to blame,
The day not half over
And ten thousand slain, and now
There's nobody remembers our names
And that's how it is for a soldier.

A screaming comes across the sky

Museum of Capitalism, redux.

I sent my proposal without registering, including a request for payment. They asked me to resubmit, following the rules.
You might be surprised how positively our planning committee and jury might respond to proposals that are entirely speculative, conceptual, "jokes", or critical of our Museum or the competition itself.
It helps that my email signature includes this

(\__/)
(='.'=)
(")_(")

"I like the idea, and your cute bunny image."
Americans always see a rabbit not a cat.
A friend found it it. I've always assumed it was designed by a Japanese teenager.

I'm going to resubmit my proposal in the form of a dissent.
There's one more damned than all. He never gambols,
Nor crawls, nor roars, but, from the rest withdrawn,
Gladly of this whole earth would make a shambles
And swallow up existence with a yawn
-Baudelaire

The form of wood is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness.
-Marx

Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death.
-Werner von Braun
I didn't send the proposal unawares. The lead juror is Chip Lord, but I wasn't sure anyone still had a sense of humor. And the idea of a museum kind of disgusts me. All museums are museums of capitalism: filing cabinets full of objects and people. Capital dissolves meanings. All that is solid melts into air, and all that is not becomes manifest in form. "Philosophers' concepts are called objects. Writers of financial contracts are called financial engineers."

An amusing thing about the pitch for the competition is that the designer used a 3D font based on optical illusions: the image of solidity is not only illusion of three dimensions but a self-defeating one. My anti-proposal made the same argument.

Capitalism:



Sunday, December 27, 2015

changes have been not only legal and political but also cultural

always updating

Crooked Timber, December 2015 
There’s a mini-memoir about the time Moustafa worked as a Middle Eastern extra on “Sex and the City 2″; a Philip-Roth-like story about his discovery of a terrorist named Mustafa Bayoumi in a detective novel (that really did happen); a loving deconstruction of the Islamic undertones and overtones of John Coltrane’s music (“A Love Supreme” becomes “Allah Supreme”); a harrowing essay on how the American military uses music to terrorize and torture its victims (the phrase “Disco Inferno” takes on a whole new meaning); a long and learned history of the relationship between Muslim Americans and African Americans.

The book ranges widely, but it’s held together by a single premonition: that the wrenching changes of the War on Terror have been not only legal and political but also cultural.
2008  "Veil of Ignorance" The post isn't as offensive as the title, but the comments are.


If the Farrells had been raised Muslim, Henry's sister would be wearing hijab.

2004
The Islamic world has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Muslims are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”
"Short of deliberate genocide,..."

I missed the post just below the new one.  Dec 2015, Quiggin.
Here’s a Christmas post from my blog in 2004. The theme is that nothing about Christmas ever changes, so it’s a repost of the same post from 2003. Looking back from 2015, the only change I can see is that the complaints about inclusive language to which I referred as “old stuff by now” have now become codified, as the “War on Christmas”.

I’ll add one new thought that the use of “War on Christmas” rhetoric reflects a larger problem for Christianists: should they be asserting their privileges as a majority (as in the demand that their particular holiday be recognised as primary) or demanding their rights as a minority (as in their unwillingness to accept equal marriage). The two strategies undermine each other.
Careers spend mapping out the changes or lack of them in the behavior of others; incapable of mapping the changes in their own perceptions. Incapable, indifferent, or pathological.
3:AM: Have you changed your mind about anything fundamental to your philosophical position during your time as a philosopher or has it been more a process of deepening and further discovery within a rather settled framework of thought? 
JR: For various reasons this is for me a difficult question. One is that I am not terribly interested in the question, and perhaps partly as a result, am often surprised when people point out, with actual quotations, what I wrote on some points in years past.  
Robin: "a Philip-Roth-like story". Muslims are the new Jews, darker cousins of Christian Europe, come to stay. As I've said before, the next flowering of humanist scholarship will come, is coming, out of the secularization of Islam. And also of course from the rising bourgeoisie outside the west.

Saturday, December 26, 2015



“People who design machines and airplanes, no matter how much they believe that what they do is good, the winds of time eventually turn them into tools of industrial civilization. It's never unscathed. They’re cursed dreams. Animation, too. Today all of humanity's dreams are cursed somehow. Beautiful yet cursed dreams. I'm not even talking about wanting to be rich or or famous. Screw that. That's just hopeless. What I mean is, how do we know that movies are even worthwhile? If you really think about it is this not some grand hobby? Maybe there was a time when you could make films that mattered, but now? Most of our world is rubbish."
In the documentary the producer Suzuki is shown pitching the film to executives around Japan; he's very direct about Miyazaki's father and Miyazaki Airplane making parts for the Zero.

Miyazake's essay published by Studio Ghibli, on the war, the constitution and Abe.
Also in FP.  The original here. I missed it at the time.

The issues comes up in conversations recorded in the film, at a production meeting with staff and producers. At the end of the film after the essay has been published there are jokes about a backlash.
Suzuki- It's front page-news today. [Miyazaki laughs] They quote you from the article.
Miyazaki- Well, good.
Suzuki- This may impact the election.
M- The reaction is mixed?
S- Yes
M- Well, what can they do? [to the woman on his right] If Suzuki-san gets killed, [laughter] I'll go and die with him. Takahata-san will be stabbed too. But I'm glad they mentioned the constitutional reform.
[Shot of a Newspaper] Hayao Miyazaki says "Leave Constitution Alone"
---
This notion that one’s goal in life is to be happy, that your own happiness is the goal... I just don’t buy it. Because... What do you think? Do you think your goal is to become happy yourself? I mean, happiness is... I've heard that from several people now and I wonder, is that what post war democracy has amounted to? I don't get it so I'm curious. What about Suzuki-san? He can't be doing this for his own happiness. So why does he do it? Do you work for your own happiness? I don’t ever feel happy in my daily life. Really, isn’t that how it is? How could that ever be our ultimate goal? Filmmaking only brings suffering.
I've never seen Grave of the Fireflies, or anything else by Takahata. I think I've been avoiding it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Museum of Capitalism is an institution dedicated to educating this generation and future generations about the history, philosophy, and legacy of capitalism. Representing the collaborative efforts of a multidisciplinary team of curators, artists, designers, and historians, the Museum strives to broaden public understanding of capitalism through multifaceted programs: exhibitions; research and publication; collecting and preserving material evidence, art, and artifacts related to capitalism; commemorations, reenactments, and other events; and a variety of public programming. As part of an initiative to build a more permanent public presence, the planning committee seeks bold proposals that answer the question: What should the Museum of Capitalism look like? 
Proposals may address questions beyond the visual appearance of the Museum’s design. How will it be built, where will it be located, and how will it interface with its surroundings? How might visitors be drawn to experience capitalism, to think it and to feel it, through interaction with museum spaces? The committee seeks answers to these questions in the form of strong architectural ideas and images.
The Museum of Capitalism’s curatorial vision includes consideration of the close historical ties between museums and capitalism. How might museum spaces reference the role of museums in projects of colonialism, modernization, and industrialization, the social and ecological impacts of the museum’s traditional function in preservation of cultural materials, or the role of museums as ritual spaces for the performance and production of citizenship, identity, and other subjectivities? Entrants are encouraged, though not required, to reflect upon these questions. Who inhabits museum spaces, and why? Who or what is on display, and how does it come to be there? What were the origins and implications of its ordering and classification, its constructed narratives and experiences, its participation and interactivity? And how do the answers to these questions change in a museum that memorializes the era of capitalism? There are no restrictions on scale or scope of proposals—site, square footage, height, materials, budget, etc.—as long as submissions follow competition rules and meet the criteria for entry.

This public competition is the first stage of a design process intended to help guide the thinking behind an eventual building project without imposing any constraints. Designs may be proposed for specific sites or surroundings, may be of reworkings or recontextualizations of existing buildings or sites, and may consist of entire buildings or specific rooms, galleries, or parts of the museum. Though we encourage proposals that are highly conceptual or speculative, the written part of the proposal and its accompanying visual materials should be clear and powerful.
submitted: "My proposal follows the model laid out in the video, but of course on a larger scale."


Museums are for the foreign and the dead. The attempt at the theorization of the living by the living is the biggest delusion of modernity. It turns everything into design, and design is death. Art, even as the description of death, even as synonymous with dying, is not yet synonymous with death.
---
update: "please resubmit"

Monday, December 21, 2015

Most arguments against mass surveillance don't respond fully substantively to claims that you shouldn't worry if you "have nothing to hide".  Defense of personal freedom isn't enough.  What's needed is an argument in defense of the need for citizens in a democratic state to be able to be all kinds of wrong, all kinds of confused, creepy, conflicted, desirous, weepy or hate-filled, so that they may be able to learn to understand and outgrow their childishness. The choice is between a community of adults with a minority of the inveterately childish and criminal or a community of children ruled by moralists and crime lords.

The last episode of Rumpole, written as they all were by John Mortimer


"So, my lords, ladies and gentlemen, charge your glasses.
I give you a toast to Fred Timson and...
the criminals of England!"

And if the moralists don't become crime lords themselves, their heirs will.

And it's not just a question of citizens' need to make their own mistakes but of the need for boundaries to change. Life is dynamic; simple authority is not. There will always be an underground populated by those more committed to principles than the majority, by humanists and anti-humanists,  by Martin Luther King and the Marquis de Sade.

Kant and de Maistre

Rumpole's toast has been a reference for years, but I'd never gotten around to looking for the source. My language was approximate; I didn't know until yesterday which episode it was or that it was the last one.

In it's entirety, reformatted here with minor corrections, courtesy of Nathaniel Hartney, of Hartney & Company.
My lords, ladies and gentleman, we are here also to honour Mr. Fred Timson, leader of the Timson clan, that vast family of South London villains, petty thieves and receivers of stolen property. But, no violence in your record Fred right?
That’s right Mr. Rumpole. 
Mr. Timson conducts his life according to strict monetarist principles. 
So I do Mr Rumpole.
He does not believe in the closed shop. He believes that shops should be open at all hours of the night, preferably with a jemmy.   
Too right Mr Rumpole! 
But, without Fred Timson and his like, how many of us would be out of work? How many brother judges? How many of Her Majesty’s counsel learned in  law? How many Coppers? How many humble Old Bailey Hacks? Indeed, we may all be bundled out under the embankment in cardboard boxes…So my lords, ladies and gentleman, charge your glasses, Henry, fill'em up! I give you a toast to Fred Timson and the criminals of England!
Kenneth Arrow
In the neoclassical picture, consumption is the ultimate end of the economy. The rich accumulate for ultimate consumption, perhaps of generations in the far future, or, in some significant part, for philanthropy. Piketty seems instead to have a picture of the economy as a process of automatic accumulation, without regard to planned consumption. Estates grow at the market rate of return (100% saving out of property income). This is not a realistic account of how rich people – or indeed anybody – treats their income. It also leads us to ignore the politics of how this wealth is actually consumed.
It's been a long time since I understood economics as more than the study of stupidity, but I'm still pulled up short when I'm reminded how much the exclusive study of stupidity makes you stupid.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sociological knowledge doesn’t appear automatically. Instead, it’s the product of social processes of legitimation, in which socially legitimated social structures produce socially legitimated forms of knowledge that are validated in socially legitimated ways.

Commenter Dan Hirshman replies to Henry Farrell
Piketty is an economist, but his contribution is better understood in sociological terms. As sociologists like Marion Fourcade and sociologically minded political scientists like Martha Finnemore have argued, economic knowledge doesn’t appear automatically. Instead, it’s the product of social processes of legitimation, in which socially legitimated social structures produce socially legitimated forms of knowledge that are validated in socially legitimated ways.” 
Very nicely said! Readers interested in following-up on the social and technological conditions for Piketty and Saez’s discovery might find this working paper of interest: “Rediscovering the 1%: Economic Expertise and Inequality Knowledge.”
We need a sociological analysis of sociology. But who analyzes the sociologists analyzing the sociology of sociologizing sociologists?
The history of modern intellectual life, more even than the history of modernity itself, if it were to be written now would need to need to be written by a historian from Mars, someone so far removed from the events of the past century that their biases are wholly other. Objectivity does not exist; the sociological history of the present describes the present no more than cognitive science describes the mind. You can’t pretend to describe yourself and call it science. Skinner was right to call cognitive science “the creation science of psychology”. There’s no scientific study of ideas as ideas; there’s no scientific study of metaphysics. They’re what we are as persons, as people with experiences, desires, and names. Once you’ve acknowledge yourself as “Rudolf Carnap” any hope of the end of metaphysics is gone. It was never there to begin with.

...The history of modern Germany cannot be understood without the history written by Jews. The history of modern Judaism cannot be understood without the history written by Palestinians. There’s no end to it. Absent that the best we’ll get is the equivalent of the feminism of men.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Leiter
2. If philosophy is still a Wissenschaft, then it should be possible for philosophy papers to end up on Retraction Watch
Collapsing Geisteswissenschaft and Naturwissenschaft. I'm waiting for a Retraction Watch for theology. No one argues over the rankings of engineering schools.

Henry Farrell has My Bloody Valentine, so...


"Deeper, deeper, into the corner. We're almost there..."

Technocracy ends in psychosis. It always has.
---
responding to comments:
"Behind the chiliasm of modern man, is the megalomania of self-infinitization."
Specifically, and obviously, Kubrick
For added effect -Full Ultra Doom™ Mode- play both videos simultaneously.

I had a thought and googled a phrase, then did an ngram. Everything else follows from that.
NYT Room for Debate: The Do-Gooder Corporation

A Duty to Shareholder Value
Despite contrary claims by some academics and Occupy Wall Street-type partisans, this remains the law today. A 2010 decision, for example, eBay Domestic Holdings Inc. v. Newmark, held that corporate directors are bound by "fiduciary duties and standards" which include "acting to promote the value of the corporation for the benefit of its stockholders."
It’s Law, But It Shouldn’t Be
Most large businesses buy their corporate charters from the state of Delaware. And the law of Delaware is clear about corporate purpose. The chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, Leo Strine, put it simply in a recent law review article: “Directors must make stockholder welfare their sole end.” In cases where directors have acknowledged sacrificing shareholder interests for other groups, Delaware courts have found those directors violated their fiduciary duties.
The titles of the other pieces:
Corporations Don’t Have to Maximize Profits
Social Good Is Not Inconsistent with Profit
A Good Corporate Accounting of Social Costs Is Needed
Arguments from the interests of a ruling political and moral authority, regulating in its own interest. There's another way to argue against shareholder power. Shareholders can destroy corporations for short term gain. The glib version: since corporations now are people, do stockholders have an obligation to ensure their care and feeding and continued existence?
I wasn't surprise to see Bainbridge's name show up.

A banker's job, viewed from the ideal of efficiency, is making money. I'm not sure I'd want to be operated on by a brain surgeon who didn't see his job as brain surgery.

The only universal foundation required of a just society is the right to leave.

Tag lines maybe, but so what.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Eric Posner today:  ISIS Gives Us No Choice but to Consider Limits on Speech
and 2012: The World Doesn’t Love the First Amendment.
2004
Jack Balkin: Vermeule and Posner Defend the Torture Memo
In effect, Vermeule and Posner argue that government officials need not follow existing law if it conflicts with the academic theories of a "dynamic" new generation of legal scholars. They argue that critics of the torture memo "have a distinct methodological valence, one with intellectually partisan overtones." But it seems to me that the OLC's memo better fits this description.

Much as I respect Vermeule and Posner's other work, I must confess that I'm deeply worried about the abdication of moral responsibility in this op-ed, as well as its cavalier assumption that the purpose of the OLC is to push a particular ideological agenda heedless of any larger responsibilities to the Nation as a whole. The notion that government officials can simply discard relevant precedent if it gets in the way of ideology is inconsistent with the basic obligations of government lawyers. Is this truly, as Vermeule and Posner tell us, characteristic of the next generation of constitutional scholarship? I shudder at the thought.
Posner, Vermeule, etc.
fascist shit.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


"I just bought it awhile ago from these two lawyers." The cynicism in his voice, and then the bit of fingerpicking as ironic comment. "There was an old man living on it. I don't know if you have things like that here."
"I live alone in a paradise"
"It doesn't mean that much to me to mean that much to you" The hippie lord of the manor, part Byron and part Bertie Wooster, writes a poem for one of his peasants.
It's a great performance of a great song.
                                               VALENTINE 
Have you ever dreamed of a place ... you
don't really recall ever having been
to ... a place that probably doesn't even
exist except in your imagination ...
somewhere far away, half-remembered when
you wake up ... but when you were there you
spoke the language, you knew your way
around ...
(significant pause)
That was the 60's. 
No, it wasn't that either.
It was just '66 ... and early '67.
(comes back to now)
That's all it was.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

1. "Choosing Words"
There is this idea that writing beautifully or writing powerfully is somehow separate from clear thinking. It’s not. A lot of times when people are writing poorly—when their writing is not clear and not completely fleshed out—there’s poor thinking going on. The ability to explain something clearly is not divorced from the ability to have it clearly worked out, you know what I mean? When you’re studying poetry and you’re trying to get across the naked truth—a feeling—the ability to find the precise words is a way of demonstrating that I have an understanding of what was actually happening.
2. "Writing as Cognition"
I will only know what I precisely want to say in this piece once I finish writing it.

This enigmatic sentence is not meant as an alluring opening statement, nor is it a sign for an experimental literary method that I will be employing in this blog. For what it’s worth, this sentence captures my principal insight into the process of writing. It is an insight that I gained after years of experiencing much frustration with writing, after producing endless drafts of the same text, after nights and days spent on trying ‘to get it right’, after struggling not to lose my focus, not to get lost in the texts I tried so hard to write.
3. "Learning by Doing"
If I hadn’t since read Chimimanda Ngozie Adichie’s novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, I would still know a mathematically negative amount about Nigeria.

When I was a child, Biafran meant starving. I mean that quite literally. ‘Biafran’ was an adjective with a lower-case b that described pregnant-looking toddlers. To a six-year old in 1970s Ireland, Biafran was somehow the reason for ‘the black babies’, a globe-shaped collection that went around my primary school class each morning. We would put in our five-pence or two-pence pieces, or sometimes just a penny each. It was mortifying to have the ‘black babies’ go by your desk and put nothing in. We couldn’t say why, but we somehow understood that Irish children and the black babies had common cause
4. You don't what what to expect
The paradox arises from the fact that, until you’ve had a child, you cannot know what it will be like to have one. And moreover, the experience may change you in ways that you cannot predict or even understand before you have the child. This means that you can’t rationally choose to have a child on the basis of what you think it will be like, because there is no way for you to know what it will be like. Even worse, the same is true if you choose not to have a child: since you can’t know what it would have been like for you to have a child, you can’t know the value of what you are missing. And so there is no way to rationally choose whether or not to become a parent.
The dying culture of scholasticism; the return to humanism. On Coates, start here.
The pretensions of post-structuralism were mannered attempts at return art to pedantry. They were founded in defensiveness and insecurity. Coates is able to state the obvious. Academics are still struggling.

Friday, December 11, 2015

adding to a previous post, beginning by reposting part of a post it links to, and a bit of the paper.

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency began as a slide show to music, at the Pyramid Club. Then it became mid-sized photographs, 16 x 20 inches with simple frames, and later at the request of her dealer reprinted at 30 x 40 or bigger, with thick frames in bright red.  What was ephemeral as light and time became solid, and then grand. What began as a loving record of the melancholy self-dramatizing behavior of minor narcissists, deserving of love no more or less than the rest of us, ended as the celebration of demigods, ubermenschen, dying for our sins. Even earlier the moralizing superiority of Against our Vanishing made me cringe.


"Borges by his own admission was a frail child. When he was older and his father brought him to a whorehouse he was so traumatized he didn’t attempt sex again for 30 years. He was a cloistered aesthete, a Duchampian formalist proselytizing a masculine moral relativism. His works return always to a violence that he describes and then explains, to justify it; the men he worships wouldn’t care. Borges  cerebralized an aristocratic anti-bourgeois social order as a bourgeois ideology, as if gauchos had built a way of life out of whole cloth and free choice instead of accommodating to hard reality. This is close to what Clark claims for Picasso as a representative of Nietzschean philosophical formalism, the formalism of Borges, Robbe-Grillet and Paul deMan, like Bourdieu and G.A. Cohen, but fantasists of the right and not the left. Borges’ writing is more violent than Hemingway because librarians are bureaucrats of books, and bureaucratized violence, cleaned of its smell is more violent than simple barbarism."

Thug life is barbarism. It needs no written philosophy. It needs no defense. It's not opposed to art. As I've said more than once, maybe not here, if art were about morality, killers wouldn't know how to dance.

The philosophical, academic and intellectual defense of barbarism, the theory of barbarism, is no longer barbarism. It's fascism.

A new tag: Borges
It was obviously something big: although the explosion had taken place on the other side of Sher Darwaza, a mountain in the center of Kabul, McWilliams had heard it clearly. After negotiating a maze of narrow streets on the south side of the city, he found the site. A massive car bomb, designed to kill as many civilians as possible, had been detonated in a neighborhood full of Hazaras, a much-persecuted minority.

McWilliams took pictures of the devastation, headed back to the embassy, and sent a report to Washington. It was very badly received — not because someone had launched a terrorist attack against Afghan civilians, but because McWilliams had reported it. The bomb, it turned out, had been the work of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the mujahedeen commander who received more CIA money and support than any other leader of the Afghan rebellion. The attack, the first of many, was part of a CIA-blessed scheme to “put pressure” on the Soviet presence in Kabul. Informing the Washington bureaucracy that Hekmatyar’s explosives were being deployed to kill civilians was therefore entirely unwelcome.

“Those were Gulbuddin’s bombs,” McWilliams, a Rhode Islander with a gift for laconic understatement, told me recently. “He was supposed to get the credit for this.” In the meantime, the former diplomat recalled, the CIA pressured him to “report a little less specifically about the humanitarian consequences of those vehicle bombs.”

I tracked down McWilliams, now retired to the remote mountains of southern New Mexico, because the extremist Islamist groups currently operating in Syria and Iraq called to mind the extremist Islamist groups whom we lavishly supported in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Hekmatyar, with his documented fondness for throwing acid in women’s faces, would have had nothing to learn from Al Qaeda. When a courageous ABC News team led by my wife, Leslie Cockburn, interviewed him in 1993, he had beheaded half a dozen people earlier that day. Later, he killed their translator.
When I hear the name Hekmatyar I think of the stories above, and Cockburn's brother.
Those on the receiving end of Islamic State attacks tend to agree. Asked what could be done to help Iraq following the group’s lightning assaults in the summer of 2014, an Iraqi diplomat replied: “Bomb Saudi Arabia.”
Andrew Cockburn: The United States is teaming up with Al Qaeda, again
Earlier in the Syrian war, U.S. officials had at least maintained the pretense that weapons were being funneled only to so-called moderate opposition groups. But in 2014, in a speech at Harvard, Vice President Joe Biden confirmed that we were arming extremists once again, although he was careful to pin the blame on America’s allies in the region, whom he denounced as “our largest problem in Syria.” In response to a student’s question, he volunteered that our allies
were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.
Biden’s explanation was entirely reminiscent of official excuses for the arming of fundamentalists in Afghanistan during the 1980s, which maintained that the Pakistanis had total control of the distribution of U.S.-supplied weapons and that the CIA was incapable of intervening when most of those weapons ended up with the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Asked why the United States of America was supposedly powerless to stop nations like Qatar, population 2.19 million, from pouring arms into the arsenals of Nusra and similar groups, a former adviser to one of the Gulf States replied softly: “They didn’t want to.”

...Two years later, Washington’s capacity for denial in the face of inconvenient facts remains undiminished. Addressing the dominance of extremists in the Syrian opposition, Leon Panetta, a former CIA director, has blamed our earlier failure to arm those elusive moderates. The catastrophic consequences of this very approach in Libya are seldom mentioned. “If we had intervened more swiftly in Syria,” Gartenstein-Ross says, “the best-case scenario probably would have been another Libya. Meaning that we would still be dealing with a collapsed state and spillover into other Middle Eastern states and Europe.”

Even as we have continued our desultory bombing campaign against the Islamic State, Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra are creeping closer and closer to international respectability. A month after the London Eleven meeting, a group of scholars from the Brookings Institution published an op-ed making the case for Ahrar al-Sham: “Designating [the] group as a terrorist organization might backfire by pushing it completely into Al Qaeda’s camp.” (The think tank’s recent receipt of a multiyear, $15 million grant from Qatar was doubtless coincidental.)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Old point but a good example of the geek misunderstanding of language.
Pet Peeve
People who assert things are "constitutional" or "unconstitutional" without qualifications. Unless there's a relatively recent ruling which applies 100% with no wiggle room to the issue at hand, it's never certain. It's constitutional/unconstitutional if the Supremos say it is.
Legal reasoning

Law is a process not an object.  If I say X is unconstitutional it means I think X is constitutional, or even, I take it for granted that X is unconstitutional. Don't you? That's an argument, a pole in a debate. See comments on Leiter, and here.
Voting is not about trying to get what you want; it's not concerned first with individual choice, but with marking collective change. People who argue against voting because their interests will be diluted should also divorce themselves from politics altogether even in casual conversation. Voting is no more than one point in time in our collective debate. Whatever individualists may want to believe, society situates the individual, not the other way around.
Jack Balkin in  2007
If the Supreme Court eventually holds that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, it will largely be because social and political movements changed popular opinion and influenced elite legal opinion. These changes have been coming for some time: The Bush Justice Department has already adopted the individual rights position, and so too has the D.C. Circuit in its recent Parker opinion.

This is not the first time changes in popular notions of the Constitution have influenced legal doctrine. In fact, social and political movements' efforts to change constitutional culture and popular opinion are among the most frequent mechanisms through which lawyers and judges change their minds about the meaning of the Constitution.
A tortured, milquetoast epistle. What she's describing, while leaning on the opinions of career coaches and scholars of management, is the wallflower's internal exile in response to fascism. But it's still the bookworm's concern for the fascism of bookworms, in the library, of Borges and the Church. The article is another symptom of the rot it so tenderly describes.

Literature teachers used to make their livings teaching books written by people who never went to university; teachers of philosophy teach books by people who never left. Criticism is engaged readership founded on an adversarial respect. Philosophers claim superiority to both artists and critics. Now every teacher is a philosopher or theorist or analyst. Just read the first fucking line. "In the course of interviewing some seventy graduate students in English for a book on the state of literary criticism,"
...I’ve encountered two types of people who are having trouble adapting to the field. First, there are those who bridle at the left-political conformity of English and who voice complaints familiar from the culture wars. But a second group suffers from a malaise without a name; socialization to the discipline has left them with unaccountable feelings of confusion, inhibition and loss.

Those in the latter group share a quality of inwardness. In interviews, they strike me as reflective, intuitive individuals, with English teacher written all over them. These are the people who say that something in this intellectual environment is eating them alive. Gina Hiatt, the president of a large coaching service for academic writers, tells me that many of her clients in the humanities have a similar experience. She believes these clients sense “an immorality they can’t put their finger on” in the thought-world of the humanities. They struggle as writers because talking the talk would make them feel complicit, yet they cannot afford to say, in Hiatt’s words, that “the emperor has no clothes.” Some keep their best ideas out of their scholarship for fear that if they violate certain ideological taboos, others will “hate” them (a verb Hiatt hears repeatedly). Hiatt describes these individuals as “canaries in the mine.”

...The reflections that follow focus largely on English, my home discipline and a trendsetter for the other modern language disciplines. These days nothing in English is “cool” in the way that high theory was in the 1980s and 1990s. On the other hand, you could say that what is cool now is, simply, nothing. Decades of antihumanist one-upmanship have left the profession with a fascination for shaking the value out of what seems human, alive, and whole. Some years ago Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick touched on this complex in her well-known essay on paranoid reading, where she identified a strain of “hatred” in criticism. Also salient is a more recent piece in which Bruno Latour has described how scholars slip from “critique” into “critical barbarity,” giving “cruel treatment” to experiences and ideals that non-academics treat as objects of tender concern.

...Halberstam’s article hardly represents the best theoretical work of the 1990s. I introduce this piece because it embodies, almost in caricature, a studied coldness that enjoyed a vogue in that decade and has influenced subsequent criticism. Readers who know the novel The Silence of the Lambs or Jonathan Demme’s film adaptation will recall the murderer Buffalo Bill, who fashions a cloak from the skins of his female victims. In a well-known reading of the film, Halberstam suggests that Bill is as much “hero” as villain. For he “challenges the . . . misogynist constructions of the humanness, the naturalness, the interiority of gender.” By removing and wearing women’s skin, Bill refutes the idea that maleness and femaleness are carried within us. “Gender,” Halberstam explains, is “always posthuman, always a sewing job which stitches identity into a body bag.” The corpse, once flayed, “is no woman”; “it has been degendered, it is postgender, skinned and fleshed.” Halberstam blends her perspective uncritically with the hero-villain’s posthuman sensibility, which she sees as registering “a historical shift” to an era marked by the destruction of gender binaries and “of the boundary between inside and outside.”

The management scholar Ann Rippin, borrowing an image from a fairy tale, describes the “silver hands” with which organizations endow their members. Recruits to professional organizations, Rippin writes, are trained in glossy but dehumanized ways of speaking and feeling. The work they learn to do “is silver service done at arm’s length, hygienically, through a polished, highly wrought intermediary instrument.”

...Finally, a small subset of work in ELH glamorizes cruelty in the name of radical politics, though this motif abates after 2006, perhaps because of a change in editorial leadership. The piece I find most troubling is an article on a short story by Henry James. This article proposes that if one faces a choice between having sex with children and protecting them, “perhaps one should let oneself desire the child, and—relinquishing the gratifications of protection—let the child die.” Sexually precocious children should “perhaps” be allowed a death of “innocence” that will supplant the pleasures of childhood with “other pleasures” delivered by adult lovers. James’s short story supposedly conveys this moral. But the lesson is said to apply in real life as well, wherever adults might be tempted to issue “calls for the protection of children.” The story is said to reveal “the dire results of protecting children from desire”—anywhere. For today’s anti-pedophile perpetrates the “potential violence” of “speaking on [children’s] behalf.” 
"Jack" Halberstamrepeats and repeats.  

this post continued, here
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and jumping ahead, a day short of a year.
Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte
repeats of repeats of...  because I was in the mood.



Listening to the second in a series of mixes by the house DJ at a boutique hotel in Paris and wondering at the first track. Looking it up and realizing both what should have been obvious and how it makes perfect sense.
There I held a trembling hand
Seeking shelter in strange apartments
Til the day they turned her in
Being Judases of nowadays

I think of Fassbinder
I experienced the modern version of The Floating World for the first time in the late 90's, at a small private party in a rented room on the lower east side. I said to someone it felt like Limbo as an airport lounge in 1974. The soundtrack was Air, and I amused myself a bit more by deciding that Prada was Halston in brown.

The effect is akin to a narcosis that not only slows but regulates motion. It's Chaplin's Hard Times at 5 frames per second, with the gears wrapped in fine silk: aestheticized anesthetic motion. The rhythms, bass and snare and little clicks invite improvisatory response, touches of free will in a rigidly deterministic world. At 1:20 when the strings come in and at 1:29 when they modulate and the plane begins to glide across the screen I get a shiver of aphasia.
And the the scream at 0:26 is Hitchcock.





Las Vegas. 4 AM

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Teju Cole on Faceboook
Trump is a dangerous clown, and we must continue to strongly oppose him and his hateful crowds. But it is important to understand that his idea of "banning all Muslims," scandalous as it is (intentionally scandalous, because he is of course doing it for media attention), is far less scandalous than the past dozen years of American disregard for non-American Muslim lives. And that wasn't Trump. Trump didn't murder thousands of innocent people with drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Trump didn't kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people with bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump didn't torture people at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or the numerous black sites across the planet. Trump's weapons aren't incinerating Yemen now, and didn't blow up Gaza last year. No American president in the past fourteen years has openly championed Islamophobia, but none has refrained from doing to Muslims overseas what would be unthinkable to do here to Americans of any religion. This deadly speech we are hearing towards the Muslim members of our family is nothing new: it is a continuation in words of what has been real on the ground for a long time. Our legitimate dismay at Islamophobic statements must be situated inside this recent history, a history in which a far wider swath of the country than Trump's base is implicated.
As a matter of American politics, the issue is not the culpability of the political elite, but the ignorance of the majority. That's what Trump plays on. The self-congratulating moral superiority of intellectuals does nothing to help. It doesn't help to explain how Trump came to be. Except of course it does.

Monday, December 07, 2015

HUP, Jan 2015. World Philology, Edited by Sheldon Pollock, Benjamin A. Elman, Ku-ming Kevin Chang
Philology—the discipline of making sense of texts—is enjoying a renaissance within academia after decades of neglect. World Philology charts the evolution of philology across the many cultures and historical time periods in which it has been practiced, and demonstrates how this branch of knowledge, like philosophy and mathematics, is an essential component of human understanding.

Every civilization has developed ways of interpreting the texts that it produces, and differences of philological practice are as instructive as the similarities. We owe our idea of a textual edition for example, to the third-century BCE scholars of the Alexandrian Library. Rabbinical philology created an innovation in hermeneutics by shifting focus from how the Bible commands to what it commands. Philologists in Song China and Tokugawa Japan produced startling insights into the nature of linguistic signs. In the early modern period, new kinds of philology arose in Europe but also among Indian, Chinese, and Japanese commentators, Persian editors, and Ottoman educationalists who began to interpret texts in ways that had little historical precedent. They made judgments about the integrity and consistency of texts, decided how to create critical editions, and determined what it actually means to read.

Covering a wide range of cultures—Greek, Roman, Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit, Chinese, Indo-Persian, Japanese, Ottoman, and modern European—World Philology lays the groundwork for a new scholarly discipline.
Link from the blog of the Journal of the History of Ideas.

The maturing of postmodernism: from mannerism, in the shadow of modernism -of modernist idealism predicated on timelessness, using synchronic forms- to humanism and narrative form.
Panofsky describes the baroque as a return to the ideals of the renaissance after the crises of the counter-reformation. We're a long way from that.

The post the the JHI blog has a comment by Grafton, who can't see through the fog of his own pleasure. See here and here.

If there's going to be any progress of the sort they want, there needs to be more than a fading from one mode to another, from  "History of Philosophy: Just say No!", to a rekindled romance with the past.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Today US airstrikes hit Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor. ISIS followed up with attacks on the same positions. Just stupid.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Adding to the below, DD could make the same defense of MSNBC and CNN. Adversarialism is a formal system. The fiasco today was driven by ratings, and by mindless reflex.

DD, in a series of comments on a post by Quiggin, defending bankers, as usual, by saying they were only following the logic of their job.

He repeats a question defined by another commenter.
I think the question is best framed as “what made mostly Anglo elites increasingly prefer finance as the main means of extracting their share of the common pool?”

I’m honestly not sure what I could say to put this more clearly. A policy of:

a) real wage stagnation as a consequence of outsourcing and trade agreements + China

b) government investment reduction

c) demand management by expansionary monetary policy

Is, de facto, a policy of financial sector expansion.
He's mocked by most of the others, as he deserves to be, for ignoring all the work that went into changing or eliminating the laws that governed financial regulation.

Redirecting the question: What made mostly Anglo elites increasingly prefer ideas as the main means of extracting their share of the common pool?

All that is solid melts into air. Philosophers' concepts are called objects. Writers of financial contracts are called financial engineers. The exemplary ideas of mediocre minds.

Arendt is very good on all of this, including the anti-politics of political philosophy.

Zardoz is a parable of the rule of Bloomsbury bohemians.


Thursday, December 03, 2015

updated a bit.

note-taking, record-keeping, reposting my comments elsewhere.

Answering bullshit at Language Log
“Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.”

"A spatial object must lie in infinite space. (A point in space is a place for an argument.)"

"To hear the melody move from C to E flat is to hear the E flat as called into being by the C – a virtual force operates between the notes"

"Both dogmas, I shall argue, are ill founded. One effect of abandoning them is, as we shall see, a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science."

"She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves"

European Jews and their descendants, including those with blonde hair and blue eyes, have a "right" to "return" to Palestine, and to force the native inhabitants, including Jewish converts to Islam [and Christianity], off of their land. Having done so they nonetheless maintain the right to refer to themselves and their ideals as "modern" and "liberal".

Harry Frankfurt is a master bullshitter. Philosophers and economists have a lot in common. Believing your own bullshit is something a good bullshitter should try to avoid.
The first is Chopra. The second is Wittgenstein, etc.

I didn't read the comments before I made my own. I didn't know about the Penguin Poetry Hoax.
The one thing my comment adds is what I wrote in my own words, adding real politics to what's otherwise a discussion of language games.  Language is problematic as a means of communication, but it's all we have.

At the bottom of the post is a link to "relevant past posts". Clicking a couple of times brought me to What would a 'return to philology' be a return to?"  I've been using that phrase for a few years, but I haven't looked for it. I should've. After all, I'm describing historical change, not causing it. It's obvious philology should be drifting back towards the surface.

Philology is the study of language use, meanings, in context. It's the practice -not the theory- of empiricism and makes a mockery of the rationalist model of "doing philosophy". There is no science of meaning that does not destroy meaning; language without meaning is mathematics; mathematics is anti-political, as evidenced in the absurdity of the paper linked above.

Gödel and Addington again.
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The ghost of Panofsky: New Philology