An Unenviable Situation

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Although Graeber and Wengrow concern themselves primarily with humanity’s early history, they begin by examining how Western thinkers have previously treated the subject, and in doing so they first turn to the French Enlightenment. This happens to be my own area of expertise, and I was curious to see what they would make of it. Quite frankly, I was appalled. 
The western romance of the other. David never understand culture because he denied that he had one. Utopianism is religious. The White Goddess, and Dungeons and Dragons. I'm not going to spend the money to read Appiah's review.

I forgot I have a second NYRB account that I can use to read recent articles. Once you start paying and then let it expire, you lose the option.

Then there’s Mashkan-shapir in Iraq, which flourished four thousand years ago. “Intensive archaeological survey,” we’re told, “revealed a strikingly even distribution of wealth” and “no obvious center of commercial or political power.” Here they’re summarizing an article by the archaeologists who excavated the site—an article that actually refers to disparities of household wealth and a “walled-off enclosure in the west, which we believe was an administrative center,” and, the archaeologists think, may have had an administrative function similar to that of palaces elsewhere. The article says that Mashkan-shapir’s commercial and administrative centers were separate; when Graeber and Wengrow present this as the claim that it may have lacked any commercial or political center, it’s as if a hairbrush has been tugged through tangled evidence to make it align with their thesis.

They spend much time on Çatalhöyük, an ancient Anatolian city, or proto-city, that was first settled around nine thousand years ago. They claim that the archaeological record yields no evidence that the place had any central authority but ample evidence that the role of women was recognized and honored. The fact that more figurines have been found representing women than men signals, they venture, “a new awareness of women’s status, which was surely based on their concrete achievements in binding together these new forms of society.” What they don’t say is that the vast majority of the figurines are of animals, including sheep, cattle, and pigs; it’s possible to be less sanguine, then, about whether female figurines establish female empowerment. You may still find yourself persuaded that a preponderance of nude women among depictions of gendered human bodies is, as Graeber and Wengrow think, evidence for a gynocentric society. Just be prepared to be flexible: when they discuss the Bronze Age culture of Minoan Crete, the fact that only males are depicted in the nude will be taken as evidence for a gynocentric society. Then there’s the fact that 95 percent of Çatalhöyük hasn’t even been excavated; any sweeping claim about its social structure is bound to be a hostage to the fortunes of the dig.

And so it goes, as we hopscotch our way around the planet....

Appiah pretty much disgusts me as a thinker. Graeber only annoys me, for reasons of loyalty if nothing else. Both of them, as "liberal" or "anarchist" are asocial, anti-cosmopolitan individualists. Graeber's model of community is a fantasy dreamed up by someone for whom actual communality, common culture, was impossible.

Friday, November 26, 2021

The predictable end of "manualising" politics. Lisa Godson again, both times via Hussein Omar. 

"Lisa Godson is a historian of design and material culture, and also researches and writes about contemporary design."

The politics of design, of pedantry, of authoritarian scholasticism. Change comes from below. The managerial class leads from the motherfucking rear.

"I like to think of all of the arguments about the nature of art over the last two hundred years as a battle between the conservative and the reactionary."

Nov. 25th, The Toronto Sun: The Toronto District School Board appears to be reconsidering its nixing of a book by 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad because of concerns it could foster Islamophobia.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Given the bleak trajectory of American politics, I worry about progressives retreating into private life to preserve their sanity, a retreat that will only hasten democracy’s decay.
Because politics is a choice, not a necessity, at its worst a fantasy, a speculative fiction.

"Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is perhaps the definitive expression of mid-century American liberalism."

"The nerdy classic is quite possibly the definitive statement of 20th Century American liberal thought."

Sci-fi was very much a young man's game, and its tropes -- rockets, extraterrestrials, etc. -- were interpreted by thinking adults as inherently juvenile indulgences. Sci-fi publications marketed themselves almost exclusively to adolescent boys, and the leading practitioners were only slightly more mature than their audience.

Zachary D. Carter, the author of a biography of Keynes, follows Krugman as a TV critic.

Asimov is Ayn Rand for people who think they've outgrown Ayn Rand, or Rand for PhDs.

repeats repeats repeats

"Science Fiction was created by men trying to get away from the alien environment populated by their wives."

The rise of a self-conscious geek culture, the proud celebration of the preadolescent imagination in adulthood, came in earnest ten years after the publication of One-Dimensional Man and the release of Dr. Strangelove, the title character an amalgam of Werner von Braun and the ur-geek von Neumann.  “If you say why not bomb them tomorrow, I say, why not today? If you say today at 5 o’clock, I say why not one o’clock?”

On that note, Henry seems to have dumped Tyler Cowen for Noah Smith.

But Henry is using the same Calvino quote he used 12 years ago, so I'll repeat the comments I made there at the time, repeating arguments I made 30 years before that. 

And they're still "struggling to come to terms with the obvious".

Comments on "literary fiction" at Language Log; deleted ones—I always save a copy—here.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Two links from Leiter.
Two letters, one from professional philosophers, one from scientists

Dear Chancellor Greenstein,

In your speech of 5 November 2021, you said that “Students want breadth. They want to have a lot of choice for their majors and they should. Just as important, communities need them to have choice. Because we’re public. Because we owe ourselves to the state and to the students, the question is how do we provide people with the breadth of program choices they need.” The very next week you issued a directive to close “low-enrolled” majors. Here at Bloomsburg University, we have shuttered the Philosophy, Physics, Anthropology, and German majors. There was no discussion with affected parties, no seat at the decision-making table, no shared governance, no data offered or targets to meet, not even commiseration, just the hammer from above.

As philosophy faculty, students, alumni, and supporters of a broad-based liberal arts education, we implore you to reverse this decision and make a commitment to the continuance of the philosophy major at Bloomsburg and throughout the State System of Higher Education. Authentic higher education is not just worker training for businesses. Philosophy has been the central discipline of universities since Plato’s Academy. We invented logic, systematic ethics, and the natural sciences—philosophy is not some ephemeral, boutique area of study but the heart of the university. Young Pennsylvanians deserve the chance to improve their lives through the study of philosophy, and not just if they are privileged enough to go to U. Penn or Swarthmore.

We are not requesting an “opportunity” to re-apply for the major, which would no doubt involve promising unattainable deliverables to meet arbitrary benchmarks. It does not matter how many students major in philosophy; we will never attract as many as fields that are the names of jobs. What matters is that students have the choice that you promised on November 5th. What matters is that Bloomsburg University retain the philosophy major as our students deserve. We request that you guarantee its continuance.

A recent report from a Government NCEA working group on proposed changes to the Māori school curriculum aims “to ensure parity for mātauranga Māori with the other bodies of knowledge credentialed by NCEA (particularly Western/Pākehā epistemologies)”. It includes the following description as part of a new course: “It promotes discussion and analysis of the ways in which science has been used to support the dominance of Eurocentric views (among which, its use as a rationale for colonisation of Māori and the suppression of Māori knowledge); and the notion that science is a Western European invention and itself evidence of European dominance over Maori and other indigenous peoples.”

This perpetuates disturbing misunderstandings of science emerging at all levels of education and in science funding.These encourage mistrust of science. Science is universal, not especially Western European. It has origins in ancient Egypt. Mesopotamia, ancient Greece and later India. with significant contributions in mathematics, astronomy and physics from mediaeval Islam, before developing in Europe and later the US, with a strong presence across Asia.

Science itself does not colonise. It has been used to aid colonisation, as have literature and art. However, science also provides immense good, as well as greatly enhanced understanding of the world Science is helping us battle worldwide crises such as Covid, global warming. carbon pollution. biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. Such science is informed by the united efforts of many nations and cultures. We increasingly depend on science. perhaps for our very survival. The future of our world, and our species. cannot afford mistrust of science.

Indigenous knowledge is critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices. and plays key roles in management and policy. However. in the discovery of empirical. universal truths. it falls far short of what we can define as science itself.

To accept it as the equivalent of science is to patronise and fail indigenous populations; better to ensure that everyone participates in the world's scientific enterprises. Indigenous knowledge may indeed help advance scientific knowledge in some ways, but it is not science. 

"We invented logic, systematic ethics, and the natural sciences." Rationalists did not invent empiricism. The history of navigation predates Thales by a thousand years. Philosophers didn't build the first house or road; they articulate and codify, then takes the credit for "creation", since following the diktats of theology in any culture, ideas must precede facts and events. 

The philosophers and the critics of the scientists' letter defend the primacy of metaphysics, either "western" or "indigenous". The philosophers' letter slides awkwardly between utilitarianism and humanism. The scientists don't question the existence or history of Māori technics.

The link in the second letter is to an article describing the responses. The letter itself is harder to find, but I found a screen grab and transcribed it. The NCEA Working Group's proposal is here.


addendum: looking through the archives I can't believe I didn't post this. I had a short email exchange with the Petsko at the time.
"A Faustian bargain", Gregory Petsko, in Genome Biology, 2010
An actual defense of the humanities.
Dear President Philip,

Probably the last thing you need at this moment is someone else from outside your university complaining about your decision. If you want to argue that I can't really understand all aspects of the situation, never having been associated with SUNY Albany, I wouldn't disagree. But I cannot let something like this go by without weighing in. I hope, when I'm through, you will at least understand why.

Just 30 days ago, on October 1st, you announced that the departments of French, Italian, Classics, Russian and Theater Arts were being eliminated. You gave several reasons for your decision, including that 'there are comparatively fewer students enrolled in these degree programs.' Of course, your decision was also, perhaps chiefly, a cost-cutting measure - in fact, you stated that this decision might not have been necessary had the state legislature passed a bill that would have allowed your university to set its own tuition rates. Finally, you asserted that the humanities were a drain on the institution financially, as opposed to the sciences, which bring in money in the form of grants and contracts.

Let's examine these and your other reasons in detail, because I think if one does, it becomes clear that the facts on which they are based have some important aspects that are not covered in your statement. First, the matter of enrollment. I'm sure that relatively few students take classes in these subjects nowadays, just as you say. There wouldn't have been many in my day, either, if universities hadn't required students to take a distribution of courses in many different parts of the academy: humanities, social sciences, the fine arts, the physical and natural sciences, and to attain minimal proficiency in at least one foreign language. You see, the reason that humanities classes have low enrollment is not because students these days are clamoring for more relevant courses; it's because administrators like you, and spineless faculty, have stopped setting distribution requirements and started allowing students to choose their own academic programs - something I feel is a complete abrogation of the duty of university faculty as teachers and mentors. You could fix the enrollment problem tomorrow by instituting a mandatory core curriculum that included a wide range of courses.

Young people haven't, for the most part, yet attained the wisdom to have that kind of freedom without making poor decisions. In fact, without wisdom, it's hard for most people. That idea is thrashed out better than anywhere else, I think, in Dostoyevsky's parable of the Grand Inquisitor, which is told in Chapter Five of his great novel, The Brothers Karamazov. In the parable, Christ comes back to earth in Seville at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. He performs several miracles but is arrested by Inquisition leaders and sentenced to be burned at the stake. The Grand Inquisitor visits Him in his cell to tell Him that the Church no longer needs Him. The main portion of the text is the Inquisitor explaining why. The Inquisitor says that Jesus rejected the three temptations of Satan in the desert in favor of freedom, but he believes that Jesus has misjudged human nature. The Inquisitor says that the vast majority of humanity cannot handle freedom. In giving humans the freedom to choose, Christ has doomed humanity to a life of suffering.

That single chapter in a much longer book is one of the great works of modern literature. You would find a lot in it to think about. I'm sure your Russian faculty would love to talk with you about it - if only you had a Russian department, which now, of course, you don't.

It goes on. It's worth reading.

"We're voting for the nigger" II

Liberals are confused

If capitalism were racist then white people would still be ruling the world.
On race, the changes for the better have increased the confusion.

repeats. from 2008 
So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the nigger!"
Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the nigger."
Confusion, and not just for white people. There are more native blacks willing to express shock and horror at the the quote above and fewer willing to admit cynicism in public (black immigrants are more willing to shrug). As I said at the time, the quote made me laugh; that's when I knew Obambi was going to win. I'm sure he was happy when he read it.

Bill Clinton was the last white democrat who could go for the cracker vote. Obama went for it, as much as he could. Again, this was obvious at the time.
Josh Marshall initially thought the debate was a draw and wondered why Obama hadn't been more aggressive. The major newspapers with the exception of the NY Times also called it a draw. But the public says it's a clear win.

How would it have appeared to the block of narcissistic but all-important "undecided" white voters to see a young black man attack an old white man as aggressively as white liberals imagine they would if they were in his place? That's not to say Obama's reticence is conscious and strategic, only that it's how he's played the game; and it's important to understand he never had a choice.
From 2008 to 2010. In fact is was both conscious and strategic, though he never had a choice.
Obama, the "prep school negro". 
Top pic from Ben Rhodes. And the second doesn't undermine my comments on race and capitalism. Look at the numbers. America is not the world.

America is still a country of racists. It's a country of anti-Semites, but of course they support Israel. Zionists still identify as realists. White liberals, and Americans, are still trapped by their own guilt, self-pity, and self-interest.  

Monday, November 15, 2021

Ryan Cooper "good point about right-wing small business owners -- the core of the conservative movement -- being insanely pissed about the tight labor market"

Yacov Feygin: "The fascist social base is medium-sized local elites getting squeezed by more competitive firms."

The more competitive firms are global. International capital undermines democracy with bribery of the masses, something shopkeepers can't afford. 

Feygin works with Nils Gilman at the Berggruen Institute: against citizenship.

repeats: Bruenig and the looter-intellectuals: liquidate the kulaks.

repeat from 2010. I forgot to add it at the link.
Compare and contrast 
One key to Germany's miracle is the mittelstand, as the family-owned small and mid-size manufacturing firms that dominate the economy are known. Last week, I visited AWS Achslagerwerk, a factory of one such firm, in the farmlands of Saxony-Anhalt, about two hours west of Berlin. As in many such companies, this factory turns out specialized products: axle-box housings for Chinese and German high-speed trains, machine tools requiring climate-controlled precision measurement. With annual revenue of 24 million euros, the factory has won a significant share of the world market, though it employs only 175 production workers.
Until Greece can find a way to disentangle the private sector from the family and find another way to allocate resources — free from the intergenerational, class and gender inequities of the family unit — no amount of reform will make a difference.

The European Union and the I.M.F. should forget about dismantling Greece’s (already puny) welfare state and increasing labor flexibility in the (already flexible) private sector. The public sector does need restructuring, but the resulting unemployment will only strengthen the dominance of the family. A better solution would be to create a real public safety net that would help free young Greeks from the supportive yet suffocating grip of their families.
Economics is an aspect of culture.
The logical and obvious argument for starting at the top. Technocratic idealists and pseudo-leftists start at the middle because they want to distance themselves from members of their own class.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Rittenhouse trial is a theater of the pathetic: from the judge to the baby faced murderer, to the "radical" victims, one convicted of sucking off 11 year olds, another who went after his grandmother with a knife, and the putz with the expired concealed carry license who "accidentally" pointed his gun at the perp; all white or "white identified". Varieties of self-loathing. 

Add to that the liberal fixation of race, when the fascists are so clearly multi-ethnic; white nationalists are happy to make common cause. 

Late Capitalist Fascism, Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, Polity Press

What if fascism didn’t disappear at the end of WW II with the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini? Who the fuck said it did? Even more troubling, what if fascism can no longer be confined to political parties When the fuck was it confined to political parties?  or ultra nationalist politicians but has become?? something much more diffuse that is spread across our societies as cultural expressions and psychological states?

This is the disturbing thesis developed ??? by Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, who argues that late capitalism has produced hollowed-out and exchangeable subjectivities that provide a breeding ground for a new kind of diffuse, banal fascism. There was an un-banal fascism? The overt and concentrated fascism of the new fascist parties thrives on the diffuse fascism present in social media and everyday life, where the fear of being left behind and losing out has fuelled resentment towards foreigners and others who are perceived as threats to a national community under siege.

Only by confronting both the overt fascism of parties and politicians and the diffuse fascism of everyday life will we be able to combat fascism effectively and prevent the slide into barbarism.

Bolt, and Dominique Routhier

"Realism 2020: Farewell to (Bourgeois) Art Criticism"

On February 25, 2020, the Christian Dior Autumn-Winter 2020 fashion show took place in the Tuileries Garden in Paris, in a 1.000 n12 building erected for the event. Over the delicately creme colored building entrance are four black letters: “Dior.”

I don't really care if they're writing about Dior to argue that the artist involved is a hypocrite. Their own hypocrisy, without a hint of self-awareness, is worse. The piece is published in a high-gloss art/glam magazine. The footnotes are the usual, but also this

[27] In the context of rising fascist tendencies in contemporary art, Dorian Batycka usefully defines the tactic of “overidentification” as “the act of identifying oneself to an excessive degree with ideas or concepts antithetical to one’s own ideology.”

"Is Accelerationism a Gateway Aesthetic to Fascism? On the Rise of Taboo in Contemporary Art".  Published in the same journal, uploaded on a blog called xenogothic. The name again.

The cast:

Dorian Batycka  art critic, curator @hyperallergic @theartnewspaper @artnet @coindesk  etc

Coindesk. Every link, to art, the art market, to capitalism and the world of luxury commodities. 

The diffuse fascism of everyday life precedes and outlasts the fascist state. These fucking idiots are symptoms of the fucking disease. One of them might get the joke. Was the Bauhaus decadent? Of course. Was Brecht?

 "What would it pleasure me to have my throat cut/ With diamonds?"

In the end it all dovetails.

A repeat from 2014, with additions, relating to Mark Fisher, art as life, fascism, and the rest.

Monday, November 08, 2021

"...paperback originals with French flaps, using a custom serif typeface"

in re: the contemporary ubiquity of academic discussions of "images": the art of the past framed thoughtlessly in the language of the present. Benjamin returns us to the Gothic in more ways than one, focusing on immateriality and ideas—ideas are immaterial—takes us out of the world. 

A monk staring at an icon is looking for "truth". Painters like storytellers are craftsmen, makers of fictions, illusions, and "lies". "There’s no art more ironic than a Fra Angelico."  Historians are secularists; priests are sincere. Philosophy is so fucking reactionary. 

new tag: The Same Story About Barthes

I used to be fond of "subaltern" academics in the west, but they've become so successful that the outsider status has become aestheticized. Academia serves its own interests. The romanticism of the international hereditary PMC: a discussion of Egyptian political prisoners is a discussion of prison abolition, which follows a discussion of Egyptian architectural modernism. Utopianism is anti-political. Academia is a safe space for priests and pedantry.
Put a pdf on the fucking web. Share it "for the revolution". Fuck "curators", "aestheticized politics", and "French flaps, using a custom serif typeface".  Fuck "Coffee table architectural favela porn.” 
And who gives a fuck about the fucking Queen?

Sunday, November 07, 2021

"I've had someone saying they would rather kill me than Hitler," says 24-year-old Jennie*.

"They said they would strangle me with a belt if they were in a room with me and Hitler. That was so bizarrely violent, just because I won't have sex with trans women."

Jennie is a lesbian woman. She says she is only sexually attracted to women who are biologically female and have vaginas. She therefore only has sex and relationships with women who are biologically female.

Jennie doesn't think this should be controversial, but not everyone agrees. She has been described as transphobic, a genital fetishist, a pervert and a "terf" - a trans exclusionary radical feminist.

"There's a common argument that they try and use that goes 'What if you met a woman in a bar and she's really beautiful and you got on really well and you went home and you discovered that she has a penis? Would you just not be interested?'" says Jennie, who lives in London and works in fashion.

"Yes, because even if someone seems attractive at first you can go off them. I just don't possess the capacity to be sexually attracted to people who are biologically male, regardless of how they identify."

I became aware of this particular issue after I wrote an article about sex, lies and legal consent.

Several people got in touch with me to say there was a "huge problem" for lesbians, who were being pressured to "accept the idea that a penis can be a female sex organ".

I knew this would be a hugely divisive subject, but I wanted to find out how widespread the issue was.

Ultimately, it has been difficult to determine the true scale of the problem because there has been little research on this topic - only one survey to my knowledge. However, those affected have told me the pressure comes from a minority of trans women, as well as activists who are not necessarily trans themselves.

They described being harassed and silenced if they tried to discuss the issue openly. I received online abuse myself when I tried to find interviewees using social media. 

re the link in the quote above: retroactive withdrawal of consent.

For the rest, it's misogyny. Lesbians are biological females who eat pussy

Synecdoche (cont)

"Republicans appear to be reaping the positive consequences of the deep polarization along educational lines unleashed by Trump while evading the negative ones.

Liberals make nihilism attractive 

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

How does his Olympia address us? With what sort of attention? From what specific distance?

T.J.Clark in the LRB. Smart but he works too hard. He knows his shit, but erudition is cautiousness.

Velazquez is painting portraits of servants dressed up in costumes. But they look out at us as our equals, or superiors, or as creatures of indeterminate status—simply as others—with the full weight of their humanity.  If you look at the range of his work it becomes obvious. That's a stunning thought considering his role. 

On the secondary pics above; the character is both frontal and in repose. He has three legs! It's a brilliant touch to an image of ambiguity. 

Clark, Masters and Fools 

How does his Aesop address us? With what sort of attention? From what specific distance? Many Velázquez portraits provoke questions of this kind (think of Don Juan of Austria) but here they are intensified – exacerbated – by the suspicion that a particular set of features has been shifted by the artist to embody an entire worldview. What could be more particular than Aesop’s face? But when has a face been more imprinted with a philosophy?

Could it be, in the first place, that the very words ‘expression’, ‘address’ and ‘us’ are the wrong ones to apply to Aesop’s way of looking? Does Aesop as Velázquez imagines him exist, or exist primarily, in a world made up of interlocking subjectivities? He is, remember, the master of animals. The world he takes stock of may include ‘us’ only as objects or processes of a certain kind – entities, outsides, behaviours, patterns of dominance and submission. Such a way of thinking is no doubt extreme, or at least uncommon, but doesn’t Aesop’s whole attitude make it seem reasonable – realistic? Doesn’t his face ask us to rearrange our notions of normality? What’s normal, he asks, about reading other minds?

I reach a familiar impasse. I have no words, or none that strike me as convincing, for the way Aesop looks – the way his features hover between irony and resignation – but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what his look intends. On the contrary, the wordlessness of Aesop’s communication makes his intention all the clearer. I have a good idea what he’s contemplating. I understand the quality of his distance: he is assessing not addressing me, would be one way of putting it – reaching a judgment but not pronouncing one. (As is his way with the world in general.) And isn’t this partly what we mean by expression – isn’t this what expressions are for? Expressions, especially ones as charged and impenetrable as this, are for where words fail us, where we’re lost for them. Aesop’s original muteness – the original muteness of each individual, the stumbling of the infant into speech – is part of his power.

Near the end of the piece. 

There used to be a strand in the Velázquez literature that proposed that Aesop, Menippus and Mars were pictures, all three, of court jesters playing at being philosophers and gods. I see why the notion was discarded – it came out of a period when Velázquez’s art was interpreted too much in a late-19th-century Realist way. Nonetheless, the idea does speak to something.

How does his Olympia address us? With what sort of attention? From what specific distance?  That was a new question 50 years ago. 

The painting of the Spanish Golden age, and specifically Velázquez, is the origin of 19th century realism in France.

I'm piling it on.

Panofsky dismisses the story of the Holy Roman Emperor picking a paintbrush off the floor, but the same story is told about Philip IV. Velazquez’ royal portraits are tragic; they show the weaknesses of an insecure man, yet they show him great respect. Stripped of the obligatory pomp, it’s the same respect Velazquez showed Pablo de Valladolid. Brown ends his book writing that Velazquez “...discovered a new way to transmute images of kings and queens and princes and princesses into a new form of art which continues to grow in power long after the memory of his protectors has faded nearly into oblivion.” Brown, the defender of progress and art for art’s sake, stripped of its full depth of meaning, can’t see the obvious. Velazquez’s “new way” and “new form of art” describe the end of monarchy. The maturation of his technique, the curiosity that drove it, and the obligations of his calling diverged, but the form of his obligation changed as well. The glorification of a master became the sympathy for a friend, in ways that neither king nor servant could admit. We’re back to Baudelaire, and Renoir, von Rauffenstein, and de Boeldieu, the originating tragedy, later played as kitsch, (as farce).

Axios: FEC lets foreigners finance U.S. ballot fights

The Federal Election Commission has ruled foreign donors can finance U.S. referendum campaigns, opening the door to foreign spending on fights over high-profile policy issues,...

Tuesday, November 02, 2021


In no particular order, because it doesn't matter. What's done is done.
"getting priced out" of the neighborhoods they've lived in all their lives, while liberals move in.  Liberals love the passive fucking voice.

WaPo: "Biden administration asserts 'no constitutional right is safe’ if Texas abortion law allowed to stand" 

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh characterized the Justice Department’s lawsuit as “irregular” and “unusual,” and asked what authority the federal government has to sue over a state law.

Prelogar acknowledged the unusual nature of the government’s lawsuit and said the Justice Department does not “lightly invoke” its authority to sue Texas to block enforcement of the abortion law.

“The reason we’ve done it here,” she said, is because the law is “so unprecedented, extraordinary and extraordinarily dangerous for our constitutional structure.”

Texas, she said, should not be allowed to evade the Supreme Court’s past rulings by crafting a law to evade judicial review.

 tag: Judicial Review (and Comedians)

Times Change


 When the current US Supreme Court strikes down race-conscious admissions procedures...

...which they will almost certainly do in the next couple of years, the Court will, oddly enough, in this instance have majority sentiment on its side, if not elite opinion:   opposition to using race and ethnicity as factors in admissions decisions for colleges is quite widespread.  More than 60% of Blacks, Hispanics, and Democrats say race or ethnicity should not be a factor at all in admissions.  (Philosopher Thomas Mulligan [Georgetown] has called attention to this striking fact previously.)

Leiter links to Leiter, quoting Mulligan 

Whites oppose affirmative action because they believe it violates merit-based hiring. Blacks support affirmative action because they believe it enables merit-based hiring, by nullifying racial bias and other forms of disadvantage.

Despite appearances, when it comes to affirmative action, there is no moral disagreement. Both Blacks and whites believe that the best-qualified applicant should be hired. What we disagree about is a factual question: Does real-world affirmative action enable, or detract from, our shared moral goal?

"More than 60% of Blacks, Hispanics, and Democrats say race or ethnicity should not be a factor" 
They say that now. What did they say in the past?

The black respondents strongly endorsed all eight of the items. The average endorsement of the positive response was 78.7 percent. The range was from 59.6 percent to 91.3 percent (see Table 1). Item five, which elicited the weakest response, asked the respondents if they thought there would be "reverse discrimination against white men." This ia a perceptual item that elicits other reactions than just support for affirmative action. Nevertheless, it still contributed to the overall scale. Items three, seven, and eight, which simply asked how strongly they supported affirmative action programs, received the strongest responses. Roughly 90 percent of the respondents supported these items and only about four percent opposed them. Clearly there is strong support in the black community for affirmative action programs.
"Elite Opinion" gave us Brown v Board. Decades later, Derrick Bell dissented. Leiter would never agree with Bell's reasoning.

A 1963 Nation Opinion Research Center survey of black opinion as to priorities had voting rights and desegregation both at 13%.  Jobs came out at 58%

Mildred A Schwartz, Trends in White Attitudes toward Negroes, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, 1967

The 1956 Roper question was as follows: "Now there have been a number of different viewpoints about the Supreme Court decision against separate schools for Negro students. Which of these comes closest to expressing your own personal opinion? (1) Negroes should go to the same schools that white children do and separate schools should be done away with immediately in all parts of the country. (b) Every attempt should be made to do away with separate schools for Negro students, but a reasonable time should be given to work out the problem. (c) The time may come when Negro and white children should go to the same schools, but it will take years in some places and it shouldn't be pushed. (d) The Supreme Court decision was a mistake and white and Negro students should never be forced to go to the same schools"

The largest proportion, 31 per cent, felt that the Court decision had been a mistake. [emphasis se] Twenty-three per cent were of the opinion that school integration, while desirable, would take many years and should not be pushed. Another 22 per cent wanted separate schools done away with, but agreed that "reasonable time" should be allowed for this. Altogether, then, 45 per cent opted for a gradual approach to school integration. Only 12 per cent were in favor of immediate integration. [fn. The remainder had no opinion.]

 Leiter has no sense of history. He imagines a timeless world. 

Arguments could be made that the original intent of the reconstruction amendments was "unconstitutional", inconsistent with previous understandings, or that the framers wrote amendments in race neutral terms but then while they could promoted discrimination based on race. A brilliant decision, to set their own policies on auto-destruct, only after they'd begun to do their work.

[I]n 1867 Congress passed a law providing relief for “freedmen or destitute colored people in the District of Columbia,” to be distributed under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Of particular importance in the late 1860s was the Bureau’s operation of schools for blacks, to the point that black children in the South were often better educated than their white counterparts.

"Divide and conquer" Radical reconstruction wasn't radical. If it were, black and white poor would have been treated as equals and the wealth of the rich would have been seized.  But however it was done, affirmative action was always strictly speaking, both unconstitutional and necessary. It's still a white man's world, but not for much longer. 

"Whites oppose affirmative action because they believe it violates merit-based hiring." They have a point, but that's not the only reason they oppose it.

Politics is argument in time; it's low and high, vulgar and fine. It's force and logic, reason and interests. Leiter, like all philosophers, fantasizes a world of one without the other, where their own interests play no role.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Updated, for fun this time.

Reed wrote songs about junkies on the corner.
"You know. I'm glad that we met man
It was really nice talking

And I really wish there was a little more time to speak"
Every time I hear that voice I think of a man I knew 35 years ago. I hear Jimmy Santulli, alias James Jubert. I'm pretty sure he's been dead for a long time. 
"Weird Alex" Pareene is weird in his own little world.

About the time Reed did the ad campaign for Honda, in  86 or so, he was asked to do something for a public service campaign for HIV prevention. He refused, saying he'd never been safe, and he was still alive.

I had dinner with Legs McNeil and a few others at some point in the mid 90s. It may have been after the premier of the film mentioned below. Or it could have been for Billy Name. Billy was there. McNeil went off on political punk. He hated it. He's a moralist.  Moralists are conservative by definition. Genet opposed prison reform because it made him who he was. I've said it before, in the same general context.  John Waters and Mike Kelley agreed, they both still loved the Catholic Church. John's a conservative. I've said that before too. And then there are the Quines 

It's still hard writing for an American audience.

The discussion of Dune and Star Wars among pseudo-leftist pundits is a corollary to Trumpist rage: varieties of childishness. And these overlap with the fanboys and fangirls of the cinematic fanboy Todd Haynes. The film critic on a website for "democratic socialists", named for anti-democratic moralists, violent political puritans, celebrates self-identified heirs of de Sade and Huysmans.

Haynes now has a tag. Haynes, Mad Men, and the nostalgia of Americans for their own childhood, or fantasies of others' youth. "They are not intellectuals, but occasionally dream that they will be. That is their secret ambition." 

Liberals and liberalism, and the whig history of the demimonde.

The Velvet Underground, like most of the self-identified avant-garde were pretentious. Pretension is defensive posturing, signaling insecurity. Lou Reed always got high on his own supply, and he was an asshole. But sometimes fuckups get something something right, describing complexity honestly, That's the basis of a large percentage of what's called "modern art". 

Picasso in 1906 is flying blind. In 1916 he's full of shit, a poseur, but still struggling. The need for easy answers, the indulgence in and struggle against kitsch, lying —to yourself and others—vs honesty,  becomes the conflict between art and pose, rebellion and its marketing.
All the albums I put out after this are going to be things I want to put out. No more bullshit, no more dyed hair, faggot junkie trip. I mimic me better than anyone else so if everybody else is making money ripping me off, I figure maybe I better get in on it. Why not? I created Lou Reed. I have nothing even faintly in common with that guy, but I can play him well, really well. 
All of this is in the context of conservatism, and an honesty that undermines intention. People who say "conservatism is the new punk rock" are right. Punk rock was always self-destructive.

I've repeated this quote from Candy Darling enough. “I’ve been up all night alone, wondering about my identity. Trying to look for an explanation for living this strange, stylized sexuality."

I'll add another, about the lover Reed dumped, from Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk.

p. 155

Eileen Polk: Everybody hung out at Max's, and then the New York Dolls played their famous show in drag at the 82 Club. I started hanging out there. The 82 Club was a famous drag-queen bar on Fourth Street, around the corner from CBGB's, which wasn't happening yet. I started going to the 82 Club real early on and made friends with all the drag queens. That's where I met Rachel, Lou Reed's girlfriend. Rachel was a drag queen who was very feminine and really nice. The drag queens liked me, but Rachel was especially nice. One night when she was really drunk she told me that she could never be a guy because she had such a small dick. Then she showed it to me, and it was really small. I said, "That's okay, Rachel. That's okay." And she said, "Well, it better be, because I make a better woman than I do a man."

Then she met Lou Reed, and he was the man of her dreams. Apparently it was love at first sight. Rachel told me, "I've met Lou Reed! I've made it! This is it! I knew this was gonna happen! Something good was gonna happen to me, and this is it and I'm in love!" She was just ecstatic.

Lou would just sit in the corner and Rachel would keep everyone away from him. She announced to everyone, "I don't want anyone near him. I don't want anyone to talk to him. He's mine." And everyone respected that at the 82 Club. All the other drag queens stayed away from him, and all the women did too. Rachel said, "He's mine," but she didn't threaten anybody. I felt like everybody wanted something good to happen for her. And when it did, everyone was happy.

p. 206 

Mary Harron: We all went off to the Locale and none of us had any money and we couldn't order food. I remember Lou Reed ordered a cheeseburger because I was so hungry. Lou was with Rachel, who was the first transvestite I'd ever met. Very beautiful, but frightening. But I mean definitely a guy: Rachel had stubble.

Legs and John were chatting with Lou so I sat next to Rachel, and I asked her what her name was—him, what his name was—and he said, "Rachel."

I thought, Right. That kind of shut me up for a bit. I think I actually sort of tried to make conversation with him, but Rachel wasn't talkative. I think that was the sum total of our conversation.

A review of Halston, on Netflix 

This is not a new lane for Murphy, and once again it seems revolutionary — how rare to make an entire five-episode series dedicated to amplifying such a sour, cynical note — until one realizes there is nowhere for this story to go. Certainly the notion that the modern history of gay life is one as colored by repression and self-loathing as much as by the power of expression is a rich vein throughout Murphy’s work. Just last year, he produced a feature film remake of “The Boys in the Band,” the 1968 play that is the ultimate theatrical howl of isolation and pain. Previously, Ben Platt in “The Politician” and Darren Criss in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” played queer men driven by ambition that looks a lot like misdirected rage.

I went to school with the director. He was the screenwriter for I shot Andy Warhol, directed by Mary Harron, quoted above. And both films have the same producer, Christine Vachon, who went to school with Haynes, and has worked him from the beginning of his career. One of my closest friends at the time was a consultant on the Warhol film; we went to the premiere. At some point after that I remember Callie saying, dryly, that it was still safe to assume every homosexual was self-hating until proven otherwise—for Boys in the Band see The Queer Art of Failure and How to be Gayboth from the second decade of this century. Vachon also worked with Cindy Sherman on her only, failed, film; Sherman's work documenting not homosexual but female self-hatred. The absurdity is the lie they tell themselves—if indeed they do—that they're liberal. Maybe it's more that earnest liberals claim them as their own. Liberalism has turned self-hatred, for some, into self-affirmation.

And this brings us back to science fiction,  the geek art of failure unacknowledged, building worlds rather than observing this one. 

Krugman in 2021

The blogger John Rogers once noted that there are two novels that can shape the lives of bookish 14-year-olds: “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Lord of the Rings.” One of these novels, he asserted, is a childish fantasy that can leave you emotionally stunted; the other involves orcs.

Well, I was a bookish 14-year-old, but my touchstones were two different novels: Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” and Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”

Many social scientists, it turns out, are science fiction readers. For example, quite a few experts on international relations who I know are fanatics about the TV version of “The Expanse.” I think it’s because good science fiction involves building imaginary worlds that are different from the world we know, but in interesting ways that relate to the attempt to understand why society is the way it is.

And in 1996

At the deepest level, opposition to comparative advantage -- like opposition to the theory of evolution -- reflects the aversion of many intellectuals to an essentially mathematical way of understanding the world. Both comparative advantage and natural selection are ideas grounded, at base, in mathematical models -- simple models that can be stated without actually writing down any equations, but mathematical models all the same. The hostility that both evolutionary theorists and economists encounter from humanists arises from the fact that both fields lie on the front line of the war between C.P. Snow's two cultures: territory that humanists feel is rightfully theirs, but which has been invaded by aliens armed with equations and computers.

Any systems engineer knows that efficiency in a system is in inverse proportion to stability.

Krugman indulged a fantasy; his preferences were founded in aesthetics before they were founded in ethics: he rationalized a desire, wanted to believe an absurdity, defended it as science and mocked anyone who opposed him as irrational. 

The only thing interesting is that he didn't learn from his mistakes.

How is the philosophy behind Asimov's Foundation less authoritarian than The Fountainhead? Krugman conflates art and illustration, and art and science, "truth and lies".  His link on The Expanse is to Drezner, indulging the horse-race model of political science and IR, the academic origin of the model of journalistic "objectivity" and passivity. Both Krugman and Drezner imagine statements without subtext, themselves without subtext. Their intellects are brittle, though Krugman is "intelligent". The only thing interesting about Dune is how it describes the desires and fantasies of its makers and its audience, and civilization on earth in 2021.

Tagged The Pictures Generation, the aestheticized politics of 80s art, made in the shadow of something worshipped and feared—hated—indulging reaction as radical. That's the mix that turns conservatism into fascism.  Needless to say I have more sympathy for Candy Darling and Rachel Humphreys, who's buried in Potter's Field, than Lou Reed. I have sympathy for them as people.

I want the illusion.
Do you want the illusion or do you want the illusion to be real? 
What’s the difference?
One means that you have an appreciation of the arts. The other means that you’re a fascist.
Art makes the world more interesting than it is. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live."
Living your life as art, and imposing your art on others is more than authoritarianism. Authoritarianism only demands that you behave a certain way. It doesn't demand that you believe. Coerced belief is the definition of fascism. I think Foucault was trying to construct a new conservatism. Neoliberalism ain't it.

I've made so many riffs on monarchists and monarchism, on liberalism, on the left, and right.
Jean-Marie Straub's film, below, was on Jonathan Rosenbaum's top 10 for 2020. In the link above [reaction as radical] he refers to Sirk and Fassbinder as "more defeatist than progressive". The man in Straub's film is reciting Georges Bernanos. It's hard to get more defeatist than Bernanos. The film is dedicated to Godard.

One more time: Facebook is not a "platform"; it is a "publisher".

ABC: Facebook employees questioned apparent restrictions on Palestinian activist's account: Documents

Earlier this year, multiple Facebook employees questioned the apparent restrictions on well-known Palestinian activist Mohammed El-Kurd's Instagram account, according to internal Facebook documents shared with ABC News and a group of other news organizations.

The document, titled "Concerns with added restrictions/demotions on content pertaining to Palestine," shows concern among some employees over content moderation decisions during the May escalation of violence in Gaza and the West Bank.

Politico: Facebook staff complained for years about their lobbyists’ power

Facebook says it does not take the political winds of Washington into account when deciding what posts to take down or products to launch.

But a trove of internal documents shows that Facebook’s own employees are concerned that the company does just that — and that its Washington, D.C.-based policy office is deeply involved in these calls at a level not previously reported.

The lobbying and government relations shop, overseen by former Republican operative Joel Kaplan, regularly weighs in on speech-related issues, such as how to deal with prominent right-wing figures, misinformation, ads from former President Donald Trump and the aftermath of the George Floyd protests in June 2020, according to internal reports, posts from Facebook’s staff and interviews with former employees. The dynamic is so prevalent that employees argued internally that Facebook regularly ignored its own written policies to keep political figures happy, even overriding concerns about public safety.

“Facebook routinely makes exceptions for powerful actors when enforcing content policy,” a Facebook data scientist wrote in a December 2020 presentation titled “Political Influences on Content Policy.” It added: “The standard protocol for enforcement and policy involves consulting Public Policy on any significant changes, and their input regularly protects powerful constituencies.” The public policy team includes the company’s lobbyists. 

WaPo: Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation 

Five years ago, Facebook gave its users five new ways to react to a post in their news feed beyond the iconic “like” thumbs-up: “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry.”

Behind the scenes, Facebook programmed the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds to use the reaction emoji as signals to push more emotional and provocative content — including content likely to make them angry. Starting in 2017, Facebook’s ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than “likes,” internal documents reveal. The theory was simple: Posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook’s business.

Facebook’s own researchers were quick to suspect a critical flaw. Favoring “controversial” posts — including those that make users angry — could open “the door to more spam/abuse/clickbait inadvertently,” a staffer, whose name was redacted, wrote in one of the internal documents. A colleague responded, “It’s possible.”

Free speech is for fascists, not monopolists.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

working on this too. I have to use a scalpel and a sledgehammer, every time. 

Commercial entertainment can transcend itself. It's a foundation, as the vulgar is foundational to the fine. Terminator II is an example of two dozen people and the Hollywood machine making something more significant than the work of most auteurs. I don't take Cameron seriously as an artist, but that's irrelevant. The Avengers: Endgame, is more than the sum its parts. But what to say about people who take Frank Herbert seriously as a novelist? We've been here before. He's read as Tolkien and Asimov are, and by adults, mostly male, nostalgic for adolescence or preadolescence, who justify their fandom if they do at all with arguments for the importance of content, matching the arguments of Christian fans of Giotto who also and inevitably defend Christian kitsch. In terms of film this all goes back to the 70s and Star Wars, the first film to take a place previously left to the novels of Heinlein, Ayn Rand, Asimov and the rest. But any serious viewer of Villeneuve's film, even among those who've read the book, will pay attention to the film itself, and for those who care about the source, to what he, and the screenwriters, and Hollywood, have done with the book as raw material. Villeneuve isn't Tarantino; he's still a product of the machine; he hasn't escaped it or made it fully his. 

The most interesting thing about the film is Jessica's relationship with men, and with her son. Rebecca Ferguson gives the only performance that competes with the scenery, while none of the others are stock enough simply to to support it. The three moments that stay with me: Jessica hearing Leto say he's always known he couldn't trust her, and asking her if he can trust her with their son; putting her hand gently on the shoulder of the defeated Stilgar; and at the end, her eyes, looking at Paul's new love interest. Those moments make it Ferguson's movie, and Villeneuve's. The rest of it belongs simply to Hollywood and Paul Schrader's "techies". But this film is only part one, and after two and half hours seems more like an introduction than a half-way point. It could get interesting. 

I had stylistic hopes moreover. Fed
Up so long and variously by
Our age’s fancy narrative concoctions,
I yearned for the kind of unseasoned telling found
In legends, fairy tales, a tone licked clean
Over the centuries by mild old tongues,
Grandam to cub, serene, anonymous.
Lacking that voice, the in its fashion brilliant
Nouveau roman (even the one I wrote)
Struck me as an orphaned form, whose followers,
Suckled by Woolf not Mann, had stories told them
In childhood, if at all, by adults whom
They could not love or honor. So my narrative
Wanted to be limpid, unfragmented;
My characters, conventional stock figures
Afflicted to a minimal degree
With personality and past experience—
A witch, a hermit, innocent young lovers,
The kinds of being we recall from Grimm,
Jung, Verdi, and the commedia dell’ arte.

The Changing Light at Sandover and Gravity's Rainbow are called "postmodern apocalyptic epics".
I didn't want to add that line. I hate telegraphing this shit.
Googling, to see who else remembered that passage, gets Philip Pullman; reading him reminded me of this

And looking for my past mentions of Merrill led back to 2005, making the same points,  not using Giotto but Fra Angelico, and answering fans of Tolkien and the Pre-Raphaelites.

Luc Sante in the NYRB in 2006. 
That the work of H.P. Lovecraft has been selected for the Library of America would have surprised Edmund Wilson, whose idea the Library was. In a 1945 review he dismissed Lovecraft’s stories as “hackwork,” with a sneer at the magazines for which they were written, Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, “where…they ought to have been left.”Lovecraft had been dead for eight years by then, and although his memory was kept alive by a cult—there is no other word—that established a publishing house for the express purpose of collecting his work, his reputation was strictly marginal and did not seem likely to expand.

Since then, though, for a writer who depended entirely on the meager sustenance of the pulps and whose brief career brought him sometimes to the brink of actual starvation, whose work did not appear in book form during his lifetime (apart from two slender volumes, each of a single story, published by fans) and did not attract the attention of serious critics before his death in 1937, Lovecraft has had quite an afterlife. His influence has been far-reaching and, in the last thirty or forty years, continually on the increase, if often in extraliterary ways. Board games, computer games, and role-playing games have been inspired by his work; the archive at includes an apparently endless list of pop songs—not all of them death metal—that quote or refer to his tales; and there have been around fifty film and television adaptations, although hardly any of these have been more than superficially related to their sources.

There is a reason for that superficiality. Lovecraft’s work is essentially unfilmable, not because his special effects are too gaudy or too expensive to translate to the screen, but because they are purely literary. Lovecraft was bookish in an extreme, almost parodistic way. He may not have worn a fez or been able to afford a wing chair, but he assumed the archetype of the nineteenth-century man of letters (Wilson calls him “a literary man manqué“) with his circle of disciples, the roughly 100,000 letters he wrote to them (and he was only forty-seven when he died), the preciously archaic language in which he expressed himself (almost always using “shew” in preference to “show,” for instance), the humid cultivation of in-jokes that migrated from the correspondence to the stories and were perpetuated in stories by the disciples, and the carefully tended aura, if quite self-aware, of “forbidden knowledge.”

In other words, he was a nerd.

"the humid cultivation of in-jokes that migrated from the correspondence to the stories and were perpetuated in stories by the disciples, and the carefully tended aura, if quite self-aware, of 'forbidden knowledge.'"

"I was a weird kid: artsy, fay, obsessed with conspiracies, science fiction, Ayn Rand, and the occult."

I suppose I should say something about Schmitt, but Weber will do

The Name of The Rose came out in english in 1983. Its themes were the end of scholasticism and the rise of humanism. It was obvious then. I've been repeating myself since the 70s.
Again and again and again.

The rise of a self-conscious geek culture, the proud celebration of the preadolescent imagination in adulthood, came in earnest ten years after the publication of One Dimensional Man and the release of Dr. Strangelove, the title character an amalgam of Werner von Braun and the ur-geek von Neumann. 

Geeks are idiots. They refuse to face moral complexity; they refuse to recognize it.  

A “tragic dilemma”, as I understand it, is a situation in which consequentialism gives a clear answer about which alternative is better, but the answer in question is unpalatable. I don’t see why, in such a situation, consequentialism should be described as “crass” rather than, say, “jolly sensible”.

As I said, sadly after the fact, a tragic dilemma is the choice between food for your children or cancer medicine for your wife.

I'm never going to want to talk to sincere fans of Asimov about the tragedies of the 20th century, or about tragedy in general. It's something they're not prepared to face. And yet they chatter incessantly about politics. Anyone serious about art or politics will think Villeneuve might to a better job of facing it than Herbert.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Still playing with it. The old explaining the new.

We can’t re-fight old battles every time a subject comes up; there are limits to the human capacity for recall. Years after spending time and effort to come to a conclusion it’s the conclusion not the process that sticks in the mind. But that means that no matter how hard we once fought our response now is based on received opinion, even if received from our younger selves. So it’s good occasionally to revisit the past in detail, especially in cases where our relation to the past is the thing under debate. 


A North Texas school district apologized late Thursday after an administrator advised teachers that if they have books about the Holocaust in their classrooms, they should also include reading materials that have “opposing” perspectives of the genocide that killed millions of Jews. 


Mr. Döpfner said he plans to grow Politico’s footprint both in the U.S. and overseas by introducing new industry-focused products and services and by broadening the scope of coverage. He said he expects Politico’s main news offerings, now free, to go behind a paywall in the medium term.

He also said he expects Politico staffers to adhere to Axel Springer-wide guiding principles that have raised controversy at times at its German properties—though they won’t be required to sign a written commitment to the principles like employees in Germany. The principles include support for a united Europe, Israel’s right to exist and a free-market economy, among others. 


It would be an excellent idea to call in respectable, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of property.

To the people they would vouch for the fact that we do not wish to bring about the impoverishment of the countries that we leave.

At first they must not be given large fees for this; otherwise we shall spoil our instruments and make them despicable as “stooges of the Jews.”

Later their fees will increase, and in the end we shall have only Gentile officials in the countries from which we have emigrated.

The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.

Efforts by German authorities to clamp down on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign took a sinister turn recently after a Jewish-German singer and daughter of a Holocaust survivor was warned that a concert in which she is scheduled to perform would be cancelled if she made any remarks in support of BDS.

History needs to be re-argued because without the argument history becomes catechism: anti-historical. 

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."


We are being told that in effect the decision of the current President and a House of Congress to investigate a violent assault on the seat of government can be stymied by a former President who led the attack! Indeed, the same former President who was put on trial for the crime and had a big majority of the Senate (57 votes for conviction) vote to convict him. And we are told that this is not because of any legitimate authority or privilege but simply because the courts – which are in essence under the management of the highest echelon of the legal profession – can’t decide things quickly enough. And by quickly enough here we mean they can’t process the question in less than a year.

They say – usually in very different contexts – that justice delayed is justice denied. If Shaub’s prediction is right, that is certainly the case here. And that is a grave indictment of the whole legal profession, especially the elite community of law professors who largely define – on the right and left – how the law functions in our society. The legal profession is one of the groups the Republic relies upon for protection and here it’s pretty clearly and disastrously failed.

Shaub: "As for the bottom line, it seems quite likely that the committee is correct that, as a legal matter, it is entitled to most of the information and testimony it seeks. But, as a practical matter, the committee may never receive it."

Shaub is an academic describing the process of lawyering. Academia tends towards passivity or moralism, two forms of evasion.  Prosecutors don't socialize with defense attorneys, but academics are all of the same tribe. That's Balkin's weakness. It takes a lot to pull him out of his shell.

And again: when a corporation filters information it becomes a publisher of it. Facebook is not a "platform". But Balkin had a point I didn't admit the first time. Targeted advertising based on public information is protected speech, but filtering at the scale of Facebook and Google is a question of access to information; anti-trust solves the problem within accepted constitutional limits. Either break them up or make them public utilities, or both. Give the search engine to ICANN.  And let a thousand flowers bloom. Other smaller networks will thrive.

"Lawyers are the rule of law." Joe Jamail, doing a deposition, and a lecturing at Stanford

The second video documents his conflicts over the relation of professions and business, self-respect and self-interest.

"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.

Thinking about Balkin's ideas and their relation—or better, his relation—to politics, going back 18 years, but also liberals' confusion. I wrote a new post but decided to add it here, and I've rearranged things a bit.


More legal academics. Rick Hills, at PrawfsBlawg, in 2011: 

Eric Posner's and Adrian Vermeule's op-ed piece in the New York Times, urging President Obama to raise the debt limit unilaterally, is just a specific application of their general theory, outlined in their book, The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic, that Presidents should be free of legalistic limits on their power to initiate policies. The basic message of the book is both positive and normative. On the positive side, Eric and Adrian retail Terry Moe's line (more recently pressed by William Howell) that Presidential power to make policy unilaterally is inevitable. The public wants Presidents to respond to crises quickly without waiting for Congress' imprimatur, and Presidents will accommodate this public desire, regardless of legalistic limits, because neither Congress (bogged down with collective action problems) nor courts (lacking information) will stop them. On the normative side, Eric and Adrian retail a kinder, gentler Carl Schmitt: We should not worry about Presidents' unilaterally claiming powers to (for instance) raise the debt limit, because they will be adequately cabined by politics. Presidents want to win re-election or a favorable place in history, so they will try to accommodate opposing views to signal to the public that they are not tyrants. The plebiscitory limit of regular presidential elections suffices to constrain Presidents: We do not need law to do so.

There is a lot one could say about this briskly written, energetically argued book, but one simple, blog-worthy point leaps out at me: Eric and Adrian are cynical tough guys in dismissing legal limits, but dewy-eyed and naive idealists when it comes to politics. They have a view of presidential politics that I have seen expressed elsewhere only on the more saccharine episodes of "West Wing" (the ones where Alan Alda, the reasonable conservative guy who would not take the Ethanol Pledge in Iowa, was running against Jimmy Smits, the macho but sensitive lefty). They proclaim that voters will be able to distinguish between phony and genuine signals of Presidential trustworthiness, because “[p]eople who seek the office [of the President] have strong incentives to discover and disclose negative information about those in office,” a task in which they are aided by “powerful institutions that are not part of the constitutional structure – most prominently, the media and political parties.” (Pages 115, 119). But this assessment of press and party strikes me as a tad optimistic coming from guys who believe that members of Congress cannot overcome their own collective action problems to stop an aggressive President.

Take, for instance, the press: There seems to be a lot of evidence that the press is the President's Little Helper (to use Jonathan Zaller's phrase). According to this "indexing" theory of reporting, reporters simply repeat -- "index" -- the press releases of the White House, ignoring rival stories offered by scientists and bureaucrats that (for instance) those aluminum tubes imported to Iraq had nothing to do with WMDs. (See Chapter 6 of William Howell's and John Pevehouse's book, While Dangers Gather: Congressional Checks on Presidential War Powers for exhaustive evidence of the "indexing" theory).

There are limits to the "indexing" theory of Presidential omnipotence over the press, but Eric's and Adrian's urging of a unilateral presidency might seem reasonably calculated to destroy those limits. 

Howell, Pevehouse, and Douglas Kriner report, for instance, that, if members of Congress stand up to the President by holding hearings, issuing press releases, and generally making a fuss, then the press reports their opposition, and voters seem to listen. These political scientists do not explain why members of Congress can get public attention that others cannot attract.

Here's a theory of causation: Members of Congress are perceived by the public as being politically relevant actors without whose imprimatur the President cannot lawfully act. Eric and Adrian want to eliminate precisely that perception of Congress by pressing their "legal-authority-does-not-matter" theory. Why would reporters flock to the press conference of a senatorial committee chair whom the President could easily bypass with an executive order? Would not such a blowhard seem just as unnewsworthy as a member of, say, the House of Lords or the European Parliament?

It might be, in short, that constitutional structure has an effect on the behavior of the press. Destroy the structure that makes Congress the preeminent lawmaker, and you destroy the press coverage that members of Congress earn from their constitutional position. 

My reply on the page.
The normative changes over time; it's absurd to say otherwise. The Weimarization of American politics may make Posner and Vermeule's arguments relevant as description, but prescription is another matter.
Can we not find a more direct response to fascist logic than to criticize it as romance? 

"Certainly British journalism is not a profession. Over the years they have tried to make it one. In the United States they have mostly succeeded.... They are taught about the technical skills and the ethics, the heroes of American journalism and its theory. In the process they are moulded and given a protective gloss of self-importance. They have Standards and, in return, they get Status. In Britain it isn’t like this at all. Journalism is a chaotic form of earning, ragged at the edges, full of snakes, con artists and even the occasional misunderstood martyr. It doesn't have an accepted career structure. necessary entry requirements or an effective system of self-policing. Outside organized crime it is the most powerful and enjoyable of the anti-professions."  


"i'm a journalist, not an american journalist. my job is not to serve as a propagandist for anybody, just to tell stories and my advantage is that i can tell stories that are hard to come by
...imagine if that one taliban commander had not screwed up my plans to go with them when they conducted attacks, and i had seen that too. isnt that interesting? isnt it important to understand who they are? and most importantly, wouldnt it make for a fun read?" 

Two articles on judicial review in the UK.

"Written​ constitutions? ‘Because of where I came from, these documents seemed profoundly exotic.’"

Vermeule was always a fascist. Now he's a theocrat

Since it's now a topic: the first time I referred to "polling and passivity" was 2006.
The 'naturalization' of the discourse of law, politics, and even culture has resulted in the dumbing down of democracy to the level of polling and passivity. Intellectuals in the mold of Posner do not educate or explain—they have no interest in dumbing down their own discourse by dealing directly with the populace—they collate and presume. And if the first rule of intellectual life is to know oneself, that capacity is the first thing that's lost. The self-absorption of the logician is not too far from that of the autistic child staring at a spinning fan. If the logical system prevails over its creator, there is no need for self to be anything else but the system. Life becomes simple, and perverse.

The third time, in 2010, I linked to Jon Stewart.