An Unenviable Situation

Friday, May 20, 2022


But in the earlier and Hungarian phase of his life, Lakatos was a Stalinist revolutionary, the leader of a communist cell who persuaded a young comrade that it was her duty to the revolution to commit suicide, since otherwise she was likely to be arrested by the Nazis and coerced into betraying the valuable young cadres who constituted the group (Bandy 2009: ch. 5; Long 1998 and 2002; Congden 1997). So far from being a fallibilist, the young Lakatos displayed a cocksure self-confidence in his grasp of the historical situation, enough to exclude any alternative solution to the admittedly appalling problems that this group of young and mostly Jewish communists were facing in Nazi-occupied Hungary. (“Is there no other way?” the young comrade asked. The answer, apparently, was “No”: Long 2002: 267.) 

Feyerabend tells how, without falling for Adolf Hitler’s charisma, he appreciated Hitler’s oratorial style. Austria was re-unified with Germany in 1938. Jewish schoolmates were treated differently, and Jewish neighbours and acquaintances started disappearing. But, as usual, Feyerabend had no clear view of the situation:

"Much of what happened I learned only after the war, from articles, books, and television, and the events I did notice either made no impression at all or affected me in a random way. I remember them and I can describe them, but there was no context to give them meaning and no aim to judge them by. (pp. 37–8). 
For me the German occupation and the war that followed were an inconvenience, not a moral problem, and my reactions came from accidental moods and circumstances, not from a well-defined outlook." (p. 38).

...As far as his army record goes, Feyerabend claims in his autobiography that his mind is a blank. But in fact this is one of the periods he tells us most about. Having passed his final high school exams in March 1942, he was drafted into the Arbeitsdienst (the work service introduced by the Nazis), and sent for basic training in Pirmasens, Germany. Feyerabend opted to stay in Germany to keep out of the way of the fighting, but subsequently asked to be sent to where the fighting was, having become bored with cleaning the barracks! He even considered joining the SS, for aesthetic reasons. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Truth and lies. Content and form
Does liberalism without individualism, human rights at its foundation, and a belief that the state should stay out of people’s lives even make sense? Joseph Raz, who died on May 2nd, believed it did.  Raz was a world-renowned legal and political philosopher whose book, The Morality of Freedom, offered a way of marrying liberalism with a traditionally opposed political philosophy: perfectionism. 

Bruno Maçães in the New Statesman
A large part of the crypto space will never reconcile itself with this outcome. For the true revolutionaries, Terra’s implosion showed crypto is not going far enough. Stablecoins still look to fiat currencies as their model and so suffer from the same flaws the US dollar and its peers have always exhibited. They are tools of power, ways to control wealth and channel it in certain directions. Crypto utopians picture a world where mathematical truth becomes the overriding political authority. If this sounds like Platonism, it’s because it is Platonism. But there is a reason Platonism continues to attract us. Behind the notion of an immutable blockchain lies the dream of the unmediated rule of truth over society.

Evgeny Morozov reinvents... 

Algorithms have their limits; so do humans. At The Syllabus our human curators work side-by-side with technologists to discover outstanding new content.

Every week we index, rank and review tens of thousands of newly published pieces across text, audio, and video - and in 6 languages.

Our team then hand-picks the most interesting material from this ever-growing pile of information. We call this “artisanal automation”.

The result? More than a dozen weekly syllabi with all the best new material to read, watch and listen to.

3 Quarks Daily was founded in 2004. It's blurbed by Richard Dawkins and David Byrne. The Syllabus is blurbed by Brian Eno.

A friend's ex-girlfriend updated an old old film that's getting a new release.  Ex-Catholics, ex-porn stars,  and ex-geeks. "She's still got it." It's all still there.  It's reflex.

Oliver Sacks
What was going on? A roar of laughter from the aphasia ward, just as the President’s speech was coming on, and they had all been so eager to hear the President speaking ...

There he was, the old Charmer, the Actor, with his practiced rhetoric, his histrionisms, his emotional appeal—and all the patients were convulsed with laughter. Well, not all: some looked bewildered, some looked outraged, one or two looked apprehensive, but most looked amused. The President was, as always, moving—but he was moving them, apparently, mainly to laughter. What could they be thinking? Were they failing to understand him? Or did they, perhaps, understand him all too well?

It was often said of these patients, who though intelligent had the severest receptive or global aphasia, rendering them incapable of understanding words as such, that they none the less understood most of what was said to them. Their friends, their relatives, the nurses who knew them well, could hardly believe, sometimes, that they were aphasic.

This was because, when addressed naturally, they grasped some or most of the meaning. And one does speak ‘naturally’, naturally.

Thus, to demonstrate their aphasia, one had to go to extraordinary lengths, as a neurologist, to speak and behave unnaturally, to remove all the extraverbal cues—tone of voice, intonation, suggestive emphasis or inflection, as well as all visual cues (one’s expressions, one’s gestures, one’s entire, largely unconscious, personal repertoire and posture): one had to remove all of this (which might involve total concealment of one’s person, and total depersonalization of one’s voice, even to using a computerized voice synthesizer) in order to reduce speech to pure words, speech totally devoid of what Frege called ‘tone-color’ (Klangenfarben) or ‘evocation’. With the most sensitive patients, it was only with such a grossly artificial, mechanical speech—somewhat like that of the computers in Star Trek—that one could be wholly sure of their aphasia.

Why all this? Because speech—natural speech—does not consist of words alone, nor (as Hughlings Jackson thought) ‘propositions’ alone. It consists of utterance—an uttering-forth of one’s whole meaning with one’s whole being—the understanding of which involves infinitely more than mere word-recognition. And this was the clue to aphasiacs’ understanding, even when they might be wholly uncomprehending of words as such. For though the words, the verbal constructions, per se, might convey nothing, spoken language is normally suffused with ‘tone’, embedded in an expressiveness which transcends the verbal— and it is precisely this expressiveness, so deep, so various, so complex, so subtle, which is perfectly preserved in aphasia, though understanding of words be destroyed. Preserved—and often more: preternaturally enhanced ...

This too becomes clear—often in the most striking, or comic, or dramatic way—to all those who work or live closely with aphasiacs: their families or friends or nurses or doctors. At first, perhaps, we see nothing much the matter; and then we see that there has been a great change, almost an inversion, in their understanding of speech. Something has gone, has been devastated, it is true— but something has come, in its stead, has been immensely enhanced, so that—at least with emotionally laden utterance—the meaning may be fully grasped even when every word is missed. This, in our species Homo loquens, seems almost an inversion of the usual order of things: an inversion, and perhaps a reversion too, to something more primitive and elemental. And this perhaps is why Hughlings Jackson compared aphasiacs to dogs (a comparison that might outrage both!) though when he did this he was chiefly thinking of their linguistic incompetences, rather than their remarkable, and almost infallible, sensitivity to ‘tone’ and feeling. Henry Head, more sensitive in this regard, speaks of ‘feeling-tone’ in his (1926) treatise on aphasia, and stresses how it is preserved, and often enhanced, in aphasiacs.

Thus the feeling I sometimes have—which all of us who work closely with aphasiacs have—that one cannot lie to an aphasiac. He cannot grasp your words, and so cannot be deceived by them; but what he grasps he grasps with infallible precision, namely the expression that goes with the words, that total, spontaneous, involuntary expressiveness which can never be simulated or faked, as words alone can, all too easily ...

The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, was published in 1985, the English translation of The Name of the Rose, in 83. I was reading Calvino in the 70s, and then Borges. By the time I got to Borges I knew the problem.

2 decades ago as a 21 year old I read Gravity's Rainbow and a pair of fragments from it became touchstones of my intellectual life: the description at different points in the novel of two acts of self-destruction, the mass suicides of the Herero in Südwest as a refusal and denial of the authority of their masters, and of the Schwarzkommando as the final act of nihilism. The significance was context: that identical actions could signify categorical opposites. Academic freedom historically has been tied to general freedom of thought and to democracy, but now it's linked to institutional privilege and defended with references to monarchy. 

The classic defense of the free market is that its openness and vulgarity act as an astringent, testing and tightening thought what would otherwise risk becoming arid blather. But now that the market has reached the academy it wants to escape its roots. So we have an academy predicated not on the hopes of the humanities and of democracy but on the technocratic logic of reactionary schoolmen. Welcome to the 14th century.

Argument itself may be epiphenomenal, but it's not an argument to say that perfectionism is anti-democratic. Whatever the cause, Joseph Raz now has a tag.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Lev Golinkin, The Nation: Meet the Head of Biden’s New “Disinformation Governing Board”

Late last month, the Joe Biden administration publicly confirmed that a “Disinformation Governing Board” working group had been created within the Department of Homeland Security. The news prompted a flood of concern about the impact of such an Orwellian organ on America.

But there’s no need to engage in hypotheticals to understand the dangers. One has to only consider the past of Nina Jankowicz, the head of the new disinformation board.

Jankowicz’s experience as a disinformation warrior includes her work with StopFake, a US government-funded “anti-disinformation” organization founded in March 2014 and lauded as a model of how to combat Kremlin lies. Four years later, StopFake began aggressively whitewashing two Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups with a long track record of violence, including war crimes.

Today, StopFake is an official Facebook fact-checking partner, which gives it the power to censor news, while Jankowicz is America’s disinformation czar. 

Remember that Leiter and others defend academic freedom, and are against free speech for the rest of us.

These platforms are now responsible for shaping and allowing participation in our new digital and democratic culture, yet they have little direct accountability to their users. Future intervention, if any, must take into account how and why these platforms regulate online speech in order to strike a balance between preserving the democratizing forces of the internet and protecting the generative power of our New Governors.

They may or may not associate corporations with rightful "epistemic authority", but they damn sure associate themselves with it.

Facebook reversed its reversal of its Azov policy after the shooting in Buffalo.
Now Golinkin tells me the policy's unchanged.  But Jancowicz is gone.

Emerson T. Brooking (@etbrooking) is at the Atlantic Council, with Oleksiy Honcharuk.
On October 13, photographs started circulating across social media showing a man resembling Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk on stage at the “Veterans Strong” concert event in Kyiv. This was, however, no ordinary concert — it was organized by a far-right figure accused of murder, and headlined by a neo-Nazi band. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

CNAS Gaming Lab on Meet the Press
In a special collaboration with NBC’s Meet the Press, The Gaming Lab at CNAS executed a strategic-operational game to provide critical insight into how a potential war with China over Taiwan could unfold, and how the United States and its allies and partners could defeat an attack on Taiwan by China. This special edition of Meet the Press Reports shows how wargames can help policymakers better understand the dilemmas and impacts such a conflict could have on the Indo-Pacific. Watch the episode from NBC to see a CNAS wargame in action and put yourself in the shoes of a high-ranking defense official executing a military strategy.

July 2013Foreign Policy: U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans
For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government's mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts. So what just happened?

The Atlantic Council: The Art of Future Warfare.

"To add to the military metaphors: Soldier of the judicial press (Bertin). The poets of strife. The litterateurs of the advance guard. This habitude of military metaphors denotes minds not military, but made for discipline, that is, for conformity, minds born domesticated, Belgian minds, which can think only in society."

If you follow the academics, then "conceptual art" is a new form of philosophy, when the good stuff never was or is. There's something Protestant, or Anglo-Protestant-academic, in the need to make modern and supposedly secular philosophy into science, and then "fine art"—historically associated with "truth" (unlike stories or "fiction")—into pedantry. The little gestures above are serious because they undermine pedantry. They're serious because they're funny, and their humor represents everything the state claims to. Sometimes farting in church is a moral act.

I should really make this in to a poster or a t-shirt. In all the years I've put this out there not one person has told me that they simply got the fucking joke. Not one person has laughed. 
Hand-made/factory made, decent/vulgar, public/private, virgin/whore. It's fucking hilarious. And it's Duchamp's joke, not mine.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

I've updated this a few times. The shooter in Buffalo is a self-described "accelerationist", a fan of Nick Land. The aestheticization of politics etc. 
The below turned into a ramble, but that's ok. 

The above has been sitting for a while. Still watching the same drift, change, adaptation, acclimation, forgetting.  I'd read enough Lorentzen to know what to expect, mostly. Ruby was the source for my reference to Zegna: a young Irish poet, writing his won copy, posing in a fashion spread. Now he rts an author celebrating a review "it's like the first day I woke up married, not really any differOMG THE NEW YORK TIMES". 
“Saint Sebastian’s Abyss,” by Mark Haber, and “The Longcut,” by Emily Hall, are sparkling comic novels about art, told from the sobbers’ point of view. It never occurs to the nameless, neurotic narrators — an art historian and a conceptual artist — that art could be about anything besides profound truth. Though well past college age, both have a kind of sophomore-year humorlessness, which makes them very funny and also a little terrifying: Their brains are nice places to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. The intensity of their devotion to art has almost cut them off from the rest of humanity, but they talk to themselves in such similar accents they could almost be talking to each other.
The authors of the books reviewed are making fun of themselves and the fantasies they'll never leave behind, the in-jokes for a dying self-consciously elite culture. Emily Hall has been writing for Artforum, since 2003. That made me laugh. 

"ah america, the land where having lots of cultural capital and no economic capital is elitist."

That is in fact the definition of cultural capital: the one capital you can never lose.
But back to Tocqueville, again, and Lefebvre,
and lawyers.
“Doing these cases, I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate. I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying."
I should give the NLR its own tag.  As always, it's not the conflicts, just the obliviousness. 
Conversely, commercial art has given us much that is vulgar or snobbish (two aspects of the same thing) to the point of loathsomeness...

The books reviewed above are commercial and snobbish, mocking and memorializing their authors' fantasies of something they themselves don't really understand, like Rachel Dolezal or a drag queen's fantasies of women. 

All of this because Ruby just published a piece on Gary Indiana.

I've mentioned him once. There should be more. I remember a Bush Tetras show where all he talked about was the Richard Speck prison video; he was disgusted but couldn't let go. I remember his opening a few years later, a large photograph of Bulle Ogier, high on the wall, next to a self-portrait, on his back looking up at a hustler's cock in his ass, his bare feet at the top corners of the page. He's a writer not a photographer. He can be cheap and indulgent, clear eyed and observant. He tells a great story about Barbet Schroeder's accountant. He's great on self-hating faggot fascists. He could be one if he wanted and sometimes he does. He's honest. Ron Vawter's Roy Cohn was something I'll never forget. He's not a leftist. He's not a liberal except by default, knowing where the other side ends up.

Looking at this and remembering the end.

And now I found out Lorentzen wrote the introduction to Indiana's Selected Essays.
That's fitting. Indiana is a snob disgusted by snobbery. It's the doubleness that interests me, not the self-portrait with the cock in his ass. I'm betting some things will last, and others won't. I argue my preferences.

From an essay in an earlier collection. Indiana's divided loyalties, 
That culture might be powerless to affect the movement of history was a perception Viennese society held in abeyance for half a century, by endorsing every avant-garde that appeared in its arts and literature. These were received as the challenging aesthetic byproducts of industrial and commercial progress. The scandals caused by the Secession could only have occurred in a society anxious to assimilate them for tonic purposes. It’s true that a large reactionary element resisted cultural innovation, and often went on the attack. When the certainties of the codified professions were questioned—in medicine, physics and jurisprudence, for example—this resistance turned violent and ugly. But among the enlightened newly rich and established upper classes, art enjoyed such esteem that even its most radical practitioners (along with its most patent mediocrities) were given the honor of excited debate and the security of responsible patronage. 
It was a period of liberal complacency, an era of ornament. Man would be perfected by technical progress, and the civilizing presence of Art. Art wouldn’t simply hang on walls; the practical, material stuff of daily life would become art, as artists in increasing numbers applied their talents to silverware and glass design, tea-services and carpets, furniture and interiors. 
Ornament had its double in the information field. The feuilleton, an impressionistic mélange of literary fantasy and journalism, provided a veil of illusion between reader and raw event. Facts, in the land of Kakania, became matters of opinion. The imprecision of public discourse injected the moral flab of the status quo into reportage, government decree and legal statute alike. While the Baroque had fallen away a century before, during the Napoleonic Wars, the spirit of the Baroque returned in Austria-Hungary with a vengeance, tarted up as stylistic innovation. It disguised the nature of the age for an aspiring middle class. For those who knew better, it kept the inevitable at arm’s length, like heroin.

Ruby, from the NLR to "Gawker"

Since moving to Berlin in 2014, I have become a regular watcher of Eurovision, the televised song-and-dance competition known the world over as the height of frivolity and schlock. Whenever my German friends find this out about me — a person they otherwise consider an unrepentant snob — they think I am mocking them. They are not entirely mistaken.


That culture might be powerless to affect the movement of history was a perception Viennese society held in abeyance for half a century, by endorsing every avant-garde that appeared in its arts and literature. 

It reminded me

Like Land, Plant and Fisher had both read the French accelerationists and were increasingly hostile to the hold they felt traditional leftwing and liberal ideas had on British humanities departments, and on the world beyond. Unlike Land, Plant and Fisher were technophiles: she had an early Apple computer, he was an early mobile phone user. “Computers ... pursue accelerating, exponential paths, proliferating, miniaturising, stringing themselves together,” wrote Plant in Zeroes and Ones, a caffeinated 1997 book about the development of computing. Plant and Fisher were also committed fans of the 90s’ increasingly kinetic dance music and action films, which they saw as popular art forms that embodied the possibilities of the new digital era.

With the internet becoming part of everyday life for the first time, and capitalism seemingly triumphant after the collapse of communism in 1989, a belief that the future would be almost entirely shaped by computers and globalisation – the accelerated “movement of the market” that Deleuze and Guattari had called for two decades earlier – spread across British and American academia and politics during the 90s. The Warwick accelerationists were in the vanguard. 

Mark Fisher, tragic schoolboy fantasist. I thought I must have put something here about Vorticism and British vanguardism repeating itself. So stupid. 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Zionism is neither left, nor egalitarian, nor democratic. 

Al Jazeera:  Germany bans vigil in memory of journalist killed by Israel
Berlin police tell pro-Palestinian Jewish group the vigil falls under the ban on protests in the run-up to Nakba Day.


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. 
Reed's piece says nothing about the attack on voting rights, and Reed is an ass; he and Leiter are united in snobbery.

Boredom, Banality, Buppies, pedants and children, free speech etc.


I emailed Lev Golinkin, and he said he'd check with Facebook. Today (5/18), they said there's no new change in policy. 
But my accounted is restricted for a month. 

Sunday, May 08, 2022

and one last time because the tweets by Masters and Cooper make a great pair. And it's become clear since that Cooper doesn't just hate the constitution; he lates law itself. He wants outcomes without process. His justice is ad hoc, like Posner: "the rule of reason". Nothing new but Cooper makes it easy.

I was asked by a journalist from another country—from my twitter days—what I made of this, on Thiel, his followers, pets and servants. Maybe I'll write something later, but the writer's passivity is as much a symptom as the rest. He's  unwilling to ask what Christian fundamentalists and homosexual nihilists have in common. He can't ask himself and us, and more important for his job, he can't ask them. Again: journalism modeled on academia, on courtesy and respect, not interrogation. Sitting in a diner with J.D. Vance and all he's good for is sad stenography, recording a thousand bald-faced contradictions, passionate hypocrisy, the black heart of fascism.  
this was pretty good.


We've been here before but not on the same day. The idiot Cooper

the court has nothing to do with laws, it is a council of clerics that rules by decree and is discussed as such

Jäger in The Guardian: The Tories’ biggest trick is making their opponents fight post-Brexit policies in the courts

It seems like every few months brings news of another defeat for the UK government in the courts. And there may well be more to come – the latest policy in the sights of lawyers and activists is the plan to process certain asylum seekers who’ve arrived on Britain’s shores in Rwanda in east Africa.

The policy was met with justified outrage from progressives and the left. Specialists also predicted that it would run afoul of international law and human rights legislation. But what if this was part of the plan all along? The Times columnist Clare Foges, writing under the headline “Rwanda won’t work: but it will for Boris Johnson”, wondered if the real purpose of the plan was not to actually reduce perilous journeys across the Channel, as the government claimed, but to draw progressives into extended court battles and lawsuits. This would force them to act as an explicit blockade on post-Brexit migration policies, frustrating the “people’s will” ratified by the 2019 election, and thereby galvanising Tory activists and potential voters.

American liberals haven't complained about judicial review in state courts, which have largely played the same role as in the UK. And I still have never heard opponents cite Derrick Bell's argument against Brown. Why I have a tag for Judicial review.
A couple of years ago I searched for articles on Arendt and Bell. I found only one, from 2011. Maribel Morey, in "Reassessing Hannah Arendt's 'Reflections on Little Rock' 1959", refers to Bell in a footnote.
I've removed other footnote markers in the passage.
To late 1950s’ Dissent readers who assumed that the school integration movement required black schoolchildren to become stoic, heroic, and sacrificial civil rights actors for the benefit of future generations, a concern with children’s childhoods seemed immaterial.* However, the Supreme Court’s opinion in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) reveals that even for the nine justices of the Brown Court (who, presumably, represented the antithesis of Arendt’s position in “Reflections”), the entire point of integrating public schools was to improve black children’s lives. Taking the Brown opinion at face value, one of the main reasons for integrating schools was to correct black schoolchildren’s “feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” When in 1959 Arendt prescribed keeping black schoolchildren like Elizabeth Eckford far away from political and public concerns as a means of improving their childhoods, she clearly differed from Brown’s position, but both Arendt and the Brown Court were concerned with the same question. 
Put simply, this article argues that Arendt’s “Reflections,” like the Supreme Court’s Brown opinion, was largely concerned with improving black children’s childhoods and that this point brought to light a broader concern for children’s childhoods that preoccu- pied Arendt deeply in the late 1950s. Rather than being dismissed by Arendtian and civil rights scholars alike, “Reflections” should be read alongside Arendt’s two other contem- porary works and appreciated for bringing up a topic that was central to Brown.

* The constitutional scholar, Derrick Bell, made this observation two decades later. In ‘‘Serving Two Masters,’’ Bell explained that school integration in racially isolated neighborhoods had required the transportation of students, often black students over long distances to white schools. He argued: “The busing issue has served to make concrete what many parents long have sensed and what new research has suggested: court orders mandating racial balance may be (depending on the circumstances) educationally advantageous, irrelevant, or even disadvantageous. Nevertheless, civil rights lawyers continue to argue that black children are entitled to integrated schools without regard to the educational effect of such assignments.” Derrick Bell, ‘‘Serving Two Masters: Integration Ideals and Client Interests in School Desegregation Litigation,’’ Yale Law Journal 85 (1976), p. 480. 

I wanted to write something but I was too lazy to do the work of trying to separate Arendt's sympathetic observations from her racism. Now I've found someone who makes the effort, from last year. 

Ainsley LeSure, "The White Mob, (In) Equality Before the Law, and Racial Common Sense: A Critical Race Reading of the Negro Question in "Reflections on Little Rock'"

“Reflections” reveals Arendt’s concern that the second life of equality would become further entrenched, so that the United States would find white mobs challenging the principle of equality altogether, threatening the solvency of the republic in the process. On this reading, Arendt’s analysis of America’s race problem resonates with the racial realist and pessimistic accounts of the tragic continuities of old and new forms of racial domination after moments of supposed racial progress, offered by scholars like Derrick Bell and Saidiya Hartman. Though these scholars conclude that such tragic continuity reflects the inherent racism built into equality as an essential liberal, democratic principle, Arendt’s analysis of the double life of equality offers an alternative explanation—it is not the aspiration toward equality that is the problem but rather the inadequacy of the political institutions tasked with realizing equality. Political institutions cannot just be static entities that simply grant and protect rights. This model is too susceptible to racial common sense.

Yet, Arendt’s work on racism is caught in a political paradox; despite her depiction of liberal political institutions as on the verge of catastrophic failure in the face of racial common sense, she still suggests that the maintenance of these liberal political institutions is the only way to check its rule. In THC, however, Arendt breaks out of this paradox when she implicates the liberal political order in the maintenance of the pernicious modern conditions that bring about the rise of the social and proposes a more expansive model of politics that promises to attune citizens to the complexity of phenomena unfolding in a shared space devoted to witnessing and deliberating about collective matters. Especially important for configuring these political spaces to enact equality anew are the ideas about new forms of government that the new admits to the citizenry bring with them. Practicing politics in this localized, deliberative way opens up the possibility that a collective good, a stable worldly reality, will be produced, disrupting the rule-like fashion in which predetermined racial common sense relates and determines reality in a racist polity.

I haven't read all of LeSure's paper yet—there's a lot more on Bell— but I'm not here to quibble; the relation itself is the point.  And my definition of Liberal is different that anyone above; and it sure as fuck doesn't come from Locke.

repeat and updated. Joseph Raz was Joseph Zaltsman. He changed his name a year before Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali 

Ariel Sharon was the son of Shmuel Scheinerman; Amiri Baraka was born LeRoi Jones. Uri Avnery was born Helmut Ostermann; Benjamin Netanyahu's father was born Benzion Mileikowsky. Louis Farrakhan was Louis Eugene Wolcott; Malcolm X was Malcolm Little; Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay.  Martin David (Meir) Kahane passed, as "Michael King". 

And updated here too, since it slipped my mind. 

We are living in a time of exploding nationalisms. The blacks in America are the first to abjure the idea of assimilation, to realize the inherent lie in the concept of melting pot. Through black nationalism has developed a new black pride and hence the ticket to liberation

Today’s young American Jew is a good bit slower. He desperately wants assimilation: Jewishness embarrasses him. He finds the idea of Jewish nationalism, Israel not­ withstanding, laughable. The leftist Jewish student is today’s Uncle Tom. 

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Spent the day stuck watching CNN and now stuck watching American Sniper.  It's tiring.

Ukrainska Pravda English:  Possibility of talks between Zelenskyy and Putin came to a halt after Johnson’s visit - UP sources 

Following the arrival of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kyiv, a possible meeting between Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin has become less likely.

Source: Ukrainska Pravda article "From Zelenskyy's "Surrender" to Putin's Surrender. How Negotiations with Russia Are Going". 

Quote from the article: "The Russian side…was actually ready for the Zelenskyy-Putin meeting.

But two things happened, after which a member of the Ukrainian delegation, Mykhailo Podoliak, had to openly admit that it was "not the time" for the meeting of the presidents. 

The first thing was the revelation of the atrocities, rapes, murders, massacres, looting, indiscriminate bombings and hundreds and thousands of other war crimes committed by Russian troops in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories…

The second "obstacle" to agreements with the Russians arrived in Kyiv on 9 April." 

Details: According Ukrainska Pravda sources close to Zelenskyy, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson, who appeared in the capital almost without warning, brought two simple messages.

The first is that Putin is a war criminal, he should be pressured, not negotiated with.

And the second is that even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they are not.

Johnson’s position was that the collective West, which back in February had suggested Zelenskyy should surrender and flee, now felt that Putin was not really as powerful as they had previously imagined, and that here was a chance to "press him."

The Guardian May 2019, Raqqa is in ruins like a modern Dresden. This is not 'precision bombing'

From Kosovo to Iraq and Syria, the US and its military allies have for years told a tale of “precision bombing” and “surgical strikes”. It was a lie then and it’s a lie now. When huge numbers of bombs and missiles are unleashed on densely populated cities like Mosul or Raqqa, civilians are killed in their hundreds – possibly thousands. But still, the myth of precision and “meticulous processes” persists. Not least because militaries like our own refuse to even go back to the cities they’ve bombed, and refuse to acknowledge deaths unless presented with irrefutable evidence from the likes of Amnesty.

Last week I did what UK, US and French military officials refuse to do: I went to Raqqa to see for myself what has happened to this city as a result of mass bombardments by the US-led coalition between June and October 2017.

Never before have I seen a city so completely devastated. Not just in one district area, but almost entirely. Think Dresden and you’d be close. Street after street of windowless, hollowed-out buildings. Miles of rubble. Piles of twisted metal. Utter ruin. There has been no assistance for residents desperate to rebuild, and entire families are reduced to living in bombed-out husks of buildings. Meanwhile, many children spend all day scavenging in the rubble for bits of steel and plastic they can sell so as to buy food. They risk injury and death from unsafe buildings and uncleared landmines. 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

He believed that democratic politics tended to fail because official liberty of thought—free speech and so forth—did not produce real freedom, as naïve liberals hoped, but a new form of conformism and clannishness. Tocqueville judged that Americans, who were theoretically free to speak as they wished, showed less independence of mind and freedom of discussion than the people of any other country he knew of: The quiet self-certainty of fellow citizens stifled dissent with a reach and power that a censor’s office could only envy. In a democracy, he judged, “tyranny … leaves the body alone and goes straight for the soul.” A dissenter feared that he would be shunned as “an impure being” and abandoned even by his friends. Democracies drifted or lurched into effusions of radical energy or the doldrums of modest, anxious ambition and anxious, middling views.

In times without great principles or goals, people might turn inward, looking after their own material interests, and enter a kind of solitary confinement: “a multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls. Each one of them, withdrawn into himself, is almost unaware of the fate of the rest. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, they are near enough, but he does not notice them. He touches them but feels nothing.” In this condition, democrats would happily accept “a network of petty, complicated rules” administered by “schoolmasters.” Tocqueville called this enervated condition democratic despotism, the soft, passive twin of majority tyranny. Democracy might come with an executioner’s blade or with soothing tones, and either way it could obliterate people like Alexis de Tocqueville.

The subhead: "American government succeeded, Tocqueville thought, because it didn’t empower the people too much." Burying the lede. Purdy didn't write the title, but he's more conflicted than he wants to admit. 

Kant, de MaistreLibertaet, and academia; 

Tocqueville, Lawrence (Hawthorne and Spielberg) and Weber, and academia again.

La Ronde

someday it will have to be told how ‘anti–Stalinism,’ which started out more or less as ‘Trotskyism,’ turned into art for art’s sake, and...

Somewhere years ago I made an offhand comment about the fact that Jacobin, The Brooklyn Institute and years earlier The Brooklyn Rail, were all founded by members of the Asian immigrant bourgeois with a nostalgia for the lost world of the "NY Intellectuals." I remember running into Phong in the subway in the 80s, and he was excited to show me a book he'd just been given by "my friend Meyer" Schapiro.  I wasn't sure whether to believe him. When he started publishing the Brooklyn Rail it amused me how conservative it was. The Brooklyn art scene—unlike the earlier community of people who moved out of necessity—was always based on an outsiders' nostalgia. And "Brooklyn intellectualism" is now the model, but instead of working class kids from Brooklyn and the Bronx moving to Manhattan, the children of the American suburbs moved into working class neighborhoods to recreate the Manhattan of their midwestern fantasies. They didn't come to escape provincialism but to indulge it. This applies as much to the frat boys and ex-cheerleaders as the intellectuals.

But in the 90s pre-war utopianism was the stuff of October, not Phong's Brooklyn Rail.  The nostalgia has changed from post-war existentialism and ex-Trot abstraction, to pre-war apocalyptic romance. The book's published by MIT with an foreword by Geuss. It couldn't get more perfect.

It doesn't take more than an amateur sociologist to notice that utopianism flourishes in periods of crisis and functions more than anything else as avoidance. But you can't reason with the faithful.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Interesting. The endgame here seems to be Russia's outright defeat in Ukraine, including the return of Donbas and Crimea. Will Putin resort to nuclear weapons to avert this? The expectation here seems that he will not. But it's one hell of a gamble.

Do I think it's a sensible policy? No. A sensible policy entails an effort to de-escalate, striving to freeze this conflict until better times. Putin is 70 years old. He'll go one way or another. It's better to outwait him and play the long game.

We are staring into the abyss. Even if the worst does not come to pass, something tells me that by the time we are finished saving Ukraine from Russian imperialism, there won't be much left of it to save.

Sergey Radchenko is the Wilson E. Schmidt Distinguished Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has written extensively on the Cold War, nuclear history, and on Russian and Chinese foreign and security policies. He has served as a Global Fellow and a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Centre and as the Zi Jiang Distinguished Professor at East China Normal University (Shanghai). 

Leiter reports that Joseph Raz is dead.

repeats, with links. For the first, remember Streeck, on communities of choice.


Most forms of legitimate partiality are more or less optional. We may be required to favour our children or friends, but it is up to us whether to have children or friends.
Apart from the other absurdities of his argument, most of us are still required to have parents. 

[C]ontemporary life, including philosophical life, is marked by its short span of attention. Within months of a new book by a respected author being published conferences about it are held, and special issues of journals dedicated to it are published, only to be superseded the following year by the new stars of that year.  

Raz, interviewed
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. One way in which I am sometimes surprised when confronted with previous writings is that I clearly remember that I felt tentative about this issue or that, and meant to express a partial or a tentative view only, and lo and behold: that is not how I wrote. I sound very definite. Have I changed my mind, or am I one of those people who tend to sound confident when they are not? But there are other difficulties with the question. 

Sunday, May 01, 2022

continuing. because I kept searching. I'm in a rut, for now.

Ilene Grabel, When Things Don't Fall Apart: Global Financial Governance and Developmental Finance in an Age of Productive Incoherence, MIT Press, Open Access

Foreword by Dani Rodrik
It happens only rarely and is all the more pleasurable because of it. You pick up a manuscript that fundamentally changes the way you look at certain things. This is one such book. Ilene Grabel has produced a daring and delightful reinterpretation of developments in global finance since the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998.

The book addresses, and resolves, a long-standing puzzle: Why has our present model of financial globalization been so resilient, despite an abysmal track record that includes the most severe global financial crisis since the Great Depression, recurrent sovereign debt crises (in Latin America, East Asia, Russia, and Turkey), and many other disappointments (such as capi- tal flowing “uphill” from poorer to richer nations)? How is it that we have not jettisoned this model for something that is more sensible and works better?

Professor Grabel’s insight is that those of us who were looking for signs of change have had the wrong idea about how real reform often happens. We have been mistaken in searching for evidence of wholesale, programmatic reconsideration of the rules of global finance. Systems of governance rarely change through established blueprints, a master plan, or radical reforms. And besides, such a reform path would suffer from the same kind of hubris that the neoliberal playbook produced.

Instead, she suggests, it is the cracks in the consensus, the local heresies, and the small departures and innovations that matter and lead us in an altogether novel direction. Inconsistency, ambiguity, and incoherence are useful and productive—they are a feature, not a bug.

Rodrik in 2008

It is remarkable to see something in theory work so well in practice. Ricardo Hausmann and I wrote a paper several years ago called "Economic Development as Self-Discovery," where the idea was that entrepreneurship in a developing country consists of discovering the underlying cost structure--what can and cannot be produced profitably. Initial investors in a new line of economic activity face a great amount of uncertainty, since foreign technology always needs some local adaptation. Plus, their cost discovery soon becomes public knowledge--everyone can observe whether their projects are successful or not--so the social value they generate exceeds their private costs. If they succeed, much of the gains are socialized through entry and emulation, whereas if they fail, they bear the full costs.

Some of the what I have been seeing in Ethiopia is a picture perfect illustration of this process at work. Most notable in this respect is the flower industry, which was started by some courageous entrepreneurs who had observed the success of the industry in nearby Kenya and wondered if it could be made to work in Ethiopia as well. Even though much of the technology is standard, local soil conditions make a lot of difference to the economics of growing flowers, and a whole range of other services--from daily cargo flights to high-quality cardboard packaging--has to be in place before the operation can succeed. To its credit, the Ethiopian government understood the need to subsidize these pioneer firms, through cheap land and tax holidays, and the industry took off. Exports have reached $100 million from zero in just a few years. There are now around 90 flower farms in the country, with latecomers the beneficiary of the tinkering that early investors have undertaken.

"Comparative advantage a literature almost as absurd as trolley problems." 

"The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin."

Rausing. Tetra Pak. When things fall apart: 

Neither sister appears to relish the attention-gathering side of their philanthropy. Sigrid has been willing to slow-grow a public profile, in part to encourage philanthropy in others. She has said she finds interviews "vulgar" but has been tempted to do so to encourage more giving among the wealthy in the UK. "People give a lot of money to art projects here. I think it would be a very good thing if similar kinds of sums can go into refuges for women and refugee causes."... 

Sigrid, for her own part, has spoken of a time in her youth when she was "paranoid" and "ashamed" of her wealth. This was especially the case before the family arrived in the UK from "very progressive" Sweden. "Not a good place to be a capitalist. I spent so many of my teenage years skulking in doorways, hiding away." 

The source of the quotes 

Although she will not put a figure on her own personal wealth, Rausing is surprisingly candid about the fraught relationship she has with money. "I grew up being acutely uncomfortable. In the 1960s and 70s, Sweden was very progressive, not a good place to be a capitalist. I spent so many of my teenage years skulking in doorways, hiding away."

In her early 20s, she says, she lived a simple life. There were no shopping sprees or luxury holidays. Even now, she owns only one car, a Volvo.

"I was very paranoid about anyone finding me out," she says. So has she ever sought therapy to deal with her guilt about being so rich? "Yes, I wanted to be who I was and didn't want to hide anything any more. I know people who are emotionally crippled by money they inherited. It does not help anyone."

She has said she finds interviews "vulgar".  The high bourgeois heirs to the aristocracy.
Read, or scroll down for Henri Lefebvre. 
The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich. The great majority of younger sons had no desire to "derogate." They sought the remedy elsewhere, in a growing exclusiveness. Some held that the nobility should form a body like the clergy and be constituted as a closed caste.
S.E. Working Title: Avant-Garde is Kitsch. 
“...did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich”. Self-interest, beyond a point, was vulgar.

The whole fucking point of Grey Gardens: the distinction between having money and working for it. Better to die in poverty than get a job. Why the idle rich love the idle poor, the lumpenproletariat and demimonde.   

"I grew up being acutely uncomfortable."  Scandinavian conformism. 
And from a year before, with a reference to  Janteloven.

I recognized the name of the ex-wife of Joseph Koerner.

Friday, April 29, 2022

"Behind the chiliasm of modern man, is the megalomania of self-infinitization."

Spent the day following the mutual appreciation of the young intellectual left and right each basking in the new, to them, awareness of their commonalities, and, prodded by a reference, remembering my reaction to Hirschman, like my reaction years before to Goffman: Didn't we used to know all this already? Isn't this where where serious thought begins? 

Reading The Rhetoric of Reaction. A primer, a great book for high school students.

By demonstrating that each of the reactionary arguments has one or more progressive counterparts, I generated contrasting pairs of reactionary and progressive statements about social action. To recall some of them:

Reactionary: The contemplated action will bring disastrous consequences.

Progressive: Not to take the contemplated action will bring disastrous consequences.

Reactionary: The new reform will jeopardize the older one.

Progressive: The new and the old reforms will mutually reinforce each other.

Reactionary: The contemplated action attempts to change permanent structural characteristics (“laws”) of the social order; it is therefore bound to be wholly ineffective, futile.

Progressive: The contemplated action is backed up by powerful historical forces that are already “on the march”; opposing them would be utterly futile.

Once the existence of these pairs of argumcnts is demonstrated. the reactionary theses are downgraded, as it were: they. along with their progressive counterparts, become simply extreme statements in a series of imaginary, highly polarized debates. In this manner they stand effectively exposed as limiting cases, badly in need, under most circumstances, of being qualified, mitigated, or otherwise amended.

It's left to older students to face the hard questions: how self-described moderates can be war criminals, and their victims' cries reduced, in the liberal imagination, to nothing more than passionate expressions of rage.


Banging my fucking head against the wall. I thought Streeck was smarter.

In the order that seems to be emerging, social bonds are construed as a matter of taste and choice rather than of obligation, making communities appear as voluntary associations from which one can resign if they require excessive self-denial, rather than as ‘communities of fate’ with which one either rises or goes under. The new social media that have fast become almost indispensable tools of human sociability enable people to connect and associate with like-minded others on the most esoteric ‘subjective’ matters. As cyberspace trumps geography, the connection, elementary for traditional political mobilization, between shared interests and personal relations arising from physical vicinity is broken. One consequence is that social control among ‘network members’ is minimized; dropping out is easy, especially when people use pseudonyms—another facet of the new voluntarism of social relationships. Browsing the boundless supply of causes, tastes and lifestyles made available by the internet, one can freely decide to ‘like’ whatever one wishes; in contrast to old-school political parties, there is no pressure for ideological consistency or for adherence to a common programme.
"In the order that seems to be emerging..." As if he were writing in 1905.
Of course Streeck is right. That's why I have a fucking tag for Utopia and Intentional Communities 

It’s the public proclamation of loyalty to a subculture; documenting the need to belong; atomization and the rise of pathologically over-determined imagined communities etc.
 etc. etc. It’s the sociality of baroque individualism.

We now have food geeks as well as science geeks, all with the moral philosophy of Asperger’s patients: so fixated on their mania for [tube amps/Pouilly-Fuissé/Ducati two-stroke engines] that you’d be a fool not to hire them for your [high-end audio store/restaurant/Soho motorcycle salon]. Why be a well rounded adult when you can be an eternal [pre]adolescent and expert, and a happy cog and servant?

Atomization, isolation and the illusion of absolute community. The low buzz and hum—the violence and warmth—of neurological overload. 

From republicanism to liberalism,  the legacy of 1968, and Henry Farrell's favorite band.

continuing, on Hirschman, etc. 

Oleksiy Honcharuk at Stanford, and the Atlantic Council.

Bellingcat, 2019, "How to Mainstream Neo-Nazis: A Lesson from Ukraine’s New Government" 

On October 13, photographs started circulating across social media showing a man resembling Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk on stage at the “Veterans Strong” concert event in Kyiv. This was, however, no ordinary concert — it was organized by a far-right figure accused of murder, and headlined by a neo-Nazi band.

As later posts throughout the evening would show, including the prime minister’s own post on Facebook the next day, the politician did indeed attend and take the stage at an event organized by Ukrainian far-right groups. The Prime Minister wasn’t the only cabinet member from Ukraine’s new government to be there — the Minister of Veteran Affairs, Oksana Koliada, joined Prime Minister Honcharuk at the concert, and even promoted the event in a Facebook post (archive) the day before it took place.

In the week following the event, Honcharuk has defended his appearance at the “Veterans Strong” concert, and has not issued an apology or expressed regret. In his Facebook post, Honcharuk complained about “some media outlets putting forth ambiguous theses” and that “politicization” of the event was “absolutely inappropriate.” He added that he didn’t support any “hateful ideologies, whether Nazism, fascism or communism.” In further comments at a cabinet briefing, Honcharuk added that “many people” are trying to “split [our] society.” “They can make any of you into a Nazi fascist,” he said.

The episode is a further example of how Ukraine’s far-right continues to be normalized by top leaders in the country. Not only are Ukraine’s top ministers attending events organized by far-right figures, they have also had a literal seat at the table with Zelenskyy discussing his plans for de-escalating the war in eastern Ukraine. Simultaneously, far-right organizations across Ukraine have taken the lead in organizing “No capitulation!” protests against Zelenskyy’s soon-to-be-launched talks with Russia, thus wielding an out sized level of influence in Ukrainian society despite the fact that Ukrainian far-right organizations lack any popular or electoral support.

CATV News. April 28, 2022

With mounting evidence pointing to the Canadian Armed Forces having trained members of Ukraine’s military who are also reported to be part of extremist groups, experts say Ottawa needs to strongly bolster its investigation and vetting of the soldiers it trains and arms in the embattled country.

The Department of National Defence promised a thorough review of Canada’s mission in Ukraine after approached them for comment in October 2021, regarding a report from George Washington University that found extremists in the Ukrainian military were bragging about being trained by Canadians as part of Operation UNIFIER.

The group in question – which calls itself Military Order Centuria, or simply Centuria, has links to the far-right Azov movement.

The Canadian military said they were alarmed by the report and denied any knowledge that extremists had taken part in training, adding that it does not have the mandate to screen the soldiers they train from other countries.

In the month that followed, an investigation by the Ottawa Citizen found that not only did Canadian officials meet and get briefed by leaders from the Azov Battalion in 2018, they did not denounce the unit’s neo-Nazi beliefs – despite being warned about their views by their colleagues-- and their main concern was that media would expose that the meeting had taken place. Officers and diplomats allowed themselves to be photographed with battalion officials which was then used online by Azov as propaganda.... 

read the whole thing. new tag for Ukraine

Thursday, April 28, 2022

RUSI- Operation Z: The Death Throes of an Imperial Delusion

CEPA-Vicious Blame Game Erupts Among Putin’s Security Forces

Read them and then Edward Luce in the FT. Leiter says we're sleepwalking into Armageddon. I agree.

Luce: The return of the 20th century’s nuclear shadow

Vladimir Putin’s willingness to threaten to use nuclear weapons is in one respect a good sign: it means Russia is probably losing in Ukraine. It is also a potentially catastrophic one. If Putin’s aim is to scare the west, he is failing. Nato keeps stepping up its supplies to Ukraine. The question is what he would do if he thought Russian defeat was inescapable. Putin keeps implying he knows exactly what steps he would take. Is he bluffing? It is plausible even he does not know the answer.

Either way, the genie is out of the bottle. Putin has broken a post-Cuba taboo on threatening to go nuclear. That, in itself, puts us in new territory. Without most people being aware of it, the world is entering its most dangerous period since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The majority under the age of 50 have grown up thinking the nuclear spectre is a relic of the last century. In the past few weeks, the prospect of a nuclear exchange has become the most live threat to this century’s peace.

In terms of public awareness, the debate about Putin’s language is a good example of “those who don’t know talk, and those who know don’t talk”. It is easy to think of Putin as a poker addict trying to bluster his way out of a bad bet. Eventually he must fold. US civilian and military officials suffer from no such complacency. Many have taken part in war game exercises where the use of low-yielding tactical nuclear weapons as often as not escalates to strategic nuclear exchange — doomsday, in plain English.

If there were a 5 per cent chance of Putin detonating a battlefield nuclear weapon, the world would be at more risk than at any point in most people’s lifetimes. In the past few days, Moscow’s signalling has arguably raised the chances to one in 10. Putin described last week’s test of the Sarmat hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile as giving the west “food for thought”, which would not sound out of place from Blofeld, the 20th-century Bond villain. On Wednesday, Putin said: “We have all the instruments for this [responding to an existential threat to Russia] — ones nobody else can boast of. And we will use them, if we have to.”

...A pressing question is how Biden would respond if Putin detonated a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

Luce gives US leaders, and himself, too much credit. There's no question Putin is losing, but that's not enough for war criminals who need to moralize. If Putin uses a tactical nuke the US should just declare victory and send in doctors. That would be real moral superiority, and it would save all of our lives. 

Zelensky wanted war between Nato and Russia. The answer needs to be no. Nato led him on then shut him out, playing games. They're all playing Russian roulette with the rest of us. 

But Luce at least in't a liberal. Idealism will kill us all.