Tuesday, September 30, 2003

"Israeli pilot rebels accused of mutiny."The Guardian
I'm listening to The News Hour, which is repeated on NPR at 11:00 PM. Zinni is on and I'm waiting for Larry Johnson.
It's amazing.

Johnson: "His entire intent was correctly as Ambassador Wilson noted: to intimidate, to suggest that there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy, and frankly, what was a false policy of suggesting that there were nuclear material in Iraq that required this war. This was about a political attack. To pretend that it's something else and to get into this parsing of words, I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this."

And Blair of course looks like more of a fool than ever.

Monday, September 29, 2003

A One-State Solution
"Marwan Barghouti, the highest ranking Palestinian on trial in Israel for terrorism, defended the past three years of violent intifada yesterday by warning that if Israel failed to deliver independence to the Palestinians it would have to accept Arabs as equal citizens." The Guardian
In the same paper:
"But there is something poignant about the Zionist left's continuous attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable. Its criticisms of Sharon hark back to an idealised notion of a Jewish state in which democracy, decency and tolerance are the guiding principles. In moving forwards towards peace with the Palestinians, the left seeks to take a few steps back; consolidating the Jewish state, preserving its Jewish character, withdrawing from the quagmire of occupation and reinstating the values of a democratic and humane society. But to Palestinian ears there is something inherently wrong here: for us, there is a basic and inescapable contradiction between Zionism and democracy. If Zionism means anything, it means a Jewish state with a clear Jewish majority - and in Palestine this has necessarily been at the expense of Palestinian Arab rights."
Ahmad Samih Khalidi is a Palestinian writer and former negotiator and a senior associate member of St Antony's College, Oxford. The Guardian

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Agency Belittles Information Given by Iraq Defectors
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 — An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement. NYTimes
I dunno, maybe it was a bit early.
We'll see.
The Victory of Neoliberalism
I've said from the very beginning of this crap that's it would be up to moderates to change the course of events. The left is powerless. As of tonight the intellectual 'bubble economy' of the neocons is bursting, and any conservative who takes his ideas more seriously than his anger and self pity had better get with the program. When Clinton was in office the Republicans complained not because his ideas were different from theirs but because he'd stolen them. The party moved right after that because it was the only way to stay in the game, and with some luck and a little help it worked, briefly. But in actuality neoliberalism had made conservatism outside the fringes irrelevant. The failure of the neocons, who represented little more than a self-destructive parody of conservatism, has given us the last conservative moment in this country.
Neoliberalism is capitalism now.
"Let's make something clear. According to the Washington Post one "senior administration official" has accused two "top White House officials" of each committing a felony. Even if we allow for the possibility that the accuser is full of it (basically impossible here, but just for sake of argument), we still have a SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICAL accusing TWO TOP WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS of each committing a serious felony.

This is a story of mammoth proportions. This is a front page GIANT SCREAMING FONT story. This is a 24/7 wall to wall coverage story. They can even drag out the gaggle of blonds from the Barbizon School of Former Prosecutors to tell us what it all means. Where the hell is the coverage?"

I think it'll be here soon.
An interesting and funny post from Languagehat. The same fights get replayed everywhere. The debates over original intent or original practice in classical music have died down, but I'm still surprised that I don't hear more reference in legal circles to parallel arguments in other fields. The history of law is also the history of language, and music is a form of rhetorical speech.

Update: I emailed Jack Balkin thinking he might by the right person to ask if there had been any such discussion, and he sent me this.
He was the right person to ask.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

I added a friend to the linklist. I should have added her months ago and I feel guilty about it, but my links are mostly to sites that deal with politics, and her blog is only political by the accident of her race. So consider this my apologetic note to Cacoa.
I'm quoting myself, but this sounds pretty good:

"I appreciate the value of science and of certainty as I appreciate the military, only if they are kept in their place. The debate is not between the logical sciences and the metaphysical arts, but between the desire to name and the desire to ask; both have metaphysical implications."
From Atrios: Bush and Putin Sitting in a Tree...
I caught a few minutes of Bush's UN speech. For a moment the camera cut to Karzai sitting in the audience: an educated and intelligent vassal serving an idiot king. It was shocking to realize anew just what represents us on the world stage. Putin is a bastard but Bush isn't smart enough to counter him. More than a criminal, our president is an embarrassment.
Plame Wars.
It's building.
"Bizarre as it now sounds, Bush’s concern for the civil rights of suspected Islamic terrorists possibly won him the election. It is estimated that more than 70 per cent of American Muslims voted for him, and that in the crucial Florida election he polled at least 60,000 more Muslim votes than Gore." A link from Crooked Timber.
Not that I was a huge fan of Edward Said, but in his honor, and since it's appropriate for other reasons at the moment, go read the latest Times piece by Edward Rothstein. He wears his bias proudly even as he uses his considerable rhetorical skill to defend that bias as objective logic. Intellectual debates being akin to tennis matches this shouldn't be a problem, but since like most conservatives he doesn't admit to owning a racket, it's a big one.

On a similar note: Happy New Year.

Friday, September 26, 2003

In The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Simon Blackburn writes this about Donald Davidson:
Davidson is also known for rejection of the idea of a conceptual scheme, thought of as something peculiar to one language or one way of looking at the world, arguing that where the possibility of translation stops so does the coherence of the idea that there is something to translate.
So if it is impossible to translate the finer points in Mallarmé, no finer points exist.
Ass-kissing is an individual act but groupthink, appropriately enough, is a collective.

A friend of mine sends me this, on New York, the twin towers and 9-11. It's pretty good, both delirious and sad. Here are the last two paragraphs:

"On March 17, at 9:30 am, the winning architect rings the bell of the New York Stock Exchange. At 8 pm, the president issues his ultimatum to Saddam, the "displaced" author of the WTC disappearance. At midnight on March 20, the war starts. At 8 am, at a breakfast meeting in lower Manhattan, the "Master Design Architect," an immigrant, movingly recounts his first encounter with liberty.

Instead of the two towers - the sublime - the city will live with five towers, wounded by a single scything movement of the architect, surrounding two black holes. New York will be marked by a massive representation of hurt that projects only the overbearing self-pity of the powerful. Instead of the confident beginning of the next chapter, it captures the stumped fundamentalism of the superpower. Call it closure."
Rem Koolhaas. Delirious No More

Okay, so it wasn't quick. And I'm still writing it.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

"I am a National Guardsman of the 105th Personnel Services Detachment out of Lincoln, Neb. My unit and I are stationed in Kuwait at Camp Wolf. We were deployed Feb. 2. We arrived in Jordan in April and half of us were moved a week later to Kuwait to throw mail...

Yes, we are physically able to finish our mission, but mentally and spiritually we are dying...

This isn't a simple board game of Axis and Allies, this is a game people are playing with real people - people with families, not robots. You have college students out here (like me) missing over a year of college to sit and get yanked around without explanation. It has been told to the officers I have spoken to that 3rd PERSCOM refers to moving soldiers as "drug deals." You do this for me and I'll make sure your soldiers go home, etc.

Yes, without a doubt my duty is to serve my country despite her faults. I have learned I will not be able to get education and training services while I am here and I am accepting that. I am here to serve out of obligation and duty. What I'm wondering is if there are any checks and balances for those who are making decisions here?"

I read this letter a few days ago and now Tapped has reprinted it. Read the whole thing. It will make you both angry and sad.

Then read the comments by Tapped:
"This is not, to Tapped, a good argument for getting out of Iraq. But as we've said before, it is an argument for better leadership in the White House and for our current president to make whatever compromises are necessary to win international support, both substantive and political, for our occupation."

"...to win international support, both substantive and political, for our occupation."

If the US wants to gain the moral high ground we can do so easily by demanding that the wealthy members of the Security Council guarantee future economic support for longer term UN occupation if that becomes necessary, which it may. The administration won't make that demand, so any claims Tapped is making for the morality of the US occupation are crap.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Fuckers. "In an extraordinary twist to the Hutton Inquiry, a series of blunt extracts written by the former Downing Street communications director disclosed how desperately both he and Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, wanted to name Dr Kelly to torpedo the BBC’s story. 

Mr Campbell’s fury was laid bare in his personal diary, which undermines the government’s claim there was no strategy within No 10 to expose Dr Kelly. 
The domestic response Part 1. Fred Kaplan in Slate:
"Here were the world's foreign ministers and heads of state, anxiously awaiting some sign of an American concession to realism—even the sketchiest outline of a plan to share not just the burden but the power of postwar occupation in Iraq. And Bush gave them nothing, in some ways less than nothing."
The President Lays an Egg.

From a towel head, to your head: "For Sale: A fertile, wealthy country with a population of around 25 million… plus around 150,000 foreign troops, and a handful of puppets."
Read the whole god damned thing.
--It was the middle of the night when the crack paratroopers from America's 82nd Airborne Division arrived outside Ali Khalaf's farmhouse in the parched fields of central Iraq.
Some of the family were asleep on mattresses in the dirt yard outside the single-storey house. Ali's brother Ahmad lay there with his wife, Hudood, 25, and their two young sons and so they were the first to hear the soldiers as they approached the house at around 2am yesterday.
"We heard voices and so my husband went out to check what was happening. We thought they were thieves," said Hudood. "My husband shouted at them and then immediately they started shooting."--
The Guardian

Bush isolated as speech to UN falls flat
"George Bush was increasingly isolated on the global stage yesterday as he defied intense criticism from a litany of world leaders at the United Nations over the war on Iraq.
Showing no contrition for defying the world body in March or the declining security situation in Iraq, the US president called for the world to set aside past differences and help rebuild the country: "Now the nation of Iraq needs and deserves our aid - and all nations of goodwill should step forward and provide that support," he said.
But the French president, Jacques Chirac, who spoke after Mr Bush, blamed the US-led war for sparking one of the most severe crises in the history of the UN and argued that Mr Bush's unilateral actions could lead to anarchy."

I'm still waiting for the domestic response.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

First things first: I have no wish to listen to Dear Leader speak at the UN. Since I'm not working and I'm running out of money, I'd rather waste my time on other subjects. I am curious to see, however, whether Josh Marshall is right or I am (see below.)
I've been trying to figure out why I blew up as I did in my comments at Pedantry yesterday: what the logic was behind my anger? First, in reference to the PDF I linked to below, it really doesn't matter whether we behave the way we do out of indoctrination or out of mechanical, narrow and short sighted self interest, and that is the opposition presented by Joseph Heath. If you want to get into debates over that be my guest(s) but they don't answer, or even ask, the most important question which is this:

Do we act 'on principle' or in making decisions do we merely do so in continuation of a pattern?

Here is the root of my deeply personal and almost bitter response to this discussion, because I think that many of those involved in such debates operate under the tacit assumption that they themselves make decisions in their lives based upon the logical principles they use in their arguments. An overdone rhetoric of impersonality and distance produces a response in me that is almost physical. A network of references does not in itself constitute wisdom. At best it constitutes a sort of virtual wisdom. If you think my comment about our bodies being the root of all experience was out of place, and I was referring not only to physical but intellectual experience, you miss the point. A friend of mine, born and educated in Europe, told me when we had a similar discussion a few months ago that he had never conceived of there being anything but a simple choice between a technocratic philosophy or a metaphysical one. He thought I must be arguing for God! Similarly people involved in these debates cannot seem to get their minds around the notion of an answer to a problem that is merely a process and not a conclusion. It is an open question whether individual or collective action effects change. It is also open as to what degree human action is directed by neurosis (false consciousness) or short sighted instrumental reason. I see no reason to deny a role to any of these influences.

I take a few things as axiomatic.

That the only examples we have of human beings acting solely according to their principles are those that we have created out of our imaginations: Socrates and Christ are the first examples that come to mind.
That we have a 'consciousness' that allows us to imagine solutions not only to problems that have them, but also to those that do not.

That if we can look backwards in time and examine a series of collisions that have occurred on the felt surface of a pool table, or in the history of human interaction, we are still unable to project our ideas far into the future.

That the study of how we perceive the world is of greater moral importance than the study of the world 'alone.'

That until science can predict all future actions, Law -in action, in the act of interpretation, in the world/ in time- is the only example of a worldly philosophy we will ever have, and that analytic philosophy as such, outside of bodies and time, amounts to little more than an academic exercise.

Monday, September 22, 2003

I was going to do more with this, but maybe later. Here's Alan Sokal's web page
I read the paper Scott Martens links to in the post I mentioned below: "Ideology, Irrationality and Collectively Self-Destructive Behaviour" PDF, and it's a nice simple argument along the lines of one for keeping your head down in a crowd. It undermines any argument for ideology being the sole determining factor for all behavior, but as I said in a comment, it doesn't explain anorexia.
I definitely wouldn't spend the time and energy Tapped does on many of their chosen topics, unless I was getting paid for it. But today they made it look like fun.
I'm not sure I agree with Josh Marshall. If Bush is planning to make demands at the UN, is it possible that he wants to use the resulting snub for political gain? Nobody at the UN will care, but it might give him a bounce.

Josh Marshall replies to an email:
"I've considered that, but I think they want the money more. That is the best possible explanation; it just doesn't make sense to me."
Read Nathan Newman on Atrios' response to Salon's article on simplistic arguments about Iraq. I read a bit of the article and I understand Nathan's agreement, but the problem I think is not so much that the 'left' is arguing for pulling out but that many others are as well. My fear is that when we go, we'll do it quickly, only for reasons of domestic politics. Cheney and Rumsfeld should be fired if not indicted, and Bush should be impeached -though he never will be - but if anyone is going to be get stuck with the bill we should. The UN should lead, with us in tow, and with $87 billion and our tails between our legs.
I'm afraid many Americans may decide it's better just to cut and run. But in their ignorance they caused this mess, and they should pay for it. Don't talk to me about Florida.
When I wrote this earlier I misrepresented Scott Martens. In referring to the prisoners dilemma he was commenting on someone else and his agreement with that other person -see my last post of the day- was not 'simplistic,' though that's what I called it at the time. And today (9-23) I find out Cosma Shalizi is a man. More mistakes to fix.

This is from the comments on this post at Pedantry. The reference is to women who worked at Mattel at mid level positions who referred to Barbie as "the little plastic slut." To understand the context you need to read the full post. I'm too lazy to rewrite it to stand on its own.

Did the women you worked with wear heels?
Did they use pigment to highlight the rim of the orifice just beneath their nostrils?
[In response to a comment from Zizka] "Expressed values and real values?" This phrase and indeed your post Scott is predicated on a definition of consciousness as somehow all inclusive. Scientists, leftists and libertarians all seem to agree on this and I'm sorry, but it's silly. The women at Mattel I have no doubt were a part of the system that they 'hated.' They were part of a collective and a continuum that includes 'Slut' 'Matron" 'Bra Burner' 'Lesbian' and 'Marxist literary critic.' But to say that a collective does not act in a way that is unidirectional or predictable or even 'conscious' is not to argue that an ocean must be a collective as well -not at least unless you think that the unconscious doesn't exist.

My argument with all of this is that it seems based on a lack of interest in the interstices between bits of knowledge. Cosma Shalizi seems especially prone to this, to the extent that I find his writing hard to take. His language is based on secondary and tertiary texts (you can follow that line as far into the past as it takes you) but he seems unwilling to pay attention to the particular, a category which begins -without trying to be too poetic- with an awareness of the weight of one's own body, of the sensations of breathing and walking, and ends up with an understanding of individual as opposed to collective understanding and awareness. I am not making a metaphysical argument any more than a lawyer does when he's defending a client before a judge and a jury. I do not think I have ever made an argument for any sort of 'intrinsic value' but only for awareness of the importance of particulars and individual cases, both of which science disdains on principle. There comes a point when intellectuals live in a world of labels and not in world of events, and one can not be used to replace the other without resulting in banality; what kind of banality, whether it is based on the assumptions of deconstructionism, bureaucratic positivism, or fascism, is of no consequence.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Notes towards something if I get around to it. Andy Warhol and Catholic Realism: from Velazquez through Gericault, Manet and Nadar. I was reminded of this seeing the recent exhibition at the Metropolitan documenting the discovery of Spanish art by the French, during and after the Napoleonic wars. What was absolutely stunning was the clear line, though it was in fact a leap, from 17th century Spain to 19th century France. Only through Spanish influence did the French develop a fully competitive, and Catholic, variant of the Northern and Protestant tradition. I'm not ignoring Chardin, but I don't think his presence in the timeline contradicts my argument.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

I should add something to the end of my last post, and I think it's going to become a bit of a theme.
"The people are stupid" That includes everybody, including Ph.D.'s. So it's the responsibility of writers, or anyone who has an opinion not to cater to others but to speak. Democracy is an adversarial system. It's 'intelligence' comes from debate. There is a middle ground between conservatives' cynical and self serving contempt for the people, and the absurdities of Chomskian idealism. When self described intellectuals, especially the academic variety, come to realize this, we'll have a viable political culture again. We've been so rich for so long, we didn't need it.
A need for popularity is neither a sin nor a moral burden in a democracy, it's only a fact. Britney Spears is popular, or she was, but Shakespeare still is. Prince is a genius. Bjork escapes definition in a way that almost nobody understands but that almost everybody gets. Movies are more popular than fine arts and, these days especially, they're better. Literature, which I think stands as the highest artistic achievement of democracy, has always been capable of being both popular and serious (if not always at the same time) but I've heard enough graduate student conversation drift from critical jargon to the effusive commentary of teenage fandom to realize that most young academics in this country have no understanding of how it's possible for something to be both.

Our culture is divided more than any other advanced democracy, much more even than England, into categories of high and low.

more later.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Just for the hell of it I'll have some fun:
Josh Marshall seconds my comments on Clark. Frankly, so far I'm not impressed, if only because he seems unable to explain the ambiguity of his position. My response was never ambiguous, and I'm perfectly happy to say so. I'm proud to say so. But for many others the decsion was not so simple. And much as I think they were wrong, in this case, I am not somehow opposed to ambiguity or complexity. The thought is childish. But people who want others to make decisions for them want those decisions to be clear. The people are stupid.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Just go and read.
I love it when a lawyer makes me laugh. Here's Bruce Ackerman:
"This time around, the candidates in California have already invested heavily in a short campaign. Their competing strategies have been designed to reach a climax on the Oct. 7 election date. If they had known they would have to compete until March, they would have conducted their campaigns very differently. By suddenly changing the finish line, the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit disrupts the core First Amendment freedom to present a coherent political message to voters."
I'm not much of a fan of John Nichols and I didn't read his piece on Dean in The Nation. What I noticed, in leafing through my copy if the magazine, and what I think is important, in responding to charges by Michael Wolff and Tapped that Dean is the next McGovern, is the quote the editor chose to place in large type in the center of the fourth page to grab the reader's eye.

'I don't mind being characterized as a "liberal"-I just don't happen to think it's true."
I've added something to the last post, since I think the meaning was unclear.
Earlier tonight my neighbor told me he's gotten a break; he's not going to do any time. He was arrested a few months ago for pistol-whipping someone on the subway in a drunken rage, and he's going to be able to keep his job. I told him I was happy for him, which I am. He showed me the head of Jesus that he's having tattooed on the left side of his chest and stomach. He said the one his mother won't be so happy about, also of Jesus, will be on the other side; the face will have horns and will be screaming in pain. I said Jesus had had a hard life. He said it was probably closer to the expression Jesus had on his face before he died. We talked for a few minutes. He said it doesn't matter what side you worship, you'll will be taken care of, but that now he's worshiping "the better angel." I said life is complex. He said no, it's simple. It's just hard.

I just wasted an hour at a bar listening to a couple of slackers doing an open mike tribute to Johnny Cash. At one point I watched a shaggy ex-suburbanite, who could probably pass as Matthew Yglesias' kid brother, singing along—"I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die"—pointing a cocked finger at the head of a friend next to him, laughing with an expression that betrayed no knowledge of violence. The 12 years olds on my block have a better understanding of the world.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Nevertheless, there is a delicious irony in watching Bush v. Gore used in this way. The Supreme Court apparently believed that it could resolve the 2000 election by issuing an opinon that would never be used or cited by any court again. It hoped to expand equal protection doctrine for this one case but then hold that the decision was limited to the precise facts of Bush v. Gore. The Ninth Circuit has called its bluff, suggesting, in effect, that if the Supreme Court wants us to believe that Bush v. Gore was a legal opinon, then it should be treated as law, with real precedental consequences, rather than as a one-time imposition of will by five Justices who wanted to install the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, as President.

Long live the rule of law!" Jack Balkin
Wesley Clark: The New Anti-War Candidate?

--Hearing Clark talking to CNN's Paula Zahn (7/16/03), it would be understandable to think he was an opponent of the war. "From the beginning, I have had my doubts about this mission, Paula," he said. "And I have shared them previously on CNN." But a review of his statements before, during and after the war reveals that Clark has taken a range of positions-- from expressing doubts about diplomatic and military strategies early on, to celebrating the U.S. "victory" in a column declaring that George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair "should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt" (London Times, 4/10/03)--

Clark is susceptible to the charge of being willing to follow his commander's lead, and of being pleased with success while it lasted. I would not expect much else. Strictly speaking, Dean is not anti-war either. Moreover no candidate willing to base a campaign along those lines stands a chance. The democratic nominee is going to have to run as someone who was lied to and betrayed, not as someone who says "I told you so." The American people, no matter how badly educated and irresponsible, can not be taught, but only led; and their leader has to be no more angry then they are. The democrats can win only if they play it right.
The People of This Generation
My mother sent me her copy. I'd call it the history of my childhood, but children are left out of a lot of things.
I still have a lot of memories.
I posted this on May 12th, responding to someone's naive comments on art and intention. After my recent comments on kitsch it seems like a good time to repeat it:

Here is an image of Picasso's famous "Guernica" from 1937.

Last year I made a similar painting, on a similar theme. I'm reproducing it below. It's called "Dresden."

Think about it for a few minutes before you decide I'm being simplistic or glib.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Crooked Timber on the WTO in Cancun.

I posted a comment on this post referring to the notion of greed as sin. I was referring to sin as a metaphor, or synecdoche, for any form of civic coercion or proscription, and I should have made that clearer. Rules have a purpose, and the urge to break them isn't something I celebrate. That's not to say I don't break rules but traditional morality of any sort places restrictions and controls on greed; and traditional morality -with apologies to the Christian Coalition- is something that capitalism disdains.

Traditionalism has its limitations but I have no contempt for it. Any leftist who does after the last hundred years, is a fool. I do however have unending contempt for those who argue that a force that has been regulated and controlled throughout human history should now be seen as a cure-all. I despise such people.
The collegeboys at Tapped do it again, in a post dripping with the sort of condescension that gets yuppies knocked on their asses (if they say the wrong words in the right bar.) I'm waiting for Nathan Newman to respond.

It's important to understand that snobbery is one of the reasons unions haven't spread as much as they should in the white collar economy. The UAW used to represent the secretaries and curatorial assistants at the Whitney Museum. My girlfriend at the time was the shop steward. After she left they pushed to decertify, using class as an issue.

"The only way Tapped could be any more supportive of unions is if we joined one."
"I'm not an autoworker I'm an art historian."
update: Nathan Newman is more generous than I am.
The People Are on Our Side Now
Some are crowing over Bush's declining numbers, and specifically the percentage of people opposed to the new price tag for the occupation, but if the people don't know shit when they vote one way, that doesn't mean they know much more when they change their minds. I don't celebrate ignorance just because it agrees with me. I don't celebrate ignorance at all. That's not the point of democracy.
Crooked Timber on the WTO in Cancun.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

"My life is all I have
My rhymes, my pen, my pad
And I done made it through the struggle, don't judge me
What you say now, won't budge me
Cuz where I come from, so often
People you grew up with, layin in a coffin
But I done made it through the pain in spite
It's my time now, my world, my life
My life... "

Pharoahe Monch
backing Styles P.
"The Life"
"I know a few dudes doing life bids in jail"
"And they're way smarter than the white kids in Yale"
"But that's how life is"
I picked this up from Max Sawicky. It's in The Washington Post. That's something.
Read this piece by Thomas Friedman. It's brilliant. He's convinced me.
Build the wall, and build it faster!.

"Rather than create the outlines of a two-state solution, this wall will kill that idea for Palestinians, and drive them, over time, to demand instead a one-state solution — where they and the Jews would have equal rights in one state. And since by 2010 there will be more Palestinian Arabs than Jews living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza combined, this transformation of the Palestinian cause will be very problematic for Israel. If American Jews think it's hard to defend Israel today on college campuses, imagine what it will be like when their kids have to argue against the principle of one man, one vote."

The man is a fucking genius.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

A few points before I go off to work, though I'll have computer access so I may put more up.

I'll be sticking with this for a while:
1- Every definition I've read of the word 'kitsch' refers to its association with bad taste. But since there can be no definition of taste that is not relative, definitions making use of the term are not very useful. Therefore:

All discussion of kitsch, if it is to be worthwhile, must avoid discussion of the subject of taste.

What is the relation between Adolf Hitler and the little plastic Jesus?
What are the ideas communicated by both?
Make no reference to 'quality' or 'moraity' or (again) to 'taste'
What is the use of language, the idea of communication that each represent?

Bred For Servility
I could spend hours on David Brooks, but it's just not worth it.

"The Protestant Establishment is dead, and nobody wants it back. But that culture, which George Bush and Howard Dean were born into, did have a formula for producing leaders. Our culture, which is freer and fairer, does not."
By that logic, America once had a formula for producing op-ed writers.

Look at the arrogance, the smug self satisfaction, and secret fear, on the face of our fratboy Caligula and tell me if you are looking at a born leader.

Reasons I read Nathan Newman, even when I'm drunk #2366

Friday, September 12, 2003

"Any fiction that is used not to augment or comment upon daily experience but to supplant it, that disallows the perceptions of individuals as to their own experience, can be defined either as kitsch or as the progenitor of everything that we refer to as kitsch."

In the bathtub 9pm Friday.
I'm going for a drink.
Returning From Iraq War Not So Simple for Soldiers.

I don't know whether to be angry or just sad. The last line quotes Staff Sgt. Ray B. Robinson laying in his hospital bed:
"We can't lose," he said. "We can't lose this. It'll all have been a waste. We've got five trees out there. If we pull out now, I got blown up for nothing."

The article describes the tired ignorance of the soldiers coming face to face with the complacent ignorance of their families. It's both infuriating and tragic. I pity them all; and pity is not what I would call a noble sentiment.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

I'm a little ashamed I didn't do this sooner. It's a part of history we should all acknowledge:

The other 9-11.

A friend of mine, an American citizen born in Colombia, was in Europe right after 9-11 2001, and he described to me last night, over too many drinks, the support he received, the sense of sadness and loss that was expressed to him as an American by everyone he met. But as he said, we threw it all away.
Reasons I read Nathan Newman:
# 253
I get media listings from Electronic Intifada once or twice a day. Sign up here.
A few from this morning:

11 September 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) - To seize oil, destroy banned weapons or
just kick Saddam Hussein's butt, the reasons why U.S. troops think
their president sent them to war vary as much as public opinion
back home.

But the one thing that motivates all the soldiers fighting in Iraq
is payback for the Sept. 11, 2001.

Specialist Jeremy Sanders, his service officially up during his
tour in Iraq, re-enlisted for two more years raising his right hand
and pledging to fight all American enemies as a handful of his
platoon comrades unfurled the Stars and Stripes.

"Saddam was one of the terrorists," said the 23-year-old.
President Bush may have failed to convince most Americans of a link
between al Qaeda and Iraq [!!?] but his soldiers believe they are on the
front line of the fight against terror even if they are skeptical
of Bush's justifications for war.

35 Palestinian Families in Rafah Homeless after Latest Israeli
Demolition Operation

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (www.pchrgaza.org)
11 September 2003

This morning, Israeli occupying forces demolished 16 houses in block
L of the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli
forces moved into the camp, and began the demolition operation under
cover of Israeli gun and tank fire. The demolitions left160
Palestinian civilians, the majority children, homeless. These
latest homeless are added to the thousands of other Palestinian
civilians made homeless in similar Israeli military operations
throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

Bomber Took Revenge for Palestinians, Mother Says

By Andy Mosher

The Washington Post
11 September 2003

RANTIS, West Bank, Sept. 10-- Itaf Mirshed sat on the bare concrete
floor with 15 other women who had come to join her in mourning her

Less than 24 hours earlier, her 19-year-old son, Ihab Abed Qader Abu
Salim, had stood among a crowd of Israeli soldiers at a hitchhiking
stop outside Tel Aviv and detonated an explosive charge strapped to
his body. He and eight soldiers were killed.

"He has taken revenge for the Palestinian people," his mother said

Recounting how her village has suffered under Israeli security
crackdowns and alleging that her husband and another son had been
beaten by Israeli soldiers, Mirshed said Abu Salim had been driven
to violence out of a concern for others.

"He did not blow himself up for no reason,"

Here's the full list from this morning's email.

Read'em and weep.

1) Occupier murders two in Jenin refugee camp, including teen (AFP)
2) 35 families homeless after occupier demolition in Rafah (PCHR)
3) Jerusalem Post demands that Israel murder Arafat (AFP)
4) Occupier attacks, demolitions all over 1967 Palestine (AFP)
5) "Harsh response" by occupier predicted over weekend (Haaretz)
6) Gangster cabinet looks for scapegoats for its failures (Reuters)
7) Bomber took revenge for Palestinians, mother says (Wash Post)
8) Bush presses on with bankrupt approach (Wash Post)
9) Lieberman and Dean Spar Over Support for Israel (Forward)
10) Democrat leaders criticize Dean's Israel remarks (AP)
11) Israel's Sharansky on propaganda tour of US colleges (Forward)
12) Israeli and Palestinian journalists in rare conference (Guardian)
13) U.S. Troops Mark 9/11 Anniversary as Payback Time (Reuters)
14) Foreign Views of U.S. Darken Since Sept. 11 (NY Times)

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

-1 hour later. I had to fix this thing already. What an idiot.-
I've been busy, but I'm still rewriting my post on the NY scene. I can write well when I'm angry, but not always.
I must imagine I'm referring to pomposity without actually exhibiting it. If you've read the post you'll get the joke.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Some new work on the third and fourth paragraphs.
Ken, What do you think? I sent in in to Roberta et al. (what a joke)
"The water was off and on again today. We filled all the bottles and containers. The water pressure was really low and evidently, our super-low garden faucet is one of the only ones in the area dribbling water at intervals. The neighbors have all sent buckets, pots and messages of love and gratitude… perhaps I have found a job.

The sun was just beginning to set and the sky was a combination of blue, orange and gray. I was standing, in the warm, dry grass, waiting for a pot to fill with water, when I heard someone knocking the garden gate. It was Ihsan, our ten-year-old neighbor across the street. He was holding freshly made ‘khubz’ (something like whole-wheat pita bread) and squinting across the street at his next-door-neighbor’s house.

Ihsan: They found Abu Ra’ad…
Me: What?! Did they? Is he…
Ihsan: He’s dead. Ra’ad and his sisters are at my house.

I looked at the house across the street and saw that three cars were lined up in front of it, as if in a funeral procession. Ihsan followed my gaze and shook his head solemnly, 'They didn’t bring him home- they’ll bury him tomorrow at dawn.' "

Go read the rest.

She links to 'Dilbert' and 'The Onion.' And they talk about the death of irony.
Go read Jack Balkin. Work your way down the page.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

From Atrios I've learned that Josh Marshall has pulled back from his earlier melodramatic response to the WaPo story he linked to earlier, and I understand why. I admit I'm a little relieved about the Iran connection, for various resons, but I think it's beyond doubt that the invasion strengthened Al Qaeda, and that was the only reason I responded as I did. Marshall after all was in favor of the thing itself, which I thought was stupid- both the war and his response- so I jumped. If I'd read the article itself rather than his comment, maybe I would have been slower to respond.

Now Buzzflash has this.
rough draft
9/10/03 - It works well enough.

People create and maintain relationships with each other based on the things they have in common, what those interests are doesn't matter. If they share an interest in money in politics or in art the same rules apply. In New York at this point of time, in the cultural milieu of which I am in one way or another a part, the one thing most people have in common though they don't talk about it openly is fear.

If the overarching logic of the past 30 years of American politics and culture has been "give the people what they want," the art world has always prided itself on doing the opposite. "Give the people what they should have," is probably a better definition of the logic that defined the scene, or at least defined what the intellectual pitchmen declared the scene was about. Whatever its limitations the logic had a certain nobility: what purpose could there be for the idle rich, otherwise removed from daily life, but to help support those who like themselves felt a distance from the crowd, but who did not have the money to stay that way for long on their own? And did not these people have something to offer in the way of commentary on the rush and run of capitalism at full throttle? And this after all was the basis of a friendship.

The culture of popular capitalism was always capable of more profundity than snobs allowed. If Roy Lichtenstein said his paintings were an attempt to rescue his influences from banality - he described correctly the romance and military comics he cribbed from as 'fascist'- there were we all admit now more interesting things to look at on the newsstand and at the matinee. The New York Times "Fall Preview" is bigger than ever this year: nearly 70 pages in 3 sections, with only 10 including photography devoted to art, and most of those simple a list of the upcoming season's exhibits. The other 60 pages are made up of articles on theater, movies and music. Most of the space is taken up with puff pieces, but one still gets a sense of things being at stake even in popular entertainment: of it being both a craft and a business, and a risky one. You sense effort. It's amazing what you can do under the nose of the aristocracy if no one takes you seriously.

If anti capitalist criticality and reactionary snobbery, always the strange bedfellows of the art world, are now so obviously in conflict as to be beyond mention in polite society, if they are the couple no one wants to talk to at the party, what it there left for art? The international market is a conservative place. While all cultural activity is conservative by nature -it seeks to conserve, to remember, to memorialize- one of a kind or small batch commodities are at the far end of the spectrum. There is no need to oversimplify, there will always be something called 'Fine' art and it will continue to be a worthy subject of conversation; there will always be a market for the self consciously refined. But in New York at the moment people are simply lying to themselves while waiting for the ax to fall. From the sense of superiority that once reigned what we're offered now is a set of lazy references to popular culture, a pale imitation of Hollywood and MTV without the effort or the intelligence. There's a pretense that by referring to popularity without actually trying to be popular, one can maintain one's social standing.

"After all, I'm only slumming"
"Because I have nowhere else to go"

In this context any rearguard movement by a now reactionary modernism is irrelevant.

Of course there are good shows coming up in the next 9 months. And the largest sums of money will be well spent, mostly.[?] There will be a few works by younger artists that will shock because they're bright and good and strange. Those who make them will mostly be foreign born, if not still there. But for the rest, who call this place their home, there are friendships based on lies and cowardice. It doesn't matter if one is looking at artists, dealers or critics; it's painful to be around people with so little self respect, scrounging as they are for bread crumbs.
Baghdad Bulletin
"When I read it, the story left me mute, expressionless, bereft -- as though I'd just watched someone die."
Sorry Josh, but you're a few days late and a few dollars short."
What the hell did you expect!
"Farah Fadhil was only 18 when she was killed. An American soldier threw a grenade through the window of her apartment. Her death, early last Monday, was slow and agonising. Her legs had been shredded, her hands burnt and punctured by splinters of metal, suggesting that the bright high-school student had covered her face to shield it from the explosion.
She had been walking to the window to try to calm an escalating situation; to use her smattering of English to plead with the soldiers who were spraying her apartment building with bullets.
But then a grenade was thrown and Farah died. So did Marwan Hassan who, according to neighbours, was caught in the crossfire as he went looking for his brother when the shooting began.
What is perhaps most shocking about their deaths is that the coalition troops who killed them did not even bother to record details of the raid with the coalition military press office. The killings were that unremarkable. What happened in Mahmudiya last week should not be forgotten, for the story of this raid is also the story of the dark side of the US-led occupation of Iraq, of the violent and sometimes lethal raids carried out apparently beyond any accountability.
For while the media are encouraged to count each US death, the Iraqi civilians who have died at American hands since the fall of Saddam's regime have been as uncounted as their names have been unacknowledged."
The Guardian

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Back to the nuts and bolts. From Atrios:
I love this! But who goes to jail!?
Various, from my recent email exchange with Scott Martens, with some additional comments.

I have a problem with the culture of debate as it now exists. In a democracy it makes sense to hold some things a priori, and to be willing to use coercion to those ends. To make incredibly complex structures to avoid offending people ends up offending logic. Ronald Dworkin's latest book tries to create such a system for economics and equality. K.A. Appiah's very positive review in the NYRB made it sound absurd, since it revolves apparently around a point system(!) with numbers varying according to wealth and ability. It sounds both restrictive AND baroque. Why not just argue for a wealth cap? Why is economic freedom so important? What's the point beyond ideology?

Talking about 'culture' is like writing about language, you can't talk about it without using it. This sort of dilemma leaves room for a lot of hot air and quite literally talk is cheap. But on the other hand, to pretend that there is no dilemma causes its own problems. Science can leap-frog over the problem of interpersonal communications, but it is not a useful paradigm for judging our behavior. Simply put, science does not equal justice.

Courtroom debate is one part logic and 2 parts bullshit, it's where idealism meets seduction or where the rubber meets the road, depending on your point of view. Yet since we take it seriously out of necessity, we have developed philosophical structures around it. If we study the process itself, with all it's imprecision, absurdity and corruption, we'll find a better paradigm for a logic of communication than if we try to find an 'artificial' ideal to apply over it.

One of the problems with radical argumentation is that it has tended to make radicality -which is an artificial state- a normative one, or to pretend that it is or should be normative, as the practicioners of scientific argumentation tends to do the same. I suppose I'm still fighting the 'Two Cultures' fight except that I don't take the culture of science very seriously. I take science seriously, but that is not the same thing.
I agree with affirmative action as policy, without thinking that it's particularly constitutional. I defend it because there was/is no way that a majority would accept a nationally funded system of education. But defending it in abstract terms, torturing logic to make it constitutional, rather than defending it as coercive but necessary, has resulted in a view of it as normative that is as perverse as Dworkin's manipulations.

Rhetoric, literature and law are all linked closely. We do not communicate in science, but in language. And if science does not equal justice, then there is also no way of creating a 'scientific' justice, which is in a sense what intellectuals attempt when they create their theories of it. I think I'll stop saying this now since I've been pushing it so much, but I think we should go back to the theory and history of rhetoric. Much of conservative legal theory is based on assumptions that can be shown as demonstrably false if one stops arguing about how law should change and merely studies how it already has. If the train has always been in motion, how can you argue that it 'should be' made to stop?

Many of the arguments Scott Martens makes, there are valid counter arguments. Does language have an intrinsic value?  Does this?

Andrea del Sarto, Portrait of a Young Man,
1517-18, National Gallery, UK
Is it worth killing for? Notwithstanding my earlier comments about 'museification,' is it worth the risk of shipping this painting half way around the world so that children who would otherwise never see it might be able to do so? There is a huge debate these days, with the popularity of 'Blockbuster' exhibitions. And there is no scientific answer to such a question because it is a question about what we value.

Marx was a narrative artist as well as an intellectual. He made a rhetorical argument for a science that others actually tried to invent, in doing so destroying the flexibility -and the elision- that made his work as beautiful but still useful as it was.
Legal argument is a sloppy dialectic, moving towards an ideal of absolute justice as impossible to achieve as 'scientific' history.
Science tries to solve problems. It aims at the center of a target. That's an inappropriate strategy for any non-scientific subject.
The center always moves.
I like it that way.

Every argument 'from' or 'about' the normative begins with subjective localized experience. All communication does. But once you decide that the desired process and result is a system of democratic values, than prescriptivism to further that goal is perfectly appropriate.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

From Josh Marshall linking to an article iin The Washington Post

"Mainly, people want reassurance that the administration knows what it's doing," said Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), "that things are going better than CNN would have us believe."

The real point of is not that people back home are getting nervous, but that their representatives, who are supposed to be knowledgeable, are incapable of leading. Read the article and see if you get the sense, as I do, of a group of people, lords and commoners alike, unaware that what they are responding to is the result of their own decisions. It's a negative feedback loop of increasing ignorance.
From The Nation: Terry Eaglton on Eric Hobsbawm.
Jesus fuck I wish this country could produce this sort of nasty educated wit, or import it, or at least get the damn point.

On immigrants and British culture: "Much the same happened in the literary arena, as the heights of "English" literature were effortlessly monopolized by a Pole (Joseph Conrad), three Americans (Henry James, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound) and five Irishmen (Shaw, Wilde, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett). The Irish were expected to write most of England's literature for it, such being the burdens of empire, as well as supplying them over the years with rents, cattle and cannon-fodder."
Not bad for name dropping, and funny as hell.

And here's Hobsbawm himself on Israel:
"..the small, militarist, culturally disappointing and politically aggressive nation-state which asks for my solidarity on racial grounds,"

That about says it.
Gather 'round and Max will explain.
Scott Martens has responded [archive.org] to my comments, but he misunderstands my point. I posted a response but his commenting system seems to be down, so I'll repost it here. Added to my other recent posts it clarifies my position a little:

I agree with what you're saying here, as I agreed with your conclusion in the posts themselves. What concerns me is a more general tendency towards overdetermined responses to cultural problems. My reference to museification was a comment specifically on this hot-house idea of culture.

The paradox of anthropology is that to understand a culture you have to be removed from it. But being removed from it you can't experience it, and experience as such is a form of understanding that liberalism -out of necessity perhaps- tends to view as suspect. Read my comments -specifically the previously nonsensical one- in the post linking to the Posner article. (see below).

Liberalism can tie you up in knots of your own devising. But Posner is arguing that some actions are defensible only if not used as precedent. He is describing a 'logic' that can only be applied on a case by case basis, arguing for the value of 'experience' as such. In its acceptance of the unpredictable there is a 'naturalness' to Posner's ideas, while your tightly argued logic, while in the end defending something similar, an idea of coercion, is 'artificial' in that it is grounded in a need for absolute clarity and control.

My comments came from my sense of your use of language, and the thought that you were/are trying to come to terms with the experience of culture from the outside and facing the contradictions in that choice.

Sometimes I get sloppy.

"I would say that one thing almost as bad as arguing for direct democracy in all decisions (the rule of man) is the attempt to justify retroactively, every extra-legal action that proved justified."


"I would say that one thing almost as bad as arguing for direct democracy in all decisions (the rule of man), is the attempt to justify IN LEGAL TERMS every extra-legal action that history, in retrospect, has found justified in moral ones."


Tuesday, September 02, 2003

This is in a sense the answer to a question I asked myself after my comments on Scott Martens: If I'm going to defend the rule of law, how can I criticize others for making arguments that I consider overdeterminded and technocratic?
A: Yes, well there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it is more important to keep law and order in the society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don't like the looks of ...
Q: At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?
A: Well just watch me.
I would say one thing almost as bad as arguing for direct democracy in all decisions (the rule of man), is the attempt to justify in legal terms every extra-legal action that history in retrospect has found justified in moral ones.
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
"Hard cases make bad law."
Begin with Lawrence Solum on Richard Posner's review of "Lincoln's Constitution" and then read Posner himself:
There is value in distinguishing what is right from what is legal in order to avoid creating precedents that subsequent presidents might invoke in less exigent circumstances. One wouldn't want presidential suspensions of habeas corpus to become a habit. Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution allowed the president of the German Republic to suspend the Constitution in situations of emergency. The presidents invoked the power frequently, creating precedents for Hitler to employ when he took power in 1933. That is a pragmatic argument for limiting the pragmatic interpretation of our Constitution.
In other words: even though he broke the law, Lincoln did the right thing. But just because he did the right thing, it doesn't mean the law should change.

I'll go with Lincoln, Pierre Trudeau -the source of the first, and famous, quote- and Posner. An awareness of law should not preclude imagination.  But the question of when to break the law, like the law itself, is open to debate

There can be no wisdom without law. There can be no law without wisdom.

Monday, September 01, 2003

"The Government Iraq dossier "did not correspond with reality", the UN's chief weapons inspector said yesterday, casting further doubts on its use to bolster Britain's case for going to war."
The Independent

And I am not in favor of setting fire to Hummers, it's too risky. Next time, they should simply put sugar in the gas tanks.
A new one, filed under the humanities section of my linklist: Transition.
And: Why I read Nathan Newman.
In the mid 80s I spent two years working on an essay that after one hundred pages of rewriting came to ten pages, typed. The title as I wrote it was "Modernism, Parody and the Denial of Narrative," and it was the perfect example of the contradictions it described. It was an inward looking, self supporting, utterly logical, almost diamond hard argument for open-ended ambiguity and narrative: an autistic's attempt to transcend autism. It was published as "Parody and Privacy" in ARTS Magazine in 1987. [now also here] A longer piece, on modernism and ideology, will probably never see the light of day.

It's all well and good to use the language of synchronic analysis to argue for a diachronic view of the world. That's what Wittgenstein was doing by the end of his life. It's the story of Kafka and it's his flaw. When I read that Thomas Mann called Kafka's work "too perfect" I became so excited I almost threw a chair across the room. The history of critical anti-modernism from Duchamp to Warhol is the history of need for order and the fear of narrative, time, and death. The history of 'analytical' and therefore synchronically based critique is the history of using the conservatism one knows to design an escape, to maintain authority over a process one can not control. And it don't work, Son. The wonder of the great 19th century thinkers is that they had access to and thrived in the world of diachronic, narrative, communication. They understood that communication without mediation, without misunderstanding, was impossible. And with rich social lives they weren't so lonely or so desperate for communion that they found the process isolating and painful.

The problem now is not to argue for a diachronic and flexible understanding but to be able to have one. Modernist intellectualism does not understand the difference, does not understand how something can exist only in it's use. A few weeks ago I made a similar comment about Colin McGinn. For a more general argument go here

I've been repeating myself on all this since about 1981, but I'm getting more articulate. So answer me this
What is 'The Law?' Is it the concept or only the concept in action? Is it a set of rules, or is it the process of arguing about those rules - in a room, in summer, without air conditioning, and with a bad hangover? 
Is it the relation between the two?
For all the fact that I come off as an ass -usually without apology- my argument with Scott Martens is entirely intellectual. He's making an argument for something using the tools he has, but he's describing his opinions and I'm describing the history of my life. If he were writing for Volokh I wouldn't give a shit, but he isn't, and I'm a little sheepish about my tone.
Change the Beat!
(why I would never, never, send a kid to private school.)

"Dig the groove, I'll bring you the shovel/If you wanna see me then you better call Hubble."