Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Rawls and others have thought that religious beliefs shouldn’t be allowed to influence public policy, precisely because they are nondiscussable. But this view rests on a misunderstanding of democracy. Modern representative democracy isn’t about making law the outcome of discussion. It is not about modeling politics on the academic seminar. It is about forcing officials to stand for election at short intervals, and about letting ordinary people express their political preferences without having to defend them in debate with their intellectual superiors. 
If this analysis is sound, then we see that the statement that “Modernity has a secular self-understanding that tends to deny religious doctrine a role in political justification” depends on whether modernity is equated with the dominance of the secular. The statement is thus entirely circular.
In this country the english language is the language of record in a court of law. You may not argue a point in latin and then demand it not be translated. You can not argue from canon law or the logic of the wergeld and expect to win a case. If you want to make a case for a position that for yourself is based on religious doctrine, you must be able to translate, or transliterate, that argument into one that someone of another doctrine may come to understand and with which s/he may be willing to agree. This country is based on an ideal of secular politics for this reason alone, that of communication amongst doctrines; Catholics arguing with Jews about Baptists. It's that simple.
Where the fuck are we, third grade?
I am not an agnostic, if by that is meant (and this is the sense I have of the term, though it may be an idiosyncratic sense) someone who is perplexed as to whether or not there is a God; who regards this as an interesting question to which he happens not to have the answer. I am someone who simply doesn't feel the presence of God in my life. That I think is the typical state of the nonreligious person, and corresponds to what I assume is the feeling of a eunuch about sex. The eunuch knows that sex is important to many people, but he doesn't have any feeling of that importance. Sex doesn't exist for him.  God doesn't exist for me. That doesn't mean that He doesn't exist. My understanding of Nietzsche's dictum that "God is dead" is not that it is a metaphysical statement, a statement of atheist doctrine, but that it is a statement that God is as if dead, to educated Europeans of Nietzsche's era. I think that whether or not God is dead for one depends on upbringing and temperament, but not on arguments.
Two things in response. One is that the I made the same argument about Nietzsche in a paper I wrote for Marcia Cavell. She practically yelled her notes at me. "Nietzsche was an atheist!." She gave me a 'D' and I dropped the class. She was an idiot, or hadn't read the books in years. Needless to say, Posner is right, but he still misses the point. His arguments rest on metaphysical principles as much as anyone's, and much more so than my own.

When I was young, in my early teens, I spent some time trying to figure out the common denominator, the ground, for my definition of justice, the sort of metaphysic of value that would pass whatever sort of test I would want to throw at it. Posner, in his 'realism' has chosen for himself some sort of ideal of the conflicts of the marketplace. I've always thought of the market as an inevitable, even necessary, vulgarism, but I would never use it as a model for the good. A right to property is not primary, since the right to a limited resource is too easily opposed. I decided against speech as a value in itself since the right either to scare or bore people also has its limits, but I ended up with its converse, the right to listen: The right to be curious.
More later maybe. I'm tired and I'm covered in dust.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Brian Leiter on Richard Posner.
How can an abstraction be seen successfully to image the world?
Leiter and Posner may want us to argue from principles rather than towards them -from a simple logic rather than to a moral one- but simplicity here is a value not a fact, and the complexity of the world does not go away because we will it.
Rumors of the Turning Wheel

Anne Halley and her husband were old friends of both my parents. I met them at least once when I was young, but I don't have any memories. She was a good poet.
Up north for the holidays. Thinking about the future. And about work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

2 of 6. 5 of them are lying around the apartment, hidden from the cat. The sixth is in the freezer in a plastic bag: a few insects might have survived their container's fumigation.
I'm broke and I'm moving in a month, but I decided to do a job for barter instead of cash. They're worth more than the labor I put into them; and unless I get desperate and decide to flip them, they're staying with me for awhile, or at least in the family. Together with the few photographs I have -and this makes me laugh- I guess I have the beginnings of an art collection.
And I like them.

Monday, December 20, 2004

"And remember, the place for 'Intelligent design' is in a biology textbook, not an Iraq policy"
I liked that one.

click on the cabbage

"I sold it to Old Man Honeywell."

I wanted to comment on the original op ed but I never got around to it.
Creativity, whatever the word means is not an interesting subject.  It takes more intelligence to be observant of the implications of one's creation than to make the thing. As I've said too many times, inventiveness as such is amoral and preadolescent. And even then the best inventors are observers first.

The quote is from my grandfather. He had 20 patents, but marketing bored him. Business bored him. He owned a regional phone company in Minnesota.

Phone dials had a coil spring.  Metal expands and contracts with changes in temperature. The central mechanism above is a coil spring mercury switch.
If Democrats have to lose this, they have to lose well.

Do they spin and shuffle and whine and sputter on about how bad the whole thing is? Or do they make this into a clear choice: where Democrats support Social Security for a clear set of reasons rooted in values and policy, and Republicans oppose it?

If the lies about the program's unviability are volubly refuted, the party division made clear, and the reasons why Social Security is good for America are ably argued, then let the chips fall where they may. But if it's all tactics, the outmoded bag of tricks and risk-aversion, playing at the margins and the wringing of hands, that will truly be unforgivable.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


(from Laura Rozen)

In other news, my ex got into a bit of a scuffle with Bjork at a club friday night.
I'm glad I wasn't there. When world's collide, it's best to be far far away.
Why does the media hate social security?

Only social conservatives and some on the left are left to say anything against the vulgar materialism of liberals and free marketeers. Social security is designed not to protect the powerful and the educated but their servants, of whom the liberals in that group are slightly ashamed and whom they secretly hold in contempt. Again, men can no longer be assumed to speak for women nor whites for blacks, but the educated classes can speak for and about the lower orders with impunity.

Does this mean I'm never sick of the peasantry? No, I'm discussing problems not offering plans, but ignorance is not somehow more forgivable in the educated, is it?

I didn't think so.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Brad DeLong on politics and poetry. He vulgarizes everything. The brilliance of the passage is in Dante's acknowledgement of the temptations of cowardice -is it not sometimes prudent? But DeLong need his ideas simplified and illustrated. The whole thing is a primer on intellectual decadence. Read the post and my comments and you may see what I mean.

Of the few things I truly regret from my past, along with turning down an invitation to go out and party on the south side of Chicago on a friday night, the various faux pas that have set back my relationships with various galleries (in 3 countries on 2 continents), and my mistaken assumption that I had to choose between the two very attractive but shy young women after a night of drinking, perhaps my biggest regret is turning down a recommendation to shoot for a verite medical show. Six weeks in an emergency room in NY. I would have had to lie. But the offer came from an editor who used some of my footage on her reel. Cowardice may sometimes be prudence, but I tend to err on the side of stupidity.

Meanwhile, I'm still dreaming of LA. and I waste too much time on this fucking blog.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A brief addition to the last post.
It's the fucking poor you idiot. The beauty produced in desperation, by the poor,
whether it's The Carter Family or Snoop fucking Dogg.
Kultcha as a category covers not only Snoop's phraseology, but the shape of Matthew Ynglesias' glasses, the arrogance of Brian Leiter and the fastidious professorial mannerisms of Juan Cole and Jack Balkin. Culture is the MANNER in which we do things. It's your blue jeans and my unshaven face. Sometimes I think this fucking country is divided between those who spend all day looking in the mirror and those who've never seen their own reflection.
update: It just gets worse.
Can the woman say nothing about class?, about the contradictions inherent in individualism?, about the fact that white Brooklyn, and Staten Island, if separated from the rest of the city, would qualify as red?
The absolute inability to reflect, to question one's own sense of...

My last night in L.A. I'll miss it but I'll be back soon. It's a beautiful city. The traffic is beautiful, the smog is beautiful; and the greenery, both man made and not, is amazing: the ten minute ride from the mountains to the sea. The future is terrifying, but beautiful. It's enough to make me a fan of J.G Ballard.

What's interesting to me and attractive more than anything is the sense of absurd democracy. This is not a city of aristocratic corruption, or even its pretense -and that's all New York is good for these days- it's a city of popular corruption and popular decadence. Everyone knows where the smog comes from. There's no one else to blame. And this understanding permeates the place. I almost want to move out here, just to buy a car.
I feel tempted in ways I've never been. Like Emil Jannings howling at the moon.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Once again the liberal intelligentsia proves itself clueless as to the ways, why's, means and how's of what it calls "Kultcha". And why the fucking slang?
Analysis some other time.
In LA. Back in NY thursday.

Kerik's a schmuck, but we knew that already. More soldiers died, but we knew they would.
I'll catch up later.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The first time I saw the Mediterranean, I was carrying a copy of the Illiad. The first time I saw the Pacific Coast Highway, I had a book of essays by Joan Didion.

Still out in the desert. Staying longer than I thought.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I'll be out in the desert for the most of it. No phone line, no computer.
Be back Sunday the 12th
The continuing Haussmannization of the world.
my new tag line.
"They tell me everything's gonna be alright, but I don't know what alright even means"

Thursday, December 02, 2004

"there is nothing in the fact of occupation that justifies the targeting and killing of civilians.".

I'm not saying it'll happen at this point -in Judea and Sumeria- but such arguments can be used as an excuse to double the number of "facts on the ground" after any conquest. And those "tiresome debates" M.Y. talks take place mostly in this country.
Born in Greenpoint.
Father, born Austria-Hungary.
Father worked in the mines in Homestead PA before moving to New York. She says he never wanted to talk about it. I told her my grandfather was a Pinkerton.
[My grandfather was born in the Bronx. My grandmother was born on South 6th Street in Williamsburg]
25 years on the floor at Leviton.
11 years as the manager of a small store on Manhattan Ave.
Wanted to be a doctor.
Languages: English, Polish, Slovak, Russian, French.
Maintains a correspondence since 1947, in French, with a woman who knew and now tends the grave of her brother, killed and buried just before the end of the war, in 1945.
We chat over coffee at the donut shop a few times a month, complaining to each other about the onslaught of yuppies and rude midwestern teenagers.

Thinking more about the article on the art market in yesterday's Times (see below) what really shocked me the degree to which the discussion was limited to the morphology of the market—like trying to understand the ocean by looking at the waves. Is this what Leiter et al. mean by a 'technical' discussion: a discussion of surfaces? History without social history. No sociology, anthropology? If Weber decides to study protestant Christianity and its relation to capitalism is this to be derided as not technical enough because he's not talking about economics?

Chris Hedges
The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with stories of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war. The vanquished know the essence of war—death. They grasp that war is necrophilia. They see that war is a state of almost pure sin with its goals of hatred and destruction. They know how war fosters alienation, leads inevitably to nihilism, and is a turning away from the sanctity and preservation of life. All other narratives about war too easily fall prey to the allure and seductiveness of violence, as well as the attraction of the godlike power that comes with the license to kill with impunity.
That's a sexy paragraph.

I remember a friend from school, from the film department. His thesis film was a documentary about a couple of friends who were junkies. He said he wanted to take the romance out of addiction, to show the sadness and boredom. The film was as sexy as that paragraph, as sexy as a photo by Tim Page. The woman was stunningly beautiful. I knew her sister; they both tested positive later. Bill died 10(?) years ago of a brain hemorrhage. He'd switched to coke.

"Take the glamour out of war? You can't take the glamour out of war... War is good for you!!"
Tim Page is now a pacifist.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Topics for discussion:
Brad DeLong and the Haussmannization of political culture.
begin here.

The crimes of the bourgeoisie are those done in their name. I't's not that I refuse to criticise the radical left it's that I refuse to mount an idealist's defense of industrial servitude. As I've said before, my meager investments are in Norwegian oil shipping companies, and the market is in China.
It's not the cruelty of the world that disgusts me, it's the hypocrisy of liberals.
As my broker laughs at economists who try to gauge the stock market, I can laugh at them when they do the same for a market I know something about.
The article is silly.
But anything by Maurizio is a strong buy ...and hold.
More later maybe.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The end of two eras. Colin DeLand/American Fine Arts and Pat Hearn Art Gallery (P.H.A.G.), gone forever, tonight at midnight. The dumpster is almost full. Samba on the IMac.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

"The vast majority of people here cross their fingers for a sudden explosion, or pray for American successes in Iraq and Afghanistan to increase the price of suppression by the theocracy in Iran."

With all due respect to Farouz Farzami (and Laura Rozen), that last sentence is just stupid.

In an hour or so I'll go out into the rain and in and out of the subway to spend a few hours helping to close down the remains of what was in fact the first gallery to move into Chelsea, so I suppose that among other reasons gives me the right to make a brief comment about Roberta Smith's absurd defense of the place, and of the NY scene in general.

The arts document the perceptions of the middle class as abetted by the money of its wealthy cousins. I understand that no more or less than Jeff Wall, T.J. Clark or Larry Gagosian. In Tehran or Kiev, or for that matter, Paris and Mexico City, the middle classes speak in order to describe and define themselves, to varying degrees out of a sense of necessity [the question of their media of choice is for another day] But what has Chelsea to say about the current state of bourgeois culture in the United States? Roberta Smith has wasted yet another opportunity to stand for something, even for style as a value or cynicism as morality. Her passivity is more corrupt than a collector's greed. It's the passivity of the fear of politics, even of the sort that defends the rights and privileges of her own kind. It's no wonder Bush is in the White House.

Friday, November 26, 2004

My country:
The US Congress has launched a fresh attack on the international criminal court at The Hague, threatening to cut off development aid to countries who refuse to guarantee immunity from prosecution for Americans at the tribunal.
Washington has withheld about $50m (£26m) in military aid to more than 30 countries, such as Benin, Croatia, Ecuador and Mali, which refused to sign exemption deals.
But they and more than 40 other countries have resisted US demands on the grounds that immunity deals would clash with their domestic laws and international obligations.
The new provision, included in a budget bill due for a vote on December 8, would add pressure on recalcitrant countries by cutting off civil as well as military aid.
It would stop disbursements from the state department's $2.5bn Economic Support Fund aimed at alleviating poverty.
I read this last night, and today it made Buzzflash, which until this afternoon was following the line of the clean and simple. Not that there's any doubt which side I'm on, but we should all be aware of the actors behind the scene. I'm not a big fan of Soros, who's trying to buy forgiveness of his sins while playing god (and doing a good job at both) but the Ukrainians are pawns to Bush no more or less than to they are to Putin. If all goes well and Yushchenko comes out the victor I'm sure he'll keep his distance.
Updates again at AFOE (each of which by the way is at $1.3297 as of 5:30PM today)
Dec 04/04
Off to LA and/or a trailer in the desert for a week.
I need it. Maybe I'll stay.
The GS is still in the garage. MI-3 is on hold but the man doesn't ride it, and he can afford to buy 5 new ones if he wants.
But then I have to learn to ride the thing.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Updates on Ukraine @ A Fist Full of Euros

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

In re: the posts of The Stanley Bros. at Brian Leiter's site and the discussion linked to below at CT.

Is the work of Michelangelo a 'conceptual scheme.' How about von Karajan's recordings of Mozart, or anything and everything by Bjork? If specialization and technical knowledge are seen as superior, does that not imply that skill is a more important intellectual trait than curiosity? It seems to me that we could end up in a world where automobile mechanics compete against each other to design cars with lower gas mileage, but no one is able to imagine the electric train.

Back to the notion of connoisseurship. What does it mean that we are able to recognize a work as being by a specific author without being told? Is Mozart's ouvre a system? How do we describe the idiosyncratic patternings of one author in a given language? [Not that connoisseurs don't make mistakes: What allowed Adorno to treat Jazz with contempt?] When I first read the discussion of Davidson in the Stanford Encyclopedia it took me only a moment to think of the problems of literary translation. And I did so bypassing any reference in my mind to of Sapir-Whorf. Is this my genius or simply the result of the fact that my parents were students of literature rather than philosophy?

More specifically than a simple techncal/humanist divide, I'd say that the sciences now operate under the illusion that the thinking subject does not play a role in their activities. LIke a policeman who conflates himself with the law, those involved in technical fields of study- or in fields where it is possible to construct purely technical subsets- perform in a self constructed theater of the unhuman. How else could so many people be so unaware (and have such lousy taste in art)? I seem to have a few academic visitors these days, so in the interests of curiosity rather than dogma, I'll ask again: what is the difference between art and illustration? Why is science fiction so much the latter? What kind of knowledge is that of the bricklayer or the the connoisseur? Why are lawyers like philosophers, actors, and con men?
Are these not questions for philosphy?

On the job-site yesterday, while sucking ancient fiberglass into my lungs and pulling BX through old plaster walls, the DJ on the station we were listening to switched from a block of Albert Ayler to Prokifiev. This wouldn't interest me much, except that the first piece was central to my childhood. At the the tender age of 6, when these days kids have Star Wars, I had Nevsky.
It was an odd afternoon.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A couple good paragraphs.

"Humanism, at this point at least, means the defense of man as something other than mechanism, whether that something is the consequence of metaphysical belief or of an assumption that experience, and our ability to learn from it, can not be described by means of number. Continental philosophy is humanist in that it is a defense of the primacy of experience, and therefore of art, as such.
Scientific meaning is an oxymoron, but not all defenses of the arts are predicated on religious argument, the argument that meaning- whatever that could be- exists. Over the centuries literature and theater have been more than anything the arts of atheism. And from the standpoint of philosophy, the continuing necessity of rhetoric in legal argument is the rebuttal to any pretense that human behavior can ever be described by mathematics or by science. The wisdom of Solomon will always be of more importance- as a thing of value- than the intelligence of the inventor of the Game Boy or the VCR."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Originally I'd posted a few paragraphs and linked, but the link died. I found the full piece and posted it.  It's back up at E&P but I'm leaving it up here as well.

Editor and Publisher
Greg Mitchell
Landscape After Battle
NEW YORK (November 16, 2004) -How the press portrays the aftermath of the Battle of Fallujah may determine what happens next in Iraq. In the days ahead, therefore, the media must look carefully at both the strategic benefits and the human toll of the offensive.

While the issues are endlessly complex, they boil down to the simple, age-old question: Does the end justify the means? It will be fascinating, though possibly quite sad, to see how this plays out in the press in the coming days.

A glorious victory to some may look like Bush's Guernica to others. In a report from the city for The New York Times, Robert F. Worth on Wednesday described Fallujah as "this post-apocalyptic wasteland" and "like a film that is set sometime on the other side of Armageddon."

With the fight easing -- though by no means finished -- embedded reporters can see more of (what's left of) the city and independent journalists are now braving the scattered gunfire. What they learn, the pictures they take and the lessons they draw, will help shape public opinion as the administration ponders "Fallujah-type solutions" for routing insurgents from Ramadi, Samarra, Mosul, and other inflamed cities.

So there are a lot of lives, Iraqi and American, riding at least in part on press reports and visuals.

There are many troubling angles to this story. For example, U.S. officials have long claimed that foreign jihadists had assembled in force in Fallujah and were helping to spearhead the revolt. Yet in today's USA Today we learn that of more than 1,000 insurgents captured there in the past week, only about 20 are foreigners.

Because the media generally needs little prodding to examine political and military questions, let me emphasize the human dimension here.

Evidence of the physical and spiritual toll in Fallujah remains sketchy. While the apparent execution of one wounded insurgent by a U.S. Marine draws headlines, the fate of thousands of civilians is still hidden.

It is not yet known with any certainty how many civilians might have been killed in the city, how many of those who fled have become gravely ill in ramshackle refugee camps, how much of Fallujah has been wrecked, and how long it will take to get the water running, lights on, and rubble cleared. Almost forgotten is the fact that the United States dropped tons of bombs to soften up the city in the weeks before the assault -- and before most of the residents escaped.

Starkly differing appraisals have already appeared. On Tuesday, Patrick J. McDonnell in the Los Angeles Times took a triumphant tack. He quoted Col. Craig Tucker crowing that "it was beyond their [the insurgents] comprehension how much combat firepower we sent down there." Col. John Ballard said, "The story for me is how we successfully convinced the local population that they would be safer to leave the city."

Tucker added, "In terms of civilians, it was a relatively clean battlefield." Ballard chimed in, "I have seen no evidence of a humanitarian disaster."

Compare this to a Monday dispatch from The Associated Press: "Dead Iraqis still lay out in the open, their stiff limbs akimbo, like department store mannequins knocked off their pedestals. At least two women were seen among the dead. ... Some districts reeked from the sickening odor of rotting flesh."

Jackie Spinner, a Washington Post embed, wrote on Tuesday: "Even the dogs have started to die." But she also quoted Marine Brig. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik: "This is what we do. This is what we do well. ... What I saw out here is a bunch of professional Marines and soldiers who were protecting the property of the Iraqi people."

This stood in contrast to another Tuesday report from The New York Times' Dexter Filkins, squeezed into the very bottom of page A12. It described horrific conditions in the battered city: "obliterated mosques, cratered houses and ground-up streets." Filkins observed that "the American military faces the urgent but almost paradoxical imperative of rebuilding the city it just destroyed. ... The devastation that the battle has wrought will not be easy to repair. The human and political effects of that devastation could rapidly spread far beyond Fallujah."

Filkins also showed what Col. Tucker's "combat firepower" actually looked like on the street: a tank firing a round at a single sniper, turning him "into rubble" as well as punching a hole in a minaret of a mosque. One insurgent remained alive in the mosque, so the military called for a pair of 500-pound bombs to be dropped from the sky, "and the mosque was no more."

Of course, an enemy shooting from a mosque may be fair game. But leveling a mosque is not likely to win the hearts and minds of the Fallujahans who will soon see it.

Or, as Col. Michael Olivier told Robert Worth of The Times: "First we blow up your house, then we pay you to rebuild it."

Then there are these reports:

• Amnesty International declared on Monday that the rules of war protecting civilians and wounded combatants have been broken by both sides in the assault. It also warned of a looming humanitarian crisis "with acute shortages of food, water, medicine and with no electricity. There are also many wounded people who could not receive medical care becuse of the fighting." A spokeswoman for Amnesty told AP: "According to what we're hearing and some testimony from residents who have fled, it looks like the toll of civilian casualties is high."

• An Associated Press dispatch on Monday quoted Marine Sgt. Todd Bowers, who is helping determine reconstruction needs: "It's incredible, the destruction. It's overwhelming. My first question is: Where to begin?"

• BBC reporter Paul Wood, embedded with the Marines, also described bodies lying in the streets, which were "starting to become a serious health risk." He had talked to a Marine officer who said that "cats and dogs are now starting to eat these bodies. It is a quite horrific picture which I'm drawing but that is what awaits the people of Fallujah when they come back." The reporter added that he could not imagine "how people are going to feel when they see their city and they see the holes in the mosques and they see the destruction that has been wrought by this battle."

• Anne Barnard of The Boston Globe noted that the military says it took every possible step to minimize civilian casualties, but "the methods used -- air strikes and artillery and tank fire from a distance -- make it difficult to know whether civilians are caught under fire." U.S. forces had urged Fallujans trapped in the city to stay in their homes, but "troops using thermal sights often assumed that if there was a 'hot spot' inside a house — indicating body heat — the people inside were insurgents."

• Officials with the International Red Cross decried the continuing ban on sending aid and ambulances into the combat zones. Fallujah General Hospital was well supplied but held no patients, as none of the injured had been able to reach it.

Equally disturbing: While we are starting to get a sense of the human effects of the "means," we still have no idea of how, when, or whether, this will ever "end."
The AP:
Baghdad, Iraq - The recapture of Fallujah has not broken the insurgents' will to fight and may not pay the big dividend U.S. planners had hoped— to improve security enough to hold national elections in Sunni Muslim areas of central Iraq (news - web sites), according to U.S. and Iraqi assessments.
Instead, the battle for control of the Sunni city 40 miles west of Baghdad has sharpened divisions among Iraq's major ethnic and religious groups, fueled anti-American sentiment and stoked the 18-month-old Sunni insurgency.

Those grim assessments, expressed privately by some U.S. military officials and by some private experts on Iraq, raise doubts as to whether the January election will produce a government with sufficient legitimacy, especially in the eyes of the country's powerful Sunni Muslim minority."

Comments: no comment.

War Porn and political kitsch

When individualism devolves into narcissism, democracy will be in need of a despot.
The photograph's an illustration of the obvious.

Monday, November 15, 2004


War is bloody. Thousands of children died in the destructiuon of Germany during the Second World War, a war that most of us consider just, but most of those responsible for this war have had no first hand knowledge of the thing, and most of those who shout approval pattern their behavior on memories of high school football games.

This war is not just and it was neither well planned nor well executed. The politics of this fiasco are both morally obscene and frankly self-destructive.
If Brooks is going to bitch about the CIA, and everyone else is wondering what and why, Goss's defenders should be pushing him to release the inspector general's internal report. And if he still refuses, the democrats should be asking why. Jane Harman mentioned this in passing, and only in passing, tonight in the final moments of a segment on the News Hour. That's all I've heard of it recently.
Talking Points: Given all that has happened over the last four years, it is easy for critics of the president to fall into the comforting but mistaken assumption that intelligence, foreign policy, or military 'professionals' always know more or are wiser than outsiders and political appointees. Go back and read a biography of Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill to see how mistaken that assumption can be.
All bureaucracies -- whether designed to make widgets, issue drivers licenses, run spies, or drop bombs -- have tendencies toward risk aversion and group think.
But here we have a record.
As Josh Marshall reminds us, If the professionals were often wrong, the appointee/amateurs were worse. "This is not argumentative or hyperbole or even up for much serious dispute."
No, it isn't.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

AP Photographer Flees Fallujah
ABC News: "I decided to swim … but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river."
He watched horrified as a family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross. Then, he "helped bury a man by the river bank, with my own hands."
"I kept walking along the river for two hours and I could still see some U.S. snipers ready to shoot anyone who might swim. I quit the idea of crossing the river and walked for about five hours through orchards."
He met a peasant family, who gave him refuge in their house for two days. Hussein knew a driver in the region and sent a message to another AP colleague, Ali Ahmed, in nearby Ramadi.
Ahmed relayed the news that Hussein was alive to AP's Baghdad bureau. He sent a second message back to Hussein that a fisherman in nearby Habaniyah would ferry the photographer to safety by boat.
"At the end of the boat ride, Ali was waiting for me. He took me to Baghdad, to my office."
Sitting safely in the AP's offices, a haggard-looking Hussein offered a tired smile of relief.
Eid Mubarak
More bullshit.

One problem liberals have, or one advantage republicans enjoy, is that the latter are in the position of being able to tell people what they want to hear: that they, the people, know enough, are well educated enough, to make the right decisions. Democrats are trapped by having to tell Americans that most of them don't know shit about foreign policy or economics, but that they should learn about both those subjects and more.

Democrats don't have the luxury of playing to provincialism. But they also don't have anyone of the stature or skill to tell the people why they should become more aware. Condescension doesn't work, and liberal self-interest is right there for all to see. The contempt of liberals for working class republicans in those places where they live side by side is one of those things I return to again and again.

The problem is freedom, and how it's defined. Liberals speak about social freedom and economic obligation. Big money conservatives talk about economic freedom and tack on any ideal of social obligation as a sop to social/moral conservatives. But of course economic freedom breeds social freedom, so you have the hyprocrisy of the powerful conservatives enjoying those pleasures that they consider dangerous for the masses. "To the pure all things are pure." And the priestly pederasts are all from the conservative side of the doctrinal fence. But the social conservativism of a large perventage of the working classes has its origin in their need to justify to themselves, for their own reasons, their inferior position. "We may be poor, but we're humble," and similar logic. But there's room for hypocrisy all around. Men and fathers may enjoy those powers their community allows. Women and children will suffer the most.

This is why I hate, and that is not too strong a word, those bow-tied, broomstick-impaled character actors David Brooks and George Will. The live to serve at others' whim. It's not about logic but desire and shame; a shame they feel at their own corruption and that they think we should feel about our own. But since we refuse, we not they are the hypocrites. That was the point of David Brock's previous existence, though it's not polite to admit it. It's the theme song of the right wing sodomites brigade going way back to the beginning of the beginning. You think it started with T.S. Eliot?

And liberals just feel guilty about having servants, so they try to pretend they don't exist.

I've said this before: A conservative pays for the fuck and walks out the door. The liberal's the one who hands you the money while suggesting, with a look of concern on his face, that maybe you should find a better job.
In an unfair world, who gets the hookers' vote?
Reading around the usual range of technocratic liberal blogs since the election, I despair of coming upon much of value. No fucking sense whatsoever that there are contradictions that can not be overcome by strategy alone.

The middle class represents its own interests. Rich coastal liberals make their money the same way rich republicans do; Manhattan isn't a den full of communist sympathizers, it's the home of people whose cleaning ladies live train-rides away in the outer boroughs, of well heeled servants of the truly powerful and their attendants. I'm as sick of earnest liberals as I am of Brad DeLong's bullshit literary tastes. Same delusion.

Nobody lives their ideas, they live their sensibility; and when there's a conflict, tell me which one wins?

Anri Sala and Francesca Woodman at Marian Goodman

Dammi i Colori documents the small offer of hope made by the mayor of Tirana, Sala's old friend and schoolmate, to his electorate. The question comes up of destiny vs. choice, to give the citizens of Albania's capital, so used to the former, at least the possibility of another option. But both Sala and his friend forget that artists live the contradiction of choosing to live by destiny. The authoritarianism of the poet surrounds the conversation like a frame.

There isn't much intellectually new in Woodman's photographs. They document the romantic self absorbtion of a pretty adolescent girl. But she was a brilliant girl; brilliant minds are subtle imaginations, and her imagination was visual. The photographs describe the sensations of her indulgence with such specificity and detail that we begin almost to share them.

Communication does not begin or end with ideas but with gestures. To end where I began: I may have an argument with the mayor of Tirana, but he understands this more than Brad DeLong.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Kerim picked a good one
It may be worth discussing whether $45 million is a bit much to spend at the moment, or even to consider the ethics and morality of money and art in a democracy, but to read in the same newspaper that Duccio di Buoninsegna "is not widely known" is a bit odd.
The cover of the Village Voice this week is an image of Manhattan Island floating in a sea of blue, with the title Cast Away.
The worldweariness of rich teenagers. The decadence of Weimar without the education.
"Man, you should come out here. It's cheap. Nothing out here but freaks with pick-up trucks, a few marines, and the naked gay boys hanging out in Jack Pierson's swimming pool."

$5000 would buy me a shack in the Mojave desert.
I'm so sick of this shit.
"James, why is it all the really good artists are homosexual, while my side's left with crap?"
"But, Seth, you've got Raphael. He's good."
"Raphael sucks!"
"But I love Raphael."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Mark LeVine, in a guest editorial at Juan Cole/Informed Comment

In the weeks leading up to Palestinian President Yassir Arafat’s death American politicians and pundits have repeatedly called on the Palestinian people to use the opportunity of his passing to transform the intifada from a violent uprising into a non-violent, democratic and pragmatic program for achieving independence. This is very good advice, needless to say, except for one small problem: Palestinians have been trying to build such a movement for the last two decades, and the Israeli Government, IDF and American policy-makers have done everything possible to make sure it could not be heeded.
Matthew Yglesias knows smart people. Tapped:
BLAIR, PALESTINE, AND UNIPOLARITY. Tony Blair is headed for America in order to, among other things, try and push the president to push harder for a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I've spoken to several smart, informed people over the past 24 hours who've suggested that the outcome of this effort could have much broader implications than one might think.
I have to admit I almost hope he fails.
But it's another reason I'm more worried about the stability of nuclear Israel than I am about Iran. The partnership of Jewish and Christian fundamentalists, in what both perceive to be a hostile world.
I take it back.
Good luck Tony.
Laura Rozen sends us to Yossi Beilin's unraveling of Yasser Arafat in The Forward:
During the Camp David Summit in 2000, Arafat told President Clinton, "If I accept the proposals that have been made here, then you will have to come to my funeral." This, of course, is not a serious argument. You can object to a proposal, or support it, but opposition that derives from fear for one's life from extremists is, in my opinion, unforgivable.
The rest of the piece is in of a similar tone: condescension is the courtesy of the victor towards the vanquished.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

On the sidebar to an article in Haaretz on the Israeli Govt. response to the death of Arafat:
I could probably turn this into an attack on market theory, analytic philosophy, Zionism, or any of the many theories of intention; but I think I'll just have a little chuckle and go to sleep.
Fucking idiots.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004,2763,1348301,00.html
From the Times:
"It's as if somebody were to find a dozen new paintings by Rembrandt or a lost film of Charlie Chaplin," said Daniel Guss, director of the classical catalog for BMG Music, the successor to RCA, for which Kapell recorded.
Any such claims for anything in 20th century musical performance are pure hyperbole—certainly in the classical repertoire—but the comparison of Rembrandt to Chaplin is kind of interesting.

update: Thinking about the Afro-Celtic hybrids that are the basis of the great popular musical traditions of the last century, and their relationship to music-hall etc. (the world that produced Chaplin)

What does it mean when folk musical traditions, rather than being transformed into abstraction—classical music,  jazz—become formalized version of themselves? Is rock and roll a musical tradition, or a theatrical one? Was James Brown a musician or a performer, in the broader sense. Remember the old debate over whether the blues was folk music, or something else.

Opera and Hans Hotter.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

"I find it extraordinary that despite all the expressions of opposition to the assault on Falluja that the coalition authorities should not only have persisted with the assault, but pretend that they undertake it because the Iraqis want them to do so. This must be the last throw ... of the strategy of pacifying Iraq by bombing it." Robin Cook
Note to self: God/MacGuffin/South Africa/John Comaroff/political art/Terry Turner/stories of my youth.
(I'll remember what it all means when I wake up.)
A quarter-century ago this month, several hundred Iranian students seized the American Embassy in Tehran, taking our Marines and diplomats hostage, and leaving Americans fuming and asking, "Why do they hate us?"
25 years ago I was a 16 year old high school student, and I knew why they hated us.

Ken Pollack is an idiot. But even Atrios is capable of saying "Iran has the potential to be a genuine threat in the medium term." I really don't know what that can mean except in the sense of a threat to our interests, as opposed to our safety. As far as safety, I'm much more worried about Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
[T]here is good evidence that most Iranians want a different form of government, but there is little evidence that they are ready to take up arms against their rulers. Most Iranians simply don't want to go through another revolution. While Iranians on the whole are probably the most pro-American Muslims in the region, they are also fiercely nationalistic. Given our experience in Iraq, we should assume they would resist any effort by America to interfere in their domestic affairs.

A diplomatic solution is far preferable to a military one.
Oh. Really?

On another note, this post from C.T. send us here, where I've discovered that one of the authors is an old roomate, and someone who for a few years was my closest friend. We haven't talked in over a decade, and probably won't be any time soon. Graduate student life can be miserable, even for someone who's only an observer. I miss the neighborhood though.
"Hyde Park. Where black and white hold hand in hand... against the poor."

Monday, November 08, 2004

Questions for Henry Farrell:

Is Israel an anomaly among modern democracies, or reactionary from its founding?
What does it mean to have created an arch-nationalist state in the 20th century?
Is there a double standard to western responses to Israel as compared to more violent and repressive regimes, or does this apply only because of Israel's claims to superior moral authority?

I posted a comment on the thread at C.T and as usual didn't get much response.

Friday, November 05, 2004

God is a MacGuffin
(see: metonymy)

From Majikthise:
A colossal waste of time.

What training that makes it possible for anthropologists to be both critical and respectful in dealing with the groups they study, whether New Jersey teenagers or tribesmen in the highlands of New Zealand? What do they expect from people?
What do liberals expect?
What do they assume about themselves?
How can Susan Haack be so intelligent, and yet so incapable of self reflection?

Moral Values
I have a little fun late in the comments.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Added to the comments on this post at C.T.:
I’ve read a few of these comments but not all, and most of what I’ve read seems to miss the point. Liberals are a condescending lot.

I wonder how many of those who voted for Bush would say that their obligations, to family and friends and community, were more important to them than personal freedom. That’s certainly the case in my neighborhood. What calculations could Brad DeLong do with that? Brian Leiter once linked approvingly if half in jest to an article or a blog entry by some professor or other that claimed to analyze the IQ’s of the populations of various Red states. Conclusion: the peasants are stupid. I was I think the only one I know of to point out that the post and the link to it were obscene. I wonder how many of you spend time in college towns. Do you know how humiliating life can be for the locals in such places?

Traditions gives us most of what we value. French haute cuisine derives from the efforts of 500 generations of French grandmothers. Mozart is the end of a tradition, not a lightningbolt out of the blue. I’m sick to death of technocrats and libertarians, of liberal yuppies who destroy what’s left of old neighborhoods and then wonder why their neighbors, the little old ladies, vote for Bush. But liberals are the public face of hard-core economic conservatism: of the logic of the market. DeLong and Krugman would be happy to have a population of corporate drones with really good health insurance. The peasants don’t expect life to be easy. They don’t want much. But they don’t like being condescended to by people who want to help them out of pity. “And for the record (don’t post this), Yglesias as an individual has a great, self-aware sense of humor and is much more starkly honest (if also unapologetic) about his own elitism than most liberals. Take him out for a beer and I think you’d find that.” Yeah that’s a real quote. But I’m sure he loves listening to Johnny Cash.

For the record I’m an atheist. But given a choice between spending time with someone who’s thinks the meaning of life comes from understanding a calculation and someone who thinks it comes from the study of a book, I’ll gladly choose the latter. And ‘Riverbend’ has a wider range of reference, a better prose style in her second language and, frankly, is more intelligent than Ophelia Benson. And I’m sorry if the above quote is dirty pool. The problem with my country is very simple: college professors don’t know how to sit at the same table with truckers and taxi drivers; and that’s not the taxi drivers’ fault. Whites are not allowed any more to speak for blacks, men can no longer comfortably be assumed to speak for women or straights for gays; but the educated may speak freely to each other about the rest of the country without acknowledging there’s a problem.

Monday, November 01, 2004

C.T. on the Lancet study part 2

Riverbend on living in Hell.

And from The Guardian:
A Nobel Prize winner from Iran, praised by President Bush for her commitment to democracy, is suing the U.S. government over restrictions that could block the publication of her memoirs in America.

In her lawsuit, Shirin Ebadi argued that Treasury Department regulations restricting the publication in the United States of works by authors in countries subject to U.S. trade sanctions is unconstitutional.

...Ebadi, 57, a Muslim lawyer and human rights activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, said she wants to write a book about her life and career and publish it in America, rather than Iran, where it would be subject to state approval.

Discovered at Crooked Timber: an academic blog on philosophy and art. I might learn something. And I might also have the opportunity to be very cruel.

It strikes me more and more that what B. Leiter and others can not accept is the fact that any understanding as such is or will be partial. They may argue the case but there's always an attempt to wiggle out of a commitment. A tennis player, a chess player, or a lawyer all require opponents, literally, to function. A philosopher does not, and there's a diference between arguing for an idea and actually living by it. This goes back to my old description of consciousness as the moment in the mind of an organism when empirically based reason conflicts with conditioned response. Consciousness is a result of the need to make a choice, and it is marked, defined, by the fear that that choice is mistaken. Justice is also the result, the moment, that results from such a such a conflict. But in both cases, neither side of the conflict can be defined as representing the just or true.

The displacement of an ideal of skill by the ideal of truth, by the notion that one side may of an argument must be the truth, brought about the displacement of ideas by ideology.
It made it possible to cut corners.
There can be no science of ideas.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Soldier's Story
This guy I met is not one prone to talk; he was very serious, very mellow -- and comes from a family of enlisted military men. His dad was in Vietnam.

He has had one rotation in Afghanistan, one in Iraq. He is now in Germany but will soon be transferred back to Iraq. He was at Tora Bora and has seen a lot of Iraqi, Afghan, and American dead.

According to him, 75% of all soldiers want Bush defeated in the election and don't care who defeats him; anger and resentment are high. He says that 90% of the officers remain far out of harm's way. From lietenants all the way up, there is general understanding that the officers are hiding in holes, or holding back in well-defended buildings and quite cavalier about sending troops out for assignments and errands that are frequently stupid, poorly planned, and dangerous.

Some comments of mine from an email exchange on the situations in Iran and Israel:
"I respect Iranian political culture because I respect the culture at large. If people are thinking and struggling articulately, with an awareness of the the ambiguities -of art and life- then I don't worry so much about them. If ambiguity is not allowed, then it's a problem.
Israel terrifies me."
"I'm not defending the Iranian government. I'm saying that the struggle is in the minds of the people of Iran, and that they are aware of the stakes. On the other hand. I've read more than one article describing the purblind anxiety of Israeli liberals, who will not admit what they've built their lives upon."
"But which is closer to civil war, Iran or Israel?
I'm betting on the latter. The government of Iran is based on hypocrisy and lies, but the people are still torn between the old and new. This can be seen in the street and in the culture. On the other hand, Israeli society itself is problematic.
The US exists as the result of a crime, the theft of land. But we're here and we're not going away. That's not a moral argument, just a fact. But Israeli life is still based on a moral argument that most of the world considers absurd. And although such comments leave me suspicious when they're made by Europeans, I can't say the comments themselves are wrong."
"The delusions of a government, or the delusions of a society:
Which is more dangerous to world peace?
So perhaps there is something to be learned through a comparative study of Golan-Globus and Abbas Kiarostami?"
"It's been my assumption for a long time that American political intellectuals don't understand culture. Neither of my parents did, and they both had Ph.D.'s in American lit; they respected literature as a thing worthy of study but had an intellectual's contempt for the people who wrote it. The one time they actually admitted a preference as to what I'd end up doing, they both said 'physics.'
I almost laughed out loud.

Our fingers are all crossed on tuesday."

It was a friendly exchange, but I meant what I said. I don't give a rat's ass for Israel. And I don't take it particularly seriously, politically, or culturally. Iran fascinates me, and I'm betting that of the two Israel will take a lot longer to mature. I can pretty much guarantee it won't do so until its Jewish population gives up on the dream of living in a Jewish state, rather than one which Jews can call home.
Another history lesson from Juan Cole
Just watched a bit of Karen Hughes on Fox. It's obvious she doesn't even think about the safety of this country. Her job is to keep Bush in office, that's it.
Is that cynicism? Nihilism?
The words are too complex. She's oblivious.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Spent some time with this, then went back to the bookshelf and pulled out Taking Rights Seriously and looked up the references to H.L.A. Hart.
In reference to the above and to Jack Balkin:
The point of having faith is not to escape reality, but to see it clearly, as it is, and still be able to go on, because one has hope for something better and believes in something higher.

I have no interest in faith, nor in anything 'higher.' But I also have no interest in the technocratic formalisms of DeLong or their philosphical or legal eqivalent in the vulgarisms of Brian Leiter. In law as in life, every object or act has a two-fold existence, as a discrete thing, unnamable in nature, and as an example of a thing. I do not need a religious understanding to state that I am a specific substance/subject unlike any other. I also don't need a technocrat to tell me that I am a member of a community of Americans or english speakers. It is the genius of representative government moreover that the community decides how ideas become law, and it is the genius of the courtroom that decides when and how discrete actions and events take on the character of a thing named under law.

But such an argument requires an acceptance of contradiction. Every thing is an instance of a thing and yet nothing but itself. Some people may tend towards romance as a result of such ideas. Others may try to bypass the contradiction and choose a formalism that is clear, precise, and over simple. I prefer Jack Balkin's logic to Brian Leiter's not because I have any faith [in anything] but because I like complexity, and it seems to be that the world is complex. Balkin's arguments allow for that complexity. But that's not enough.

As I said recently, my interests are the interests of a craftsman. I'm interested in football as it's understood by the players. A lawyer wants to be a good lawyer; at his best he winks at the distinction between victory and truth. Philosophers tend to think of truth as someting obtainable. Others claim to be the avatars of the fact that there is none to be found. They speak the words of the great anarchist leaders of the past.

What interests me in the religiosity of Balkin, Russell Arben Fox, or I imagine Juan Cole [should I include Sistani as well?] is the sense that religious argument is about skill; that like legal argument it is about process, and that the truth as such, as a thing, is impossible to know. Such arguments strike me as more liberal that any argument by neo-liberals technocrats like DeLong, or the condescending pseudo-leftism of Lieter and his ilk (there's a long list)

Friday, October 29, 2004

I listened to the Brian Lehrer Show this morning on WNYC. The guests for the first bit were Peter Galbraith, and Richard Wolffe from Newsweek. Lehrer at this point is either terrified of wingnuts or has become an absolute idiot. At the end of the show he tried to argue that it would probably be best for the audience to try to ignore the events of the past few days and concentrate on the bigger issues. I could almost hear Galbraith's jaw hit the floor. When Lehrer turned to him again for comments. Galbraith tried for the third time to explain his point: that the more he had tried to explain the problems, the degree of chaos, the looting of everything, the more angry Wolfowitz became... at him! And this from a man who had worked with Wolfowitz in support of this fucking war.

As to Richard Wolffe, I was amused to hear, for the first time, a British subject defend the superiority of the American press.
I assume he couldn't get a job back home.
On The News Hour tonight, some idiot from Time was arguing that artillery shells were better than HMX or RDX for making roadside bombs and that the stuff from al Qa Qaa had not been used yet.

From Josh Marshall's first post on the subject:
This has been rumored in Washington for several days. And now the Nelson Report has broken the story.
Some 350 tons of high explosives (RDX and HMX),which were under IAEA seal while Saddam was in power, were looted during the early days of the US occupation. Like so much else, it was just left unguarded.

Not only are these super-high-yield explosives probably being used in many, if not most, of the various suicide and car bombings in Iraq, but these particular explosives are ones used in the triggering process for nuclear weapons.

In other words, it's bad stuff.
And from his second:
It is apparently widely believed within the US government that those looted explosives are what in many, perhaps most, cases is being used in car bombs and suicide attacks against US troops. That is, according to TPM sources and sources quoted in this evening's Nelson Report, where the story first broke.

One administration official told Nelson, "This is the stuff the bad guys have been using to kill our troops, so you can’t ignore the political implications of this, and you would be correct to suspect that politics, or the fear of politics, played a major role in delaying the release of this information."
And as I remember reading, extracting the explosive charge from artillery shells is extremely dangerous. And HMX and RDX are stable.
"We don't do body counts".

The Guardian- About 100,000 Iraqi civilians - half of them women and children - have died in Iraq since the invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces, according to the first reliable study of the death toll from Iraqi and US public health experts.

The study, which was carried out in 33 randomly-chosen neighbourhoods of Iraq representative of the entire population, shows that violence is now the leading cause of death in Iraq. Before the invasion, most people died of heart attacks, stroke and chronic illness. The risk of a violent death is now 58 times higher than it was before the invasion.
A midnight twofer:
David Kay: Aaron, about as certain as I can be looking at a picture, not physically holding it which, obviously, I would have preferred to have been there, that is an IAEA seal. I've never seen anything else in Iraq in about 15 years of being in Iraq and around Iraq that was other than an IAEA seal of that shape.

Aaron Brown: Was there anything else at the facility that would have been under IAEA seal?

DK: Absolutely nothing. It was the HMX, RDX, the two high explosives.

Game. Set. Match.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Registered Mail.

Mr Black: "Let the indictments begin!"
Link from Laura Rozen: "Idiocy".

I wanted to quibble with Rozen a few days ago about her link to an op-ed in the Post. The transformation in Iran over the past decade is obvious even if Khatami, or 'progress' has been stalemated for the moment. It's taken for granted by many that Tehran in the 90s was the center of a cinematic renaissance that was in itself the most important development in a decade of film. And Rozen puts forth this piece as if we should be surprised. I can't blame her really, considering how little we pay attention to anything, let alone anything from the ghetto that political intellectuals call culture, from beyond the borders of our geography or language. I have a good sick laugh every time I read a cinematic 'best of' in the political blogosphere.

On a more basic level... (I linked to this before, but I'll do it again)

"Milan or Tehran?"
More here. [dead]

As far as simple politics is concerned, bomb or no bomb, I'm not worried about Iran; I'm worried about Pakistan.
Is this the smoking gun?

And what about this?

WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI has begun investigating whether the Pentagon improperly awarded no-bid contracts to Halliburton Co., seeking an interview with a top Army contracting officer and collecting documents from several government offices.

The line of inquiry expands an earlier FBI investigation into whether Halliburton overcharged taxpayers for fuel in Iraq, and it elevates to a criminal matter the election-year question of whether the Bush administration showed favoritism to Vice President Dick Cheney's former company.
Those lying, immoral, incompetent, assholes.

I am not opposed, on some principle of other, to blaming the troops for their actions. I'm not very good at following orders, and I don't have much to say to or about anyone who is: orders are not advice. But hypocrites who pander to cheap emotion, and then blame the rubes they've suckered when the shit hits the fan, they are true scum.

Finally, The PBS News Hour leads with yesterday's bullshit.
One from Atrios to a story in the Times. And another from TPM, that ends with the same link:
Looters stormed the weapons site at Al Qaqaa in the days after American troops swept through the area in early April 2003 on their way to Baghdad, gutting office buildings, carrying off munitions and even dismantling heavy machinery, three Iraqi witnesses and a regional security chief said Wednesday.

The Iraqis described an orgy of theft so extensive that enterprising residents rented their trucks to looters. But some looting was clearly indiscriminate, with people grabbing anything they could find and later heaving unwanted items off the trucks.

Two witnesses were employees of Al Qaqaa - one a chemical engineer and the other a mechanic - and the third was a former employee, a chemist, who had come back to retrieve his records, determined to keep them out of American hands. The mechanic, Ahmed Saleh Mezher, said employees asked the Americans to protect the site but were told this was not the soldiers' responsibility.
The President's response?

It's an interesting question why Johnny Cash can get away with this and GWB can't. I'm not saying otherwise (and Johnny Cash never ran for president) but I'm sure some wingnuts are perfectly happy with their man flipping the bird to the world at large. Adolescent rebellion is a complex thing, even in middle age. I can appreciate the nobility of the pathetic gesture. But not this time.

Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?
Everytime she walks down the street
Another girl in the neighbourhood
Wish she was mine, she looks so good

I wanna hold you, wanna hold you tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

I'm gonna call her on the telephone
Invite her over cos I'm all alone
I need excitement and I need it bad
And it's the best I've ever had

I wanna hold you, wanna hold you tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

I wanna hold you, wanna hold you tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night


Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?
Everytime she walks down the street
Another girl in the neighbourhood
Wish she was mine, she looks so good

I wanna hold you, wanna hold you tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

I'm gonna call her on the telephone
Invite her over cos I'm all alone
I need excitement and I need it bad
And it's the best I've ever had

I wanna hold you, wanna hold you tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

I wanna hold you, wanna hold you tight
Get teenage kicks right through the ni-i-ight

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Laura Rozen
Josh Marshall.
Juan Cole
Plenty of damning stories have vanished into the memory hole; but the al Qaqaa story leads every news show tonight.
Jeanne d'Arc gives us the timeline.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

(I didn't know what else to say)
This just in: Riverbend endorses Kerry.
update: I wanted to comment on this last night, but I didn't know what to say. I still don't.
"Republicans who *don’t* support him, but feel obliged to vote for him, write long, apologetic emails that are meant, I assume, to salve their own conscience. They write telling me that he should be ‘reelected’ because he is the only man for the job at this point. True, he made some mistakes and he told a few fibs, they tell me- but he really means well and he intends to fix things and, above all, he has a plan."
April 9, 2004.
Today, the day the Iraqi Puppets hail "National Day", will mark the day of the "Falloojeh Massacre"… Bremer has called for a truce and ceasefire in Falloojeh very recently and claimed that the bombing will stop, but the bombing continues as I write this. Over 300 are dead in Falloojeh and they have taken to burying the dead in the town football field because they aren't allowed near the cemetery. The bodies are decomposing in the heat and the people are struggling to bury them as quickly as they arrive. The football field that once supported running, youthful feet and cheering fans has turned into a mass grave holding men, women and children.
October 26
Apparently, we are bombing the town of Fallujah. Apparently, we are doing this because the residents refuse to co-operate with our wishes by not “handing over” the notorious terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. Apparently, we will continue to bomb them until they do so.
Read the rest. It's actually funny, but it won't make you laugh.

Meanwhile, in competition with Game 3, Frontline is running a doc on "Rumsfeld's War". The Sectretary and his friends do not come off very well. How could they? (they come off in fact, as idiots.) The opposition such as it is comes off honorably if we forget that the Powell Doctrine gave us this:
On the inland highway to Basra is mile after mile of burned, smashed, shattered vehicles of every description - tanks, armored cars, trucks, autos, fire trucks, according to the March 18, 1991, Time magazine. On the sixty miles of coastal highway, Iraqi military units sit in gruesome repose, scorched skeletons of vehicles and men alike, black and awful under the sun, says the Los Angeles Times of March 11, 1991. While 450 people survived the inland road bombing to surrender, this was not the case with the 60 miles of the coastal road. There for 60 miles every vehicle was strafed or bombed, every windshield is shattered, every tank is burned, every truck is riddled with shell fragments. No survivors are known or likely. The cabs of trucks were bombed so much that they were pushed into the ground, and it's impossible to see if they contain drivers or not. Windshields were melted away, and huge tanks were reduced to shrapnel.

"Even in Vietnam I didn't see anything like this. It's pathetic," said Major Bob Nugent, an Army intelligence officer. This one-sided carnage, this racist mass murder of Arab people, occurred while White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater promised that the U.S. and its coalition partners would not attack Iraqi forces leaving Kuwait. This is surely one of the most heinous war crimes in contemporary history.
On the other hand of course, in 2004, the idiots are still in charge:
On Sept 28that the Vice President's request, the Agency provided a special briefing on the subject of Jordanian terrorist Mu'sab al-Zarqawi. The CIA's Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) reviewed all of the available intelligence on the subject and based its briefing on a just completed comprehensive intelligence analysis. The CTC concluded that Saddam Hussein had not materially supported Zarqawi before the U.S.-led invasion and that Zarqawi's infrastructure in Iraw before the war was confined to the northern no-fly zones of Kurdistan, beyond Baghdad's reach. Cheney reacted with fury, screaming at the briefer that CIA was trying to get John Kerry elected by contradicting the president's stance that Saddam had supported terrorism and therefore needed to be overthrown. The hapless briefer was shaken by the vice president's outburst, and the incident was reported back to Goss, who indicated that he was reluctant to confront the vice president's staff regarding it.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Instead of armored vehicles, the Dutch drive vehicles that leave them exposed to the people around them. To encourage interaction with local residents, they go bare-headed and are forbidden to wear mirror sunglasses. Making soldiers accessible and vulnerable to their surroundings increases their security, they contend. Making them inaccessible decreases it.

"You would lose contact with the people," said Lt. Col. Kees Matthijssen, the commander of the Dutch force in Iraq. "In fact, the support and the consent of the people is a form of protection. If you have good contact with the people, if it's easy to talk to the people, people always give you some information. You know what's in their minds, what they're thinking, what's worrying them."

Samawa, one of the quietest spots in Iraq outside the Kurdish north, is a world away from the lawlessness that has spread across Baghdad and other cities. What the Dutch face here cannot be compared with what American soldiers must deal with in the capital or in the Sunni triangle, where they are confronted daily with a deadly resistance.

Yet, perhaps unfairly, the Americans do get compared with the Dutch here, in a way that underscores how difficult it will be for Americans to win back some of the popular support they enjoyed after the fall of Saddam Hussein. American soldiers are not based here, but they regularly make short, though lasting, appearances. American convoys traveling the main highway between Baghdad and Kuwait force their way through Samawa's crowded main street at full speed and, fearful of becoming targets, do not stop even after causing fatal accidents, Dutch and Iraqi officials here say. Worried about car-bombers, American soldiers in armored vehicles point guns at drivers to keep cars away.

...Karim Hleibit al-Zayad, the police chief here, made a clear distinction between the Dutch and Americans: "The Dutch have tried seriously to understand our traditions. We do not view them as an occupying force, but a friendly one. The Americans are an occupying force. I agree they helped us get rid of the past regime, but they should not take away our dignity."

In Samawa, Chief Zayad and others here said, the American convoys represent the greatest affront to Iraqi dignity. The Dutch and Iraqis say the convoys indiscriminately hit private cars and pedestrians, treating Iraqis only as obstacles to be removed. A few weeks ago, one such convoy struck a car, killing two Iraqi passengers and injuring three, the Dutch said. The convoy never stopped.

Because of the convoys, "dislike is growing" for the Americans, Colonel Matthijssen said.

"Of course, an American is a different type of human than a Dutchman," the colonel said. "We have our own culture. But I think the Americans could have a way of operating with more respect and more understanding toward the population."

Sunday, October 24, 2004

This is just absurd:

Despite pressure from DOD to keep it quiet, the IAEA and the Iraqi Interim Government this month officially reported that 350-tons of dual-use, very high explosives were looted from a previously secure site in the early days of the US occupation in 2003.
A bit more on Leiter/Fodor/Kripke et al.: [link fixed, updated]
The division is not between science and the humanities, or whether or not you think that there can be a scientific philosophy. It's more basic than that.

I am interested in being good at what I do. That is a craftsman's logic, and it's the standard for many fields. But I'm also interested in doing justice in some form, in my thoughts, to the complexity of the world. That's a scientist's logic, and an artist's. I try not to confuse truth with skill but it's not easy and I'm often wrong. For a lawyer in a courtroom, all that matters is skill. The truth, such as it is, is merely the result. In a sense the same is true for a chemist. The debate over how we construct the rules that govern a courtroom is a different matter.

Is the primary interest of analytic philosphy, truth, or the skill of its participants? What is Saul Kripke's main concern, the representation of the world, or of his own -considerable- skill?
What was Derrida's main concern?

As I always ask: What is the difference between art and illustration?

My comment on Leiter's post.
The difference between the two is that one seeks to solve problems -as any science does- and the other seeks ways for us to function in a world of ambiguous perceptions and situations; and since I don't think we'll ever be able to leave ambiguity behind, and life would be pretty terrible if we could, I prefer the latter and find it more useful. Analytic philosophy has turned into something like Pataphysics, Alfred Jarry's science of imaginary solutions. Not that I'm a huge fan of continental philosophy either; there's always a deity lurking around there in the void. Novelists and lawyers can appreciate ambiguity without being tempted by faith. Philosophers who are not proudly 'scientistic' in thought, can't seem to escape it.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

"Is anyone going to call them on this hundredth-odd deception on one of the Sunday shows? Tim, Bob, George?"
I've missed a lot: Brian Leiter on Jerry Fodor and Saul Kripke; Juan Cole[?] on Eminem; Lies, and Puppies.

More on Fodor and Kripke later. In the meantime, although I've posted this before:
[Big Boi]
As I, struggle to keep my balance and composure
I'm 'posed ta, propose a toast to players on every coast-a
The lyrical roller coaster, mind-bender
'Stead of watchin these sucker MC's
I'm seein just how they lyin to the general population
Don't be patient, get up and stand up for your life
Don't you agree or understand we lost some rights at 1-1-9?
Come dumb, come young, come blind unwind confined
to the situation, we facin, cause in time, tick tick boom

Tick, boom.. tick, tick-boom
Tick, boom.. tick, tick-boom
Tick, boom.. tick, tick-boom
Tick, boom.. tick, tick-boom

[explosion forward and reversed]
[scratched: "You're gonna die here" - 2X]

[Big Boi]
When will we all, awake up out this dream
Come here and smell the Folgers, the soldiers are human beings
Man actin as if he was the supreme bein
Clockin the souls of men out like he was G-O-D and
W-A-Rrah, there'll be no tomorrow but sorrow
and horror will follow the hollow hearts battle for dollars
Politicians, modern day magicians
Physicians of death, more health care for poor health
Who makin us ill, they makin us kill
That's makin me spill my guts (chill Big, lay in the cut)
For what? I refuse to sit in the backseat and get handled
Like I do nuttin all day but sit around watch the Cartoon Channel
I rap about, the Presidential election and the scandal
that followed, and we all watched the nation, as it swallowed
and chalked it up, basically America you got FUCKED
The media shucked and jived now we stuck - damn!

[singing - "can't be heard clearly"]
[scratched: "You're gonna die here" - 2X]

[Big Boi]
Operation Anaconda - ask yourself
was it full of bleeps and blunders, did they ever find Osama?
And why in the fuck did Daniel Pearl have to pay the price
for his life and his wife plead twice?
See Al-Amin got life and Fred got dead, Hampton
To dampen the dream of all the Panthers
They got they answer for ransom
As we read together, as we dream together
Count your blessings whenever you feel that things won't be no better
But it got to, you gave me this microphone so I must rock you
Your brainwaves, airwaves, energized and SHOCKED you
Y'all got me, well I got y'all, long as I know y'all listenin
I'ma always bring food for thought to the table in the kitchen
Now eat nigga!
Outkast (Big Boi)