Tuesday, June 29, 2004

My writing has been a bit sloppy recently. I've had a lot of things on my mind.

Monday, June 28, 2004

NY Times

"We sold out in Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg," in North Carolina, Mr. Moore said on Sunday. "We sold out in Army-base towns. We set house records in some of these places. We set single-day records in a number of theaters. We got standing ovations in Greensboro, N.C.

"The biggest news to me this morning is this is a red-state movie," he said, referring to the state whose residents voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election. "Republican states are embracing the movie, and it's sold out in Republican strongholds all over the country."

...Market research leading up to the weekend had shown that the documentary would rank second or third at the box office after the two mainstream comedies. But "White Chicks" took in $19.6 million for the weekend on 2,726 screens, while "DodgeBall" took in $18.5 million on 3,020. "Fahrenheit 9/11," rated R, was released on 868 screens.

...Attendance for "Fahrenheit 9/11" resembled nothing so much as the other surprise movie event of this year, the fervor ignited by Mel Gibson's movie about the Crucifixion, "The Passion of the Christ." That film has taken in $370 million domestically and sailed to blockbuster status on a wave of media controversy and debate.

That last bit about Gibson made me laugh. And I liked Mel's movie (by the way).
Everyone knows why Bush is backing Turkey, and I hope it doesn't backfire. At the same time, I have to say, Chirac is an asshole.

Steven Kinzer this week in the NYRB
It's a very good article.

In little more than a year as prime minister, Erdogan has proven himself more committed to democracy than any of the self-proclaimed "secular" leaders who misruled Turkey during th 1990s. He has secured passage of laws and constitutional amendments abolishing the deat penalty and army-dominated security courts; he repealed curbs on free speech, and brought th military budget under civilian control for the first time in Turkish history. He authorize Kurdish-language broadcasting, swept aside thirty years of Turkish intransigence on the Cypru issue, and eased Greek–Turkish tension so effectively that when he visited Athens in May Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis proclaimed that the two countries now enjoyed "a relation o cooperation based on mutual trust.
This reform program is especially important because Prime Minister Erdogan, who is leading it with passion and vigor, has had a long career in Islamic politics. He prays every day, and his wife wears a head scarf. By clinging so firmly to Islam while pulling his country toward democracy, he undermines the view that the two are incompatible.

December's vote will be as much about Europe as about Turkey. It is a chance for Europeans to confront their fear of outsiders, and to emerge from centuries of hostility and suspicion directed against the Muslim world. The prospect of EU membership is a principal reason why Turkey is now moving so resolutely toward full democracy, which means that Europe has already had a very positive effect on Turkish life. This is a welcome example of how democratic countries can use their influence to promote the cause of freedom abroad. "While the hard power of the United States is destroying Iraq," Sahin Alpay, a professor of politics at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, told me, "the soft power of Europe is transforming Turkey."
Brian Leiter on the idiots at "Butterflies and Wheels."
I think of both Leiter and O. Benson as anti-humanists in their interest in an objective logic. Leiter seems to study fuzziness in order to demonstrate his own un-fuzziness. There's a contradiction there that Foucault would probably have fun with. Benson on the other hand is just a flake.

And I posted a rewrite of my last post in the comments at Brian Leiter's site. It reads better than the version here. I may switch them, but not tonight.

Friday, June 25, 2004

June 28th. A Monday Fix
Is it a sign of maturity or decay when an area of philosophy reaches a stage where virtually every possible view, however implausible, is represented by a treatise-length study written in its defense? Do contemporary debates about modality, properties, causation, or the mind-body problem represent philosophy at its peak of maturity, or are these debates paradigm examples of a subject in decay?
I spent some time with this post on Brian Leiter's page, where he quotes the author of that paragraph. I read the post and looked at one of the articles he cites, and was thinking of responding there (comments are on) but it can wait. I don't want to be accused of trying to hijack the discussion.
Impatience with the long haul of technical reflection is a form of shallowness, often thinly disguised by histrionic advocacy of depth.
How to respond to that?
Con`nois`seur´ n.
1. One well versed in any subject; a skillful or knowing person; a critical judge of any art, particularly of one of the fine arts.
The connoisseur is "one who knows," as opposed to the dilettante, who only "thinks he knows."
- Fairholt.
My comment
You can compare apples and oranges if you want, the only question is, why? You can argue in favor of intellectually rigorous activities being done for their own sake, but how rigorous is anything without boundaries? What is interesting about science is that in its search for knowledge it is bounded by what can be, or might be at some point, verifiable. That makes it practical but it also makes it a game with rules and limits. Intelligence is tested by an outside force. There are similar boundaries in athletics. You test yourself within a system of rules and regulations. There seems to be no outside force in analytic philosophy. I don't see how structures of pure logic can be applied to behavior, and even as a 'game' of skill philosophy seems limited.

I went recently to the Met, to an exhibition of work by the American Impressionist Childe Hassam, and found myself asking how and why work which was so derivative, such an imitation of the French, could be also so obviously American. The works 'looked like' American paintings. 
What kind of intelligence perceives the clues that mark such a difference? What sort of intelligence says "I know" before it can say why, or how, it knows. I remember years ago commenting on the strangeness of a painting by Hassam when I assumed that it was by a French hand; things didn't fit, but I wasn't sure why. I'm not patting myself on the back. I had help. But this is the argument from "depth" that Timothy Williamson derides, and it has nothing to do with religion or any sort of fuzzy mysticism, but with the perceptual intelligence of the connoisseur. Our intuitions act often through a form of silent logic, with which we play a game of catch-up. Our awareness is trained in such a way that it works in shorthand, preceding understanding. In the same way, 'knowing' how to hit a backhand is not the same as 'being able' to do it. I was able to recognize the oddness of a painting that I supposed to be French. Sometimes such responses (assumptions) are mistaken -in which case there is still a 'logic' behind them- sometimes not. But analytic philosophy will never be able to understand 'imagination' because its unwilling to use it. I've read more than a few articles in which the questions asked, about the logic of certain social activities, could not be answered unless someone chose to look outside the internal logic of the article. And as a matter of intellectual rigor or skill, there are other forms of discourse more rigorous because there's more at stake.

From an old post: In The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Simon Blackburn writes this about Donald Davidson: 
"Davidson is also known for rejection of the idea of s 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, then no finer points exist.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

I'm listening to 'Anonymous' on NPR.
If all your arguments begin and end with nationalism, you end up paranoid.
Have I ever heard a CIA analyist who was not an idiot?
Sanford Levinson at Balkinization:
More seriously, none of the reporters asked [Gonzales] about the American practices of "rendering" people in our custody to other countries where torture is almost certain to take place. Going back to the end of 2002, a number of articles in the mainstream press, including a stunning article in a January 2003 issue of The Economist, have alluded to the practice. It is crystal clear that it violates the UN convention and calls into question the Administration's insistence that it has not in effect accepted torture as a policy. Gonzales might have said, of course, citing the Senate language, that it doesn't violate US policy to "render" prisoners unless we believe that it is "likely" that torture will occur and, of course, we choose to believe assurances by Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco, among others, that torture won't occur. But, of course, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that we're even asking for such assurances or that anyone should believe them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Poll: 64% of Israelis want Russians to go home.
US tortured Afghanistan detainees

Duncan Campbell and Suzanne Goldenberg
Wednesday June 23, 2004
The Guardian

Detainees held in Afghanistan by US troops have been routinely tortured and humiliated as part of the interrogation process in the same way as those in Iraq, a Guardian investigation has found.

Five detainees have died in custody, three of them in suspicious circumstances, and survivors have told stories of beatings, strippings, hoodings and sleep deprivation.

The nature of the alleged abuse indicates that what happened at Abu Ghraib was part of a pattern of interrogation that has been common practice since the invasion of Afghanistan.

"The abuses in Afghanistan were no less egregious than at Abu Ghraib, but because there were no photographs - at least to our present knowledge - they have not received enough attention," Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic member of the Senate subcommittee on foreign operations, told the Guardian.

"Prisoners in Afghanistan were subjected to cruel and degrading treatment, and some died from it. These abuses were part of a wider pattern stemming from a White House attitude that 'anything goes' in the war against terrorism, even if it crosses the line of illegality."

Syed Nabi Siddiqi, a former police officer, said he had been beaten and stripped. "They took off my uniform. I showed them my identity card from the government of President Karsai. Then they asked me which of those animals - they made the noise of goats, sheep, dogs, cows - have you had sexual activities with?"

A second detainee, Noor Aghah, said he had been forced to drink bottle after bottle of water during his interrogation.

Another prisoner, Wazir Muhammad, was held for nearly two years, firstly in Afghanistan and then in Guantánamo Bay. "At the end of my time in Guantánamo, I had to sign a paper saying I had been captured in battle which was not true," he said. "I was stopped when I was in my taxi with four passengers. But they told me I would have to spend the rest of my life in Guantánamo if I did not sign it, so I did."

Parts of an investigation into allegations of abuse in custody by Brigadier General Chuck Jacoby are to be made public next month by the head of the US forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General David Barno.

Gen Barno said: "I will tell you without hesitation that intelligence procedures have got to be done in accordance with the appropriate standards ... all our forces will treat every detainee here with dignity and respect."

Bagram and the network of US detention centres around Afghanistan have largely avoided scrutiny, yet, according to the coalition forces last week, more than 2,000 people have been detained there since the war.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

People do not understand what they say. Someone may say he or she believes in a supreme being, but when questioned will be forced to admit that they take comfort in the idea and do not care whether their beliefs are based on truth or fallacy because they serve a purpose. Ronald Dworkin made such an argument about opposition to abortion. Most people who are opposed to abortion, even those who say abortion is murder, are willing to accept it in cases of rape or incest. But if abortion is murder, it should make no difference how a fetus was conceived. Dworkin argues that many of the people who oppose abortion do so because they believe that their opponents don't take abortion seriously enough, that they don't give the moral questions involved enough weight, and that that more than anything is the reason for their oppostion. They don't believe, however, that abortion is murder; they use the word as code for something else.

I've been thinking about this in the context of my response to Brian Leiter's posts on Clarence Thomas. He has a new one here.
This is something I added to my pervious post a day or so ago:

"It is a lovely thing about scholarly life that all kinds of positions can be explored and defended, no matter how contrary to received wisdom, no matter how dangerous in their consequences... Justice X is not, to put the matter gently, a scholar. He is not engaged in scholarly debate or inquiry; he is advocating for a political revolution. On the basis of some scholarly arguments by others (not all of whom even endorse X's preferred result), he would push aside countervailing scholarly and legal considerations (including decades of precedent) ...What would that mean?"

The above is an edited version of one of Leiter's paragraphs, stripped of any reference to the specific case or recent history. It could be a quote from an argument against the Brown decision. Not having followed the case much, and focusing on the decision as a whole rather than Thomas' opinion, I responded to Leiter's text as a text, taken out of context, and it stuck me as odd. it still does. In today's post, quoting others, the tone changes a little. But still, why can't leiter just come out and say that Thomas' opinions go against our notions of fairness? Why can't he just say the country has changed?

"The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called Thomas' view 'breathtakingly radical.'
'Mississippi could be officially Baptist, and Utah could be officially Mormon. If his viewpoint ever became the majority on the high court, it would tear our country apart along religious lines,' he said.

There's something wishy-washy about discussions of historical change. Philosophy is logical, not narrative, right? it's not just that Thomas is a radical, it's that he's a radical with no social or popular support, no social reality surrounding and reinforcing his arguments. There is now such a reality surrounding the idea of gay marriage. As I said a few months ago: "The dam broke. It's over." What was once less than normal, has become normal. And this change as regards homosexuality has become more and more clear over the past few months. Leiter's is not a philosophy of historical change, however, which is why he refers to changes in our subjective experience only after the fact, and does so by quoting others. I think there is no way to really understand how out of step, how absurd, Thomas' arguments are without understanding how we have changed and that this change is not only logical but moral and subjective.

Two other qiick points. Leiter links to this blog: Experimental Philosophy, where I've posted a few comments, as I noted below. The authors fall into the same trap he does. Reading the posts is like reading the observations of a sociopath, unable to fathom human emotion. Frankly it's weird.
If you go by the assumption that people do not believe what they say they believe, and that they do not do things for the reasons they claim, then you can begin to examine why they might behave as they do. For there is a logic to it, even if it's not the one they claim. Experimental Philosophy skims the surface.

Read this post, "Puzzling experiment", and see if the outcome of the experiment puzzles you. And remember, don't think about logic, think about how people behave, and why.

For another example, is there perhaps a conflict between Leiter's politics and his obsessive documentation of academic social climbing? See his recent critical comments about the legal star system. I suppose one could argue there is or should be a difference between money and prestige, and that he's only interested in the latter, but that doesn't resolve the conflict.
(More fixes later)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

"Did the dogs bite them?"
Max asks the question:
How long do we have to keep murdering innocent people?
And Jack Balkin is a good read this weekend
In Unrestrained, the Life of a Priest, 77-year-old Mariani tells of his sexual exploits, with both women and men, sometimes in lurid detail: 'She put her arms around my neck and asked: "Do you like the drink?" Then she leaned over me and sucked on my lips, asking: "And don't you like this even more?"'
But, far from antagonising the faithful, Mariani has received almost universal praise from his flock in the Villa Belgrano neighbourhood of the city of Cordoba. 'This country has to fight against hypocrisy,' said the mayor, Luis Juez, after attending a mass given by Mariani, during which the priest was cheered and applauded by supporters.

'I challenge any member of the church who claims to have lived correctly to open up his life the way I have done,' Mariani said from his pulpit. 'I don't regret anything. I'm ready to have my head cut off.'

The Guardian

I'm moving to Argentina as soon as I can, but I need money. The link to my paypal account is on the left.
Thank you.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

As`ad AbuKhalil is really mad at Tariq Ali.
In the same post: "A Lebanese Shi`ite was beheaded in Iraq last week, and I am told that this was in response to Hizbullah's statement against the gruesome beheading of the American citizen in Iraq last month.".
Iraqi War Casualties

Link from Riverbend
"[W]hen there are legal arguments on both sides of a question--say, whether the Establishment Clause applies to the states--to adopt the side that has repulsive moral and political consequences is lunatic."

Brian Leiter on Justice Thomas, the "Lunatic Fringe," and the Pathology of Originalism And he replies to criticism here, where I first read the quote.

At some point, it comes down to preference. But preference as such is not something Leiter's legal philosophy spends much time discussing. His logic breaks down in the presence of the illogic of others. That's a condescending way to put it, but I can't think of another way. Leiter writes as a secularist but does so as it were, ex cathedra. But the point of democratic government is that in giving the mediocre their due, it keeps great men honest. And the fact is that Leiter should not be able to get away with simple generalizations in a discussion of a matter of law. For such a discussion of preference, and of changes in preference and how that should be reflected in legal interpretation, you need to go elsewhere. I think, for example, that the death penalty has repulsive moral and political consequences; others do not.

It is a lovely thing about scholarly life that all kinds of positions can be explored and defended, no matter how contrary to received wisdom, no matter how dangerous in their consequences... Justice X is not, to put the matter gently, a scholar. He is not engaged in scholarly debate or inquiry; he is advocating for a political revolution. On the basis of some scholarly arguments by others (not all of whom even endorse X's preferred result), he would push aside countervailing scholarly and legal considerations (including decades of precedent) ...What would that mean?
As for the Lunatic Fringe, Leiter and Thomas are both there, Lieter for his intelligence and (I would say) overly strict and brittle logic, Thomas for his lack of intelligence and his dogmatism.

I'm there too, of course.
"Look at the stars... The stars are a mess!".
Werner Herzog, waste deep in a river in the jungle's of Peru, a European in the Southern Hemisphere.
An Iraqi friend, who feared for his life because he was close to the Americans, used to live inside the Green Zone, the heavily protected area in central Baghdad where the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has its headquarters. One day he fell into conversation with an American soldier guarding one of the gates. The soldier said he was of Iraqi origin and could speak Arabic. He added that security was not quite as tight as it looked since prostitutes were regular visitors to the zone.

My friend, a little alarmed, decided to investigate. He went to a house which was being used as a brothel. He says: "In the toilet I found that the women were writing pro-Baath party, anti-American and patriotic slogans with their lipstick on the mirrors." Their clients could not tell what they had written because it was in Arabic.
Patrick Cockburn in The Independent

Read the whole thing. It gets worse, or better if you're a fan of black humor.
I laughed my ass off.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Rewritten, and again:

More comments here and one here.

A thought:
The folks at CT, like many people on the web -analytic philosophers, economists, libertarians and tech heads- tend to see the principle of non-contradiction as some sort of universal figure, applying both to those fields they know and those they indulge in on the side. Is that why so many people seem unable to tell the difference between art and illustration (and are so unwilling to respond to my comments)?

"Seth, Whaddaya mean? What's the diffeence between art and illustration?"

Illustration, speculative fiction,'philosophic' art (Baudelaire's term) et al. are based on a principled lack of ambiguity that is definable along the lines of the law of non-contradiction: p and not-p. It may be necessary to ascribe a vulgar simplicity to our complex behavior -econmists do it all the time- but that doesn't mean we can or should ever be defined by those descriptions. And the art championed in so many web posts on so many sites tends to do just that. I've said all this before, but I've never quite in this way. The law of non-contradiction refers to logic, not to people. We live by refuting it.

Illustration as a vulgar subcategory of art, is a modern invention. It is a form of representation in which rhetoric is denied as sophistry or indulged as truth. Anotomical studies and pornographic imagery share the same designation: illustrations. Both posit a direct line from form to content and from dreamer to witness, allowing the latter to become the former.
If I write the equation A=2 on a piece of paper what I write and the what you read will be practically- for practical reasons- identical. But "Rosy fingered dawn." will not work the same way. Religious and political cults argue for the union of self and other, but that's a more dangerous illusion than anything provided by a good work of art. [And of course along with illustration, the other major modern introduction to culture is the notion of life as art. a notion that is equally as reactionary.] it remains an oddity to me that all of this remains so outside the discussion of something called philosophy.

Art attempts to recreate the complexity of the world as we experience it, while still giviing it pattern. And that pattern is the result of rhetoric, of corrupted logic. The patterns of art are the result of smoke and mirrors; art is an illusion that describes our attempts at illusion. It describes the world only in the sense that we experience it. That is its honesty. Philosophic art, art as illustration, dictates which illusions are acceptable and which not, as it dictates the meaning of its particulars. But the law of non-contradiction should not be demanded of our dreams any more than it should be demanded of us.

I'll illustrate my point- this is only a blog after all- with a quote from an article in yesterday's Times. I haven't read much I.B. Singer, but I'm not defending his work, I'm merely laughing at the stupidity of the criticism leveled at it. This in defense of Chaim Grade, a Yiddish author whose works have been overshadowed by Singer's:

"Every fiber of Grade's being and everything he did — every line of poetry, every work of fiction — was animated by a sense of responsibility to the Jews: to their history, to the culture, to the people," said Professor Nadler, who studied with Grade at Harvard. "None of those commitments resonate in my reading of Singer."

Substitute for Jews: Germans, Americans, or Bisexual Hunchbacks; his argument is laughable.

Those engaged in the discussion at Crooked Timber don't consider themselves reactionary, they just like logic and simplicity and appreciate an art that offers it to them; for Nadler on the other hand simplicity and non-contradiction are a matter of political and moral necessity. Their tastes of each, however, are the same: abstract logic over sensibility, intellect and a priori assumptions over curiosity.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

"Long ago as a post-adolescent do-gooder I worked in a farmhouse shared by two groups, one a group of murderers who had served their time and the other a group of idiots. (All lovely men, if odd.) One of the former, a defrocked Jesuit who had killed his mother, found me reading Spinoza at night and spoke (as he rarely did): "Ah, the great Spinoza. Only he understood freedom and necessity." A moving statement by a solitary man who had paid his dues."
Ian Hacking on Antonio Damasio, in the NYRB.

That's a great paragraph, if odd, but more often Ian Hacking's literalism is absolutely infuriating. And mentioning one critic of Damasio's -one who "went to town" on Damasio's book- as being " the Oxford author of an invaluable many-volume line-by-line analysis [!?] of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations" doesn't help.

If you are a skeptical reader you might not make it past the first two sentences:

"Feelings of pain or pleasure or some quality in between are the bedrock of our minds. We often fail to notice this simple reality because the mental images of the objects and events that surround us, along with the images of the words and sentences that describe them, use up so much of our overburdened attention."

Here one wants to say to Damasio, "Hey, wait a minute! To be honest with you, my attention is seldom overburdened, the way it might be if I had to teach primary school and had thirty cacophonous little voices to deal with. And I rarely have images of words, let alone sentences. The schoolteacher is trying to pay attention to her children, their antics, and their wants, and not to mental images of them (unless she shuts her eyes and plugs her ears). And I do not understand your metaphor of mental bedrock, especially if, as we soon gather, you think that the mind is a sort of organ in the brain."

Hey, Wait a minute, Indeed. It's as if Hacking is opposed to the idea let alone the reality of someone actually having an imagination. I haven't read Damasio, but I found nothing offensive in any of the quotes. A little loose perhaps, but reasonable and useful. It's Hacking, as I said above, who's odd.

And how wimsically perverse of the editors to include Charles Simic's review of Borislav Pekic's How to Quiet a Vampire in the same issue
From Buzzflash:
Reagan's Family Criticizes Use Of Reagan In Anti-Kerry Ad.
That speaks volumes about the political realities of this country.
[And Atrios refers to Clinton as "Big Dog."]

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

First the entombment, then the resurrection.
For the past half year, 5 days a week, I've walked past Long Island City high school a few times, on the way to and from work and on the way to lunch at the Bel Aire Diner- on the corner of 21st and Broadway. I've wanted to write something about this for a while, and I don't think I'll get very far today, but being as my neighborhood is being swamped by 20 something suburban brats who appear to know nothing either about the world or the streets, 16 year olds from 15 different countries, all of whom know something about survival, either here or in there homelands, make for a pretty impressive crew.
Today the scene was Hindu homegirls, or perhaps Heathers, 5 of them ranging in height from 5'7" to 6', all in saris, walking much too slowly and with staged indifference along the sidewalk, so that everyone had to find a way to walk around them. I ended up walking out into traffic to pass.

Obviously enough in the absence of major threats minor ones are amplified. I don't have much sympathy with suburban angst or its moneyed urban equivalent, but thinking of my childhood (and I've said this before) I also remember my fear and dislike of working class white kids. I grew up in a neighborhood that was largely lower middle class and black, with a large number of people who were lower, and a few who were in some other category: my parents, the French couple across the street and the commune down the block.

Urban kids understand violence, and black kids understand it more than white. The secret of the streets is to know when and how to back down without losing respect. Backing down is less of an option for kids in white neighborhoods precisely because the stakes are lower.
These days are different. The inner city is more racially diverse; there are plenty of white faces at LIC High School, though many are foreign born, but the behavior, the various responses to social pressure, derive more from black urban culture. One mark is humor, which I've always thought of as a more acceptable -both more popular and respected- rejoinder to strength and power in the black community than in the working class white community, perhaps precisely because of white racial anxiety. After all, you ever heard of 'black trash?"
But still if you want to scare someone, one thing you do is shoot a gun white pressing it against the side of his face. No one gets hurt, except for an ear ache and a powder burn. I saw a one kid being protected by his girlfriend, who was covering him with her body and pressing him against a wall, asking the 16 year old who pulled the trigger just to leave.

One added point. I remember being really pissed off by this article in the Times last year. [I just looked it up again.] I don't know what annoys me more, Mark Saltzman's ignorance, though he seems to come of well enough at the end, or the author's:
"Even at Central, among dead-end kids destined for the darkest reaches of the criminal justice system, the words still matter.

Words mean a lot when there's a lot at stake.
Josh Marshal was right. Juan Cole was great reading this weekend. If nothing else read this discussion on neocon political and economic theory, and the failures of Iraq policy.
I heard Janis Karpinski on the BBC this morning. You can listen to it here but I haven't seen a transcript. You don't have to defend her to think that others should be brought up on charges. Miller specifically comes off badly. It's all pretty damning.
"Treat them like dogs"
I simplified my last post. The link to my earlier comments was enough, there's no need to rewrite them

Monday, June 14, 2004

The Supreme's decision on the pledge of allegiance is fucking brilliant.
What a way to dodge the issue. They got so lucky.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Kast said he was merely following the law, which allows only politicians, political action committees, political parties and government officials to obtain copies. Anyone else can view the list, but cannot make copies or take notes while doing so.
Thomas argued that lawmakers failed to follow a constitutional mandate that requires them to state a specific reason when they pass laws closing public records.
But Joseph Klock, an attorney for the state, said there is no constitutional conflict. Lawmakers weren't creating a public records exemption when they passed the election reforms package, Klock insisted, because the public is still able to view the records, even though it can't make copies of them.
And the law follows the constitutional provision that gives everyone the right to inspect "or" copy public documents, Klock said. He pointed out that the provision does not say inspect "and" copy them.
"People were presumably smart enough to know what they meant by 'or' or 'and,' " when they voted on the constitutional amendment in 1992, Klock said.
[Judge] Clark appeared to agree.
"I can't add words to the constitution," Clark told Thomas.

The Palm Beach Post


Saturday, June 12, 2004

I found this cartoon on Brian Leiter's page, linked from another blog.
What is it about this country that it continues to produce a criticism predicated on the assumption of its own infallibility. The arrogance is annoying; there's more condescension than anger, as if the debate were not about morality but simple logic. Subtext is for other people.

On a related subject, see my comments here.

Friday, June 11, 2004

I've been reading various responses to the torture memo, Crooked Timber and Punishment Theory, among the others mentioned below. At the same time, I've followed links from these sites to other philosophy blogs:1. 2. As always I'm frustrated and annoyed by discussions of analytical philosophy, for reasons that run from the minor: the willingness to call every grad student a 'philosopher', to the fundamental: the willingness to consider psychological subjects but not the psychology of the speaker.

Any scholasticism is limited by nature. And when it winds to the end, as it moves further and further away from the works of it's founders; when its references are to references of references, its products become those of mere provincialism. A rationalist would dispute that, being a rationalist, and he would be wrong.

The End of Conceptualism.
Formalism by other means.

If conceptual art, like analytical philosophy in its preference for closed systems, has always skirted banality -closed systems after all are imaginary, and fantasy is childsplay- for the past few years it has produced little else. This show, however, should close out the field.
Andrea Fraser's exhibition, like all conceptualist 'projects' is an illustration, and like most recent efforts, an illustration of the obvious. But as it denies the existence of psychological weight; as it mocks emotion, not as ideal or metaphysical truth but as fact; as it denies subtext, the pretense falls into tragedy. The denial of the ambiguities of subjectivity, of the reality of the unquantifiable individuality of perception, has seen its apotheosis in this show. And rationalism has seen its nadir.

The point of craft, of learned skill as a means of enjoyment, is in the act of communication across boundaries of self and other by means of a shared language. Art is the added value of a commodity or category. It defines the degree to which personal experience can become something else. Language allows communication, and limits it. Art is the art of limits; attempts to prove otherwise, to make an art either of ideas or emotions, simply fail. In its understanding of language -of form as human production- art, great, good, or not half bad, is no more or less than our clearest representive of philosophical realism.

This show goes from one end of the spectrum to the other without treading the ground between. It's both coldly, blandly, intellectual and floridly melodramatic in it's desperate need to be anything but.
My only response is pity.

For those few of you who know my relation to Colin and AFA:
Colin's dead, and I miss him, but he wasn't a conceptualist, he was a Catholic; who tried to cure his ills with logic as he tried to cure them with drugs. Neither worked, and I don't blame him for trying, but his brilliance wasn't in the logic any more than the drugs, it was in his confusion. And what a story that was.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

There is more in this memo worth discussing, but the import should by now be clear. The stench of corruption permeates the pages of this report. Legal minds, blinded by ideology, and seduced by power, have willingly done the Administration's dirtiest work-- apologizing for torture and justifying violations of the most basic human rights. They have mangled the law and distorted the Constitution, manipulating legal sources to maximize power and minimize accountability. It is the sort of legal reasoning that twists law to destroy the Rule of Law. It is the sort of legal reasoning that brings shame on our nation and our people. It is the sort of legal reasoning that makes me ashamed to be a lawyer.
Jack Balkin

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Dinesh D'Souza's defense of post-structuralism.
I have no more sympathy for Brights than I do for any other self proclaimed ubermenschen.
I'm a humanist. I'm cognizant of my capacity for error, and of the fact that my awareness will not preclude future mistakes. That doesn't mean I like D'Souza, but if he can puncture holes in an argument, it's not an argument worth making is it?.
Quickly, on Reagan, and later more on Soros.
The only reason not to speak ill of the dead in this case is political, but one gets the sense that many liberals are actually being sincere in their respect. How nice. How civil How absurd.
I hope to god Kerry was lying through his teeth as he performed the politically necessary courtesy of eulogizing The Gipper but somehow I doubt it. Liberals, rich ones especially, live in a world of illusion. Their republican cousins laugh, and Mad King George is one result.

Update: From what I'm listening to on the radio right now, other people agree.
I've said this before in comments on the 'realist' opposition to the war, but the extremism of the Bush agenda means that the fight for the moment is not between the left and right but between the extremist-absurdist right and everyone else. In a crisis, moderates need to learn to fight for moderation, and they become more interesting for the effort. Kerry needs to understand this. The American people need to understand this as well. Otherwise we'll continue along the line of the banalization of democracy...
the democratization of banality.

Friday, June 04, 2004

August Sander. Reading Kimmelman is always frustrating. He gets off to good start this time until he quotes Richard Avedon; that just about killed the vibe. And there's nothing reactionary about Sander's work. It assumes a sort of moral seriousness that can be called conservative; there's a difference, and K. should know it. 

This was kind of funny. 

The editor said he likes the piece but doesn't know what to do with it. They're sending me a topic, or something to review. 

Kimmelman 10 years earlier.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Josh Marshall and Brad Delong are wondering why Chalabi hasn't been arrested in connection with his apparent gift to the Iranians of one of our most precious secrets: that we'd broken the Iranians' codes.
It's a good question, but it has a simple answer: Chalabi didn't break any of our laws."
Mark Kleiman

I was just going to give him credit and leave it at that, but then I read the next post:

For those who think the choice between Dean and Kerry was mostly one of style: Kerry's friends are trying to unseat Rep. Jim "we only invaded Iraq because of the Jews" Moran, while Dean is headlining a fundraiser for him. Note that Moran is still defending his remark as "the truth."

If Kleiman were arguing that not telling 'the truth' makes Kerry electable, I might agree. But he's not making that argument.
Dean is no longer running for president, and Moran is right.
Proud to be a Canadian