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)

Friday, October 22, 2004


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

More fun here:
"In any event, I don’t see too many Israeli liberals or leftists defending what happened in 1948. At most, they argue that it is a fait accompli like what happened in other settler states, and that Israel now has the right to exist on the same terms as other settler states”

Are the British still transporting Scottish Presbyterians to Ireland?

There’s nothing new about ethnic cleansing. So what? I’m not defending it, am I?
You think the morality of conquest is no longer politically relevant in the United States or the EU!? You equate Israel with New Zealand?
This could turn into an interesting discussion. What’s the difference between monarchist empire and fascist empire, the difference between violent barbarism and violent hypocrisy? Fascism ‘is the pederast from ‘Opus Dei’”, the violent and insecure. The violent and indifferent gave us great crime and great art. The violent and hypocritical gave us Soviet Socialist Realism, Arno Brecker and the bureaucracy of death. Nationalism is the barbarism of tradition. Fascism is the barbarism of ideas. And which one defines the barbarism of Little Israel, the Civilized, Western (even Germanic) mini-state with the bomb?
Barbarians don’t ask for anyone’s approval They do what the have to do to get what they want. I can respect that, even as I oppose them. But I have no respect for those who get upset when I don’t offer my approval of their crimes.
Recently on Crooked Timber someone responded to a post by Brad DeLong on the language used in the PSATs. I seem to have been the only one who spends any time here who was disgusted by DeLong’s post. Before anything else, we’re stuck with language. We need to learn to use it well. Cookie-cutter technocrats and cookie-cutter club kids are at about the same level of arrested development. it’s the moral philosophy of “neat,” as in “cool.”

There is nothing more important in the world than an an understanding of language and how it is used. What is the difference between the crimes of monarchism and the crimes of fascism. What’s the difference between Albert Speer and Guarino Guarini? Between Bernini and Brecker?
Take it away Brad.
I’m done with politics for now. I’m sticking to art for a while.
I lied, of course:
Jesus fucking christ!.

Humor from Michael Froomkin.
Also here

Monday, October 18, 2004


Thom Merrick for High Desert Test Sites, HDTS Four.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Ken Saylor and Seth Edenbaum. With Dennis Balk and Judith Barry.
A last minute addition to:
organized by James Meyer

Carl Andre and Melissa Kretchmer-Alex Bag-Subhankar Banerjee-Christof Büchel-Tom Burr-Paul Chan-Critical Art Ensemble and Claire Pentecost-Mark Dion-Peter Fend-Andrea Fraser-Hans Haacke- Emily Jacir-Natalie Jeremijenko-Mark Lombardi-Christian Philipp Müller and Jane Johnston-Martha Rosler-John Waters-The Yes Men.
American Fine Arts/Colin De Land. 530 west 22nd St. NYC. Opening Friday 10/22

AFA is closing for good at the end of November.
"Have you no sense of irony, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of irony?"
I've been busy on three different jobs, but I've found time to make a few comments here, and here
DeLong still amazes me sometimes. And the Timberites and their readers are really not that far behind. 

From the NYRB. Scroll down and read the paragraphs by the physicist Steven Weinberg. How someone can be so logical, so willing to struggle for objectivity, and then be so willing to throw it all away.
After all this [a seven paragraph attack on the Bush record and agenda, especially on the dangers of nuclear proliferation], you would think that I would have no doubt about my vote in November, but I have one remaining concern that might keep me from voting for Kerry. Somehow there has grown up a correlation between liberalism and anti-Zionism in both Europe and America: a tendency for the same politicians, academics, performers, and journalists who take a liberal stand on domestic issues reflexively to take the Arab side in disputes between Arabs and Israelis. Kerry's statements and voting record show no signs of anti-Zionism, with just one exception known to me, his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations naming James Baker of all people as someone he might send to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians—a possibility he subsequently rejected. 
Nevertheless, I can't help worrying about the foreign policy of a liberal administration if Kerry is elected. This concern is deepened by the fear that, as radical Islamic terrorism continues to plague us, there will be a growing temptation to appease Muslims either by withdrawing support for Israel, or by making complete withdrawal from the West Bank a condition for this support, leaving Israel vulnerable to the sort of attack launched by Arab states in 1948, 1967, and 1973. Yielding to this temptation would weaken the cause of secular democracy, and permanently stain our country's honor. But I probably will vote for Kerry anyway, for on this issue I don't trust Bush either.
And on his to-do list, along with "spend[ing] more on searching for nuclear weapons in container ships", he adds that we should be subsidizing "secular education in Islamic countries." 

Just think for a minute.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Briefly on Derrida.
Brian Leiter comments that this list is made up of nothing but literature professors.

Deconstruction has always seemed to me a needlessly baroque argument for there being limits to our ability to recreate, mirror, or mimic the world. Still, I'm more interested in the attempt than I am in creating patterrns out of whole cloth and then claiming that they have truth value. And isn't that what analytic philosophy is all about?

Better a fictionalized recreation than a fantasy. It's the difference between Jon Stewart and George W Bush.
But this orthodoxy, too, can be as ruthless and demanding as any other. This may have been why Derrida could often become mannered and puerile, endlessly turning rebellion on itself. And late in his life, Derrida, bristling at charges that he was a relativist, tried to find some sort of firm, unshakeable ground upon which to stand a notion of political activity and justice that might justify his triumphant orthodoxy. To no avail. In the recent book, "Philosophy in a Time of Terror," here is what he said about 9/11:

"We do not in fact know what we are saying or naming in this way: September 11, le 11 septembre, September 11. The brevity of the appellation (September 11, 9/11) stems not only from an economic or rhetorical necessity. The telegram of this metonymy - a name, a number - points out the unqualifiable by recognizing that we do not recognize or even cognize that we do not yet know how to qualify, that we do not know what we are talking about."

The rest is silence.
Given a choice between a mannered, self-consciously bemused old humanist and Edward Rothstein, I'd choose the former without much need to wonder why.
No Plan
Equipment which could be used in an illicit nuclear bomb programme has disappeared from previously monitored sites in Iraq, and radioactively contaminated items from there have been found abroad, the International Atomic Energy Agency has told the UN.

Installations in Saddam Hussein's former nuclear bomb programme were being systematically dismantled, its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, has told the security council, warning of the implications for trafficking.
Baker's Plan
Until now, there has been no concrete evidence that Baker's loyalties are split, or that his power as Special Presidential Envoy--an unpaid position--has been used to benefit any of his corporate clients or employers. But according to documents obtained by The Nation, that is precisely what has happened. Carlyle has sought to secure an extraordinary $1 billion investment from the Kuwaiti government, with Baker's influence as debt envoy being used as a crucial lever.

...The goal of maximizing Iraq's debt payments directly contradicts the US foreign policy aim of drastically reducing Iraq's debt burden. According to Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University and a leading expert on government ethics and regulations, this means that Baker is in a "classic conflict of interest. Baker is on two sides of this transaction: He is supposed to be representing the interests of the United States, but he is also a senior counselor at Carlyle, and Carlyle wants to get paid to help Kuwait recover its debts from Iraq." After examining the documents, Clark called them "extraordinary." She said, "Carlyle and the other companies are exploiting Baker's current position to try to land a deal with Kuwait that would undermine the interests of the US government."
And if anyone gives you the Bush line on increases in non-defense spending, send them to Max, who covered this bullshit the last time:
During the debate the President claimed that non-defense spending only increased by one percent. It wasn't clear whether he meant per year, over four years, or over any particular year, whether he meant entitlements, discretionary spending, or discretionary spending net of homeland security. Before or after adjusting for inflation. But it doesn't much matter. No matter which combination of these you choose, he is wrong by a long shot.

Here's a chart exclusive to MaxSpeak showing annual increases in Federal spending.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Not that anyone's reading me at the moment, but Bush is being fed his lines.
The pre-debate bla bla on the New York NPR affiliate is a dual interview with the TV critic from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the author of the Salon piece on "the bulge." If the critic is a good barometer of views of the people of Cleveland, the average citizen of that city is a as self absorbed as the rest of the world imagines. On the other hand, the host was surprised to learn that the use of a transmitter was against the rules and a lot of experts say Bush was wired. "The press has stopped laughing"
And after 10 minutes, by the standards of this country, Kerry is kicking ass.
My father used to say that he was against the death penalty, except for those actions of government officials that involved "a betrayal of the public trust.". At the time he was referring to officials of the Nixon administration.

I agree with Mark Kleiman:
...if there's a ten-year federal mandatory minimum sentence for selling a kilogram of cocaine, a ten-year mandatory for fraudulently depriving someone of the right to vote would be just about right.
RNC funds voter supression efforts

The smoking gun on voter registration fraud: Nathan Sproul

update: 5:16. It's hitting on NPR right now.
I find it harder and harder to put up with political 'types'. I get so fucking bored. DeLong's heroism "Seminar" drove me nuts.
This entire conversation is absurd. That seems to be the case whenever technocrats discuss culture. Acts are heroic; people are flawed. The Greek heroes were flawed on a grand scale; that's what makes them interesting. Art can not be made to follow the law of non-contradiction. Yglesias' response is Lit. 101. It's amazing that he should have to make such an argument in a conversation among adults. How many American heroes are villians in the eyes of others? Was Lincoln a hero to Frederick Douglass? How many of the works of art that DeLong recently praised so highly on his trip to Italy succeed in atoning for the crimes of the Catholic church? What's the relation of Titian's art to Philip II? Are there no fans of the Venetian master in Maastricht? Are we going to discuss the destructive forces of American culture and all it has wrought? God save us all from the middle aged american teenager in the voting booth. Most of what is truly great in our culture is seen as a flower growing in a rotting swamp: The blues comes from slavery, its white cohabitant from grinding poverty. Our optimistic art is silly: optimism pairs with no-nothingism and greed, can-do practicality with ignorance of anything outside the range of technical skill. Art is the craft of seduction. Plato spent a lifetime trying to seduce people into believing it wasn't worth the risks. If it can't be eliminated we should at least respect its power. And if one respects something, doesn't that allow the possibility of something more?
I hate progressives. The point, you idiots, is to be able to manage the potential for corruption, not to cure it. Jack Balkin's comments on Derrida get it about right, though I'd argue as always that the history of British literature and theater are more useful than modern derivatives such as deconstruction. Leave it to post-war Europeans to develop a philosophy of semiotic ambiguity, but leave it to academics in this country to find a way to remove imagination from its defense. If it were possible to create a branch of human genius predicated as being in opposition even to the idea of imagination, its home would be in this country and its defining authority named Posner.
Laura Rozen
Juan Cole

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Andy Warhol 1972

I've been waiting for months for someone to make a similar poster for this election.
I'm shocked no one's done it yet.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The people of the United States are smarter than their president.
And a lot more of them just found that out.

Atrios: "wow"
The Debate: It's interesting, the fact of it, and the fact of the questions and questioners. Never before have so many people seen democracy in action. What is the number of foreign viewers, and how many of them are following the debate in English? And none of them are able to vote. The future of billions in the hands of the citizens of the most powerful state in the history of the world, most of whom know next to nothing about any foreign place, and most of them with no sense at all of their incredible power.
All over he world, millions and millions are looking at the screen with the same confused sense of amusement, envy, and horror.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Talking to a friend today about the debate, we agreed that Edwards could have done better. But the polls are giving him a clear win, and as I was going over what I remembered as the debate highlights, I thought of something else. Edwards wasn't playing to an audience of people like me, he was playing to a jury, and I've been dismissed from every jury pool I've been part of. Of course the SCLM are going to say it was a tie until proven otherwise (and even after) but Edwards made the points he wanted to make, and if I wasn't charmed, I can see how others were.
From a reader at TPM:
As a trial lawyer, Edwards learned not to allow a witness to explain. Had he challenged Cheney on each lie, Cheney could have explained them away. A better trial tactic, I am not sure about a debate, is to let the falsehood sit there but point it out later to the jury or the judge. By not letting Cheney explain away the lies, he is stuck with them and the public will act as the jury.
Of course on policv, as opposed to theater I'll go with Max. But even he thought it was a close call, and maybe, after all, it's wasn't.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Michael Moore gets letters from the front.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Before his MT software blew up Max was doing pretty good. Check out his perfectly reasonable annoyance at Kerry, [] and his comments on Demopublican foreign policy, specifically some recent stupidity from our new hero Barack Obama. link. [ditto]
Why was Richard Avedon a pretentious lightweight, and why was Geoffrey Beene a great designer?
Why is it a journalistic rule of thumb that the best writing is on the sports pages?

" 'Some things people can afford, some things people can't,' said Bloomberg, whose estimated personal fortune is $4.9 billion...
Over the past five years, the city funneled $65 million in taxpayer money to help fund MoMA's expansion."
Link from C.T..

The art world, like the social cultures of opera and ballet, involves not only the money of the powerful but their taste. For all the pretensions of modern art, its displays of contempt were directed most often not against the rich but the middle class. American academics have never understood the snobbery [elitism- better] of the continental thought they've championed. The European critique of the bourgeoisie doesn't begin with Duchamp, and it doesn't end with Foucault. The fact that this culture is now represented by the nouveau riche is simply another reason to understand why film, like literature based on the economic power of a large percentage of the population, is the most important visual medium of the present and future. Art, as such, is now defined by conservatism and jealousy: wanting both its MTV and a sense of superiority it has not earned.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

It's been a busy week, for everybody. I'm not much for journalese so I ended up doing two rewrites of a short review. That and a full week of work plastering an apartment while under the influence of a back spasm. Last weekend I spent most of the time almost immobile.

I've also been in no mood to be faced with posts like this one by DeLong.

Yes Kerry won the debate. And the press has been not quite as bad as usual, if only because the victory was so obvious there was little room for equivocation. But being unbiased is not the same as offering time to demonstrable falsehoods, and they haven't learned that yet. Still that's not really the problem.

Between con men and reformers, economists and hippies, we have no intellectual culture of irony that's not leaden, or of self-awareness that's not bitter.* The moneyed right wing has its cynicism, the moneyed left has its condescension, both based on the the assumption that others are gullible and stupid. It makes no difference if it's DeLong and Yglesias, or David Brooks and Bill O'Reilly. Unto the pure, all things are pure. We stand apart. And language is either transparent, or corrupt.

For all that I'm an arrogant son of a bitch I live my life assuming I'm an idiot. It doesn't bother me. I spend every day waiting to be corrected, by others or the accidents of experience. The world is more complex than any model I'll ever produce, and model-building is my life, perhaps too much so. In this country a sense of irony is considered roughly equivalent of a death-wish, even while it's the life's blood of the British press that so many envy.

I spent thursday evening talking the possibility of a future with a woman who's a defender of her country's monarchy. We spent three hours laughing at ourselves, our insecurities, and at everything we care about (obviously she's not British).
'My wife the monarchist.' 'My communist husband.'
There's more to life than economics.

It's been a good week for me. And for the country, not that it's saying much, it could have been worse.
Juan Cole
* Intellectual culture, not culture at large.
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