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.