Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I want to blame this on the Whiggish arrogance of reformist American intellectuals who've never understood that it's counterproductive to condescend to the people you say you're trying to help. The hyper-intellectuallism of the liberal elite and the anti-intellectualism of the populace in this country go hand in glove, but I suppose -still- I'd expect or want intellectuals to be more self aware.

I'll repeat what I said a couple of days ago:

"A scientist who operates on what he sees as the ‘necessary truth’ that all people are equally capable of abstract reason is doing little more that proving himself as incapable of reason as his opponent."

I'm not bothered by people who would rather be right than useful only by those who pretend, in order to protect their sense of their own morality, that there's no difference.

A lot of people are linking to NRO today. I sent them a note as well. Conservatives, those without the sense of worldweariness that might give their ideas some weight, are simply cynics trying to wish themselves a moral defense for their otherwise immoral, antisocial, behavior.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

This is amusing.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The BBC refers to 'refugees' from New Orleans.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

V.S. Naipaul on why it's more important to have beliefs and ask small questions than have doubts and ask complex ones:
Naipaul has said he wrote the novel ''Half a Life'' (2001) only to fulfill a publisher's contract, and that ''Magic Seeds'' (2004) would be his last novel. (Over the years, he has often hinted at retirement, only to publish another book soon after.) Yet the fact that Naipaul has continued to write novels does not undercut his acute awareness of the form's limitations; indeed, it amplifies it. His is the lament of a writer who, through a life devoted to his craft, has discovered that the tools at his disposal are no longer adequate. ''If you write a novel alone you sit and you weave a little narrative. And it's O.K., but it's of no account,'' Naipaul said. ''If you're a romantic writer, you write novels about men and women falling in love, etc., give a little narrative here and there. But again, it's of no account.''

What is of account, in Naipaul's view, is the larger global political situation -- in particular, the clash between belief and unbelief in postcolonial societies. ''I became very interested in the Islamic question, and thought I would try to understand it from the roots, ask very simple questions and somehow make a narrative of that discovery,'' he said. To what extent, he wondered, had ''people who lock themselves away in belief . . . shut themselves away from the active busy world''? ''To what extent without knowing it'' were they ''parasitic on that world''? And why did they have ''no thinkers to point out to them where their thoughts and their passion had led them''? Far from simple, the questions brought a laserlike focus to a central paradox of today's situation: that some who have benefited from the blessings of the West now seek to destroy it.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Juan Cole:
Ten Things Congress Could Demand from Bush on Iraq
I like this guy
Even among humans, as Trivers observed, many people will more readily sacrifice themselves for their friends than for their relatives - an observation easy to make among the rebellious youth of the 60s. So a more general kind of rule than Hamilton had supplied was needed. Trivers came up with the notion of reciprocal altruism. In plain language, this said that self-sacrifice could be understood as self-interest providing there was a chance the beneficiary would repay the deed in the future.
When I was a kid and first thinking about these things I understood that in order to understand the social structures behind morality you had to imagine yourself as a sociopath. That's the only way to avoid tautology. So Trivers' writing was revolutionary? I guess I'm surprised.
I found the link at C.T. where I posted a quote from another piece on Trivers from the Boston Globe:
The book on deceit and self-deception that he’s now starting grows out of a brief but widely cited passage from his introduction to Dawkins’s ‘’The Selfish Gene.’’ If deceit, he wrote, ‘’is fundamental to animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray-by the subtle signs of self-knowledge-the deception being practiced.’’ Thus, the idea that the brain evolved to produce ‘’ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution.’’ We’ve evolved, in other words, to delude ourselves so as better to fool others-all in the service of the great game of propagating our genes.
I'm not much interested in science. I haven't been since I was a child- though for years I told myself otherwise. What annoys me of course as I've made clear dozens of times, is the metonymic association of science with its human practitioners. Trivers seems to have bypassed that dilemma rather nicely.

Also from Crooked Timber, a similar problem from the recent past. I've been saving the link.
I am not putting a counter-argument, but merely making an observation, in saying that if Jimmy’s view is correct then much of social science and history rests on a mistake. Economics and psychology, for example, certainly presuppose that one person’s action can figure among the causal antecedents of another’s. And all those books on the “causes” of the First or Second World Wars would have to be pulped or substantially rewritten.
People are both agents and acted upon. It's not an either/situation. That's why we have courtrooms. And that's precisely why we have historians and why history is not a science.

8/29 update on Trivers, Gould, adaptation, and the female orgasm

From an old post:
Any tradesman, musician or athlete will tell you that the hand teaches the mind. That's the basis of the verb "to practice." For a writer the process of writing teaches the skill of writing, teaches the use of the imagination. Writing, for the sake of writing, is the mind working as a hand. Categories of experience are created by being 'discovered.' The naming, if it comes to that- there can be recognition without naming- comes after the action is complete.

Philosophical, as opposed to political, liberalism quite literally does not understand the arts because it can not allow that methodologies predicated on such ambiguity can have intellectual, and therefore moral, weight (sports in this context are rule following as mere entertainment).

Philosophical conservatism on the other hand is blatantly hypocritical, defending the pleasures of ambiguity as such only in secret and only as reserved for the elect. That's why there are so many priests in favor of homosexuality... for priests.

Friday, August 26, 2005

ass fucking redux

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Nathan's new gig:

Agenda for Justice
Why I am an internationalist:

A war the Intellectuals got wrong.
From what country?

Why are the movies in decline?"
same question

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


World Youth Congress: Surfing Without Sin by Lutz Kinkel, Stern

Censorship has been abolished but not in the Press Center of the World Youth Congress. Precisely there, where daily hundreds of journalists sit at computers, Internet access has been limited—an embarrassing attempt at manipulation.

I found out by accident. With Stern photographer Janna Frohnhaus I had planned to do an article on "Homosexuals and the Catholic Church." She got her press pass for the WYC and then went into the enormous exhibition hall on the Auenplatz in Deutz (Koeln suburb, NB) established as the Press Center, sat down at one of the large number of personal computers reserved for journalists.To find Contact Addresses she used Google under the theme and tried to get a web page of the Ecumenical Working Group on Homosexuals and the Church. It was impossible, it was blocked -- quite officially, by the WYC. (Photo, right, shows the blocked page on the WYC computer)

I’ll admit I did not believe it as she told me of it by email. The Catholic Church for centuries burned books and heretics. But putting Homepages on the Index in the 21st Century? And for journalists? It is impossible to impose Catholic policing on the Information Society --even the Vatican must realize that.
Ah yes, the intellectuals. Benny Morris is an ass.
The crimes of the past are not the crimes in yesterday's newspaper, and the Ashkenazim now have a right to a place in the middle east - almost as much as the expatriate Dutch have a right to remain in southern Africa.

And this from the letters:

"With his announcement that we will continue the war in Iraq to pay our debt to those who have sacrificed their lives, President Bush has switched the mission again. Now we're dying for the dead"

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Saturday, August 20, 2005

"Louis Feuillade's last crime serial starred Gaston Michel, who achieved overnight fame through his role as Barrabas. Michel's fame was to be short-lived however. Whilst filming in Portugal on a subsequent Feuillade film, Michel ended up being carried through the streets of Lisbon by fans, despite the torrential rain. The actor died of pneumonia a few days later."
"The San Francisco Chronicle called the speech "impressive in its breadth and eloquence." The Denver Post likened Powell to "Marshal Dillon facing down a gunslinger in Dodge City," adding that he had presented "not just one 'smoking gun' but a battery of them." The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune called Powell's case "overwhelming," while The Oregonian in Portland found it "devastating." To The Hartford (Ct.) Courant it was "masterful." The Plain Dealer in Cleveland deemed it "credible and persuasive."

One can only laugh, darkly, at the San Jose (Ca.) Mercury News asserting that Powell made his case "without resorting to exaggeration, a rhetorical tool he didn't need." The San Antonio Express-News called the speech "irrefutable," adding, "only those ready to believe Iraq and assume that the United States would manufacture false evidence against Saddam would not be persuaded by Powell's case."

And what of the two giants of the East? The Washington Post echoed others who found Powell's evidence "irrefutable." That paper's liberal columnist, Mary McGrory, wrote that Powell "persuaded me, and I was as tough as France to convince." She even likened the Powell report to the day John Dean "unloaded" on Nixon in the Watergate hearings. George Will said Powell's speech would "change all minds open to evidence."

Another Post liberal, Richard Cohen, opined: "The evidence he presented to the United Nations -- some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail -- had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool, or possibly a Frenchman, could conclude otherwise."

Here's the Post's Jim Hoagland: "To continue to say that the Bush administration has not made its case, you must now believe that Colin Powell lied in the most serious statement he will ever make, or was taken in by manufactured evidence. I don't believe that. Today, neither should you."

The New York Times, meanwhile, hailed Powell's "powerful" and "sober, factual case." Like many other papers, the Times' coverage on its news pages — in separate stories by Steven Weisman, Michael Gordon and Adam Clymer — also bent over backward to give Powell the benefit of nearly every doubt. Apparently in thrall to Powell's moderate reputation, no one even mentioned that he was essentially acting as lead prosecutor with every reason to shape, or even create, facts to fit his brief.

Weisman called Powell's evidence "a nearly encyclopedic catalog that reached further than many had expected." He and Clymer both recalled Adlai Stevenson's speech to the U.N. in 1962 exposing Soviet missiles in Cuba. Gordon closed his piece by asserting that "it will be difficult for skeptics to argue that Washington's case against Iraq is based on groundless suspicions and not intelligence information." Try reading that with a straight face today.

One recalls two quotes garnered by Howard Kurtz last year when he took a look back at the Washington Post's pre-war coverage.

"There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?" -- Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks.

"We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power." -- Reporter Karen Young.

Why does any of this matter? It's fashionable to suggest that the White House was bent on war and nothing could have stopped them. But until the Powell speech, public opinion, editorial sentiment (as chronicled by E&P at the time) and street protests were all building against the war.

The Powell speech, and the media's swallowing of it, changed all that."
Well. I am busy, and few enough people come around here anyway -except norwegian web bots- but I'm following the debate over judicial review at Balkinization. The various links are here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Is that what the debate has come to? Which side can corral the saddest crop of widows, parents, and orphans? Call it a harms race. Better: an ache-off. We hope the grimly absurd image of two competing camps of mourners illustrates why it is we've been somewhat reluctant to weigh in on Sheehan's cause: Grief can pull a person in any direction, and whatever "moral authority" it imbues, we can't claim that Sheehan has it and those mothers who still support the war don't. The Bush administration knows all about exploiting tragedy for its own causes, including re-election. Whatever arguments there are against the war in Iraq, let's not make "I have more despairing mothers on my side" one of them. The only way to win a grief contest is for more people to die.
Yeah, yeah, ass-fucking, Jenna, yaboobs, gin, crack. Is that the post you wanted?
How about all of the above?

The important question concerning Able Danger is whether the decision was seen as mandated by policy or was simply the response to a fear of recrimination.

update: and... Here we go!

Monday, August 15, 2005

E.I. coverage of the Gaza "Disengagement"
The manager is waiting to be paid
Along with priests and deacons of his court
A quartermaster, quite a man, a mistress of the line
Has found a last cent avenue of pain

A Mardi Gras just passed this way a while ago
Making hungry people of us all
Along the Mississippi you can hear the fiddlers play
Fandangos and boleros to the lord

Many times, many tried,
Simple stories are the best
Keep in mind, the wishful kind,
Don't wanna be like all the rest.

My uncle was a vicar in the big parade
Selling fountain pens that never write
San Sebastian gamblers never cheat nor lie
They know good fences make good neighbours

I wish I knew what time of year it was What kind of people will be there When gruesome tales of two cities ran Running all the way Father might have heard his prayers were answered Inhibitions all the way from home Consider now, consider then before the deed is done The blood of consolation runs so true Many times, many tried, Simple stories are the best Keep in mind, the wishful kind, Don't wanna be like all the rest.
big fun Why theory-heads are worse than neo-liberals.
I’m not going to spend much time reading posts by J. Holbo, even the short ones (or the ones I agree with) so I’ll make this short and sweet, and directed not at him but Jodi Dean. It’s not theory itself that’s the problem, kiddo, any more than revolution: it’s the noble cause of permanence: as in permanent revolution. This has its origin in the jealousy of those in the humanities who see themselves as competing with the sciences. Theoretical man is no more or less banal a concept than economic man; except that theory-heads have the habit of pretending by way of their advanced logic that they are not bourgeois. But theory itself IS THE THEORY OF THE ABSOLUTE BOURGEOIS: so contradictory in its essence that it’s best and truest practitioners are nothing more or less than poets of paradox. And I love them for that, honestly. On the other hand, American academics, so desperate to be useful and practical as is the vulgar American can-do way of life, make asses of themselves and end up celebrating an art-as-life theology that leads them to celebrate the demi-fascisms of late romantics like Benjamin. Bore me to hell. And condescend to the middle and the working classes as well, without getting the fucking joke: anti-humanism begins in monarchism not democracy. Literature like law and politics is a craft, not a science. Theory-heads and Timber-ites, both miss the point. But now technocrats defend literature as an enjoyable hobby.

Goodbye to all that

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Son of Gone Fishing.
My phone will be on, but not my computer.
Spending some time on a rocky beach reading Edmund Burke's defense of the decision in Bush v. Gore, an old copy from the grad school days of a member of the Johnson Administration.

A.- It's not our mother's handwriting.

John Roberts is a lawyer (see last post)

" might mean that Roberts is exceptionally good at divorcing his personal positions from his legal craftsmanship." :

I think so.

Friday, August 05, 2005

On Emil Jannings:

My primary intellectual interest is the defense of skill, of an idea of mastery over a medium, trade, or craft. Most intellectuals, now, even those who make their living searching for meaning in others' workmanship, are bothered by such arguments.  They associate skill with beauty, but beauty no longer with truth.  I'm not going to explain why this is so any more than I'm going to say they're wrong. They're not.  But lawyers are not legal philosophers for the simple reason that legal philosophers are not craftsmen. They do not see themselves as acting within the theater of communication of which law is an aspect. What Kerim and others are criticizing in Diamond's work strikes me as no more, or less,  than the social ineptitude more common to engineers or philosophers than to practicing lawyers.

Anthropologists study the skills of their subjects. They learn to appreciate the terminology and the terms of distinction peculiar to a given society. They become both intellectuals and connoisseurs.
A con man is a connoisseur; it's part of his job. A mathematician does not need these skills. But mathematicians are as fallible as the rest of us and I prefer the company of those who understand not only their capacity for error but for delusion. All wise men are connoisseurs
(as if to prove my point)
DeLong the philosopher:
General Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was an utter bastard: he shot five times as many of his own men for desertion during the Battle of Stalingrad as allied soldiers died on D-Day.

General Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was a very good general: we all should be very grateful for what his 62nd Army did during the Battle of Stalingrad.
The moral intelligence of a precocious ten year old, who supplements his allowance writng Cliffs Notes.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Last night I posted something and this morning I removed it
I think anyone who reads this page over time understands the degree to which my life is predicated on contradiction. I shouldn't try to explain myself in detail; there's no one description that would work and explanation comes too close to apology. If I want to apologize for my behavior I should change it in the future.
We'll all have to wait and see.
About the post below: the only additional comment I would make is that I'm more interested in skill than knowledge. For those who think of Marx as an ideologist I'd respond that he was from the last generation of intellectuals who were torn between the desire to be skilled and to be seen as right.
And I'm never scared of craftsmen. I'm scared of their opposite.