Sunday, January 29, 2006

I noticed this a couple days ago, but I'm still a bit shocked. I guess it fits with DeLong's idea of what it means to be observant: to be able to comment on or correct what you read in the newspaper rather than being fully cognizant of what's outside your fucking door.

Barry Ritholtz writes:
Here's a phrase I never thought I would ever hear: "Priced out of Brooklyn".
Etc. etc.
As with any fundamentalism, political success is the beginning of the end.
Ahmadinejad and Hamas weren't elected as fundamentalists but as reformers. The Taliban and Khomeini weren't elected at all.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The materialism of 50 Cent, Cosma Shalizi, and Stephen Bainbridge

When you frown at me (Yeah!)
Is it cuz I won't provide for you girl? (Cuz I won't provide)
You're after my cheddar (haha)
And your friends they see it too (c'mon)
Spending notes is what you're up to (Is this what you want??)
Women are after my cheddar
(Is this what you want?!)

The Porsche or the Bugatti?
Who measures the measurer?
(To the pure all things are pure)

note taking. comments at Law Culture.
(I really hate those little fucks at the Valve.)
A sentence can have a meaning and a subtext. The subtext may be willed or unwilled and may have to do with the words themselves or the form of language. What is the significance of the structure -the rhetorical form- of the arguments of academic or scholastic radicalism? When does the respectful academicising become merely self-perpetuating? What is 'academic' language as a medium? What's the significance of mounting a critical defense of the idea of narrative form rather than simply or not simply using it? What's the difference between the language of a legal philosopher and a trial lawyer? At what point does a sociological scientifically minded study of the arts become un-useful as the result of an unwillingness to accept 'craft' as a category of discussion? [One example of that is here and I find it deeply offensive.] 
There's an argument to be made that all craft is conservative in that it interprets rather than innovates. "The ACLU is a conservative organization." I disagree about the necessity of using explicitly theological terms only because I associate storytellers with atheism, and because the struggle between religion and science is something religion can not win. The struggle between science and craft however, is a different matter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"I saw nothing in the movie to justify the claim that it seeks to establish the moral equivalence of terrorist killings of civilians and Israeli retaliations. While the movie includes an emotional exchange between a Palestinian terrorist and and the leader of the israeli counterterrorism team about the the moral claims of their respective national struggles, the focus of Munich is on members of israeli assassination teams and their mounting doubts about their assignment and what it may be doing to their values and personal lives...

The Issue of moral equivalence is raised by the critics, not the movie. But their assertion that of the 'absolute evil' of targeting innocent civilians, an assertion that I fully agree with, does not necessarily justify their conclusion about the moral difference between Palestinian and Israeli behavior... Wieseltier himself notes that "over the years more civilians have been killed in Israeli air strikes than in the palestinian atrocities that provoked the air strikes."
Henry Siegman, The Killing Equation, in the NYRB
It may be thought better, in view of the allegations of 'barbarity' of air attacks, to preserve appearances by formulating milder rules and by still nominally confining bombardment to targets which are strictly military in character avoid emphasizing the truth that air warfare has made such restrictions obsolete and impossible. it may be some time until another war occurs and meanwhile the public may become educated as to the meaning of air power.
Rules as to Bombardment by Aircraft, 1921. Quoted in Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes.
The targeted killing of civilians is one of the hallmarks of modern war, and there is no moral equivalence between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians have the upper hand and nothing Hezbollah and Hamas have done has tipped the scales.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The dangers in the abuse of technically valid context free science:

A Shocker: Partisan Thought Is Unconscious
In 2004, the researchers recruited 30 adult men who described themselves as committed Republicans or Democrats. The men, half of them supporters of President Bush and the other half backers of Senator John Kerry, earned $50 to sit in an M.R.I. machine and consider several statements in quick succession.

The first was a quote attributed to one of the two candidates: either a remark by Mr. Bush in support of Kenneth L. Lay, the former Enron chief, before he was indicted, or a statement by Mr. Kerry that Social Security should be overhauled. Moments later, the participants read a remark that showed the candidate reversing his position. The quotes were doctored for maximum effect but presented as factual.

The Republicans in the study judged Mr. Kerry as harshly as the Democrats judged Mr. Bush. But each group let its own candidate off the hook.

After the participants read the contradictory comment, the researchers measured increased activity in several areas of the brain. They included a region involved in regulating negative emotions and another called the cingulate, which activates when the brain makes judgments about forgiveness, among other things. Also, a spike appeared in several areas known to be active when people feel relieved or rewarded. The "cold reasoning" regions of the cortex were relatively quiet.

Researchers have long known that political decisions are strongly influenced by unconscious emotional reactions, a fact routinely exploited by campaign consultants and advertisers. But the new research suggests that for partisans, political thinking is often predominantly emotional.

It is possible to override these biases, Dr. Westen said, "but you have to engage in ruthless self reflection, to say, 'All right, I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest.' "
In the hard -mathematical- sciences neutrality is seen as akin to objectivity, but in the sociolinguistic world synonymous with politics -we live here!- neutrality is both impractical and immoral. The current political reality is this: How many times can it be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that George Bush and Ken Lay lied? Apply the same standard to John Kerry.

It is possible to override these biases, Dr. Westen said, "but you have to engage in ruthless self reflection, to say, 'All right, I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest.' "

Dr. Westen is wrong. It is not possible to override these biases, that's why courtrooms aren't run like laboratories.
Even with advances in technology and methodology the scientific standard of 'truth' will never replace the linguistic standard of reasonable doubt. George Bush is corrupt. 1+1=2. That we will never be able to use the same standard to judge the factual basis of both propositions is no excuse for passivity. At the same time though I'm annoyed by scientists who try to pretend they're machines, the lingering popularity of positivism, as pseudo-autism, among Americans who would refer to themselves as intellectual, disgusts me. As I've said before, DeLong styles himself a cosmopolitan, but he's as much a rationalist vulgarian as his enemy Chomsky.

This is silly.
And D.B. posted in a second time because it got "lost in the shuffle?"
C'mon kids

Monday, January 23, 2006

"Defending Spy Program, General Reveals Shaky Grip on 4th Amendment".

I read about this earlier in the day, but the headline at E&P made me laugh.

Open Letters to The Washington Post, Tim Russert, and Chris Matthews
Law Culture
A new place to cause trouble.
The Teenager makes a small point:
Ahmadinejad doesn't run Iranian foreign policy.
KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid.

I'm sorry, but this is the first time since the WaPo Blog fiasco that anyone on our side has been specific about the record. Quibbling about the difference between Abramoff and his clients is not the same as this:
Mr. Abramoff says he represents only those [clients] who stand for conservative principles.... ''All of my political work,'' he said, ''is driven by philosophical interests, not by a desire to gain wealth.''... Mr. Abramoff's background and personality hardly fit the mold of the typical Washington lobbyist.... Most unusual, [Abramoff] is, by his own description, a committed ideologue.... tries hard to persuade his fellow Washington lobbyists to give more generously to the Republican Party, its candidates and conservative organizations. He expects to raise as much as $5 million this year, he said, and plans to donate as much as $250,000 personally. Mr. Abramoff's rising influence is also illustrative of... [how] success can be built on a strong relationship between a lobbyist and a single, powerful lawmaker... Mr. DeLay...
And the Dems are still awful. Reid is smarmy as a preacher, Gore was wooden as ever in his 'fire-breathing' speech, and Kerry can't even proounce Abramoff's name: Abraham-off?

Friday, January 20, 2006

In re: Deborah Howell (and related matters)
The rule on the street says nobody respects a whiner. In basketball or politics, if you get pushed you push back just as hard; respect is not a gift and there's no referree to work.
The press is just another part of the the audience. I'm not defending the Post or anyone else, but democracy isn't based the assumption that the world is fair, it's based on the opposite: the assumption that power corrupts. Don't expect favors from anyone.
William Arkin:
For the first time since intercontinental ballistic missiles were "captured" in arms control treaties 40 years ago as unique and potentially destabilizing weapons, the United States will muddy the waters by modifying an existing nuclear weapon for use in day-to-day warfare.

The conversion of Trident missiles abandons the strict segregation of nuclear from conventional weapons.

Were the United States ever to use its new conventional Tridents, the firing would also flirt with accidental nuclear war. Ballistic missiles aimed at targets in North Korea, for example, might falsely signal to China or Russia that the United States was attacking them.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Taking a break from work and illness.
Russell Arben Fox understands the complexities of cosmopolitanism. Kwame Anthony Appiah does not.
M and E against history.
Are words numbers? Assuming that numbers don't change their meanings over time, who would argue that the same is [or should be] true for language?

I'm not opposed to model building, I'm not even opposed to the science of model building--
Why brilliant fashion designers, a notoriously non-analytic breed, sometimes succeed in anticipating the shape of things to come better than professional predictors, is one of the most obscure questions in history; and for the historian of culture, one of the most central.
--but if you're going to attempt it don't you think it makes sense to try to understand the form of modeling that history has shown most reliable (even if only reliable after the fact)?
My god, Holbo and company are grotesque.
This should be fun.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I spent most of the day sick on the couch watching crap tv, watching every shot without once forgetting that I was following someone else's eye, either of the cameraman's or editor's.
Television, the light-filled-box, was always about the relation between materiality and its absence, but never in a way to give much rhetorical force to either. The box was sculpture of a sort, and the light itself was theater, but only if theater were late (and awful) Beckett.
The image floats now, divorcing itself from its frame, becoming cinematic even when it's not projected. There's no longer any sculptural presence; the new technology creates a fully theatrical space. It's interesting that 4:3 is beautifully pictorial.
"The president's critics are always accusing him of law-breaking or unconstitutional acts and then also berating the incompetence of his governance. And it's often treated as, well ... he's power-hungry and incompetent to boot! Imagine that! The point though is that they are directly connected. Authoritarianism and secrecy breed incompetence; the two feed on each other. It's a vicious cycle. Governments with authoritarian tendencies point to what is in fact their own incompetence as the rationale for giving them yet more power. Katrina was a good example of this.

The basic structure of our Republic really is in danger from a president who militantly insists that he is above the law."
A small update of a post from 12/16.
Still no takers.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Against Wot?
Against the War on Terror

courtesy of Max
The speeches of M.L. King
Our so called "reality based community":

"The prospect of a nuclearized Iran..."
is one of those things like a bug-bite that gets worse if you scratch at it.
This is all so stupid

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Just fire the Democrats, please. All of them Chomskian democratic idealism does not work. The Democrats knows this, so why do they pretend otherwise? The leadership is wealthy, and their political passivity helps to assuage their guilt at making money the same way the Republican leadership does. "The people made me do it" is an easy out. I've said this before. Most people want freedom, but they want to be led. Cynics know this. Bush knows this. Honest liberals need to admit that they know this as well, and they also need to respect the people they lead. Chomsky doesn't respect the people, he simply refuses to see them as they are. He lies to himself. Brian Leiter is a Chomskian intellectual snob. P.Z. Myers is an incurious pedant, and economists of DeLong's sort trade in the pseudo-sophistication of the techno geek: technological progress is moral progress, and logic trumps craft. [I've done that one enough] This is also one more nail in the coffin of academic leftism: of October, The Whitney ISP, and these idiots - in short the Americans who read Zizek because he laughs at them. This is the failure of the pretensions of liberalism after the failure of absolute radicalism. Relative, humane, radicalism is still possible, but not without an awareness of the contradictions. But is it really radical to say "enough is enough?"

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I'm going to spend some time on this one.

In other news, nationalist intellectual [sic] Susanne Nossel gets her head handed to her once again by all the non-experts in the audience.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Riverbend: Thank You for the Music...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Noticed this morning

What the fuck did you expect?
It's impossible at this point oppose a candidate for SCOTUS on principle, one needs instead political momentum.
I guess the theory is that a democracy is made of followers, not leaders.

And the Republicans know otherwise. No guts no glory.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

First imagine yourself not giving a shit, and then examine the issue closely.

Stanley Fish is good.
Like arguing with a gaggle of prepubescent poindexters who spend their time laughing at 17 year olds for causing trouble and know...girls:
[I'll fix it later. I wanna watch Scalito] Eliot an adult? You’re kidding me, He had the sensibility of a bookish schoolboy and the closeted sexuality to match. And who could ever call Pound ‘mature?’ A writer of mature poetry maybe, but of what sort? As with Picasso: the formal inventiveness of adolescence. I suppose you could try to back William Rubin in his attempts to claim Picasso as a portrait painter of great emotional depth, but Rubin was pretty much tossed on his ass for that one. He was laughed at.

AR: “Seth thinks (unless I’m misunderstanding him) the whole of pre-Enlightenment art is nothing but praise for tyrants.”

Republican forms of government are still anomalous in history, therefore most of the art in museums is the product of authoritarian cultures. This is not my opinion, this is simply a fact. Literature and theater are seem more the products of a democratic or of semi-democratic culture, perhaps this is where Virgil comes in.

I usually get into fights about this for the opposite reasons. Dore Ashton reacted in horror many years ago when I brought up the possibility of a popular art. These days when I’m talking to such people I ask them to name the most important artist in any medium in the history of the English Speaking world. Hint: he was a popular entertainer.

There’s something about synchronic forms of thought that I associate with emotional immaturity, not painting as opposed to music but painting without metaphor, without a sense of time. The 20th century is full of people who defend ideas that originated in the 19th century as if they were products of the 20th. Ideas became ideologies. Ideologies are synchronic. I don’t care if it’s the pseudo-science of mainstream economics and ‘analytic’ philosophy; the myths of ‘scientific’ marxism or freudianism; or the positivist dreams of scientists and their unending search for “truth” by which they mean an unending search for ‘facts.’ Truth is after all a term of metahysics, and facts aren’t as sexy. It’s easy to see Modern art and Modernism as an escape from the world into synchrony. Some of the art was very beautiful, but the attempt to return to the unsynchronic world with synchronic logic failed.

John Holbo responded to Zizek as if their definition of communism were identical, as if Stalinism were merely an idea rather than also and more importantly an experience. Without caring one way or the other about Zizek I thought his critique was just silly. But for you I suppose it keeps the game going, so have fun.
Alito is a Freeper.
I've been watching off and on. He's a creep

Funny, and sad.
No fucking guts.

Monday, January 09, 2006

from Chad Orzel to Chris Mooney, who sends us to Sam Harris.

The page for 'The End of Faith" comes with links to various reviews (copies on his own site) including those by Alan Dershowitz, whose entire life is predicated these days on little honest logic; and to Natalie Angier who includes this nice bit:
‘’The End of Faith’’ is far from perfect. Harris seems to find ‘’moral relativism’’ as great a sin as religious moderation, and in the end he singles out Islam as the reigning threat to humankind. He likens it to the gruesome, Inquisition-style Christianity of the 13th century, yet he never explains how Christianity became comparatively domesticated. And on reading his insistence that it is ‘’time for us to admit that not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development,’’ I couldn’t help but think of Ann Coulter’s morally developed suggestion that we invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert their citizens to Christianity.

Harris also drifts into arenas of marginal relevance to his main thesis, attacking the war against drugs here, pacifism there, and offering a strained defense for the use of torture in wartime that seems all the less persuasive after Abu Ghraib.
According to Johann Hari, Harris 'draws on' Dershowitz, Bernard Lewis, and Samuel Huntington, all of who make logically dubious generalizations that can only by defended in terms of faith.
Eliminate religion and you'll eliminate dubious logic... The man's a fucking genius!
I am amused
Watching the hearings. The Democrats are off to a good start, but do they smell blood?
(It's there, but do they smell it?)

Edward Rothstein on Kwame Anthony Appiah:
"Cosmopolitanism is... more a matter of temperament than of principle."

Liberals historically have no patience for this. Cosmopolitanism isn't intellectual enough for them

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hugh Thompson Jr. and Colin Powell:
A Hero and a Toady
It was 1968. Lt. Calley and his troops were raping and killing the peasants in the village of My Lai, South Vietnam. The pilot of a US helicopter, Hugh Thompson Jr., couldn’t believe the scene he and his crew witnessed from the air. Thompson set his bird down on the ground in between defenseless Vietnamese women, children and old men and a murderous gang of American soldiers. He demanded that Calley and his men put down their weapons or Thompson and his crew would open fire on them. He then rescued the wounded in My Lai and took them for medical treatment. Thompson stopped the carnage that day, but not before “America’s finest” had killed 500 people in cold blood.

Thompson put his body on the line that day to save innocent people. He put his reputation on the line by reporting the massacre to his superiors. Superiors who did nothing. One of those superiors was Colin Powell who did his best to cover-up the massacre. If not for the best investigative journalist in America for the past forty years, Seymour Hersh, the Powell cover-up might have succeeded and the village of My Lai would have remained as anonymous as all the other villages in Vietnam....

A real American hero died yesterday. At the age of 62 in a VA hospital in Louisiana. ...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Blowjobs etc.

Returning to something started here. NPR just ran a segment on advertising after TIVO, including a reference to Sony's bouncing ball ad, available here:

It's a nice short film: not brilliant but far from stupid. The editing bothers me.
I have friends who do this stuff for a living. It's how the craftspeople of Hollywood make their real money. Ads don't have credits running at the end; and I'm sure Peter Jackson still has projects lined up.

I spent an afternoon at the beach a few years ago with an Oscar-winning production designer who spent half an hour describing his plans for an Evian ad, starring most of Esther Williams' original crew. It was made in '03. He also talked about a feature he was going to be working on if it got the greenlight. I was sworn to secrecy by his assistant, whom I've known for 20 years. It still might happen. He drew out his outline on the wet sand with a stick at low tide.

What I like about the industry is that it's fee-for-service, without any of the intellectual pretentiousness of the art world.
Even novelists these days ask their publishers what they think will sell; but I've got three galleries asking me, "Are you working... are you in the studio?"
I say, "Tell me what you want, I'll make it," and they frown.

The advertisement itself takes up the last 10 seconds of the film
Why does Einstein loom so large in the popular imagination?
One answer:

The Cute Factor
For future reference:

Lawyers aren't just con men, they're tradesmen, comparable to atheletes in the sense that they play a game according to formal rules. [I know women who say the same thing abot sex]
And a respect for form is a kind of morality.
Fascism is an attack on the very idea of 'rules.'

A friend of mine knows a lawyer who will brag, at the drop of a hat, that he is " the forefront of the defense of our great Constitution." He handles mostly federal drug cases; mob related; conspiracy etc. He wears fancy suits, drives fancy cars, and has lots of money. He lives in a big house out on the Island. He's slick, cynical and funny. He's a slimeball. And he's right: He is at the forefront of the defense of our constitution.

Justice is imperfect and it has to be, which is why so many lawyers take offense at assholes like Woo who try to 'clean up' the mess. When lawyers become fascists they argue against the idea of law itself. It's not the cynicism that's the problem: Woo's an idealist.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The real case for "Cosmopolitanism"
The President "reserves his authority..."
to torture.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A black liberal academic discovers cosmopolitanism "light"
[update monday: For all the glibness in tone of my own comments below, the tone of the Appiah's writing is worse. It's hard to define: a sort of credulous goodness of intention.
Some comments concerning intention on this post @ Balkinization.]

An old friend was staying with me over the holidays. She spent most of the 90's around the Gulf and has a lot of stories: Dubai and Bahrain; deserts and beaches; souks and the art of bargaining -"You both come away happy". She yells at her children -and at me- in Danish, Greek and Arabic. She's from Katonah. She talks about Riyadh during the scud attacks in the first Gulf war, and about running into one of the dozen or so call-girls flown in to entertain Schwarzkopf's boys @ CentCom.

We had a laugh over this, this morning in Arab News
One of the bad habits that our students take with them when they go abroad is the culture of sexual harassment. They cannot take this culture to America. American woman can easily report sexual harassment to authorities. Saudis that engage in sexual harassment can end up arrested, charged, jailed, and deported. In this system that often sides with the woman in sexual harassment cases, what do you think happens when the accused is an Arab?

Furthermore, Saudi students will face a justice system that doesn’t recognize the Saudi practice of “wasta” (connections with higher ups that can get you out of trouble with the law).
Read the whole thing. It's hilarious