Thursday, March 30, 2006

For the archives:

"I could argue all over the place about any number of comments made here, since I think the most important problems are avoided by assuming that ideas can not be contradictory in themselves.

There is a difference between the authoritariarnism of people and of ideas. Plenty of people are comforted by the thought that God is in control. But they might rise up in arms if a mere person were running things. It mght make sense to think of the relationship of creationism to science as similar to the rise of plain spoken protestantism against the obscurantist ritual of the Catholic liturgy. Why should people trust what they can’t understand?

Also this is the country of Fordism and the myth of mechanics and science: of equating technical and moral progress (and in the silliest possiible ways). And as far as biotech is concerned the fear is the result of memories of that arrogance more than anything, of the fear of unpredictable consequences.
Modern biotechnology is not the same as cross fertilizing corn. What we live with today are end products of evolution over millions of years, of a cone of experience and time narrowing to a point in the present. The desire to expand from a point is one of the most famous fallacies of modernity,”The Year One” being a famous early example.
Modernity prefers theory to history. The recent religious revival is the unintellectuals’ anti-intellectual defense of the moral primacy of history over theory.
The humanities at their best represent the intellectuals’ (secular) defense of the same thing.

And especially in this country people can be on different side of the argument at different times of any given day."

I said this before:

Q: What's the best description of constitutional change?
A: 1 is 1 less than 2, which 1 less than 3, which 1 less than 4, which 1 less than 5.
So 1 is 1 less than 5.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance," because freedom is not measured in mathematics but in language, and not in language as idea but as speech.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The EPA, trichloroethylene, and the Pentagon.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What the fuck: [a reply to Todd Gitlin at TPM. Link now to]
I was more saddened by my mother's death than I would be when I read about a stranger's death in a newspaper. This is not an acknowledgment of any moral difference between the two, there is none. The difference is only in the physical and emotional fact of proximity: we care more for what we know. A philosophy of patriotism is the ideology of the morality of proximity, of US and THEM.
Patriotism may be a political necessity of weak states. It is not a moral value, let alone an intellectual one.
And are we weak?

This country has been dealing knowingly with Wahhabism for decades. The world did not change on September 11th. I have no friends who did not expect something to happen at some point in the near future. Airplanes were a surprise. And nobody assumed the terrorists- the neo-Jacobins would be Islamic (or even that they would be neo-Jacobins). But I was not surprised to hear after the fact that a million were cheering.

I was not cheering. Watching the second tower fall, from the Pulaski Bridge between Long Island City and Greenpoint -and thinking the towers were falling together- I thought I was watching the death of 50,000 people. My knees gave out.
I'm sick of protestations of wounded ignorance. I'm sick of the passivity of the morally superior. Gitlins' post is ludicrous.
Think how to communicate to the citizens of the most powerful nation in history that they missed an opportunity when the vast majority of the people in the world were on their side and wishing them well after 9-11. How do you describe the stupidity in the arrogance of the wounded giant, to the giant himself?

If you want to be an intellectual, think.

Imagine how working class people in Brooklyn associate liberals with respect for the working man as idea but contempt for him as flesh, as the workingmens' homes are sold out from under them to gentrifying democrats. Modern liberals are the velvet glove on the iron fist of Reaganomics. Do you think Gitlin's dreamings are any better- to paraphrase the title of a chapter in a book I have not read- than the anti-politics of any professor of cultural studies? 
The American left is made up of priests who talk only to priests, or to the most committed of the faithful. That's nothing more than another form of anti-politics.
I'm sick of idiots.

Monday, March 27, 2006,,-5715289,00.html,,1741014,00.html

The government of this country is run by people who once thought Francis Fukuyama was a sage, abetted by others who are afraid to admit to each other that they always knew he was an idiot.

I'm beyond amazed. I'm bored.
To the Editor:

The call to Samaritan disobedience in "Called by God to Help" may soon apply to more than Catholic workers. We are on the brink of becoming a nation where torture is legal and helping the needy is not. Disobeying the law may become a moral imperative for all of us.

Glenn Cheney
Sprague, Conn., March 22, 2006


Nice comment by someone on NPR this afternoon, comparing recent immigration from Mexico to the "Great Migration".
Michael Lind is an asshole
and here

Sunday, March 26, 2006

What is the relationship between this:
A crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched in Los Angeles on Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall along the U.S.' southern border.
and this?:
The First Employment Contract - CPE, as the French call it - has triggered a wave of protests spearheaded by the students it purports to help.
Polls suggest that 60% of the population at large opposes it. But one group clearly backs the move - employers.
"It is a good thing," Jean-François Roubaud, president of the French federation of small and medium companies (CGPME), told the BBC News website.
Think fast.

And I just found out I've been banned at 2 sites. First DeLong and now Long Sunday. I'm almost proud.

Here's the post; my comment was a link. And here again is the Russell Jacoby piece from this morning.
Sunday, March 26 2006
Laura Rozen reads this shit so you don't have to.

This is funny
William Edmundson@Leiter Reports.
Balkin and Levinson
The Puritan fades into the politician technocrat and anti-politics becomes the political defense of democracy.
Next thing I'll be making an intellectual defense of V for Vendetta.

Laura Rozen

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Guardian: "United Nations nuclear and health watchdogs have ignored evidence of deaths, cancers, mutations and other conditions after the Chernobyl accident, leading scientists and doctors have claimed in the run-up to the nuclear disaster's 20th anniversary next month. In a series of reports about to be published, they will suggest that at least 30,000 people are expected to die of cancers linked directly to severe radiation exposure in 1986 and up to 500,000 people may have already died as a result of the world's worst environmental catastrophe."
We are at war. Every other function of government is and should be ancillary to the obligations of our national defense. The President in his capacity as commander and chief of the armed forces is our leader in this defense and should face few constraints.

The DoJ:
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statutes inconsistent with the Constitution must yield. The basic principle of our system of government means that no President, merely by assenting to a piece of legislation, can diminish the scope of the President's constitutional power. . . .

Just as one President may not, through signing legislation, eliminate the Executive Branch's inherent constitutional powers, Congress may not renounce inherent presidential authority. The Constitution grants the President the inherent power to protect the nation from foreign attack, and Congress may not impede the President's ability to perform his constitutional duty.
(citations omitted).
From Glenn Greenwald
War is our foreign policy. It is our domestic policy.
1 is 1 less than 2, which 1 less than 3, which 1 less than 4, which 1 less than 5.
1 is 1 less than 5.
It doesn't work with numbers but how about shades of gray?
Black becomes white, freedom becomes slavery, and we have to destroy democracy in order to save it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Balkin and Levinson
"The New Constitutional Order and the National Surveillance State"
William Arkin will be on "NOW" tonight on PBS.
I agree
Lawbreaker. Again.
And again!
William Arkin
Current and former members of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, come forth.

I believe your unit is spying on anti-war, anti-military and environmental organizations under the guise of "force protection."

Ever since Pentagon domestic spying was revealed by yours truly in December, the Defense Department has aggressively tried to assure Congress and the American public that it is not another agency breaking the law.

Tonight, his majesty of force protection David Burtt, Director of the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), appears on camera for the first time on the PBS "Now" program. He would like to assure America that his agency is purging improper information from its databases.

But Burtt also speaks of the "dots" and of the real world work going on today to find terrorists in America.

902nd warriors: I know you are out there on the front lines, collecting and analyzing dots to find a terrorist enemy. It is activity that on the one hand is less intrusive and politically motivated than anything in the past. Yet, at the same time, it is more diabolical because of its very pervasiveness and promiscuity.
Link from L.R.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Peter Brandt/The Art Workers Coalition, 1970, Photograph by Ronald L. Haeberle
Atrios and others miss the point. Objectivity isn't a sham only because people aren't behaving the way as they should -though that's true enough- but because it's a fantasy. Objectivity is a sham and consensus isn't enough. That's why prosecutors don't double as defense attorneys.

I have little doubt that Liasson thinks she's being "objective", and she may be right that people give the president of the benefit of the doubt in any showdown with the press; but it's not her job to reinforce that behavior. It is, or should be, her job to defend the necessity of debate: to be biased in favor of the principle of adversarial relations, not only in relations of the press or the people to the government but among the people themselves.

The institutional leadership of this country, politically and culturally, Democratic and Republican, left and right, both corruptly and not, believes that democracy is as simple as giving the people what they want. Demagogues want the people ignorant; idealists assume the people already know the truth but are only kept silent by malign forces (Chomskyism is not Chomsky's invention).  Neither people nor politics are so simple.

It's the obligation of every citizen of a democracy to have opinions. Not having any is irresponsible, pretending not to is betrayal.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Laura Rozen

Anton Henning, Interieur No. 287, 2004, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm.

Pile on ...and on
...and on.
Atrios for March 22 2006 is pretty much all Domenech all the time.

"An echo chamber of our own."
The wonks and the populists, two versions of the political class are battling it out.
The popular American political tradition is largely anti-intellectual and anti-political. Activists and political intellectuals mirror this indifference with a commitment to themselves and their own ideas.
Feingold hit the goddamn pitch. Run!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Monday, March 20, 2006

This too was predictable.
The Guardian A powerful new militia dubbed "the Pakistani Taliban" has effectively seized control of swaths of the country's northern tribal areas in recent months, triggering alarm in Islamabad and marking a big setback in America's "war on terror". The militants are strongest in North and South Waziristan, two of seven tribal agencies on the border with Afghanistan. Strict social edicts have been handed down: shopkeepers may not sell music or films; barbers are instructed not to shave beards. Yesterday a bomb blew up a radio transmitter in Wana, taking the state radio off the air. Militants collect taxes from passing vehicles at new checkpoints, and last week an Islamic court was established in Wana to replace the traditional jirga, or council of elders. Rough justice has already been dispensed elsewhere. A gang of seven alleged bandits were executed in Miran Shah in December and their bodies were hung from a post in the town centre. The violent puritanism is spreading. On Sunday a remote-controlled bomb ripped through a police vehicle in Dera Ismail Khan, near South Waziristan, killing seven people. More than 100 pro-government elders and politicians have been killed in the past nine months, said a diplomat. The Pakistani military deployed 70,000 troops to Waziristan two years ago to rein in the militants. But the campaign is faltering. An army assault against an alleged al-Qaida training camp outside Miran Shah on March 1 left more than 100 dead.
I've never worried about Iran getting the bomb; I've always worried about Pakistan having it. so fucking stupid.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Black Bag Jobs.
link from Laura Rozen.
Jack Balkin's commentary.

And more from Balkin, Lederman and Tamanaha.
In describing or communicating anything beyond brute fact you need to generalize. Ideas are generalizations, and the conflict in any philosophy of action begins with the necessary but troubled equation of ideas and objects. For liberalism, predicated on ideas of individual liberty, this conflict becomes almost a paradox; that my mother, as a reader both of literature and law, could shrug off John Rawls as being "more interested in ideas than people," was not something I took lightly.

Still the desire was not dishonorable in itself, not nearly as much as the claim of success.

Can there be a human being more small minded, vulgar and anti-intellectual than Tyler Cowen? He makes DeLong look like the font of wisdom. What a pathetic little fuck.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

On the same theme:
Indecency, as Janet Jackson showed, is all in the context. People complained to the Federal Communications Commission about the performer's wardrobe malfunction because it happened during a Super Bowl halftime show — viewers don't expect lewdness until the commercials.

And fans of procedural crime dramas like CBS's "Without a Trace" expect to see sexual depravity and abuse only in dead people. When an episode showed graphic images of seminaked, promiscuous teenagers who were actually alive, it was something of a shock. It certainly fired up the F.C.C.: that guardian of network morals fined 111 stations that aired that episode a record $3.6 million.

And probably rightly so. For reasons that baffle the rest of the world (in this case, they don't hate us, they pity us), the United States is far more prudish about sex than violence on television. But as long as sexually explicit material is officially taboo, then the episode did seem to meet the test: the scene of teenagers holding an orgy in a suburban house was quite blue. The camera lingered on writhing bodies and sweaty threesomes just a little longer than was strictly necessary to make the point that sexually transmitted diseases are a growing problem in high school.

CBS defended the episode, saying that it had redeeming social value since the story was a cautionary tale about parents who fail to adequately supervise their children.
CBS's defense is no more absurd than Lindsay Beyerstein's earnest attempts to rehabilitate the authors of Go Fug Yourself.
Nice bit of humor in the last line of Jim Hoberman's review of trash cinema of the week, V for Vendetta:
This hero not only has no name but also no actual personality. (Why hire Weaving? The role could have been played by a computer program.) At a key moment in V for Vendetta, the Negri-Hardt multitude—mysteriously networked and absurdly masked like their faceless non-leader—takes to the streets and waits expectantly. Their patience is rewarded by a superbly irresponsible finale that conflates the "1812 Overture," the Rolling Stones, Malcolm X, and Gloria Steinem. Absorbing even in its incoherence,V for Vendetta manages to make an old popular mythology new. Impossible not to break into a grin: It's the thought that counts.
It's the thought that counts. I'm not even sure Hoberman gets his own joke.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"But you have this thing to go to. A fundraiser. For AIDS. And sure, you're totally f'ing depressed and you really don't want to leave the house because, for one thing, there are all those people outside and you know they're all going to want to talk to you and shit, but you're can't ditch an AIDS fundraiser because even though you're really depressed and you just want to stare at the wall and maybe watch a little of the Tyra Banks Show before burying your head in the pillows of the sofa and crying because you're at home watching the Tyra Banks Show, at least you don't have AIDS and you know rationally that you ought to be happy about that, so you manage to get upright and wrap yourself in a sheet you bought at a recent prison auction and go out and try to act like you don't want to die every moment of the day.
A question for Lindsay Beyerstein (comment deleted by her)
How does your appreciation of GFY square with your broader philisophcal viewpoint? Your 'about' page used to make reference to your discovery of Susan Haack, etc. Given that I'm surprised you didn't agree with Ann Bartow.
GFY is basically articulate witty commentary on crap. The 'content', following a form and content divide, is absolute and total dreck. The bitching and insult are predicated on the logic of triumphalist sexism, and as a discourse on sex it's the equivalent of the banter of two drunken drag queens, with all the reactionary implications. 

But here's the question: The history of literature as opposed to philosophy is the history of writing as craft What's the moral or philosophical value of articulate speech as such? 

I added my comment before reading others'. The point is wasted.
The moral and philisophical value of literature and art is that they don't obey the law of contradiction. LB is unwilling to admit that her tastes contradict her ideas. [She's a moralist except when she's not. Rationalists rationalize. Moralists are hypocrites. GFY is honest]

Feminist law professor Ann Bartow can't understand why anyone is amused by Go Fug Yourself, the celebrity fashion snark blog.
Ann writes
One of the many reasons I’m glad that I am a law professor rather than an actor or musician is that I don’t have to worry much about my hair, make-up or clothes; I’d be unemployed if I did. I grieve for the talented performers who spend inordinate time and money on dieting, plastic surgery, hair styling, and cosmetics applications, and still fall short of “the celebrity look” that must be portrayed before their acting or musical abilities will even be considered by their industries. The most I have to fear is “feedback” on my appearance by students who make observations about my legs, hair and sartorial selections in their course evaluations. Occasionally harsh and inappropriate, none has risen to the level of abject meanness and misogyny I perceive at “Go Fug Yourself,” although the goal of putting the dumb girl in her place is probably the same. I just don’t understand how anyone who identified as a feminist could endorse “Go Fug Yourself” even as a “guilty pleasure.” Maybe this is evidence of my own internalized biases and intolerance, I don’t know. Has my sense of humor atrophied?
Last month, I was walking down the street in Amsterdam with my American blogger buddies and our new Dutch friends. We were talking about whether there were any blogs with truly global appeal. Someone suggested "Go Fug Yourself." We laughed at first, but gradually it dawned on us that there was a lot of truth to that statement. Its appeal transcends age, gender, and sexual orientation. You don't have to follow high fashion or care about celebrity gossip.

Some GFY fans I know: a married Dutch socialist organizer, a Canadian geekboy and fashion agnostic, a bunch of jazz musicians, uber-trendy New York account executives, barely legal DC policy wonks, feminist bloggers from red and blue states, Williamsburg alt culture types, random Brooklyn subway riders ... Basically everyone I know. The fact that the site is popular doesn't mean it isn't misogynist. However, I think the diversity of the site's audience suggests that there's more going on that simple-minded anti-celebrity sniping. First off, the authors, Heather and Jessica are good writers with sharp eyes for absurd detail. They also have good taste in clothes. They don’t just criticize, they inform. They tend to focus on pictures of potentially trendy outfits turned monstrous because of miscalculations in color, cut, fit, or accessories.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

This was predictable:
TEHRAN -- Iran's clerical and business establishments, deeply concerned by what they see as reckless spending and needlessly aggressive foreign policies, are increasingly turning against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Republicans are the stupid ones...
Senator Feinstein Proposes Censure.
Link from Atrios

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Spring repeat
And Glenn Greenwald send us on a trip down right wing memory lane

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Forgive me if I laugh (or don't): Are the Israeli's ready to lose a PR war with Hamas?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jack Balkin is a smart man.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"During the hearing Mr Abbasi, originally from Croydon, south London, said he should be accorded prisoner of war status, and demanded his rights under international law and the Geneva conventions. The tribunal president, not named in the documents, says: "Once again, international law does not matter here. Geneva conventions do not matter here. What matters here ... [is] your actions while your were in Afghanistan."
The clash continues, with Mr Abbasi trying to raise the issue of his rights under international law. He and the tribunal president are recorded speaking over each other, until the latter says: "Mr Abbasi, your conduct is unacceptable ... I don't care about international law. I don't want to hear the words international law again. We are not concerned with international law. I am going to give give you one last opportunity..." Mr Abbasi was later removed and his case considered behind closed doors."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Bush has all along made the mistake of playing to Muslim leaders rather than to Muslim publics. Yet he has at the same time undermined authoritarian leaders with his talk of spreading democracy. So a military dictator like Pervez Musharraf, who intervened to corrupt the 2002 Pakistani parliamentary elections, lacks legitimacy according to Bush's rhetoric even as Bush pals around with him and makes him as an individual the cornerstone of US policy in that part of the world."

What an idiot

Daniel Dennett
Dennett thinks that when we imagine ourselves acting in sympathy with logic we become logic. Such Nietzschean analogical rhetoric endears him to Brian Leiter, but when physics answers Steven Weinberg's final questions life will go on as before.
We are sensory beings; logic may 'make sense' but it has none.

Friday, March 03, 2006

File under: minor coke habit.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"My Pet Goat II" etc.
Dan Froomkin
I quit the job yesterday.
I got a call from F. this morning. He put me on speaker phone and told me that he'd just thrown my super off the job for the third time and told my boss not to, in his words, "mistake my generosity for weakness." Cowboy had been yelling at one of his own carpenters, and F. lost it. I heard laughter in the background; everybody was in the room listening in.

I feel guilty for leaving but at the the same time this is when our boss is going to start asking us to cover our tracks, and I don't really want to have to play the adversarial role with F. He wants us out of there as much as we do and all the shop has to do is build to the right dimensions and out of the right materials. It's a quarter million dollar contract, and the shop work isn't that complex. It's more embarrassing to install something and lie than it is to say "take it back and build it right!" It's also cheaper in the long run, since sooner or later we'd have to rip it out again. At the same time I don't think my boss will ask me back again since he doubts he can trust me to be loyal. Nobody is, but I was the only one left on the crew who could afford to walk away. A luxury I'm grateful for.

"I bought my first fucking building at 17. I got three apartment buildings and a net worth of 3.5 million... and I still work like a pig!. Why!? I don'fuckingknow!"
F is worth more than three million dollars, and he doesn't wear a dust mask on the job. He'll be coughing blood in 20 years.
He's been offering me references to other contractors and I've been turning him down. I tell people I could maintain a low grade coke habit and take a year off without a problem. But I've been sick since the first week; it's the dustiest job I've ever been on. It's a fucking dustmine. And again I'm not like F, I live a different sort of terror.
He says: "Stay Kosher."
"Happy Good Friday, Motherfucker."

One should always try to pay attention.
Marine Corps block internet access, including email.
And 85 percent of the troops say a major reason for the U.S. mission is "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks."