Thursday, August 31, 2006

I almost forgot about this.
Europe's "Christian values" should be enshrined in a new version of the EU constitution, the German chancellor declared yesterday after meeting the Pope.
As Ed Koch said:  "Jesse Helms may hate the Jews, but he loves Israel."
Me. I like Jews just fine.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 17 - 23 August 2006
30 Palestinians, including 3 children, a mentally disabled young man and a woman, were killed by IOF.
20 of the victims were killed by IOF in al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City.
3 of the victims were extra-judicially executed by IOF in the West Bank.
52 Palestinian civilians, including 18 children and a woman, were wounded by the IOF gunfire.
IOF launched a series of air strikes on a number of houses in the Gaza Strip.
3 houses were destroyed in Gaza City and Jabalya.
IOF conducted 40 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and invaded al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City.
IOF arrested 50 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, including 6 children.
IOF arrested a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah.
IOF arrested 7 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.
IOF demolished 4 houses in Nablus.
IOF destroyed civilian property in al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City.
IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT; IOF have imposed a tightened siege on the Gaza Strip and there have been shortages of foodstuffs and fuels; and IOF positioned at a various checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 5 Palestinian civilians.
IOF have continued to construct the Annexation Wall in the West Bank; they razed more areas of land in Hebron for this purpose.
Israeli settlers have continued attacks against Palestinian civilians and property in the OPT; settlers attacked Palestinian civilians and property in Hebron; and a Palestinian child was wounded in Beit Fourik village near Nablus
link from Helena Cobban

The Dead Marat (Magician), 2000, oil on canvas (two panels), total measurement 52" x 135"

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Thom Merrick at Susanna Kulli.
Stuyvesant Town
The teenager gets it.
a reminder

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Radical Islamic Feminism:
“People mistake tradition for religion,” Ms. Kaldi said. “Men are always saying, ‘Women can’t do that because of religion,’ when in fact it is only tradition. It’s important for us to study so that we will know the difference.”

Another example: Morocco.

There's a history of women taking on male roles in modern religious revivals in tradionalist societies: a conservative community's response to modernity that engages modernity.
You could say there's a difference between the two examples above, since Syria is a secular state, but it's not a modern one, any more than Iran was under the Shah.
I hate progressives
It's a stupid fucking country.

The most enlightened most internationalist understanding that any politician in this country could ever hold would be a nationalist realism that nonetheless accepted the full moral equality of the citizens of other countries. The mixture of condescension and ignorance with which Americans respond to the rest of the world never ceases to amaze me.
I don't expect much from conservatives, but I'm ashamed for the liberals.

Other countries have traditions of self-mockery that include mockery of national characteristics, but "That's so American" seems a phrase only spoken by foreigners. "Democracy promotion" sounds like a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses knocking at my door; and I rebel against the self-serving condescension of the faithful.
I've had enough of of the Monroe Doctrine. I want democracy promoted in my own country. When this country becomes an example of what democracy should be, democracy will promote itself. In the meantime our pride goeth.

Internationalism is a personal choice. It's my choice. But it has never been the policy of a nation. To say that it is or ever has been the policy of the United States is to lie, and the world putside our borders is more than willing to say so.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Helena Cobban
If the US attacks Iran, the assholes I read everyday will be as responsible as anyone: from the Times to The American Prospect, to Starbucks.

The lunatics in Israel claim authority over the entire middle east, and they have the bomb.
The piece in the Times today was pathetic, though it contained the first mention of Savak I've read anywhere in the American press in years. Once in a blue moon I read the word Mossadegh.

I'm trying to imagine the educated few in this country who are proud to know the truth about the hostage crisis in '79: that it was the result of the US letting the Shah into the country. [the vast majority of the people in this country think the Iranians were merely in league with the devil.]
But to the rest of the world this was merely the last insult tossed by the US at the people of Iran. When was the last time I read anything that acknowledged that the students in Tehran had a point?

Iran offered years ago to negotiate a settlement that included Israeli nukes. It was rejected.
The Front page photo in the NY Post a couple of days ago had a photoshopped image of John Gotti Jr. with whiskers and a snout. It's Stop Snitchin' for white folks.
[update-they've expanded the archives]

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The local Palestinian owned supermarket just spent a lot of money installing a new set of refrigerated shelves for fruit and vegetables. The manager said they were also getting more organic produce, since people had asked for it. He seemed proud. I asked him who was pushing for the organics, thinking it might be the manhattanites, though I doubted there were enough yet to drive a market. "No. It's what people want. Everybody wants organic. The immigrants want it." He shrugged: "I want it."
And this is the poorer part of the neighborhood. My block is playing catch-up.

I'm seeing more women in the neighborhood fully covered: Arab women in Abayas, and Bangladeshi women in plain green, but also in colorful silks. This summer on hot days I saw a lot of parasols, carried by women in Salwar Kameez and Dupatta (long scarf), that are not always so demure. I saw a teenage girl in Hijab and a T-shirt that said "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy." There was a big Bangladeshi exodus to Detroit a couple of years ago, but a new group has taken their place. The immigrants are holding on. The Brazilians, Mexicans and Ecuadorians are still coming. The Greeks rent but don't sell. Albanians and ex-Yugoslavs (no Serbs) are still here, as are the Spanish (Galician), Japanese, Filipino and on down the list.

What drives the neighborhood is not capitalism but trade. "Trade doesn't eat itself" as a friend says. The logic of capitalism is voracious. It can't stop. As one logic among others, it's constrained. But it can't be constrained by an idea or a plan. It can only be constrained by another need.

American political and economic theorists -across the political spectrum- pay no attention to psychology. They leave that to novelists and pop stars. Chomsky's a believer in some sort of "rational actor theory." Liberals pretend at least. They all follow some form or another of an individualist philosophy that must deny both psychology and culture in order to make any sense. It's either freedom or vulgar determinism; autonomous logic or voodoo tribalism, the shadows of which are used as decoration after it's been overcome. But we aren't defined or constrained by culture. Feh.
Everything begins with psychology, and the psychology of capitalism is changing.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fucking vulgarian

Previewing your Comment

The issue is not Marx but DeLong's professed relationship to language, which is not one of respect but fear.
Professor DeLong is afraid of subtext, like a man who doesn't drink because he's terrified of losing control. For every post entitled "Why Oh Why... Can't We Have a Better Press Corps / Are We Ruled By These Idiots?" there are examples that he doesn't link to for reasons not of logic but of bias. It's no sin: he's only human: every man likes to trust his own judgment. But DeLong wouldn't link to anything by Chomsky even if it was a chart at Rand. Sociology is welcome but Cultural Anthropology is off limits; and of course it's a truism -not contradicted here- that the facts of the situation in the middle east are seen more clearly by people in Europe and indeed the rest of the world than they are in this country.

DeLong's definition of moderation is that which has his stamp on it and hat's not logic that's psychology and sensibility. But again that's not a problem. What is a problem is the denial that sense as such even exists, or should exist.
After all these years, still the American delusion.
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?
How about a primer on the history of American meddling in Iran
In related news:
stupid fucking idiot

Friday, August 25, 2006

note taking/posted elsewhere
In in a passage from one of the Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis Freud says that as the result of a successful treatment repression is replaced by 'a condemning judgment'. He doesn't explain the difference between the two. What's the difference between "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother" and "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother." Is the first, louder and more nervous? More declarative? More cocksure? I don't know but it's a question conceptualists can't answer.
Conceptualists don't/can't understand performance.
The mind of an Originalist.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Record keeping. Same line as the last post, but this from a comment (again) at Balkinization

I have to complain, again, about the side effects of the tendency to naturalize discussions of social behavior and law. It's something that hangs over this discussion even if it is not its subject.

Professor Balkin seems unwilling or unable to make the case for the what almost any historian would claim as the logical basis for his or her chosen field: we can never know the past, but it's nonetheless our obligation to try.
To say that we have an obligation to argument and debate -as a lawyer's obligation is to his client and the court, and not to his beliefs- is not to say that we are not bound by the the text of a law or of the Constitution. Professor Balkin refers to the logic of text and principle, but principle is a weasel word and you can argue all you want but that won't change. If one wants to argue against the over-simple understanding of language that originalists defend, you have to be prepared to argue not only that such weasel words are inevitable -indeed that discussions of value are inevitable- but that our way of government is better served by them than not.

There will be cases when meanings will be stretched. Hasidic neighborhoods have miles of string tied to all the lampposts that are then run to each house so that families will be able to go outside their houses on the sabbath while still being within a symbolic 'home.' Is that following a law or breaking it?
There is no right answer. There is no naturalized epistemology of how we choose to define ourselves and our society.

Women were not fully vested participants in this country 200 years ago. It was not assumed that they were or needed to be capable of independence. Now whether some people like it or not, women need to look out for themselves as much as men do, and they need the protection of (or from) the law due every citizen. That is an argument from a principle in the Constitution, but it is not the only possible one.

The argument between those who would hold one interpretation over another is an argument not about law but how about we define ourselves, by reference to the words on a page. Protestants and Catholics define themselves in argument over the words in the Bible. Constitutional law is no different (and God should she exist has little to do with either). To refer to 'progress' and other buzzwords of naturalism does nothing but contribute to the weakening of democracy by allowing for the belief that the argument will and should someday end.
It won't and it shouldn't.

"To refer to 'progress' and other buzzwords of naturalism does nothing but contribute to the weakening of democracy by allowing for the belief not only that this argument is the responsibility of experts, but also that it will and should someday end."

That's better
"The Mushy Middle"

(and again).

Mainstream politically active liberals are beginning to understand or admit that people are tractable, and that it's a mistake to assume otherwise. But liberal technocrats are still pushing—or otherwise are forced to respond to—theories that if followed through to their conclusion would consider addiction and debilitating depression as natural and 'rational' responses to information or its lack.

The 'naturalization' of the discourse of law, politics, and even culture has resulted in the dumbing down of democracy to the level of polling and passivity. Intellectuals in the mold of Posner do not educate or explain—they have no interest in dumbing down their own discourse by dealing directly with the populace—they collate and presume. And if the first rule of intellectual life is to know oneself, that capacity is the first thing that's lost. The self-absorption of the logician is not too far from that of the autistic child staring at a spinning fan. If the logical system prevails over its creator, there is no need for self to be anything else but the system. Life becomes simple, and perverse.

The result of this definition of democracy and freedom is that in debates with moral conservatives who remain skeptical of modern liberties, liberal intellectuals have lost the ability to refer back to older less determinist and decidedly less vulgar definitions of and arguments for or concerned with freedom. Jack Balkin seems unwilling or unable to make the case for the philosophy that almost any historian would claim as the logical basis for his or her chosen field: "We can never know the past, but it's our obligation to try, and then to try again." From this comes an obligation to argument and debate, to the point that we've developed a legal system wherein a lawyer's obligation is to his client and the court, but not to his personal beliefs about his client's guilt or innocence. The past, like language, is collective. Add to this the general obligation we all have to reflect on what we value and why: to observe and examine not just others but ourselves and our assumptions. Every logic, every choice to follow a specific logic, has a foundation not in facts but in values. Law and Economics tries to render this discussion obsolete by pretense.

In the last century the words of the Constitution were twisted in the name of preserving what many believed and many still believe this country stands for. The process as a whole may have saved us from destruction. I would not want to be a black citizen of Alabama in this century if things had gone otherwise. But times have changed. Perhaps the pendulum will move back. Perhaps it should. But the questions are the same then as now. I think we'd be a lot better off if we stopped dividing the country between those who master abstract logic, often at the expense of any understanding of human behavior, and those who live their lives day to day but who are also capable of describing the stuff of life and of experience far beyond the capacity of an unimaginative Ph.D.

At the very least, common sense and simple logic will tell you that the brittle crystalline structures of academic discourse, the Weimarization of intellectual life, are not a sign of a healthy democracy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another one (from '04)


(We have long been uncertain whether or not we should print this article, which we found in an old book. Our respect for St. Peter's see restrained us. But some pious men having convinced us that Pope Alexander VI had nothing in common with St. Peter, we at last decided to bring this little piece into the light, without scruple.)

One day Prince Pico dell Mirandola met Pope Alexander VI at the house of the courtesan Emilia, while Lucretia, the holy father's daughter, was in childbed. No one in Rome knew who the child's father was -the Pope, or his son the Duke of Valentinois, or Lucretia's husband, the Duke of Aragon, who was supposed to be impotent. The conversation was at first very sprightly. Cardinal Bembo records a part of it.
"Little Pic" said the Pope, "who do you think is my grandson's father?"
"Your son in law, I imagine" answered Pic.
"Eh! how can you believe such nonsense?"
"I believe it through faith."
"But don't you know that an impotent man cannot have children?"
"Faith consists," returned Pic, "in believing things because they are impossible. And besides, the honor of your house demands that Lucretia's son shall not be considered the fruit of incest. You make me believe even more incomprehensible mysteries. Do I not have to believe that a serpent spoke -since when all men have been damned- that Balaam's she-ass also spoke very eloquently, and that the walls of Jericho fell at the sound of trumpets?" Pic then ran through a litany of all the admirable things he believed.
Alexander collapsed with laughter on his sofa.
"I believe all that stuff, just as you do," he said, "for I know that only by faith can I be saved, and that I shall not be saved by my works".
"Ah! Holy Father," said Pic, "you have need of neither works nor faith. They are good for poor profane people like us, but you who are God's regent on earth can believe and do whatever you choose. You have the keys of heaven, and there is no chance of St. Peter shutting the door in your face. But for myself, who am only a poor prince, I admit that I should need potent protection if I had slept with my daughter, and if I had used the stiletto and the cantarella as often as your Holiness."
Alexander could take a joke. "Let us talk seriously," he said to Prince della Mirandola. "Tell me what merit one can have in telling God that one is persuaded of things of which in fact one cannot be persuaded? What pleasure can that give God? Between ourselves, saying that one believes what is impossible to believe is lying"
Pico della Mirandola made a great sign of the cross. "Eh! God the father!" he cried. "May your Holiness pardon me, but you are not a Christian"
"No, by my faith," said the Pope.
"I thought as much" said Pico della Mirandola.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I just sent off a note to Brian Leiter, with whom I'm on good terms, in spite of everything, and tossed in a question, almost without thinking:
"Am I the only person alive arguing for craft as a methodology and a heuristic?"

That's pretty much it.
There may come a time in any state when it becomes a point of debate whether something as minor as forging a ration card is or is not "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" and therefore treasonous. If the President is charged with leading the country in this strange new kind of war, and some people call it that (though I don't), where is line that divides domestic and foreign policy? More specifically, since any line is artificial, where do we want to draw it? This becomes a discussion not of law but of values. It's bad enough we're already in the position of defending a secret court[!] against those who think it's an impediment to governmental authority.

The terms of debate need to be changed. The best defense we can mount of the Constitution at this point is to ask ourselves what it is we think it represents. This is a question for statesmen, not lawyers.*
And they seem to be in short supply.

*Philosophers seem to have lost interest.

The above is in response to this, which I mentioned somewhere else and then forgot to post here. Posner is such a dumbfuck.
From April 2005. A late summer repeat: on the art of politics.

There's a good article on John Brown in the NY Review this week (another link behind the $3 curtain.) His death precipitated a change, a hardening, in the attitudes of many white northerners in the months before the civil war. Brown may have understood this and turned his raid on Harpers Ferry, once it was clear that it had failed, into a suicide mission.

Brown was an outlier, a radical statistically as well as politically, and he was arguably a more directly moral man than Lincoln. But the fact that Brown was simply right in his absolute condemnation of slavery and of slaveholders does not make him a 'greater' man than Lincoln. Lincoln's moderation, his political and rhetorical expertise, even considered as partially corrupt make him the more interesting and complex figure precisely because Lincoln could communicate with for whom Brown would have no patience. Lincoln was more representative of the complexities of the white American imagnation. Brown, may have led the way to a certain degree but he did not 'belong.'

The only reason John Brown's ideas surprise us is that he's white. His is the fanaticism of the slaveholder's brother, not the anger of the slave. Frederick Douglass thought the raid was much too dangerous. The genius of Lincoln stems from his relationship, as belonging, to the dominant moderate party -moderate only in its own terms- of white America, and to the dominant language of American culture.

Modernism celebrated the radical individual as understanding things others do not. But how can individualism represent an idea of community?
Language is in independent entity of our own creation. It is the result of a collective action, but we can only define ourselves as individuals in terms of our relationship to it. How would we define 'speed' other than in terms of measurements of space and time: miles-per-hour. There is no terminology for describing the individual that is not defined in relationship to a community. When I get annoyed at Brian Leiter or pissed off at Brad DeLong, or mock the next generation of academic leftists, it's precisely because they refuse to accept that their language and their ideas are in conflict, and that the former gives us a much more honest representation of their thought processes than their ideas -as ideas- ever will. I'm tired of people who fantacize their relations to their own statements.

Any communicative act first and foremost describes the performer of the act in the context of the preexisiting social and political community of language. Only after that does it present the meaning -as intention- of the actor. As an old friend of mine says about a mutual aquaintance, whom I find it almost unbearable to be around:
"He doesn't know that he has an unconscious!"
J. understands my response, but doesn't share it. He laughs.
At some point the questions become not questions of law of what we value.
ACLU v. NSA was a civil action brought by a broad range of individuals and organizations alleging that the NSA surveillance program infringes their legal and constitutional rights. The government argued that the case should be dismissed because the government would have to reveal state secrets in order to defend the legality of the program . This argument is puzzling. It is analogous to a defendant in a civil action demanding dismissal of the case because in order to prove a defense he would have to forego the attorney-client or doctor-patient privilege. But the privilege gives the defendant the right to prevent the plaintiff from demanding the privileged information. It does not give him the right to have the case dismissed. In any event, this question was not presented in ACLU v. NSA because, as Judge Taylor held, the government failed to demonstrate that any state secrets needed to be disclosed in order for it to defend the legality of the program.

The standing argument is similarly puzzling. The government maintained that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the legality of the NSA program because they could not prove that they had personally been subjected to unlawful surveillance. Why couldn't they prove this? Because the government insisted that the identities of the victims of the program were a state secret. On this view of the law, no one would have standing to challenge an unconstitutional and unlawful government program if the government keeps secret the identities of those who are aggrieved by the program. Though there is precedent for this position (see Laird v. Tatum), Judge Taylor rightly rejected the standing argument in ACLU v. NSA on the basis of both logic and precedent. Happily, sometimes the law is not an ass.
Bernard Knox,  "Premature Anti-Fascist"
I first heard the remarkable phrase that serves as my title in 1946 when, fresh out of the US Army, I went up to New Haven, Connecticut for an interview with the chairman of the Yale Classics Department, to which, taking advantage of the generous provisions of what was popularly known as the GI Bill, I had applied for admission to the graduate program for the Ph.D. in Classics. I had submitted a copy of my certificate of the BA I had received from St. Johns College, Cambridge in 1936. I did not make any mention of the fact that I had made rather a mediocre showing in the final part of the Tripos, ending up with a second class (at least, I comforted myself, I did better than Auden, who got a third, and Housman, who failed completely). To jazz my application up a bit, I had included my record in the US Army, private to captain 1942-45. The Professor, who had himself served in the US Army in 1917-18, was very interested, and remarked on the fact that, in addition to the usual battle-stars for service in the European Theatre, I had been awarded a Croix de Guerre a l'Ordre de l'Armée, the highest category for that decoration. Asked how I got it, I explained that, in July 1944, I had parachuted, in uniform, behind the Allied lines in Brittany to arm and organize French Resistance forces and hold them ready for action at the moment most useful for the Allied advance. "Why were you selected for that operation?" he asked, and I told him that I was one of the few people in the US Army who could speak fluent, idiomatic, and (if necessary) pungently coarse French. When he asked me where I had learned it, I told him that I had fought in 1936 on the northwest sector of the Madrid front in the French Battalion of the XIth International Brigade. "Oh," he said, "You were a premature anti-Fascist."

Monday, August 21, 2006

A tough post by ex-spook Larry Johnson. His colleage M.J. Rosenberg responds with moralizing and obfuscation.

"Hezbollah is a fundamentalist organization that has, from its inception, been dedicated to removing infidels from its midst."

I called on the above statement, accusing him either of a surprising ignorance or of bad faith (of lying). I began with this, from Charles Glass:
Naim Qassem called the liberation of south Lebanon ‘the grandest and most important victory over Israel since it commenced its occupation [of Palestine] fifty years before – a liberation that was achieved at the hands of the weakest of nations, of a resistance operating through the most modest of means, not at the hands of armies with powerful military arsenals.’ But what impressed most Lebanese as much as Hizbullah’s victory over Israel was its refusal to murder collaborators – a triumph over the tribalism that has plagued and divided Lebanese society since its founding. Christians I knew in the Lebanese army admitted that their own side would have committed atrocities. Hizbullah may have been playing politics in Lebanon, but it refused to play Lebanese politics. What it sought in south Lebanon was not revenge, but votes. In the interval between its founding in 1982 and the victory of 2000, Hizbullah had become – as well as an armed force – a sophisticated and successful political party. It jettisoned its early rhetoric about making Lebanon an Islamic republic, and spoke of Christians, Muslims and Druze living in harmony. When it put up candidates for parliament, some of those on its electoral list were Christians. It won 14 seats.
My comment, including the quote, was blanked by a moderator, but not before it was responded to by others. Scroll down from that link. It gets worse.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

British mine clearance experts have accused Israel of "carpeting" Lebanese border villages with deadly cluster bombs, claiming that more appeared to have been used than in the American-led invasion of Iraq.

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a Manchester-based charity working in the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh, said "extreme" quantities of cluster bombs had been dropped on scores of surrounding villages during the final days of the conflict last week.

At least four people, including two teenage boys, have died after stepping on them, and 16 others have been injured, according to medics at the city's hospital.
Israel prepares for "the Next Round of war"

Both links from EDB
Additions and updates in the comment from Balkinization below.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

"Stalin not only mixed up actuality with artistic reality himself, but he sought to impose the same confusion on everybody else, compressing together document and reverie so that everyday existence and wish-fulfilment were magically combined. In the terms of this amalgam, 'socialist' represented the reverie, 'realism' the impression of actuality. The reverie, of course, was articulated in the first instance by Stalin himself as he imagined what the Soviet Union would be like, if only . . . if only . . . Millions were punished ' exiled, put in camps, tortured, shot ' for their failure to fill in those dots, so to speak, so that the happy coincidence of life and dream was endlessly delayed, only to be realised in films and paintings and novels. Meanwhile, in an effort to capture that troublesome 'if only', revolutionary violence was normalised and generalised until it produced a society of informers, torturers and cronies, each of whom wondered in his private moments when he would awaken to the rapping on the door."
Christopher Lydon is a self-important putz but here's an mp3 of Noam Chomsky and Thomas Ricks
Comment @Balkinization:

The standard argument for integration, racial or gender-based is that one group can not be assumed to 'speak for' another: men for women or white for black.

As I've pointed out a few times, the debate of Israel in this country is still the debate of Jews and their supporters concerning Arabs. [Here's another good essay from London Review of Books]

So why does the NY Times publish an article with the headline: Experts Fault Reasoning in Surveillance Decision? The answer is that we debate within the parameters of our own prejudices and assumptions. Here's another example from Volokh. What legal realism pretends is that it is possible to assess those prejudices without succumbing to them- to have distance from ourselves- and simultaneously to use our objective knowledge to obtain our purely subjective goals (and satisfy our purely subjective desires).

This is intellectual vulgarity of the lowest order, undermined by the debate as described in the Times this morning. Judge Taylor's decision in this case is surely political, but not entirely so, and on appeal the case will be argued from scratch. Any defense of Bush v Gore as unpolitical is absurd as the justices have admitted. But more importantly, the definition of what is and is not beyond the pale in public discussion is based not on logic but on logic and circumstance: on politics. To refer to Professor Balkin's terminology, "High politics" is the politics of polite disagreement within accepted norms, within the debates among the fully enfranchised. For groups left out of the conversation, such polite discussion with the enfranchised is impossible. [while within the group of the enfranchised, the art of conversation is required] High politics is conversation among equals, and equality is necessary for it to take place.
The vulgarians of legal realism, on the left or right- Posner of Leiter- think art is superfluous [perhaps that it is a necessary craft, but not a defining factor] This is both anti-intellectual and just silly.

I shut down an absurd debate about the roots of secularization once with the simple comment that secularization is the simple result of coexistence: once a Catholic girl fucks a Jewish boy it's the beginning of the end for religion qua religion.
To put it in terms of law: modern democratic justice is a Muslim judge hearing the case of a Christian accused by a Buddhist of robbery, defended by a Jew, with the state represented by a Hindu, before a jury of Animists and Jains. In order to function in such an environment you need to engage it in its entirely; you must answer not to one interest or another but to all. [arguments concerning law involve discussions among realists, formalists and others. What is the nature of that process?] That's how social activity/social life functions. A court of law is a church, a theater and a cocktail party all rolled into one. Realists imagine themselves as bookish wallflowers. But bookish wallflowers, though they are the last to admit it, are 'types' no less than the rest of us. Their lack of self-awareness is the root of their weakness as philosophers. [Communication as social act, bounded by language, manners, and sensibility, precedes communication as idea. The bookish wallflower defines himself in terms of his ideas and his superior awareness while the rest of the world defines him as a wallflower. If he doesn't realize the truth in their perceptions, his superiority is justifiably in question.]
update. August 20 a comment at Volokh:

As I always say in these debates: rather than imagining how the Constitution, or any other text [The Bible? The Qur'an? ] should or should not be interpreted, it helps to know the history of how it has become the thing it is, and then to be aware of how in debating we are doing no more than continuing that process.
The debate is as old as Moses and Aaron. Meanings have always changed, and the one constant is not the meaning of a text but the argument. But the moment you allow argument, fundamentalism is defeated. Scalia's statement "The Constitution as I interpret it is not living but dead" is oxymoronic. [interpretation is the breath of life]

There are no examples in recorded history where attempts to replicate the past have done anything more that codify the interests and preoccupations of the present. I know no one who is prepared to argue that the Pre-Raphaelites made work that looked like Fra Angelico.

Originalism in any form is a rhetorical device; as an ideology it's a force for reaction. The irony of reaction is that like radicalism, it's defining form is an ultra-contemporary, ultra-modern idealization: whether of the past or of the future it makes no difference. [Banality is banality.]

Friday, August 18, 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006

J. Balkin on the decision:
"Although the court reaches the right result-- that the program is illegal, much of the opinion is disappointing..."

But I think the court's rhetoric will have an impact.
We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no power not created by the Constitution. So all "inherent power" must derive from that Constitution."
One can argue without being either a cynic or a 'realist' that politics helps to define or redefine the sort of arguments a reasonable person may be supposed to engage.

I don't want to push this thought too much. maybe I have, We'll see.
As usual, I'm waiting for some more detailed discussion of culture: what it is and why.

my comments, related, from the past: [also here]
...Art and economics even as partners are opposed. Art offers description before definition. it doesn't name experience, it merely describes it (though every description has bias) Advertising as illustration names before describing, so that the audience is led passively to a conclusion. That's why TV ads run "between" episodes or scenes. Now that ads have developed their own formal independence, the advertising 'content' comes at the end of 'ads' that have become plays within plays. It's interesting but a new format is not a new kind of art. Old wine in new bottles, no more no less.
And here: [a post on Peyton Manning as actor]
There’s a difference between the ad was made and the way you are perceiving it. For the people who made it, who were involved it it after the idea was thought up, the ad is simply a thing they made. We’ve com to the point when advertising where pure invention is the equal of intent (Giotto made billboards for the Catholic Church.)
This is the result in how capitalism is perceived by those who live in it: it is no longer a question of Capitalism as ideal but simply as fact.

Advertising is, has always been, seen as an intellectual act, as certain forms of popular literature are seen by their fans as primarily intellectual or illustrative. Sci Fi, Fantasy, 'Speculative' Fiction, are usually nothing more than advertisements for ideas [as Randians value The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, or the Comintern promoted Socialist Realism] As a philosophy of art they're basically Stalinist; though that's become the template for all theoretical activity. The academy has become an Intellectual technocracy; it doesn't matter if you're talking about analytic philosophy or deconstruction: ideas take precedence over acts [and their description].

In describing this ad you're describing the opposite;
congratulations, you've just discovered art.
And yesterday.

At the second link, Grant McCracken responded:
Seth, Stalinist! Good lord, sir. I would argue (with the full argument to be found in Culture and Consumption I and II) that advertising is a rhetorical exercise not very different from any persuasive exercise. We have choice, we make constructions, we cocreate, but if the thing goes well meanings are manufactured for the brand. So it's not actually art just as its not actually science. These are merely the two models between which the b-school discourse as careened endlessly when all that was really needed was a few pages from Aristotle on rhetoric and especially metaphor.
my response
According to the author of the post – I see now that it’s you Grant- the ad is mostly persuasive of itself: it’s a self-legitamizing exercise. By this logic corporations are looking to attach their names to interesting advertisements.
Ergo… Giotto.
People who are interested in art are more interested in a modes of persuasion than in those things of which they supposedly want us to believe. Giotto's Catholicism is secondary to its presentation. All art is "art for art's sake" in the sense that modality precedes message. And art history -all history- is first of all the history of modalities, and only after this the history of the ideas they seem to us to manifest.

My continual frustration in involving myself in debates with neoliberals and technocrats (and none of the academic/intellectual sites I know represents anything else) [Balkin?] is the inability of PhDs and JDs, their students and followers to describe their own tastes, preferences, and ideals as modalities. They're incapable of saying, "Hey I'm bourgeois!"

Our grandchildren will see our mistakes better than we do. It is the failure of modern intellectual life that we act as if this weren't the case.

In lieu of footnotes I'll just add the Roy Lichtenstein referred to the romance and military comics he cribbed from as 'fascist.'

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Juan Cole:
Stupidity all around
I bought myself a present.

If I'm in a city or a place where city-dwellers go for holidays or weekends and I pass by a street vender of any age who's neither poor nor desperate, selling sincere but terrible paintings or other attempts at marketable creation (that rarely pass kitsch) I think of Rohmer. No character in Rohmer's films is equal in intelligence or perception to his creator; though there may be a claim to something, inevitably it's less then s/he imagines. The people are small and the author's presence is outside, superior but benign. My first reaction to the sidewalk painter is contempt, but Rohmer remains a gentle moral conservative.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

updated the page a bit

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Shirin Ebadi is in danger of arrest
read the comments too.

All politics is schoolyard politics. Bullies may be feared by those who face the brunt of their attacks but they are respected, however grudgingly, by everyone else. The Democrats come off like bright children who can't understand why their logic, and justice, is ignored. They whine, and so do their defenders.
The bullies and their camp followers laugh. Everyone else waits.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I got the Daily Show vid from Atrios, who got it from Max. It's impressive. Or it would be if it weren't so bad for the country.
That is still an interesting topic.

Now I understand the philosophical underpinnings of modern intellectual conservatism. It's the logic that the entire working class is as unintelligent as your fan base. You have contempt for the people who listen to you.
[I just spent a few minutes hours at Volokh]

Friday, August 11, 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The men apprehended in England this morning were Pakistani and/or South Asian.
Pakistan is dangerously unstable in a way Iran is not. This is clear. The possibility that Iran may get The Bomb terrifies the Israelis. The fact that Pakistan has The Bomb terrifies me. Syria and Iran are the bugaboos of people who share Israeli paranoia, meanwhile the rest of us worry about Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel and the US.
[I'm in the comments. sp!: rein]

read the comments (not mine) here too

Juan Cole

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"There's a convoy of 100 or more cars driving down to the south of Lebanon on saturday, August 12th, which marks the one-month anniversary of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. To defy the Israeli order that all cars south of the Litani river will be considered legitimate targets (including in and around the port city of Tyre), and the forced displacement of 1 million Lebanese from their homes, the convoy will carry Lebanese citizens, foreigners from all over the world and food, sanitary and medical supplies; all aid to the south has been suspended, and tens of thousands of people and many hospitals remain trapped without access to basic necessities.

The Lebanese Ministry of Energy is supplying fuel for the convoy, Norwegian and Swiss NGOs are donating funds for food and medicine. Lebanese TV stations will accompany the convoy; we are trying to get American and European media outlets to do the same, to ensure our safe passage, which of course is not ensured. The Israeli government will not be directly contacted nor asked for permission or safe passage, but the Israeli media (Haaretz) has already reported on the upcoming event.

Please forward widely to individuals, protest organizers who wish to coordinate their events by livefeed with the convoy, and media outlets.
The success and safety of the operation depends on it."
Press Release- Lebanon: An Open Country for Civil Resistance
Beirut August 7, 2006

Press Contacts:
Rasha Salti, +961 3 970855
Huwaida Arraf, +961 70 974452
Samah Idriss, +961 3 381349
Wadih Al Asmar, +961 70 950780

On August 12, at 7 am, Lebanese from throughout the country and international supporters who have come to Lebanon to express solidarity will gather in Martyr's Square in Beirut to form a civilian convoy to the south of Lebanon. Hundreds of Lebanese and international civilians will express their solidarity with the inhabitants of the heavily destroyed south who have been bravely withstanding the assault of the Israeli military. This campaign is endorsed by more than 200 Lebanese and international organizations. This growing coalition of national and international non-governmental organizations hereby launches a campaign of civil resistance for the purpose of challenging the cruel and ruthless use of massive military force by Israel, the regional superpower, upon the people of Lebanon.

August 12 marks the start of this Campaign of Resistance, declaring Lebanon an Open Country for Civil Resistance. August 12 also marks both the international day of protest against the Israeli aggression .

"In the face of Israel's systematic killing of our people, the indiscriminate bombing of our towns, the scorching of our villages, and the attempted destruction of our civil infrastructure, we say No! In the face of the forced expulsion of a quarter of our population from their homes throughout Lebanon, and the complicity of governments and international bodies, we re-affirm the acts of civil resistance that began from the first day of the Israeli assault, and we stress and add the urgent need to act!," said Rasha Salti, one of the organizers of this national event.

After August 12, the campaign will continue with a series of civil actions, leading to an August 19 civilian march to reclaim the South . "Working together, in solidarity, we will overcome the complacency, inaction, and complicity of the international community and we will deny Israel its goal of removing Lebanese from their land and destroying the fabric of our country," explained Samah Idriss, writer and co-organizer of this campaign.

"An international civilian presence in Lebanon is not only an act of solidarity with the Lebanese people in the face of unparalleled Israeli aggression, it is an act of moral courage to defy the will of those who would seek to alienate the West from the rest and create a new Middle East out of the rubble and blood of the region," said Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and campaign co-organizer. "After having witnessed the wholesale destruction of villages by Israel's air force and navy and having visited the victims (so-called displaced) of Israel's policy of cleansing Lebanese civilians from their homes," continued Arraf, "it is imperative to go south and reach those who have stayed behind to resist by steadfastly remaining on their land."

If you are in Lebanon and want to sign up and join the convoy, contact either:
Rasha Salti. Email: . Tel: +961 3 970 855
Rania Masri. Email: . Tel: +961 3 135 279 or +961 6 930 250 xt. 5683 or xt. 3933
If you are outside Lebanon and want to sign up and join the convoy, you should know:
1) You need to obtain a visa for Lebanon and for Syria if your plan is to enter Lebanon from Syria.
2) We don't have the funds to cover for the cost of your travel, however we can help with finding accomodations.
For questions and help for all internationals please contact Adam Shapiro at:

You can also sign up on our website:

This campaign is thus far endorsed by more than 200 organizations, including: The Arab NGOs Network for Development (ANND), International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Cultural Center for Southern Lebanon, Norwegian People's Aid, Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, Frontiers, Kafa, Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, Spring Hints, Hayya Bina, Lebanese Transparency Association, Amam05, Lebanese Center for Civic Education, Let's Build Trust, CRTD-A, Solida, National Association for Vocational Training and Social Services, Lebanese Development Pioneers, Nadi Li Koul Alnas, and Lecorvaw.

Hibah Osman, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Public Health
Department of Health Behavior and Education
Faculty of Health Sciences

Clinical Instructor of Family Medicine
Department of Family Medicine
Faculty of Medicine
American University of Beirut
Beirut, Lebanon

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

No patience, no time.

Racist crap:
"[F]or all the discussion of how targetted or not targetted Israel's attacks in Lebanon are, there's pretty little discussion of the fact that all of Hizbullah's rockets are intentionally aimed at civilian areas. Every one."
Follow this link to another.
And here's an equally pathetic post by Jo-Anne Mort:
"Israel ...finds itself facing an enemy who thrives among civilians, lives and shoots among civilians--and whose sole targets are civilians (Israelis)."
I'll quote from Mark Perry again:
Israel also co-locates many of its basing operations in cities and amongst the civilian population -- simply because of the ease of logistics operations that such co-locations necessitate."The human shield argument just doesn't wash and we know it," an IDF commander says. "We don't expect Hezbollah to deploy in the open with a sign that says 'here we are.'
Here's a report from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs listing Hezbollah attacks since 2000.
And here's another article of the events prior to the 'unprovoked' Hezbollah attack.

And the latest from The Guardian
Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over Tyre yesterday morning, warning people not to use vehicles south of the Litani river, heightening the city's sense of isolation.
All roads north and south of the port city have been cut by bombing in the last few days and Israeli authorities have refused permission for any ships to dock.

The travel ban had no time limit and mentioned no exceptions, even for ambulances and humanitarian convoys. Addressed to "Lebanese civilians south of the Litani River", it said: "Read this carefully and follow its instructions. The Israeli Defence Forces will escalate their operations and will strike with force against terrorist elements who are using you as human shields and firing rockets from inside your homes against Israel..." All vehicles would be bombed the letter said. It was signed "State of Israel".

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dan Rather on Matthews, asked about important and underreported issues:
Chavez' influence, "...spreading like mildew in a damp basement." Bush "holding the line" as best as he can under the circumstances.

This after Matthews assisted by David Brooks spends ten minutes arguing that politics is bad for the country.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Chomsky's strength is as a reporter of fact.
Read him
"I look at my older clothes- the jeans and t-shirts and colorful skirts- and it’s like I’m studying a wardrobe from another country, another lifetime. There was a time, a couple of years ago, when you could more or less wear what you wanted if you weren’t going to a public place. If you were going to a friends or relatives house, you could wear trousers and a shirt, or jeans, something you wouldn’t ordinarily wear. We don’t do that anymore because there’s always that risk of getting stopped in the car and checked by one militia or another."
From a couple of days ago. It still applies.
The US and European media have always covered the Middle East from different perspectives, but flying back to Washington from a stay in London at the height of the Lebanese conflict made it clear to me how wide the gulf has become. Britons and Americans are watching two different wars.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Flick Collection Opens in Berlin. The timing is either perfect or perfectly wrong. Maybe both.

Years ago a major dealer in NY commented to me with a not entirely indifferent shrug that there was no longer much of a difference between art and fashion.
Real decadence is neither brittle nor indifferent: it's hard hopeless honesty. Hopeless dishonesty isn't enough.

Brecht was decadent. Grosz was decadent. Pinter is decadent. Miami Vice is decadent. Great war reporting is decadent by definition. The art world plays at decadence while feeling morally and intellectually superior to... itself? There's the trap.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Laura Rozen links to this:
"What these suicide attackers — and their heirs today — shared was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation. Nearly two decades of Israeli military presence did not root out Hezbollah. The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force. Thus the new Israeli land offensive may take ground and destroy weapons, but it has little chance of destroying the Hezbollah movement. In fact, in the wake of the bombings of civilians, the incursion will probably aid Hezbollah’s recruiting."
William Arkin:
Certainly The US has failed to instantly subdue the North Vietnamese. And no doubt in the court of public opinion -- including surprisingly all of these Western mainstream and "expert" voices -- The US is "losing." But are they losing militarily?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"It is unclear why one should be more sympathetic to calls for self-determination by, say, Kurds, Scots, Palestinians, or the East Timorise, than by Jews who believe that their own self-determination can be best realized in an Israel where Jews remain a majority."

Sanford Levinson of "Balkinization" in comments on this post

I don't think liberal zionists understand what they're defending.
My comments are there as well.
Sandwichman speaks...

Max too

Reprinted from last year. On Mel Gibson:

"First, I'm a not interested in attacking someone for saying anything in public that others find disturbing. I'd rather have those things out in the open than mumbled under the breath. Also, not all reactionaries are hypocrites and I'm more offended by hypocrisy than faith. The sensitivities it may be necessary to appease in a democracy are not the same as those necessary to art. I'm really not sure, for example, if there's even been a work of art produced in the Catholic world that can be seen as philosophically democratic in nature.

It's undoubtedly a perverse film. A.O. Scott refers to this, without going very far, in his Times review. Mary Gordon in today's paper calls the it "a perversion of the meaning of the event and its context." This is a theological question that doesn't interest me. Edward Rothstein does better in describing Gibson's sensibility as medieval and compares the film unfavorably to the philosophical modernism of the St Matthew Passion.
In such a perverse age, I find it annoying when liberals refuse to take account of the complex forms and meaning of violence. To say that it is destructive of the self, is to deny that many forms of pleasure act in such a way. Orgasm, as Belle will tell you, is a moment -at least- when the world vanishes. But liberalism acts as a critique not only of violence but of ecstasy. I'm not going to defend sado-masochism, since that's the subject here, but neither am I going to ignore its power. I live in New York. Large cities are interesting places.

Rothstein, as a conservative and a man willing to give pleasure its due, is able to critique Gibson's film not by means of cheap moralism -and at this point in time, is there any other sort?- but on the grounds of formal logic, and of the meaning of that logic. Any political critique, if it is to carry weight, has to be made in such a way."

I saw the film and liked it.
Gibson is a tortured man. I don't hate him, but I might hate his father. Some of you might undestand the difference.
"Our minds categorize the world according to our sensibilities, and then remake the world in the forms of those interior devices. These structures, these others inevitabilities, we call esthetics. Sokal's and Chomsky's esthetics, as seen in the way they write, the way they behave, the way they appear: as nerd or nebbish or librarian; their ideas and hyperrationality: to the degree that they can be shown to be based on nothing but assumption; all are manifestations of the human need to describe oneself and the world in ways that conform to one's beliefs."

Now I think I understand the root of the problem for Cosma Shalizi:
From feudalism to post-humanism without the experience of bourgeois revolution. He doesn't know what culture is.
He imagines that he doesn't have a sensibility.

Jason Rhoades 1965-2006
Sad and stupid. Life is short.
The article calls it "heart failure"

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Josh Marshall says:
"Bill Arkin has a good corrective on some of the flawed logic and hypocrisy of the military commentary on the Israel-Lebanon war."
William Arkin:
Certainly Israel has failed to instantly subdue Hezbollah. And no doubt in the court of public opinion -- including surprisingly all of these Western mainstream and "expert" voices -- Israel is "losing."
But are they losing militarily?
Who the fuck cares, they're losing the war. What year is this, 1967?
Poto and Cabengo