Monday, March 31, 2008

Just in case you thought I was joking,

The expression on the face of the Viking before he starts to sing is hilarious.
[From the series of ads for Snickers, "Feast". The song is Greensleeves. Files come and go; you can find it.]

This ties into earlier comments, and responses to McCracken, among others,
here, and here.

As I said in the earlier posts: instead of the piggybacking on half or one hour television shows, the product pitch is now piggybacking on 20 second narratives. Advertising now deals in McGuffins. That's new. And the implications are the opposite of what MIT and Grant McCracken would say they are. Instrumentalism is undermined, made obvious and also mocked, even in those forms developed to serve its purpose.
While discussed by its intellectual defenders in terms of objective reason and science, in the eyes of the world Capitalism has simply -finally- replaced the Church: it's omnipresent but subject to mockery.
It's progress. And I'm not joking about that either.
Middle Class
It's true that given Manhattan's extremely high housing and other costs, "middle class" people are going to make a bit more money than they do in other places. But it's kind of weird how the WaPo quickly slips between "middle class" to "affluent" in describing this group of people.
Once upon a time, Manhattan was an island of adult thrills and vices. In the national imagination, it was a place of artists, musicians, socialites, Wall Street bankers -- or of hustlers, runaways, addicts, murderers. But it was not on the radar of the typical white, middle-class couple as a place to raise children.

Now demographers say Manhattan is increasingly a borough of babies, and more and more of them are white and well-off.
Indeed, according to Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College, the median household income for this group of children was $280,000 in 2005.

In a reversal of a decades-long trend of flight to the suburbs, affluent couples are deciding to stay, at a time when crime is low, some schools have improved and urban life has a new allure, said Kenneth T. Jackson, a professor of urban history at Columbia University.
Ultimately, though, the article isn't so much about class as it is about race. It's about white people. Which makes it quite a bit weirder.
It's about race and class and culture, and the wealthier siblings of Duncan Black.
More of the same:

Fast Company
The Convergence Culture Consortium
This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics

Grant McCracken makes DeLong seem like Tiresias

Intellectual complexity is the complexity of relations among various perspectives. Intellectual complexity to those who see marketing as a philosophically rewarding activity is the complexity of myopia and narcissism: the collapsing of the interplay of formal and emotional relations in language and communication into the "reciprocity" of a moving fan.
All curiosity is curiosity regarding "X." How to perform the necessary actions more quickly and cleanly? The definition of thinking only and always inside the box. Manic functionalism and unquestioned values.
We don't look at Giotto because of how well he branded the Catholic Church but because of how well he described it and his world: well enough that we who have little relation to either still imagine we have some understanding of both. We're more interested in Giotto than in the men who told him what to paint.

In LA, the Madison Avenue intellectuals are laughed at by the men and women who bring their dreams to life. What McCracken and the others listed above don't realize is that it's the theater that will be remembered long after they're forgotten.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

As Atrios would say: please, make it stop!
I had in mind experts of many different types, not all specialists in a particular field. Following Plato, I envisage people trained in all subjects relevant to politics--history, geography, philosophy, psychology, etc. These would be the "philosopher kings" (though not our narrow sense of "philosophy"). They could have advisors in a specific field, if necessary, but they would be broadly educated. These experts would work with some democraticlly elected leaders to make policy--but not merely in an advisory capacity.
Can there be such a thing as the rump avant-garde?
The scientific work of our countrymen has probably evoked less scepticism on the part of foreign judges than their achievements in other departments of cultural activity. There is one obvious reason for this difference. When our letters, our art, our music are criticized with disdainfully faint commendation, it is because they have failed to attain the higher reaches of creative effort. Supreme accomplishment in art certainly presupposes a graduated series of lesser strivings, yet from what might be called the consumer's angle, mediocrity is worthless and incapable of giving inspiration to genius. But in science it is otherwise. Here every bit of sound work… counts.
From Civilization in the United States: An Inquiry by Thirty Americans

George Santayana responds in his review, published as Marginal Notes on Civilization
It counts in art also, when art is alive. In a thoroughly humanized society everything -clothes speech manners, government- is a work of art, being so done as to be a pleasure and a stimulus in itself. There seems to be an impression in America that art is fed on the history of art, and is what is found in museums. But museums are mausoleums, only dead art is there, and only ghosts of artists flit about them. The priggish notion that an artist is a person undertaking to produce immortal works suffices to show that art has become a foreign thing, an hors-d'oeuvre and that it is probably doomed to affectation and sterility.
Among other things the above counts as my review of the Biennial

Saturday, March 29, 2008

More note taking from Colin McGinn's blog.
I've argued for years that the politics of academic rationalism is implicitly reactionary, but I'm still surprised how far this has come. I'm a bit shocked that the sort of discussion above is left without comment [other than by a semi-retired carpenter] and that those arguing for an intellectual authoritarianism are so unaware of the history of such ideas, and of their history of failure.
If all the issues left are "technical" then of course the technicians should rule, but the important issues in society are never technical.

"As has already been said, politicians need to actually listen to experts."
They did. But they listened to rationalists. Read Rumsfeld's CV.

Who represents modernity in Turkey at the moment, the secularist military or the Islamists?
It's an easy question to answer if you're willing to go where the data takes you. But data has a tendency to undermine formal rigor and in philosophy, and economics, and these days even in war, formal rigor takes precedence. I guess it's just a matter of esthetics.
The level of thought on that site is just embarrassing. I'm repeating myself, but why not? Idiots.
A rotating electric fan is the objective correlative of precisely what!?

Friday, March 28, 2008

When Israel was established in 1948, most of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants were driven out or fled from the area that became Israel. Approximately 150,000 Palestinians remained behind. Until 1966, these Palestinians lived under martial law. Today, having increased in number to approximately 1.3 million or about one fifth of Israel's population (not including the Palestinian population of Occupied East Jerusalem), they are citizens of the State of Israel and can vote in elections for the Knesset. Despite this, most view themselves as second-class citizens. As indigenous non-Jews in a self-described Jewish state, they face a host of systematic social, legal, economic and educational barriers to equality. Israel lacks a constitution and has no other basic law guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or national origin.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Those who’re always seeking a Palestinian Mandela ought to take notice of the latest survey results of Palestinian public opinion, that show the only candidate capable of beating Hamas in a free and fair election is the imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. The problem, of course, is that Barghouti — far more popular in Fatah than is Abbas — is an Israeli prison. And more importantly, he has no intention of playing the Palestinian Petain role that has been created for Abbas.
The paragraph appears on the front page at Tony Karon's Rootless Cosmopolitan (scroll down) but not in the text of the post that follows.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I wrote this elsewhere so I may as well do it here:


Monday, March 24, 2008


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Angry Arab versus Gen. Richard Myers. Part I. Part II. On Al Jazeera

Sinan Antoon on Charlie Rose.

"I myself see a close link between democracy as a dogma and the idea that everyone's opinion is as good as anyone else's: that is, between equality in respect of voting power and forms of relativism about truth. For if people's opinions do not have equal value, how can we justify giving their votes equal power? "
Which is to say that bullshit and democracy are natural partners, born of the need to have an opinion when not in possession of the necessary knowledge.
I don't have it in me at the moment...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two from the archives 2 years ago on a job site. Memories.
"It's Adolf Hitler and his faithful West Indian companion!"

"I'm just flabbergasted by the antiquity of this shit"
"I want to talk to you for a minute. I just want to say that D. sent me up here as the site supervisor. D[2] is still here, he's not going anywhere, but that wasn't his job anyway. But I want you to know that I'm the one who's going to be running this job now, and I'm the one to talk to if you have any questions. It's down to the wire, but it's a job and we're all here for the same reason: to get this job done and get our money and get out. And that's what we're going to do. Now if... [this goes on for a bit]
...Any questions?"
" Yes I have one...
"Are you a faggot?"
Everyone's running for the door trying not to fall on their faces. No one can tell if W. is serious or not. His brow is furrowed and he's staring intently at our new foreman, who has become flustered. He was trying put the bridle on the horse and the horse is not so much resisting as responding with incredulity. He calls us back and no one goes, so after beginning "what do you want me to be?" he cops out and proclaims his heterosexuality in no uncertain terms, and continues to do so loudly for the next 5 minutes. After a while I see W. back on the ladder with his assistant, and he's laughing.


"Yella!... Yella!"
"Arabic? You're a spic!"
"Yo! my sister's Jordanian."
"I'm from Austria, motherfucker!. I'm from Graz! Arnold Schwarzenegger's hometown!"
"No wonder you sound like a Guinea."
"Yeah! We're right on the fuckin' border"
"A good Irish name."
"You're alright for a Jew!"
"What's the difference between a nigger and a pizza?"
"There's a black man in the room!"
"I don't care! What's the difference between a nigger and a fucking pizza?
"I don't know."
"A pizza can feed a family of four!"
[The black man looks at the ground shakes his head slowly and laughs]
"How many languages do you speak?"
"I can say "pussy" in 12 languages!"
Flipping open a cell phone to show a photograph.
"She's hot"
Where's she from?"
"Russia. Buying her first Range Rover next week!"
What's she do?"
"Real estate.
"Why d'you think I'm with the bitch!?"
"So why's she with you!?"
"How old is she?"
"23" [he's 27]
"I saw Maurice- we went to the same Church- and I asked him, which way are you taking us? People are worried. And he says, we are a small country, a poor country; all we have is agriculture, but we need to modernize. We need to build infrastructure and to expand trade. We need education. We can learn from both sides..."
[Maurice is Maurice Bishop.]

Every god damn day is like this.
I still have nightmares about the Jamaican killer (ex "Seaga Boy" from Tivoli Gardens) trying to say "tuchus."
Laura Rozen links to this
A new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men, most of them teenagers, an indication of the alarming level of Israeli-Palestinian tension in recent weeks.
The survey also shows unprecedented support for the shooting of rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip and for the end of the peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
The pollster, Khalil Shikaki, said he was shocked because the survey showed greater support for violence than any other he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the shooting of rockets at Israel.
As'ad AbuKhalil links to this
Israel's Jewish community increasingly supports the delegitimization, discrimination and even deportation of Arabs, found a report on racism in Israel, set to be released Wednesday.

The report, to be presented at a press conference in Nazareth by Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel, states that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has clearly impacted public opinion, and warns that ideas such as population exchange and racial segregation are gaining ground. It also warns that several Jewish politicians are gaining influence based on a platform of racial hatred.
I suppose all things being equal I should hold both AbuKhalil and Rozen accountable for bias, but Rozen denies being an advocate while AbuKhalil even arguing from a position is more honest. Rozen shies away from details about Gaza and her soft line on Hamas comes only after the attempted coup. Also the recent attack was not on any seminary but on the religious and intellectual center of the settler movement. The settlers are simply fascists.
And of course Rozen links to the NY Times, while AbuKhalil links to Haaretz.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What does integrity mean?

It means the willingness to admit to an opinion, and an opinion is a bias. Readers will trust you more if they know you're telling them what you think, not what you think they should know. The article discusses a piece by Walter Pincus. You can read it here.

Again and again:
Objectivity being impossible but engagement a requirement, it's simplest to say that the job of the press is to dig for everything. It should be less their job to discriminate as to what they're digging for than to specialize as to who is digging for what: a political hack has neither the time nor the connections to cover movie stars. But If the press had shown as little respect for George W. Bush as it has for Britney Spears we'd all be better off. It should never be a question of demanding seriousness when the institutional rules for what defines seriousness always lag behind the reality. That's how culture works. You could say it's a matter of economics, that there's money in gossip and the press should choose money over high principle (and that's true), but it's more complex than that. Vulgar economism says the adversarialism of the market is foundational, but won't accept that society demands the market itself have an adversary, a counter-force to the economic telos.
There can be no single telos in democratic society, but greed is an astringent. It serves a purpose other than the one it defends. That's the most important detail.
Notetaking from Colin McGinn's blog again (see March 13th):
American "experts" are little better on the issues in the middle east than the amateurs, but the experts think they have reason on their side, and are unwilling to admit that their logic and their pathologies go hand in hand. On the subject of Zionism Steven Weinberg, an atheist (but self-confessed Platonist[?]) is irrational, and a Christian (a Quaker) among others is not.

Arguing that an "unprejudiced and altruistic" demos is central to democracy is absurd: an argument not from the history of the world but from the history of a dream.
The failure of this country is a failure to respect the formalisms of representative democracy and law. The legislature does not stand in defense of its prerogatives, and the press does not do the same for its own. The people cower before experts whose expertise is not questioned. Arguments from authority are everywhere, stated as arguments from reason. Do you understand the moral pessimism that lies at the foundation of the rule of law and of divided government? Do you know how far the legislature now lags behind the desires of the people... to get out of Iraq? to fund a national health service? The list goes on.
You criticize a form of order you do not understand and want to undermine it by the application of one you do. Your "logic" is founded in ignorance.

Colin McGinn: "Seth, I've warned you repeatedly about ad hominem remarks. I must now ask to desist from contributing to this blog (see Blog Guidelines)."

McGinn on Honderich
This book runs the full gamut from the mediocre to the ludicrous to the merely bad. It is painful to read, poorly thought out, and uninformed.
...Is there anything of merit in On Consciousness? Honderich does occasionally show glimmers of understanding that the problem of consciousness is difficult and that most of our ideas about it fall short of the mark. His instincts, at least, are not always wrong. It is a pity that his own efforts here are so shoddy, inept, and disastrous (to use a term he is fond of applying to the views of others).
In my first comment I asked McGinn if he was stupid. The post was offensive, but that insult was unnecessary.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What better way to describe it?
The plan hatched by Condi Rice and Elliott Abrams to train up a Palestinian 'Contras'-style force under the auspices of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has fallen into a significant degree of chaos.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, known as Parmigianino (1503 – 1540),
Antea, c. 1531–34, oil on canvas, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples

At the Frick

An unsure amalgam of observation and idealization. The accompanying text says that the viewer in receiving her gaze stands in for her lover, but that's mistaken. Her gaze and posture are defensive: her lover is someone else.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Musical performance from a score is not rule following, at least unless the performer wants to get booed off the stage. But the performer is not free to interpret the score any way he pleases or he risks the same fate. The same is true with law in a republic.

Contra Posner, a judge is an interpreter and explicator of law, to a public audience. And he is also a member of that public, just as a performer and interpreter of music is a member of the community: of musicians, aficionados, critics and passersby. Any individual is an example -characteristic of his kind and of his age- in most ways, even men as arrogant as Posner or Colin McGinn. To claim the authority to command law from outside the community is to be a threat to that community. To lead you have to cajole and not coerce, this is one of the principles of our form of government. And even coercion when it is permitted is mandated by the community and not an individual. But understanding that one is a product of a community, of a culture, a place, and time, means understanding how one's thought and ideas are not entirely one's own. To have ideas requires no second-order awareness. To watch yourself as you inhabit and live through them is its definition.
Awareness is the struggle against the inertia of assumption. Determinism is the baseline, not freedom. Pessimism, as a value, is the foundation for the rule of law.

This goes back a few years
and then here

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More from Colin McGinn
Successful democracy depends upon an adequately educated electorate, unprejudiced and altruistic: but these conditions are not always satisfied by the voters out there. In fact, there is no requirement in the US political system for a president to have even a minimum of education, or even to be able to read and write. Maybe if recognized experts, unelected, were given some political power, the current ills might be mitigated.
note taking:
"unprejudiced and altruistic"
I would add that on any university campus in the US, there's a department operating under rationalist principles nearly identical to yours, engaged in the same arch mimicry of science, as if mimicry conferred authority [consult Nietzsche about that one, or maybe Shakespeare]. That department is called the economics department. But where you begin with assumptions of altruism they begin with assumptions of self-interest. Maybe you should walk on over and have a chat. You can't both be right.

This country has always been run by experts. As far as domestic policy goes the last 8 years have been a disastrous exception to the rule (and the rule was never much to begin with). As for foreign policy, it's been run by experts all along, even under Bush. But the neocons are fanatical rationalists: they never let data get in the way of their dream of reason.
Rationalism began as theology, and divorced from empiricism that's where it stays. You're not helping much.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mark Perry on Admiral William “Fox” Fallon
There is a bar. Set perilously atop the Marine Memorial Club and Hotel, the Leatherneck Lounge is one of San Francisco’s most legendary watering holes, an exclusive-of-sorts meeting place for veterans and their families. It is all that you might suppose it to be: semi-dark and warm, quiet and somber, with good steaks and smooth scotch and, if you are lucky enough to know the waiters, you can talk late into the night. I was a guest there several weeks ago, seated at a table with eight men who had seen a bit of war. Arrayed around me were retired three and four star Generals and a combat Colonel. While they talked (of the “Frozen Chosin,” the Ia Drang, “Helicopter Hell,” Beirut, the Highway of Death and Anbar) I listened: checking what they had experienced against what I had read.

The next morning, as the Boeing 737 carrying me home struggled into the air headed east, I memorialized the evening in the pages of my small notebook, filling twelve pages with anecdotes, quotes and descriptions. I did this knowing, of course, that I could never refer to any of the men at that table by name, nor place the words they had said in their mouths. It was not that the evening had been too personal or emotional, but that all of them had let down their guard to the point where I had been given insights to fundamental truths about their profession and its current state that were at once both damning and insightful. To the degree that I have been privy to such rare evenings among senior military officers (and I have) is not because I write about them — but because I don’t.

Which is why, after reading Thomas Barnett’s Esquire article on America’s Centcom Commander, I knew that William “Fox” Fallon would be forced into retirement. After reading the article, the men around that table would have thought as I do: that he was lucky he wasn’t fired. In truth, I would have busted him to Seaman Recruit.

Barnett’s piece has to rank as one of the most embarrassing portraits of an American officer in U.S. military history... more
note taking. posted (by me) elsewhere
In discussions of dogma the religiously inclined are among the only defenders of the definition of language as the creation of community and not of individuals. There are secularists who would make the same argument, but they usually avoid these sorts of debate. The secularists who fight with believers are knee-jerk individualists. I will respect the faithful more than those who debate them (at this level of abstraction) because regardless of their metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, their observations about the processes of culture, community and language production are empirically sound. The individualists’ arguments are based on faith.
“I’m free! I’m free!”
No, you’re not. You’re utterly predictable.

I suppose it would be an arcane point, but (again) facts are mundane. Truths even at their simplest are mundanities compounded with values. The struggle for “objectivity” is the attempt to separate facts from values.

A month or so ago I scanned through a PBS documentary on space exploration, following the Cassini mission and the Huygens probe. After the landing on Titan one of the project managers, describing her near ecstasy as the data began coming in, referred to her relation to Titan as akin to love. This was said seemingly without self-consciousness or irony.

The rocks on Titan are facts. The landing didn’t change them atomically or Platonically. The desire for them or for knowledge about them, and all the psychological baggage that accrues to the process are something else. I was more fascinated by the wide-eyed childlike expression on the woman's face than by the rocks. That interest is what defines me as a humanist: an awareness of the difference between first and second order awareness, or first and second order curiosity.

I went out for dinner tonight with a friend, a surgeon, who went on a rant about young doctors who test everything and read charts rather than examining anything themselves. Since they have no sense of detail, of cases, and know only rules and generalizations, they miss things. He and four other big shots lounging around after an all day oncology seminar spent a couple hours telling each other horror stories.

What does it mean that the mythologies of the Turkish secularists are more threatening to to the growth of liberal democracy than the mythologies of the Islamists? What does it mean to be unable to recognize that fact!?

I’m sure McGinn agrees about human rights, but they aren’t his focus. His focus is “reason.” Mine is democracy. I’m interested in rationality as result, he’s interested in it as a cause (in both meanings of the term). He doesn’t understand the difference, and neither does the Turkish military.
That’s the key. Democracy is formal. It’s about means, not ends. Under the rule of reason the guilty, and many others, go to prison. Under the rule of law they may go free if the state didn’t follow the rules regulating arrest. At that point actual guilt or innocence is irrelevant. The rational defense of democracy is the rational belief that there are more important things to worry about than absolutes. At some point contempt for “illogic” or “unreason” segues into contempt for formalism and democracy and the drive for “progress” becomes the opposite of what it claims. The title of this post is “Respecting Religious Believers.” My question is whether we should respect people who focus on that question, especially if the discussion is in terms of politics.
I can’t.
Democracy is not utilitarian. It’s strength is in the constant redefinition of “utility.” When utility has one meaning, when the press or any of the branches of government chooses reason over the defense of it’s prerogatives, republican government falls apart. Reasonable government is the result of formalized adversarialism and institutionalized skepticism. Whether its “true” or not doesn’t really matter. Science geeks who want to run the world logically don’t seem to understand that.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

"nationalism: it emerged in response to particular felt needs, as the human community/consciousness is expanded and/or refined through cosmopolitan experiences those felt needs change, and hence, people who act on that basis of nationalism are invoking something that human beings have moved beyond, or at least should be moving beyond."

I'm sorry but there can be no argument against this...
except to say that such cosmopolitanism can not be enforced from without, whether in Kosovo or the US. If it could be I would be in favor of doing so in my country (the US). As it is there's more sophisticated discussion of politics in the teahouses of Tehran than there is here.
Whether Europe's old blood is willing to recognize it or not, the new cosmopolitanism is here, and it includes Islam. The Islamists in Turkey are more modern than the military secularists, and are more modern than the arch-secularists in the west: Dawkins et al. According to Steven Weinberg Zionism is science. (see Chapter 15) If thats the case, so is the Trinity.
The rule of reason is the rule of experts, who spout language most people don't understand. And it's also the rule of experts who in their arrogance will twist reason into their own perverse definition of the reasonable. Weinberg did just that. And that's the danger of the rule of men. Communities who prefer the rule of community as such have every reason to rebel against this. But in time, and not under threat, all communities will learn.
Some things can't be taught. Modernity, as the secularism of law and democracy (and not the secularism of Platonism and pseudo-science) must be learned, and earned. The question of Kosovo is whether stability and "progress" is best served by specific actions in specific places at this time. If one wants to play the neutral observer then one's own ego and desire to be publicly on the side of the angels or of righteousness is irrelevant.

"The compromises that people make, the sacrifices they forgo, may trouble a philosopher who is obsessed with human rights. But "I don't believe," says Walzer, "that the opposition of philosophers is a sufficient ground for military invasion."

This is simply truly obvious. To say otherwise is the logic of those without any second order awareness of themselves and of the world.
Russell Arben Fox is a believer and I'm a secularist. But his faith incorporates doubt and his opponents' faith does not. The choice is easy.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Guardian
"Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living through their worst humanitarian crisis since the 1967 war because of the severe restrictions imposed by Israel since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power, a report says today.

Movement is all but impossible and supplies of food and water, sewage treatment and basic healthcare can no longer be taken for granted. The economy has collapsed, unemployment is expected to rise to 50%, hospitals are suffering 12-hour power cuts and schools are failing - all creating a "humanitarian implosion", according to a coalition of eight UK humanitarian and human rights groups."
I'll add simply this: that the dream of objectivity that American liberals still hold for themselves and for the press, and that they think has been undermined by Fox News and the Right, is seen as a mockery of reason by the rest of the world. The silence on Gaza is deafening. Why? Because the Palestinians have no advocates in the US.

"Objectivity" will always segue into neutrality and acquiescence: reason into the reasonable. The ethical responsibility of the press is [should be] the same as any lawyer: to represent its client. The client of the press is the people. The press should no more collaborate with government than a defense attorney with a prosecutor. But in the name of reason and against all logic, this country's press claims to be objective, and the majority of the intellectual elite support it in this desire, mocking it only when they decide it has failed to be so. But the political press should be as vulgar as the entertainment press: Dig! Dig! Dig! And attacks on the press should be only for failing to represent its client. But proud and ass-kissing and full of self-respect, they refuse, claiming moral purpose over ethical obligation.

So fucking stupid. Academic American motherfucking rationalism. Self-serving, self-justifying, self-satisfied, delusional.
Two by Helena Cobban
"Well, they started squeezing Hamas almost immediately. Originally, in the weeks right after the late-January election, Hamas wanted to form a relatively moderate government that would include a large number of political "independents" under the leadership of Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh as Prime Minister. But as I know-- because I was the conduit of one of these threats-- threats of lethal violence were sent by the Israelis to any Palestinian "independents" who might be even considering joining a Haniyeh-led government. As a result, none of them did; and the government that Haniyeh ended up forming was 100% Hamas.
Thanks to McClatchy's Dion Nissenbaum for informing all readers of the specifics of the restrictions imposed on all Israel-based reporters covering the conflict with Gaza.Of course it is a nearly universal practice of parties to an armed conflict to restrict media coverage of many aspects of the conflict. But it is very useful for readers/consumers of the reporting that results to remain aware that there are several significant aspects of the events that we are prevented from seeing or reading about.For example, in Dion's list, #2 is perhaps especially important for readers to be aware of:

2. The IDF Censor will not authorize reports of rocket hits at IDF bases and/or strategic installations.

This, in line with the Israeli authorities' long-sustained practice of trying to describe the rocket attacks launched against it by Hamas and other groups in Gaza as being "targeted"-- inasmuch as they are targeted at all-- only against civilian neighborhoods.
When I was in the recent panel discussion with Daniel Levy on Capitol Hill, one of the notable things he said was that his information from Israel was that Hamas's rockets attacks had clearly been targeted at military installations, while it was the non-Hamas organizations that had sent rockets (whether "targeted", or more randomly, was unclear) into civilian neighborhoods.
Still almost nothing about the VF article or Gaza. A commenter at Arablinks found this at the Post. And Laura Rozen had the same response [from an email]: "Everybody who reads the newspaper knew the US was backing Fatah with money for buying arms and security training."
The money and support was for an attempted coup.
I sent a note to a 8 or 10 of the intellectual Poobahs of the liberal political web, pointing out that that their silence was telling.
Atrios at least linked to the VF piece, without much comment.

Support for the plan itself seems to have been universal, but it didn't work. The political and military figures, the journalists and "experts" now supporting negotiations with Hamas are the smart ones covering their asses.

Cobban, in a comment on the first post above, answering a question:
I have written about it before. It was Ziad. The threat was conveyed to me by Ziad’s and my mutual friend Ze’ev Schiff, a decent man who had been extremely close to successive generations of the leaders of Israel’s security establishment for half a century before his death last year.
To be specific, when I spoke with Ze’ev on the phone before I went to Gaza in March 2006– and he did help me to get in– he asked if I was going to see Ziad, who was then widely reported to be considering an offer from Hamas to be Haniyeh’s Foreign Minister (as he subsequently became, during the brief life of the 2007 national unity government.) I said yes. He said– and he repeated this a couple of times to make sure I got the meaning clear– that I should tell Ziad he would face “the worst possible consequences” if he joined the Haniyeh government, and that he said this “on good authority.”
I did pass the message on to Ziad.
Ziad also faced considerable family-based pressure from the Americans since his three children from his first marriage were at college here in the US, and I suppose if he had joined the Haniyeh government and then tried to visit them here he could be arraigned on all kinds of charges of aiding and abetting terrorists. But Ze’ev’s words about “the worst possible consequences” struck me as constituting a more severe and immediate threat.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sans Soleil
A world-class story, but one hopefully "to be continued"
Al-Quds al-Arabi, the top pan-Arab defender of the Palestinian cause, runs a summary of David Rose's Vanity Fair story across the top of its front page this morning, and has promised readers a full text translation of the story in Arabic. The story as Al-Quds al-Arabi headlines it is
American Report: Bush administration pushed for civil war in Gaza with the cooperation of Dahlan, in order to topple Hamas
Bits and fragments of this narrative have surfaced over the last few months, since shortly before and after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007 (including my own humble effort here), but not the whole story linking the plan to Bush and showing the role of Dahlan and the specific civil-war character of the scheme. That's why this is big news in the mass-market, non-governmental Arab press.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Rose darling come to me
Snake Mary's gone to bed
All our steaming sounds of love
Cannot disturb her in her night
Or raise her sleeping head
All I ask of you
Is make my wildest dreams come true
No one sees and no one knows
Rose darling come to me
Snake Mary dreams along
I would guess she's in Detroit
With lots of money in the bank
Although I could be wrong
You must know it's right
The spore is on the wind tonight
You won't feel it till it grows

Rose darling my friend
With only you and what I've found
We'll wear the weary hours down

Rose darling come to me
The clock is close at hand
All my empty words of love
Can never screen the flash I feel
Or make you understand
Honey can't you see
I know it's real it's got to be
Why not chase it where it goes
Nothing new, just the predictable patterns of history and behavior.
Violence Leaves Young Iraqis Doubting Clerics

People like to exaggerate their opponents' powers to exaggerate their own ability to repel them: super villains require super heroes. Idiots celebrating the exception to the rule that they imagines themselves to be. In the end people are easy. Dealing with their stupidity is hard.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)
But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.
Some sources call the scheme “Iran-contra 2.0,” recalling that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.
Within the Bush administration, the Palestinian policy set off a furious debate. One of its critics is David Wurmser, the avowed neoconservative, who resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser in July 2007, a month after the Gaza coup.
Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser says.
"The arts and literature are Burkean by default, as at the same time they are liberal also by default: they negotiate the contradictions between instrumentalism and introspection. Intellectual liberalism as a political and philosophical program does not do this.

Academic Platonism says the instance is the vulgarization of the general, that the idea is truth. This is where right and left rebel against utilitarian liberalism -the generalized idea of the individual- in defense of actual individual experience. [DeLong would argue that] if the experts work as hard as they should to be objective then actual individual experience is irrelevant. BDL's anger is most often at members of the press who fail at that goal."

In comments. Let's see how long he lets it stay up.
more notetaking;
"The rule of unintended consequences and arguments in literary criticism against the intentional fallacy are both arguments against the rule of experts as such. Arguments for defining the rule of law as the rule of textual interpretation rather than of unaided reason are arguments for the consideration of the most important forms of "expertise" as being those of language, history and contextualized knowledge, rather than merely technical know-how. The vulgar reality of politics as 'a popularity contest" protects us from the rule of condescending geniuses.
The rule of law is not the rule of reason any more than it is the rule of leaders, it is the rule of custom. Compared the rule of technocrats the rule of law is Burkean."
The Action Plan hits the big time press:
“The Gaza Bombshell"
After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.
The sites on my link list, on the right of this page, have been talking about this since last May.

Meanwhile the "reality based community" and the responsible press are talking about themselves talking about others talking about a female member of the press who wrote something that insulted women.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

There's a tramp sittin' on my doorstep
Tryin' to waste his time
With his methylated sandwich
He's a walking clothesline
And here comes the bishop's daughter
On the other side
She looks a trifle jealous
She's been an outcast all her life

Me, I'm waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I'm just trying to do my jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh the gangster looks so fright'ning
With his luger in his hand
But when he gets home to his children
He's a family man
But when it comes to the nitty-gritty
He can shove in his knife
Yes he really looks quite religious
He's been an outlaw all his life

Me, I'm waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I'm just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Me, I'm waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I'm just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh the singer, he looks angry
At being thrown to the lions
And the bass player, he looks nervous
About the girls outside
And the drummer, he's so shattered
Trying to keep on time
And the guitar players look damaged
They've been outcasts all their lives

Me, I'm waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I'm just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh, there's twenty-thousand grandmas
Wave their hankies in the air
All burning up their pensions
And shouting, "It's not fair!"
There's a regiment of soldiers
Standing looking on
And the queen is bravely shouting,
"What the hell is going on?"

With a blood-curdling "tally-ho"
She charged into the ranks
And blessed all those grandmas who
With their dying breaths screamed, "Thanks!"

Me, I'm just waiting so patiently
With my woman on the floor
We're just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Technocratic intellectualism is the triumph of category over identity. Kosovo must be first and foremost an example, a token. But that's a vulgarization, even if a necessary one: the required pigeonholing of naming and recognition.

Academic Platonism says the instance is the vulgarization of the general, that the idea is truth. This is where right and left rebel against utilitarian liberalism -the generalized idea of the individual- in defense of individual experience. Vulgar anti-Whorfism says that if translation is necessary then what can't be translated must be unimportant. The subtleties of Pushkin or Mallarmé are irrelevant. The past is a foreign country and Americans are known for being rude.
It's as important to understand how Kosovo is unlike any other place as it is to understand what it may be similar to.