Thursday, July 31, 2008

I had a more cutting, more glib, version of this up. I probably should have left it.

Atrios: "I Roll My Eyes. Nothing else to do."
In response to this:
"Uniformity of style is one of the depressing aspects of globalization, and nowhere more so than in the [...] business."
I'd agree that wine isn't the most important example, but connoisseurship is not simply refined taste -or even refined taste in inessentials- its refined awareness and the ability to communicate that awareness to others: it's both awareness and description. Written with a capital "C" it implies snobbery, but otherwise it's simply the most complex manifestation of social engagement we have: not simply a record of preferences, but of the enjoyment of sharing them, and of refining or altering them through discussion. It's a form of observation that reflects back on us as self-awareness, beginning with a very simple question simultaneously about the world and oneself. "Why do I like X? " "Why do I like Tolstoy?" "Why do I like blondes?." Fandom or unquestioning enthusiasm by comparison is little more than narcissistic (passive) self-obliteration.

Expertise of course is not based on self-reflection at all. It's an interest in externalities in which the very notion of preference is elided. I'll repost this from a few days ago:
There's a mode of argument that renders one passive and irresponsible before an ideology. If one assumes American exceptionalism one doesn't even have to argue for it, and in arguments on foreign policy one then becomes merely a calculator, objective and neutral, or just indifferent. Arguing for what you believe rather than from it makes you human: reengages you and reminds you that you're responsible for your choices. We're all capable of sliding into unreason. Those who imagine themselves -who analogize themselves- as calculating machines are capable of greater errors, and greater crimes, because they've insulated themselves from doubt.
Connoisseurship is the foundation of intellectualism. Expertise without it is just itself (or even less: a symptom). Anyone is capable of sliding into arguments for or from unreason. But of the two anti-social unreason is far more dangerous.
Law is an Aristotelian (non-contradictory) logic superimposed on a contradictory (non-Aristotelian) social reality.

comments elsewhere
Bleed the pig, or kill it? If someone takes over a company with a strategy of running up the stock price and then dumping it, making a pile for himself and the shareholders, there are limits on what unhappy campers can do.

The issue is not one of “creative capitalism,” but of more amorphous notions of social obligation. How to discourage people from thinking in such limited terms is a moral issue, but it's a societal issue, not strictly a legal one.

Laws and Social Contracts are by definition non-conflicting and are inadequate as terms of description. Better, more precise (not less) to use the language of social obligations, overlapping and in conflict. Social life is not Aristotelian.
I should have been more clear, though I shouldn't need to be. [in fact the writing in the original is a mess] The discussion so far concerns technical issues of law, of Aristotelian (and artificial) superstructure; but laws change when values change, not the other way around. That last point is the important one. From an earlier comment:
Quiggin does not understand that in trying to reform the market as the market, all he’s doing is expanding it and the role of instrumentalism in communiation and social life. The end of his logic is to say “Art is Commerce” [to collapse an adversarial relation into a collaborative one]
The adversarial relation of art to commerce is the same in essence as the debate concerning laws and values, between technicians and philosophers (in a world where philosophers consider themselves more than technicians) between the concrete and the imaginative, between assumptions and questions.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Again "Awaiting moderation"
Excuse me Daniel, I posted a link concerning a war between a nominally secular state (one backed by secularists as a triumph of modernity) and those whom that state has thrown off their land. First came "waiting for moderation," then nothing: gone. Or does a military occupation by the champions of modernity and democracy not warrant a reply?

In a related note: Eric Shinseki writes a letter
I am greatly concerned that OSD processes have often become ad hoc and long established conventional processes are atrophying. Specifically, there are areas that need your attention as the ad hoc processes often do not adequately consider professional military judgment and advice. . . . . Second, there is a lack of strategic review to frame our day-to-day issues . . . . Third, there has been a lack of explicit discussion on risk in most decisions. . . . Finally, I find it unhelpful to participate in senior level decision-making meetings without structured agendas, objectives, pending decisions and other traditional means of time management.
The military isn't run on democratic process, but its a process nonetheless. And Rumsfeld never thought it was necessary. We use processes because no one has a monopoly on reason. I don't give a shit if my neighbors think the moon is made of green cheese. I do give a shit if they think they have a right to barge in my house and put a gun to my head and steal everything I own. Cracker or Body of Christ, neither is the point except to absolutists; and absolutism makes for lousy politics. 300 comments fighting over that obvious point.
On another post at CT Henry Farrell writes
A bunch of Democratic foreign policy types, which once included Susan Rice of the Obama campaign, have come out with a new document, the so-called Phoenix Initiative. Now in one sense, manifestoes like this are ten a penny at this stage of the election cycle – they’re the calling cards that foreign policy elites use to try to sell themselves to a potential incoming administration. But what’s unusual about this one is the near total lack of self-congratulation about the US as the one essential nation, leader of the free world etc. Instead, the document’s main message...
is not the point here. Here the main thing is a question: How would one define "American Exceptionalism" as anything but a faith, now gratefully becoming but not yet a shibboleth?
The best argument for leaving others alone in their bizarre beliefs, for being curious but not contemptuous, is the recognition of your own capacity to believe things equally as odd. That argument -that possibility- never occurs to some people. DD was unable to articulate it.

Rereading. The Painting of Modern Life. Discussion of the Goncourts. Their critical observations of the changes around them being picked apart by Clark through critical observations of their work and what they represented. And me observing Clark: a never ending process of review.

There's a mode of argument that renders one passive and irresponsible before an ideology. If one assumes American exceptionalism one doesn't even have to argue for it, and in arguments on foreign policy one then becomes merely a calculator, objective and neutral, or just indifferent. Arguing for what you believe rather than from it makes you human: reengages you and reminds you that you're responsible for your choices. We're all capable of sliding into unreason. Those who imagine themselves -who analogize themselves- as calculating machines are capable of greater errors, and greater crimes, because they've insulated themselves from doubt.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"I don’t think in the 5 years I’ve been reading this page, I’ve read one description of a logically and emotionally complex situation that didn’t rely on generalizations, boilerplate and cheap sentiment."
Here's one example; and another dug up by accident.
notes old wine in new bottles
Still waiting for someone to burn the flag of the secular Israeli state.
Still waiting for Blubba to take a stand on the Gaza and the occupied territories.

Tension About Religion and Class in Turkey. Which side are you on Bubba? John? Read the link for once before responding. Both of you.

The issue as I said above isn't religion but the metaphysical valuation of inanimate objects as anything other than themselves. Myers is a modernist and a Platonist. "A brick is a brick is a brick." as someone once said. "Whaddaya mean Love is a rose? Love is an emotion. A rose is a goddamn plant!!"
It's no longer an argument over delusions, but over whether its possible for a secularist to be delusional. It is, obviously.

There is no god. God is a McGuffin. [Look that one up. Learn something.] God, and the Host, are synecdoches for community.
Weinberg, a much more important figure in the movement to which Myers belongs, the self-described "Brights," is a self described Platonist and secularist. I have no idea how it's even possible to be both. I linked to his book Facing Up: Science and it's Cultural Adversaries and its Chapter 15. Zionism and Its Adversaries This is the Platonism and reason of a Nobel Prize winner. Racism.
I will not defend the politics of Platonism. That link is to a screed by another "Bight" quite famous in his field. [to McGinn but the post has moved]

We exist as objects in the world of facts. We live as creatures in a world of perceptions. It's a mistake to pretend that as creatures we have unshaded access to the world of facts. Desire for unknown facts is not reason but desire. Falling in love with rocks and insects is not more valuable to our society than the articulation of the ambiguities of perception as they relate to justice and law in a community. The rule of law is not the rule of reason. In the rule of reason there are no laws. The doctrine of Stare Decisis has no place in science but is central to our political order.

It is always a mistake to assume. As I wrote on an old post at Myers' page
Scientists do tend to be optimists. But they also tend to use words like 'truth.' as in 'ultimate truth' but truth is a term of metaphysics, and science is not concerned with truth but FACTS; facts which are mundane until someone has the desire to discover them and then revert to it after the post coital glow of discovery has faded.
You defend assumption and desire. And in doing so you act to defend the crimes of those who share your assumptions.

Colin McGinn "Philosopher" and Bright
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?
And again
Well, if truth, reason, virtue, etc are not objective qualities that people exemplify to varying degrees, but are rather relative to each person, we have a way out: everyone is as smart and good as anyone else to himself. Then democracy rests on no lie, since everyone really is cognitively and morally equal. Relativism steps in to save democracy from its noble lie. Thus relativism finds a foothold. But relativism is rubbish; so where does that leave democracy?
Myers is small town pedant who doesn't even know what he's defending.
[Some of the quotes from McGiinn were written by him in commments in threads later removed]

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ali Abunimah in The Guardian: What Obama Missed in the Middle East
Also Haaretz:
Obama reportedly told Olmert that he is interested in meeting the Iranians in order to issue clear ultimatums. "If after that, they still show no willingness to change their nuclear policy, then any action against them would be legitimate," an Israeli source quoted him as saying.
Then read Brzezinski and Skowcroft [full transcript here]
note taking
Brian Leiter, Simon Blackburn, Richard Posner, Colin McGinn, the “New Atheists, ” all share Chomsky’s rationalism and his idealism. All more and more express contempt for democracy and the “illiterate” “irrational” majority. Chomsky is on record for his contempt for empiricism as a methodology, but empiricism, as a journalist, is what’s made him as famous as he is. Put that list of names above alongside the link to Kos above [Kos the hack political operative]. Perhaps Chomsky’s a good reporter because he thinks it’s just banality, so he shrugs and does his Joe Friday act. It’s a better model for the press then we have now: he doesn’t take himself seriously.
But Chomsky is a defender of democracy because of what he assumes about people and their behavior Those assumptions are ridiculously simple-minded, in fact self-serving, but he sticks with them, while those who share his modernist rationalism have replaced that naive hope with arch cynicism. But he seems oblivious.

Intellectually Chomsky is in a time warp; his idealism concerning humanity as such is as dated as his linguistics, but he’s still a hero to the young. Yet when he’s caught being sloppy or indulgent he never admits it. He tries to argue his way out of anything, even if it would he easier to just own up and move on. It’s the same with his philosophical arguments. His brilliant imagination is also thin and brittle. You can contextualize him as a post-war rationalist and still value his insights, but you’ll always have to pick and choose what to keep and what to throw away. True with anybody actually. But context, history and ambiguity, empiricism, are not things he takes seriously. However good a reporter he is, his intellectual model as a thinker and a philosopher, and his model of the world, are deeply flawed.

Perrin’s an angry clown, and a moralist. I’ve read him enough to understand his points, and I’ve made clear why it makes sense that DD would be the one to bring him up. And yes, serious earnest liberals are godawful, and Kos is on the tank for the democrats. But the best comment here still comes from Kos, though posted by someone else. And no one has mentioned that.

And while we’re discussing angry moralists, the fact remains that while up in heaven or The Aether or the land of The Forms, where truth is Truth and nothing else exists, John Brown is wrapped in silk and drinking tea with Moses while Abe Lincoln is washing their feet, in the real world Lincoln, the politician, the negotiator, the half-in/half-out guy, is the more important figure. Moralists have their place, they serve a purpose too in our Nada’s Nonexistent Plan, but what interests me is why I trust Markos Moulitsas, political player, intellectual middleweight and vulgar empiricist a hell of a lot more more than I trust John Quiggin and theories of "Creative Capitalism". [see previous link]

The thing about moralists is they’re not really vulgar, they only use vulgarity to mock vulgarity. Deep down the hate it. The thing about rationalists is that they found their logics on their own imagined a priori orders. And those orders are never vulgar. But politics is vulgar. Life is vulgar. The ideal world doesn’t exist and never will. I prefer angry idealism to idealistic optimism, Anti-Pangloss to Pangloss, but still with the Devil’s eye.
And Quiggin does not understand that in trying to reform the market as the market, all he’s doing is expanding it, and the role of instrumentalism in communiation and social life. The end of his logic is to say “Art is Commerce” and he’s too unobservant to realize it. Art and commerce need each other as antagonists. Duty to oneself and duty to others are conflicting obligations. The conflict is what gives resilience. Quiggin et al offer reasoned reasonable mush: Posner for pussies.
I propose a moratorium on the use of the term “creative.” Try replacing it with “observant” and see where it takes you. People these days are far too creative, and not nearly observant enough.
That’s what’s disappointing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Netroots: Reformers or bit-players in a shabby drama?"

Obama in Israel is difficult to stomach. For the appropriate response go here.

Meanwhile, Laura Rozen links to the Washington Post
"There is widespread apprehension in Israel that he would be more sympathetic to Palestinian interests than previous American presidents have been."
"The model of intellectualism as expertise elides the earlier questions of preference. The myth of individual self-invention renders such questions irrelevant, renders history irrelevant. The subject imagines himself founded not on preferences developed in infantile experience, as reaction and response, but as something generated solely by himself, godlike, and yet impersonal, objective, Platonic. "

Posted elsewhere
False consciousness is Chomsky's rationalist assumptions as to the roots of human behavior. It's abb1's simplistic assumptions concerning the US; it's Engels' conflation of his own righteous anger with thoughtful analysis; it's Henry Farrell's knee-jerk fixation on libertarianism as a means of escape from the backwards reactionary communalism of his country of birth. It's Miracle Max's disgust with Gangsta Rap and effusive praise for the psycho killer revenge porn of Dexter, which allows him to vent his frustrations at the world and the idiot adolescent blogosphere from the comforts of a rec room in suburban Maryland. The most violent rap is flooded with tragedy. Dexter by comparison is more the cynical marketing of symptom . It's corporate gangsta-pop.
And Max is one of the good guys. What makes DD and Max and Perrin bearable is that all of them start from and cultivate their own subjectivity, using reason as a tool to argue what they believe: in fact what they assume, and hope. You'll never hear any of them claim "Reason made me an asshole" or "The numbers made me do it." And they're all assholes too. God luv'em.

What are the economics of the passive voice?
Assume: People act out of self-interest.

What are the economics of the ambiguities of the the world?
Observe: People are greedy, and yet they're often torn. Many, even most, are raised not to be greedy so live negotiating the anxiety of multiple and conflicting obligations.

But if they have multiple obligations, then people are not free, and don't people want freedom?
By and large, people don't want freedom, they want respect. Freedom is an invention, in fact, an illusion. It's an idea and an idée fixe, never a reality. People who celebrate it are celebrating themselves. As it exists in this world it's the freedom of newborn babies laughing and rolling in their own shit and sociopaths who kill without anger or regret.

The logic of the passive voice: The assumption that people are monads does not begin with observation but the preference for monadism. Show the supposedly impersonal logic for what it is: taste, sensibility, reaction, and you'll begin to reconstitute society as social in origin.
Max, put down that computer manual and pick up some Philip Roth. Better yet, read Armies of the Night. And drink more.

Observe: educated liberals act largely out of self-interest but have feel-good hobbies and the most engaged ones the best intentions. Working class conservatives act in their personal lives of out obligation that liberals disdain. Working class conservatives, like educated liberals, recognize the false consciousness of others. You follow me now?
 I was so wrong about Davies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The last lines of this post
If you won’t be in Austin for the conference, you can follow along online in Second Life. See for details. All the main events will be streamed and they also promise inworld parties and special events. And, unlike the meatspace version, this one is free.
I won't bother linking to a definition. At this point everyone but John McCain knows the word or understands the meaning. The question concerns not what the word means but how it does so: its history and genealogy and the implications of its use, the terms of it's defining the relation of the psychic world to the material one.

Let's be clear: "Meatspace" isn't the language of dualism, it's the language of dualism and disgust. At least Lawrence Lessig has an excuse: he was molested as a child.

What is Futurism? What's defined it in the past? [and it has a past.] What changes in society does "geek culture" represent? [it doesn't have much of a past at all.] What does it manifest? Rationalism is never without a context. What's the definition of knowledge for those for whom self-awareness -awareness of one's own body, of one's presence as a body among bodies and of your own as a sensing organism- is for whatever reasons out of bounds? What's the rationale of geekdom?

I'll quote an old friend from memory about Warhol:
"People say that Andy said he was a machine. But he didn't. He said he wanted to be a machine and that's not the same thing at all."

What gives you pleasure and why? These are the foundational questions of any intellectual life. What is preference? What do I prefer and why do I prefer it? Tools can't help you with these questions; tools come later. You choose your tools after you choose your preferences. And tools are for adults not 5 year olds.

Geeks dream themselves as asexual preadolescents—constructing a fantasy of preadolescence as asexual—armed with enthusiasm, certainty, and tools. What do they prefer? Why do they prefer it? The model of intellectualism as expertise elides the earlier questions of preference. The myth of individual self-invention renders such questions irrelevant, renders history irrelevant. The subject imagines himself founded not on preferences developed in infantile experience, as reaction and response, but as something generated solely by himself, godlike, and yet impersonal, objective, Platonic.
Regarding Tony Cordesman's Op Ed, today
July 22, 2008.
There is, however, one potential chance to move forward. It centers on an American-led mission, based in Jerusalem, that is trying to build new security forces on the West Bank that will support stabilization efforts by the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, prevent a Hamas takeover there and end the corruption and abuse of the older intelligence forces, Yasir Arafat’s Mukhabarat.
It's been called "The Dayton Plan," a plan for the Palestinian Contras. It hit the American press last spring.

April 2008
Vanity Fair: 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.
Begin one year earlier

April 2007
Conflicts Forum: "Document details ‘U.S.’ plan to sink Hamas"
On April 30, the Jordanian weekly newspaper Al-Majd published a story about a 16-page secret document, an “Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency” that called for undermining and replacing the Palestinian national-unity government.

The document outlined steps that would strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, build up Palestinian security forces under his command, lead to the dissolution of the Palestinian Parliament, and strengthen US allies in Fatah in a lead-up to parliamentary elections that Abbas would call for early this autumn.
Then here and here, and here
On Dahlan, read As'ad AbuKhalil

There has never been any discussion by Josh Marshall or Laura Rozen, or the "reality based community"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment..." but not steadily.
The moral chaos and narrative confusion of Hong Kong cinema. Both memorable and forgettable, shallow and rich. The shot of The Joker leaning out the car window feeling the wind on his face really is a moment of "pure cinema," of silent, filmic, poetry. The naturalism in the hospital scene of The Joker and Harvey Dent, Two Face, is unnerving: the two characters simultaneously grotesque cartoons and fully human, the rage so obviously specific and personal.

Terminator II was a sort of collective artwork. Hollywood qua Hollywood and America, occasionally produce a kind of one-off epic cinema. The Dark Knight is smaller, intimate by comparison, and stranger.

You could call Heath Ledger's performance "Stuart's Revenge," (compare the voices) but Franken's character is a cartoon. Cartoon villains show no fear until their last moments. Mostly they die cowards. Ledger's Joker is terrified throughout, but conquers fear by running towards it without stopping. To call him "evil" is to make him a cartoon when the film does the reverse. The Joker is played as human in the depths of psychosis and only from there as our dream. Seeing the touches of skin where the makeup is smeared off his forehead makes the terror that much greater. And as at least one critic has noted Aaron Eckhart's Two Face, goes even deeper.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Scroll down to my post on Wednesday beginning: "Ali Abunimah writes a letter" or click the link. Then read the following:

The NY Times Letters section today is titled: "In the Mideast, a Sobering Contrast." The first letter begins:
"What a sobering contrast between the celebrations in Lebanon and the mood in Israel! Here, we all stand in tears together, one people, united in our sadness ..."
etc. etc...
As'ad AbuKhalil posts a photograph. His post begins
"These are 197 dead bodies delivered by Israel to Lebanon in the prisoner exchange."
Also in the Times, in an Op-Ed, across the page from the letters above, Benny Morris writes
ISRAEL will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.
Nuclear blackmail.

Both As'ad AbuKhalil and Helena Cobban caught this. Where are Josh Marshall, Laura Rosen and the rest of the righteous Zionists? Where is the rest of the "reality based" community?
Nowhere. Because no reality based community has ever existed, or ever will. Those who claim to represent one, who claim to represent "reason" against "unreason" are hypocrites of the worst sort. Or they would be, if they didn't believe their own lies.

Arguing from reason, evidence becomes irrelevant.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Notes towards something

The esthetics of oratory: the beautiful argument.
The esthetics of sense: the beautiful shape.
TJ Clark: The falseness of the courtesan/The falseness of cubism.
The falseness of language in TJ Clark's late writing: the beauty of ideas not as representations but as things. politics is being absorbed back into esthetics as an esthetic criterion. The esthetization of politics, politics for art's sake, so no longer "representative" of anything other than itself as idea.
Eliot, Duchamp, Reactionary Modernism. The preference for language over the world. TJ Clark in his labyrinth.

There's the world and there's what we make of it. The greatest poetry allows each person to experience the gap between the author's representations and the external (and unknowable) but the greatest poetry is always representative. Ming vases and architecture are secondary form. The poetry of ideas as opposed to representations is a secondary hybrid and perverse: the idea as esthetic object, the poetry of reification.

The best Modern art is the art of crisis, of dubious representation overcome by slight of hand: by formal trickery.

The imagery of Modernism is often kitsch [Avant-Garde is Kitsch] Often its mode is pornographic -illustrational- kitsch representation. with the poetry/esthetics recuperated by other means. Duchamp's Fountain is a porcelain figurine; cut to the chase: it's a pussy

It's figurative art: "Manet's Olympia, for 1917"; but it's also a step backwards. It's a step backwards from Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, as an act of representation. Les Demoiselles was "Manet's Olympia for 1907." though the painting wasn't shown until 1916, and even then was labeled obscene.
Duchamp's sexuality is closer to Gerome's than Courbet's. He was always the schoolboy, mischievous or twittering (your pick). The curves of his porcelain whore were as blandly stylized as Picasso's beatific bathers from the 20's.

Kitsch: the choice for desire over craft; the short circuiting of process to get results, results that lets face it are always silly. What's a happy ending without a story? Cezanne begins with kitsch, and struggles with it. He was a failed painter before he decided to make his limitations his subject. If his work succeeds as representation it's only in the representation of the space -physical and psychological- between the object and the eye. Only one step away from the representation of "ideas."
Clark is doing Pynchon in reverse: tightening up, ending up Harold Pinter. Ending up a Modernist.

reposted and expanded Nov 13

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ali Abunimah writes a letter
"Dear Mr. McCarthy, On what basis do you write that:
"Five Lebanese prisoners, including the notorious murderer Samir Qantar, crossed free out of Israel today in a prisoner swap after the Hizbullah militant group handed over two black caskets containing the remains of two Israeli soldiers"?
Is it on the basis of the claims of the Israeli government that you refer to Mr. Quntar as a "notorious murderer"? I agree that if the Israeli account is true, then he would be a murderer. But Israel lies at every turn and its claims can never be believed without independent verification, as you should well know.
The New York Times reports today: "Mr. Kuntar, who was formally pardoned by Israel on Tuesday as part of the swap agreement, gave a different version of the night of the attack in his court testimony in 1980, excerpts of which were published for the first time on Monday in Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli newspaper. He told the court that Israeli gunfire had killed Mr. Haran as soldiers burst in to free him and that he did not see what happened to Mr. Haran’s daughter."
So by Mr. Quntar's account, the deaths of the Israeli victims was what military people call "collateral damage" from "friendly fire" in all three cases. Since you are apparently relying only on Israeli official propaganda for your reporting -- which has already been found to be false in a key respect by other media, you should be much more careful. For example, the Washington Post website, posted this correction today: "CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE Due to incorrect information on the Web site of Israel's Foreign Ministry, earlier versions of this story misstated the number of Israeli police officers killed by Samir Kuntar during the 1979 kidnapping and slaying of an Israeli man and his young daughter. Kuntar killed one police officer." Also, the term "notorious" is clearly subjective since the celebrations in Lebanon at his release suggest he is "famous" and not "notorious" in that country. Some more circumspect reporting please.
Ali Abunimah"
Helena Cobban
Bushists Fund Lebanon Army; Lebanon Embraces Hizbullah
Sometimes the sheer depth of the ignorance of the people directing the Bush administration's foreign policy manages, yet again, to amaze me.

Evidently, the Bushists don't realize the gravity of the change that overcame Lebanese politics back in May, when the Emir of Qatar was finally able to conclude the Doha Agreement, a resolution to Lebanon's longstanding governance crisis that involved, essentially, caving to Hizbullah's core demands.

Evidently, the Bushists don't understand that-- as I noted here last week-- the main quality displayed by their man in Beirut, Fouad "Turn-on-a-dime" Siniora, is his ability to, um, turn on a dime... Or the fact that, since May, he has represented the pro-Hizbullah coalition's interests in Lebanon, more than Washington's.

Hence, the national holiday announced for Lebanon today, to celebrate Hizbullah's success in gaining the return of the five Lebanese detainees still held in Israel and the remains of a couple of hundred more.

And the Bushists' attitude to the Beirut government's new orientation? Why, just yesterday, the US Central Command's Director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy, who was visiting Lebanon, "announced that the US government has increased its support to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) by $32.5 million."

Don't get me wrong. I support the Doha Agreement, judging that it was a realistic step that reflects the political balance in the country far better than the previous, heavily polarized and pro-US order did and gives its people a chance to de-escalate their tensions and reconstruct their country. But no-one should misunderstand the true political impact of the agreement.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer repeats:

"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!"
"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.]

I still have nightmares about the Jamaican killer trying to say "tuchus."

The unsmiling Russian who runs the freight in the afternoons turns back to us as he closes the door.
"Whites out the front, Niggers to the basement."
I'm in the elevator with the electricians: two Puerto Ricans and a Pole.
"So how do you get out?"
The Russian pauses.
"I'm Superman, I leave from the roof"
In the basement he shakes hands with each of us before we walk towards the steps up to the street.


Talking to a kid on the job, a Jamaican from the slums of Kingston -Tivoli Gardens- with eyes that turn in an instant from innocent to icy. Listening to him talk about the adventures of his youth, of guns and gangs and the politics of Jamaica, I make a guess:
"Yah. I was a Seaga Boy!" He laughs.
Still proud.


You're from the north?
How'd ya know?
I'm learning to recognize the accents
Ah, they all sound the same.
Have ya seen Paddy?
I'm Paddy.
The guy your working with
W're both Paddy!
Fuck! Where's Paddy?
Runnin 'round like an extra cock at a whore's wedding!
He went to meet a taper. He's bring'n her back after lunch
A female taper?
She better be pretty.
She better be good.
He says she's real good.
Did you get your wish.
Oh yeah. Jayzuz! She's six foot tall!
[She's Jamaican]
[The Mexican laborer walking around singing U2]
Hello! Hello!
See you tomorrow.
Nope. I'm gone.
Nice to meet you. See you again.
With the help of God, and a couple policemen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Apropos academic perversity and the absolute bourgeois.
Jeff Wall
Tim Clark, being tried in absentia: [scroll down at bit]
Thomas Struth

Thomas Struth, The Hirose Family, Hiroshima

The Smith Family, Fife, Scotland

Jeff Wall The Flooded Grave, Transparency in lightbox
228.5 x 282 (90" x 111") Details here

Struth's portraits, his best work, aren't perverse at all but humane in expressing an honest conservatism, slightly sad, with no pretense of radicality except in the sense perhaps that honesty is radical. Although he sees behind poses and postures he renders his subjects' humanity, not just their function, and this has the effect of humanizing the status quo. He's as respectful of his subjects as they are of themselves and most often they return that respect; even the arrogant ones express pride partly at being photographed. At the very least they return a gaze. A few show both arrogance and feigned indifference and these works suffer from a lack of cooperation, literally of communication and thus collaboration. The subjects look as if at themselves in a mirror. Most of these are Americans.

There's a control-freak quality to Clark's language and to Wall's photo-constructions; it began to bother me first in Clark. Both claim to represent the world, as we all do in our speech, but there's a hyper-determinism that's not so much conservative as brilliantly reactionary [a few years ago I would never have thought of linking those two words] in the sense that hypocrisy is reactive. But maybe it's just a contradiction heightened to the point of an electric buzz. Struth is less conflicted: he's warmer. I began to feel aware of this, and that I was beginning to tire of pure contradiction as a theme, only in the past few years. I've always hated Borges as an illustrator and a fascist, but I need to read Nabokov. I've read enough of him to recognize crystalline language but in the context of the literary academy it's a form of art. I've always hated conceptualism, but there is such a thing as the poetry of ideas. I'm growing tired of that, just as I've begun to realize that it's always been my major interest.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

On the subject of rationalism, rationalization, and cowardice; on empiricism and the responsibilities of awareness of others as others. From June 2005, as my mother was dying.
There's a difference between caring for someone, in the sense of emotional attachment, and being attentive to them, to their wishes or their pain. Pain itself is lonely and expressions of sympathy are often theater used to hide incomprehension and fear.
I'm watching the old watch their friend die. They have become professionals at this. They are honest actors: the most aware both of the distances between people, and the similarity of their experience.
From a commenter.
Nathan Newman: FISA is a bourgeois issue!
True enough. And the comments prove his point.
Rule#1. Make it idiot-proof.
I hate explaining this shit, but it's all I do.

geek |gēk|
noun informal
1 an unfashionable or socially inept person.
• [with adj. ] a person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest : a computer geek.
2 a carnival performer who does wild or disgusting acts.
geeky adjective
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from the related English dialect geck ‘fool,’ of Germanic origin; related to Dutch gek ‘mad, silly.’
The bottom two drawings are obviously models of human interaction: either in the present (mediated by language) or in the study of the past (mediated by language and time). The top two are diagrams of common utopian/dystopian fantasies [hopes] of far too many people.
I should have made this clear long ago, but I take people too much for granted.

We study the past not by studying the preoccupations of those who were there but by studying the record of those preoccupations. We live alongside one another through another version of the same process. We cannot claim to share their interests -in terms of the present we can't claim identity- though in some cases we can claim an affinity with them, but there remains a gulf between us and our subjects and each other. This gulf can be wider or narrower depending on their interests and ours. The applications of Mathematics can appear to collapse historical time and the distance between individuals, numbers live in an eternal present and in unity with one another, but we don't.
Our society is a society built upon isolation and simultaneously upon a fixation on a desire/fear of simple absolute unity. Raves and The Borg are products of the same fear, desire, sadness.
A geek is someone who is so wed to his own fixations that he is unable to imagine the world through the mind of another. Americans are the prototypical geeks, unable to imagine non-Americans. But geeks now rule academia, even the humanities. Literature is now studied in academia by literature geeks. Our soldiers are military geeks. That specifically is dangerous, but so is the rest.
The above is, objectively, how the world works. It's the diagram for water-cooler chitchat, presidential elections, academic advancement, and how to pick up girls. It's the model of life as theater, assuming of course that actors know they're being observed. It's the model for intellectual "progress" in that progress is only possible if the model is seen to apply to human behavior. It is also therefore a defense of the arts, of craft, as a mode of reflexive activity and social engagement. [lawyers are craftsmen]. It's the model of artists' relation to one another and of artist to critic, if the critic sees himself in a reciprocal relation rather than as voyeur vampire, what academics become when they imagine themselves as observers and others as animate objects. The sciences and the pseudo-sciences have become not only asocial but anti-social. I've linked to Colin McGinn enough, but I've been pointing out examples of this for years. "Truth" is the metaphysical glow that attaches itself to unknown facts. It fades with familiarity and those facts return to their previous status as mundane.

If you don't understand that what you are and represent is being recontextualized constantly, and if you're remembered at all it will be as others see you, then you have no right to call yourself an "intellectual." Even then it's a term best left for others to use to describe you, if they choose.

Reading any text, examining any man-made thing, you ask yourself what to respond to: text or subtext, the intention of the maker or what the thing seems now to represent. Ideally you learn from both, but perhaps you have no way of knowing the maker's intent. Either way you may learn to respect the maker of a resilient, dynamic, order -a structure- and begin to reconstruct the categories they worked with, that were their preoccupation. You ask: “Is there more to learn from this person as thinker or as symptom?" Just as meeting someone on the street you ask: "Is this someone to laugh at, or with?" The stuff that lasts never becomes dated; the memorable minds are never merely symptomatic. Philip Roth is a practitioner of philosophical naturalism. Brian Leiter is a professor of a branch of a school of late scholastic philosophy. Post-war rationalism, late modernism, baroque idealism: these are the categories that will be used to describe it. They're categories of history, not reason.
At some point this will become so obvious that even PhD's will understand it.
EDB is back in Beirut.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

And again. Note-taking. record-keeping. boredom
You're pretending there's a right answer when there isn't. There's no universal definition of what actions can be described as "demeaning." But there are ways to argue it: "Rather the point is this: the a ban on head covering, or religious symbols more generally, in public schools carries different meanings in some cultures as compared to others."

That's a cop out. The ban is grotesque if we define a country as modern according to the common understanding of the term. Are you aware of the politics of contemporary Turkey? The secularists are more reactionary than the Islamists, and more corrupt. From the NYT: "Tension About Religion and Class in Turkey"

You're trying to create a logical system to do the work for you. That's what liberals like to do. It removes them and the rest of us from responsibility. You should be arguing cases and values, and not only rules but principles and morality. That's the best you can do in a crisis. Rules will follow. Try reading this. Read the last sentence.

You cheapen the debate in Turkey and France as others have cheapened it for the US over FISA. Blacks can be racist of course. But when you grow up with the effects of racism -as its victim- what else do you expect? Jews -Israelis- are allowed their paranoia. Why aren't blacks? Why of course aren't Iranians? [Palestinians would be the obvious choice, but Iran was on my mind at the moment I guess]

But then the question becomes one of "special cases," and that's a problematic category. Israel is a "special case." At least that's what we're told. This country is based on it's own nationalist exceptionalism. America itself is a "special case." This is how you argue against people who call you "PC."

What do you say about the de facto affirmative action for white people?: "I got my cousin Jimmy a job at the plant." So it becomes "I couldn't get my cousin Jimmie a job at the plant. They're only hiring blacks." Not the best fix, but maybe the only one, for a time.

Rules are blunt instruments. They're no replacement for understanding complexity... Complex bureaucracies are never absolutely fair, so stop pretending you can build one that is.

The public debate of values and principles over time. This is how blunt instruments are come to be and this is how they're changed. The argument itself is more constitutive of democracy than whatever those instruments may be at any point.

Friday, July 11, 2008

To any readers from Savage Minds, if you want, type McGinn's or Leiter's last name in the search bar above. Otherwise this is just note taking: The same shit, but some good lines:
Language is public. Numbers are impersonal, indeed anti-personal, but are also private.
There's a lot in that one. Definitely a keeper.
Technical disciplines make status definitions relatively simple, and if anything tend to encourage competition to the point that competition becomes a central aspect of the discipline itself. Any culture of technical expertise is a bubble culture and of limited interest to outsiders; but If you seek to generalize from that bubble out into the world, as if it were the world, it becomes what’s called a ghetto culture. But the world is not the lens through which you choose to see it.

Leiter’s academia is a ghetto culture, and he spends as much time discussing gossip and academic bed-hopping as philosophy. But he does not discuss the philosophy of bed-hopping. If he were I’d have more interest.
It’s not status-seeking that annoys me it’s the status-seeking of moralizing priests. McGinn like Leiter claims to be an atheist and a freethinker, but neither come close. McGinn is obviously a product of his experience and of his time, in ways that he will not admit. He’s blind. We’re all products of culture. We’re not all hypocrites.

The rule of law is the rule of chosen words in the common language and the rule of argument over their meaning. That argument itself is constitutive of democratic society. Language is public. Numbers are impersonal, indeed anti-personal, but are also private.
“I remember… when we used to sit
In the government yard…
in Zagreb,”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Iran, read Cyrus Safdari and then go read whatever members of the "reality based community" you prefer. He's biased, of course, but so is everyone. I'm sick of Americans who believe their own lies; and on the subject of the Middle East, to say that they're simply biased is an insult to the rest of us.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Christopher Hitchens: "If [this] does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”

original here
[Rough. I'll fix it later. I'm sick of this shit.]

As always I return to the same points: the necessity for (and the obvious presence of) divided loyalty among individuals [or "nodes"] and the strange willingness of academic intellectuals to accept self-reported data as long as they're the one's reporting it.

No one network can foster both dynamism and stability, only multiple overlapping networks, constructed among the same points. The only way to avoid recognizing this easily demonstrated fact is if out of little more than ideological bias, you choose to see yourself as undivided, as a unified reasoning mechanism. There is no evidence for this in human history.

The definition of a renaissance is of a moment of dynamic tension between individuals and community. It's not freedom that produces such moments. but the discovery of freedom by those still bound by obligation. The dynamism of social democracy is the dynamism of self-interest held in check by community. I've been reading recently that Descartes is associated with the birth of the subject. The only people who could argue this are those ignorant of both Michelangelo and Shakespeare. I myself would say Masaccio, whom Michelangelo revered. Self-awareness begins not with a fallacious clarity but with an acknowledgment of anxiety and doubt.

Why has no one ever responded to my comments over these past few years about my old landlady and our neighbors who refused to charge market rent? There has to be a way to put this data [and it is data!] into an economic model. Why does DeLong throw up his hands in frustration at the existence of the Scandinavian model? The answer is that economists like DeLong and you can't allow for the presence of competing imperatives in the same body: people must be either selfish or selfless, they must make a choice! But they never do. The genius of European social and cultural life is not idealism (far from it) but the pressures that designate money and wealth as vulgar, that keep the fact of it a little below the surface. A community of entirely and openly self-interested monads will fail. So a statement that "all people are self-interested" means nothing, unless it is tied to a further statement "all people are bound by obligation."

Another study someone should make: Compare Google to Apple. Google deals in information and money and in the the esthetic of the abstract and intangible. [On money and invisibility I owe a debt to my old roommate. I'm one of the two dedicatees for that paper so I'm returning the kindness.]

Apple is preoccupied not only with abstraction but with the material presence of it's products, not only with conceptual but physical design. It's an example of a boutique capitalism that's also as a result self-limiting. The only way for Apple to go beyond it's chosen niche would be for it to be joined under a conglomerate cf. Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Steve Jobs will never be as rich as Bill Gates and Apple will never be as malign a force as Microsoft, or this site's chosen idol, Google. You prefer the latter because unlike Microsoft, it's a competent organization, but if anything that makes it more dangerous. Competent hegemons always are, yes?

Again and again: The genius of our justice system is not in complex networks but in the adversarial relations of two: the prosecutorial network and the network of the defense attorneys. The genius of consciousness is not in one complex system but in the overlaying of neural networks of computation with those of conditioned response that compete and contradict.
It doesn't matter how complex your system is. If you're only building one you're wasting your time.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis
Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.
The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.
The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.
Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Reidar Visser:
"The Sadrists, the Bush Administration's Narrative on Iraq, and the Maysan Operations"

and Badger

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Is there no one coming here from Roy Edroso's blog who's not ashamed of what he or she read there?
I grew up in a "vibrant" neighborhood. Should I have to explain any of this to people who call themselves "liberals"?
This is still a provincial country. And It's not that anti-intellectualism is so prevalent but that American political intellectualism is seen as antidemocratic, not only by those who distrust it but in fact by those who advocate it. Intellectualism and it's opposite are equally individualist and atomistic in origin: "I can speak for others" vs. "No one can speak for me." Communities are founded out of necessity or fear, but thinkers dream of "freedom." It's the dilemma of America that individualism and democracy are in conflict.
Cultural intellectualism is something else: apolitical, anti-political, expatriate, or sincerely democratically indulgent. But I know of no other country where the class of political thinkers -or of those who want to consider themselves in that role, left and right- are so incapable of seeing themselves through others' eyes, all while being so urgently, arrogantly, indulgently, sincere.

It's not only about idiots like David Brooks, but bright men like DeLong and Krugman, Josh Marshall and Robert Reich; about worried Zionists who think that a willingness to talk about Palestinians is the same as a willingness to talk with them, and then while refusing to admit the original error, are willing to talk to them without seeing the need to take them seriously. The same process holds for the history of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Over time people acclimate, and rationalize in defense of whatever assumptions they may now have, but they themselves were never wrong and of course they are not now. For an American who takes himself seriously the observation that his understanding may be incomplete is like an accusation of mortal sin.
Will American liberals ever understand that they're mocked for their hypocrisy as much by European Social Democrats as by conservatives in their own country? Will they ever realize that its not the contradictions that damn them but their inability to see that they exist?