Tuesday, June 30, 2009

note taking
Reading Gintis and the rest all I can see is a overworked attempt to get freedom out of determinism: “rational determinism.” The mixture of moral passivity and optimism is bizarre. And the difference between Anthropology and Sociology is that the former is concerned not only with individual societies but individual persons. Sociology is concerned with people as a mass. The preference for the latter functions as an interest in “ideas’ but also as a preference for impersonal forms of communication and knowledge. This preference itself can be described as a product of a cultural determinism. Anthropology and sociology as practices exist as examples of two kinds of performative ethos; each are manifestations of the moral assumptions/values that precede them. One is social, one extra-social. We want to create meaning out of the world. Some prefer crystalline forms: absolute, time independent, “immortal” designs. Others see a narrative arc: from beginning to end. Each group responds to trauma (the traumatic interruption of their pattern) differently. Suicide: when you feel you no longer ‘should be alive’ when the narrative arc comes crashing downward after a traumatic event. But why am a still here? It’s the formal pattern [functioning as a sense of order and of order as "meaning" and as comfort] that’s determinate for modern consciousness, not Darwinism. But of course consciousness itself is epiphenomenal.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

First study/collage. Proposal for drapery installation. Full scale @20x30 feet.
I've linked to this before, more than once
note taking. my comments elsewhere.
I’m reminded reading this of the philosophy grad student who comes back to school in the fall after teaching undergrads in summer school and when asked how it went says: “It was strange. My students were all obsessed with sex. Not the idea of sex, or the meaning of sex, but sex!”
True story. I was told it by a witness.

“Difference” feminism. Puritanism vs the feminine prerogative. What you’re looking at in these women is the sexual performativity of mediterranean culture. The best casual commentary on Iran in the press over the past years has been Elaine Sciolino [and again] in the NY Times, who spends half her time covering the Parisian glamour beat...
Has no man reading this ever had a beautiful woman blow smoke in his face?

Glamour is the performativity of the sexually intimidating woman—intimidating according to conservative gender roles: the woman not as passive but as judge.

I just won and lost a beautiful girl by assuming that our connection revolved primarily around ideas when in fact it centered on trust. Even at my age too often I’m clueless. We communicated wonderfully but I was concentrating on the surface while she was judging my behavior: my manner, my confidence, my openness, my comfort with her.
Later she’d begun to test me -her description- and I’d gotten nervous, I began to grasp. Needing someone is not the same as liking or respecting them. She pulled away; I gave chase, briefly, but you can’t chase from weakness. I stopped and waved, she waved back and laughed and kept going. 
Trust isn’t what you say it’s how you say it and in the end I was saying very interesting things badly with obvious ulterior motives. There’s a very solid logic to the girl’s decision-making process. Trust and Intimacy are not ideas.

The entire weekend revolved around sex and sexuality. Not cheap sexuality but the sexuality of intimacy or the possibility of intimacy. Gender roles either in standard form or reversed give structure to performance and allow people to read and recognize behavior patterns. I’m a formalist. But there's a distinction between methodology and ideology; that’s where it gets interesting.
Gender roles, religion, law, theater. Public models as methodologies. We judge each other as variations on recognized codes. We only recognize one another as variations of types and tokens. An individual would be unrecognizable: unable to communicate and unable to receive communication.

The geek/pedant model of communication is a model of ideas unaffected by form, subtext, or context. The geek model of intellectualism is a joke.
Balkin is not worried.
"My view of the Supreme Court is sort of like the husband in the French farce," Balkin says. "He's always the last to know."
Posner spends most of his life in public argument. He's engaged in a form of social theater on a big stage. While trying to convince others of his beliefs he's also trying to defend them. But you can believe something in silence. Why doesn't his father just shut up and judge? Because both father and son are living a political life much more complex than the definition of 'politics' they pretend to believe in.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pablo Picasso, Man With a Sword, (1969)

Andy Warhol, Mrs. McCarthy and Mrs. Brown (Tunafish Disaster), (1963)

The Picasso went for 11.5 million. The Warhol for 6.1 million
Without going into larger questions of art and money, of the two the Picasso is the joke. Why this is so is a subject that's been taking up too much of my time recently.
Anti-terrorism training materials currently being used by the Department of Defense (DoD) teach its personnel that free expression in the form of public protests should be regarded as “low level terrorism.” ACLU attorneys are calling the approach “an egregious insult to constitutional values” and have sent a letter to the Department of Defense demanding that the offending materials be changed and that the DoD send corrective information to all DoD employees who received the erroneous training.

“DoD employees cannot fully protect our nation and its values unless they understand that a core American value is the constitutional right to criticize our government through protest activities,” said ACLU of Northern California attorney Ann Brick. “It is fundamentally wrong to equate activism with terrorism.”

Among the multiple-choice questions included in its Level 1 Antiterrorism Awareness training course, the DoD asks the following: “Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorist activity?” To answer correctly, the examinee must select “protests.”
According to the Department of Defense peaceful protests in Iran are low-level terrorism.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Talk is cheap

link from Hossam el-Hamalawy on twitter.
Alireza Doostdar writing from Tehran, in Al-Ahram
Western coverage of the political turmoil in Iran in the aftermath of the 12 June presidential election has for the most part presented a uniform image of the conflict: thousands of young, liberal, and defiant supporters of presidential challenger Mir-Hussein Mousavi have been protesting against what they see as massive fraud, a "coup" to re-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The government, fearful of a popular uprising, has responded with massive use of force, killing and injuring protesters, arresting activists and politicians, and imposing an information blockade.

Analysts repeatedly ask themselves and others, "Is this a revolution?" And, more expectantly, "Are we witnessing the end of the Islamic Republic?" Whatever we are to make of the question of fraud (there apparently were some irregularities, but no evidence of widespread fraud), Ahmadinejad retains a huge popular base that is not prepared to forfeit its position. Rather than viewing the events of the past 12 days as signs of a revolution-in-the-making, we should be examining them, along with the months of campaigning leading up to the election, as indicators of a deepening social and cultural rift that is dividing Iranian society, and will leave a lasting impression no matter how the current crisis is resolved.

And (again) Flynt Leverett.

Links from M. Monalisa Gharavi (South/South) on twitter

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iran's Election What Happened?

Watch the video here or elsewhere. It's playing at Pulse. Read the comments.

featured speakers
Ken Ballen
President, Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion
Author, "The Iranian people speak," Washington Post, June 15, 2009

Steve Clemons
Director, American Strategy Program
New America Foundation
Publisher, TheWashingtonNote.com

Flynt Leverett
Director, Geopolitics of Energy Initiative
New America Foundation
Author, "Ahmadinejad won. Get over it," Politico.com, June 15, 2009

Afshin Molavi
Fellow, New America Foundation
Author, Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran
Nader Mousavizadeh
Consulting Senior Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies
Former Special Assistant to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
Author, "Option Ignore Ahmadinejad," Washington Post, June 18,2009
Nicholas Schmidle
Fellow, New America Foundation
Former Student, University of Tehran
Author, To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan

For me these photographs mark the difference between Iran and the occupation, between a community divided against itself and one subjugating another. That's a distinction that's lost on most Americans, even those who've been very smart about the protests themselves. Roger Cohen has been good, but not good enough.

And to add to that the obvious fact, notwithstanding the sense of horrible intimacy watching the death of Neda Soltan: the level of violence in Iran bears no comparison.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Statement by Humanitarian Organisations, NGOs and UN Organisations

On the Second Anniversary of the Gaza Blockade
Jerusalem, 17 June, 2009: We, United Nations and non-governmental humanitarian organisations, express deepening concern over Israel’s continued blockade of the Gaza Strip which has now been in force for two years.

These indiscriminate sanctions are affecting the entire 1.5 million population of Gaza and ordinary women, children and the elderly are the first victims.

The amount of goods allowed into Gaza under the blockade is one quarter of the pre- blockade flow. Eight out of every ten truckloads contains food but even that is restricted to a mere 18 food items. Seedlings and calves are not allowed so Gaza's farmers cannot make up the nutritional shortfall. Even clothes and shoes, toys and school books are routinely prohibited.

Furthermore the suffocation of Gaza's economy has led to unprecedented unemployment and poverty rates and almost total aid dependency. While Gazans are being kept alive through humanitarian aid, ordinary civilians have lost all quality of life as they fight to survive.

The consequences of Israel's recent military operation remain widespread as early recovery materials have been prevented from entering Gaza. Thousands of people are living with holes in their walls, broken windows and no running water.

We call for free and uninhibited access for all humanitarian assistance in accordance with the international agreements and in accordance with universally recognised international human rights and humanitarian law standards. We also call for a return to normalized trade to enable the poverty and unemployment rates to decrease.

The blockade of the Gaza Strip is creating an atmosphere of deprivation in Gaza that can only deepen the sense of hopelessness and despair among people. The people of Gaza need to be shown an alternative of hope and dignity. Allowing human development and prosperity to take hold is an essential first step towards the establishment of lasting peace.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Because Iran actually has a population capable of sustaining democracy; and Mousavi is as good as we'll get."

AA misses a chance here. The question to ask Sullivan, the famous defender of The Bell Curve is this: Who are "we" to decide who is capable of sustaining democracy?
Two weeks ago Obama called the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, "a force for good." Yesterday speaking about Iran he said "the world is watching."
The hypocrisy is stunning. But is it Obama's hypocrisy or the hypocrisy of the public that makes such absurd comments obligatory from the leader of the United States? So do we blame Obama or Joshua Marshall and the rest of the 'liberal' audience for his remarks; all of those who defend the dreams of an ethnic state over a democratic one?
The photographs above are from Gaza. The one below is the west bank.

Realpolitik in defense of long term goals is a practical necessity. But what are Israel's long term goals? What are the goals of its liberal defenders? After that we can ask about the long term goals of the US establishment as a whole.
I would really be happy if demonstrations break out against every single regime in the Middle East, and all of them are overthrown. However, I understand that the US and Europe would really panic if the likes of Mubarak or House of Saud or Hashemite KingStation are threatened, let alone overthrown.
Is the "Israel lobby" (and this includes Marshall and M.J. Rosenberg and J Street) really the only reason US only defending kings and dictators in the middle east? The answer to that question is obviously 'no,' but Israel is beginning to really get in the way.

Helena Cobban and Philip Weiss are now at TPM Cafe. They even had one Arab poster recently, Sam Bahour, from Ramallah. Even a year ago that would be unthinkable. Liberal zionists are beginning to feel ashamed of their own arguments. They've been comfortable using the language of liberal universalism while defending tribalism- and what's J Street but an essay in liberal tribalism? Now they're losing their audience and they know it. And if they won't yet admit it, they know why. Rosenberg's desperation in this post is almost palpable:
We Will Never See Iranians The Same Way Again
Israeli barbarism doesn't bother me as much as the whiny mediocrity of hypocrites.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

and on Twitter

Pulse Media
Including a discussion Mousavi's statements to the Council. Follow the links and read the comments.
Robert Fisk via Pulse
A day earlier, an Iranian woman muttered to me in an office lift that the first fatality of the street violence was a young student. Was she sure, I asked? "Yes," she said. "I have seen the photograph of his body. It is terrible." I never saw her again. Nor the photograph. Nor had anyone seen the body. It was a fantasy. Earnest reporters check this out – in fact, I have been spending at least a third of my working days in Tehran this past week not reporting what might prove to be true but disproving what is clearly untrue.

Take the call I had five hours before the early-hour phone call, from a radio station in California. Could I describe the street fighting I was witnessing at that moment? Now, it happened that I was standing on the roof of the al-Jazeera office in north Tehran, speaking in a late-night live interview with the Qatar television station. I could indeed describe the scene to California. What I could see were teenagers on motorcycles, whooping with delight as they set light to the contents of a litter bin on the corner of the highway.

Two policemen ran up to them with night-sticks and they raced away on their bikes with shouts of derision. Then the Tehran fire brigade turned up to put out – as one of the firemen later told me with infinite exhaustion – their 79th litter-bin fire of the night. I knew how he felt. A report that Basiji militia had taken over one of Mir-Hossein Mousavi's main election campaign office was a classic. Yes, there were uniformed men in the building – belonging to Mousavi's own hired security company


Friday, June 19, 2009

Steve Clemons on monday titled a post And the Shooting in Tehran Has Begun. I called it inflammatory, he removed my comment. [I'd put it bluntly, and I'd also referred to the coup attempt in Gaza which he'd backed].
Today Jim Sleeper pens Now, the Crackdown

As if that's what they're hoping for. Makhmalbaf's interview with Foreign Policy is just more attempts to stir the pot. He's playing with other people's lives.

This is going to be resolved politically. It has to be unless martyrdom is the goal. The liberals and the conservatives have to unite now against the reactionaries or the reactionaries will regroup. Americans' support for the liberals alone, as 'revolutionaries,' is naive and shortsighted at best. At worst it's self-serving in the most cynical way; and of course it's counterproductive. Hypocrisy and narcissism are a given. The only reason Iran is getting so much attention is the nuclear issue. No attention to Egypt, Gaza, and the west bank. The dictator Hosni Mubarak is not, contra Obama's praise: "a force for good."
The people of iran are secondary either to idiot romance or Machiavellian schemes. They've been played by all sides.

Makhmalbaf speaks again, even sleazier than the last time.
The NY Times states the obvious:
Clerics May Be Key to Outcome of Unrest

LA Times Middle East Blog Babylon and Beyond
Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, an Iranian ex-pat living in Brazil who writes the popular blog South/South, told Babylon and Beyond she is frustrated by both the hypocrisy of traditional Western media, which remains silent on rigged elections that favor U.S. ally Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and the unreliable nature of citizen journalism.

"[T]here has been a saturation of rumors on Twitter and Facebook, some of them flying off the handle (e.g. Mousavi was never under house arrest, the protests did not reach 3 million over the weekend, etc.). My friends and family in Iran are still able to get through using filter proxies, so I rely on their eyes and ears as well. I've just read such outlandish stuff that I won't report it until I have some way of verifying it," she wrote in an e-mail.

Still, when asked to share her favorite websites for analysis and news on Iran, Gharavi instead offered the Twitter feed of fellow Harvard researcher Alireza Doostdar.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mousavi states his case. It's not much.
Makhmalbaf states his case (to the english speaking audience).
It makes me think he lied about the telephone call from the Ministry, which no one else has backed up.

Either the real action is out of sight or Mousavi is an idiot. Either way Makhmalbaf is an ass.
Take Bagh-e Iman, for example. It is a village of 850 households in the Zagros Mountains near the southwestern Iranian city of Shiraz. According to longtime, close friends who live there, the village is seething with moral outrage because at least two-thirds of all people over 18 years of age believe that the recent presidential election was stolen by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

...Most villagers are supporters of the Islamic Republic, but they are ready for the reforms that they say are essential so that their children will have a secure economic future. They saw hope in Mousavi’s promise to implement reforms, even though he is a part of the governing elite.

But that political elite is divided over how Iran should be governed: a transparent democracy where elected representatives enact laws to benefit the people or a ‘guided democracy’ in which a select few make all decisions because they do not trust the masses to make the right ones. This astute political insight is one that is prevalent in Iran but seems to have escaped the notice of the Western reporters who are trying to explain Iran’s political crisis with resort to simplistic stereotypes.
A letter to As'ad AbuKhalil
That being said, I support the students and protesters in Iran, even the ones chanting Mousavi's name. I believe they are putting their lives on the line to fight for greater freedom, accountability, and democracy within the Islamic Republic, and they have to couch that in the language of Islam and presidential politics in order to avoid even greater repression than that which they already face. A friend who is in Iran right now confirms: "half the kids throwing rocks at the police didn't even vote." To me, that means that they are not fighting for a Mousavi presidency, but for more freedom, which they must hide under a green Mousavi banner in order to have legitimacy in the eyes of the state.
Both sides thought it would be a close election. Add both fraud and a preemptive strike by the Rafsanjani/Mousavi camp, threats and spin from both sides, (and of course heavy funding and who knows what else from the US). But the American public as always are fixated on white and black hats, and on the assumption that white hats can't play dirty. Maybe it was, or would have been, as close as people assumed or maybe not. That's academic at this point.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Leaders of Iran’s ‘Election Coup’
It underplays Rafsanjani a lot, referring to Ahmadinejad's charges of corruption but nothing else.

update: The page is gone. Now at google cache

update #2: And now it's it's back, unchanged except for an additional paragraph
Under Mr. Ahmadinejad, the IRGC has penetrated important sectors of Iran’s economy, and is rapidly developing a monopoly on a majority of a wide range of government projects as well as the private sector. On the other hand, Mr. Rafsanjani and his associates also have extensive economic activities and interests. They also favor foreign investments in the country, whereas the IRGC opposes it because it cannot compete with modern technology and planning.
Read this one as well: Asia Times (final graph):
In respect of the economy, it was quite evident in January when I was last in Teheran, as the only non-Iranian speaker at a high-level conference, that the "reformist" Western financial approach to privatize everything and fuel the economy with debt, has taken a big hit. Here, the reformists are in exactly the same position as Obama: they don't have a Plan B.
Rural Iran and Election Fraud
Something annoys me about Tehran Bureau.
More here
South is South
Jila B. is a civil rights activist and journalist in Iran. Her perspective is as someone from within the crowd to other like-minded people within the crowd, which is why I like it so much: it’s not one of CNN’s iReports or heated Tweets. (Photo: Tehran, by Anonymous. Persian text by Jila B. originally forward to me by Sima. My translation below).

---We were sitting in Azadi Square when all of a sudden I heard successive gunshot noises. Immediately after about 20 to 30 young people moved toward all the street corners from the square. They moved toward the crowd and started yelling, “Why are you sitting here? They have killed 7 people up there, let’s go take revenge for our brothers’ blood.”

‘Some people even had bloody cloths in their hands and said, “This is the blood of your brothers.” But these cloths did not look like actual pieces of clothes. Someone yelled, “I saw with my own eyes that the eye of one young man was taken out of its socket and fell on the ground.” On the whole their behavior and statements were strange, it seemed. Then again some people became emotional and started moving briskly toward street corners but others were gesturing, “Get back in the square!”

‘It seemed [the vanguards] could not or did not want to enter the throngs of thousands of people inside Azadi Square. My observations will become interesting to you when you know that Radio Payam constantly reported today that in the banned demonstrations yesterday [Monday] 7 people were killed. It seems that there is a strange insistence in creating the effects of fear and terror, and in the gatherings we should be cautious about not becoming emotionally trapped by those who persistently emphasize violence.---
From a letter to AA[A]
Incidentally, one of the popular (and hyperbolic) chants at the protests that are going on right now is 'mardom chera neshastin, Iran shode Felestin!" (People, why are you sitting down? Iran has become Palestine!').
But read the whole thing.
In the most specific allegations of rigging yet to emerge, the centrist Ayandeh website – which stayed neutral during the campaign – reported that 26 provinces across the country showed participation figures so high they were either hitherto unheard of in democratic elections or in excess of the number of registered electors.

Dear Editors,

In your issue of November 2001, I found an article on Afghanistan, by an Iranian filmmaker, Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Your editorial note introduced Makhmalbaf as “Iran’s most celebrated film maker and a political prisoner under the Shah.” However, to many of us (Iranian activists of the 70s and 80s), Makhmalbaf’s record is far from this strait forward presentation.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf was imprisoned under the Shah’s regime for his attempt to disarm a police officer. Based on his own account, he was a young man with extreme religious tendencies, whose opposition to the Shah was colored by his hatred of the ex-regime’s policies of secularization (albeit superficial secularization). Following the revolution, Makhmalbaf became the regime’s most active watchman in the movie industry of Iran. In his early interviews (between 1979-1983), he proudly spoke of his role in purging the cultural scene from secular thought. His discourse frequently abused Iranian secular filmmakers, and vilified Iranian Left. During the first three years of revolution, he hailed the fundamentalist oppression of women, students, minorities, and Iranian Left as an authentic Islamic campaign against counter-revolutionary forces. =46ollowing the consolidation of power in 1981 by the fundamentalists, Makhmalbaf extended his cooperation by joining their campaign of terror. When mass arrests, brutal tortures, and summary executions were the order of the day, Makhmalbaf not only supported their policy of terror and torture, but also offered his film making expertise to launch an assault on truth.
For his movie, Boycott, he was allowed inside one of Iran’s most dreadful prisons. There, amid daily atrocities of torture and interrogation, he shot his story using actual leftist political prisoners who were coerced into playing roles for Makhmalbaf’s feature film. The story of this film depicted leftist activists as rigid Stalinist villains, worthy of contempt and scorn. Ironically, Makhmalbaf and company forced these political prisoners into such self-denigrating roles as part of a =93corrective exercise.=94 Tragically, not long after the completion of this movie, a number of these young activists were executed, and their bodies were hastily buried in unmarked graves. I have personally identified and traced the fate of these victims, whom many of us used to know personally. In the history of cinema, I can think of no filmmaker who has committed so blatant an assault on helpless individuals as Makhmalbaf has done without any shame or remorse. Nor, I can believe the indifference that the world has demonstrated with regard to his actions. Appallingly, one can readily purchase this film, a product of forced labor and torture, on videocassette via Internet!
However, in the late 1980s, Makhmalbaf made a face-about in his political attitude, and became an advocate of tolerance and open society. For this, his loyalist friends, whom he had faithfully served during their attempt to consolidate power in Iran, did not spare him. He was threatened and attacked by his ex-associates in the loyalist camp. This dramatic change happened when the fundamentalist regime’s failure in maintaining popular legitimacy was becoming clear to everyone, and specially to many members of their own rank. Despite these intimidations, he has had no problem massively producing, and internationally screening a chain of feature films, unparalleled in quantity and reach, in the history of Iranian cinema. In a country, wherein dissident intellectuals are not allowed to publish something as benign as an encyclopedia of folklore (i.e. Ahmad Shamloo, our national poet), Makhmalbaf and his family (his daughter and sister-in-law) maintain a profile of consistent production and international presence that makes any conscientious observer wonder. Although I condemn any intimidation that he has suffered in the hands of his ex-associates, I detest his obvious lack of integrity that he has skillfully practiced so far.
In today’s Iran, “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Therefore, “there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms.” In ways similar to a morbid symptom, Makhmalbaf and the present brand of henchmen intellectuals tend to express real social afflictions as far as they can manage to compromise its essence and truth. This is what you may have sensed (but left unexplained) as you warned the readers about the political content of Makhmalbaf’s article. In fact, his article is saturated with the uncritical discourse of modernization and economic development that has malaised the aspirations of the people of the region. His pronouncements against the vices of the segmentary society (what he calls tribal society) reflect his deliberate and well disguised attacks on ethnicity and locality. What he has reproached as tribalism has to be renamed as ethnic and local forms of social life. Where he preaches the Gospel of national unity, it must be read as the eradication of ethnic diversity by an administered, homogenizing system. When he boasts of the absence of ethnic predilection among Iranian voters, he has to be reminded of the gruesome massacres of Iranian Kurds, Arabs, Turks, Turkmans, and Balooches, by the fundamentalist regime from 1979 on-ward.
In the “House of Pain” that Makhmalbaf and his associates have built for themselves and us a generation of Iranian political activists walked proudly to their death, as Makhmalbaf cheered on their bloody purge. To his disappointment, a great number of surviving activists are still resisting the fundamentalist rule, while Makhmalbaf is practicing the international fine art of mendacity and deceit. In fact, his humanity has failed repeatedly, and his abysmal failures by no means stop with militant activists. When young Iranian soldiers in Iran-Iraq war were openly named as one-time-use soldiers (a literal and exact translation) by the fundamentalist Defense Minister, and were sent as human waves to the front, Makhmalbaf endorsed the “great war effort to save Islam”.
The sorrow of those days still haunts many of us. Many suffer a silent, consuming agony, as Makhmalbaf’s voice is heard everywhere. =46rom prestigious international film festivals to the recent example in the Monthly Review, Makhmalbaf reaches an ever-growing audience, as his victims lie voiceless, in unmarked graves, and as his survivors are too hopeless to speak of their terrible tragedy. The whole world celebrates his talent, while the ghastly story of his real talent remains completely unsaid.
No one can deny that Makhmalbaf’s article reflects a rather intimate picture of the situation in Afghanistan. But, is this sufficient to include his text in the Monthly Review? No one denies that Makhmalbaf is a celebrated artist, and so does Leni Riefenstahl. Are you considering printing her works, too? No one denies that Makhmalbaf has occasionally said something worthy of hearing, and so did Ernst Junger. Are you about to give him coverage, too?
You suggest that Makhmalbaf’s article has to be read “as a deeply moral and humanitarian account of the tragic circumstances of the Afghan people and the callousness of the West.” It is a bitter irony that while you set out to remedy one example of callousness; you end up committing another one, yourself. For most part, this reveals a lack of awareness that stems from a lack of solidarity with the plight of the Left in non-western societies. Although European fascism and Islamic fundamentalism are diametrically different in content, the rise of fundamentalism for us has been as socially significant as the rise of fascism for European Left. How painful for you, would that be to see a prestigious leftist journal publish the work of the Revisionist Historians of the Third Reich, in an uncritical manner? Would you not rise with a cry of indignation and moral outrage? Would you not rush to defend the victims and to stand with the evidence? Would you not break in sorrow and rage remembering the final hopeless hours of Walter Benjamin and Marc Bloch? I believe that thus doing is the only decent and just choice.
I am aware that many members of Iranian left, today, applaud Makhmalbaf as a true convert. Perhaps, such counsel has influenced your choice, too. However, not so much unlike those among your rank who look to Carl Schmitt for inspiration, these people are invariably of the habit of getting lost in their own mystifications. Likewise, I have no doubt that there are people among us, who readily accept Makhmalbaf as a born-again social democrat, and to celebrate him as the newly baptized child of political pluralism. Ironically, those whose political imagination is raptured by these new converts of “open and civil society,” are promoting their new masters with complete secrecy about their past, lest people know what they are buying into!
Yet, if you are truly after “imparting a message desperately needed in our
times,” please consider making this note available to all your readers, in
its entirety. Perhaps, there is no better opportune time for us to be
heard. Perhaps, it is time to make the voiceless speak. Perhaps it is
time to strip human suffering of its murky obscurity. Until, we decide to
do so,

Suffering is permanent, obscure, and dark,
And has the nature of eternity
William Wordsworth

Yours Truly,

Farzad Bawani.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Revolutionary Bourgeois
I've been making that argument for a long time. The dictators' modernity of Saddam Hussein, the Shah, Sadat, the Turkish military et al. were a sham modernity. What we've been seeing in Turkey and what we're seeing now in Iran is the bourgeois revolution. I linked to this a few days ago:
"You know why so many poorer women voted for Ahmadinejad? There are three million of them who make carpets in their homes. They had no insurance. When Ahmadinejad realised this, he immediately brought in a law to give them full insurance. Ahmadinejad's supporters were very shrewd. They got the people out in huge numbers to vote – and then presented this into their vote for Ahmadinejad."
So Ahmadinejad won the Luddite vote.

This post transcribes a conversation about the vote count:
"(edited only to remove my own ‘yes’ and ‘ok’ and ‘exactly’ and ‘i cannot stand makhmalbaf’ asides)"
And all the great ironic modern Iranian films of course are bourgeois culture, and document the birth of bourgeois culture. As usual, all basic stuff.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Conversation with Grandma after Iran’s elections

From: AA[A]
The "Regime"
Josh Marshall misses the point. A few people have referred to this as an Iranian Tiananmen. I have too but in fact it's more a cross between Tiananmen and Bush vs Gore, with powerful people on both sides. It's a split within "the party" and among the populace. But if it's is resolved peaceably, even with compromise rather than outright victory for one side or the other, Iran will be stronger for it.

Khamenei vs Rafsanjani, or Rafsanjani vs Yazdi and the Republican Guards, with Khamenei in the middle playing all sides to preserve his own authority?

Pepe Escobar is too much of a romantic, but he supplies a lot of information.

Pepe Escobar vs Flynt Leverett: "Ahmadinejad Won. Get Over It"

Helena Cobban:"The whole internal struggle over these issues inside Iran is considerably complicated by the fact that the US government has, even under Obama, been continuing the Bush-initiated program of giving support to dissidents and members of national minorities. That program should stop."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Robert Fisk
Moon of Alabama.
Follow his links and read the comments.
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani at Brookings. His blog

As I said elsewhere, this is an internal matter. Whether it turns out to have been a coup or not is not the most important question for the political leadership of the rest of the world. The central question is this: Between the leadership of Iran and Israel, whose actions have been defined more by rational self-interest and whose by immaturity and recklessness?
Who would you trust to keep his head in a crisis, Netanyahu or Khamenei?

The Israelis are the wild cards, and anyone in American policy circles who says otherwise should by fired as a liar or a fool.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Helena Cobban:
"All this commentating in the American media about whether the Iranian powers-that-be have negated the results of the election held there yesterday prompt me to ask about the Palestinian parliamentary elections of January 2006."

Nice one
It seems like a coup
More from Juan Cole
Iranian Blogs in English

Sheema Kalbasi: From Theocracy To Junta
Yesterday even before the news of Ahmadinejad's win was released I declared in my blog that something funny was going on. Today it is even more evident that something really really funny is going on. Rafsanjani's house is apparently surrounded by security forces. Let's face it Rafsanjani has the most to lose here. His and his sons head is on the line. If there is any chance that this trend is going to be reversed, Rafsanjani will be the key player. Today is the day that the Islamic Republic officially transformed from a theocracy supported by Pasdaran to a Junta supported by a handful of clerics. Whether or not the mullahs who were apparently outraged by Ahmadinejad's statements during televised debates sit on the sideline and watch remains to be seen. The people should not become pawns in this power game.
The Guardian
Wishful Thinking from Tehran
I have been in Iran for exactly one week covering the 2009 Iranian election carnival. Since I arrived, few here doubted that the incumbent firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad would win. My airport cab driver reminded me that the president had visited every province twice in the last four years – "Iran isn't Tehran," he said. Even when I asked Mousavi supporters if their man could really carry more than capital, their responses were filled with an Obamasque provisional optimism – "Yes we can", "I hope so", "If you vote." So the question occupying the international media, "How did Mousavi lose?" seems to be less a problem of the Iranian election commission and more a matter of bad perception rooted in the stubborn refusal to understand the role of religion in Iran.

Of course, the rather real possibility of voter fraud exists and one must wait in the coming weeks to see how these allegations unfold. But one should recall that in three decades of presidential elections, the accusations of rigging have rarely been levied against the vote count. Elections here are typically controlled by banning candidates from the start or closing opposition newspapers in advance.

In this election moreover, there were two separate governmental election monitors in addition to observers from each camp to prevent mass voter fraud. The sentimental implausibility of Ahmedinejad's victory that Mousavi's supporters set forth as the evidence of state corruption must be met by the equal implausibility that such widespread corruption could take place under clear daylight. So, until hard evidence emerges that can substantiate the claims of the opposition camp we need to look to other reasons to explain why so many are stunned by the day's events.
I don't know one way or the other about the level of fraud but I was put off last night by Mousavi's early claims of victory with nothing to back it up. And I'm not a big fan of youthquakes, but I am one of democracy. We'll see.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The basic scheme is to weaken Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and democracy in the middle east in favor of dictatorships, monarchies, Israel, and 'stability.'

But it won't work that way. Hamas and Hezbollah know that political gamesmanship can wield as much force as military action. Israel's leadership by comparison is immature. And Turkey is engaging Israel not supporting it. Assad is trying to hold on, but better for the Syrian dictatorship to fail slowly. The Saudis as well. Egypt can move faster. Iran of course even more quickly. But the losers in the long run will be the US, the Saudis, the dictators and the Israelis.
The danger in the middle east comes from the Saudis, the Israelis and the US. Of the three the US is the one capable of playing the game and accepting defeat like an adult. That's the change.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

AbuKhalil is an important read for the elections in Lebanon and Iran in context, but I think I'm going to start calling him 'AAA': Angry Arab Aristocrat, since you really get the sense that democracy is frustrating to him. He defends it when it suits him. He reminds me of Leiter, with Leiter preferring an aristocracy of technocrats (while not really having much interest in democracy at all.) Also Arabist. I left a comment on a post at The Forward saying the obvious: that Zionism was and is racial separatism and therefore could never be considered a liberal belief. It was removed.

History is Bunk

A physicist talks about religion
That’s why it’s equally crazy to believe that science and religion are two distinct, non-overlapping magisteria that simply never address the same questions. That bizarre perspective was advanced by Stephen Jay Gould in Rocks of Ages, but if you read the book carefully you find that his definition of “religion” is simply “moral philosophy.” Which is not what the word means, or how people use it, or how actual religious people think of their beliefs. Religion makes claims about the real world, and some of those claims — not all — can be very straightforwardly judged by the criteria of science. We do not need to invoke spirits being breathed into fertilized eggs in order to understand life, for example. And the fact that science has taught us so much about the workings of the world has enormous consequences for how we should think about moral and ethical questions, even if it can’t answer such questions all by itself.
My comments on the page were in response to others' more than the post, which I'd only skimmed. But then I looked at it again.

Over the course of human history the function of religion has been social order and continuity. All truth is social truth. But when science is seen as undermining community then religion is ideologized in a defensive response as asocial truth. Any anthropologist will tell you this but those who ideologlize their own capacity for reason find it easier to examine the patterns others ascribe to themselves rather than those that are clearly more important for the understanding of their behavior. If you are not willing to imagine the possibility of your own predisposition, preferences, habits or the subtext to your own thoughts -call it the unconscious if you want, but if not, not- then you are not able to imagine them in others, even when doing so you would allow you to see the patterns of behavior very clearly.

Similarly, modern secular law is first of all a formal system of behavior regulation, not a formal system for determining truth.
From comments: s.e.
We makes rules and then we follow them even when they lead to decisions that do not follow from the truth, but which preserve a sense of formal and thus moral balance, When we want to change them we or our elected representatives go through all sorts of convoluted rituals to make sure we accept [should be 'agree on'] the new terms. My interpretation of this logic requires me to be a defender of the decision by the US Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona. But I am also not a defender of the decision by the Catholic Church in Galileo v. Holy Trinity
There’s a bit of a disjunction, but I think it’s necessary. Others don't.

I like this one: Chomsky will go down in history as a great amateur reporter of facts who spent his professional career attacking their importance. Said it before.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ahh... that damned popular vote

And from a few days ago
Meet the new MP, Khalid Daher. He won on the Hariri list in `Akkar. This Bin Ladenite is now part of the coalition that the Western media insists on labeling as "pro-Western." I am not sure how Daher would react if you were to call him "pro-Western." Pro-medieval would be more appropriate. Mr. Daher allegedly helped recruit volunteers for Abu Mus`ab Zarqawi. By the way, was Zarqawi "pro-Western" too?
And on the elections in Iran, what's most interesting to me is that what was always obvious to those who paid any attention at all is now clear to most people who claimed to and didn't, as well as to the casual, lazy, observer: Iran has a thriving political culture. The popular and official American recognition of that fact is more important to stability in the middle east than who wins the race.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

sleepy 06.09.09 at 5:59 pm
My point is that as a model of the world as opposed to formal logic Davidson’s model is absurd on its face. It’s contradicted by the facts. The answer to the question is no. you cannot translate Mallarmé without losing information. In fact you can’t re-create or re-produce anything without change if only in context.

The same absurdity holds for Quine and for naturalist epistemology as something running parallel to the hard sciences. His is not a model of the world but of an enclosed formal system.
“The continentals” on the other hand construct a model not of the world but of behavior in the world Attitudes are manners of conduct. And as I keep trying to point out, lawyers as opposed to legal philosophers do the same thing. John Mortimer’s philosophy as a jobbing lawyer was a model of behavior, of conduct and attitude, not of ideal.

Thinking in terms of models of behavior helps us to be aware of tendencies not towards rationality but rationalization, including rationalizing behavior such as excluding those who tread on your turf for the sole reason that they’ve done so. while finding ways to justify that exclusion by spurious logic.
That I think was the subject of the post.

engels 06.09.09 at 6:16 pm
Quine: No statement is immune to revision..
Rousseau: Commençons donc par écarter tous les faits, car ils ne touchent point à la question. Il ne faut pas prendre les recherches, dans lesquelles on peut entrer sur ce sujet…

engels 06.09.09 at 6:18 pm
Quine: No statement is immune to revision…
Rousseau: Commençons donc par écarter tous les faits, car ils ne touchent point à la question.

sleepy 06.09.09 at 6:56 pm
“Mistakes were made.”
It makes sense that a logician wouldn’t be aware of the history of the passive voice and think it meaningless.
Do I have to explain it to you too?

When you’re willing to revise any of your own statements let me know.

sleepy 06.10.09 at 3:16 am
I think in the last two I said just about all I ever wanted to say on this site.
I described what I’ve always assumed to be obvious, in a way that I think made that obviousness quite clear.
Thank you Engels for lobbing me that softball pitch that allowed me my coda.
And again: removed
First, translators, now add theater critics:
Olivier’s Hamlet is not the same as Burton’s. Amazing that men and women as vested in civil society as you can have entire careers founded on distinctions that you and Donald Davidson says simply don’t exist.

Meanings accrue to language when you use it. Meanings accrue by way of context, inflection, and volume. By Davidson’s definition of language cadence means nothing. Choosing to use or not use alliteration means nothing. Using the passive voice means nothing. Really, the Quine bit was hilarious. That’s mid-century Americanism in a nutshell.
Talking about ideas as a way to delude oneself into thinking you’re not talking about values. Every social gesture you make is a manifestation of values. Which is why what I argue against are not ideas but the efficiency expert’s picture of the world; an efficiency expert’s definition of what’s valuable and what’s not.

Two sentences in two languages are can never be seen as two sides of an equation. What one person says and what another hears can’t either. That’s the way the world works. Just reread this thread: it’s pure symptom.
You’re not modeling the world, you’ve modeling your own desires, and making careers out of it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

How does a logician argue with a liar? If it's 'true' that the person is a liar what technique must the logician apply to come to the proper conclusion?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Ron Kampeas on Blumenthal's video, [link updated-comments stripped] which was censored by HuffPo. Read Kampeas and scroll down to the comment by 'Jerry Haber'. Haber's site: The Magnes Zionist
Egyptian responses to Obama's speech.

Human Spin Watch Catchy title. [archive.org]
HRW sends out a press release response to the speech then sends out a note to ignore it and wait for a new one.
It’s not that the final release is that bad, although the initial one was better as far as HRW’s remit — human rights — are concerned. But the initial one had a lot more info about the problematic nature of having Egypt, a serial abuser, as host and also raises the bilateral issue of rendition, an ongoing program Obama did not cancel

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My own comments on Obama in Cairo pretty much begin and end here.

Addendum: Obama in 2002
Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

Chinese Internet Maintenance Day

The Guardian
Hossam el-Hamalawy
His last comments were in the Times, this is in the Huffington Post. More here.
Right before he took off from DC, on what the media has been depicting as some “odyssey,” to address the Muslim World from Cairo, President Obama had described the 81-year-old Egyptian President Mubarak as a “force for stability.”This week Cairo and its twin city Giza have been a showcase of what this “stability” cost.
The capital is under occupation. Security troops are deployed in the main public squares and metro stations. [Arabic] Citizens were detained en masse and shops were told to close down [Arabic] in Bein el-Sarayat area, neighboring Cairo University, where Obama will be speaking. In Al-Azhar University, the co-host of the “historical speech,” State Security police raided and detained at least 200 foreign students, held them without charges in unknown locations. Exams were postponed in the major universities fearing demonstrations, and students were told to stay at home. And in several areas in Cairo and Giza, there will be in effect a curfew, where shops won’t be allowed to open, citizens instructed not to open their windows. Almost everyone I know will be staying home tomorrow watching Obama’s speech, not necessarily because they are keen on knowing what the freshly-elected US leader has to say to the Muslim world, but because they know it will be virtually impossible to move anywhere in the city on Thursday thanks to Obama’s force-for-stability host.
And remember please, that M.J. Rosenberg has argued that 'we" need to deal with Arab dictators because Arab democracy is dangerous for Israel.

As'ad AbuKhalil:"What can you say about Obama? It will--and should--be remembered that he praised the "wisdom" of the Saudi King. What is next? Will he praise the public beheadings in the kingdom as example of ideal justice?"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

In honor of an "upcoming guest" on another site, the author of The Dignity of Working Men. I added a new tag, "Dayjob," though I haven't had one in a while, at least in construction. I put it together by searching the archives for various references to plaster, sheetrock, dust, etc. so a few of the posts may be related only tangentially. I posted most of the below as a group once before, pulling from various shorter posts I wrote while working for one company in 2005-6. At that point I hadn't worked on a large crew in years. I have stories going back to the early 80's but I never wrote anything down. These I wrote out at the end of the day while they were fresh in my mind. The dialogue is verbatim, but you'll have to imagine the timing and in the best of them the timing was perfect.

"It's Adolf Hitler and his faithful West Indian companion!"
"I'm just flabbergasted by the antiquity of this shit"
[Two Latino kids]
"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]
The other electrician showed up today. Walter. A round little Polish man who yells at everyone, then smiles, then goes back to yelling. Last year I remember he showed us a picture of his wife on his cell phone: a round little polish woman with a warm lascivious grin on her face. He flashes it around and winks.
"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"
[He liked to tell a story about being outside pulling a delivery off a truck on a cold day, without a coat. And a little old Jewish lady who told him he'd freeze his tuchus off.]
The unsmiling Russian who runs the freight elevator 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.
You have a table saw in the basement?
In the boiler room. Below the basement.
Below the basement?
Fiddler's Green.
What's that?
The Place below Hell ...What kind of God would send a man to Hell? I couldn't do it. Not to anyone. Not even Hitler. And he was bad. Not even to de Valera, and he was worse than Hitler. Smaller scale, but worse. And they voted him in again and again. They voted him in. The same people who go to the park to look at the shower curtains. He was worse than Bush. He was much worse than Bush!
[The "shower curtains" are Christo's Gates, temporarily installed in Central Park]
"I bought my first fucking building at 17. I got three apartment buildings and a net worth of 3.5 million... and I still work like a pig!. Why!? I don'fuckingknow!"
F is worth more than three million dollars, and he doesn't wear a dust mask on the job. He'll be coughing blood in 20 years. He's been offering me references to other contractors and I've been turning him down. I tell people I could maintain a low grade coke habit and take a year off without a problem. But I've been sick since the first week; it's the dustiest job I've ever been on. It's a fucking dustmine. And again I'm not like F. I live a different sort of terror. He says: "Stay Kosher."
"Happy Good Friday, Motherfucker."
This is funny.
[found here]

I'm probably going to have to spend some time with The Craftsman, if only at the bookstore, but I get the sense that Sennett doesn't quite get the point.

Craft isn't a value. It's simply how we communicate with each other. You can either accept that, as practicing lawyers, screenwriters for HBO, and the girl you didn't go home with last night do, or like Brian Leiter, John Rawls, Brad DeLong, and the vast majority of the Anglo-American academic intellectual apparat, you can pretend. From the blurb:
Sennett expands previous notions of crafts and craftsmen and apprises us of the surprising extent to which we can learn about ourselves through the labor of making physical things.
Making physical things is not the point. Understanding that we are physical beings is the point.
Hossam el-Hamalawy in the Times
The bridge I take to work in central Cairo was painted overnight. On the roads, colored concrete blocks were installed in turns where car accidents happen daily. Main streets in the neighboring city of Giza are suddenly blossoming with flowers. Street lamps are polished, and they are actually working. This could mean only one thing: our country is receiving an “important” foreign visitor.

President Obama should not have decided to come to Egypt. The visit is a clear endorsement of President Hosni Mubarak, the ailing 81-year-old dictator who has ruled with martial law, secret police and torture chambers. No words that Mr. Obama will say can change this perception that Americans are supporting a dictator with their more than $1 billion in annual aid.
Arabist is on the link list on the right.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Subtext is for Other People

[If the video is gone. “Dworkin, Posner, and Legal Realism,” 1st Annual Distinguished Lecture in Jurisprudence, Northwestern University School of Law (2009)]

Brian Leiter is performing in front of an audience. He's performing his arguments concerning realism. Is his performance an example of the philosophy he defends? Is the performance a manifestation of realist philosophy, or of something else: of Dworkin's ideal of integrity?
According to Leiter the idealism of the academy can be shown in its logical demonstrations of the political reality... outside the academy.
Between Leiter and Dworkin; I'd choose Mortimer.

Leiter at one point says that Dworkin and Scalia have a lot on common, as if that's either a surprise or a weakness. They each interpret from a preference and label that preference the correct one. But they're lawyers and that's what lawyers do. The difference is that in philosophical argument they're representing their own preferences, not others'. They're their own clients, as Leiter is above. But Leiter pretends almost to be capable of performing the physically impossible act of putting himself under a microscope and looking through the lens. That pretense was always the major modernist delusion.
Amusing also that when he takes a swig from a water bottle he holds it between his thumb and one finger, like the proper holding of a tea cup or a ballerina en pointe. Contact with material things reminds us of our physicality. A material thing whether living or inert is an object in space, and a view from any point in space and time is a perspective, something BL does not want to be reminded that he has.
Dayton, Dahlan, Abbas and assassinations
But on human rights, I fear he will disappoint: I asked him straight whether Hosni Mubarak (the Egyptian leader for 28 years!) was an autocrat. Mr Obama told me he was a force for stability and good."
Obama is a politician. Politicians deal in corruption, in the sense that corruption is self-interest. Obama's interests are his own and those of the US, and of the US as he defines them. His main concern is the US, Israel, the Palestinians, not democracy as such.
If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."
Nothing new. John Brown... again. I don't like politicians much, but I can respect the ones who know they're assholes. So far I don't have much respect for Obama, but things could be a lot worse. 
Credit where credit is due.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Was John Mortimer an Irrationalist?

Elsewhere, in response to a question.
Make it Idiot-proof V:

I would say what needs to happen, and what is happening, is a return to an idea of social self-fashioning. How do we define our relationship to one another? Are we monads or do we exist, as we measure ourselves, only through others?
We're moving away from the modern fixation on 'truth' and back towards a more humanist attention to doubt and its pleasures. This has nothing to do with religion per se
Doing these cases,” he wrote, “I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate. I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying. I was no longer entirely what my professional duties demanded, the old taxi on the rank waiting for the client to open the door and give his instruction, prepared to drive off in any direction, with the disbelief suspended."
[previously linked here]
John Mortimer was a craftsman, as a lawyer and a novelist. Truth wasn't his job, more than to play a part in revealing its approximation, for the moment.
I'm not going to go out of my way to give credit to John Holbo and Belle Waring for their geeks fondness for craftsmanship, but they're winding his way in Mortimer's direction (as in one way we all are)

I'm not interested in solving questions once and for all, that's a Liberal's fixation. I'm more interested in trying to make sure that future generations will have the flexible imaginations to think clearly and deal with ambiguities as they arrive.
The classic defense of the free market is that its openness and vulgarity act as an astringent, testing and tightening thought what would otherwise risk becoming arid blather. But now that the market has reached the academy it wants to escape its roots. So we have an academy predicated not on the hopes of the humanities and of democracy but on the technocratic logic of reactionary schoolmen.
The second age of the schoolmen is ending.
Josh Marshall quotes Marcus Epstein
Diversity can be good in moderation -- if what is being brought in is desirable. Most Americans don't mind a little ethnic food, some Asian math whizzes, or a few Mariachi dancers -- as long as these trends do not overwhelm the dominant culture.
In other words, we don't mean Israel has to be literally 100% Jewish so long as the outsiders stick to marginalized and degraded roles in kitschy entertainment and ethnic cooking.
Epstein makes the argument for the two state solution that that both he and Marshall defend.

And again. The schmuck is half Jewish and half Korean. How is this post-racial?
The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not an invention of maverick guards, but part of a system of ill-treatment and degradation used by special forces soldiers that is now being disseminated among ordinary troops and contractors who do not know what they are doing, according to British military sources.
The techniques devised in the system, called R2I - resistance to interrogation - match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.
Link from AA
Laura Rozen links to Hussein Ibish who's a putz.
Ali Abunimah believes what Laura Rozen being a Zionist does not, and what Hussein Ibish being a self-important weakling can not: that Zionism is racism and that a non-racist state in this century is a multi-ethnic one.
So much for the fucking obvious.