Saturday, January 30, 2010

From the archives: VooDoo Lounge, Las Vegas, 4 AM

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Republicans made a mistake letting Obama speak to them on camera, and somehow this is seen as news, even among liberals. Democrats avoid confronting Republicans in public, though if they stuck to the principles they claim to represent they'd win every time. But liberals have contempt for the conservatives' audience, and their fear and insecurity keeps them from facing them. This is true at the level of blogs as well. Snobbery is a sign of insecurity, not confidence. The logic of the Republican base is that it's better to be lied to by a friendly con-man than be condescended to by a pedant. And every slip of the mask of blithe moral superiority worn by the pedant gets paid for in political blood. Again, as I've said, the interesting thing about Stewart and Colbert is that they don't condescend. They have right-wingers on and show them for what they are, and yet the right-wing base doesn't attack.

Polling and Passivity.
Stewart leads the way again in popular discussion of political philosophy. He explains the problem but doesn't range for enough. Politicians fear and have contempt for the people;  the right and the "left" fear and have contempt for each other. The end result is an elite culture of political mediocrity, a culture that includes Atrios, TPM, Media Matters and all those who mock the "cool kids" to the extent that all of them lag behind the pundits of Comedy Central in political maturity. And though they're loathe to admit it (and even Stewart may not quite understand his role) this begins with the academic, now institutional, fear of subjectivity and the desire for "objective" information, so that as Stewart points out, you get graphs now of the opinions of people who don't know anything because all they're ever heard is descriptions of the opinions they supposedly already have. And over all this the liberal intellectual elite moan and groan about the mediocrity of others. Liberals are so caught up in their pretensions of individualism and so horrified by the possibility that they're as tribal as the right that they refuse to face them. And Zionist liberals have to see themselves as liberal even if they're not. American Manichaeism as phobic. Krugman backed Bernanke and the response was not even polite criticism but silence. Why? Because when everyone claims to be idealist the fact of real politics has to be hidden.

Speech Therapy - Post-Racial

Chris Matthews is from north-east Philadelphia: "the Great Northeast". You can hear his background in his accent. He's from "Phiwy." And no one from the city would ever forget he's white.
moved here
As always in the public arguments over social policy, whether it's the hijab or late term abortion, liberal positions are couched only on the laziest and most self-serving terms. It's not a choice between "freedom", "choice", and "morality", but between cheap moralizing and moral seriousness.
As with my earlier comments on Citizens United and Brown being outside the curve of public sentiment (and we can add Roe), there's a tension between public freedom and public responsibility, and tension in the question of who should decide. I've been waiting for someone to bring this up and someone finally did in comments elsewhere: ban the niqab; ban the cloister. Ban the Christian veil. Ban the requirement that ultra-orthodox women shave their heads (a wig is their hijab).

The arguments in this case are stupid. But there is a difference between the obligations of citizens to their society and the claims of an empire that its subjects, who are its victims, owe it deference. In Australia there is no freedom not to vote, and I'm not opposed in principle to the opposite: strict requirements to earn the right of suffrage. The only universal foundation required of a just society is the right to leave. There are fundamentally unjust societies, but there also are varieties of justice. The main division, and I've been arguing this point since I was in my early 20s, is the division between culture and its opposite: the anti-society of fascism. The settlers on the west bank are fascist; Hamas is not. Conservatives and even most reactionaries are not fascist. Pretty girls in Fendi scarves are not a danger to the republic, and it's deeply counterproductive to think otherwise. People who are made nervous by the hijab should be made nervous by a nun. Or if they're not, maybe it's something else?

Fun with anthropologists
"Glamour is the performativity of the sexually intimidating woman - intimidating according to conservative gender roles: the woman not as passive but as judge."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reading Steinberg's "The Philosophical Brothel."

Still surprised by the filters used by modern/modernist intellectuals to interpret the preoccupations of themselves and their compatriots. As with Eliot, the theme is not "form" but a fear of the power of representation and of what will be represented if representation is allowed its full weight. And it is allowed that weight here as in Eliot's poetry. That's the greatness and the terror. The painting first and foremost is if not a castration scene then a description of the terror that the act or worse may be in the offing, with the painter/viewer as the victim. Talk of form and formalism was an absurd cover, as absurd as any talk of "advancement" in the arts; and even those who eschew formalist arguments to this day argue from pretensions of progress.

The importance of Les Demoiselles D'Avignon is less that it marks the beginning of Cubism than that it marks the high point. The work after it slides downhill -first gradually, later quickly- away from representation towards formalism, the "meaning" of ideas, and the logic of intention.
...the three central figures address the observer with unsparing directness. Neither active nor passive, they are simply alerted, responding to an alerting attentiveness on our side.
5 lines later
The Picture is a tidal wave of female aggression, one either experiences the Demoiselles as an onslaught, or shuts it off.
It's less that all these terms are mutually exclusive than that Steinberg is still coming to terms with them.

The sharpest melon slice in the history of art.
[Below, published a couple of days later 1/29/10, and forgotten. It makes more sense to join them.]

More, because I'm still reading, and it's apropos: the intellectual's unawareness, méconnaissance, of sexuality, their own and others. He spends a lot of time arguing that the central figure in the painting is in an ambiguous position: upright signaling recumbence. And he worries that he may be wrong.

Recumbency, passivity and objecthood. Posing, presentation and gender roles. Googling the phrase "her arms framing her face" got 8 hits. "Her arms frame her face" got 547. And on... The aggression was new, recumbence and mockery, in 1906.

Also of course, earlier, recumbence and boredom, Manet, and for Picasso, Duchamp.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are crap at the media war and any Palestinians who come across in the West as sympathetic, well-informed, persuasive, are sure to be sidelined by a Palestinian leadership ever alert to internal threats to their power (hence not much sign of Hanan Ashrawi on the box recently).
White people talking to white people about the negro problem.
My comment (I didn't think it would go through, it was for Bertram to find in the filter) was written by As'ad AbuKhalil
"It is of course coincidental that American media are now paying tributes to Salam Fayyad (the Israeli/American puppet in Ramallah and who was assigned as the successor to Abu Mazen when the latter is still alive which explains the tensions between the two puppets these days). One article after another. The Israeli press is more coy because they know that they would hurt their puppet with praise. But I want to finally say a word about Hanan Ashrawi: I never met her although we appeared once in a TV interview. Edward Said was right in his suspicions about her especially after Oslo. She clearly wants to play it safe and both ways: she claims that she speaks for human rights when (as the article in Newsweek clearly shows) she is very close behind-the-scenes to Salam Fayyad. Let us not forget that she and Fayyad ran on the same list in the last Palestinian legislative election-under-occupation and they both received a whopping 2.4% of the vote. Ashrawi praises her partner (I almost said collaborator) by saying that he does not "aim to please." She must have meant that he does not aim to please the Palestinian people because he is busy aiming to please the American-Israeli masters. Ashrawi was silent about the corruption of the PLO and the secret deals and collaboration between the Ramallah gang and the Israeli occupying master. Ashrawi lost her ability to have it both ways a long time ago: she should be considered exactly where she squarely is: fixed in the Dahlan camp."
Read Bertram's quote again. Understand how self-serving i is.
continuing, yesterday

Architecture as material and idea, and historicist kitsch, by Anton Furst for Tim Burton (1989) and Michael Graves for the Humana Corporation (1985).

Architecture as experience, and as light, again by Edward Yang, Yi Yi, though you could just as easily use Wong Kar Wei, Hou Hsiao-hsien or any number of others...

and by Jean Nouvel.

L'Institut du Monde Arabe

Architecture as material and as experience: Yi Yi...

and The Wire

Last link from a friend.

The link's dead. Now "Baltimore as World and Representation" by Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle. They wrote a book.

My usual complaints apply. Toscano contributes to a journal that wear's others' mockery with pride. The top of its About page. Now also at
Salvage is a quarterly of revolutionary arts and letters.

Salvage is edited and written by and for the desolated Left, by and for those committed to radical change, sick of capitalism and its sadisms, and sick too of the Left’s bad faith and bullshit.

Salvage has earned its pessimism. Salvage yearns for that pessimism to be proved wrong.

Salvage brings together the work of those who share a heartbroken, furious love of the world, and our rigorous principle: Hope is precious; it must be rationed.
And at the bottom, along with the praise, 
“an overdesigned manual in nihilist navel gazing”
“Coffee table architectural favela porn.”
It looks like it was designed by Bruce Mau.

Edward Yang's descriptions mark him as a bourgeois humanist. The Wire is harsh realism, descriptions of a harsh reality, the weakness of people. The moralizing anomie of Salvage is the nihilism of snobs, mourning the failure of others to live up to an idea they could never live up to themselves.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

From the immateriality of ideas, and idées fixes, to the immateriality of light.

Architecture and culture: Batman by Tim Burton and Production designer Anton Furst, and 20 years later by Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister; Koolhaas, Graves, Stern, to Jean Nouvel; capitalism. The Joker: Jack Nicholson's camp killer clown to Heath Ledger's psychotic deity. All that is solid melts into air and all that is not becomes material. Burton/Furst's Gotham was Gothic Art Deco: overdetermined historicist kitsch—a city by Michael Graves as bad joke—and Nolan's (in The Dark Knight) is modernist post Jacques Tati and Dan Graham and Alphaville/Tokyrama, Hong Kong by Godard, John Woo and Ringo Lam; but also Edward Yang's Taipei. Objects and structures framing windows and mirrors are now less important than the light that passes through or reflects off them.

Yi Yi

expanded, continuing

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two posts from the past on the old WLIB and the politics of Air America.
Now gone
Democrats in elected office are not that 'liberal,' they're Republicans without the courage of their convictions. The Republicans lead them where they're afraid to go on their own, and then they blame "the people." Josh Marshall et al go back and forth from laying blame and decrying the blame game.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There is the question of "right answers" and also of what we value. Does the court in Citizens United describe what we value now as a country? Did the court, in Brown v Board of Education describe what the nation valued at the time?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mass Backwards
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

As always: what applies to the democrats applies to the "serious" culture of the country as a whole.

A friend pointed out who David Walker works for.
I watched the clip, not the show.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

From recent archives

Something to add to the list.
Henry Vyverberg, Historical Pessimism in the French Enlightenment (Harvard University Press, 1958).

The Modern age begins around 1500 with the Renaissance, not the Enlightenment. That big shot college professors who call themselves humanists could say otherwise, and in the most offhand way, is just bizarre to me.
On my mind again, since I've just found more examples.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The implications are not good.
The US should go in under cover of the UN, even if it's only a facade. But Americans are always on the lookout for another justification for exceptionalism.

Tracy Kidder
THOSE who know a little of Haiti’s history might have watched the news last night and thought, as I did for a moment: “An earthquake? What next? Poor Haiti is cursed.”

But while earthquakes are acts of nature, extreme vulnerability to earthquakes is manmade. And the history of Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters — to floods and famine and disease as well as to this terrible earthquake — is long and complex, but the essence of it seems clear enough.

Haiti is a country created by former slaves, kidnapped West Africans, who, in 1804, when slavery still flourished in the United States and the Caribbean, threw off their cruel French masters and created their own republic. Haitians have been punished ever since for claiming their freedom: by the French who, in the 1820s, demanded and received payment from the Haitians for the slave colony, impoverishing the country for years to come; by an often brutal American occupation from 1915 to 1934; by indigenous misrule that the American government aided and abetted. (In more recent years American administrations fell into a pattern of promoting and then undermining Haitian constitutional democracy.)

Hence the current state of affairs: at least 10,000 private organizations perform supposedly humanitarian missions in Haiti, yet it remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Some of the money that private aid organizations rely on comes from the United States government, which has insisted that a great deal of the aid return to American pockets — a larger percentage than that of any other industrialized country.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eric Rohmer 1920-2010.
The weakness of his films was that his characters were always inferior to their creator. He made films about the foibles of others. A poet of conservatism, but a good one. He was a keen observer, a voyeur, and a creep, for those who paid attention. He was honest. The only virtue for art.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Model 1 #2
Still rough.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Pinky [aka js paine] is back.
(or maybe never went away?)
scroll to comments.

Found by accident, but not unrelated, and not bad. He scores some points.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Monday, January 04, 2010

note taking. all comments removed by admin.

A realistic economics is the study of human frailty not human progress, but economics is defined first as the optimistic study of the stupidity of others then rationalized into a moral celebration of greed. A disinterested celebration of interested reason? But there is no necessary/logical relation of technical to moral progress; increased complexity is just that.

Realism implies a certain cynicism about others so I was raised to understand greed, but also not to be greedy; that duality is lost on both most economists and most liberals. A history of the modern academy would show that the fixation on money began in the 70’s first with the astronomical rise in salaries of administrators and the concomitant shrinking of the salaries of faculty. It became a scandal decades ago. [link] Then the faculty caught on. The contemporary culture of academia, of professional intellectuals, is one of a neoliberal individualism (as others have said: traceable to the 60's). That some are paid $150,000 or more to preach against neoliberalism is irrelevant. And the vast majority of course teach the theory of determinism, for thee (or them) but not for me (or us). It’s annoying that all those so fond of the terminology of memes aren’t capable of imagining their own fixations as a prime example. The “science” of history has been shown to be bunk it seems unless it's the history of the present.

The parallels are to literary or political theory and philosophy that refuse to respond to actual data that undermine their formalisms. You can develop formal truths that will not represent the world outside themselves, or you can settle for imperfect descriptions of the world. Some people choose the former and try to claim them as a model of representation. To go back to an earlier thread, I call that a good description of Modernism, of a specific response to the problem of modernity.


Chomsky’s attack on Skinner: Not because he was wrong but because he had to be, because the results were morally offensive. Chomsky attacked not only Skinner but empiricism and has been forced back again and again by the results of experiment and observation and the data that have come from it. His theories are mythologies that he holds onto because for whatever reason he thinks he must. He’s considered the world’s most important intellectual only on account of the empiricism of his reportage. His moral philosophy begins in a Jewish intellectual idealism not unlike the Chicago economists of the same generation.

Donald Davidson: On “Conceptual Schemes”: Empirically provable as false. You cannot “translate” Pushkin. Full stop.

The Trolley Problem: In the search for context-free truths the history of responses to this problem in actually existing society are ignored. The military is run on utilitarianism to the point where it is the job of some men to decide the fate of others. They are not allowed to even eat at the same table. Friendships in the strict sense of the term are forbidden. Common sense morality can be defined as morality among equals. Utilitarianism puts a strain on the community that can be resolved through use of formal structures. An anthropologist will recognize these roles immediately but a modern professor of philosophy will not see outside his blinders. There is no “right” answer to the trolley problem.

Rawls: Begins with a speculative fiction, the study of which has at the very least slowed us down in our understanding of ourselves. Raymond Geuss seems to have figured that out.

None of this is first and foremost a conspiracy, but it does become absurd

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Model 2. Some minor changes.
Back to work on the Model 1.
Again, with Guido Garfunkel
AA is a genius.
The next Al Qaeda idiot/asshole will be a blue-eyed blonde.
Amazing. An sad.
You would think careerism would be something someone who professes to be a "philosopher" would oppose on principle. "Should Graduate Students Publish Outside Mathematics Journals?" "Agriculture Journals?" "Biology Journals?" This is where Sputnik lead us: the desperate and absurd attempt of the humanities to become sciences.

There are facts out there but we know them only through our points of view, which become subjectivities that we're the last to recognize. The authors of the post above will end up embarrassed by what they've written, or their students or their students' students will be embarrassed for them. That's just the way it works.
Link, of course, from Brian Leiter

I’m on the final chapter of my long-promised Zombie Economics, dealing with ideas refuted by the Global Financial Crisis. My target this time is privatisation – more precisely, the idea that privatisation will always yield an improvement over public ownership, and, therefore that market liberalism is an advance on the mixed economy that developed in the during the post-1945 long boom. 
As always, comments, criticism and suggestions much appreciated.
comments removed, or will be I assume. [they left most of them up. others in moderation didn't make it]
Joaquin Tamiroff 01.03.10 at 5:23 pm
An important question to ask is less about economics, and less about regulation and law, than about culture. Question to ask the people of any country:
“What if any general obligations above and beyond those mandated by law do you feel towards anyone outside of your immediate family?”
“How far for you do those obligations extend?”
Obligation is the dark matter of political economy

And in relation to the Soviet Union we have the model of China and Singapore, of Microsoft and Google. And the “coalition of mixed economies” had a leader more than willing to undermine decision-making in its junior partners and democracy itself in those countries who supplied its raw materials. 
bianca steele 01.03.10 at 6:19 pm
I don’t think asking “Do you have ethics or not?” is enough.

Joaquin Tamiroff 01.03.10 at 6:57 pm

bianca @#26
There’s an argument that says the obligations of a board of directors are to the shareholders and no one else. But the Scandinavian anomaly is cultural before its economic, and a level of socialism is rational to those who think it is, as much as unalloyed self-interest is to those with different assumptions about their own behavior.

The cold war obsession with “freedom” rendered any interest in culturalism and behaviorism untoward. Unfortunately it also gave license for people to claim that freedom was what they represented even as they declared others unworthy of enjoying it. Methodological and cultural individualism are related to one another more than many still want to admit. That’s for historians to examine; but since we’re still in an age when many are still trying to imagine themselves as an end to history such efforts are unpopular. Empiricism built on old rationalist assumptions is of limited use.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Max Rodenbeck on Lee Smith. From Arabist
America's Disappeared
"If you don't have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he's illegal, we can make him disappear." Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008. Also present was Amnesty International's Sarnata Reynolds, who wrote about the incident in the 2009 report "Jailed Without Justice" and said in an interview, "It was almost surreal being there, particularly being someone from an organization that has worked on disappearances for decades in other countries. I couldn't believe he would say it so boldly, as though it weren't anything wrong."

Pendergraph knew that ICE could disappear people, because he knew that in addition to the publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is also confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants--nary a sign, a marked car or even a US flag.