Thursday, September 30, 2010

Deafman Glance

Wilson's theater is called a "theater of images", part of a history of abstract non-representational art made in the context of representational means; think the formalism of Eliot going back through James, through the decadence of Huysmans and the aestheticism of Pater (as always I repeat myself). This modernism is distinct from the modernism of the abstract ideal; it's the formalism of stifled desire, of representation sought, denied and affirmed in an absence that the form itself is constructed to describe. It's the bowl and the water that dare not speak its name.

The distinction between the two is ignored by much modern criticism, at least in English. Even those who've tried to bring Surrealism into the discussion argue from idealism if not regarding form than intellect, and the second formalism is transformed into a critical and philosophic art. In the language of critics the first formalism replaced conversation with silent and ideal form, while for critical supporters of the second, grammar itself or ideal politics are central. The actions of the speaker speaking are elided, communication is depersonalized, seemingly disembodied. But in criticism the shadows are removed, and later in the hybrid Critical Theory they're replaced by ideology.

In a perverse way, James and Eliot, through Duchamp, all conservative formalists of sex, have been devolved from poets into critics. In the minds of theorists of speech acts, acts themselves are secondary. The primacy of form has become the primacy of "content". The first modernism is performative and silent; the second, once loquacious and evasive, diffident, coy, ironic, but deeply emotive, has become talkative and anti-social. Conceptualism renders practice functionalism and results, output; the heuristics of the physical and of performance are denied. The ironic distance from, not denial of, emotion has become the defense of bureaucracy; the mass-singular noun "individual" replaces the description of individual experience. And rationalist idealism ignores history (see the second note here on the history of the European anti-bourgeois). It's interesting to see the faux-aristocratic high bourgeois critique of vulgarity transformed into the moral philosophy of the super technocrat in the age of instrumental reason, to see how Henry James became Max Weber.

I've rarely been so simply struck by all this as I was yesterday. The formalism of Deafman Glance is the reenactment of trauma transposed, overlapping the before and after into the timelessness of an eternal present. It's the poetry of formalism as pathology. And yet it's moving. It evokes and denies as Eliot does. It makes sense that Louis Aragon would recognize this: "[Wilson] is what we, from whom Surrealism was born, dreamed would come after us and go beyond us.” (see the top link)

The relation of abstraction to representation in art begins in the relation of abstraction to representation in language, which in politics and government is the relation of the letter to the spirit of the law. To argue from the spirit in law or language is subjectivism and subjectivism is inarticulate, in-formal, isolate: the end of the social. But to argue only from the letter can be cold, inhuman: unjust:

"He's just a boy! He didn't mean it! He's my son!"
"It doesn't matter. It's the law."

To communicate is to translate emotion into form: the description of a scream is not a scream. Our emotions themselves are locked in: truth is private. Our audience reads only performance, as courts of law refer only to "facts". Articulated communication is possible only through the use of an indifferent medium manipulated in performance towards a desired response from others, either an intellectual agreement or a seemingly parallel but independent expression of emotion. We argue on a case by case basis the relation of formal language to the private truths of interior life, and of law to the informal truths of "Justice". This begs the question of whether a society can have an interior life or whether justice is a category with a reality outside of language, outside of what society decides that it should mean.

"It is now time to ask why Pippin thinks that his discussion of these films actually amount to doing political philosophy."

Imagine an economics professor asking if studying the actions of businessmen is doing economics.

Apparently, studying off the cuff "intuitions" regarding philosophical questions is philosophy while studying complex but indirect intellectual activity based on the same questions might not be. That even though there are more "ideas" in John Ford's movies than in anything written "about" them.
updated and expanded, 3/15/15
note taking/posted elsewhere
As an outsider I found the assumptions that this paper questions much more disconcerting than the paper itself. But then I'm still shocked by the references to philosophy as science. Any defense of intuitions as doing more than describing the assumptions of the speaker, alone or as one of a group, is an argument from theology.
Some philosophers think that something’s having intuitive content is very inconclusive evidence in favor of it. I think it is very heavy evidence in favor of anything, myself. I really don’t know, in a way, what more conclusive evidence one can have about anything, ultimately speaking. (Kripke 1980, p. 42)
Is this really where Quine's reference to "the supposed[!] boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science" gets us, to a reenactment 30 years later of the failures of "scientific" Freudianism and Marxism? You create a formal structure and try to give it a foundation, but then the ground shifts. The structure is intact, but what's it represent? Ignoring the questions of sample size, intuitions show either or both of two things: the values of human beings socialized in various ways according to their cultures, and/or the structure of human consciousness and habit, as constructed by the biological attributes that separate us from other animals and perhaps to a lesser degree from each other. It's bad enough listening to lectures from scientists and technocrats on the irrelevance of culture, but the "research model" has spread like the plague. I've read three defenses of the humanities today, all of them by philosophy professors. They weren't very good; the authors spent half their time distancing themselves from what they were trying to defend. The great art historian Erwin Panofsky described the birth of modern humanism in the Renaissance in the separation of the sciences and the humanities that had been unified in the Middle Ages, under the Church. But... "If the anthropocratic civilization of the Renaissance is headed, as it seems to be, for a 'Middle Ages in reverse'... " He wrote that in 1955. The arts are the most intimate empiricism. Specifics are prized over generalizations. The word "individual" is a mass noun. By the logic of the arts a written description of any single human being should seem as irreducible to you as you are to yourself. In the world of experience, ideas aren't the manifestation of the ideal they're the vulgarization of life lived. That's the contradiction between philosophy as you practice it and the humanities. Politics is perspectival and feminism is politics. It seems to me the academic study of politics should be an adjunct to politics outside of the academy, not the other way around. I remember reading something once about the risks of aestheticization. I'll repeat a comment I wrote elsewhere, though in response to this discussion and a third: 'The arts are the most intimate empiricism. Specifics are prized over generalizations. The word "individual" is a mass noun. By the logic of the arts a written description of any single human being should seem as irreducible to you as you are to yourself. In the world of experience, ideas aren't the manifestation of the ideal they're the vulgarization of life lived.' That's the contradiction between philosophy as now practiced and the humanities. Defenses of the humanities by philosophy professors are defenses of generalities because it's the only language you know. That's a loss. Reflection in and with the act of writing (writing as literature) is engaging with questions regarding your choices of terms as structure: It's a professor asking "Why does my writing read like an end of year financial report? What is the sensibility, what are the values made manifest in it?" Literature is the ironization and examination of intuition, of the sort Derrida does so gracelessly (at least in translation). Literature is writing to describe the writer writing and his or her perceived relations to the world. Art isn't "creative" it's observational. Creativity is no more than "inventiveness". Inventiveness is the Cartesian model of art, the nature of the "I" is assumed. Cartesian art is illustration, describing assumptions. "Science is the study of facts and philosophy the study of values. Conflating the two in favor of facts, values become assumed. Values assumed all questions are seen as those of expertise. Expertise as the goal terms of measurement are assumed. Curiosity is defined by the frame, values by the frame moral worth by the frame." [from a few years ago] A philosopher engaged in the study of externalities ignores the observing observer, himself, imagining that he's on solid ground. His values become assumptions. What does it mean that the language used to discuss rather than describe individual experience is now so bureaucratic in form? What are the values manifest in the architecture of contemporary academic language? Grammar has no moral presence in the world, but every speech act has a moral aspect. The words "I love you" have a very specific very limited set meanings but the moment they're spoken meanings multiply towards infinity: tone, cadence, context. And the speaker's understanding of them may well be wrong, ask your ex. Literature catalogues those infinite possibilities. Philosophy ignores them in favor of grammar and "ideas".

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The report reveals that Dogan, the 19-year-old US citizen of Turkish descent, was filming with a small video camera on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara when he was shot twice in the head, once in the back and in the left leg and foot and that he was shot in the face at point blank range while lying on the ground.

...The forensic evidence that establishes that fact is "tattooing around the wound in his face," indicating that the shot was "delivered at point blank range." The report describes the forensic evidence as showing that "the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back."

...The report confirmed what the Obama administration already knew from the autopsy report on Dogan, but the administration has remained silent about the killing of Dogan, which could be an extremely difficult political problem for the administration in its relations with Israel.

...Asked by this writer whether the DOJ had received the autopsy report on Dogan, DOJ spokesperson Laura Sweeney refused to comment.

Jewish Boat to Gaza boarded by Israeli forces and taken toward Ashdod port

Monday, September 27, 2010

From Helmand to Merseyside: Unmanned drones and the militarisation of UK policing
The Merseyside deployment is merely one of the first, tentative step within a much wider push by arms contractors and security and technology corporations. Supported by Governments, these are working extremely hard to ensure that the deployment of aerial drones for policing purposes quickly saturates UK airspace and becomes completely normal and taken for granted. We thus face a pivotal moment in the evolution of civilian surveillance by electronic means, both in the UK and other western democracies. This moment raises four particular concerns.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

July 15th

The scene was both pathetic and outrageous. The last of Netanyahu's devoted followers, who believe he is the man who will bring peace, would have immediately changed their minds. Presidents Barack Obama and Shimon Peres, who continue to maintain that Netanyahu will bring peace, would be talking differently had they seen this secretly filmed video clip. Even the objection of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to conducting direct negotiations with the man from the video would be understandable. What is there to discuss with a huckster whose sole purpose is "to give 2 percent in order to prevent 100 percent," as his father told him, quoting his grandfather.
September 26
Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be the winner of the construction-freeze crisis: The 10-month suspension of building in the settlements will not be extended and the prime minister has given up nothing. Peace talks with the Palestinians will continue, the coalition is as strong as ever, and the government enjoys some freedom of movement regarding the settlers and the U.S. administration.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, his threats to the contrary, will not scuttle the peace talks that have barely begun just because Netanyahu isn't extending the freeze. U.S. President Barack Obama, preaching for the moratorium to continue, can't force it on Netanyahu on the eve of the congressional elections when his party's leaders are calling for negotiations to continue without regard to the settlements.
Abbas gives up, Natanyahu gets what he wants and the Palestinians are blamed for any violence that results, because Israel is a "nation" and nations have "laws" and their opposition is a group of people without title. One more time:
Imagine a beach and a small group of people sitting on blankets having lunch. Another group comes onto the beach a few feet away and sets up a volleyball net between themselves and the first group. They start lobbing volleyballs over the net that all go unreturned. When the count of unreturned balls reaches 25 the second group declares the game over and themselves the winners. Another group arrives, friends of the second and wanting "their turn." They tell the first group to move so that they can play. A rule book is consulted and it is decided that the first group lost their game and have no right to occupy the "volleyball court". The police are called and they are removed by force.
And building never stopped
In the third quarter of 2009, before the restrictions were imposed last November, there were 2,790 settlement homes in various stages of construction, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. The number rose to 2,955 in the last quarter of 2009, reflecting a last-minute surge of housing starts in the days leading up to the freeze.
In the first quarter of 2010, with the freeze in full effect, the number stood at 2,517.
That means that even months into the halt, the number of homes under construction had declined by only about 10 percent.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

note-taking. posted elsewhere
A few points.
First, when Alva Noë writes: "Natural science … is not discontinuous with broader human concerns" is he claiming to be a scientist? And if so, are you agreeing? For any number of reasons I hope not in both cases, but it's not clear.

From there my comments are on language and goals of this discussion, because it's obvious that you're trying to find a "right" or "true" answer to problems that in the end will always be political: how and when can we be justified in defining others in ways other than they would define themselves. I think that's a dangerous question and especially dangerous if philosophical questions such as this are thought of as scientific ones, whether we're dealing with the relations of Terry Sciavo to her parents and husband or the relations of the female body to the feminized body. There's a sense here in which you are trying to make the private and personal into the public. I find that both distasteful and illogical.

Questions of law are most most often a matter not of ideal truth but problem solving, and if given the option to search for "truth" its best not to take it. Courts may be often a bit removed from direct politics but they're never separate from it and they should tread lightly when they can.

"[I]t was never a third-party decision, but a matter of respecting Terri Schiavo's wishes."
Those wishes as described by others, including memories of her reaction to something on TV years before. Others had different recollections.

To Michael Schiavo his wife was dead. To his wife's parents she was alive. But obviously in some ways she was still alive for her husband as well, because he was still fighting for "her"; he wasn't fighting for "it". Or was he fighting for himself?

Terry Schiavo left no living will, no legal document describing her wishes. The question regarding the state is whether it should be forced to define life and death, or just the lesser (and less political) problem of law. The best decision would have been to punt and tell Michael Schiavo to except the meaning of his own words, that his "wife" was in fact already dead, and give her parents care of the remains. By the end of the case I became convinced I was more sure she was dead than he was.

The French "left" come out of an older tradition with origins not only in the left as such but in the 18th C. anti-bourgeois (aristocratic) right. The Continental tradition in philosophy also acknowledges its connections to wider cultural activity, seeing philosophy as a form of intellectual reflection not only on but within culture, so that traditions, or habits, or forms of thought, psychologies (or neuroses) are seen in various degrees as constraining if not binding. European critique is often a critique among other things of the assumptions of democracy. The Anglo-American tradition on the other hand originates in the bourgeoisie, and the anti-democratic elements come not from a consideration of culture but from a disdain for the irrationalism of the public. So we get arguments for a democracy guided not inevitably by habit and meconnaissance but by unelected experts.

Against both these Chomsky is a radical democrat with an ideological faith in the power of human self-awareness and direction. But his politics are as faith-based as his nativism. I remember a scene in a documentary about Chomsky with someone telling a story about him as a child, watching schoolmates picking on a fat kid, unable or so he claimed to understand why they could make fun of someone for something over which he had no control. The narrator was is awe: beyond moral condemnation Chomsky expressed incomprehension, as if this was a mark intellectual superiority. All it means is that his anti-empiricism started early. The story is absurd. Humanism is defined by a sympathetic understanding -awareness not approval- of how and why others behave as they do. Chomsky's programmatic rationalism is anti-humanist. He'll be remembered mostly for his empiricism, as a first rate political journalist.
Chomsky's political and linguistic philosophies have the same foundation in the Hebraic belief in the separation of human from animal life; of our being not only the most intelligent animals, but something other than animal. He literally will not accept anything less. It's a noble dogma but it's a dogma and his view of human behavior (nature or culture) is stunted as a result. His is a kind of rational actor theory, with rationality in the majority being blocked or misdirected by specific actors. I called him a first rate political journalist but he's more simply a good reporter of fact. Politics is also psychology, and that's beyond him.

I think it's important in a more general sense that we move away from ideas as such and into a more descriptive model of engagement. Grammar is not language, and language has a moral aspect -in its use- that grammar lacks. The story from Chomsky's childhood if it's true, and it makes sense that it would be, describes someone divorced from the empiricism of daily social interaction, who can read ideas but not people, who can understand and follow laws but not negotiate the gaps between them. And those gaps more than law define interactions in everyday life. You'll never have a successful anarchism, or a successful politics of any kind without engaging that.

I'm not just throwing bombs. I think academics should write well for the same reason I think architects should know how to lay bricks. Arguments from intent and claims of authorial reliability are wishful thinking. Outside of the natural sciences -and to a smaller degree even there- our supposedly "technical" works will always be read by others against the grain, according to their own understandings. Our grandchildren will be among them. History will not judge us as we judge ourselves; that's guaranteed. What we do describes the present more than the past or any timeless reality, but the works of dead novelists describe the behavior of those living now more than the works of living philosophers do. And that's a problem.

Philosophers search for "truth", or style themselves after scientists as conceptual-object-mongers. Lawyers represent paying clients; they're professional storytellers. And yet they're central to our system of "justice". Lawyers, like architects are guildsmen, operating explicitly within the communicative and the social. Their importance is not understood.
I'm a guildsman. If my arguments come from "outside" philosophy, that's why.

Friday, September 24, 2010

From various sources
"Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States."

...Does that mean that those Americans who criticize Israel are to be met with nothing but opposition by the government of the United States? If that is true, what is his opinion of the value of the 1st amendment to the US Constitution when weighed against the desire of Israel and its supporters to suppress voices that "detract from Israeli legitimacy?"

The repression against BDS activists in France is reaching a new scale with the prosecution of a French MP, Alima Boumediene-Thiery (member of the French Senate) who has participated in a BDS action in the Paris region one year ago and who is a supporter of the BDS campaign. Her trial is due to take place in Pontoise (North of Paris) on Thursday October 14. She is accused (like all the other French BDS activists prosecuted) of “incitation to racial hatred” and “discrimination against the Israeli nation”.

The right frame, in my view, is to think of the state as “we, the people” and to ask what conditions need to be in place for the people, and for each citizen, to play their role in effective self-government. Once you look at things like that then various speech restrictions naturally suggest themselves.

Levy uses a simple technique. He asks his fellow Israelis: how would we feel, if this was done to us by a vastly superior military power? Once, in Jenin, his car was stuck behind an ambulance at a checkpoint for an hour. He saw there was a sick woman in the back and asked the driver what was going on, and he was told the ambulances were always made to wait this long. Furious, he asked the Israeli soldiers how they would feel if it was their mother in the ambulance – and they looked bemused at first, then angry, pointing their guns at him and telling him to shut up.

“I am amazed again and again at how little Israelis know of what’s going on fifteen minutes away from their homes,” he says. “The brainwashing machinery is so efficient that trying [to undo it is] almost like trying to turn an omelette back to an egg. It makes people so full of ignorance and cruelty.” He gives an example. During Operation Cast Lead, the Israel bombing of blockaded Gaza in 2008-9, “a dog – an Israeli dog – was killed by a Qassam rocket and it on the front page of the most popular newspaper in Israel. On the very same day, there were tens of Palestinians killed, they were on page 16, in two lines.”

More news.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A repeat from May/09.
Andy Warhol, Double Elvis, 1963

A doubled image of a fake cowboy -a movie image- played by a pop "icon," and beneath that of a person: Elvis Aaron Presley. Two images of an image, of an image, of a man. And an image of psychosis.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Compare and contrast. Mark Graber and Steve Benen on 'objectivity'.
Every now and then, a Supreme Court justice or Supreme Court justice wannabee writes a history of the Supreme Court. With a few variations, they are all the same. In the interest of saving Balkinization readers time and money, I present the following condensed version of those histories.

Chapter One: The framers were committed to [whatever theory of government holds broad popular support at this moment]

Chapter Two. Marbury was correctly decided by heroic justices who recognized that judicial review is necessary for democracy, constitutionalism, world peace and Santa Claus.

Chapter Three. Every other major Marshall Court decision was right.

Chapter Four. The Taney Court was pretty good, except Dred Scott. Everything is wrong about Dred Scott, including the penmanship.

Chapter Five. The Supreme Court did nothing anyone would ever be interested in between Dred Scott and the New Deal, except Holmes and Brandeis delivered a series of opinions demonstrating the constitutional commitment to [whatever theory of government holds popular support at this moment].

Chapter 6 The Hughes Court after 1937 acted both democratically and consistently with the framers' intent.

Chapter 7. Brown v. Board of Education demonstrates [my preferred theory of constitutional interpretation] is correct.

Chapter 8. Once we know why Brown was rightly decided, we also know why my votes on abortion, gay marriage, guns, the commerce clause and the most valuable player in the NFL are also right.

Or you can buy the book. Best advice; wait for the movie.

It's been one of the most glaring flaws in major American media for far too long -- news outlets can tell the public about a story, but they won't tell the public's who's right. Every story has to offer he-said/she-said coverage, and every view has to be treated as entirely legitimate. ("Republicans today said two plus two equals five; Democrats and mathematicians disagree.")

To tell news consumers about a controversy is fine. To tell news consumers who's objectively correct is to be "biased."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rationality, objectivity, neutrality, functionalism.
1- note taking/posted elsewhere. 
My problem with the “analysis” of advertising as with politics is that the language of engineering reinforces the culture of engineering. It’s like talking about grammar as if grammar were synonymous with language. The ethos of expertise is a form of functionalism, and the older model of intellectualism is replaced by one of simple professionalism. And with this we get corporate psychologists and anthropologists, and HTS. [The active cultivation of sensibility is concomitant with the awareness that you have a sensibility. Functionalism supplies you with one ready-made.]

Designers of slot machines have learned that one of the things that keeps people seated at their machines is the repetitive motion and sense of time, “flow”, and that “flow” is broken by hitting the jackpot. But it can be preserved by paying out less money more often -no sudden shock (defamiliarization)- so that even after winning people stay in their seats and keep playing, and needless to say since slots are a losing game for the player, losing more money.

There’s an amorality to expertise, as there’s an amorality to numbers and to language as grammar. But the use of language carries a moral weight and a moral responsibility. You can’t speak without expressing value. The culture of academic expertise, as engineering and “theory”, has never come to terms with that or the values behind its own forms of speech.

2- The Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT (C3) is a partnership between thinkers and researchers from/affiliated with the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, and companies with a keen interest in deciphering convergence culture and the implications it can have for their business. Members of the consortium gain new insights and ideas about a very intractable and urgent set of questions that they are already grappling with in the current business environment. We aim to expand the role of industrial leaders by informing them of dynamic humanistic scholarship while providing them with early access to the cutting-edge ideas that emerge through the consortium.

3- But the mistake you are making is to assume that Palin needs or wants to play by the standard rules of American politics. Or that it even occurs to her to do so. Trash her all you want (even you Republicans who are doing it all the time behind her back) for being uninformed, demagogic and incoherent, and brandish the poll numbers that show fewer and fewer Americans think she is qualified to be President. Strain to apply political and practical norms to Alaska's former governor. You are missing the point.

Surely you've come to accept the reality that as a businessperson, Palin is a genius. The gusher of revenue from her speeches, books and television deals sweeps away any doubt that she can brilliantly harness her energy, charisma and popularity into a moneymaking bonanza. But what you need to appreciate is that the same dynamics of supply and demand that Palin has cleverly exploited for financial gain also make her inimitably formidable as a political force.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Pretty soon, we’ll be having serious, completely un-self-conscious discussions in major magazines about the servant problem."
Krugman is beginning to understand the distinction between society and government. He's becoming a critic of culture.

The distinction between society and government; between obligations and laws.
The focus on law " saying that since all art is abstract the best art is nonfigurative."
Abstract, formal, due process vs "substantive" due process.
The undefinability of "substance"/"meaning"; Quine.
Meaning, naming: "Venus"; "Morning Star", "Evening Star".
Meaning in this use is temporal/perspectival. Naming is atemporal, but still perspectival. Is that the only difference?

"...a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science."

Odd, or predictable, that he should end up all that trying to elevate speculative metaphysics. "If only we imagine ourselves scientists..."
Nietzsche: "If only we imagine ourselves gods..."

If I'm with a friend looking at a painting or listening to a piece of music and one of us makes a comment noting a specific phrase or gesture, with the other acknowledging both the comment and the gesture, we're sharing in the recognition of a formal arrangement; there is no shared meaning. Meaning is private, what's public is form. A Representative Formalism is the rhetorical slight of hand through which we indulge the illusion of shared meanings. As a rhetorical space it's the basis of politics, the ground on which it takes place. Quine takes us to the point of acknowledging this and goes into reverse, to demi-science, following the the vulgar followers of Marx and Freud to anti-politics. He ignores the obvious, that private meanings invade form, and the effect of those invasions. To call him an empiricist is absurd. He's a rationalist defending empiricism as an idea, but he seems more interested in strengthening rationalist claims to the territory.

Representative formalism is a functional oxymoron: Shakespeare's sonnets, Noh theatre; the rule of process and substance, law and man. Any non-fascist form of governance is a form of representative formalism. Fascism is ideal form imposed/collapsed/unified with, meaning: the man with a gun demanding more than obedience; the fantasized unity of self and other, of private and public. And who's going to argue with a man with a gun? It's not the rhetoric, the form, of unification between self and other seen in politics and art, but the pretense -the demand- that it exists in meaning: that life is art. It's the difference between irony and hypocrisy.

Any attempt to avoid or elide the reality of politics -the lack of shared communicable meanings- is anti-political, and anti-humanist. The relations of due process to "substance", of abstraction to "representation" are political: temporal, unresolvable. Democracy is founded on their need to be re-argued, on formalism being reconstructed again and again. If justice is blind, where is the place for compassion? If justice is compassion then how is it blind?
Authoritarian conservatism is not the elision of politics, or of the distinction between public and private, it's simply the control of public form/space. Conservatism doesn't care what you think, only how you act, or that you ask to be forgiven. Fascism is the imposing of the lie of shared meaning through the destruction of the private.
… But now we have another problem.
What is that?
What if we find out what makes each of us internally consistent? What if I find your proper name, that thing which describes exactly what you are?
Than I will always be honest, or predictable at least. And you will be able to interpret everything I say and never be wrong. And of course I’ll know your name as well.
No dishonesty, no subterfuge, no Freud, no art… Then we can all be logical positivists.
But it doesn’t matter. That dream’s irrelevant.
I want unification.
It’s an illusion.
I want the illusion.
Do you want the illusion or do you want the illusion to be real?
What’s the difference?
One means that you have an appreciation of the arts. The other means that you’re a fascist.
The danger of government as such is the danger of anti-political government, a government where meanings are assumed by the rulers while not -or no longer- shared by the populace. A representative formalism, founded on trust, not necessarily on the will of the people but on assumptions of stability, becomes unrepresentative when the form is no longer seen to represent anything, or when private meanings become so fragmented that culture/community no longer founded on functional contradictions becomes simply dysfunctional.

Democracy however is based not only on a representative formalism as such but explicitly on public engagement with its forms. Democracy is the culture of language in use. The attempt to imagine universal meanings and then rule by them in a technocratic order is not democracy. Authoritarian liberalism is not social democracy for the reason among others that its arguments are not founded in the social but in the ideal, an ideal formalism -form as non-contradictory idea- that the social is meant at least to approximate. Putting grammar before language has been tried, in both language and politics. It failed. Regardless of claims [or "intentions" (and again meanings are private)] such arguments function as anti-political. The desire to overcome contradiction, to join form and representation, to try to bypass the aporias, the politics, the ad hoc-ness of culture and especially of democracy, is anti-political no matter who desires it.

Greed has gone from being seen as one of the seven deadly sins, constantly deferred to or forgiven as "authority", to being seen as eradicable, to being seen now by liberals -almost it seems because it's can't be eradicated- as a form of the good. This transition took place over the course of decades, but somehow the transition in intellectual discourse is not itself a subject of intellectual discourse, at least in the academy. The forms of academic discussion haven't changed, but the object of representation has. Meanings have changed. Academics discuss the same forms as before, but not the new values behind them.

A more recent example, over a shorter timeline, is the confused response among academic intellectuals to illegal downloading, defended in language that waffles back and forth between idealism and realism. But setting aside the relations of musicians to corporations, the only logical defense of downloading is that it's ubiquitous, and that the cost of interdiction and punishment, in every sense of the word— economically, politically socially—just isn't worth it. The attempt at an idealist defense is just absurd; it has nothing to do with what's necessary as a matter of political empiricism and everything to do with a need to maintain the illusion of philosophical idealism in those who demand both that and, temporally at least since new markets will form, the ability to get something or nothing. 

All communication is political. The relations among competing theories in theoretical physics are not political to the layman, but they become political at the level at which they're argued by physicists. And where there is a consensus among experts who refer to ideas/objects by atemporal "names" the moment those names brought into the world, in situ, in context, they will have new meanings those experts never imagined, in the eyes of others.

All people are politicians in everyday life and democracy is the representative formalism of the everyday. Focusing on the ideal to the exclusion of language in use, which again is synonymous with politics, is counterproductive to the point of being no more than simple anti-social, anti-political reaction. The perfect may be the enemy of the good, but it's also the enemy of the better.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Introducing The Mia
That's our new currency unit, the Months In Afghanistan. One Mia buys one month in Afghanistan, currently about $6 billion.
I have no idea if the best idea for a transportation project is a new metro line to Dulles. But I do know that it costs all of .66 Mia.
Millennium Development Goals: Fight against Aids hit by $10bn shortfall.
For the first time change is happening at the heart of the epidemic," Sidibé said. However, he added that the $10bn shortfall in the funding for HIV/Aids in 2009 could put further progress at risk. UNAids said an estimated $25.9bn was needed for the global response, of which only $15.9bn is currently available.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

I've said this before but it's important to understand just how far ahead Stewart and Colbert are of "serious" "intellectual" liberals.
The last time Stewart went on Fox, he managed to broadcast more criticism of the channel on the actual channel than anyone could remember, accusing it of being a "cyclonic perpetual emotion machine" that has "taken reasonable concerns about this president and this economy, and turned it into a full-fledged panic about the next coming of Chairman Mao".

Stewart is a master of comedy but he is also seriously influential. When he blasted CNN's dog-pit-style political pundit-fight Crossfire programme back in 2004, saying it was "hurting America" with its mindless, partisan bickering, the show was eventually cancelled, with Stewart's criticism cited as one of the reasons.
Stewart and Colbert are probably the only liberal figures who actually confront their opponents rather than merely commenting for their own audience. It's not that either of them are more to the left than straight liberal pundits, but they're less superior, less aloof, and therefore more engaged. They're comedians not college professors and even sympathetic academics and experts don't quite understand how and how much they've usurped political, academic and journalistic authority. Stewart and Colbert are on the side of historians against philosophers, but thats another discussion.
Less self-consciously intellectual, what they do carries more intellectual weight. Jon Stewart will outlast John Rawls.
Repeating from two days ago :"For all the hand-wringing about open anti-muslim bigotry none of those now expressing such concern have ever thought of a muslim life as equal to an Israeli one. As with torture the distinctions begin with proximity."

New York Review on Dayton [history here and here]
Islamists have hardly been the only critics of Dayton and the security forces. Last year, in an Op-Ed entitled “Jericho’s Stasi,” Bassem Eid, head of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, wrote, “I would like to suggest that General Dayton not just train agents in the use of weapons, beating and torture…but also train them how to behave among their own people.” The National Security Forces trained by Dayton are not authorized to make arrests, but they regularly lead joint operations with Palestinian security services whose senior leaders have been trained by the USSC, and that have, according to Human Rights Watch and Palestinian human rights groups, practiced torture. A year into Fayyad’s first term, Mamdouh al-Aker, then head of the PA’s human rights organization, spoke of the government’s “militarization” and asserted that “a state of lawlessness had shifted to a sort of a security state, a police state.”
Foreign Policy
Mustafa Barghouti, the head of the Palestinian National Initiative (a leading and increasingly strong political movement inside Palestine) and one of the most prominent leaders scheduled to speak at the meeting was in the crowd as it was pushed out of the meeting house. He attempted to maintain order and separate the meeting's attendees from the group disrupting the gathering. "People were pushed into the street," he remembers, "and that's when the beatings began. It was very violent. The General Intelligence people were pushing people to the ground." On the street in front of the Protestant Club, meanwhile, members of the Al Haq staff began to document the incident. "We had a camera, one of my staff members had a camera," Jabarin says, "and we were trying to take pictures. But my staff member who had the camera was pushed down and the security official attempted to take the camera, to break it. This man was beating him and when one of my other staff members tried to help him, she was pushed to the ground and beaten. They got the camera."
From the same article
Meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, Barack Obama characterized the Hebron as "a heinous crime," while State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley speculated that the attack was timed to coincide with the opening of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In fact, while the attack's timing was not coincidental, it followed a series of highly publicized clashes in al-Buwayra, near Hebron, in which Israelis from the nearby settlements of Kyriat Arab and Harzina attacked Palestinian villages with clubs and set fire to their orchards. By the end of August, the attacks were widened to include Canadian and Danish "internationalists," who had come to protect al-Buwayra's villagers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm sure I'm not the only note you'll get on this, but (as yet another ex hill staffer) I don't think the "expiry over $250K" vote is nearly as easy a vote as you make it out to be. Certainly it polls well, but a lot of members see the $250K+ people as their donors, coevals, colleagues, friends, etc. Most of the people (lawyers, lobbyists, business owners, PR people) who walk through the door of your average congressional office on a daily basis (excepting constituent tourist visitors) are making well over $250K.
As I've said before, Democratic politicians make their money the same way republican politicians do, so their interests don't align with those of their constituents. Politicians are elected and can be led if the people choose to lead, but if their constituents imagine that their own interests align with the wealthy then democratic politicians are able to represent their own interests while claiming to represent the will of the people.

it's not in Democratic politicians' self-interest to argue against Republican con men and snake-oil salesmen. It's in their self-interest to be passive; they can always blame others for the result.

Adversarialism is the key requirement of democracy, and markets are one form of adversarialism; but adversarialism is formal and not always free.

For all the conservative and neoliberal defense of competition, the relations of the classes are always required to be collaborative.
For all the hand-wringing about open anti-muslim bigotry none of those now expressing such concern have ever thought of a muslim life as equal to an Israeli one. As with torture the distinctions begin with proximity (physical and linguistic) and formal as opposed to informal relations: state, non-state; law, non-law [illegal/"alegal"]; killing, murder.
Imagine a beach and a small group of people sitting on blankets having lunch. Another group comes onto the beach a few feet away and sets up a volleyball net between themselves and the first group. They start lobbing volleyballs over the net that all go unreturned. When the count of unreturned balls reaches 25 the second group declares the game over and themselves the winners. Another group arrives, friends of the second and wanting "their turn." They tell the first group to move so that they can play. A rule book is consulted and it is decided that the first group lost their game and have no right to occupy the "volleyball court". The police are called and they are removed by force.
The deaths of Palestinians are called "heartbreaking." The deaths of Israelis are called a crime.
Chris Hedges, Gaza Diary
It is still. The camp waits, as if holding its breath. And then, out of the dry furnace air, a disembodied voice crackles over a loudspeaker.

"Come on, dogs," the voice booms in Arabic. "Where are all the dogs of Khan Younis? Come! Come!"

I stand up. I walk outside the hut. The invective continues to spew: "Son of a bitch!" "Son of a whore!" "Your mother's cunt!"

The boys dart in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence that separates the camp from the Jewish settlement. They lob rocks toward two armored jeeps parked on top of the dune and mounted with loudspeakers. Three ambulances line the road below the dunes in anticipation of what is to come.

A percussion grenade explodes. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven years old, scatter, running clumsily across the heavy sand. They descend out of sight behind a sandbank in front of me. There are no sounds of gunfire. The soldiers shoot with silencers. The bullets from the M-16 rifles tumble end over end through the children's slight bodies. Later, in the hospital, I will see the destruction: the stomachs ripped out, the gaping holes in limbs and torsos.

Yesterday at this spot the Israelis shot eight young men, six of whom were under the age of eighteen. One was twelve. This afternoon they kill an eleven-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wound four more, three of whom are under eighteen. Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered—death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo—but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

“If it has the impact it deserves, it will transform American public arguments about politics and policymaking.”
Henry Farrell

"If my work were were properly understood it would mean the end of monopoly capitalism."
Barnett Newman

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fabric Study, 12"x16"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daily press from the IPA

Turkey’s “Yes”

US Saudi weapons sale. Pat Lang
The Iranian threat? Oh, yes, of course... Somehow I think this is as much to do with "commissions" passed around in the royal family/courtier crowd. 5% of 90 billion plus will go a long way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kant, An Answer to the Question:
What is Enlightenment?
Here as elsewhere, when things are considered in broad perspective, a strange, unexpected pattern in human affairs reveals itself, one in which almost everything is paradoxical. A greater degree of civil freedom seems advantageous to a people's spiritual freedom; yet the former established impassable boundaries for the latter; conversely, a lesser degree of civil freedom provides enough room for all fully to expand their abilities. Thus, once nature has removed the hard shell from this kernel for which she has most fondly cared, namely, the inclination to and vocation for free thinking, the kernel gradually reacts on a people's mentality (whereby they become increasingly able to act freely), and it finally even influences the principles of government, which finds that it can profit by treating men, who are now more than machines, in accord with their dignity.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

note taking
An exchange with Ronald C. Den Otter at Balkinization
Attempts to separate judgment from politics always strike me as bizarre. If you want to get rid of judicial review you need to get rid of the Constitution, or at least change it from law into a Statement of Principles. There are reasonable arguments for that (in my opinion).

"A legitimate decision is one that passes the test of public justification and the best decision is the one that is most publicly justified, that is, based on the strongest public reasons. These reasons are those that an ideal reasonable person would accept as good enough because they are as uncontroversial as possible."

"A reasonable person" in 2010 is not the same as a reasonable person in 1925. Reasonableness may be a constant but what it refers to is not. That's why there's no such thing as (static) "public reason". What there is or needs to be is a (static) norm of civility in argument under rules of "public form": divided government, adversarialism, the rule of law etc. with the accepted purpose not as ideal justice but public acceptance of the outcome.

The best argument against SSM being decided in the courts would be to say that because there is no way logically to move beyond private moral preference in separating the right to same sex marriage from the possible right to multiple marriage, which "reasonable people" now oppose but may not in the future, we should leave it to the political process.

You try to replace the reliance on " 'truth' of... conceptions of the good life" with 'truth' as to public reason. You substitute a dream of ideal justice with a dream of ideal justices. Hard cases still make bad law.
# posted by D. Ghirlandaio : 7:31 PM

D.Ghir., you raise some serious points and I wish that I could respond to them in more depth than a blog like this allows. But in the book at least, I tried to do so.

(1) I never separated law and politics as sharply as you think but you're right that I believe and hope that to some extent, in important constitutional cases, it's possible. If constitutional law is really, in the end, politics by another name, then I don't see the point of having judicial review (by judges). Just leave such questions to the people or to their elected representatives.

(2) I don't think (and explain why in the book) why reasonableness is not tied to particular times and places.

(3) Related to (2), I could be wrong about this, but you sound like you're much more of a constitutional relativist than I am. That is, you don't really believe that there are right or at least better answers to hard constitutional questions. I do try to take the sting out of such skepticism. Whether I really do so is another matter.

I appreciate the comments...
# posted by theottersden : 2:43 PM

I don't see how you can avoid judicial review if you have a written constitution, and as to relativism, if that means I'm more interested in process than product, then you're right.

The most serious opponents of relativism are also critics -often opponents- of democracy. The strongest defense of democracy is to argue that truth is fundamentally private and that what's public are formal rules and more importantly, informal obligations among actors/players. I'm a relativist about truth but not method.
# posted by D. Ghirlandaio : 2:45 PM
Can someone ask this Imam to shut the hell up?
I mean, why can't he just shut up and go away. Every time he comes up with an idea or with a sentence, he causes trouble--primarily for Muslims in the US. Of course, the First Amendment protects dumb speech. And this Imam is a specialist in the production of dumb speech. And this Imam, why does he not speak during other times of the year and not around Sep. 11? And don't you like it when Muslims/Arabs on the defensive get frantic to remind Americans that they are Americans too? "This will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people -- our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens "
Rauf, Jeremiah Wright, and Bill Ayers are narcissists, but liberals don't see the relation because Muslims aren't part of their consciousness as anything but idea, so we get the idea of tolerance not what's necessary to produce it. Focusing on abstractions and principle more than people, liberals ignored what they saw immediately with Ayers and Wright and partly as a result fascists now are speaking publicly in NY and Muslims are worried less about principle than their safety.

Josh Marshall
"Tariq Ramadan of all people says the organizers of Park51 should choose another spot to build on."

Josh Marshall last month
"We grew up in America where Islam, as a domestic social or cultural reality, was close to invisible."
As I said then, that statement comes from someone who called the founding of Israel "a necessary crime".
Ideas are not people.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Nine years ago today... we saw the innocence of a nation crumble to the ground."

Friday, September 10, 2010

In a 6-5 ruling issued this afternoon, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Obama administration a major victory in its efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review, when the court upheld the Obama DOJ's argument that Bush's rendition program, used to send victims to be tortured, are "state secrets" and its legality thus cannot be adjudicated by courts.
CS Monitor:
"...Iraq has quietly agreed to pay $400 million in claims to American citizens who say they were tortured or traumatized by Saddam Hussein’s regime after his 1990 invasion of Kuwait"

From FLC
Colm Tóibín, The Pope Wears Prada
This makes it difficult for Ratzinger, who is probably the most intelligent and articulate pope for many generations, to be heard properly when he speaks about matters of faith and morals. He wishes to make it clear, from a position that is starkly coherent, that moral values are not relative values, but absolute ones, that we must follow God’s will, and that the Catholic Church is in a unique position to tell us in some detail what this entails. However, rather than listening to this message or bowing our heads as he offers us his blessing, because of what has happened, because of a new suspicion which even the most reverent feel about the clergy, we will find ourselves examining Ratzinger’s clothes and his accessories, his gestures, and checking behind him for a glimpse of the gorgeous Georg with whom he spends so much of his day.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

When philosophy professors and others in the related social sciences discuss contemporary thinkers, they make use of empirical methodology and data. But when from there they discuss the foundations of their arguments they go into into the past, to Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau et al., authors for whom propositionalism is as much a literary device as a logical one. The most important commonalities between the present and the past are the claim to be a reliable narrator and the use of the word "science". Political philosophers read Aristotle but not Euripides. Are we supposed to credit Derrida with leading us to the understanding that this distinction is absurd?

We create patterns to make order/power out of perceived disorder/powerlessness. Patterns, the sense of autonomy and belonging within them, give pleasure. Any discussion of "rational action" has to include not only actions that are rationally chosen but also those that are rational as predictable, as aspects of a pattern. Reading text without subtext is irrational in the first sense, in ignoring relevant information. Assuming that it's rational in the second, what other function might it fulfill?

Contemporary political philosophers read Aristotle seriously, but not Euripides. For fun they read the literature of precocious early adolescence.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Kill Teams" as murderers
Note taking.
My comments posted elsewhere.
Badly written but it'll do. Link found via Leiter. The "debate", such as it is, is just stupid.
It's always amusing when philosophers give up on religious logic. Do literature professors give up on fiction because it's not "true"?

Philosophy descends from theology, and for all the discussion of pragmatism it's concerned with the idea of pragmatism more than the implementation.

Quinean naturalism is no more than an arch formalism, descending from the dreams, as "speculative metaphysics" of a scientific Marxism or Freudianism. The human imagination slides from reason to unreason pretty quickly, and no system will protect us from that. The physicist and atheist Steven Weinberg is a racist, with a politics as founded in irrationalism as the equally atheist Donald Rumsfeld. Atheism is no cure. Various attempts at a universal system of belief are as founded on irrationalism and doctrine as is the Universal Church. But the irrationalism is hidden under mountains of rigorously formal logic. Scholasticism is still scholasticism: logic founded on illogical assumptions. [Dualism in the philosophy of mind is transubstantiation]

Philosophy and philosophers seem still to dream of meanings in the world, as too many scientists do: there are things we must know. The search for more facts is transposed to the search for more "truth". It's like mountain-climbing and no less absurd. But like mountain-climbing and unlike religion or literature, the process is technically rigorous and specific. You can "make mistakes" and mistakes can be costly. But the end result of this fixation on technics is that fact-mongering regarding the reproductive life of a subspecies of Sri Lankan moth becomes justified by higher philosophical reason in a way that studying Shakespeare or Bach, let alone performing their works[!] is not.

"Philosophers" [professors of philosophy] dream of replacing the false certainty of religion with another form of certainty. That need for certainty is just that: a need. And the dream is fundamentally religious. Desire is irrational. [it may perform a necessary function but that's another thing entirely. And these idiots don't care about function. The question makes them nervous]

There are no meanings in the world, only facts we will always shade into values. Taking values for granted is the biggest mistake we can make.
See also the previous post.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

There is no such thing as "public reason". Reason is always private. What there is is "public form".

I think that's the misunderstanding that pisses me off reading professors of philosophy. What's fantasized as public reason is no more or less than civility: an element of trust among compatriots, and between collaborators and opponents in a public game.
[Prosecutors and defense attorneys.]

Expertise is not public reason. Mathematics is not public reason.

Friday, September 03, 2010

David Kurtz of TPM says "Muslim Is The New Gay", which is a convenient way of avoiding the more appropriate if discomfiting comparison of Muslims to Jews. It's still a fact that the European right, including the Pope, defends "Christian Europe".
When a German banker and former government official spoke publicly about a unique “Jewish gene,” when he attacked Islam as a source of violence and stunted development and when he espoused genetic theories that evoked the fright of the Nazi past, the political leadership here quickly condemned him as racist and called for him to be fired.

But the banker, Thilo Sarrazin, an executive with the central bank and a former Berlin finance minister, has not emerged as the marginalized hate-monger that the initial condemnation suggested. His book, “Germany Does Away With Itself,” which laments the growing number of Muslim immigrants, contending that they are “dumbing down” society, was released Monday and is already in its fourth printing, with sales expected to exceed 150,000 copies, according to his publisher.

Mr. Sarrazin has set off a painful public discussion here that highlights one of the nation’s most vexing challenges: how to overcome what is widely seen as a failed immigration policy that over decades has done little to support and integrate the nearly 20 percent of the population with an immigrant background. It is a policy that also stokes anti-Islamic sentiment and hostility.
Non-Jewish support for Zionism has always been more than simple defense of a right of Jewish emigration. Beyond that, open ideologists of racial separatism will always defend their own. Zionism is Jewish Garveyism- another obvious parallel that's been ignored. And now Israelis worry about demographics for the same reasons Germans do, and contrary to most assumptions with less history on their side. Palestinians are among other things the descendants of Jews who never left. I say that too often but that doesn't make it less true.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

America’s Faltering Search for Peace in the Middle East: Openings for Others?

Remarks to staff of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, separately, to members of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
1 September 2010, Oslo, Norway

...Vague promises of a Palestinian state within a year now waft through the air. But the “peace process” has always sneered at deadlines, even much, much firmer ones. A more definitive promise of an independent Palestine within a year was made at Annapolis three years ago. Analogous promises of Palestinian self-determination have preceded or resulted from previous meetings over the decades, beginning with the Camp David accords of 1979. Many in this audience will recall the five-year deadline fixed at Oslo. The talks about talks that begin tomorrow can yield concrete results only if the international community is prepared this time to insist on the one-year deadline put forward for recognizing a Palestinian state. Even then there will be no peace unless long-neglected issues are addressed.

Peace is a pattern of stability acceptable to those with the capacity to disturb it by violence. It is almost impossible to impose. It cannot become a reality, still less be sustained, if those who must accept it are excluded from it. This reality directs our attention to who is not at this gathering in Washington and what must be done to remedy the problems these absences create.

Obviously, the party that won the democratically expressed mandate of the Palestinian people to represent them – Hamas – is not there. Yet there can be no peace without its buy-in. Egypt and Jordan have been invited as observers. Yet they have nothing to add to the separate peace agreements each long ago made with Israel. (Both these agreements were explicitly premised on grudging Israeli undertakings to accept Palestinian self-determination. The Jewish state quickly finessed both.) Activists from the Jewish diaspora disproportionately staff the American delegation. A failure to reconcile either American Jews or the Palestine diaspora to peace would doom any accord. But the Palestinian diaspora will be represented in Washington only in tenuous theory, not in fact.

Other Arabs, including the Arab League and the author of its peace initiative, Saudi Arabia, will not be at the talks tomorrow. The reasons for this are both simple and complex. At one level they reflect both a conviction that this latest installment of the “peace process” is just another in a long series of public entertainments for the American electorate and also a lack of confidence in the authenticity of the Palestinian delegation. At another level, they result from the way the United States has defined the problems to be solved and the indifference to Arab interests and views this definition evidences. Then too, they reflect disconnects in political culture and negotiating style between Israelis, Arabs, and Americans.

To begin with, neither Israel nor the conveners of this proposed new “peace process” have officially acknowledged or responded to the Arab peace initiative of 2002. This offered normalization of relations with the Jewish state, should Israel make peace with the Palestinians. Instead, the United States and the Quartet have seemed to pocket the Arab offer, ignore its precondition that Israelis come to terms with Palestinians, and gone on to levy new demands.
More from Helena Cobban
The intended audience
In contrast to the international media, where the attack was roundly condemned, in Palestine the attack earned plaudits not only from Hamas’ core constituency, but also from a broad swathe of Fatah and secular activists, including some senior actors, disillusioned by 19 years of negotiations based on an ever flimsier framework. Unlike the Annapolis process or the “road map,” the twin Bush administration initiatives that the Obama administration chose to ditch, the current negotiations lack any terms of reference or agreed-upon script. Palestinians ask why Abbas agreed to meet Netanyahu given that none of the Arab targets required to turn proximity talks into direct ones were reached prior to the Obama administration’s announcement of the meeting. When American elder statesman George Mitchell presented the parties with 16 identical questions on the core issues requiring yes or no answers, Israel responded to each with a question of its own. In his August 31 press briefing before the White House meeting, Mitchell again declined to specify if Israel had agreed even to extend its (partially honored) settlement freeze past the September 26 expiration date.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Obama Wants Us To Forget the Lessons of Iraq.