Sunday, October 31, 2010

AbuKhalil The sense from Lebanon.
I just returned from Lebanon last night. There is much nervousness about what is happening and what will happen. It is all about the Hariri tribunal and its much anticipated--not by me--decision. The US Middle East Zionist policy making apparatus is up in arms: because the March 14 movement is in such disarray. Jeffrey Feltman foolishly assumed that his visit to Lebanon (in the wake of his visit to Saudi Arabia) will be sufficient to revive a corpse. Feltman even thought he was being witty when he called on the Iranian president to learn from Lebanon's "pluralism". I wonder if he dared to ask the Saudi Wahhabi king to learn from the pluralism of Lebanon too. Feltman is furious at the transformation of Walid Jumblat: one of the most skillful--and most unprincipled--politicians in Lebanon. His value is not so much in the size of his constituency which is very small, but in his abilities in political rhetoric and sloganeering. The best gift that Hizbullah has ever attained--outside of Iranian support--is the stupidity of Sa`d Hariri. This is the talk of the town. You hear Sunnnis and Shi`ites, pro-March 8 and pro-March 14 all talk about the stupidity of this lucky or unlucky man--depending on the outcome. It is not that he has not shown any signs of progress or learning or even accumulated experience but he has squandered one political opportunity after another. He is mocked widely for spending so much time outside of Lebanon. He leaves for Al-Riyadh to receive orders form the Saudi King or his lieutenants at the drop of a hat. He has even squandered his fortune in stupid business moves: he bought the share of his brother Baha' only to lose much of it later. But make no mistake about it: I learned that much of the Hariri expenditure in Lebanon is in fact Saudi money--and mostly from the budget of Prince Muqrin who may be replaced soon, probably by a son of Prince Salman. There is so much going on in Lebanon: just like Lebanon in the 1950s, so many foreign and domestic intelligence services are in conflict in Lebanon. This is a place infested with spies--not only Israelis. I am told one of the spies for Israel (who has not been arrested for lack of evidence) is a high ranking Lebanese Army officers who was slated to succeed Jean Qahwaji as commander-in-chief (Qahwaji is bitterly anti-Israel and fiercely anti-Lebanese Forces. He has sent a private message to Lebanese Forces that any attempt to "descend on the ground" will be met by force by the Army). That Lebanese officer has not been expelled: he has been removes from all his powers and allowed to sit home and watch the sunset. There is much alertness vis-a-vis Israeli spies. I would dare say that the Lebanese Army intelligence in cooperation with Hizbullah and even the Intelligence Apparatus (a Hariri arm inside the Lebanese Internal Security Forces) have dealt the most sever blow to Israeli intelligence work since the creation of the Zionist entity. I can't think of any bigger blow to Israel's intelligence by any Arab government or the PLO since 1948. If the Western media are not part of the conspiracy to protect Israel and its interests and if the Western journalists are not by and large cowards in terms of their unwillingness to defy the Israeli military censor, they would be in the front of this story. Image if the tables are in reverse: if these are Israeli successes against say Hizbullah or Syria's intelligence. Don't forget that a high ranking Israeli military officer in Israeli military intelligence with responsibilities that cover Lebanon had killed himself at his desk last year. Where is the Western media. Not all Israeli spies are handled by Lebanese state: some are handled quietly and privately by Hizbullah. And some spies are turned over by Hizbullah to Lebanese Army intelligence. I am told that even the lousy Syrian regime has been able to capture Israeli spies although none of the cases have been announced for fear the regime let it known that it makes mistakes. Egyptian intelligence is very active in Lebanon: they are now controlling the Salafite groups and criminal gangs in and around Tripoli. To be sure, former general Jamil Sayyid (who is obsessed with his unfair imprisonment by Hariri tribunal for four years while forgetting about injustices under his rule during the era of Syrian control) named the Egyptian diplomat handling Lebanon on behalf of `Umar Sulayman (chief of Egyptian Intelligence. Bizarrely, chief of Arab Relations in Hizbullah, Hasan `Izziddin, met with the guy a day afterwards but I am told that he improvised. Hizbullah is now handling Lebanon with far more effectiveness but the stories of corruption of high officials (the political wing) are spreading. I feel that since 2006, Hizbullah suffered from the absence of Hasan Nasrallah who used to manage and micro-manage affairs of the party. But some political figures of Hizbullah are now disliked and mocked by constituents. This does not affect the "resistance branch" of the party which is kept apart and separate from the political wing. I have not met with Hasan Nasrallah in the last three recent visits to Lebanon. I did not even ask for an interview this last time Some said that "they" are displeased with me because I have been critical of the party in my weekly articles in Al-Akhbar and in this blog, especially my long articles detailing "the manifestations of Hizbullah's sectarianism" which had appeared in Al-Akhbar but have not been translated into English. Some have even complained to me that I refer to Hasan Nasrallah as Hasan Nasrallah in my articles in Al-Akhbar while I was told that even his rivals in Lebanon refer to hims as Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah. I explained, not that I have to explain, that I abhor and avoid titles of any kind in my Al-Akhbar articles. I am told that the skill in which Hizbullah has politically handled Lebanon in recent times is due to the re-entry of Syria as the key decision maker on behalf of March 8, and the realization that Hizbullah and its allies have really screwed up since the assassination of lousy Rafiq Hariri--one of the worst men in Lebanese history and probably second only to Bashir Gemayyel--the worst Lebanese EVER. I have heard stories about the corruption of Michel Sulayman: so add that to corruption of Nabih Birri (speaker of parliament) and the wide corruption of Harri Inc and you understand the place better. Sulayman--who has no political power to speak of--tries to appear sympathetic to every person he meets, and even from rival camps. After all, he was first anointed by Husni Mubarak. People are very afraid and nervous in Lebanon: strangers and politicians ask me what will happen next. I don't do fortune telling but I dont see a civil war. The place will continue to be on the verge of civil war but a wide escalation into a civil war is very unlikely because the balance of power is so heavily tipped in favor of Hizbullah. Hizbullah has no plans to take over Lebanon all at once. They know that their sectarian identity and structure limit its ambition. That is a major handicap politically speaking in the wake of successful Saudi sectarian warfare in Lebanon. I see that Israel will resort soon to covert operations/terrorism to strike at Hizbullah. I am told that the Hizbullah official who was killed in Burj Abi Haydar during the clash there was in fact the work of a lone sniper--probably on behalf of Israel. I learned that reportedly goons of Salim Diyab (militia leader for Hariri family) was behind the burning of the mosque in Burj Abi Haydar during that few hours of clash between Hizb men and men loyal to Ahbash (a pro-Syrian militia). One scenario has it that the clash was instigated by Syrian intelligence. People ask me if they should store food: and I invariably ask them to store Hummus. I don't like Beirut: it is too noisy and too dirty and too pretentious and too sleazy and too ugly and too lost and too dazed and too polluted and too stressful and too corrupt and too fake. I find I am more comfortable in places outside of Beirut. I really liked Tripoli last summer but if only I can strip it of religious and conservative and sectarian influences. I bet I would ve liked that city in the 1960s and 1970s. I can't live or retire in Lebanon. It stresses me too much. Of course, there are good and great people there: people who fight against racism and sexism and for boycott of Israel and against any normalization with that entity. I often generalize but I know that my generalizations are more about the political and popular cultures of Lebanon. I have more to say but I feel I should stop. I need to plant a potato.
Friday Lunch Club adds editorial highlights to Rami Khouri

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A comment on Stewart and Colbert, here.

Jon Leibowitz and Barack Obama share an outsiders' insecurity. And Stewart has an advantage: he's not trying to get elected. He had an opportunity today to be more than a smart comedian and he didn't take it. By that I don't mean that he copped out in terms of some ideal of politics but that he copped out of the possibilities of his own politics. Solely on his own terms I think he made a mistake.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

[see also earlier post]

Simon Blackburn defends quasi-realism (preprint)
...The crucial passage in Egan’s paper reads as follows:
For me to be fundamentally in error, I need to have some moral view that’s (a) stable, and (b) mistaken. But given Blackburn’s account of moral error, this can’t happen. For my moral belief that P to be stable is for it to be such that it would survive any improving change (or course of improving changes). For my moral belief that P to be mistaken is for there to be some improving change (or course of improving changes) that would lead me to abandon P. So on Blackburn’s account of moral error, a moral belief is mistaken only if it’s not stable. So for me to be fundamentally in error, I’d need to have some moral view that was (a) stable, and (b) not stable, which I pretty clearly can’t have.

So if I’m a reflective quasi-realist, I can know in advance, just by thinking about what moral error is, that I can’t be fundamentally morally mistaken. (Egan 2007: 214)
Now unfortunately this is not quite right, and the extent to which it misses being an accurate formulation of anything the quasi-realist ought to accept is critical. It is not quite right that for a belief that p to be stable is ‘for it to be such that it would survive any improving change (or course of improving changes)’. This gives a criterion of stability in terms of whatever is an improving change. Whereas as we have seen, officially stability is a matter of surviving anything that the subject would regard as an improving change, either antecedently, or post hoc. Without this conflation, the result that a moral belief is mistaken only if it is not stable does not follow, and the contradiction does not follow either. To see this, let us distinguish the two ideas more carefully. It is the difference between:

(M) If something is entrenched in my outlook, in such a way that nothing I could recognize as an improvement would undermine it, then it is true.
(I) If something is entrenched in my outlook, in such a way that nothing that is an improvement would undermine it, then it is true.

The first of these is the gun Egan would point at the quasi-realist: the a prioricity of (M) would deliver a kind of first-person smugness that I was concerned to avoid. The second is very different. It talks of immunity to actual improvement: something at least close to Crispin Wright’s notion of superassertibility. And it may be a priori that if something is immune to all actual and possible improvement, then it is true—given a natural connection between improving and getting towards the truth. But (I) is not a problem, for it introduces no asymmetry between myself and others. If I hold (I) to be a priori true, I should equally hold its impersonal version to be so:

(I´) If something is entrenched in anyone’s outlook, in such a way that nothing that is an improvement would undermine it, then it is true.

For that matter, neither version of (I) introduces anything specific to ethics: it may be a priori that if someone’s belief that the film starts at eight o’clock is immune to improvement, then it is true. For if it were false, then an improvement is clearly on the cards, namely replacing it with the truth. Deflationism about truth is quite compatible with (I´). A deflationist will interpret it as a generalization corresponding to the schema ‘if p then an outlook which includes ¬p is capable of improvement’ and under any acceptable interpretation of improvement, this will be something to be asserted.

So a swift rebuttal on my part would be simply to reject the conflation between (M) and (I).
Blackburn's analogy: "if someone’s belief that the film starts at eight o’clock is immune to improvement, then it is true. For if it were false, then an improvement is clearly on the cards, namely replacing it with the truth."

And mine:

Venus de Milo front and side views

Outlook/Viewpoint/Point of view. My analogy takes outlook literally to mean a view from a place, in this case in front of the statue. The side view is off limits.

Analogy is a literary device. Blackburn's "swift rebuttal" is lawyer's rhetoric and mine is no better. But we can respond to him in other ways and with arguments that should be obvious to any educated non-philosopher:

How forceful would arguments for the equality of women have been without arguments by women? Is there a substantive [non-political] reason for women and minorities to be represented in government? Why do we separate the executive and legislative, the prosecution and defense?

I've said all this before and none of the points are original. Blackburn is struggling to hold on to an ideal of moral individualism, and quasi-realism only makes sense if you let go of it. Lawyers are under no requirement to believe in the truth of their clients' arguments. Their only obligation is to represent them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'll point to this out again and again, because every time the subject comes up the only response is defensive anger.

Empiricism and the Cartesian subject: "The only morality beyond question is my own. I define myself; other definitions apart from those of friends who are as well-meaning as I am, are irrelevant."

Is there a moral difference between pushing a man off a bridge and flicking a switch that starts a motor that moves a bar that knocks him off?  Is there a moral difference to the man being pushed? The Anglophone philosophers' favorite, the Trolley Problem, doesn't ask.

Continental philosophers try to construct or invent a fluid self in rhetorical language, a romanticized idealized self/other; they try to bridge in language a gap that's unbridgeable in the world. Continental philosophy is literature.  Anglo-American technocrats write how-to manuals and try to will that gap away.

I pick and choose from the same cast of characters, but for real estate I rely on Atrios.

Duncan Black
Getting A Little Less Hellish All The Time.
While people generally think of gentrification as the process wealthier residents displacing poorer ones, it's also about revitalizing retail/commercial corridors that have become a bit, well, hellish. When I first got to the urban hellhole there were only a few locations I would think to direct visitors to, not because the city had nothing else to offer, but because areas were a bit spotty if you didn't have a destination in mind. Now there are many more.
His neighborhood
...prior to the government intervention and development provided by Hope VI, the neighborhood was predominantly African American, however, since federal intervention the community is 67% White, 12% Black, 15% Asian, and 6% Latino.
[The stats are from Wikipedia and unsourced. This seems to confirm them]

Duncan Black
While I think quite often concerns about urban gentrification are a bit misplaced, an exception to that is when the poor get priced out of areas with access to decent mass transit. [etc.]
The Guardian
Councils plan for exodus of poor families from London.
Ministers were accused last night of deliberately driving poor people out of wealthy inner cities as London councils revealed they were preparing a mass exodus of low-income families from the capital because of coalition benefit cuts.

Representatives of London boroughs told a meeting of MPs last week that councils have already block-booked bed and breakfasts and other private accommodation outside the capital – from Hastings, on the south coast, to Reading to the west and Luton to the north – to house those who will be priced out of the London market.

Councils in the capital are warning that 82,000 families – more than 200,000 people – face losing their homes because private landlords, enjoying a healthy rental market buoyed by young professionals who cannot afford to buy, will not cut their rents to the level of caps imposed by ministers.
Atrios and Zadie Smith

Monday, October 25, 2010

Technocrats don't know what cosmopolitanism is, they only know what they want it to be. As with discussions of humanism they refer to their assumptions, and philosophy professors and historians follow different definitions of that word. [Realism in philosophy and political science are unrelated, so the problem is entirely different.]

Historically, cosmopolitanism is an assumption of universalism only as overlaying the particular. It's the acceptance of contradiction, not the assumption that it can, will, or even should be overcome. Technocracy cannot value the particular. It couldn't function if it did, and overdetermined particularism as narcissism is blowback. What's been missing from this argument is that it's not a blowback from technocracy as such but from the idealization of technocracy as "Modernism". Modernity, as a fact, needs to be separated from its romance.

I've referred more than once to the anti-humanism of science culture and of the culture of tattoos and tribalism. Click through again to find the description of the photo below, or just click here.

Science Tattoos and Chefs' tattoos
Also to the humanism implicit in the transformation of contemporary Islam.

2004: A protester against a proposed ban on headscarves, Lille, Northern France. Notice the tricolor.

2004 Tehran

Tattoos act now as a form of ideologizing armor: a mark of overdetermined individualism in a culture and age of anonymity. The equivalent in Islam would be the radicalized sons and daughters of assimilated immigrants, girls who adopt the burqa in rebellion against their parents' wishes, transforming an act of public discretion into an act of aggression, accepting the western judgment of foreignness and using it as a weapon. Defensive radicalism is always a sign of insecurity. The settler extremists are deeply insecure in their overdetermined Jewishness. But who's to judge confidence from insecurity, conservative from reactionary?
From 2006 [but going back 20 years earlier]
In the five lectures on psychoanalysis Freud says that as the result of a successful treatment repression is replaced by "a condemning judgment". He doesn't explain the difference between the two. What's the difference between "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother" and "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother"

["What then, becomes of the unconscious wishes which have been set free by psycho-analysis? along what paths do we succeed in making them harmless to the subject's life? There are several such paths. The most frequent outcome is that, while the work is actually going on, theses wishes are destroyed by the rational mental activity of the better impulses that are opposed to them. Repression is replaced by a condemning judgment carried out along the best lines. That is possible because wheat we have to get rid of is to a great extent only the consequences arising from earlier stages of the ego's development. The subject only succeeded in the past in repressing the unserviceable instinct because he himself was at that time still imperfectly organized and feeble. In his present-day maturity and strength, he will perhaps be able to master what is hostile to him with complete success."]
If life is social life then others judge us as we judge them. It's up to our audience to decide if our performative displays are open or defensive. And we are the audience for others' actions. As I've said -and everything here I've said before- in Turkey the hijab is more modern than the symbolism of the military.

Earlier tonight my neighbor told me he's gotten a break; he's not going to do any time. He was arrested a few months ago for pistol-whipping someone on the subway in a drunken rage (the gun was legal). And he's going to be able to keep his job. I told him I was happy for him, which I am. He showed me the head of Jesus that he's having tattooed on the left side of his chest and stomach. He said the one his mother won't be so happy about, also of Jesus, will be on the other side; the face will have horns and will be screaming in pain. I said Jesus had had a hard life. He said it was probably closer to the expression Jesus had on his face before he died. We talked for a few minutes. He said it doesn't matter what side you worship, you'll will be taken care of, but that now he's worshiping "the better angel." I said life is complex. He said no, it's simple. It's just hard.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tony Karon in The National
note taking. comments posted at Leiter
Joseph Streeter: "As a historian, I find it interesting that Rosenberg avoids Williamson's point about history, which is surely a discipline with a good claim to intellectual rigour, and a discipline productive of knowledge."

Rosenberg has already stated: "History is bunk"
Having come this far, scientism has the resources to explain the frustrations and the failure of the social sciences and history, and it provides a firm basis on which to establish reasonable expectations about the prospects for the human sciences, qua sciences.

The nature of meaning and its at-best merely instrumental grasp on real events in our brains and in the world gives scientism manifold reasons not to expect history and the historical versions of the social sciences to provide anything more than diverting stories, post hoc explanations and very short term expectations about the human future. But there is a much deeper reason to be pessimistic about the uses of history: reason enough to conclude that Santayana’s or Churchill’s reasons for taking history seriously—to know the future–will never be borne out.
As I've said in the past, I'm never sure what philosophers mean by the terms "humanism" and "naturalism." To a historian, Humanism originates in the renaissance with a reengagement with the past. To a philosopher it centers on the Enlightenment and an optimistic sense that the past is something that can be left behind. Similarly, naturalism has become synonymous with scientism, while Santayana was once considered to be a naturalist. Is he still?
A recent example of why history is useful [Crooked Timber on Graeber]
comments posted at NewApps on the same subject
Cogburn: "Where to begin on how awful this is? O.K. Let us start here. Arthur Danto and Noel Carroll are two of the greatest living analytic philosophers, and it's an insult both to theorists of art and naturalists to a priori dismiss the labors of Danto and Carroll and those of us who cherish them. It's just ridiculous. "

Regarding Carroll and Danto, I'm as disgusted by them as you are by Rosenberg. I'm disgusted by him as well, for other reasons. At the link to [Leiter] you'll find another, to a discussion of David Graeber on the history of money.

Danto's arguments about art, and Duchamp in particular, are founded as much on wishful thinking as the rationalist fantasies of economists that Graeber mocks. The genesis of Duchamp's art is as clear as day to anyone who pays more attention to history than philosophy. For the image [linked in my comment]: 2 paintings/2 porcelain figures- 2 works for public view/2 for "private".

The relation of professional philosophers to the arts is condescension and then fandom.
[fandom by definition is unanalytical]

Robin James: "It strikes me that these styles of theorizing--lit crit, hermeneutics, existentialism, etc--are all being branded as "soft" and "trivial" as compared to the "hard" and "serious" sciences. Think about that verb, "flout": teenagers flout the authority of their parents; some might argue that Celiene Dion flauts in the face of good taste. "Flauting" is a sort of immature, baseless sort of opposition. It's _girly_. Even notes that it comes from flute-playing (, which is a feminized activity. "

You're using all the terms that Rosenberg objects to since as he says explicitly, in the link I posted at Leiter: the study of history is pointless. But you're also using term to discuss art that Jon Cogburn and Noel Carroll would belittle as secondary to the objective[!] analysis of intent. I'll point out again that such arguments are perfectly in line with the claims of Antonin Scalia regarding the Constitution.

What was Shakespeare's intent in giving us Shylock? Can one prove objectively and absolutely that Celiene Dion's vocalizations are pat, shallow, and an expression of condescension towards her audience? No. But If I wanted to try I'd have to go through the history the study of vocal patterns in speech and perhaps even facial expression. She's a faker and a formalist, but then so were Sinatra and the Rolling Stones.

Language in use is form, text, and subtext. There is no univocality in practice. If I say "I love you, baby!" not only are you under no obligation to accept, you are under no obligation even to agree. "No, you don't" is the appropriate response as often as not. Philosophy has come so far in the denial of subtext as a category in philosophical speech that the "cafe revolutionary" is no longer simply a hypocrite but something that cannot logically exist.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The project is moribund. The first video below is only a test -and the second, posted earlier, includes nothing but sketches- but since the new one covers the same ground as most of my arguments I thought I'd put it up. The piece itself is or was an attempt to make a kind of public entertainment lightweight and not, to do something equivalent to what you'd find on Canal+ or HBO, in the context of the new art world of entertainment spectacle, while trying to preserve something of an older tradition in material culture that for better or worse I'm still attached to.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Simon Blackburn on Moral Quasi-Realism
Single case probabilities are those of particular events, such as Eclipse winning the 2.30 p.m. race this afternoon, an asteroid hitting the earth in the next century, or Parfit changing his mind about expressivism before Christmas. The background to Ramsey’s view can be sketched quite quickly, and is not really important to what follows. It is the pessimistic but plausible view that no satisfactory theory of such probabilities is forthcoming. Frequencies require sets of events, and putting events into sets does not help unless we have a principle for selecting the right sets. Any such principle is in danger of leaving all single case probabilities at either 0 or 1, although we will usually not know which, or, if the world is indeterministic, leaving them equally unknowable. Hence, probabilists such as Richard von Mises had banned them altogether, and scepticism about the notion—what is now called an error theory— seemed to be the only scientific course.

And yet outside the philosophy classroom the notion refused to die. Horse races still took place, and bookmakers thrived as before. Discussions about a particular horse’s chances filled sporting columns and bars. Insurance companies and actuaries still worked. People made up their minds, or changed them, oblivious to the pained cries of philosophers. So Ramsey, more charitable than von Mises, offered an explanation and vindication of the practices connected with voicing and discussing single-case probabilities. The manifestation, he said, of a sincere judgment of this kind is a distribution of confidence, and that in turn can most easily be regarded as a disposition to buy or sell bets at appropriate prices, under certain idealized conditions.[1] Such dispositions, of course, are not true or false in themselves. But they have what I called a propositional reflection, in the single case judgment. Thus, if I find I am disposed to risk $1 on Eclipse winning the 2.30, in the hope of getting $2 back if he does, I can voice this disposition by saying that Eclipse’s chances are at least 50 – 50. The disposition is discussable, for it may be that this is a very foolish bet. If you know that Eclipse is off-form, entirely outclassed by the field, has shown symptoms of equine flu, or recently lost a leg, you may helpfully seek to dissuade me. It is these discussions that fill racecourse bars and the sporting columns and the single-case probability proposition is the focus for them.

...We now turn to ethics, where, over many years, I have tried to articulate and defend a precisely parallel position, standing, for instance, to error theorists exactly as Ramsey stood to von Mises. The parallelism has not been hidden: I have explicitly drawn attention to it in many writings. Moral and evaluative propositions are foci for the arguments and thoughts with which men and women discuss, reject, accept, ways of conducting their lives. We urge them on each other in order to change peoples’ practical dispositions: their motivations and concerns, their sense of honour, guilt and shame, or of what will do and what will not. So now I turn to some of the things Parfit says, and see how they might sound if we applied them to Ramsey’s theory. Since I do not want to put words into Ramsey’s mouth, I shall invent a persona, Bramsey, to act as my spokesman.
Blackburn suggests that such attitudes (moral and conative attitudes) might be mistaken in the sense that we would not have these attitudes if our standpoint were improved in certain ways. But to explain the sense in which this standpoint would be improved, Blackburn would have to claim that, if we had this standpoint, our attitudes would be less likely to be mistaken. This explanation would fail because it would have to use the word ‘mistaken’ in the sense that Blackburn is trying to explain.
P. 359
The parallel will be:
Bramsey suggests that betting dispositions might be mistaken in the sense that we would not have these dispositions if our standpoint were improved in certain ways. But to explain the sense in which this standpoint would be improved, Bramsey would have to claim that, if we had this standpoint, our betting dispositions would be less likely to be mistaken. This explanation would fail because it would have to use the word ‘mistaken’ in the sense that Bramsey is trying to explain.
Zionism as Quasi-Realism. This sort of snapshot "research", without reference to recent Israeli actions is like a history of Israel with no reference to events before 1948. "Finally, our data showed..." that if you ignore data you get "X". But the amount of data is limitless. And where you start is your choice. [I have to say it's worse than that: "...while others claimed that his government is constitutionally illegitimate." Following the text of the constitution it is illegitimate.]

I'm not arguing with Blackburn, but he's doing no more than scoring academic points. He'll never get to politics, even the social politics of daily life. Every lawyer argues cases from the position of quasi realism: his obligation is to his client. But every lawyer has an opponent in argument. "Research", the terminology of science applied to social life (and debate is social life) remains perspectival even at its best. For my purposes it doesn't matter if the authors are being disingenuous or if their myopia is the result of ideological formalism. It doesn't matter if they're cynics or fiddlers. Blackburn is a fiddler, that's what interests me here.
The politics of mathematics and formal logic, of the functionalism of tools, is anti-politics. The politics of Truth is anti-politics.

Interesting that Zizek and Badiou [see yesterday], an Eastern European former dissident and a Western European ex-Maoist, [not so ex-, actually] are arguing the importance of aspiration, of hope, the desire to be better than mostly we are, while Western left-liberals, now "left-neoliberals" (including those calling themselves socialists) are arguing for the creation of systems of control that limit our capacity for self-harm. It seemed clear to me that Badiou has returned to the Church, or maybe he never left. The choice is between the rationalism of engaged hope and the rationalism of individualism and cold moral reason (and moral seriousness is not moral responsibility). The secularist empiricism of language and experience is the third option that's ignored. Too bad about that dinner, it would've been fun.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

IFC Official: "This was an event, at the Fairmont Hotel, sponsored by the Saudi Bankers association. Wine & hard licquor were served and requested abundantly."

No problem here, except for the Wahhabi puritanical crap they hold the country (theirs) hostage with
The Guardian
Angela Merkel: Germany has failed.
10/18 Yes it has
BERLIN — It has been many years since a German film student had a feature-length movie shown in the competition at the prestigious Berlinale International Film Festival, a distinction that can launch a career. That is what Burhan Qurbani is enjoying at the moment, with his film “Shahada.”

But rising fame can be double-edged, as Mr. Qurbani, 29, now understands, as his native country casts a critical eye on his work, and his life. He suddenly realizes that he is a foreigner at home, and that his audience sees him as an Afghan immigrant who made a movie about Islam, not as a talented German filmmaker who chose to explore issues common to all mankind.

...Of course, I am German,” Mr. Qurbani said. “I have Afghani roots, I can’t deny that, but mostly, I am German.”
Germany made Israel what it is.
Zizek again, and Badiou. No dinner this time.

I saw them again the next day in a different context. The audience overlap was small, which says something about the relations of intellectual to political life in the US. As I've said before, the self-imposed isolation of the art world and US academia parallel each other, when they don't overlap. But neither Badiou or Zizek are American. It says something also about the relationship of philosophers to the arts that the art they choose to engage is as middling and pretentious in it's way as the art of those who pretend to engage them. Diderot's favorite artist was Greuze. Aloni's speech made me cringe. Apparently he can't talk "as a Palestinian" to a Palestinian student who described to him, with shame, how he once hit his sister for flirting with a boy, but he can talk to him about feminism, since feminism is universal. Later he tried, with limited success, to lead the audience in a chant. Still he was careful to note the perversity of Waltz With Bashir.

I have a hard time with kitsch especially when it's well meaning. Foregrounding intentionality, or sincerity, is more than foregrounding bias—honest observation is always biased. It puts the author/observer before his observations; its focus is on the teller not the tale. Kitsch is always narcissistic and Aloni at one point, in an aside the context of which I've forgotten and in an act of feigned humility, called himself "too much of a narcissist to..." (and here my mind goes blank).

Badiou made a boilerplate speech on humanist values and the importance the the Palestinian struggle. Zizek was the only one of the three to deal with the history of anti-semitism and its relation to Zionist and Israeli ideology. And as he had the night before he referred to Kant's model of public reason, this time specifically to deny that it could ever refer to the language of nationalism. So he made no reference to a Palestinian state but only to democracy. The only way to fight nationalist ideology is fight for something else.

The symposium was sponsored by the Friends of The Jenin Freedom Theater. It would have been interesting to hear from Juliano Mer-Khamis, though apparently he was at the evening screening. If I'm not capable of sitting through either Forgiveness or Arna's Children in their entirety the reasons have nothing to do with one another. (The full movie is below.)

Zizek is wrong about public reason. "There is no such thing as 'public reason'. Reason is always private. What there is is 'public form'." [And again] The focus on reason maintains a focus on the reasoning person as individual, on the subject rather than the subject at hand, and the means. As with the trolley problems discussed in the previous post, the focus on problems ignores the problem of others, and their perceptions. "Ask the fat man if he sees a moral difference between being killed by hand or by push-button."

Related: The Extended Mind. As I've said before. "the limits... are pretty clear: If my arm is an extension of my mind, is my hand like a fork? " In some ways it is and we can play games with semantics and argue preference. The only reason it interests me is for what it means as history. The attempt by Chalmers et al. to extend the the mind into the world is another example, like Kant's, Rawls' and now Zizek's public reason, of philosophers trying to expand individualism outwards to encompass the world. And trying to expand philosophy now (as experimental philosophy does also in other ways) is more than anything a response to the increasing sense of a world moving inwards, to encompass us. Zizek tries to deal with this as an individualist obsessed with morality.

If language as a tool is part of me and language preexists me, am I part of language? The less hyperbolic (and therefore more disturbing) way to put it would be to show simply how we're constructs of culture, less individuals than tokens, and that the best route to an earned rather than assumed individuality is to examine others through the common means we share. Most documentaries are bad art because most documentarians refuse to understand that all art is documentary, of the author's relation to the world and the other. Most academic intellectual prose is hopeless in the world at large because it focuses on the world at large and the authorial Cogito is both assumed and ignored. Zizek and those he follows focus on the self and try to imagine a union of self and other as a super-moral-self. But in both cases the self is central, is the center. My argument continues to be that focusing on observation and articulate description in common language -the craft of writing, cinema or any other form- are more richly communicative than anything produced with the false confidence of the Cartesian "I". Close observation, close reading, undermines labels and assumptions. Generalizations and "ideas" left to their own devices slowly become anti-political assumption. Close description, read closely by others, is the highest form of intellectual and political exchange.
The failure of Israel is the last failure of the modernist project, the project of expanding rationality and reason. The fact that so many who self-identify as enlightened, as intellectuals, are unwilling to see the facts before them is proof of our inability to look beyond our assumptions and our fears, proof that our consciousness by default is more product than producer. In the second half of the 20th century in the western imagination Palestinians were the heirs of the Nazis, when that label more closely fit the Nazi's greatest victims. Israelis are the abused children of Germany and their state was built in its image. The Nakba was 62 years ago. The occupation of the west bank began 43 years ago. These facts are not new, except to the people who have been able to ignore them, refusing to describe, choosing to assume, operating on faith.

Arna's Children

A little more on Zizek and Badiou, at the end here

Thursday, October 14, 2010

note taking/ posted elsewhere
The doctrine of double effect that includes intent is Catholic in the same sense that pity is Catholic. Both are concerned with the emotions of the actor only, not the victim or the starving poor. Someone once remarked that Mother Teresa followed the morality of the 12th century Church in maintaining that the wretched of the earth were here so that the great could learn the nobility of pity.

The use of trolley problems for “research”[sic] in philosophy as opposed to human psychology, is nil. Like the poor in the eyes of the old church, the “intuitions” of the other are ignored. Ask the fat man if he sees a moral difference between being killed by hand or by push-button. Ask the man about to be executed if he sees a moral difference between the guillotine the garrote and someone’s fingers. The difference is physical and thus emotional proximity; and that’s the only thing that had any effect on the actors in Milgram’s experiments.

The “intuitions” given in response to versions of the trolley problem are identical to the “intuitions” that allow me cry over the death of my lover while merely offering condolences to you over yours.
I’m told Montesquieu covered that one.

The only thing interesting in the article was that conservatives made no distinction between “Tyrone Payton” and “Chip Ellsworth III”, while liberals were more willing to give Chip a push. For whatever reason, that was amusing.

Also of course every military officer in battle makes the equivalent of trolley problem distinctions. The military is run by the numbers. But officers and enlisted men are not allowed to “fraternize”. You can not order your friends into battle. Again the rule: proximity.
Also again: the focus on the actor or the "I" alone.
"History is like foreign travel. It broadens the mind, but it does not deepen it." Descartes'
History is the foreign, is the other.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Last Man

Journey From the Center of the Earth
note taking/posted elsewhere
Technical fields need philosophy as counter-force to the technical imperative, the "inertia" that accrues to technical practice. The arts and humanities do not need philosophy, they are philosophy. In the arts and humanities in a democratic culture (and humanism and the humanities are the origin of democracy), practice is theory.

We're living through something of a renaissance, a rebirth of humanism, but not in the academy. The academic arts and humanities are dying. Academic fields have become merely technical, therefore anti-intellectual. Arguing that the humanities are profitable is an admission of defeat. The humanities are democracy.
The "Brights", TED, Convergence Culture, all the culture of capitalist functionalism. Culture is constitutive. In technocracy, culture is entertainment. TED is "Technology, Entertainment, Design". Participants in TED will not ask the question: What it the culture of Technology, Entertainment, and Design?
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.
Convergence culture, TED, advertising theory, are all Cartesian. The "I" is not described, it is assumed. It's neoliberal capitalist anti-humanism.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Indocumentados trabajaron para Lou Dobbs
En Inglés

Lebanon. A good description of the situation (regarding the STL).

Other things to consider
The population is (approx.) 40% Shiite, 20% Sunni, 40% Christian, and Christians are allotted half of the seats in Parliament.

AA hasn't said anything about the crisis. He's like Chomsky, anti-ideological to the point of being anti-political. Saying that he "doesn't care" who killed Harriri is not engaging with politics. His snobbishness becomes self-evident.

The resistance will only win by winning politically. Hezbollah has to grow up in a way that their opponents will not. The same is true with the Palestinian resistance, Hamas, vis-a-vis Israel (and Fatah).
As'ad AbuKhalil
Poor young men in the inner cities get beaten regularly by police but when rich white kids get bothered by police, it is a major news story in the New York Times. The New York Times is very protective of rich white kids at Yale University.
NY Times
Not all white, but mostly. Click on the photo: the earnest indignant expressions.

Brad DeLong
Henry Farrell Continues His War on Rubber Tomatoes...
I, by contrast, say that you have to either live in the countryside or live in the city and be really rich to say that rubber tomatoes suck. For those humans who live in the city and are not really rich, rubber tomatoes provide a welcome and tasty and affordable simulacrum of the tomato-eating experience.
Interesting to watch the divisions in the "reality based" community open up along the lines I noted years ago.

A bill that homeowners advocates warn will make it more difficult to challenge improper foreclosure attempts by big mortgage processors is awaiting President Barack Obama's signature after it quietly zoomed through the Senate last week.
The bill, passed without public debate in a way that even surprised its main sponsor, Republican Representative Robert Aderholt, requires courts to accept as valid document notarizations made out of state, making it harder to challenge the authenticity of foreclosure and other legal documents.
The timing raised eyebrows, coming during a rising furor over improper affidavits and other filings in foreclosure actions by large mortgage processors such as GMAC, JPMorgan and Bank of America.
Questions about improper notarizations have figured prominently in challenges to the validity of these court documents, and led to widespread halts of foreclosure proceedings.
The legislation could protect bank and mortgage processors from liability for false or improperly prepared documents.

The White House said it is reviewing the legislation.
NY Times
The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted 12 to 2 this morning to approve a package of fare increases for its subways, buses and commuter railroads, the third time in three years that New Yorkers face a stiff rise in the cost of getting around.
...On Dec. 30, when the increases take effect, a 30-day unlimited card will cost $104, up from $89, a 17 percent increase, while an unlimited weekly pass will cost $29, up from $27. Single rides will rise 25 cents to $2.50.
DSquared ["That's a bingo"]
(actually, the more I think about this, the more I take a view on the extreme epistemological and methodological left wing; I don’t think that “lack of ambiguity” is necessarily a desirable characteristic in something that’s meant to measure an inherently ambiguous and contested property. Similarly, the ease of comparison of Gini coefficients between different periods and countries is not a good thing, and so is scale independence. Scale matters in economics).
A friend of mine refers to Frank Gehry's architecture as the end of craft. I don't agree, but we do live in an age of engineering, and of an art and culture of engineering as physical and intellectual "design". Without saying anything one way or the other about his abilities as a cook, the interest in Ferran Adrià has as much to do with the new model of engineering as with food. A couple of years ago flipping channels I watched Jacques Pepin for a few minutes talking to an old friend, reminiscing about their student years and what he said was the dying "craft" of cooking. While he was talking he demonstrated seven or more ways of slicing a potato, his friend smiling at the memory. Some of the techniques were very complex and Pepin's hands moved fast, with the skill of a tradesman not a designer.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Read it out loud, to yourself if no one else is around.

Huizinga, The Waning Of the Middle Ages
Chapter One: The Violent Tenor Of Life 
To the world when it was half a thousand years younger, the outlines of all things seemed more clearly marked than to us. The contrast between suffering and joy, between adversity and happiness, appeared more striking. All experience had yet to the minds of men the directness and absoluteness of the pleasure and pain of child-life. Every event, every action, was still embodied in expressive and solemn forms, which raised them to the dignity of a ritual. For it was not merely the great facts of birth, marriage and death which, by the sacredness of the sacrament, were raised to the rank of mysteries; incidents of less importance, like a journey, a task, a visit, were equally attended by a thousand formalities: benedictions, ceremonies, formulae.

Calamities and indigence were more afflicting than at present; it was more difficult to guard against them, and to find solace. Illness and health presented a more striking contrast; the cold and darkness of winter were more real evils. Honours and riches were relished with greater avidity and contrasted more vividly with surrounding misery. We, at the present day, can hardly understand the keenness with which a fur coat, a good fire on the hearth, a soft bed, a glass of wine, were formerly enjoyed.

Then, again, all things in life were of a proud or cruel publicity. Lepers sounded their rattles and went about in processions, beggars exhibited their deformity and their misery in churches. Every order and estate, every rank and procession, was distinguished by its costume. The great lords never moved about without a glorious display of arms and liveries, exciting fear and envy. Executions and other public acts of justice, hawking, marriages and funerals, were all announced by cries and processions, songs and music. The lover wore the colours of his lady ; companions the emblem of their confraternity ; parties and servants the badges or blazon of their lords. Between town and country, too, the contrast was very marked. A medieval town did not lose itself in extensive suburbs of factories and villas ; girded by its walls, it stood forth as a compact whole, bristling with innumerable turrets. However tall and threatening the houses of noblemen or merchants might be, in the aspect of the town the lofty mass of the churches always remained dominant

The contrast between silence and sound, darkness and light, like that between summer and winter, was more strongly marked than it is in our lives. The modern town hardly knows silence or darkness in their purity, nor the effect of a solitary light or a single distant cry.

All things presenting themselves to the mind in violent contrasts and impressive forms, lent a tone of excitement and of passion to everyday life and tended to produce that perpetual oscillation between despair and distracted joy, between cruelty and pious tenderness, which characterize life in the Middle Ages.

One sound rose ceaselessly above the noises of busy life and lifted all things unto a sphere of order and serenity: the sound of bells. The bells were in daily life like good spirits, which by their familiar voices, now called upon the citizens to mourn and now to rejoice, now warned them of danger, now exhorted them to piety. They were known by their names: big Jacqueline, or the bell Roland. Every one knew the difference in meaning of the various ways of ringing. However continuous the ringing of the bells, people would seem not to have become blunted to the effect of their sound.

Throughout the famous judicial duel between two citizens of Valenciennes, in 1465, the big bell, "which is hideous to hear," says Chastellain, never stopped ringing. What intoxication the pealing of the bells of all the churches, and of all the monasteries of Paris, must have produced, sounding from morning till evening, and even during the night, when a peace was concluded or a pope elected.

The frequent processions, too, were a continual source of pious agitation. When the times were evil, as they often were, processions were seen winding along, day after day, for weeks on end. In 1412 daily processions were ordered in Paris, to implore victory for the king, who had taken up the oriflamme against the Armagnacs. They lasted from May to July, and were formed by ever-varying orders and corporations, going always by new roads, and always carrying different relics. The Burgher of Paris calls them " the most touching processions in the memory of men." People looked on or followed, " weeping piteously, with many tears, in great devotion." All went barefootted and fasting, councillors of the Parlement as well as the poorer citizens. Those who could afford it, carried a torch or a taper. A great many small children were always among them. Poor country-people of the environs of Paris came barefooted from afar to join the procession. And nearly every day the rain came down in torrents.

Then there were the entries of princes, arranged with all the resources of art and luxury belonging to the age. And, lastly, most frequent of all, one might almost say, uninterrupted, the executions. The cruel excitement and coarse compassion raised by an execution formed an important item in the spiritual food of the common people. They were spectacular plays with a moral. For horrible crimes the law invented atrocious punishments. At Brussels a young incendiary and murderer is placed in the centre of a circle of burning fagots and straw, and made fast to a stake by means of a chain running round an iron ring. He addresses touching words to the spectators, "and he so softened their hearts that every one burst into tears and his death was commended as the finest that was ever seen." During the Burgundian terror in Paris in 1411, one of the victims, Messire Mansart du Bois, being requested by the hangman, according to custom, to forgive him, is not only ready to do so with all his heart, but begs the executioner to embrace him." There was a great multitude of people, who nearly all wept hot tears."

When the criminals were great lords, the common people had the satisfaction of seeing rigid justice done, and at the same time finding the inconstancy of fortune exemplified more strikingly than in any sermon or picture. ...
Ahmadinejad as Putin. His chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei
"Iran needs to remove the mullahs from power once for all," it read, "and return to a great civilization without the Arab-style clerics who have tainted and destroyed the country for the past 31 years."
An interview with Mashaei in The New Yorker

Polling the US
It’s an oddly phrased question, but one which nevertheless indicates pretty strongly that Americans are not in favor of a U.S. war with Iran. I suspect that those who are in favor of a war with Iran understand this, which is why they like to talk exclusively about “air strikes,” “military strikes,” or my favorite, “surgical strikes.”
Last month’s Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll showed that Americans “were about evenly divided” on the question of whether the U.S. should undertake “military strikes” on Iran as a last resort, after diplomatic and sanctions efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program had been exhausted. It would be interesting to see how those numbers change if “military strikes” was changed to “war.”
Because war is what it would be.

Monday, October 04, 2010

All about race and class. Jews are a very successful minority, but whether Jews are black or white depends on context.
The Jews Invented Hollywood , but Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz changed his name. Sanchez should go on The Daily Show and ask him why.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Crazy Conspiracy Theories
I hate articles like this which dutifully ignore the fact that we went to war in Iraq, in part, because of assholes like Jeffrey Goldberg who peddled conspiracy theories about 9/11.

Crazy conspiracy theories in our own country have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Atrios isn't a leftist except in right wing fantasies, but there's something in his language that's been foreign to liberal argument for a long time. He's too self-absorbed to question his own behavior, but his knee-jerk reactions show a change in the culture. I've said this a few times over the past years: sometimes he says something that reminds me how much things have changed.

The third time I've posted this. His timing and phrasing are practiced to the point of coldness but aren't cold. The material is light but the performance is rich. The coda is perfectly wrought: light, bitter, and sad.

Something else from the archives [twice]