Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Dangerous... Stereotypes"
Jim Crow segregation survived long into the 20th century because it was kept alive by white Southerners with value systems and personalities we would applaud. It’s the fallacy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a movie that never fails to move me but that advances a troubling falsehood: the notion that well-educated Christian whites were somehow victimized by white trash and forced to live within a social system that exploited and denigrated its black citizens, and that the privileged white upper class was somehow held hostage to these struggling individuals.

But that wasn’t the case. The White Citizens Councils, the thinking man’s Ku Klux Klan, were made up of white middle-class people, people whose company you would enjoy. An analogue can be seen in the way popular culture treats Germans up to and during World War II. Good people were never anti-Semites; only detestable people participated in Hitler’s cause.

Cultures function and persist by consensus. In Jackson and other bastions of the Jim Crow South, the pervasive notion, among poor whites and rich, that blacks were unworthy of full citizenship was as unquestioned as the sanctity of church on Sunday. “The Help” tells a compelling and gripping story, but it fails to tell that one.
The racism of Jim Crow or of Zionism and the occupation; of course most Zionists are good people.

Optimistic liberals are optimists about themselves, and liberal intellectuals, in the American model, are unable to imagine or at least fully understand the implications of the fact that elsewhere people are arguing with their friends over whether American liberals themselves are "good". Debates among Americans over Libya are claimed to continue "an age-old foreign policy debate between realism and idealism", as if idealism played any role at all in the decision to go to war.

Intellectual defenders of idealist liberalism will always need to refer to others in the coldly impersonal form of the bureaucratic third person -as objects or ideas- regardless of the gulf between themselves and those of whom they speak. Idealists need to discount the history of good people like themselves who have been guilty of gross error and objectively criminal irresponsibility.

The Palestinians' place in the American imagination is not proof of American corruption, it's proof, once again, of a human capacity for blindness that idealists need to deny in order to maintain an intentionalist philosophy. Philosophical liberalism is predicated on the assumption that intellectuals, academics, leaders, the elect, can speak both of and for others, and do justice to them and their causes. To agree with this would be to argue that white liberals played an equal role alongside blacks in the civil rights movement, that men have played an equal role in feminism and that heterosexuals have been at the forefront of the fight for gay rights. No liberal will agree with those claims but most would deny the implications of their refusal to do so. Let's not begin to talk about questions of class.

That governments find it necessary to refer to people as data does not justify a moral politics of data sets. American liberalism (and Anglo-American political philosophy) have never tried to come to terms with this simple obvious fact.

Haaretz: "Polish-Jewish sociologist compares West Bank separation fence to Warsaw Ghetto walls."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ken Loach
Traditionally young people would be drawn into the world of work, and into groups of adults who would send the boys for a lefthanded screwdriver, or a pot of elbow grease, and so they'd be sent up in that way, but they would also learn about responsibilities, and learn a trade, and be defined by their skills. Well, they destroyed that. Thatcher destroyed that. She consciously destroyed the workforces in places like the railways, for example, and the mines, and the steelworks … so that transition from adolescence to adulthood was destroyed, consciously, and knowingly.
I remember stories about kids on their first day being sent out for a "left-handed sky hook". Coming back in failure, terrified.
"He liked the fragility of those moments suspended in time, those memories whose only function had been to leave behind nothing but memories. He wrote: 'I've been around the world several times, and now only banality still interests me'"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Independent
A British diplomatic source said: "From quite an early stage there has been a view that Gaddafi's stranglehold would only be broken if there were practical measures on the ground as well as the air campaign. We are not talking legions of SAS crawling through the undergrowth. What we are talking about is offering expertise, diplomatic support and allowing others to be helpful."

The "others" in question are the small groups of former special forces operatives, many with British accents, working for private security firms who have been seen regularly by reporters in the vanguard of the rebels' haphazard journey from Benghazi towards Tripoli.

...London has been content for the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council to use funds to buy in ex-SAS men and others with a British military background to help train and advise anti-Gaddafi forces.
The Independent understands that the contracts for the security companies, often signed in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have involved funds provided by Western countries to the NTC, although much of the money has come from previously frozen regime bank accounts and assets...
The Guardian
The Guardian has previously reported the presence of former British special forces troops, now employed by private security companies and funded by a number of sources, including Qatar. They have been joined by a number of serving SAS soldiers.

They have been acting as forward air controllers – directing pilots to targets – and communicating with Nato operational commanders. They have also been advising rebels on tactics, a task they have not found easy.
Seumas Milne
But the facts are unavoidable.Without the 20,000 air sorties, arms supplies and logistical support of the most powerful states in the world, they would not be calling the shots in Tripoli today. The assault on the capital was supported by the heaviest Nato bombardment to date. Western intelligence and special forces have been on the ground for months – in mockery of the UN – training, planning and co-ordinating rebel operations.
It was the leading Nato states that championed and funded the Transitional National Council – including members with longstanding CIA and MI6 links – and officials from Nato states who drew up the stabilisation plan now being implemented on the ground.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Notes from my broker:

"All the government emergency powers since 2001. They can't test these things under normal conditions. Some of the panic is real but some of it is fake... Don't talk over me...! It's a fire drill for the police state."

"I told him it would be up. Why else would the fucking market be up on a friday? It'll be a catastrophe but you'll make money. People will have jobs. It's stimulus!!"

"Perry! Dude! He's a fucking Nazi. And he's the next president!!"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In reference also to the previous post, and comments elsewhere:

The purpose and justification for the rule of law is that the debate is not over absolutes of justice and morality but the specifics of the law itself. Our relation to the law is deontological first and foremost. The law is the law of the community, not of the absolute. If the police search a house without a warrant or in the US what's called "probable cause" whatever evidence they find, however incriminating, is disallowed. In such cases if there is no other evidence the guilty go free. Common sense morality is deontological in the same way and for the same reasons. Again to the Trolley Problem and the military: if one person in a community commits an act that results in harm or death of another the result is an imbalance, an increased tension within the community. Even if that act is logically justifiable the person was acting on his own—the community did not license it—and if one person takes the burdens otherwise held only by the state, he is seen as becoming like the state: at a remove from the community of equals. Action being seen as precedent, that act is dangerous.

Military utilitarianism is founded on the separation and hierarchical arrangement of various communities of equals. Friendship, fraternization, between members of different groups is strictly limited by military law. The moral obligations of friendship and rank are seen as mutually exclusive, in conflict not as absolute truth but as a matter of law. But both are honored in their place.

There's a famous story about Kurt Gödel and his claims to have discovered a flaw in the U.S. Constitution that could allow for a dictatorship. It's usually referred to as a mark of his eccentricity that he would imagine such flaws existed; but the people who refer to it are mathematicians and philosophers who follow mathematical logic. If you asked scholars of Constitutional law, the majority would say it's true. The Constitution was written to be interpreted and such is the nature of interpretation. Interpretation is not science. Truth-seeking is not synonymous with wanting to understand. Sometimes it's a hindrance.

One of my biggest hits: Klub-Kid Kollectivity

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

CT: "Utilitarian Psychopaths"
Here’s an interesting (or at least provocative) new piece of psychological research (link may need academic subscription) with findings concerning the moral framework generally favoured by economists:
In this paper, we question the close identification of utilitarian responses with optimal moral judgment by demonstrating that the endorsement of utilitarian solutions to a set of commonly-used moral dilemmas correlates with a set of psychological traits that can be characterized as emotionally callous and manipulative—traits that most would perceive as not only psychologically unhealthy, but also morally undesirable.
“The mismeasure of morals: Antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas”, by Daniel M. Bartels and David A. Pizarro, Cognition 121 (2011) 154–161.
[available here]

And they debate this.

See George Soros and The Trolley Problem

Common sense morality is morality among equals; utilitarianism defaults to the morality of leaders. In the military, decision makers cannot "fraternize" with their inferiors: pretend to be their equals.

Utilitarianism in a community of equals is a functional threat to the community and is considered immoral within the community. The result is class loyalty and the politics of leaders and lead, rulers and ruled.

So fucking obvious. It's just sad.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Swoop Aug 22-28
In the Middle East, the strongly-worded statement criticizing the August 18th rocket attacks in Southern Israel and the mild reaction to renewed Israeli construction in East Jerusalem indicate that the US will give full support to any Israeli reaction. A State Department official commented to us, “we are stressing to the Egyptians not to take Hamas’ side.” With regard to Libya, White House officials believe they are in sight of forcing Gaddafi’s departure. There is much less clarity about how the steps to a new government will play out.
The Settlements

The US
The Obama administration wielded its first veto at the UN security council last night in a move to swipe down a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
The Israeli government has authorised the construction of 277 homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, a move that will diminish the prospects for a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

An announcement from the defence ministry said approval for the scheme was given last week. The government also backed the building of 1,600 homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo. Further announcements are expected in the coming days.
In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:
“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”
I've been wanting to write more on connoisseurship, as the defining element of the intellectual as opposed to technical imagination and as central to politics, or the ability to handle political questions. I've written about it but never in such a way as to clarify the point to people who would not want to agree. I haven't attacked it.
note taking. posted elsewhere Serendipity I guess
It's a side effect of the preference for metrics over questions is that you're lost without your yardstick. Political scientists are skeptical of cultural historians because working outside metrics they work without a net. Read the last paragraph here [Peter Frase - 8/18 on this page] and tell me if makes any sense at all.

Numbers and concepts make life easier. If you take for granted they define the most important questions then you're free to indulge whatever preferences you have that don't get in the way. Here it's Brazilian music, and punk rock (however it's defined ) professional wrestling and recently, food. I'm not surprised that chemists, engineers, and mathematicians are fans of "speculative" fictions and otherwise naive in their enthusiasms. I don't expect scientists to be intellectuals. But the fact remains that the articulation -public speaking- of a concept marks the end as much or more than the beginning. Whatever it may be, by the time someone announces it, it's been around for awhile. Philosophers prefer to see it otherwise, but historians prove them wrong.

A utilitarian would say an unexamined idea is not worth having. Ideas are metrics. A philosopher should ask what life is worth living: a question without a metric.

I have no problem with The Rock. It's interesting watching a ham actor coming to terms with the work of becoming a real one. Johnson's speaking about that is why I like him.

"I never know what to say when I meet celebrities."

What's a celebrity? That's not a glib question, I know recognize the category but it's a category worth examining, without a net.
We live our lives as actors improvising on a stage shared by our audience of other actors. We can choose to ignore the context of our gestures and focus on technical questions removed or so we imagine from performance; but you're no less of an actor for pretending otherwise.

Policemen and mathematicians are rule-followers by choice, and they tend to see that as obviating any need to look beyond the metrics which each see as objectively defined and universal. There are two responses to this. One is that even "universal" metrics are only tools: if you want to measure something with a yardstick you have to find the place to put one end of the stick. You have to find a beginning, end or border. That's not always easy to do, and in discussions of culture it's impossible. Historians accept this, social scientists and partisans of theory tend not to, focusing on only what their metrics can make clear. But clarity is not the same as representation and historians are the ones left to pick through the rubble left by those who claimed to see things clearly. The other response is to point out that yardsticks are are no more or less universal than the rule that says both policemen and mathematicians are actors among actors. The central question for society is how actors should get along with one another, and other people are not numbers to your personhood.

"But the fact remains that the articulation -public speaking- of a concept marks the end as much or more than the beginning. Whatever it may be, by the time someone announces it, it's been around for awhile."

Discoveries are not concepts. Great scientists like great artists, unlike journeymen in either field, are great observers. Discoveries too have their time, but tropes come to "fruition", and that's the moment we remember; they're born in obscurity. That's something else historians know but others forget.

Einstein isn't remembered for coining concepts but for observing relations.
Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such an authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens. Thus they come to be stamped as “necessities of thought,” “a priori givens,” etc. The path of scientific advance is often made impassable for a long time through such errors. For that reason, it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analyzing the long commonplace concepts and exhibiting those circumstances upon which their justification and usefulness depend, how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. By this means, their all-too-great authority will be broken. They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with given things be far too superfluous, replaced by others if a new system can be established that we prefer for whatever reason.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another link from NewAPPS : a review by Graham Harman.
Just as the arts advance more through a punctuated series of epoch-making figures than through the collective piecework of progress-in-detail (à la Kuhnian "normal science"),...
I could barely get beyond that point. There's never been any evidence for "progress" in the arts; claims otherwise are based in fantasy and science fiction. Again: the desire for progress is not progress.

Art and the natural sciences are opposed because the natural sciences reduce experience to physics and chemistry. Humanist empiricism on the other hand is the description of the specifics of -always subjective and perspectival- experience and its coloring of our use of reason. It's not worth talking to someone who says he knows what his values are. If he claims confidence in good intentions the odds are he's lying, to you or both of you, and if he's not lying he's a simpleton. If he claims bad intentions he may be telling to truth, but honest barbarians are rare.

repeats. start there.

Jan van Eyck (and Assistant), The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment, (detail) ca. 1430 Oil on canvas,
transferred from wood, The Metropolitan Museum, NY

Those who claim to know politics because they know physics and chemistry will tend to side with authority if only their own, against the majority, and authority is habit-forming which is why our society is based on the rule of law and not the rule of 'best intentioned' rulers. Those people most worth talking to will tell you that they know what they think their values should be, not what they are. Art, both as a chosen field and as something ubiquitous in life, concerns the distance between desires, ideals and action. Liberal idealists, now as neo-liberals, try to will away that distance. They fail.

The moral logic behind the doctrine of the rule of law is conservative and pessimistic, and the arts manifest the same conservatism. Artworks do not express they describe expression. "Expressionist" art succeeds when it does, only when the audience responds to artists' tricks. Those tricks may be deployed to communicate the private emotions of an artist, but we never see the emotions; we see only the description.

An audience responds to stimuli crafted to match its language and its tastes, but in a culture of rapid change artists are often the first to articulate the language of the present. The history of the "avant-garde" is one of honest observation, not discovery. Honesty is hard. The later self-styled avant-garde of art and philosophy as science, is based on fantasy. Art describes the most intimate details of present experience, and any art that does not do that, fails. Art that claims to say something about the future speaks only to the hopes of the present, sometimes complexly. Futurism however always ages badly, but since futurists don't care about the past they never notice.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

8/20- Stuck on this one for a while. I'm beginning a longer piece and this is my practice pad. The last paragraph here [Link from Farrell]
What Lewis doesn’t seem to get is that this trusting attitude isn’t just some ineffable quality of Germanness. It’s built into the structure of German political economy. And I think that’s a better explanation of what happened in Germany than Lewis’ appeal to national stereotypes.
German political economy is an aspect of German culture and the product of German culture over time. Without getting into an argument over Michael Lewis' pop-history, the paragraph above is the shortest clear demonstration of poli-sci aversion to history as subject that I've come across: Science is preferable to non-science/ Historical science is untenable because of all the data we've lost/ We have large amounts of data from the present/ The science of the present is possible. More "science" from NewApps
Philosophy, Physics, Metaphysics (5 posts). Disabled Philosophers Feminism
There's no feminist geology nor will there ever be a black physics, but that says nothing about the need for a feminist philosophy or a philosophy of race, or of "disability" whatever that may mean (and that itself is a question for philosophy). The attempt to universalize individual experience in the language of one author or speaking subject is the universalism of the priesthood: of authorities not individuals. "I contain multitudes" is the lie of Kings and actors. Science can not parse experience without denying it. Unlike mystics and metaphysicians I have no argument with that. Logically there is none. My argument is with those who would make a politics of the "science" of rationalism. A politics of empiricism is the only politics worth defending. It's empiricism that allows me to point out the confusion of those who spend half their time promoting language games as science and the rest celebrating cultural identities. Eric Schliesser
Analytic philosophy was self-consciously founded a) against the great man approach to philosophy [let's call that "the magisterial approach"], and accepting, by contrast, b) the division of intellectual labor, such that c) philosophy is a collective enterprise. The rhetoric that accompanied these moves appealed to success of the sciences. (I have labeled this "Newton's Challenge to philosophy".) Now one self-conscious byproduct of this approach is that from (some baseline) progress is possible. As in the sciences, even refutations and lack of confirmation can facilitate progress. Everybody's efforts matter.
The analogy would work if philosophy were like chemistry, but there's no evidence that it can be. Experience is private and language, by which we communicate experience, is unstable. Schliesser's bureaucratic formalism is useless as a descriptive tool. The desire for progress is not progress. You can progress in the analysis of a formal system, but unless you can demonstrate a stable relation between that system and the world it will fail as a system of representation. Contra Ratzinger, Scalia, Schliesser et al. (a long list), stable systems of representation do not exist in language. Language in use is defined as and by politics. The history of modern philosophy is of the conflation of art and science, each used to justify the other. Formal logic fails as philosophy because there's no stable relation of logic to the world of experience. That failure is why philosophy has returned openly to theology. The relations of formal mathematics to the physical world by comparison are stable.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Comments on Kimmelman (below) rewritten a bit

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The narrator/interviewer is the most annoying person here because he's the most conflicted. But by the end everyone involved comes off well, within their limitations. Cattelan is an artist in the Duchampian tradition, for an aristocracy comfortable with itself. You can criticize the world that made this possible, but it makes no sense to condemn the poetry, if only because the poetry gives us a fuller understanding of the world that produced it than simple reportage could ever do. The danger and the strength of art is that it fosters sympathy. That's why moralists and fascists from Plato onward disapprove.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kimmelman's case against sculpture .
BERLIN — Sometimes on a whim I stop into the Bode Museum here to commune with a tiny clay sculpture of John the Baptist.

It’s in a corner of a nearly always empty room, a bone-white bust, pretty and as androgynous as mid-1970s Berlin-addled David Bowie. The saint’s upturned eyes glow in the hard light through tall windows. Attributed to the 15th-century Luccan artist Matteo Civitali, the sculpture is all exquisite ecstasy and languor.

...Is it me, or do we seem to have a problem with sculpture today? I don’t mean contemporary sculpture, whose fashionable stars (see Koons, Murakami et alia) pander to our appetite for spectacle and whatever’s new. I don’t mean ancient or even non-Western sculpture, either. I mean traditional European sculpture — celebrities like Bernini and Rodin aside — and American sculpture, too: the enormous universe of stuff we come across in churches and parks, at memorials and in museums like the Bode. The stuff Barnett Newman, the Abstract Expressionist painter, notoriously derided as objects we bump into when backing up to look at a painting.
His first examples are minor theatricalized works, melodramatic and near kitsch: almost contemporary.

...In an age of special effects, we may also simply no longer know how to feel awe at the sight of sculptured faces by the German genius Tilman Riemenschneider or before a bronze statue by Donatello. We can’t see past the raw materiality and subject matter. Never mind that Donatello may have been the greatest creative genius until Picasso; he long ago got lapped in the public’s imagination by Madame Tussaud, who has given way to “Avatar” in 3-D and Alexander McQueen’s trippy costumed mannequins.


The people who lined up at the Met are fond enough of melodrama, but what they see in McQueen is both the indulgence and the attempt to rise above it. People are looking for order where they can recognize it. Kimmelman's tastes are both less extreme and more earnest than those of McQueen's audience, but they aren't much different. His preferred choice of works, with exceptions, are defined by just those elements that opponents of sculpture claim as defining all of it.

Also the language regarding Donatello and Picasso is absurd.

For an earlier discussion of sensibilities in common (and McQueen) go here, or click on the tags below.
note taking. two comments posted elsewhere. responding to Corey Robin and Gordon Lafer (continuing from below)
The problem with unions, especially the skilled trades, is that they reduce everything to economic terms. The legal triumphs of liberalism from the New Deal to the civil rights movement did no more than transform what had one been seen as private life to public economic life. If your actions have an effect on economic life the logic goes, then fundamentally they are economic. Liberalism is instrumentalism.

With very specific exceptions, union tradesmen in the US aren’t the best you can get. The exceptions are in jobs where the technical knowledge is such that they those who have it command respect. Union steamfitters with high school diplomas can tell engineers with graduate degrees that their numbers are wrong and the engineers will listen. Mistakes can kill. The important relation is not monetary but proprietary: of a skilled tradesman to his knowledge and experience. Outside of Ironworkers and steamfitters the best tradesmen in NY are non-union, but of course so are the worst.

German roofers are famous and the rules used to state that you couldn’t open your own shop until you’d apprenticed for 7 years. Under EU regulations this was attacked as unfair.

I don’t defend the physical trades I defend tradecraft, not for spooks but in the general sense that the contemporary academic model of intellectualism does not accept. Philosophy teaches the primacy of theory; democracy is founded on the primacy of practice. Lawyers are craftsmen. Writers are craftsmen. Musicians are craftsmen. Politicians are crafty. Life is Shakespearean before it’s Platonic and your “ideas” about trade are not a trade. As I pointed out before, European intellectuals haven’t lost this necessary sense of irony; they never imagined it was possible to separate ideas from desire and art. If you told Foucault that you thought liberalism was instrumentalism he’d credit you with reinventing the wheel. But liberals love their assumptions. They call them “objective” and say they’re based on “reason” and “science”.
Forget Foucault, read Derrick Bell on Brown v. Board of Education.

Unions will never be strong enough if all they do is negotiate better terms for slaves, or mandate factories designed by Temple Grandin. And the contemporary vogue for what philosophers call “embodied cognition” is not enough, since disembodied cognition is impossible.
The riots in London are the rebellion of those raised to be managed. Is the answer better management? I mentioned Derrick Bell because his arguments are founded not in disembodied liberalism but his experience as a black man. Where else would be get such skepticism?

Academic discussion of the lives of working people is like Jewish discussion of Palestinians, art critics talking about art, and the feminism of men. All may or may not be well intentioned but either way they're not enough.

Gordon Lafer responds: "whatever."
Power corrupts, and people believe their own lies. The only answer: more lies told by more people. Call it "Democracy."
When I hear the word theory I reach for my drink.

And again. I hate this shit.
Construction trade unions should become contractors, beginning on small jobs that union shops would be priced out of, eliminating the middleman. Contractors are overpaid secretaries. Whatever profit should be returned to the union. Unions should work with architecture schools, offering summer apprenticeships at union training facilities. At time point certificates from such facilities should become mandatory for graduation from any architecture school, but start with one. As it is most architects don’t know how to build shit.

I’ve seen a 22 year old Mexican homeboy give a gentle swirl to a glass with a thimble-full of wine with more understanding of why than I’ve come to expect from yuppie slacker assholes with something to prove. It was two in the morning and the kid had just left work. Do I have to telegraph that he worked in a restaurant? And probably a very good one. Someone had made the effort to teach him and he had made the effort to learn.

You’re concerned that people employed in soul-killing work get better pay. I’m concerned with the nature of soul-killing work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The last two posts: in series.
The second is updated (again).

People are stupid. Power makes them more so.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

As the headline says: the BBC will never replay this.
Watch the whole thing then scroll or click to the previous post.

It's more subtle than simple racism; it's a kind of arrogant self-regard, in both the interviewer and the authors and audience at Crooked Timber.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A commenter at CT
In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:
“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”
A few other good comments. There's more nihilism in the UK than Egypt, Tunisia, Athens, Spain, etc. Someone on the thread hinted at that, half in jest. Let's see if someone tries to make it stick the way it should.
update 8/9- 163 comments: one reference to Egypt, dismissed and forgotten; a reference to Spain as where the country's leaders are on holiday; a discussion of riots in the US during the 60s.
update 8/11- Henry F. quasi ex-neoliberal tries and fails. 8 comments so far. 17 on another post about academic spam.

It's similar to discussions of Wikileaks. In english among self-described intellectuals the discussion centered on Wikileaks and what it represented as a cultural/political phenomenon. Discussion in countries covered in the cables (and among western specialists in those countries) focused on the leaked information: the cables were a major catalyst for the Arab Spring. Crooked Timber is technocrat, anglophone, and anglophile. Their subjects here are London and after that the US. Whatever else it is, it's a shame.

update 8/11- Strike three: Pity.
"Meanwhile in the Horn of Africa…"
An earnest liberal accusing her friends of talking only about themselves and the world they know.

Jan 2011: Cairo. The map at the link is interactive. Click.
"There's more nihilism in the UK than Egypt, Tunisia, Athens, Spain, etc."

note taking. posted elsewhere. responding to Corey Robin [minor fixes, for grammar and clarity.]
“Whatever the right may say about the culture of individualism…”

Libertarianism is not conservatism it’s an extremist economic liberalism. You have a peculiarly American sense of right and left- and of seeing self-definition as arbiter. The blurb for your book reads the same way.

Modern conservatism began as aristocratic, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist. The contradictions of bourgeois conservatism (and of the Catholic Buckley) are of the modern financial elite, the nouveau riche, styling themselves the inheritors of the landed elite. European left intellectuals, Foucault et al., see the irony in this. American liberals ignore the contradictions in their own worldviews. Modern liberals, especially those in academia, are concerned individualists. That’s not enough.

Blurb - “Robin argues that the right is fundamentally inspired by a hostility to emancipating the lower orders. ”

Conservatism originated in the opposition to the “emancipation’ of anyone and everyone. It began in an opposition to the modern notion of individual freedom. The root of its hypocrisy lies in the role of the elite as the guardians of all under god, but there’s a long history of an anti-modern left. Liberals still defend “progress” without being able to define it. And they're wary of unions because unions are seen as putting a break on that progress. Unions are anti-individualist. Individualists make for lousy defenders of their opposition.

Modern liberal intellectuals don’t defend formal relations. Adversarialism makes them nervous, because it’s based on contradiction and on a sort of semi-consciousness on the part of those on both sides of a debate. Defense attorneys are advocates not truth-seekers. It amazes me how many philosophers (professional truth-seekers) have no understanding of lawyers' importance as a model. I’ve sparred endlessly with pseudo-scientists in the humanities who are contemptuous of the irrationalism of culture: “Art-forms and clear exposition are orthogonal.” The adversarial systems of justice and of divided government are defined by the orthogonal. Unions are orthogonal to “progress.” Democracy is a formal system of decision-making: truth production is secondary. Laws define/prescribe process, not result. The focus on result weakens democracy. The road to hell…

We need a Burkean left, one that defends community not equality. Equality is the language of individualism.
The arts are Burkean. The rule of law is conservative, not liberal. "The ACLU is a conservative organization." Spencer Coxe

Saturday, August 06, 2011

August 6 1945

Friday, August 05, 2011

Found on another page: "Trying to write a literary masterpiece entails originality being privileged over clarity and sense. Clarity is not the hallmark of literature. Art-forms and clear exposition are orthogonal."

The adversarial systems of justice and of divided government are defined by the orthogonal.

Most historians aren't popularizers, but they write for an audience of anyone who might be interested. There's nothing wrong with wanting to write a book that gets reviewed in the newspaper in addition to professional journals. Which is more important, the London Review of Books or the NDPR?

Specialists in Islam and the Middle East deal with big questions because they have no choice, and it makes their work more resilient. Compare an anthro blog to Jadaliyya and the references to Margaret Mead that come up always in these arguments become silly.

Perhaps it's because Arabists share a specialty that they're free to involve themselves in discussions of poetry. But it's also that given the scope of their subject they're not only scholars of but in Arabic. Whatever their ethnicity, they see themselves as part of the tradition that they study.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

note taking. posted (be me) elsewhere [responding to Graber, archive.org]

On Balkin's Constitutional Redemption
Balkin is acting as an advocate, as lawyers do. He’s engaged in an argument with Posner, Vermeule and their ilk. But his logic or his faith force him to fudge his history to defend his vision of democracy, which allows Vermeule to counter as a hardened realist and blablabla [blablabla-Vermeule reviews Balkin]. I find myself more and more envious of Canada and the living tree doctrine, which renders all this irrelevant.

Our relation to the Constitution is like our relation to Don Giovanni. And every time Peter Sellars has a new production set in Trump Tower or Las Vegas, we set about arguing whether he made the thing fresh or somehow screwed it up. The only difference between the two debates is I suppose the matters of life and death, or justice and tyranny: the baggage of politics. I love baggage; thinking about baggage takes up a good part of my life. But treating politics as baggage, as vulgar, has its advantages. I see no need to waft about in discussions of faith and redemption; fascism is fascism, why pussyfoot around it? Posner and Vermeule defend what lovers of democracy abhor, what else is there to say? They claim to find support for this in the Constitution but Christian kings found support for the Crusades in the Bible. They claim to defend reason. My response is simple. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it: “That authoritarianism has become normative may be a scientific fact, but that does not make authoritarianism itself a scientific truth.”

Balkin is arguing from the past and about the future, but somehow the present is lacking.