Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Democrats claim America is threatened by the financial elite, who hog society’s resources. But that’s a distraction. The real social gap is between the top 20 percent and the lower 30 percent. The liberal members of the upper tribe latch onto this top 1 percent narrative because it excuses them from the central role they themselves are playing in driving inequality and unfairness.
It functions as a distraction, as Darfur functioned for some as a distraction from Iraq.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte

old and new.

Listening to the second in a series of mixes by the house DJ at a boutique hotel in Paris and wondering at the first track. Looking it up and realizing both what should have been obvious and how it makes perfect sense.
There I held a trembling hand
Seeking shelter in strange apartments
Til the day they turned her in
Being Judases of nowadays

I think of Fassbinder

I experienced the modern version of The Floating World for the first time in the late 90's, at a small private party in a rented room on the lower east side. I said to someone it felt like Limbo as an airport lounge in 1974. The soundtrack was Air, and I amused myself a bit more by deciding that Prada was Halston in brown.

The effect is akin to a narcosis that not only slows but regulates motion. It's Chaplin's Modern Times at 5 frames per second, with the gears wrapped in fine silk: aestheticized anesthetic motion. The rhythms, bass and snare and little clicks invite improvisatory response, touches of free will in a rigidly deterministic world. At 1:20 when the strings come in and at 1:29 when they modulate and the plane begins to glide across the screen I get a shiver of aphasia.
And the the scream at 0:26 is Hitchcock.

Voodoo Lounge, Las Vegas. 4 AM, Feb, 2008

Doris Days, To Ulrike M,  I:Cube, Adore,  FC Kahuna, Hayling

Sunday, January 22, 2012

NYT Apple/Foxconn
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

...The answers, almost every time, were found outside the United States. Though components differ between versions, all iPhones contain hundreds of parts, an estimated 90 percent of which are manufactured abroad. Advanced semiconductors have come from Germany and Taiwan, memory from Korea and Japan, display panels and circuitry from Korea and Taiwan, chipsets from Europe and rare metals from Africa and Asia. And all of it is put together in China.
The US is neither a developing country nor a developed country.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The paradox of Nietzsche and Borges is the paradox of the cloistered scholar celebrating the freedom of the illiterate. Brian Leiter celebrates Nietzsche...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

rewritten a bit

"The unexamined life is not worth living"
That is, of course, the famous Socratic dictum around which so much of our discipline is organized, and while some, like Nietzsche, have famously rejected it, their reasons need not immediately concern us. For there is a more mundane question it presents: most people--meaning the fathers, mothers, siblings, children of most academic philosophers--do not lead "examined" lives in the Socratic sense. Is it really the case that philosophers who embrace the Socratic dictum think their lives are not worth living? I'm curious what philosophers think, and whether they've ever had this discussion with their non-philosopher relatives.
First comment, Michael Rosen
Ha! It depends what you mean by "examined". Non-philosophers point out that philosophers are, typically, very good at a certain kind of theory-building but very bad at self-understanding. Many, many years of interacting with philosophers makes me believe that they are all too often right.
I added this farther down; it wasn't accepted. It begins sloppily, reading as if curiosity about the world expands from self-absorption rather than the opposite: that curiosity about the self is a prerequisite for curiosity about the world.
The argument is that the "examined life" refers to the examination of one's own life, in that only an individual can experience the self as living. [examining the process of living] But we live in the world and to examine the self is to examine its interactions; "self-understanding" is thus the required first step towards knowledge of the world. Following Michael Rosen's observations above (and contra the opinion of this post) that would mean that most academic philosophers do not follow the Socratic dictum any more than do other members of their families.

The paradox is in the fact that understanding desire is not the same as having it, while to be fully human -to be living- is to desire. See also what's called the paradox of anthropology: no one understands the French more than those who study them, but only the French know what it's like to be French. Self-knowledge is limited. Our understanding of others (of each other, reciprocally) is always different and often superior, or at least of value, to our understanding of ourselves. Most athletes need coaches, few of whom were ever as good at playing the game as the athletes themselves.

The hermeneutics of suspicion consists in mutual suspicion and mutual curiosity. A man can only be as feminist as the women around him judge his behavior to be. Absent a consideration of behavior, arguing only from ideas, leaves us to accept Donald Rumsfeld's claims to competence and the cafe revolutionary's statements of commitment. To be may be the value of a bound variable, but to live, or live well, is to judge and be judged.

It is no secret that much of contemporary philosophy is under the spell of the Other. The point isn't to be under a spell, like a narcissistic teenager, but to engage.
The reference to "bound variable" is Quine, and the first line of the last paragraph is from here. To follow the history start here and work backwards, to here and here

Leiter's tone is snide, mixing condescension with curiosity; his language holds an object as if by the tips of its fingers, to limit the risk of contagion. The paradox of Nietzsche and Borges is the paradox of a cloistered scholar celebrating the freedom of the illiterate; Leiter, without irony, celebrates Nietzsche, scholars and scientists, following the technocratic model of intellectual life as expertise, a model that denies the rule of reciprocal curiosity and suspicion: experts cannot be contradicted by non-experts. It's a model that celebrates the life Nietzsche lived, as a school teacher, not what he argued for. A couple of the comments on translation are interesting, as to whether "not worth living" should be "not to be lived". Others begin arguments without continuing them.

Still reading Fodor et al. I can't see much of a distinction, in their structure, between the old arguments Leiter accepts and the new ones he disparages (on Darwin). Reading about "multiple realizability", "reductionism" and "projectibility" I thought immediately of explosions, and the functionalism of relations rather than objects. Pain is not a "thing" it's a relation between things. The relation is the kind. Cognitive science is still the creation science of human behavior; theologians forever being pushed slowly back. Claims for physicalist anti-reductionism are no more than attempts to reify linguistic ambiguity as "vital principle".

Also, at the Stanford Encyclopedia link ("et al", above), reading was like watching a slow motion ping pong match. I felt like walking back and forth from one side of the table to the other to hit the ball back to myself. And in saying that, I'm not trying to give myself much credit for anything.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ai Weiwei and Philippe Starck

In re: discussion of Damien Hirst at Art Market Monitor. My comment there and below. [years later all comments are gone] 
“Art World Hates Hirst’s Spots, Everyone Else Loves Them”
Show me the market model that describes where this leads? He makes objects, not movies. How many t-shirts and coffee mugs can he sell? He’s at the economic center of franchised one ring circus, but he’s not Prince or even Lady Gaga. Warhol’s work has always taken precedence over his persona: Warholism is a sideshow. Ai Weiwei’s model is Philippe Starck, What’s next for Hirst?

The shows are a brilliant move, and the prizes for those who see all of them top it nicely, but he’s the leader of a party game at a party for a tiny number of people, a few of whom at least think they’re part of something historically “important”. He’ll die rich, and he’ll last; whether his artwork will is another question.
He'll last as showmen do: as a character.

Roberta Smith in The Times.
While acknowledging the focus on spectacle, she tries to turn the discussion and the work back towards something she's more comfortable with, but in trying to defend formalism and the Modern tradition she's left with nothing more than the various levels of craftsmanship of the assistants, and design.

LA Times
Asghar Farhadi's domestic drama 'A Separation' won the best foreign language film award at the 69th Golden Globes on Sunday.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Iranian.com [now archive.org but still up at PBS and Juan Cole]
"Statement signed by scholars, academicians, journalists, and activists condemning murder of Iranian Technical and Scientific Experts"
...These types of killings have to stop, not only because they harm a nation's scientific community and its civilians, but also because they build a deep psychological scar on the nation's public mind prompting it to ask for revenge in kind. We hope we are living in a better world than that. Killing innocent or even allegedly guilty people without consideration for their human rights and due process, by any force or government anywhere and anytime, is an outrageous act to be protested by all. If covert targeted assassinations of opponents become the order of the day, no one will be safe in this world.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chris Bertram
First, I’m sympathetic, I really am, to the idea that people should work and consume less and that we should attend more to real life quality. But this doesn’t seem very realistic in my own life for two reasons: first, even if my employer were sympathetic (unlikely) I feel very hard pressed now to produce the level of research output necessary for me to stay competitive with other academics (not just in the UK, but elsewhere). I suspect this generalizes to many people in professional jobs: we couldn’t achieve the kinds of things we want to in our careers on those kinds of hours. This isn’t necessarily a problem, so long as there isn’t compulsion. Some (many) people have shitty jobs with low intrinsic rewards: removing the burden of work for them would be an unqualified good thing. Second, it is all very well Juliet Schor telling us to transition to a low hours/lower consumption economy. I’m cool with consuming less. The problem is that I, and just about everyone else, has taken out huge mortgages and bank loans to pay (in part) for the consumption we’ve already had. Hard to reduce the hours unless (or until) the debt goes away. Third, there was distressingly little discussion of the politics of this. Whatever the real social and economic benefits, the French 35-hour week wasn’t a political success (perhaps because it was watered-down) and Sarkozy was able to campaign effectively on behalf of the “France qui se lève tôt”. Some kind of post-mortem on this experience would have been helpful, albeit that it took place in a different, pre-crisis, environment.
"I’m sympathetic, I really am..." Backpedaling.
"I’m cool with consuming less." The language of adolescence. Again, defensive: "I'm cool [I really am]".
"The problem is that I, and just about everyone else, has taken out huge mortgages and bank loans to pay (in part) for the consumption we’ve already had."

Duncan Black reads the the New York Times
Of the 1 percenters interviewed for this article, almost all — conservatives and liberals alike — said the wealthy could and should shoulder more of the country’s financial burden, and almost all said they viewed the current system as unfair. But they may prefer facing cuts to their own benefits like Social Security than paying more taxes.
The maximum monthly benefit is around $2500, or $30,000 annually. If you took it all it'd be equivalent to raising the tax on a million dollar earner (for the entire amount) by 3 percentage points. For a ten million dollar earner, 3 tenths of a percentage point.
I suppose I should have more sympathy for careerist college professors than I do for multi-millionaires, and Atrios is as blind as Bertram much of the time (though rarely making arguments so explicitly self-serving) but it's predictable that the only commenter to call bullshit, however politely, on Bertram's post was Russell Fox.

Brian Leiter
But universities aren't mainly about opinions, they are about the discovery and dissemination of knowledge
And according to Leiter (and I assume Bertram as well) college professors are well trained and well paid to know the difference.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brad DeLong's Theater of the Absurd
Suppose that Beverly has $500 in cash that she owes Carol, due in two months. Suppose that Alice and Carol are both unemployed and idle.

In one scenario in two months Beverly goes to Carol and pays her the $500. End of story.

In a second scenario Beverly says to Alice: "I have a house. Why don't you build a deck--I will pay you $500 after the work is done. Here is the contract." Alice takes the contract and goes to Carol. She shows the contract to Carol and says: "See. I will be good for the debt. Cook me meals so I will have the strength to build the deck--here's another contract in which I promise to pay you $500 within 90 days if you cook for me." Carol agrees.

Two months pass. Carol cooks and feeds Alice. Alice goes and builds the deck.

Alice then asks Beverly for payment. Beverly says: "Wait a minute." She goes to Carol and says: "Here is the the $500 cash I owe you." Beverly pays the money to Carol. Beverly then says: "But now could I borrow the cash back by offering you a long-term mortgage at an attractive interest rate secured with an interest in my newly more-valuable house?" Carol says: "Sure." Beverly files an amended deed showing Carol's mortgage lien with the town office. Carol gives Beverly back the $500. Beverly then goes to Alice and pays her the $500. Alice then goes to Carol and pays her the $500.

The net result? (a) Alice who would otherwise have been idle has been employed--has traded her labor for meals. (b) Carol who would otherwise have been idle has been employed--has traded her labor for a secured lien on Beverly's house. (c) Beverly has taken out a mortgage on her house and in exchange has gotten a deck built. (d) Carol has the $500 cash that Beverly owed her in the first place.

Alice has more income and consumption expenditure than if she hadn't taken Beverly's job offer. Carol has more income and saving than if she hadn't cooked for Alice and then invested her earnings with Beverly. Beverly has an extra capital asset (the deck) and an extra financial liability (the mortgage) than if she had never offered to hire Alice.

A deck has gotten built. Meals have been cooked and eaten. Two women have been employed.
[The End]
The debate with Cochrane is a debate over mechanics.
I'm not arguing that DeLong's mechanics are wrong.
CT has a history of defending political theory as independent and of limited use regarding actual politics (cf. various discussions of Rawls). Other times, arguments concerning political life are made ex cathedra (see the previous post). Sometimes they're contemptuous or just a little snide. Henry Farrell
This obviously has implications for the kind of ‘how the 2012 US presidential elections are likely to play out’ questions that we usually don’t have much to say about here at CT (our partial reticence doing its little bit to cancel out the volubility on this topic in the rest of the political blogosphere)
And then sometimes, now more frequently than in the past, we get this [full post with all links]
Hear hear! What a wonderful short interview with Sanjay Reddy by Perry Mehrling from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET): 
Reddy defends the position that economics is a profoundly value-entangled science, and that “Good theory is theory which illuminates the world, and good theory cannot start from a-priori premises which are disconnected from the world. Good theory has to start in part from observation from the world.”

I agree with every word Reddy says, but am a bit puzzled why Mehrling sees Reddy’s position as ‘a strong position’. In my view, if it is regarded (by economists?) as a ‘strong position’, that is just because economics has so forcefully tried to distance itself from any evaluative or otherwise ethical concerns; but in truth, economics has never been value-free, it has only fooled itself that it could be so. I’m really glad that Reddy is contributing to a better understanding of economics as value-entangled. Can’t wait to read the result of his INET project, “a book making a broad case for the resurrection of normative reasoning in economics”.
Read the comments; there aren't many.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The NYT's public editor's question.

I was thinking of the best simple way to respond (to repeat myself); John Quiggin just made it a lot easier
Arthur Brisbane, Public Opinion editor for the NY Times, has copped a well deserved shellacking for a column in which he asked whether reporters should act as ‘truth vigilantes’ in relation to statements made by public figures.

Having observed the silliness of asking whether newspapers should (aspire to) tell the truth, the obvious question is: How should they tell it. Here are a some suggestions

1. Its unreasonable to expect reporters to take the burden from scratch in refuting zombie lies. Newspapers, including the NYT, should include a set of factual conclusions, regularly updated, in their style manuals. The most relevant current example is that of global warming Palestine.
As always I'll repeat that questions of the Middle East are not the issue but are synecdochic.

Those who celebrate the market for its ability to undermine belief often hold simplistic assumptions about the market as a whole, as if the market produced not only economic but absolute truths (and for my purposes the ability of the market actually to render "market truth" is as irrelevant as questions regarding Israel/Palestine). Quiggin the left-wing technocrat holds a different set of assumptions.
Having observed the silliness of asking whether newspapers should (aspire to) tell the truth... Newspapers, including the NYT, should include a set of factual conclusions, regularly updated, in their style manuals.
Who are these wise men, whom we trust to update, regularly, their set of facts? 50 years ago they would all have been men, and white, and straight (or in the closet). Things have changed as they always do, but Quiggin's model does not model change.

Journalists should be allowed to call things as they see them, and argue their case, but how they see things is never in absolute terms how things "are". Newsmen should act as advocates for their audience not for their sources, as lawyers work for their clients. We need more adversarialism not less.
Journalism needs to be defined again as advocacy, and not for justice or truth or high morality, but simply for the public's desire and need to know. Advocates by title are not gatekeepers. But once journalism is defined, as it once was, as hackwork, then honest hacks will be more willing to accept responsibility for their actions.
I'd post my comments at CT but it wouldn't do any good

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jan. 11. NYT Adversaries of Iran Said to Be Stepping Up Covert Actions

For the third time. From Nov 17: Pat Lang
"... An Iran specialist, with whom I spoke recently, posed a challenging question: At what point are the Iranians forced to take action against this clandestine war? There have been bombings, kidnappings and assassinations on the streets of Tehran that have been impossible to conceal from the Iranian population. Is this going to prove to be a war delay/war avoidance strategy, or a provocation that leads Iran to retaliate and provide Israel or others with the pretext for general war? This question is yet to be answered. So far, the Iranians have been restrained, choosing not to even retaliate with a low-level attack on Israeli or American targets outside of the region..."
BBC Iran and the undeclared campaign

To make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they’re doing. Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is, do not develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us.
2009. Context
Helen Thomas:"...do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?"
Obama: "I don't want to speculate..."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Continue this, and fix it, later.
Brian Leiter
BL: I love literature, and love the study of literature - indeed, I was almost an “English” major in college. One problem with a lot of American English Departments in the 1980s was that they stopped teaching literature, and became the repositories for bad philosophy, bad history, bad social science! Rosenberg’s position is a bracing one, and a useful challenge to lazy anti-naturalist tendencies in a lot of Anglophone philosophy, but it does seem to me to be based ultimately on armchair philosophy of the kind naturalists are supposed to decry. Physicalism is not a scientific result - Carnap thought it would be, but we know it isn’t the case that everything that is causally explicable is explicable in terms of causal relata that are physical. So my view on this issue is certainly not Rosenberg’s, as much as I admire his work. In any case, it seems to me that American literature departments have recovered quite a bit from the intellectual disaster of the 1980s, a happy development. And if I may paraphrase Nietzsche, life without literature would be a mistake!
"...but we know it isn’t the case that everything that is causally explicable is explicable in terms of causal relata that are physical."

Asking Leiter, he sends me to Jerry Fodor
“Special Sciences and the Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis", Synthese 28 (1974), pp. 77-115. It’s also reprinted as the introduction to his Language of Thought, 1975.
Impatient I ended up with a collection of essays: In Critical Condition, which includes "Special Sciences: Still Autonomous after All These Years (A Reply to Jaegwon Kim...)", which drives me almost to distraction. It reads like a series of arguments from Zeno's paradoxes, meant to separate language from the world so as to manipulate it according to formal principles but otherwise without restraint, and then return it to the world as law, in this case stating: "You can't get there from here."

[repeat: Darwin-Leiter/Fodor/Lewontin from 2010.]

July 2010, Fodor responds to a review in the LRB
The theory of natural selection claims that the explanation as to why a particular kind of creature evolves a particular trait in a particular ecology, is that for that kind of creature in that situation, having the trait is a cause of fitness. But then it can’t also claim that ‘in the sense that matters’ ‘a trait was selected for’ means that it is a cause of reproductive success. If it did mean that, the theory of natural selection would reduce to a trait’s being a cause of reproductive success explains its being a cause of reproductive success, which explains nothing (and isn’t true).
This is just silly.

Found while reading, a good response by Steven Weinberg: Reducionism Redux [also: PDF]
Linked recently in another context

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Trita Parsi
Former senior Israeli official told Americans nuking Japan secured US leadership & 50years of grandeur. Now repeat it on #Iran. Jaws dropped
tparsi on Twitter

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Henry Farrell, again on Robin, and Mark Lilla. [see here and here] As I've said or at least implied before, Lilla's defense of conservatism doesn't interest me. Farrell:
Al-Ghazali, as quoted by Ernest Gellner, puts Mannheim’s point more pithily – "the genuine traditionalist does not know that he is one; he who proclaims himself to be one, no longer is one."
Farrell agrees with many conservatives as Gellner does that aware traditionalism is impossible. My comment [now deleted]:
That's the aporia we face as defenders of the social in the modern world: How to defend the particular in the age of generalization. I’m remembering Chris Bertram’s comments here
This kind of dialectic has been played out since the dawn of industrialization and, of course, it leads the market-utopians to want to tar all the particularists (for want of a better word) with the same brush. That’s a charge that should be rejected because William Morris ain’t the BNP (or even UKIP). But we’ll carry on squirming and feeling uncomfortable because the left and the right both share a discontent with modernity.
Bertram contra both Robin and Farrell. I should have quoted Panofsky again. Farrell and Gellner are citing the scholastics as authority. What's a Shakespearean actor?

I made another comment, linking to a symposium on Jack Balkin‘s Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World at Concurring Opinions, and asking how are we to understand our Constitutional "tradition". Farther down I added a third
I'll cut to the chase. I share 8 friends of Facebook with Corey Robin, 7 of them committed anti-Zionists who would defend the conservative Hamas, not universally but against Israel and the IDF.
I mentioned his association with a magazine named for 18th century political puritans. I didn't include this:

Both the links on the page are to comments written by me.

I don't care if Robin's being politic about his public politics, or I wouldn't care if he hadn't chosen to be a moralist and pedant. I care that Robin's moralism is contradicted by his life.

The quote from Al-Ghazali is useful, precisely because it describes problems for those who want to maintain their culture, or even the idea of culture in what's seen as the scientific age of unculture, or of culture as simply the entertainment of one's choice, and otherwise of no consequence.  But Americans are often first and foremost the "Americans" others see them as, not the enlightened universalists they imagine themselves to be.  Graham Green was a novelist and an observer, of Americans among others. And actors are both ironic and very sincere traditionalists.  Moralists are incapable of irony regarding themselves and any irony towards others is cheap.

Practicing scientists often have a better understanding of this -the inevitable fact of culture- than philosophers. As Steven Weinberg writes:"Science can't even justify science." Our decision to seek scientific answers and to seek some answers over others -space exploration over malaria research, rockets over desalination plants- are questions of values not science itself. Nonetheless, Weinberg defends Alan Sokal, and thinks science justifies Zionism.  He calls himself "pretty much a Platonist"; his irony ends where his interests begin.

On Lilla, Brian Leiter's response is better than most.

Years later I'm adding a longer passage surrounding Farrell's quote.

Gellner,  from Plough, Sword and Book: The Structure of Human History, 1988, p207

Doctrines which ratify culture and enjoin respect for it were common in the nineteenth century. The fortifying, confirming major premiss no longer claims a transcendent object: it is a theory concerning the role, the function, of culture within the world. Durkheim's own doctrine was one example: religion was to be respected not because it was true (in the straightforward sense assumed by the old theologians), but because it was "true" (i.e. essential and functional within the social order). Durkheim let it be understood that "truth" was just as good as truth, in fact the same thing, really. This general attitude might be called auto-functionalism. It is influential in a very wide variety of forms, in historicist, biological, literary, kulturgeschichtlich and other idioms. The auto-functionalist stands outside all cultures to affirm the major premiss: cultures are functional. The minor premiss is stated from inside: I am my culture. Conclusion: my commitments are valid (in a sense left deliberately ambiguous).

These self-vindications of culture are generally spurious. The medieval Muslim thinker Al Ghazzali observed that the genuine traditionalist does not know that he is one; he who proclaims himself to be one, no longer is one. Cultural prose ceases to be innocent when Monsieur Jourdain proclaims it to be prose. When culture was genuinely authoritative, men either took it for granted or, later, vindicated it by means of a theology which they held to be true in a literal sense, and which they genuinely respected. The dogmas and imperatives which constituted those doctrines were taken very seriously; they placed enormous burdens and strains on believers.

I have no culture! I'm embedded in nothing! I'm a free man!! A perfect fit with Quiggin's claims for  Art, an Enemy of the People

Friday, January 06, 2012

Philosophy professors who don't understand law shouldn't talk about it.

Eric Schliesser
"...philosophy is different from law (where very bad human beings and acts deserve the very best arguments on their behalf in order to make a potentially moral institution function properly)"
It's called "presumption of innocence".
The politics of public grief. The false intimacy of the tabloids and the analytic, distant, pseudo-objectivity of the broadsheet. Two views, in the age of spectacle and privacy.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Krugman defends his role as an advocate for his own beliefs.
Cowen apparently wants me to make the best case for the opposing side in policy debates. Since when has that been the rule? I’m trying to move policy in what I believe to be the right direction — and I will make the best honest case I can for moving in that direction.
But he makes a mistake
Look, economic policy matters. It matters for real people who suffer real consequences when we get it wrong. If I believe that the doctrine of expansionary austerity is all wrong, or that the Ryan plan for Medicare would have disastrous effects, or whatever, then my duty, as I see it, is to make my case as best I honestly can — not put on a decorous show of civilized discussion that pretends that there aren’t hired guns posing as analysts, and spares the feelings of people who are not in danger of losing their jobs or their health care.

This is not a game.
There he's wrong. It is a game, that needs to be played as he's playing it. Real people suffer real consequences in courts of law, and trial lawyers are paid to do their jobs. But he's right about Cowen. There's a place for defending what you believe in, for acting as your own advocate, but there's no place for special pleading. Libertarians believe in markets for everything, and a market is a freewheeling debate. What Cowen doesn't want is a freewheeling debate about the market.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

One of the images from a slideshow of 130 years of photographs for the LA Times. Click on it to read the caption. As a photograph it's merely shallow and melodramatic, but as a voyeuristic response to real tragedy it becomes immoral, and fundamentally corrupt.
For the longer argument click on the tag below for photojournalism.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A response to Mark Lilla [see previous] at the literary magazine, Hamas. I won't continue on Robin, or start in on Peter Frase. All you have to know is here.  There's a nice moment in the video [The comments have been removed but the video is still available here] when Doug Henwood drops a couple of bills into a can that's being passed around before handing it to Seth Ackerman who looks confused, asks what it is, and hands it on to someone else.
Interestingly or not Jacobin has an affiliated site that publishes art criticism. [not affiliated, just on good terms]

One of the pieces featured on the sidebar link is titled Sealing Off the Wonder of the Sublime, a review of a show at the James Cohan Gallery.

I've known Cohan for 26 years. I worked with him at another gallery. I've known his director for just as long. I know five of his artists. It's a small world, the world of artisans, boutiques, and clients for (at a minimum) $100,000 objets d'art.

Another piece, a music review.
undun: The Roots reclaim hip-hop for the corner
This nigga raps with a razor, keep it under my tongue
The school drop-out, never liked the shit from day one
Cause life ain’t shit but stress, fake niggas and crab stunts
So I guzzle my Hennessy while pulling on mad blunts.
That’s Nas on 1994’s “Represent”. Here’s the Notorious B.I.G. on “Things Done Changed”, also from 1994
Talk slick, you get your neck slit quick
Cause real street niggas ain’t having that shit
Toting Tecs for rep, smoking blunts in the project hallways
Shooting dice all day.
And from that same year, 2Pac on “Cradle to the Grave”
See, the doctor tried to smack me, but I smacked him back
My first words was ‘Thug for life’ and ‘Papa, pass the mac’
I’m busting on these motherfuckers baling
Listen, you can hear my mini fourteen calling.
I was a child when I first heard these lyrics, and the onset of a quenchless thirst for more was immediate, but met with impediment. I remember well the constant denigration that hip-hop was violent, nihilistic, ugly, bad.
How many times has that paragraph been written in the past 150 years?

The author:

The piece gets better and perhaps the photo was unnecessary. I could be accused of mocking bourgeois political commitment but I'm not; I'm mocking naive and openly hypocritical bourgeois commitment. Jadaliyya is absolutely bourgeois. The question is why it's so much better than Jacobin.
Panofsky, quoted below (and all of this is a repeat from years ago):
"The humanist, then, rejects authority. But he respects tradition."

Simon Blackburn in The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy:
Humanism—Most generally any philosophy concerned to emphasize human welfare and dignity, and optimistic about the powers of unaided human understanding.
To be fair that's from the 1994 edition and Blackburn has updated it and made it at least a bit more historically accurate; nonetheless another demonstration that Enlightenment Humanism, as it's come down to us, is an oxymoron.

Philology. The narrative of Modernism is of synchrony and formalism supplanting narrative. The only place philological argument is central is in constitutional scholarship. The word's been sitting there, unused, and I never caught it.

Monday, January 02, 2012

"Conservatives and Reactionaries" at CT. Corey Robin again.

Gilbert and George (and again)
Anglophone academics would agree with Mark Lilla's definition of liberalism.
Classical liberals like John Stuart Mill, in contrast to conservatives, give individuals priority over society, on anthropological as well as moral grounds. They assume that societies are genuinely constructs of human freedom, that whatever we inherit from them, they can always be unmade or remade through free human action. This assumption, more than any other, shapes the liberal temperament. It is what makes liberals suspicious of appeals to custom or tradition...
Erwin Panofsky would not.
Thus the Renaissance conception of humanitas had a two-fold aspect from the outset. The new interest in the human being was based both on a revival of the classical antithesis between humanitas and barbartias, or feritas, and on a survival of the mediaeval antithesis between humanitas and divinitas. When Marsilio Ficino defines man as a “rational soul participating in the intellect of God, but operating in a body,” he defines him as the one being that is both autonomous and finite. And Pico’s famous ‘speech’ ‘On the Dignity of Man’ is anything but a document of paganism. Pico says that God placed man in the center of the universe so that he might be conscious of where he stands, and therefore free to decide ‘where to turn.’ He does not say that man is the center of the universe, not even in the sense commonly attributed to the classical phrase, “man the measure of all things.”

It is from this ambivalent conception of humanitas that humanism was born. It is not so much a movement as an attitude which can be defined as the conviction of the dignity of man, based on both the insistence on human values (rationality and freedom) and the acceptance of human limitations (fallibility and frailty); from this two postulates result responsibility and tolerance.

…The humanist, then, rejects authority. But he respects tradition.

Corey Robin: "I think people have lots of different interests, and I think an elitist project like conservatism actually offers non-elites certain opportunities for power (though power that is always allied/hitched to subjection), which is one of the reasons non-elites support it."

“...to defend power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality.”
More on Lilla etc continuing

And of course Mill did not give individuals priority over society. He gave priority to managers.