Thursday, March 29, 2012

WARSAW — The former head of Poland’s intelligence service has been charged with aiding the Central Intelligence Agency in setting up a secret prison to detain suspected members of Al Qaeda, a leading newspaper here reported on Tuesday, the first high-profile case in which a former senior official of any government has been prosecuted in connection with the agency’s program.

Sweden's defense minister was forced to quit on Thursday after weeks of pressure over reports the Nordic state planned to help Saudi Arabia build a weapons plant.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Various posts on the relation of Anglo-American/ "Analytic" and "Continental" philosophy. In late Feb. Leiter linked to Gary Gutting in the Times, posting a passage from Gutting
These differences concern their conceptions of experience and of reason as standards of evaluation. Typically, analytic philosophy appeals to experience understood as common-sense intuitions (as well as their developments and transformations by science) and to reason understood as the standard rules of logical inference. A number of continental approaches claim to access a privileged domain of experience that penetrates beneath the veneer of common sense and science experience. For example, phenomenologists, such as Husserl, the early Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty try to describe the concretely lived experience from which common-sense/scientific experience is a pale and distorted abstraction, like the mathematical frequencies that optics substitutes for the colors we perceive in the world. Similarly, various versions of neo-Kantianism and idealism point to a “transcendental” or “absolute” consciousness that provides the fuller significance of our ordinary experiences.

Other versions of continental thought regard the essential activity of reason not as the logical regimentation of thought but as the creative exercise of intellectual imagination. This view is characteristic of most important French philosophers since the 1960s, beginning with Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze. They maintain that the standard logic analytic philosophers use can merely explicate what is implicit in the concepts with which we happen to begin; such logic is useless for the essential philosophical task, which they maintain is learning to think beyond these concepts.

Continental philosophies of experience try to probe beneath the concepts of everyday experience to discover the meanings that underlie them, to think the conditions for the possibility of our concepts. By contrast, continental philosophies of imagination try to think beyond those concepts, to, in some sense, think what is impossible.
Another more recently by Jon Cogburn at NewApps. The best thing there is a comment by John McCumber
Current discussion of the analytic-continental divide is unlikely to reach substantive conclusions because so much of it ignores a salient fact: that one approach is consonant with the rational choice ideology of the mightiest empire the world has ever seen, while the other—just by its emphasis on history—questions it. Such a circumstance is bound to introduce distortions into both approaches, and philosophers need to locate and remove those distortions.

If they do, one thing they will find is an intellectually nimble and critically alive combination of both approaches I call “situating reason;” but there are doubtless many other such amalgams as well. In the present state of discussion, however, none of them will ever see the light of day. Can it be that—unless we change our ways—the main thing standing in the way of philosophy is philosophers?
Another post at NewApps by John Protevi. Worth reading for the quoted passage by Adrian Moore
Another facet of the break between them [Hegel and Nietzsche] is interestingly reflected in one of the contrasts between analytic philosophy and [continental] philosophy.... Both Hegel and Nietzsche have a particular concern with difference and specifically with change.... In analytic philosophy, by contrast, there is typically a greater emphasis on identity.* But not only that; there is also typically a prioritization of identity. It is extremely difficult for analytic philosophers to think of difference in anything other than negative terms; that is, to avoid thinking of what is different as what is not the same, or as what does not have some feature that some given thing does have.** The philosophers whose work we shall be exploring later [e.g., Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze] reverse this prioritization. And in this respect Hegel is closer to the former. He too construes difference negatively. Not so Nietzsche. Nietzsche fully anticipates what is to come. The positive construal of difference, as something that betokens affirmation and something that is itself to be affirmed, is profoundly Nietzschean.*** (399; italics in original)
For more on Protevi, see here and here

The observations are all obvious, and the defensiveness of the responses (not included here) are predictable. Students ideologize the writings of their masters even more than the masters do themselves. Ideologies relating to sense are distinct from those of method or technics, but they're all ideologies. The former are preferable only depending on how they're managed. All philosophizing is definable as reification since theory is required to precede action. Continental philosophy theorizes and therefore reifies otherness and the inevitability of error rather than acting on or through an understanding. In democracy practice precedes theory. Analytic philosophy wills away the possibility of substantive, foundational, error entirely.

Repeating the last post: Lessons for solidarity Palestine can teach us
As a South African who has lived and suffered under apartheid and spent nearly thirty years of my adult life in its jails for resisting it, I can and do humbly claim to know something about the meaning of apartheid.

...Israel’s separate roads, defacto Mixed Marriages Act, trials by military courts, the unfair allocation of resources (particularly water), racist citizenship laws, assigning and denying rights to people on the basis of ethnicity, the destruction of the homes of indigenous people who have lived and worked the land for centuries to make way for newcomers who share a common gene pool with the rulers, the uprooting of olive trees, detention without trial, pass laws, the tiniest pieces of land given the to largest part of the population … I know of no other word for this but apartheid.
It's less the claim that what the author says is "true" than the fact that what he says is discounted by those who think it isn't, not actively, by arguing, but in silence. If there is to be a Jewish State for a Jewish people, codified in law, why not a German state for a German people? If ethnocracy for one why not for all? Is that liberalism? If you believe it is then you should argue the case. No one does. For many liberals in the Anglo American tradition it's enough to say: "We define ourselves as Liberal Zionists, therefore Liberal Zionism must be possible." Difference is denied, and with it the validity of a Palestinian response.

Again, the issue is less "truth" than engagement. More repeats: The rules of evidence in law are such that it does not matter whether illegally obtained evidence is potentially dispositive. What matters is the method by which it was obtained and the dangers of those methods setting a precedent. In arguing that Zionism is racism or that anthropogenic global warming exists, you can't fall back solely on claims of reason and arguments concerning agnotology. After all, everyone I know who uses that term is also a principled defender of Israel. The point is not that others live in glass houses, but that we all run the risk.
Lessons for solidarity Palestine can teach us [new link]: "As a South African who has lived and suffered under apartheid and spent nearly thirty years of my adult life in its jails for resisting it, I can and do humbly claim to know something about the meaning of apartheid."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

note taking/posted elsewhere. On the "Doctrine of Double Effect" All repeats, [and repeats of repeats]. The right answer on a case by case basis is not necessarily the right answer for society. Evidence deemed inadmissible in a court of law, due to the way it was obtained, may be otherwise salient or even dispositive. Formal philosophy, as formal logic, simply ignores this, which is why the implicit politics of formalism ends in anti-democratic barbarism.
The man who swings the axe is called the "Executioner"; the man who gives the order is called only "Governor". Officers send enlisted men to almost certain death but may not befriend them. Stanley Milgram’s 1963 experiments showed that physical proximity, of authority to subject and subject to “learner”, was the main factor in affecting the level of obedience to the command to cause harm. Every subset of human society that has "solved" the trolley problem, has done so by separation and orders of taboo. Common sense morality is the morality of equals. Abstract logic will not succeed in changing that. "The trolley problem has morphed to include many variations, and even its earlier forms included discussion of “the doctrine of double effect” and of intentionality, treating the act of killing to save lives as an unintentional consequence of a moral act. Utilitarianism doesn’t need to nit-pick about intention; it’s simple enough to say “I chose to kill 3 people to save 10”. But the focus on intention denies full moral existence to those who’ve been killed, and I know of no study asking people to imagine themselves as the fat man and asking if they’re able to intuit a moral difference between being pushed by a man’s hand or by a turnstile with someone’s finger on the switch." Logicians are not very observant. Observation is empiricism, not rationalism.
The quote is from the paper (still linked on the right of the page)
and here
At the same time, the IAEA's reports on Iranian behaviour have become steadily more critical. In November, it published an unprecedented volume of intelligence pointing towards past Iranian work on developing a nuclear weapon, deeming it credible.

However, some former IAEA officials are saying that the agency has gone too far. Robert Kelley, a former US weapons scientists who ran the IAEA action team on Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion, said there were worrying parallels between the west's mistakes over Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction then and the IAEA's assessment of Iran now.

"Amano is falling into the Cheney trap. What we learned back in 2002 and 2003, when we were in the runup to the war, was that peer review was very important, and that the analysis should not be left to a small group of people," Kelley said.

"So what have we learned since then? Absolutely nothing. Just like [former US vice-president] Dick Cheney, Amano is relying on a very small group of people and those opinions are not being checked."

Other former officials have also raised concern that the current IAEA is becoming an echo chamber, focused on suspicions over Iran's programme, without the vigorous debate that characterised the era of Amano's predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei.

They point to Amano's decision, in March last year, to dissolve the agency's office of external relations and policy co-ordination (Expo), which under ElBaradei had second-guessed some of the judgments made by the safeguards department inspectors.

Expo cautioned against the publication of IAEA reports that the Bush administration might use to justify military action. Some inspectors believed that amounted to censorship and western governments said it was not the agency's job to make political judgments.

ElBaradei's advisers from Expo were moved sideways in the organisation, and the department's functions have been absorbed by the director-general's office. "There has been a concentration of power, with less diversity of viewpoints," a former agency official said, adding that Amano has surrounded himself with advisors who have the same approach to Iran.
Friday, 16 October 2009, 16:12
EO 12958 DECL: 10/15/2019
REF: A. STATE 91301 B. UNVIE 472 C. UNVIE 476
Classified By: Ambassador Glyn Davies, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

...Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77, which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Intellectual honesty is the new black.
"Liberal Zionism": A Contradiction in Terms

From 2010, and I've quoted it more than once.
Peter Beinart
I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian. I'm not asking it to allow Palestinians who were forced out (or fled) in 1948 to return to their homes. I'm not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I'm actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel's security and for its status as a Jewish state. What I am asking is that Israel not do things that foreclose the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, because if it is does that it will become--and I'm quoting Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak here--an "apartheid state."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Duncan Black...
Spaces For People
Regular readers know my thoughts on this subject. Nature and wilderness are great, and so are public spaces designed to actually be visited by people. This country has lots of wilderness, and not so many well-designed public spaces.
is an idiot

As synecdochic of the changes and lack thereof in American liberalism he deserves his own tag. Now he has it

"I know and have friends and acquaintances who are African-American..."
"David Duke, president of Americans in Support of Palestinian Freedom."

There's also his squeamishness regarding female sexuality, and sex in general. "Lady parts." Why even use such language?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hate crimes and hate speech: the laws are stupid, childish, and counterproductive.
Known in the novel as Stefan Cyliak, the identity of the real "Buchenwald Kind", as he is popularly known, was later revealed to be Stefan Jerzy Zweig, a Polish boy born in the Kraków ghetto who came to Buchenwald with his father, Zacharias, when he was three, leaving after liberation in 1945. His mother and sister were both murdered at Auschwitz. Recent information, however, has revealed that – contrary to the book – Zweig was "swapped" for a 16-year-old Roma boy called Willy Blum who was sent to death in his place, almost certainly after the communists who saved him did a deal with a Nazi doctor.

The book's re-release has reignited controversy about how the Zweig story should be presented. Zweig, now 71 and a retired cameraman living in Israel, recently went to court to prevent Volkhard Knigge, the director of the Buchenwald Memorial Foundation, from ascribing his survival to what Knigge has called a "victim swap". According to Knigge: "These legends must be brought to an end." Zweig told the judge "I am not a legend", but said he felt stripped of his dignity by the foundation after it removed a plaque referring to his rescue.

"When you erase a name, you erase the person," Zweig said. "If you want, erect a plaque with the names of all the other children who were in Buchenwald … but don't erase one of them. "The judge eventually ruled that Knigge had to stop using the phrase "victim swap" in interviews.

The case set off a debate about whether hate-crime statutes are the best way to deal with bullying. While Mr. Ravi was not charged with Mr. Clementi’s death, some legal experts argued that he was being punished for it, and that this would result only in ruining another young life. They, along with Mr. Ravi’s lawyers, had argued that the case was criminalizing simple boorish behavior.
But Bruce J. Kaplan, the prosecutor in Middlesex County, applauded the jury for sending a strong message against bias.
“They felt the pain of Tyler,” he said.

...Some of the charges carry penalties of 5 to 10 years in prison. Mr. Ravi has surrendered his passport; prosecutors said he could face possible deportation to his native India, but that decision would be left to immigration officials.

Ravi is charged with invading Clementi’s privacy, for peeking on him with a Web cam as Clementi kissed a guy. But he’s also charged with “bias intimidation” — a hate crime that could double his sentence.
In alleging bias, prosecutors say Ravi spied on his roomie not for kicks, but because Celmenti was gay — something only a mind reader, or an angry jury, could decide.
As proof, they’re presenting e-mails in which Ravi made fun of Clementi’s sexuality. Also, his (relative) poverty. His dorky clothes.
A hate crime? My friend Sam remarked:
“If I was tried for catty things I’ve said and thought, I’d be doing life.”
Truth is, New Jersey prosecutors are caught between a rock and a politically correct place. It’s as if they’re trying to prove that intolerance won’t be tolerated on their turf.
That does not change the fact that Clementi’s death is a mystery. No one — not his parents, authorities or Ravi himself — understands the source of his desperation.
That hasn’t stopped folks from condemning Ravi, a then-18-year-old jerk whose interest in Clementi’s sex life is less creepy than it is suspicious.
Two days before Clementi died, Ravi caught his roommate on his Web cam, kissing a guy. The idiot then tweeted about it.
“I saw him making out with a dude. Yay,” he wrote.
A legend was born.
Anderson Cooper labeled bullying of closeted gays “sickening.”
Dr. Phil McGraw said, “This is someone that took a video of someone in an intimate act.”
“Something must be done!” DeGeneres cried.
Trouble was, none of it was true.
Ravi never recorded Clementi’s fully dressed kiss. Clementi was open about his sexuality.
Clementi also kind of liked Ravi, in spite of himself.
He brushed off Ravi’s spying in an e-mail to a pal as “he just like took a five sec peep lol.’’ Clementi worried that a new roommate would be worse.

That makes this a fitting time to inquire of his syndicator, Clear Channel Communications, whether it intends to continue supporting someone who addicts his audience to regular doses of hate speech. Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks Inc., which hosts Limbaugh's program, has defended his recent comments.
If Clear Channel won't clean up its airways, then surely it's time for the public to ask the FCC a basic question: Are the stations carrying Limbaugh's show in fact using their licenses "in the public interest?"
Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh's radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.
update: more of the same

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jean Vigo's daughter Luce had a small role as the sandwich seller in Le Havre

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Economist
Mr Netanyahu is less attractive than Esther, but he seems to be wooing Mr Obama and the American public just as effectively. The American-Israeli relationship now resembles the sort of crazy co-dependency one sometimes finds in doomed marriages, where the more stubborn and unstable partner drags the other into increasingly delusional and dangerous projects whose disastrous results seem only to legitimate their paranoid outlook. If Mr Netanyahu manages to convince America to back an attack on Iran, it is to be hoped that the catastrophic consequences will not be used to justify the attack that led to them.

Mr Netanyahu thinks the Zionist mission was to give the Jewish people control over their destiny. No people has control over its destiny when it is at war with its neighbours. But in any case, that is only one way of thinking of the Zionist mission. Another mission frequently cited by early Zionists was to help Jews grow out of the "Ghetto mentality". Mr Netanyahu's gift to Mr Obama shows he's still in it.
Not great/not bad
note taking. posted elsewhere:
Arguing with idiots
Republics are founded in the assumption that power corrupts, not that the uneducated should show respect for their betters. If the debacle of the global warming debate can be blamed partly on successful demagoguery, recent economic disasters can be blamed squarely on incompetence at the top. The answer in both cases is more broad-based education, not more deference.

We're faced now in this country and the world at large with the combination of the an unaccountable elite and an uneducated mass. The answer is in the education of the mass, so that the inevitable elite can be as representative as possible: in flux and in check. Who watches the watchmen?

"When courts are working properly, they hold a mirror to the larger society." When courts are working properly -or not- they hold a mirror to a certain sector of society.

"Allowing citizens to participate in the formation of public opinion..."

In a republic, states do not "allow" citizens to participate, citizens authorize states to function. Citizens are constitutive. The entire discussion is backwards.
Having to point that out to the Dean of Yale Law School, what is there to say?

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Alleged Photos of "Clean-up" at Iran's Parchin Site Lack Credibility"
Gareth Porter at IPS

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Atheist cult.

I am struck by this passage from Tocqueville: "I have previously stated that the principle of the sovereignty of the people hovers over the whole political system of the Anglo-Americans. Every page of this book will reflect certain fresh instances of this doctrine. In nations were it exists, every individual takes an equal share in sovereign power and participates equally in the government of the state. Thus he is considered as enlightened, virtuous, strong as any of his fellow men." Toqueville's point is that democracy presupposes that each person is as competent and virtuous as any other. But of course this is false: people differ widely in intelligence and virtue. Note that he says "considered" not "really". So democracy rests on a lie. How, then, to defend democracy? Well, if truth, reason, virtue, etc are not objective qualities that people exemplify to varying degrees, but are rather relative to each person, we have a way out: everyone is as smart and good as anyone else to himself. Then democracy rests on no lie, since everyone really is cognitively and morally equal. Relativism steps in to save democracy from its noble lie. Thus relativism finds a foothold. But relativism is rubbish; so where does that leave democracy?
New Tag: "Colin McGinn"

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Cindy Sherman is the most openly, explicitly, misogynist female artist since Alice Neel.

Untitled #229, 1994/ Nancy and Olivia, 1967

I'd forgotten about Lisa Yuskavage.
Neel also was contemptuous of women, but not of herself. There's a tragic element to Sherman's work, which at its worst, recently, reaches down to Yuskavage's level of merely pathetic.

The above is less unfair than unclear. And it was written in response to Sherman's MoMA retrospective but before the show at Metro. I was also probably in a bad mood at the time.

Sherman's newest work is both cinematic and static, less aping filmic imagery -the film stills always annoyed me- than returning as it were for the first time to late narrative painting, the cinematic Goya of the Black Paintings, and from there to Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Lars von Trier, or maybe the reverse, from von Trier to Goya. The questions haven't changed since Goya's time: how or whether to make a "high" art in a democratic or even nascent democratic culture, and how it can be any more than high design and refined pleasure, an art that leaves complex moral questions to film (now) and literature. I've written elsewhere that the best and much of the worst of Modernism was representational, the street-grid neo-Platonism of Mondrian's last paintings and Barnett Newman's mannerism being less included than exemplary.

von Trier begins Melancholia with an operatic fashion video -crap a la Ellen von Unwerth- like a filmmaker who tells everyone anytime he can that he always wanted to be a painter; in the context of the rest of the movie it's a brilliant bad joke. Sherman and other artists over the past 30 years have faced the same problem from the other side. If serious filmmakers have to negotiate the desires of a sizable segment of the majority, fine artists have to negotiate the fads and foibles of the oligarchy. Both Sherman and von Trier could be said to have done a good job of managing their various contradictions and allegiances.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

It seems that Syrian regime had agents among the rebels; or it seems that the Syrian regime obtained a trove of video footage from Baba Amru. They have been airing them non-stop. They are quite damning. They show the correspondent or witness (for CNN or from Aljazeera) before he is on the air: and the demeanor is drastically different from the demeanor on the air and they even show contrived sounds of explosions timed for broadcast time. I have to say that Aljazeera and the affiliated Ikhwan media win the award for the largest volume of lies in this crisis. Their lies have been rather helpful to the Syrian regime which now fills its airtime with exposing the lies and exaggerations of the Ikhwan-led Syrian opposition.

PS This is really scandalous. It shows the footage prior to Aljazeera reports: they show fake bandages applied on a child and then a person is ordered to carry a camera in his hand to make it look like a mobile footage. It shows a child being fed what to say on Aljazeera.
More at MoA
As'ad AbuKhalil again.

Older: Al Jazeera leaks.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

"I’ve written about music long enough, and worked with enough artists and makers, to know that both are physical disciplines which flourish in the curious shadowland between willed movement and learned automatism."