Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hossam el-Hamalawy: "Morsi, SCAF and the revolutionary left"
The Muslim Brothers have put themselves in a critical position now. Some on the left and in the liberal circles are more than happy to label the Brotherhood as a “fascist” organization and “just another face of Mubarak’s regime.” This social analysis of the movement is incorrect and will entail, in my view, wrong political positions to be taken vis a vis the Islamists.

The MBs are not a unified block. While the organization is in effect run and controlled by multi millionaires like Khairat el-Shatter, seeking compromise and reconciliation with the regime, their base cadres who hail from middle, lower middle and section of the working class are a different story. Across its history and with every twist and turn the Brotherhood were subject to splits.

For el-Shatter, Islamic Shariaa means neoliberal reforms and an economic program which could even be more right wing than Mubarak’s, but Shariaa for the MB worker translates into achieving social justice. Renaissance for Morsi may well include anti-union measures, but for the MB workers I meet, the Renaissance project means nothing but more union freedoms, higher wages, and social justice. Those different interpretations of what the MB stands for is directly influenced by the class (and on occasions generational) background. It is completely off the wall to claim that since Shatter and the leadership are pro-neoliberalism, then their followers in the provinces are up in arms defending privatization or it’s part of their daily discourse to go around bashing unions.
See also (again) the second video of Bassem Youssef below

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

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

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Twilight of the Elites

Crooked Timber: Guest Review by Aaron Swartz: Chris Hayes’ The Twilight of The Elites
Chris Hayes, MSNBC, B.A., Brown 2001; Aaron Schwartz, Conde Nast, drop-out, Stanford, 2005

Brian Leiter: A dustup [] at the NDPR! The debate is apropos.
An interview with an Oxford philosopher!
Suppose you say ‘justice requires that all individuals have the same amount of resources’. Any decision made by the democratic majority which fails to distribute resources in that way counts as unjust. It would seem, then, that we cannot be both committed democrats and committed proponents of justice – at least, of demanding justice. Something ‘has got to give’, to put it in a very non-philosophical way, and the question is what, precisely, must give: justice, or democracy? The book in effect argues that democracy must give in to social rights.
The Daily Show, Jon Stewart and Bassem Youssef  [The embed is dead] 

Stewart: "So comedy... a lot more lucrative than the heart surgery business?
Youssef: "A lot... And you don't get sued"

It's hard to overstate the significance of the exchanges between Youssef and Stewart. Not that either of them say anything new. They've "formulated" no new "ideas". They've "created" no "concepts". They're just a couple of adults acting like children. And the rest of those above, intelligent or not, are children by comparison.

Stewart's riff on "2000 years" of Muslim/Jewish tensions made me cringe (as if he'd say the same thing to the Papist Sunday School teacher Colbert), but it set up the punchline, and the timing was good.
At the symbolic level, it is important: Morsi is the first democratically elected Islamist president of the Arab world, and also Egypt's first civilian president. His victory signals the defeat, for now, of the felool and the patronage networks of the Mubarak regime.

In more practical terms, things are more hazy...
From a couple of months ago. Expanded.

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.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

UVA, scandal, etc.
more excuses to repeat myself.
From the past.

More recently.
The rise of the administrators began a long time ago. And long before 1990. The rise of the technocrats. My father (PhD Berkeley 62 and by then former undergraduate chairman) was one of the strikers, and noted with disgust that the teachers at the business school were among the most committed.
I'm not going to argue with this, but I will suggest that it's more "rich asshole failed to get the respect he is entitled to" than any grand vision about the world. Because, really, killing the German department isn't a vision.
It's a vision for some, and for others like Atrios himself, its just drift.

Atrios' thinking is always almost pathologically unsophisticated (and as un-self-aware, also self-serving) but sometimes when facts and personal experience intersect simplicity is enough. He yells "print the fucking money!" with righteous indignation. I share it, but simplicity isn't enough.


The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Culture Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate Change
Our study results belie the conventional view that controversy over policy-relevant science is rooted in the public’s lack of scientific knowledge and its inability to engage in technical reasoning. As ordinary people learn more science and become more proficient in modes of reasoning characteristic of scientific inquiry, they do not reliably converge on assessments of climate change risks supported by scientific evidence. Instead they more form beliefs that are even more reliably characteristic of persons who hold their particular cultural worldviews. Indeed, far from a symptom of how poorly equipped ordinary individuals are to reach rational conclusions on the basis of complex scientific data, disputes over issues like climate change, we’ve argued, are evidence of how remarkably well equipped they are to discern what stances toward such information satisfy their expressive interests. The high degree of rationality individuals display in forming risk perceptions that express their cultural values can itself inhibit collective welfare rationality by blocking citizens from converging on the best available scientific evidence on how to secure their common interests in health, safety, and prosperity.
As I said last year when I read the above [as I say every fucking day] all cognition is cultural. Who watches the watchmen when we're the only watchmen of ourselves?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More summer repeats [From 2010]

[If the video is inaccessible search here]

Lawrence Lessig
In 1955 , a man got an idea (yes, that is ambiguous) for a new kind of social network. Here’s the important point: He built it. He had a bunch of extremely clever clues for opening up a social space that every kid (anyone younger than I am) would love. He architected that social space around the social life of the kids he knew. And he worked ferociously hard to make sure the system was stable and functioning at all times. The man then spread it to other places, then other communities, and now to anyone. Today, with more than 500,000,000 people served, it is one of the biggest networks in the history of man.
Lawrence Lessig is a fucking idiot. [now]
I love the melancholy poetry of reactionary homosexual Fordist anti-humanism, even as I understand that it's founded in pain and self-hatred. But I don't give a shit if Lessig believes he's "recovered" from his childhood experiences. "Saint" Genet argued against prison reform because prisons made him what he was. Lessig should be so honest.

Poetry is observation not creation. "Creativity" is no more than inventiveness, and inventiveness is the intelligence of precocious preadolescence, of the mind before experience. To refuse as an adult to face the impact of experience is not to refute it but to deny it. "The Social Network is wonderful entertainment". The Social Network is a half-way decent work of popular art, constituted first, as all art is, in the asking of questions: "Who are we?" "What do we value?" I don't give a damn about his sexuality, but everything I've read by Lessig beyond his basic arguments is founded in ridiculous assumption; the inner logic is rigid and perverse. He claims to be interested in culture but doesn't know what it is. I'll say it again: the people behind The Social Network are more interesting than the people behind Facebook. "That undergraduate is now a billionaire, multiple times over. He is the youngest billionaire in the world." And we're supposed to be impressed by this, and by the socialism of bees.

Zadie Smith on Geeks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eric Schliesser
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.

Frege's logic would be the tool, but it is Schlick that developed the program of the free play in conceptual invention. Carnap debased the coin a bit by insisting we should be more modest conceptual engineers. But a scientific philosophy requires worker-bees and philosophical queens.

"The Significance of Quine's 'Flux of Experience' for freedom with scientific and formal philosophy"

I am not a promoter of a "scientific philosophy," I inherited it as a tradition (or "school").

"It is always fine to hear economists pretend that financial incentives do not matter."
The New York Times reports that the AEA is considering an ethics code. In the article, Mr. Lucas is reported as saying: “What disciplines economics, like any science, is whether your work can be replicated. It either stands up or it doesn’t. Your motivations and whatnot are secondary.” (Lucas won a Nobel in 1995.)

The future of Europe's stability rests in the capable hands of Angela Merkel.

I am, however, skeptical of all manner of academic efforts that seem primarily aimed at DE-legitimatizing Israel as a Jewish state.
Introducing a post in Elinor Ostrum he mentions that he learned of her death while he was hosting a "Workshop" on sympathy.

There are as many forms of self-interest as there are people.

"That's fascism too."

Added to this post.

Just to be clear.

Monday, June 18, 2012

For recent comments on Shalizi, the most recent is here. Work your way back if you want.
"Cosma Shalizi's discovery of Sweden", is here.
His first post is here.

But my earlier comments are connected to almost everything ever written on this page. The problems discussed are the same: the relation of elite rationalism to demotic argument and the success or failure of each as a means of representing the social and political world.

The majority of the Greek people have chosen the former, and more punishment for themselves.

One more, though you can find it through the links above: this goes back to 2006 and Shalizi's discussion of Franco Moretti.

It interests me most that Moretti's model -ethos, the form of his desire- is pretty much the same as the engineers at google. He's celebrating a technical capacity as such.

La Grande Illusion

The site,, is not a charity but a business, one that hopes to make a profit identifying artistic talent and connecting it to an audience. Investors are pouring millions into it and similar start-ups and social networks like and, which cater to the growing cadre of people who consider themselves creative and think there’s a market for their work outside the network of galleries and dealers who dominate the commerce in art and design. Users and founders of these sites talk not only about making money but also about democratizing culture.

these platforms proliferate, they also raise questions about the nature of art and creativity, the distinction between professionals and hobbyists and what it means to call yourself an artist when anyone with a cellphone can be a photographer, anyone with the right apps can be a designer, anyone with a Facebook page can amass a following, and anyone at all can dream up a concept and find a place to pitch it.
No mention of Saatchi. [never stop selling, especially yourself]

The curator of Sensation, now Sir Norman Rosenthal, speaking to a friend of mine a couple of years after the show, and in my presence, said " I sold my soul with that one." I thought that was sad, and silly.
Replace "artist" with musician in the article above and see the absurdity that results.

What is the role of the fine arts in a democracy?
"Today there is no denying that narrative films are not only “art”—not often good art, to be sure, but this applies to other media as well—but also, besides architecture, cartooning and “commercial design,” the only visual art entirely alive."
Panofsky, Style and Medium in the Motion Pictures, 1934


Look at the photograph. It's an image of aristocracy as high camp. And the double reversal: the hyper masculine von Rauffenstein has become matronly and the fey de Boeldieu slyly aggressive. Hilarious.

First date, and foreshadowing.
de Boeldieu: May I ask you a question?
von Rauffenstein: Of course.
de Boeldieu: Why did you make an exception of me by inviting me here?
von Rauffenstein: Because your name is Boeldieu, career officer in the French Army. And I am Rauffenstein, career officer in the Imperial German Army.
de Boeldieu: But my comrades are officers as well.
von Rauffenstein: A 'Maréchal' and 'Rosenthal,' officers?
de Boeldieu: They're fine soldiers.
von Rauffenstein: Charming legacy of the French Revolution.
de Boeldieu: Neither you nor I can stop the march of time.
von Rauffenstein: Boldieu, I don't know who will win this war, but whatever the outcome, it will mean the end of the Rauffensteins and the Boeldieus.
de Boeldieu: We're no longer needed.
von Rauffenstein: Isn't that a pity?
Capt. de Boeldieu: Perhaps.
The tragic resolution: the death of the heroine, the aristocratic martyr for the people.
von Rauffenstein: Forgive me.
de Boeldieu: I would have done the same. French or German, duty is duty.
von Rauffenstein: Are you in pain?
de Boeldieu: I didn't think a bullet in the stomach hurt so much.
von Rauffenstein: I aimed at your legs.
de Boeldieu: It was 500 feet, with poor visibility... Besides, I was running.
von Rauffenstein: Please, no excuses. I was clumsy.
Still hilarious, still tragic.

What's even more ironic is that I missed all of this, or the real extremity of it, until the friend I was with yelled "Kitsch!" at the end. She'd never seen the film and I've seen it 3 times at least. What I'd seen as a light touch is now a sledgehammer. It always was.

Erwin Panofsky: "The humanist, then, rejects authority. But he respects tradition."
jumping forward: 2014

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A repeat from 2009

Picasso, Mandolin and Guitar, 1924. Oil with sand on canvas, 55 3/8 x 78 7/8 inches. Guggenheim Museum, NY.

The painting has always annoyed me; predicting the future a la Jules Verne, but instead of a submarine we get a surprisingly accurate portrait of the artist as an old man, 40 years ahead. And I've never been a fan of Arcimboldo.
It was part of the template for cartoons from the late 50's and early 60's, Warner Bros. and Disney -cubist and surrealist design motifs- through many others, including Dufy and Ludwig Bemelmans. Look at the window and the door on the right: the flat shadows and light. In the flatness of a reproduction it's easier to see. None of this makes it any better, any less contrived or over-determined.
Actually I've always hated this fucking painting. It's Pop without irony.

When I first posted this I sent a note to an old family friend (who has a professional interest in such things). I never posted his reply.
Just came from Clark's first lecture, which, indeed, was on your painting. In the question period afterwards, someone said, I see a skull in the painting. Clark likened as how, yes, some people have said that (I don't know whether actually have written about it), but he himself isn't interested in it. Too bad, I say, because it is a dimension of the painting (a perspective on it) that is there and should be taken in as we consider it. Picasso was, above all, a metamorphic, a polymorphic painter.
I'm still amazed no one sees the eyes in the sockets, or recognizes the face.
Comments at The Monkey Cage (neatened up here). The links are all repeats, and repeats of repeats, for a new audience.
American military aid and personal relationships between American and Egyptian commanders give the United States great influence, and the two sides are in daily communication formally and informally, Mr. Sullivan said. But American military officials keep their messages private, as they should, he said.

"We should not make it look like we’re deeply involved in trying to solve this,” he said. “Most Egyptians would not appreciate that."
Reuters: “Israel shocked by Obama’s ‘betrayal’ of Mubarak”

Ted Koppel in the WSJ
The Israeli government is so concerned that America’s adversaries may miscalculate U.S. intentions that it is privately urging Washington to make it clear that the U.S. would intervene in Saudi Arabia should the survival of that government be threatened.
Adam Shatz in the LRB
Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations has published a ‘contingency planning memorandum’ in favour of continued support to the regime, which, as he describes it, ‘has helped create a regional order that makes it relatively inexpensive for the United States to exercise its power’
The US just re-started sending arms to Bahrain.

Col. Patrick Lang
Our obsession with this kind of historic meddling is leading us down some dark paths. In Egypt we are pressing for the resumption of a democratic process that will create a government of our enemies. In Syria we are aligning ourselves with a medieval plutocracy (Saudi Arabia) and our Al-Qa'ida enemies.

Women in Syria and in pre-2003 Iraq have or had a great deal of freedom within the context of their societies. Now we are seeking to advance the interests of those who will put women back into the kennel of their kitchens and purdah.

The die has been cast. The US Government is now firmly behind the propaganda drivel generated by the insignificant liberal minorities and the lying spokesmen of the Islamists.

We HAVE met the enemy, and it is us.
Issandr El Amrani calls it [Pressman's] a good post with the caveat that it covers a range of opinions “within American academia”. I think it’s a waste of time. Academia has turned an explicitly value-laden pessimism regarding human behavior into an implicitly value-laden optimism regarding our ability to manage it. The result is that this post is self-regarding pabulum. It’s the same he-said she-said passivity of American journalism based on the same false claims of “objectivity.”

I have to assume you’re aware of popular sentiment in Egypt regarding Israel. You’re aware of the occupation and the expansion of illegal settlements. The US is partnering with Israel and the Saudis against Iran, and as a result with Sunni against Shia, in Bahrain and elsewhere. The important question (ignoring questions of morality) is if it makes any goddamn sense at all.

My favorite quote from Nir Rosen
“imagine if that one taliban commander had not screwed up my plans to go with them when they conducted attacks… wouldnt it make for a fun read?”
[Responding to Bing West, whose argument is clearly fascist.]

Moral earnestness is not the same as moral responsibility. Rosen would never claim to be a scientist; he would admit to being an adrenaline junkie, but he’s worth reading and taking seriously. I can’t say the same for the above.  [I don't have to agree with everything Pat Lang says either. The point is that that's not the point. Rosen is a journalist and Lang is a soldier and a spook. Tradesmen are empiricists]

Assuming powerful states’ desire for stability on their own terms, the difference between those leaders claiming to be “conservative” and those claiming to be “liberal” is in the tension between their stated idealism and their professional cynicism. There was a time when only liberals could be called hypocrites, but now all politicians want to be seen as idealists. But to understand the change politicians you’d have to understand the change in culture itself, including the culture of academia.

Exceptionalism is always a mistake.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court on Thursday has been described by many, including myself, as a coup by proxy. The only democratically elected institution in Egypt is now gone, the SCAF has regained full legislative powers — i.e. the power to rule by decree — and it's not clear whether the president who will be elected in the next two days will be able to assume his position in any case. Furthermore, we know that SCAF intends to ammend the constitutional declaration now in place or perhaps issue a new one altogether. If it looks like a coup and smells like a coup and is based on absurd legal reasoning, it probably is a soft coup.

The strange thing is that I don't see much outrage about it outside of Twitter. ...
The areas of the web concerned with politics can be divided into those discussing politics and those discussing the idea of politics; the degree of separation depends on the personal stakes of the participants.  In the case of economics the arguments are personal out of a sense of competition with ideological opponents. In the case of journalists the best are those most willing to admit they love the chase.

Philosopher Chris Bertram: "I'm sympathetic, I really am..."
Philosopher G.A Cohen: "You know I just think that I'm not a morally exemplary person that's all. That's the reconciliation."
Journalist Nir Rosen: "imagine if that one taliban commander had not screwed up my plans to go with them when they conducted attacks... wouldnt it make for a fun read?"

More translations of Rainer Hermann @ Frankfurter Allgemeine on Houla @ MoA

More questions from the BBC
In the aftermath of the massacre at Houla last month, initial reports said some of the 49 children and 34 women killed had their throats cut. In Damascus, Western officials told me the subsequent investigation revealed none of those found dead had been killed in such a brutal manner. Moreover, while Syrian forces had shelled the area shortly before the massacre, the details of exactly who carried out the attacks, how and why were still unclear. Whatever the cause, officials fear the attack marks the beginning of the sectarian aspect of the conflict.

In such circumstances, it's more important than ever that we report what we don't know, not merely what we do. In Houla, and now in Qubair, the finger has been pointed at the shabiha, pro-government militia. But tragic death toll aside, the facts are few: it's not clear who ordered the killings - or why.
Also: The Greek elections are tomorrow.
one,  twothree, and four.

Shalizi's response:
I took it to be obvious that what I was advocating at the end was a rather old-fashioned social democracy or market socialism — what Robert Heilbronner [sic] used to call a "slightly imaginary Sweden". The idea that the positions I like are at all novel would be silly.
His first paragraph (again)
Attention conservation notice: Over 7800 words about optimal planning for a socialist economy and its intersection with computational complexity theory.
And last
These are all going to be complex problems, full of messy compromises. Attaining even second best solutions is going to demand “bold, persistent experimentation”, coupled with a frank recognition that many experiments will just fail..."
He seems not to see the disconnect.

Social Democracy is loyalty to the game of the political system you're a part before loyalty to the desire for victory. It's an athletic competition without, and without need of, referees. Academics, politicians and judges are no more than player representatives. Social Democracy is the behavior of the Irish fans in Gdansk made into principle.

In life as lived, practice precedes theory. History and descriptive literature tell us more about the future than speculative reason; they describe for us what we've done and what we are. There's a reason science fiction is called "pulp" fiction, and there's a reason detective fiction is consistently the only form of pulp to rise above its status. Henning Mankell would not deny that his primary subject is Swedish social democracy; Isaac Asimov's subject, whether he wanted it to be or not, was post-war America, and Red Plenty is more concerned with 2012 than 1956 or 2075. It will rise or fall on how well it's seen as doing that.

History shows that speculative reason ages badly, and Cosma Shalizi wants to invent more than he wants to observe.

The comments is the first post were "jumbled together" because they had been posted and deleted on the thread at Crooked Timber.

Two of my greatest hits:

Rule #1 "Make it idiot-proof"

Klub Kid Kollectivity (For Chris and Henry)

Friday, June 15, 2012

onetwo, three, four

For people following Shalizi's link, start here (a follow-up to the post he quotes). Not sure why he couldn't find it himself.

For relevant history go here. None of this is new.

For related recent discussion (sadly none of this grows old) scroll four posts down the page or click here, or read the same comments at Sanford Levinson's post On "The Spirit of Compromise" at Balkinization, and also Jack Balkin's continuing discussion of political faith.

Shalizi is a quant; quants deal in the categories they know. Their model of curiosity is a priori. Social democracy and the capacity for compromise are modes of behavior, attitudes regarding ideas more than ideas as such. In social democracy, following social life, practice precedes theory.
I repeat myself too much
Kurt Gödel panicked thinking he'd discovered a flaw in the Constitution that could legitimize dictatorship. Some people wonder what he found. Most people just think he was nuts. But he was a mathematician and logician; the flaw he found was language:

Kurt Gödel, meet David Addington.

Kurt Gödel is not the model of a political thinker.
That is one thing we should not even be debating. Yet here we are.
I won't link David Addington's name because I shouldn't have to.

I was in a bar last night talking to an Irish bartender about the Euro Cup. I was standing just to the left of an empty chair, but close enough that my body was barely touching it. One chair away an earnest slacker was reading a book.  A fat girl came into the bar and greeted her friend. She walked over, spun the barstool around, sat down and swung it back. Courtesy would require her to ask if I had been or would be sitting in that chair. Courtesy on my part would require that I say "no" and move slightly away.  But if courtesy is based on universal assumption and the assumption was that I would move, what's the point of courtesy?

If the purpose is to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible then the fat girl's logic was flawless. If that's point she was well taught.

If any of this is new for you and you want to continue, go here

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I watched the game and I didn't know what they were singing.

The Spanish played beautifully. Once or twice I saw an Irish player smiling at a Spanish player in respect. Tony Karon called it the best moment of Euro 2012. I'm pretty sure the Irish fans in Gdansk were drinking for free tonight, a lot of it courtesy of the Spanish ones.

Why weren’t they grateful?

Pankaj Mishra reviews Christopher de Bellaigue in the LRB
Drawing on Persian sources, de Bellaigue gives an authoritative account of Operation Ajax, the CIA/ MI6 coup that toppled Mossadegh’s government and established Shah Reza Pahlavi as Iran’s unchallenged ruler in August 1953. The story of the Anglo-American destruction of Iran’s hopes of establishing a liberal modern state has been told many times, but the cautionary message of 1953 is still far from being absorbed. As early as 1964, Richard Cottam, a political officer in the US Embassy in the 1950s and later an Iran scholar, warned that the press and academic ‘distortions’ of the Mossadegh era bordered on the ‘grotesque, and until that era is seen in truer perspective there can be little hope for a sophisticated US foreign policy concerning Iran.’ (Or the whole Middle East, Cottam could have added.) The New York Times summed up the new imperial mood immediately after the coup: ‘Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism.’

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On "The Spirit of Compromise"

The human capacity for willed blindness never ceases to amaze me.
I added two comments, both obvious, both repeats, but succinct.
"...for one of the striking things about their book, written, of course, by two world-class political theorists, is the degree to which they seem to agree that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to make “general arguments about compromise” in the sense of providing algorithms for when one should or should not compromise."

I'd always thought it obvious that good politics is made by adults more than rules. I took Dworkin's "Hercules" to be an imagined ideal and "consistency" to be no more than the consistency we imagine ourselves having rather than something that actually exists, a necessary dual consciousness of faith and irony, of a lawyer for example, (not a judge) committed to the advocacy of his paying client.

The focus on rules and algorithms makes us dumber, less aware. And here there's a simple way to make my point:

There's an elephant in this room and it's sucking up so much air I'm surprised there's any left to breathe.
[Both Levinson and Margalit are avowed Zionists. One link among many. And as usual when linking for white people, I link to white people.]

Something I forgot to mention, regarding algorithms, adult behavior and Professor Levinson's fixation on the flaws in our Constitution.

He's treated it as argument over which of two boats is safer in a storm but ignored the fact the storm is on. He says our boat has a 60% chance of survival and his opponents say the number is 70 or 75, but at this point the odds of surviving the switch is 50/50. Now is not the time for academic argument.

Kurt Gödel panicked thinking he'd discovered a flaw in the Constitution that could legitimize dictatorship. Some people wonder what he found. Most people just think he was nuts. He was a mathematician and logician; the flaw he found was language: White>Clear>Empty>Void>Black.
Kurt Gödel, meet David Addington.

Kurt Gödel is not the model of a political thinker.
That is one thing we should not even be debating. Yet here we are.
Democracy Now
PATRICK SEALE: Well, as we all know, the opposition is deeply divided. The strongest, best funded, best organized element in it are the Muslim Brothers. Now, they have a longstanding grievance against the Assad regime, father and son, going back over 30 years—indeed, ever since the Ba’ath Party came to power in Syria in 1963—Ba’ath Party, which is a secular movement. And from that moment on, some elements of the Muslim Brothers went underground, started taking arms, and mounted a terrorist campaign against the Syrian regime in the late six—in the late ’70s, culminating in the seizure of Hama, which the state then retook with great loss of life. Now, after that, the Muslim Brothers were banned. Membership was punishable by death. So they have a great deal to want revenge for from this regime.

Now, in addition to the Muslim Brothers, which are the many, many strands of them in Syria and outside Syria, there are also large numbers now of armed Islamic extremists, jihadis, so-called Arab fighters coming in from neighboring countries but also from countries further afield, from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, from Tunisia. Now, these people, a lot of them coming from Iraq, where they’ve been carrying out suicide operations, which they’re replicating now in Syria—gross acts of terror. Now, this is the problem. The number two man in al-Qaeda, Abu Yahya al-Libi, whom the Americans claim to have killed the other day, has just issued a video accusing Bashar al-Assad. So, does the United States want to be on the side of al-Qaeda?

...Now, some Arab states—Saudi Arabia and Qatar—also seem to see the crisis in sectarian terms. They think that Iran, a Shia power, could challenge Sunni primacy in the region. But you saw—your program began, at around—a few minutes ago, with the massacres in Iraq of Shia civilians. Now, who do you think triggered that sectarian conflict? It was the United States, with its invasion of Iraq in 2002, which led to the collapse of the state to a sectarian civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced. Do they want the same thing to happen in Syria? Hasn’t Syria suffered enough? Shouldn’t the West and Russia join in imposing a ceasefire on both sides, instead of fueling the flames? The United States is said to be coordinating the flow of money, intelligence and weapons to the rebels, and then complaining that Russia is doing the same for the regime.

...This the trouble. I mean, there’s so much foreign intervention, with each of the external actors pursuing its own strategic goals. Now, the opposition, the rebels, know, I believe, that they cannot hope to defeat the Syrian army on the ground. Their whole strategy has been to try and trigger a Western military intervention. Now that’s been slow in coming. Now, to trigger such an intervention, they have either perpetrated massacres themselves — and I stick with the report from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [below]— or they try and provoke the regime into massacres. Now, what that German newspaper said was that rebels attacked some checkpoints manned by the army, and in the firefight that followed, which lasted about 90 minutes, the massacre took place. And they contacted many sources on the ground, which Mrs. Jouejati dismisses, and says—and said—they reported that the killing was done by anti-Assad Sunni militants. Now, I’m not saying one thing or the other; I’m saying that this should be investigated.

Now, Mrs. Jouejati is, I think, mistaken in not seeing the wider context of this Syrian—tragic Syrian struggle. And the only way to resolve it is not by force of arms. The only way to resolve it is by diplomacy. That is why it is a great mistake to sabotage Kofi Annan’s mission, as I’m afraid the United States is doing. It pays lip service to his peace mission while conniving in the arming of the opposition. The West and the Russians should combine in imposing a ceasefire on both sides and bringing both sides to the table. That is the only way to save what is left of Syria.
Three’s a Crowd
Almost a parody of intellectual fashion-conscious high leftism.

[AA agrees: Outrage of the week: absurd levels in defending the Asad dictatorship; and the author responds]

Ibrahim al-Amin
The Syrian leadership has been coordinating closely with the Russian leadership on such matters. According to informed sources, Moscow may even have intervened to block the execution of some military orders after they were issued. But this was in the context of its efforts to strengthen its diplomatic hand. Russia is not expected to stand in the way of the Syrian authorities as they embark on actions that could be of different order to what we have seen so far.
AA May 12th
I received a detailed report from a Syrian with contact inside the regime. It has been confirmed to me that the Russian government (through its intelligence service) is running the show. Qadri Jamil is playing an increasingly important role (the Russians want him as prime minister). I am told that Bashshar's orders are no more followed or implemented: that, yes, the regime is still resilient and that there are no defections to speak of despite generous offers of Saudi and Qatari cash but that there is intense in-fighting within the regime. I know of one assassination by regime mukhbarat agents against a Syrian who had too much information about the contacts of Hafidh Makhluf. It is, in short, a mess and the poor Syrian people are caught between vicious warriors, local, regional, and international.
Bassam Haddad: For Syria, what is "Left"

The Independent
Exclusive: Arab states arm rebels as UN talks of Syrian civil war
Saudi Arabia and Qatar 'supplying weapons' to anti-Assad forces, while fears mount for civilians.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Supreme Court to Gitmo Detainees: Drop Dead"
Not quite, but pretty much. The Court has apparently decided to outsource the resolution of these habeas petitions to the DC Circuit, which is (depending on your point of view) either ignoring Boumediene or giving that opinion a very narrow reading. All of the cert. petitions from detainees were denied today.

The President, by the way, also doesn't talk about closing Gitmo anymore. That was so 2008.
Fides: Vatican News Agency
Qusayr (Agenzia Fides) - Exodus of Christians in the west of Syria: the Christian population has left the town of Qusayr, near Homs, following an ultimatum from the military chief of the armed opposition, Abdel Salam Harba. This is what local sources of Fides report, indicating that, following the outbreak of the conflict, out of the ten thousand faithful who lived in the town, only a thousand have remained, who have now been forced to flee in haste to fury. Some mosques in the city have re-launched the message, announcing from the minarets: "Christians must leave Qusayr within six days, which expires this Friday." The ultimatum, therefore, expired yesterday, June 8, and produced fear among the Christian population who had begun to hope again after the presence of Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, the Jesuit who stayed in Qusayr for a week, with the idea of "praying and fasting for peace in the midst of the conflict" (see Fides 30/5/2012).
The reasons for this ultimatum remain unclear. According to some, it serves to avoid more suffering to the faithful; other sources reveal "a continuity focused on discrimination and repression."
Still others argue that Christians have openly expressed their loyalty to the state and for this reason the opposition army drives them away. Now Christian families from Qusayr have begun their exodus of refugees in the valleys and the surrounding countryside. Some have taken refuge with relatives and friends in Damascus. Some families, very few, sought valiantly to stay in their home town, but no one knows what fate they will suffer. Fides sources insist that Islamic Salafist extremist groups, that are in the ranks of the armed opposition, consider Christians "infidels", they confiscate the goods, commit brief executions and are ready to start a "sectarian war". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 09/06/2012)
Maher Arar

Monday, June 11, 2012

Freedom of Speech [apropos]
Burton Joseph, a civil liberties lawyer in Chicago who took on tough First Amendment causes, notably the right of Nazis to march through Skokie, a Chicago suburb with a large Jewish population, died on Wednesday at his home in San Francisco. He was 79 and maintained his primary residence in Evanston, Ill.

The cause was brain cancer, his daughter Jody said.

Mr. Joseph developed an appetite for free-speech cases in the early 1960s while arguing the right of a client in Lake County, Ill., to sell Henry Miller’s novel “Tropic of Cancer.” After a series of cases in state courts, the Supreme Court ruled in 1964 that the book could not be banned.

“I got hooked,” Mr. Joseph once told an interviewer. “I became a bleeding-heart, knee-jerk First Amendment lawyer. And I’ve never been sorry.”

While a partner in the Chicago law firm that became Joseph, Lichtenstein & Levinson, he did pro bono work for the Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. At the time, the branch was small, but in the 45 years he spent working with it and serving on its board, it developed into a large office with 25 employees.

Mr. Joseph defended demonstrators arrested at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, and in the late 1970s he pressed the A.C.L.U. to represent the National Socialist Party of America, an offshoot of the American Nazi Party, in its legal battle to obtain permission to march in Skokie. David Goldberger handled the case for the A.C.L.U.

A ruling by the Supreme Court in 1978 cleared the final legal obstacle, but the group decided to march in Chicago instead.

In 1997 Mr. Joseph was counsel for the American Library Association in a suit brought by nearly 20 organizations against Attorney General Janet Reno and the Communications Decency Act. The act, passed by Congress a year earlier, made it a crime to display material on the Internet deemed “indecent” or “patently offensive” to children under 18. The Supreme Court overturned two provisions of the act, ruling that it violated the First Amendment by not allowing parents to decide what material was acceptable for their children; the term “patently offensive,” the court said, had no legal definition.

I'm closer to the Golden Dawn

Overheard: Lawrence Wiener on Documenta
Let's drop all this bullshit about democracy. People come to dOCUMENTA to discover something. As an artist, I hope to go back to my studio having been influenced by what I saw. Otherwise, what's the fucking point?.
He's attacking one form of decadence by exemplifying another.
It makes sense that Graham Harman is a participant

And now NewAPPS makes everything easy.
Protevi calls this fascist:

[the trailer he linked to was removed when the film was delayed.] 

Cogburn celebrates this:
"Bowie understood Ray Bradbury. For all the suffering it entails, it is still infinitely better to be Martian than caveman."

...yes I believe very strongly in fascism. The only way we can speed up the sort of liberalism that's hanging foul in the air... is a right-wing totally dictatorial tyranny...' In that same interview Bowie claimed that 'Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.'
I'd known he gave money to the BNP [as a friend reminds me, the NF] in the early 70's but I didn't know he stayed with it as late as 1976. I've gone after them before when they've celebrated Bowie; I didn't expect a change. At least one of them refers to him with false familiarity as David.  The ideological armor of fandom.]

"The return to metaphysics" is a return to theology as science, to 13th century scholasticism, to fantasies of truth.

"If the anthropocratic civilization of the Renaissance is headed, as it seems to be, for a 'Middle Ages in reverse' -a Satanocracy"
Erwin Panofsky [google site search for the quote.]

"...religious belief is not required, but at most just that self-evident religio without which there is no desire for knowledge, not even the desire for atheism."
Hermann Broch [ditto]

Hunky Dory is the most honest depiction of fascist romance of the post-war era.

I'm closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley's uniform
Of imagery
I'm living in a silent film
Himmler's sacred realm
Of dream reality
I'm frightened by the total goal
Drawing to the ragged hole
And I ain't got the power anymore
No I ain't got the power anymore

I'm the twisted name
on Garbo's eyes
Living proof of
Churchill's lies
I'm destiny
I'm torn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets
Divine symmetry
Should I kiss the viper's fang
Or herald loud
the death of Man
I'm sinking in the quicksand
of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore

Don't believe in yourself
Don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes
with death's release

I'm not a prophet
or a stone age man
Just a mortal
with the potential of a superman
I'm living on
I'm tethered to the logic
of Homo Sapien
Can't take my eyes
from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don't explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it
On, the next Bardo
I'm sinking in the quicksand
of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore.

From Magda Goebbels' last letter to her eldest son
I took the children with me, for they are too good for the life that would follow, and a merciful God will understand me when I will give them the salvation ... The children are wonderful ... there never is a word of complaint nor crying. The impacts are shaking the bunker. The elder kids cover the younger ones, their presence is a blessing and they are making the Führer smile once in a while. May God help that I have the strength to perform the last and hardest. We only have one goal left: loyalty to the Führer even in death. Harald, my dear son — I want to give you what I learned in life: be loyal! Loyal to yourself, loyal to the people and loyal to your country ... Be proud of us and try to keep us in dear memory ...
Will you stay in our Lovers' Story
If you stay you won't be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you'll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing.

Daniel Callahan
Though unfamiliar to most scientists and the general public, the term expresses a cultural problem that caught my eye. It occurs in an article written by the late Protestant moral theologian Paul Ramsey in 1976 as part of a debate with a Jesuit theologian, Richard McCormick. McCormick argued that it ought to be morally acceptable to use children for nontherapeutic research, that is, for research with no direct benefit to the children themselves and in the absence of any informed consent. Referring to claims about the “necessity” of such research, Ramsey accused McCormick of falling prey to the “research imperative”, the view that the importance of research could overcome moral values.

That was the last time I heard of the phrase for many years, but it informs important arguments about research that have surfaces with increasing force of late. It captures, for instance, the essence of what Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel laureate for his work on genetics and president emeritus of Rockefeller University once remarked to me: “The blood of those who will die if biomedical research is not pursued will be upon the hands of those who don’t do it."
That's fascism too.

The man on the left is James Watson.

As always, it's all in the manuscript, linked on the right of this page, and here
AA links to Bernard at MoA
The prime German daily, the center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has a new report (in German) about the Houla massacre. The author is Rainer Hermann who studied and speaks Arabic, Turkish and Farsi. Hermann also has a PhD in economics and wrote his thesis about the modern Syrian social history. He currently lives in Abu Dhabi and has been reporting from the Middle East for over 22 years.

What follows is my translation of the relevant parts of his report, which is datelined from Damascus, about the Houla massacre:
Syrian opposition members who are from that region were during the last days able to reconstruct the most likely sequence of events based on accounts from authentic witnesses. Their result contradicts the pretenses from the rebels who had accused regime allied Shabiha they alleged were acting under the protection of the Syrian army. As opposition members who reject the use of lethal force were recently killed or at least threatened, the opposition members [talking to me] asked that their names be withheld.
The massacre of Houla happened after Friday prayers. The fighting started when Sunni rebels attacked three Syrian army checkpoints around Houla. These checkpoints were set up to protect the Alawi villages around the predominantly Sunni Houla from assaults.

One attacked checkpoint called up units from the Syrian army, which has barracks some 1500 meters away, for help and was immediately reinforced. Dozens of soldiers and rebels were killed during the fighting around Houla which is said to have lasted about 90 minutes. During these fights the three villages were closed off from the outside world.

According to the witness accounts the massacre happened during this timeframe. Killed were nearly exclusively families from the Alawi and Shia minorities in Houla which has a more than 90% Sunni population. Several dozen members of one extended family, which had in recent years converted from Sunni to Shia believe, were slaughtered. Also killed were members of the Alawi family Shomaliya and the family of a Sunni member of parliament who was [by the rebels] considered a government collaborator. Members of the Syrian government confirmed this version but pointed out that the government committed to not publicly speak of Sunnis and Alawis. President al-Assad is Alawi while the opposition is overwhelmingly from the Sunni population majority.
While I do not agree with the FAZ's general editorial positions, I have followed Rainer Hermann reports for years. In my view he is an very reliable and knowledgeable reporter who would not have written the above if he had doubts or no additional confirmation about what he was told by the opposition members he talked to.
AA: "PS My comment. I still can't verify this account but I will say this: I have not seen (and believe I have asked) any credible evidence that some victims were from families that had converted to Shi`ism. 2) the family of the Syrian MP were not killed but relatives were."

In comments at MoA: a link to Peter Hitchens (scroll down)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Duncan Black
Not gonna link to it, but Joe Klein has a piece in Time where he met a bunch of pissed off (mostly) aging Vets and has decided that if only there was mandatory national service for people younger than Joe Klein then we would return to those great days in this country when we had Teh Consensus which was when we all agreed and it was all the awesome because consensus.
"Army of Mercenaries"
"divide between soldiers and civilians"

Atrios is an asshole and not very smart. He's good when things can be seen as simple binaries -the Austerians are more committed to preserving their own gains than they are to preserving the system- but like DeLong he's pathologically opposed to ambiguity. Google says the first time I called him a "know-nothing" was 2005. I'd thought it was earlier.

And since I'm back to this, his need to see things in absolutes means his views on Palestine are absolutely perverse. "David Duke, president of Americans in Support of Palestinian Freedom..." etc.

He also links to this truly pathetic whine. [I misread him. He's not agreeing with it.]
Imagine, if you will, the domino effect that would ensue if liberals and moderates simply tuned out the demagogues. Yes, they would still be able to manipulate their legions into endorsing cruel and self-defeating policies. But their voices would be sealed within the echo chamber of extremism and sealed off from the majority of Americans who honestly just want our common problems solved. They would be marginalized in the same way as activists who rant about racial purity or anarchy.

Rush Limbaugh would be a radio host catering to a few million angry commuters, not the alpha male of conservatism. Fox News would be a popular fringe network, not the reliable conduit by which paranoid hogwash infects our mainstream media.

In this world, it would be much harder to mislead people because media outlets would shift their resources to covering the content of proposed legislation, the exploding role of corporate influence in our affairs of state and the scientifically confirmed predicaments we face as a species.

Liberals and moderates would no longer be able to mollify themselves by watching Jon Stewart mock conservative wack jobs. They would be forced to consider their own values and the sort of actions necessary to reify those values in the world. They might even consider breaching our artificially inflated partisan divide.

This last measure, I realize, hasn’t worked for President Obama. ...
Amazing that he can't see that Stewart has done what he can't, and that Stewart's mockery has in fact been productive: affirming what conservatives deny. Not to give Stewart too much credit as a thinker or performer, but to Anglo-American schoolmarmish liberals, Dario Fo and Nanni Moretti cannot be taken seriously, for the same reason actually existing Sweden cannot be taken as seriously as an academic's model.
To argue against that, however, see this (Atrios again). A pity he can't articulate the relation. [still true] I've always called him an avatar of change unable to describe it.

Serendipity: Nanni Moretti's brother, and a perfect converse and description of the divisions among and within the members of the "thinking class."

More for Bertram, who reminds me of a more sophisticated version of DB.
One of the few pleasures of Facebook is watching As'ad AbuKhalil and Nir Rosen fight.
But it reminds me to link to this again.
2 comments by Rosen at Small Wars Journal
-objections to my article have been silly so far. i'm a journalist, not an american journalist. my job is not to serve as a propagandist for anybody, just to tell stories and my advantage is that i can tell stories that are hard to come by
any comparison to WWII or the nazis always shows a lack of imagination, but in this case also a lack of understanding. the whole reason why its important to have people like me, able to hang out with militias in somalia, afghanistan, iraq or lebanon, is because they are not a formal army of a formal state, with clear goals, structure, hierarchy etc. on the contrary, their motives are not known and diverse, often at odds, they take up arms for different reasons and as anybody remotely interested in COIN knows by now (except for sassaman perhaps), they do not put down their arms through force, unless you're willing to use force like the russians in chechnya (and that hasnt worked for the israelis), but instead their goals and motives must be understood, and eventually a political accord must be reached.
moreover, journalists regularly embed with the american military when it is conducting operations, attacks, killing. whats the difference?
imagine if that one taliban commander had not screwed up my plans to go with them when they conducted attacks, and i had seen that too. isnt that interesting? isnt it important to understand who they are? and most importantly, wouldnt it make for a fun read?

-does any of this have to do with mr west's vietnam generation being bitter about losing vietnam and blaming their failure in vietnam on the media? i'm sorry you lost vietnam. for what its worth, i wasnt born yet
and has not the US administration now recognized that the taliban must be negotiated with? just as they ended up negotiating with the iraqi resistance? i came under similar criticism for spending time with the resistance in falluja, but now those guys are on the US payroll
also, as i recall, the increase in troops (not that i support it) is not merely to kill more people, but to secure the population
some of you people take this war too personally. this is not good vs evil, its much more ambiguous, and if anything you should be grateful for my work, for the light it sheds on your opponents
A better defense of free speech and freedom of the press than Bertram, Farrell et al. could muster.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Link at the bottom from AA

Bertram closes one post [see below] and begins again
I’ve been reading some of Glenn Greenwald’s recent posts with increasing horror as he details the apparent willingness of the US drone campaign to attack events where non-combatants will certainly be present, such as funerals and to try to evade moral and legal responsibility by redefining “combatant” to include any military-age male in a strike zone. I’ve also been monitoring various liberal sites and blogs for signs of a reaction and not seeing much...

Fortunately, I’m not an American citizen, so I don’t have a moral decision to take about whether to vote for Obama or not this year.
A discussion among narcissists about themselves. " I don’t have a moral decision".
"We" are making enemies. Cliche as truism: "us" and "them".
A Lebanese who would describe his principles in terms matching those Bertram would apply to himself will hold his nose and vote again for March 8th.  I can't imagine anyone at CT voting with Nasrallah.

"I’ve also been monitoring various liberal sites..."
Maybe he should start reading something else.

An idiot commenter talks about Hamas and no one knows enough to shut him up.

WaPo needs someone in Cairo: "A strong candidate would bring some familiarity with the Arab world and some knowledge of Arabic, but these are not required."
Should I have to add the italics?
Congress and the Department of Justice are investigating the possibility that classified national security information has been leaked to the media and published in a series of recent news reports. But Fox News figures are not waiting for the results of these investigations.

Instead, they are attempting to scandalize President Obama's foreign policy achievements...
The above from Media Matters (with my italics). It may help to answer Bertram's question.

Monday, June 04, 2012

There's a lot more going on in this thread, but a few people, both female and black ("non-white" and "brown") are trying to explain to Bertram that he is neither, and that this fact is significant. He's having a hard time.

Bertram wants to reduce terms to universals, as libertarians do, but in a way acceptable to what he would call "liberalism". It can't be done, and in the meantime he's pissing off people who think the attempt itself is offensive.

We can legalize both prostitution and janitorial services while criminalizing sexual harassment, because telling an MBA (male or female)  to mop the floor is not the same as telling him or her to give you a blow job. Sex in our society is a trouble spot, but saying that doesn't change anything else; far too many people confuse and conflate the state and the community. The state is bureaucracy. When the community becomes bureaucracy the community is weakened and following that, the state is as well.

In a poll a few years ago 20 percent of French women said they saw no problem in sleeping with their boss for a raise. A modern office Lothario who sleeps with employees free to chat to their friends about his 3 inch cock and a man who takes advantage of poor uneducated women who are too ashamed to tell their closest friends are not both guilty of the same level of abuse.  We do not however make different laws or rules for different classes or ethnic groups.
In 1992 I was chairman of the History Department at New York University—where I was also the only unmarried straight male under sixty. A combustible blend: prominently displayed on the board outside my office was the location and phone number of the university’s Sexual Harassment Center. History was a fast-feminizing profession, with a graduate community primed for signs of discrimination—or worse. Physical contact constituted a presumption of malevolent intention; a closed door was proof positive.

Shortly after I took office, a second-year graduate student came by. A former professional ballerina interested in Eastern Europe, she had been encouraged to work with me. I was not teaching that semester, so could have advised her to return another time. Instead, I invited her in. After a closed-door discussion of Hungarian economic reforms, I suggested a course of independent study—beginning the following evening at a local restaurant. A few sessions later, in a fit of bravado, I invited her to the premiere of Oleanna—David Mamet’s lame dramatization of sexual harassment on a college campus.

How to explain such self-destructive behavior? What delusional universe was mine, to suppose that I alone could pass untouched by the punitive prudery of the hour—that the bell of sexual correctness would not toll for me? I knew my Foucault as well as anyone and was familiar with Firestone, Millett, Brownmiller, Faludi, e tutte quante.1 To say that the girl had irresistible eyes and that my intentions were…unclear would avail me nothing. My excuse? Please Sir, I’m from the ‘60s.

...So how did I elude the harassment police, who surely were on my tail as I surreptitiously dated my bright-eyed ballerina?

Reader: I married her.
Judt was a schmuck but that's not the point.

One exchange between commenter QS and Bertram
QS 06.03.12 at 9:58 am
You’ve turned sexual harassment into an intellectual game, that is where the “creepiness” originates. How do you moderate that? You don’t. You realize that your ability to treat the issue so dispassionately, playing the game of Find the Universal, probably has something to do with your maleness and position outside this particular terrain.

Sexual harassment was banned not because we found the Universal Principle Against Harassment but because women and men who believed it to be wrong fought successfully for prohibition. These people were likely motivated by a variety of ideas and experiences. The way we keep the libertarians marginalized is not by abstract philosophical games but by appealing to this concrete history.

Chris Bertram 06.03.12 at 10:06 am
QS: your latest tells me that you see political philosophy as it is usually practised as involving a profound mistake. You are entitled to that opinion. It is not one that I share.
It was QS earlier on who referred to the banning of sexual relations between teachers and students. I don't have to agree with her on every count to accept her as an advocate for her beliefs and to say that she has Bertram dead to rights.

G.A. Cohen.
I won't mention Holbo again.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Meanwhile on Sunday, Israeli daily Maariv published an interview with Interior Minister Eli Yishai, in which he stated that most of the "Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man."

"I will continue the struggle until the end of my term, with no compramises [sic]," Yishai continued, stating that he would use "all the tools to expel the foreigners, until not one infiltrator remains."
But Jews aren't white.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

one, two, threefour

To add something to the previous post
I haven't read Hayek and see no reason why I should. Ironically/predictably he's taken as the master planner of non-planning, and the title itself describes the problem. It's absurd to talk about him as if he were the first to point to the inevitability of partial knowledge when that understanding is foundational to humanism. But again its important to remember that academic philosophers define humanism one way and historians another.

Philosophers make propositions before they ask questions. Interested in "truths" they search for laws and claim authority if only as the servants of a higher one. But historians and practicing lawyers know what most philosophers and all too often legal scholars choose to forget: democracy is procedural. Claims of truth are secondary to rules of process, less out of respect for individual freedom than as a function of a mode of enquiry founded on distrust both of people and assumption. Arguments for free speech are predicated less on morality than the evidence of history: better too much speech than not enough.

It took me some time to realize how shocked I was when I began reading about free speech as something the state should allow rather than something the state should not be allowed to restrict. As I said about Tushnet
It says something about the decline of this country that a specialist in Middle East Studies writing about Kuwait gives a better defense of free speech than a professor of American constitutional law does writing about The U.S.
You do not not need Hayek's simple inversions of vulgar assumption to understand the complexity of social life. And a return to humanism will not be lead by anti-humanists or helped by Cosma Shalizi's discovery of Sweden.