Friday, August 31, 2012

"That's funny. You don't look Jewish?"
"What's a Jew supposed to look like?"
[repeat] Haaretz
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."
Ed Koch [top left] : "Jesse Helms may hate the Jews, but he loves Israel."
The bottom photograph: my uncle, my grandmother, and my father.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

A good time to repost this:

The first paragraph of Panofsky's What is Baroque?
The late Scholastic logicians devised amusing helps to memory by which the many forms or figures of syllogism (conclusions from a major and minor premise) could be remembered. These mnemonic devices consisted of words of three syllables partly real and partly made up for the purpose. Each syllable stood for one of the three propositions, and the vowels therein signified the character of these propositions. The vowel a, for instance, denoted a general and positive statement; the vowel o, a partial and negative one. Thus the nice name Barbara, with its three as, designates a syllogism that consists of three general and positive propositions (for instance: 'All men are mortal all mortal beings need food consequently all men need food"). And for a syllogism consisting of one general and positive proposition and two partial and negative ones (for instance: "All cats have whiskers some animals have no whiskers consequently some animals are not cats"), there was coined the word Baroco, containing one a and two os. Either the word, or the peculiarly roundabout fashion of the main of thought denoted by it, or both, must have struck later generations as particularly funny and characteristic of the pedantic formalism to which they objected in medieval thought , and when humanistic writers, including Montaigne, wished to ridicule an unworldly and sterile pedant, they reproached him with having his head full of "Barbara and Baroco," etc. Thus it came about that the word Baroco (French and English Baroque) came to signify everything wildly abstruse, obscure, fanciful, and useless (much as the word intellectual in many circles today). (The other derivation of the term from Latin veruca and Spanish barueca, meaning, originally, a wart and by extension a pearl of irregular shape, is most improbable both for logical and purely linguistic reasons.)
The original title of Milton Babbitt's famous Who Care's if You Listen? was The Composer as Specialist.

Something I should have known, but predictable. Follow the link at the bottom of the page or just jump to here. Any of my few regular readers, ignore the repetitions.

Max Weber
[S]cience [i.e. Wissenschaft, scholarly or method-based disciplines] has entered a phase of specialisation previously unknown and ... this will forever remain the case. Not only externally, but inwardly, matters stand at a point where the individual can acquire the sure consciousness of achieving something truly perfect in the field of science only in case he is a strict specialist. All work that overlaps neighbouring fields, such as we occasionally undertake and which the sociologists must necessarily undertake again and again, is burdened with the resigned realisation that at best one provides the specialist with useful questions upon which he would not so easily hit from his own specialised point of view. One’s own work must inevitably remain highly imperfect. Only by strict specialisation can the scientific worker become fully conscious, for once and perhaps never again in his lifetime, that he has achieved something that will endure. A really definitive and good accomplishment is today always a specialised accomplishment.
Clement Greenberg
Each art, it turned out, had to perform this demonstration on its own account. What had to be exhibited was not only that which was unique and irreducible in art in general, but also that which was unique and irreducible in each particular art. Each art had to determine, through its own operations and works, the effects exclusive to itself. By doing so it would, to be sure, narrow its area of competence, but at the same time it would make its possession of that area all the more certain.

It quickly emerged that the unique and proper area of competence of each art coincided with all that was unique in the nature of its medium. The task of self-criticism became to eliminate from the specific effects of each art any and every effect that might conceivably be borrowed from or by the medium of any other art. Thus would each art be rendered "pure," and in its "purity" find the guarantee of its standards of quality as well as of its independence. "Purity" meant self-definition, and the enterprise of self-criticism in the arts became one of self-definition with a vengeance.

Pole Dancers and Palestinians

Corey Robin is now at CT. Introduced by Bertram, and welcomed by Daniel Davies, among others.

Justin E.H. Smith:
Anti-Zionism seems to me as pointless as anti-Bonapartism, or opposition to the Agricultural Revolution.
He's now the judge of an essay competition at 3 Quarks Daily. The essay quoted above made him a finalist in another category in 2009. Also published on his page, where in comments I added two links including this
I, a 95 year old Sabra (native born Israeli Jew), who has plowed its fields, planted trees, built a house and fathered sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, and also shed his blood in the battle for the founding of the State of Israel,
Declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem, that I shall stand at attention only on the days of mourning for those fallen on both sides in the wars, and that I look with a broken heart at an Israel that is committing suicide and at the three generations of offspring that I have bred and raised in it.
How should we understand our relation to each other, to language and the world?

Zionism is the climate denial of American liberalism, the only difference being there's always a very small chance, given the nature of empiricism, that predictions are wrong. To say that Zionism is bigotry is simple logic.

Soon after this post, D2 took his own blog private. Read him here to understand why. Arrogant people make stupid mistakes. They're the last to see, if they ever do, that they were operating on faith.

There's a push to bring pole dancing into the olympics. It may not make it in 2016 but it's only a matter of time.

People who like math want to think language is math. But language is culture and culture is change.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Old's roomie's book again. Professor Farrell links to a "comprehensive critique" by professor Beggs at Hamasmag. Beggs: "But largely his argument is a move in an interdisciplinary struggle: anthropology against economics." When Beggs and Farrell, and Graeber as well, talk about economics I assume they mean this.
Suppose that we have four agents: Alice, Beverly, Carol, and Deborah.

Suppose that Beverly has $500 in cash that she owes Carol, due in two months. Suppose that Alice and Carol are both unemployed and idle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A deck has gotten built. Meals have been cooked and eaten. Two women have been employed.
Why begin with the obvious absurdity of economics, and not the obvious absurdity of life?

The irony of the debate in this case is that David (knowing him and reading him in the past - I haven't read the book) while trying to make the case for the re-embedding of economic into social life, has a limited sense of the social, a sense that members of CT share without understanding.

So it is a book in which endnotes and references make up almost 20 percent of the page count, but also one that makes liberal use of contractions and includes the occasional personal anecdote. It is, as Graeber says, “an accessible 
work, written in plain English, that actually does try to challenge common sense assumptions.” The style is welcome, 
akin to that of the best interdisciplinary scholarly blogs (like Crooked Timber, where Debt has been the subject of a symposium): clear, intelligent, and free of unexplained specialist jargon.
I've always found Graeber's written "informality" awkward and the informality at Crooked Timber more simply informal, mature if only by comparison. David and I are from an older generation,  raised on and into the clotted formalism that the authors of a later generation only talk about. We have bureaucratism in our bones and they only have it in their mouths.  We're not as social as they are (and anarcho-punks model themselves after the individualist/communalist paradox of an earlier era).  That Henry and his companions don't understand the social as form and substance, means they don't understand themselves.  And of course all of them, David included, are academics struggling to preserve a model of intellectual and moral exceptionalism for the academy and for themselves as others still do for the church and the priesthood. I've said this a dozen times by now: within the new worldly informality of academic writing and culture, Jadaliyya trumps Crooked Timber, and the pathetic "Jacobin", for reasons neither David nor his opponents understand.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It should not be this fucking easy

As'ad AbuKhalil: "More students could name the three Kardashian sisters than name the Vice-president of the US in my American Government class (125 students)."

Duncan Black: "I'm not sure why people are surprised and even upset that some teenagers don't know who the hell bin Laden is."

Duncan Black: "David Duke, president of Americans in Support of Palestinian Freedom."
Bigotry or ignorance.

Paul Krugman: "Pretty soon, we’ll be having serious, completely un-self-conscious discussions in major magazines about the servant problem."

Duncan Black: "I've known lots of presumably good liberals who were uncomfortable about hiring certain kinds of household help (the "women's work" kind)..."

If you're willing to hire servants, inevitably you'll have servant problems. Paying them enough helps, but I'm not going to revisit again Douglas Black's record on class relations. It's not good.

From the About page at "Domestic workers care for the things we value the most: our families and our homes. They care for our children"

The page needs to be rewritten: "We care for your children. We value our families and our children more than we value yours. Caring for your children is only our job."

It's bad enough building someone's home and having them take credit for it.  Raising someone else's child must be hard.

It's not only a matter of mocking well-meaning liberals for their narcissism, but of pointing out that as a matter of practical politics for the working class, they should not be able to get away with it.

Liberalism has been redefined. American feminism has been defined to match the American Dream. I grew up in an academic household with both parents working and without servants. An old girlfriend tells her graduate students that they should not have enough time to clean their own apartments, and they if they do it's a problem.  They're paid from her grant money and it includes enough to pay a cleaning lady.

"I'm sympathetic, I really am."

See recent posts, two more from february, and one from last year. There are plenty of others.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The post linked to here is getting worse.

Kitsch is a term that describes the relation of an artwork to its themes. The word presupposes a specific moral and esthetic relation to language and social form. The discussion has left Quiggin behind long since.

Horowitz makes a hash of it. The transcription is in his archives. Andre Previn talks about the transcription and describes a meeting with Tatum. It may well be a myth.

I referred to Bartok in relation to folk music because it was obvious, but also because I once listened to Bartok scholar with no background in folk music describe what he'd learned going back to Bartok's source. He realized that the lack of complexity of the material was not the issue; what was important was the specificity of tone and musical gesture in performance.

T.S. Eliot
It requires some effort of analysis to understand why one person, among many who do a thing with accomplished skill, should be greater than the others; nor is it always easy to distinguish superiority from great popularity, when the two go together. I am thinking of Marie Lloyd, who has died only a short time before the writing of this letter. Although I have always admired her genius I do not think that I always appreciated its uniqueness; I certainly did not realize that her death would strike me as the most important event which I have had to chronicle in these pages. Marie Lloyd was the greatest music-hall artist in England: she was also the most popular. And popularity in her case was not merely evidence of her accomplishment; it was something more than success. It is evidence of the extent to which she represented and expressed that part of the English nation which has perhaps the greatest vitality and interest.

...It is true that in the details of acting Marie Lloyd was perhaps the most perfect, in her own line, of British actresses. There are--thank God--no cinema records of her; she never descended to this form of money-making; it is to be regretted, however, that there is no film of her to preserve for the recollection of her admirers the perfect expressiveness of her smallest gestures. But it is more in the thing that she made it, than in the accomplishment of her act, that she differed from other comedians. There was nothing about her of the grotesque; none of her comic appeal was due to exaggeration; it was all a matter of selection and concentration. The most remarkable of the survivors of the music-hall stage, to my mind, are Nellie Wallace and Little Tich; but each of these is a kind of grotesque; their acts are an inconceivable orgy of parody of the human race. For this reason, the appreciation of these artists requires less knowledge of the environment. To appreciate for instance the last turn in which Marie Lloyd appeared, one ought to know already exactly what objects a middle-aged woman of the charwoman class would carry in her bag; exactly how she would go through her bag in search of something; and exactly the tone of voice in which she would enumerate the objects she found in it. This was only part of the acting in Marie Lloyd's last song, I'm One of the Ruins That Cromwell Knocked Abaht a Bit.
Most serious lovers of Italian opera pay more attention to the music in the ear than on the page. Puccini is hardly Mozart, but to a great singer that's not the point. Sinatra said what Tommy Dorsey taught him was timing.  My mother, who played Bach mostly for the last 20 years of her life, on hearing Ralph Stanley for the first time noted his perfect even tone.  The problem with the worst of progressive rock, like the worst of jazz fusion, is a lack of structure, covered up by technically proficient bombast. The greatness of jazz in the early and middle 20th century is that it took the dregs of the classical tradition and gave structure to what had become cheap melodrama, without needing, as a popular form, to devolve into formal academicism. There's a reason Verklärte Nacht always reminds me of Korngold. For Schoenberg the glass was half empty and leaking; for Ellington, Strayhorn, Tatum, Parker, a long list, whatever their insecurities they played as if it was half full and rising.

NAM has 120 member states.
The UN has 192.

Searching google for the meeting in Tehran, the top hits were the Voice of America, the Jewish Telegraph Agency and Eliot Abrams at the Council of Foreign Relations. Needless to say that if I were in another country or searching in another language the hits would be different, and also that it would be pointless searching the American "reality based community".
Art is universal for the same reason language is universal. The history of the argument against art begins in the Socratic argument against poetry and in Moses' argument against Aron. Its most common form recently in English is in the arguments of Antonin Scalia: "The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead — or, as I prefer to put it, enduring." Nino makes the Pope's argument against mere rhetoric.

Herzog is a romantic but that's not the point. Maybe I should have been more prosaic in my references.

John Quiggin represents the worst of Crooked Timber, maybe their greatest exemplar of Taylorism and Fordism: a fundamentalist technocrat more left wing and less polished than DeLong.

Let's start off by ignoring that his willingness to call something pretentious undermines his argument that such judgements are silly.

He claims to have learned a lot from Roger Taylor’s Art, an Enemy of the People. Replace the first word in that title with "God" or "Liquor". Herzog of course makes the argument for God as the argument for drunkenness. Whether gods exist is irrelevant.

Taylor interviewed, discussing his work and Larry Shiner’s The Invention of Art
"The big argument here in its simplest form is that the concept of art is not universal..."

"But Shiner and you differ."

"Well I differ. And the difference is at gut level, at the level of class. Shiner dedicates his book to the memory of his mother ‘whose’, as he says, ‘love of music, art and literature was the beginning of this book’. This phrase is nuanced, you have to hear it very clearly to know what is going on, and it is not the world of my childhood. My auntie played piano, when everyone was tanked up and Mother Brown was in the mood to raise her knees, and the lad next door used to astonish me with an old, chewed, lead pencil and a scrap of paper, conjuring up the face of Susan Hayward. This was not the love of music, art and literature. Shiner and myself agree about the invention of art and up to a point we agree about causes but we do not really agree about effects. Art an Enemy of the People situates this invention as bourgeois ideology through and through, helping to promote this social order to the detriment of the proletariat, with no redeeming features.
Taylors' book came out in 1978, the same year The Gang of Four released Love Like Anthrax. Laura Mulvey published her famous argument against narrative cinematic pleasure in 1975. How was it possible to argue for the “destruction of pleasure” without risking the prospect of the pleasure of destruction? Isn’t such pleasure at the heart of capitalism? See the paper on the right side of this page.

Claire Denis directed her first film in 1988. Culture changes. Intellectual life is an aspect of culture, not the other way around.

I tried to explain to Ben Alpers that Quiggin was making a moral judgement about his mother's choice of career.

The interviewer of Roger Taylor, Stewart Home, just had a retrospective exhibition in NY and London He posts a review by Roberta Smith.

10/13/12 More from Quiggin on Taylor, here.

Looking back at this I realized I missed an opportunity. It's from the paper, or whatever it is, part of a discussion of the idiot Bourdieu.
When I was in college a few friends and I, on a lark, went to a lecture by a man who made a career inveighing against the social manipulation of popular music. It turns out it wasn’t just pop he worried about, though he quoted Frank Zappa saying something comically egregious, it was Beethoven. The only musical form he and the organization he represented approved of was the march. At the end he played John Philip Souza, smiling, tapping his feet, pointing out to us how it matched and reinforced the beating of the human heart.

Bourdieu worries about the power of lies. He wants to isolate them. He makes a great effort to isolate the arts, or defang them. But art is not separate from society; it’s a manifestation of society.
This also belongs here: Is dancing protected by the First Amendment? Click through to the earlier discussion of Tushnet. It's all embarrassing.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I don't think I've ever seen so much blood on the front pages of NY newspapers as there was today. I assume it was a collective decision. The language of the discussion -"compelling and powerful photographs"- is absurd. The pics are crap.

The images below are from this post.

Thinking about exceptions to my general dislike of photojournalism and contempt for war porn... Weegee photographed people gawking at dead bodies more than he photographed the bodies themselves.

Images of Buchenwald are another kind of exception. Those pictures could only have been made with a blankness.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"The joke ends, preferably, on an explosive consonant — like cut.”
Phyllis Diller
Bertram writes a post on the economic effects of immigration on the native working class of economically advanced countries, and knowing both that I'm one of the few readers of his page who's worked blue collar jobs as an adult and that I've made my opinions clear, he comes by for a visit, looking for the response he'd remove if I posted it there.

Comment #3 links to Dean Baker  It's not mine.

Bertram writes of concern from above. The earnest liberal mocked in the Letter from Birmingham Jail, the guilty Zionist, the liberal's David Brooks or the left wing Nicholas Kristof.

"I'm sympathetic" Chris, really.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

American liberal commentators are piling on Niall Ferguson; Pankaj Mishra in the LRB was there first.
I thought I'd linked to it before but I guess not.  The resulting chatter.

Alex Pareene links to the piece without referring to Mishra by name. AA links to Pareene and gets a letter from a reader.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The contradictions of class. Gentrification is led by liberals; they've always been the avant-garde of capitalism.

LONDON — The widening gap between haves and have-nots in debt-saddled Europe has sharpened a debate over whether the accelerating gentrification of its major cities is leading to the ghettoization of their urban poor.

The rioting in housing projects in the northern French city of Amiens this month marked a recurring phenomenon in France, after decades of planning policy consigned the urban working classes to suburban “banlieues” where poverty and unemployment are now rampant.

In Berlin, a magnet for an international set of affluent hipsters and artists since the Wall came down in 1989, locals are opposing a plan to demolish Communist-era apartment blocks in a prime city center location and replace them with upscale homes and shops.
"While people generally think of gentrification as the process wealthier residents displacing poorer ones, it's also about revitalizing retail/commercial corridors that have become a bit, well, hellish. When I first got to the urban hellhole there were only a few locations I would think to direct visitors to, not because the city had nothing else to offer, but because areas were a bit spotty if you didn't have a destination in mind. Now there are many more."

Look at the tabs below
From TPM
Steve King
"I think this election should be about, how did Todd Akin vote and what did he vote for and what did he stand for and in this case, I'm seeing the same thing, petty personal attacks substituting for strong policy," he said.

King supports the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." It would ban Federal funding of abortions except in cases of forcible rape. Right now, Medicaid also covers abortions for victims of statutory rape or incest - for example, a 12 year old who gets pregnant.

Congressman King says he's not aware of any young victims like that.

"Well I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that's been brought to me in any personal way, and I'd be open to discussion about that subject matter," he said.
"Forcible" rape is not a term of law. Akin/Ryan.  The family Research Council is defending Akin.

The Republican base is fragmenting over the contradictions of abortion.
If abortion is murder, it's murder in cases of rape and incest. As a crime mothers are no less responsible than doctors.
Ronald Dworkin made this point years ago, but lectures don't work. Now it's an internal debate on the right.

The same "internal" debate in Israel.
Two of the suspects were girls, the youngest 13, adding to the soul-searching and acknowledgment that the poisoned political environment around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected the moral compass of youths growing up within it.

The same debate everywhere. This is almost funny
In a move that has prompted a demand for a UN investigation by Iran's most celebrated human rights campaigner, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be "single gender" and effectively exclusive to men. 
It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country's religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year's university entrance exam. 
Senior clerics in Iran's theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.
More reasons for the world to worry more about the dangers to regional stability posed by Israel and Saudi than Iran. The anger of the frustrated middle class is not the desperation of the poor and disenfranchised.
Gareth Porter
Detailed information from the families of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and from local sources on strikes that have targeted mourners and rescue workers provides credible new evidence that the majority of the deaths in the drone war in Pakistan have been civilian noncombatants - not "militants," as the Obama administration has claimed. 
The new evidence also shows that the statistical tally of casualties from drone attacks in Pakistan published on the web site of the New America Foundation (NAF) has been systematically understating the deaths of large numbers of civilians by using a methodology that methodically counts them as "militants." 
The sharply revised picture of drone casualties conveyed by the two new primary sources is further bolstered by the recent revelation that the Obama administration adopted a new practice in 2009 of automatically considering any military-age male killed in a drone strike as a "militant" unless intelligence proves otherwise.
Guardian: "Ecuador could extradite Belarusian dissident"
Aliaksandr Barankov says his life would be at risk if Ecuadorean court refuses to extend his status as a political refugee
David Brooks
Let’s say you’re generally a moderate voter. You look at the Romney-Ryan ticket and see that they are much more conservative than you. They don’t believe in tax increases ever.
The earnest (power) bottoms
Dean Baker
Tax Policy Center
Ryan: "...we haven't run the numbers"

Fathers and Sons:
NYT: "I was Jeff Koon's Studio Serf"
Jack Goldstein.
A lot of the paintings on the page were painted by Ashley Bickerton.

“The man committing suicide controls the moment of his death by executing a back flip.”
Jack Goldstein

Despair runs deep. The Pictures Generation

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Leiter once mocked Duncan Black for having "no relevant knowledge base, intellectual framework, or technical expertise", not knowing that he Atrios been an economics professor. Now he links to the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine.

No insult to Tom Morello.
At least the fourth time I've posted this video. Lehrer's timing, and phrasing, are brilliant.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

AFP Clapper admits the obvious.
...Bombing attacks in Damascus and Aleppo since December "had all the earmarks of an Al-Qaeda-like attack," James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"And so we believe Al-Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria," he said.
His comments confirmed earlier reports that US officials suspected Al-Qaeda's hand in the bombings and follows a recent video message from Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in which he endorses the uprising against Assad's rule.
Iraq's deputy interior minister told AFP this month that Al-Qaeda was moving guns and militants from Iraq into Syria.
Clapper voiced concern that Al-Qaeda militants had inserted themselves inside a divided opposition amid the spiraling violence that activists say has left more than 6,000 people dead since March 2011.
"Another disturbing phenomenon that we've seen recently, apparently, is the presence of extremists who have infiltrated the opposition groups.
"The opposition groups in many cases may not be aware that they're there," said Clapper, director of national intelligence.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking at a news conference with his German counterpart, Thomas De Maiziere, echoed Clapper's view but said Al-Qaeda's influence on the opposition remained unclear.
Asked if Washington could support opposition forces given Al-Qaeda's presence, Panetta said: "I think just the fact that they're present concerns us. As to what their role is, and how extensive their role is, I think that remains to be seen."
Clapper said the opposition was deeply fragmented and that the Assad regime appeared able to hold on to power for the moment as it pressed ahead with the violent repression of protests.
He added there was no sign the stalemate would end anytime soon.
The US spy chief has previously told lawmakers that it was only a matter of time before the regime fell, but predicted a protracted struggle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pierre Huyghe Two Minutes out of Time

What's not mentioned (anymore) is that there are two monologues. The second is a recording of a schoolgirl at an English language school in Paris, asked to describe a (favorite?) painting in a museum and then to describe death.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Jason Brennan, Philosopher" has published a "controversial" book, The Ethics of Voting, with Princeton University Press. He's blurbed himself on their blog. The post's title: "Most People Shouldn’t Vote"
Brian Leiter links: "Shame on you for voting! Jason Brennan (Georgetown) comments."

My comment
"the best available evidence indicates that most voters mean well, but are politically incompetent."

Who defines competence? Are bankers competent? Were men 100 years ago, or even 40, or even now, "competent" at speaking to women's questions? Were and are whites competent to speak for blacks, gentiles for Jews, Jews to Palestinians, straight to gay, rich to poor? But I think the last is the only one you'd claim to be addressing.

Then there's the history of idiots with PhD's, for example in economics. Our recent disasters are the result of corrupt leadership and popular passivity, and more of the latter will give us more of the former. But this is what you offer. Maybe we should limit the franchise to people who deal with the concrete rather than than the abstract. Maybe we should ban philosophers and mathematicians (and poets) from political participation.

If the uneducated poor could put a damper on the grand schemes of the powerful, I'd be all for it. As it is, the poor get steamrolled. Its true that democracy and representative government require an educated populace, but your response seems more to justify the fact that we've failed to ensure one.

"There’s nothing morally wrong with being ignorant about politics."
Yes, in a democracy there is something wrong with willed ignorance. It's a betrayal of responsibility. But you've demonstrated it yourself. Your arguments are clearly self-serving, and it's only freedom to participate that allows others not in your position to mock you for it.
What a fucking idiot. And Leiter links. "Georgetown!"

Foreign Policy: "The Next Proxy War. How the United States can use the Syrian civil war to prepare the region -- for Iran"

I linked to the above in a second  comment on Brennan's post.
"The author at the very least is irresponsible. I’d call him dangerously incompetent.
What should we do?"
It hasn't been published.

Read the comments at FP. They're a trip.

Another comment on the Princeton blog, which may or may not make it. [it did]
Still nothing about who judges and how. That's the first question to answer before we get to any other. Who defines what is and is not "epistemically well-grounded"
What did the American majority think of Quaker Pacifists in 1942, or Communists in 1955? Has anyone here read King's letter from Birmingham jail?

And if we can limit voting, why not limit speech as well, if we deem it "politically irresponsible". Only one mention of Socrates so far. I'm sure he'd agree with those troubled that Jon Stewart has as much authority as he does.

As to the rest:
Money in politics is not limited to money in elections. Berlusconi's money is well spent as far as his interests are concerned. If you're prime minister it helps to be in control of most of the major media outlets in your country, and if you're in control of most of the major media outlets in your country, it certainly helps to be prime minister.

There's also a major misunderstanding about voting itself and its role in a democracy. Voting is not about trying to get what you want; it's not concerned first with individual choice, but with marking collective change. People who argue against voting because their interests will be diluted should also divorce themselves from politics altogether even in casual conversation. Voting is no more than one point in time in our collective debate. Whatever individualists may want to believe, society situates the individual, not the other way around. Practice precedes theory; Sophocles did not read Aristotle.

To strengthen our republic, strengthen general education. The system in this country is terrible. Evidence of that is as much here as in any urban high school.
Balkinization: "Scholars’ Brief in Fisher v. University of Texas Urges New Look at Text and History of the Fourteenth Amendment"
My comments, slightly rearranged here.
An argument could be made that the original intent of the reconstruction amendments was "unconstitutional", inconsistent with previous understandings, or that the framers wrote amendments in race neutral terms but then while they could promoted discrimination based on race. A brilliant decision, to set their own policies on auto-destruct, only after they'd begun to do their work.

Constitutional consistency and Biblical inerrancy are related. Reading is interpretation, and saying with Scalia, "the constitution as I interpret it is a dead constitution" is oxymoronic [also hypocritical, see Jack Balkin here].
To quote a figure in the last administration, "we invent our own reality".
It's our job to make lemonade of lemons, something palatable with what we have before us, and to argue with each other over whether to add sugar or salt. The argument over a common text is more important than the text itself. [the rule of law as due process not result] As to liberal pretensions: Wickard v. Filburn helped secure US domination of the post-war world. Democracy might have been stronger if the decision had gone the other way. And then there's Derrick Bell on Brown.

From "A New Birth of Freedom: The Forgotten History of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments", written by J.J. Gass and Nathan Newman for the Brennan Center:
[I]n 1867 Congress passed a law providing relief for “freedmen or destitute colored people in the District of Columbia,” to be distributed under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Of particular importance in the late 1860s was the Bureau’s operation of schools for blacks, to the point that black children in the South were often better educated than their white counterparts. Opponents, including Johnson, raised the same arguments that would be marshaled against affirmative action programs a century later, but well more than the necessary two-thirds of Congress concluded that the 13th and 14th Amendments authorized race-conscious legislation to ameliorate the social condition of blacks.
"to the point that black children in the South were often better educated than their white counterparts."  How's that for a brilliant way to sow anger and mistrust among the poor white trash?  Divide the poor, and conquer.

When Harold Washington won his first term as mayor of Chicago, after a divisive election in which the white vote was split, one of the first things he did was tour white working class neighborhoods on the north side. In the words of someone who was there, he walked around and in his theatrical tone said "Hey, These streets are a mess! These garbage cans haven't been emptied for weeks! We'll have to do something about that!" And he did. The locals were shocked. They never thought a black mayor would give a damn about them. Washington won his second term running against only one significant opponent,"Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The post in its entirety. It's fascinating.
Leiter: Nietzsche and Ayn Rand: A Brief Comment
This typically idiotic remark in a recent NY Times book review caught my attention:
Rand’s inclusion of businessmen in the ranks of the Übermenschen helps to explain her appeal to free-marketeers — including Alan Greenspan — but it is not convincing. At bottom, her individualism owed much more to Nietzsche than to Adam Smith (though Rand, typically, denied any influence, saying only that Nie­tzsche “beat me to all my ideas”). But “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” never sold a quarter of a million copies a year.
Rand's "individualism"--if that is what one wants to call her juvenile fantasies about her industrialist heroes--owes as little to Nietzsche as to Smith. Nietzsche loathed capitalism and capitalists (and the cultural and aesthetic vulgarity he saw as their legacy) and also despised what he called "the selfishness of the sick" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) and the "self-interested cattle and mob" (Will to Power). What he admired was "severe self-love," the kind "most profoundly necessary for growth" (Ecce Homo). "Virtue, art, music, dance, reason, spirituality"--all the things "for whose sake it is worthwhile to live on earth" (Beyond Good and Evil)--all demand such severe self-love, and for this reason, and this reason only, Nietzsche wanted to disabuse those capable of such excellences of their false consciousness about the morality of altruism. He certainly did not think everyone ought to be selfish, or that the pursuit of material goods had any value, or that indulgence of selfish desires was a virtue. What he did think is what is almost certainly true: namely, that if someone like Beethoven had taken Christian morality seriously, and lived a Christian life, he would not have accomplished what the actual Beethoven did (one need only read the famous Maynard Solomon biography to see that Beethoven was no moral saint). The "John Galts" of the world are just a more prosperous example of the "self-interested cattle and mob" Nietzsche always derided.

Needless to say, Nietzsche also did not share Rand's sophomoric views about rationality and objectivity, but that is not usually where superficial readers find the putative link. And as to the Übermenschen, I refer the interested reader to an earlier discussion.
UPDATE: Robert Hockett (Cornell) writes:
I thought that this passage in the Rand book review was the most accurate of all:

"Rand's particular intellectual contribution, the thing that makes her so popular and so American, is the way she managed to mass market elitism -- to convince so many people, especially young people, that they could be geniuses without being in any concrete way distinguished." (Fourth full para. at page 8.)

In short, she is the Lumpen-"philosopher" par excellence. My better half was asking me, just as I began to read this review aloud, what could possibly account for the popularity of this ridiculous woman. I hypothesized that it was the way in which she afforded a sort of vicarious self-flattery to narcissistic imbeciles. Then I began reading, and upon finding the just-quoted sentence, smiled with Randian self-satisfaction!
"I hypothesized that it was the way in which she afforded a sort of vicarious self-flattery to narcissistic imbeciles." (The boldface is in the original)

How can you limit the use of a metaphor or allegory, or the definition of "superman"?
From 2006, when Leiter and I were on better terms.
This is something I dropped into a note in a friendly exhange with Brian Leiter over the weekend
In the five lectures on psychoanalysis Freud says that as the result of a successful treatment repression is replaced by 'a condemning judgment'. He doesn't explain the difference between the two. What's the difference between "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother" and "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother?"
Is the first louder and more nervous? More declarative? More cocksure?
I don't know but it's a question conceptualists can't answer. Concepts can't remove the need and the responsibility of individual judgment.
Individual judgment and the judgment of others. Whatever else Beethoven and Nietzsche wanted they wanted an audience. Their rhetorics of the absolute were grounded in the reciprocal relations of form and social life.  We judge ourselves and others do as well; if judgments diverge how do we know which one is right? Nietzsche never resolved that question and Leiter doesn't try.

What would offend Nietzsche is the bureaucratization of heroism. For evidence of the "vicarious self-flattery to narcissistic imbeciles" see the link a few lines up, and this, and any reference to Bourdieu on this blog, and any post tagged G.A. Cohen. A little bit of self-awareness here. Call it progress.

A post at Savage Minds on James Clifford and Writing Culture. The post and links mostly are painful to read.  It's important to ask why historians are the only scholars left in the humanities who negotiate the gaps between language and the world with any subtlety. Why would any historian feel the need to write a book like Clifford's? "History is an Art" may get you an argument but it won't raise any eyebrows.
The shock of Manet was the shock of shame and recognition. For Cezanne it was less publicly sexual and political but the same rule of recognition applies. His work continues the move away from representation and mimesis by limiting even further the reproduction of psychology, of the full personhood of his sitters. He reproduces shapes not character, at least not in comparison with those who came before him. There’s a lot to be said about Cezanne and representation. And what made his work bad when it was is almost as important in its way as what made it great when it was. Because he failed at something, and that failure was

consistent, making works that were both obscene and absurd. In a very real sense Cezanne began with kitsch, with grand intent—often violent—and overreach. But he turned to articulating what he could learn to articulate well: the space between ourselves and the objects around us. But again its down to specifics, since what he articulated was the space around himself and the objects around him and what we sense is his sense of the world through his use of the rhetoric of pigment on canvas. And again, against the logic of philosophic art and of intent it’s not a question of whether Cezanne was right or not. If he was right then about what? The basis of our interest in both Manet and Cezanne is that they describe their sensibilities, rather than merely indulging them. The most complex pleasure to be found in their paintings is not the pleasure of liking them—is not Roberta Smith’s pleasure of enthusiasm, of a simplified sense of identification—but the pleasure of asking: “Why?” The pleasure is in engaging something foreign brought close by something universal: technique in common form.

Manet and Cezanne may have both broken with the past but the breaks were minor compared with the ways in which they continued from it. The only way their contemporaries learned to understand them, the only way we understand them—the only we understand each other in daily life—is by a process of recognition: putting old forms and signs in new contexts. We may no longer feel the shock Manet’s contemporaries felt but the process is the same, the only difference being the additional distance of time.
The above is from the paper linked on the right of this page.

We like to assume things about our relations to those in front of us. We're closer to each other than we are to the dead; that's all.
The US, Britain and France are scrambling to retain their influence with Syrian opposition groups amid fears that most support from the Gulf states has been diverted towards extremist Islamic groups.

Rising concern that an increasingly sectarian civil war could spread across the region, combined with reports of brutality by some opposition groups, and evidence that the best-organised and best-funded rebel groups are disproportionately Salafist (militant Sunni fundamentalists), has triggered an urgent policy change in western capitals.

Washington, London and Paris now agree that efforts to encourage a unified opposition around the exile-led Syrian National Council (SNC) have failed, and are now seeking to cultivate more direct links with internal Syrian groups.
Representatives from Syria's internal opposition groups will not be at the conference. One administration official told The Cable that Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford had urged in internal discussions that opposition council leaders from Damascus and Homs be included in the Tunis meeting but ultimately they were not invited.
Daily Star
A Syria-based opposition group said it was boycotting the international "Friends of Syria" meeting being held on Friday in Tunis on the future of the country, complaining of exclusion and fearing escalated militarization.

The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC) denounced what it described as attempts to leave the door open to militarize the uprising against the regime of Bashar Assad, and for foreign military intervention.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

BBC: Mursi orders Tantawi to resign
The usually cool Mark Graber rips Sandy Levinson, among others, a new asshole. I won't quibble over the details of science or the relation of people to the society they were born into. It's a chicken and egg problem, but he makes a point few people make, and I'm one of them. That he may have made it drunk only makes that more clear.
Constitutional populists always assign the blame for constitutional failings to evil institutions which are thwarting the good American people from fully realizing their constitutional commitment to the “Blessings of Liberty.” If we can just get rid of the Electoral College, eliminate state equality in the Senate, abandon life tenure for federal justices, and change the rules for constitutional amendment, my friend Sandy Levinson and others imply, gridlock would disappear, the American people would cherish their governing officials, and most other ills of contemporary American politics would be significantly alleviated.
His proposed amendments to the American people
3- Constitutional democracies function best when citizens have substantial cross-cutting relationships or what Robert Putnam calls bridging capital. Notwithstanding any other provision in the Constitution, therefore, the American people are hereby amendment [sic] so that all citizens have friends and associates who they recognize to be reasonable and morally decent individuals, even though they disagree with them on the fundamental political issues of the day. Provided, all Americans are allowed one issue (abortion, aid to foreign countries, the designated hitter rule) in which they may deem all opponents to be either intellectual morons or moral cretins.

4- In order to create and maintain constitutional citizens who are capable of operating constitutional institutions to achieve constitutional values, capital punishment is hereby abolished, except for university and college administrators who spend more attention on sports teams and promoting their institution as an engine for economic growth than they do on ensuring that students are becoming good democratic citizens.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I've read this before but not paid much attention to it.  It marks the transition from the rationalism of reason to the rationalism of unreason. Conceptualism is little more than the formalism of ideas.
Sentences on Conceptual Art
by Sol Lewitt

1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.

2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.

3. Irrational judgements lead to new experience.

4. Formal art is essentially rational.

5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.

6. If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the result and repeats past results.

7. The artist's will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His wilfulness may only be ego.

8. When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.

9. The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.

10. Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.

11. Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.

12. For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.

13. A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist's mind to the viewer's. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist's mind.

14. The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.

15. Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the artist may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.

16. If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about art, then they are art and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.

17. All ideas are art if they are concerned with art and fall within the conventions of art.

18. One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.

19. The conventions of art are altered by works of art.

20. Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.

21. Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.

22. The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.

23. The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.

24. Perception is subjective.

25. The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.

26. An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.

27. The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
28. Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist's mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.

29. The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.

30. There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.

31. If an artist uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the artist's concept involved the material.

32. Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.

33. It is difficult to bungle a good idea.

34. When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art.

35. These sentences comment on art, but are not art.

First published in 0-9 (New York), 1969, and Art-Language (England), May 1969.
"You'll say reality is under no obligation to be interesting. To which I'd reply that reality may disregard the obligation but that we may not." Borges, in the original translation. The aristocratic nihilism of Duchamp.

The Lewitt was posted on Facebook by an old acquaintance, an 80's art star who's survived, through ups and downs.

The artists of The Pictures Generation were claimed to represent an ironic criticality that stood for a sort of politics,  even in the larger sense of worldly political commitment.  But there was no politics in that "larger sense". This was the American version of Deutschland im Herbst made by people who wanted to make films but who couldn't allow themselves to do it. Film is pictorial; image is fiction; objects are material, are true. The Greenbergian imperative still holds: a thing is preferable to the description of a thing. Even inverted, or anti-idealism is preferable to the admission of perspectivalism. If philosophy is preferable to storytelling, a lie is preferable to a mere absence of truth.

Torn between idealism and something other, the politics no more than a manifestation of confusion, honest in the sense that art requires honesty. Larry Gagosian posed for one of the figures in Men in the Cities; and I was there when Longo gave the fascist salute during a performance with Rhys Chatham, at one of his openings in the mid 80's.

The children of the pictures generation now make movies about their relations with their parents, reviewed by Steve Sailer.

The last time I ran into my old acquaintance I said that his work has gotten "pretty dark"; it always was. He became slightly indignant. A couple of months later I saw a video of him talking about the same work and he said he was "painting the apocalypse". He lives on the beach, a philosopher of surfing.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Questions for Holbo and Bertram:

Is Rawls more important than Hitchcock?
Is Mill more important than Dickens?
Is Hegel more important than Goethe?

I'm not asking their preference.
The answer to the first is obvious. The third I don't have an opinion on.

Federal Reserve Chairman Calls for "More Philosophy"
About time!
The link is to Bloomberg: "Bernanke to Economists: More Philosophy, Please"
The Fed is charged with two precise, measurable tasks: Keep unemployment low and prices stable. These are indexes, numbers on a scale, and if a Fed chairman can keep them where they should be, he can be satisfied that he has done his job. In that sense, Bernanke is playing the world’s most complex video game.

But in Monday’s speech, Bernanke wandered outside the game. He asked why he should keep prices stable and unemployment down. Those numbers mean things to humans. They mean satisfaction, the ability to live within means. They mean happiness. These kinds of words make economists uncomfortable. Happiness resists measurement. When things cannot be measured, they cannot be modeled, and if economists aren’t using models, then they aren’t scientists.

On Monday, Ben Bernanke wasn’t talking like a scientist. He was talking like a philosopher.
No, Bernanke is not a scientist, and his job is not like playing a video game.  And no, he was not talking like a philosopher; he was talking like an undergrad.
A few years ago, at a gallery opening I got into a conversation with an astrophysicist from Caltech; we were mutual friends of the curator. He felt slightly dragged along. He was game but said he didn’t understand art. The conversation drifted and he mentioned a book he was reading, a biography of Sandy Koufax, the great pitcher for the Dodgers, in Brooklyn and LA. He said what he liked most was the way the author wrote not only as an observer, a professional sportswriter, and fan, but as a woman, an outsider in the world of male athletics, and as a Jew writing about Kofax, another Jew and outsider in the gentile world of professional sports. He said her description of those relations was really interesting. I asked him if he could have described any of it as she had. He said no. I told him he understood art.
Actual scientists, the smart ones at least, are observant and curious.
Brian Whitaker
In the debate on Syria at the UN General Assembly last week, Bashar al-Jaafari, the Syrian representative, hit back at Arab Gulf states which have lined up against the Assad regime, accusing them of dishonest motives. To quote the Syrian government news agency's report of his speech...
"Al-Jaafari added that some of the countries that adopted the draft, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, cannot be considered as examples of democracy and respecting human rights, as these countries are governed by oligarchic, tyrannical regimes that don't hesitate to suppress their people and murder protesters, adding that the state of human rights and basic liberties in them is considered among the worst in the world according to documented reports by human rights organisations and opposition sources abroad."
Bearing in mind that Jaafari was himself speaking on behalf of an oligarchical, tyrannical regime – and one that has committed atrocities on a far greater scale that the regimes that he named – he did nevertheless make a valid point.

The Arab Gulf states' hostility towards Assad is not based on a principled stance against dictatorship, and this creates an opening that the Assad regime can – and probably will – exploit.
link from Arabist

Monday, August 06, 2012

August 6th 1945
From 2005. Debates at Savage Minds and Crooked Timber and DeLong about Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Three posts by Henry Farrell.
"Nobbled Savages"
"Cultivating Ignorance"
"Bourdieu among the Anthropologists"

Farrell in comments in the last, debating Ozma
Is there any interpretation of what you said here which doesn’t imply that (a) your concept of ‘no nothing anti-racism’ is a variety of racism (one that is distinct in some way from ‘genetic racism’), and (b) that everyone who liked the book is guilty of racism? By your own admission, “Guilty as charged.”
You really get the sense in this that HF thinks, or thought then, that only people who admit to being racist are racist. The liberal focus on intentions.  And this was when he was still linking to Cowen. They were even more stupid than I remember.

The Post that begins the fracas, by DeLong
C. Northcote Parkinson was the first to identify the phenomenon of "injelitance"--the jealousy that the less-than-competent feel for the capable.

Here we have a classic case from the anthropologists at Savage Mind, who are both positively green with envy at Jared Diamond's ability to make interesting arguments in a striking and comprehensible way, and also remarkably incompetent at critique.
Mocking people for lazy accusations of racism and making your point with links to VDARE


Jan 2012 update and discussion of the history at Savage Minds

2009 at CT

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Just sad.

Haaretz: "Christians in Jerusalem want Jews to stop spitting on them."

YNET: "African diplomats in Israel: 'We're afraid to walk down streets'"

Avraham Burg: "Israel's Fading Democracy"
A long-overdue constitution could create a state that belongs to all her citizens and in which the government behaves with fairness and equality toward all persons without prejudice based on religion, race or gender. Those are the principles on which Israel was founded and the values that bound Israel and America together in the past.

...And for all the cynics who are smiling sarcastically as they read these lines
Those are the principles on which Israel was founded and the values that bound Israel and America together in the past.
Wrong on both counts.

And for all the cynics...

Watching people fight with themselves to defend something they need to think of as just, because they were raised to think of it as just. Cognitive dissonance is hard. This is how change happens.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Designers of perfect systems for imperfect people always seem to give themselves the benefit of the doubt.

Chris Bertram is a self-serving, status-seeking moralist.
January 2012
First, I’m sympathetic I really am, to the idea that people should work and consume less and that we should attend more to real life quality. But this doesn’t seem very realistic in my own life for two reasons: first, even if my employer were sympathetic (unlikely) I feel very hard pressed now to produce the level of research output necessary for me to stay competitive with other academics (not just in the UK, but elsewhere). I suspect this generalizes to many people in professional jobs: we couldn’t achieve the kinds of things we want to in our careers on those kinds of hours. This isn’t necessarily a problem, so long as there isn’t compulsion. Some (many) people have shitty jobs with low intrinsic rewards: removing the burden of work for them would be an unqualified good thing. Second, it is all very well Juliet Schor telling us to transition to a low hours/lower consumption economy. I’m cool with consuming less. The problem is that I, and just about everyone else, has taken out huge mortgages and bank loans to pay (in part) for the consumption we’ve already had. Hard to reduce the hours unless (or until) the debt goes away. Third, there was distressingly little discussion of the politics of this. Whatever the real social and economic benefits, the French 35-hour week wasn’t a political success (perhaps because it was watered-down) and Sarkozy was able to campaign effectively on behalf of the “France qui se lève tôt”. Some kind of post-mortem on this experience would have been helpful, albeit that it took place in a different, pre-crisis, environment.
August 2012
Hi there liberal rule-of-law fetishists!

Now that I’ve got your attention, I’d like to mention something that’s been bothering me. This idea that we all order our affairs under a system of predictable rules sounds very nice, but I do wonder whether it’s compatible with some of the other things that you seem to be signed up for. Some of you, I know, are worried about this so-called 1 per cent, and even about the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent: the people who own lots of stuff. Not only do they own lots of stuff, but they own the kind of stuff that is useful if you want to own even more stuff. That’s how it goes. And, of course, they also have the means to bring about a favourable “regulatory environment”, so that they get to hold onto that stuff.

The rule of law is the rule of common language not the rule of grammar.
"Lawyers... are the rule of law." Joe Jamail
The first is short. Watch both.

Lawyers, not judges, not philosophy professors. Lawyers argue in public over the meanings of words. The argument is primary not the given result. A street-ball game without a referee functions under the rule of laws held in common by the players, but the laws themselves are less important than the attitude of the players towards each other and the game.  Players argue calls until questions are resolved or the argument gets in the way of the game. The rule of law fails if the game falls apart no more than that.  There are no pedants in street-ball.

School teachers when they were kids used to look out the window at their classmates in the schoolyard. They always wanted to grow up to be refs. Referee, judge, priest, pedant. Pay attention the back and forth between Jamail and the man who introduces him. The man's a schmuck, and Jamail looks a little abashed.

Quoting Jack Balkin:
My view of the Supreme Court is sort of like the husband in the French farce," Balkin says. "He's always the last to know.
Society is not the state. The state is a product. The refs don't make the game.

Reading Balkin and Levinson's article on law and the humanities [PDF], mentioned earlier. It's not good enough.
The arts help you along the process of separating simple preferences from moral ones; the danger is never in enjoying fictions, but in enjoying only one. Joe Jamail is a very rich tradesman, but he's only a tradesman. He's humble compared to Bertram, and he knows more of what he is; Bertram has only his own fantasies. You don't have to buy into everything he says to see Jamail as a member of a society that Bertram sees himself above. And you don't have to disagree with everything Bertram says to recognize that his assumptions are the proximate cause of his absolute mediocrity as a human being. See also his old friend

Friday, August 03, 2012

From Leiter of course. Nothing new.

Holberg prize faces criticism []
The internationally recognised Norwegian scientist Jon Elster pronounced his criticism of this year‘s Holberg Prize winner Shmuel N. Eisenstadt in a lecture at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters last week. Elster is a member of the Collège de France in Paris, where he replaced the late Pierre Bourdieu. He is also a professor of social sciences at Columbia University in New York. In his lecture Elster argued that Norwegian researchers value politeness and their own prestige more that [sic] academic quality. Elster points to the 2004 and 2006 winners as a result of this.
The Norwegian 'scientist' Jon Elster is a political theorist, who wrote his dissertation on Marx. "Analytical" Marxism was left-wing Chicago School economics, and Leiter is on very good terms with Richard Posner.
It just doesn't stop. The Holberg Prize also covers theology.

Elster was once a hero to Henry Farrell, who wrote mental model of Tyler [Cowen] often sit[s] on my shoulder while I blog, making polite and well reasoned libertarian criticisms of my arguments..."
"Science" even a few [5?] years ago could mean Social Darwinism.

For the idiot Bourdieu start here

"I nominated Thomas Schelling for the Holberg Prize. He did not win, but that is fine because he was awarded the Nobel Prize the year after. It is worse that the first winner, in 2004, was Julia Kristeva, a nototious [sic] French charlatan,"
I don't have to defend Kristeva to laugh.

On prestige, contra Elster, see Jason Stanley, again (I should give his family their own his own tag).
"In short, a university should seek to promote work that will give that university prestige..."
prestige |presˈtēZH, -ˈtēj| noun
widespread respect and admiration felt for someone or something on the basis of a perception of their achievements or quality: he experienced a tremendous increase in prestige following his victory.
• [ as modifier ] denoting something that arouses such respect or admiration: prestige wines.
ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (in the sense ‘illusion, conjuring trick’): from French, literally ‘illusion, glamour,’ from late Latin praestigium ‘illusion,’ from Latin praestigiae (plural) ‘conjuring tricks.’ The transference of meaning occurred by way of the sense ‘dazzling influence, glamour,’ at first depreciatory.
Stanley: "[prestige] in the future and not in the present."

So that's the out.  But who can predict the future?
Cabanne: "You defended di Chirico against the anathema of Breton and his friends, maintaining that, in the end, it is posterity who will decide.
That preoccupation with posterity is a bit strange for you."
Duchamp: "No, it isn't. Posterity is a form of the spectator."
Cabanne: "The 'posthumous' spectator if one can say that."
Duchamp: "Certainly. It's the posthumous spectator, because the contemporary spectator is worthless, in my opinion. He is a minimum value..."
I'd agree that that rule applies less to geology.

I've made the following reference before but it's always stuck with me. This discussion of Daniel Dennett's Philosophical Lexicon is concerned largely with the relevance of the references and humor, and whether or not they're dated.  How would this discussion fit for a book of in-jokes about modern chemistry or physics?

Even Farrell understands, now, [Gambetta and Hertog] that we associate forms and values, but I won't begin to ask him about technology and Modernist utopia. Engineers have a history. [Pasquale, better. I'd forgotten it was him] Mathematicians tend towards Platonism, and Platonism makes for lousy politics. Even if Elster were a scientist in the way he believes, and in the way many economists still fantasize, that would only guarantee the reactionary nature of his political philosophy.

Elster was a member of the September Group which of course included G.A. Cohen. He does have his own tag.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

From the past
The wonder of Velazquez' royal portraits is that they describe a friendship between two men both of whom knew which of them would be remembered and which forgotten, and who knew equally that this would never be acknowledged by either of them nor by anyone that they would ever meet. Velazquez used all his skill to demonstrate to the world the power and just authority of the Spanish monarchy, but a humanist education and honesty could not bring him to show people as other than he saw them. So we see weak and melancholy kings and noble dwarfs, and -- for perhaps the first time in art in 1500 years-- not an image of the nobility of a political or religious order but an image of the nobility of the need to believe.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Fun with Marc Rich's son in law, at Art Market Monitor  [all comments stripped at a later date]
Repackaging theater as salable art. Selling nudity as Un-Clothing™
Or perhaps it's like the the actor/peasants in the little village on the grounds of Versailles where Marie Antoinette used to milk cows and goats. Someone should to re-stage that in Chelsea, but Sophia Coppola and Sony already did a much better job of it than Ugo Rondinone and Barbara Gladstone could.

"Over the course of the past 100 years or so, various artists, with varying degrees of success, have attempted to distance themselves from the physical nature of art"

You don't mean artists and art you mean fine artists and fine art. This even though painters used to be called painters and sculptors sculptors. But "artist" now carries a sort of false universalism and a superiority based only on title. Actors and dancers are still actors and dancers, Rauschenberg is no more important than Balanchine, and everything Proust ever wrote was published in an unlimited edition.

"there is something to be said for a pretty picture."
Not much. Boucher's are interesting because it's so hard to see how they could be anything more, yet somehow they are. And Fragonard was a cold bastard.

Art has never been about art. That you buy and sell Porches like you buy and sell art, and I'm referring to the manner not the act, shows how far fine art has fallen in importance. Private material culture is no longer capable of profundity in the way it once was any more than our new oligarchs are kings. Kings stood for kingdoms and were disposible if they got in the way or out of line. Oligarchs are the petty bourgeois with ready cash.
Good luck with Vito. You'll need it.
I almost added another parallel but it would have been lost: the relationship of the newly minted field of "experimental philosophy" to experimental psychology.

From the past: "Audio sculpture" and "The Knobe Effect".
When your lands are no longer fertile you claim someone else's as your own, or, when your tastes don't fit your imperative, you describe your imperative to fit your tastes. See: "Bill Clinton" "Liberal".

I like Schachter's piece, and I appreciate that they let it through the filter; it was in limbo for an hour.
But I was too cruel to Acconci.

See also, recently,  Luxembourg and Dayan