Sunday, March 31, 2013

Exhibitions at the Morgan
Degas, Miss La La, and the Cirque Fernando
Marcel Proust and Swann's Way: 100th Anniversary
and the Metropolitan:
Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

They made me think that the 19th century marked the final change from an art first of making to an art of the record of observing, the biggest difference between the artists we now call, "old masters" and those we call "Modern".  Modernity, in this sense, is the end of a brief moment. The crisis of "Modern-ism" the hypertrophy of the material, is less a new beginning than the death throws of an ideal, an ideal and thus unstable hybrid.

Literature is observational; it compliments photography. Both fit well alongside the classical material arts of Asia and European antiquity where art objects are the product of cultures based more profoundly in language than in things. The Renaissance and the high material arts of Europe over a 300 odd year period are anomalous.

From 2009

Raphael, Study of Soldiers in The Conversion of Saul, ca. 1515–16
At the MetAn amazing drawing, though it's amazing also how the low resolution almost makes that hard to see. An object lesson, quite literally, in the principles and poetics of the High Renaissance: simultaneously static and full of motion, a perfect but lightly held balance of action and reflection, observation, representation, and free craft. Rigor seemingly without tension, or tension seemingly without its affect. Imagine a performer on a tightrope or balancing on a sphere, and walking with the casual gait of someone on flat solid ground. 
The figures fly off the page, yet they're anchored as solidly in place as they would be seated and face forward in a Byzantine mosaic. And they demonstrate this incongruity, this absolute, categorical, conflict while responding to our anxious questions with courtesy and concern: as if to ask us what is wrong. A Stendhal moment occurs when a work pulls you so strongly at once in both of its directions that your mind is overwhelmed. I went back to this drawing three times over the course of an afternoon and felt dizziness and chills each time.
But what to say about this?  The anomaly is here. The hybrid naturalism and formal order.
These paintings haunted my childhood before anything in Florence.

The Republican official in Michigan embroiled in controversy over an anti-gay Facebook post said Friday that he won't be heeding the calls to step down and he stands by the content of the inflammatory article. Dave Agema, a Republican National Committeeman and former Michigan state representative, told Newschannel 3 that he has no intention of resigning, despite calls from members of his own party to do so. On Wednesday, Agema posted an article on his Facebook page in which homosexuals were described as "filthy." 
[repeat] Halperin's How to be Gay [paywalled, but also at ]
Back in 1972 a commentator made an observation with which Halperin makes great play. “At any given homosexual party, there will be two competing . . . people around whom interest and activity swirl: the ‘most beautiful’, most sexually desirable man there, and the ‘campiest’, most dramatic, most verbally entertaining queen.” This image, which he doesn’t find dismal, obsolete or hackneyed, helps him to distinguish the sexual habits of American gay men from their cultural practices: “the ancient antagonism between beauty and camp”, the antithesis between manliness and effete strutting, indicates “why gay culture is so incompatible with gay sex”, and highlights “the polarity of queer sensibility and sexual desire”. He complains that for many American men, homosexuality has been “an unreasoning reflex that was natural and voluntary: a sexual instinct . . . not an ethos”. This emphasis on copulation, together with the lesbian and gay movement’s portrayal of homosexuality as a political category rather than an emotional particularity, discouraged inquiry into the non-sexual techniques of the sub-culture. As a result, “a sanitising blackout” was imposed on effeminacy, “dishing, bitching . . . suavity and wit”.

...Elsewhere he explains that sexual acts between men can be “undignified, filthy, shameful, and perverse (at least if you’re doing it right)”.
NY Times
Has gay pride made gay men boring? Mr. Halperin thinks so. Devilishly, he deposes: “Sometimes I think homosexuality is wasted on gay people.” And, speaking about how gay men make their own uses of popular culture: “What do perverts do, after all, if not pervert?”
  Media Matters
The co-director of Johns Hopkins University's sexuality studies program is speaking out against his colleague Dr. Ben Carson's recent comments comparing supporters of marriage equality to members of NAMBLA and practitioners of bestiality.
"I don't think most people at Hopkins think what he says on this subject matters," Professor Todd Shepard, co-director of the university's Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, said in a statement to Media Matters. "They make him look nasty, petty, and ill-informed. It doesn't tell us anything about his amazing abilities as a surgeon. It does remind us, however, that those abilities do not mean we should listen to what he says in any other domain."
During a March 26 appearance on Fox News, Carson said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition."
One's experience with this stuff is highly dependent on precisely when (and to a lesser extent, where) one grew up, but when I grew up gay people didn't exist, God had delivered a plague to kill them all, and being gay was the worst possible thing ever. No those things don't make any consistent sense, I'm just trying to deliver up the messages the culture had delivered to my 13-year-old brain. There was a plague. Gay people were almost entirely nonexistent in mainstream popular culture. And being gay was the worst possible thing you could be.
I'm not even sure where I heard that last message. It was certainly true, and everyone knew it. But I actually have no clue where it came from. The nonexistence of gay people to young teenage me is hard to square with the being gay is the worst thing ever message I received. Still I received it.
Duncan Black is 9 years younger than me.

One day when I was 13 years old, at the back of the line at the school lunch counter, a teacher known popularly as "skull-face", standing about ten spaces in front of me, answered the lunch lady's question: "Two hamburgers... Naked, please". His eyes widened as he turned towards his audience of 7th graders, who heaved a quiet, collective sigh.

A few years later a story made the rounds in my circle of two teachers in NY for a weekend, out at a bar the West Village. One of them walked across the room and looked down into the face of someone getting fucked on the floor. He turned back to his friend: " 'D-, isn't this one of your students?" The student told the story.

In college a friend of mine complained about going to see her father out on Fire Island after one of his weekend fist-fucking parties; the place smelled of shit and puke.  She shrugged. A friend living in the West Village years ago described neighbors' scowls when she walked down the street in the morning wearing whatever she had lying around, no makeup, hair a mess, to pick up a pack of cigarettes. She called it fascist. An old girlfriend who grew up in West Hollywood had her beaten-up car towed, twice, by her parents' new next door neighbors who didn't like the sight of an old Toyota in front of their perfect home with it's clean white picket fence.

Moralists are simpletons.  Liberals dream of a utopia of exemplary ideas to make up for their mediocre lives; but if you're unwilling to face the complexity of the world, or even your own life, you're unable to model anything beyond a fantasy.

Technocrats' claims of cosmopolitanism are obscene.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Make it four:

Why would people who defend the notion of a morality without god argue there's no struggle for a better world without a dream of utopia? We're back with Dworkin.

There's a difference between making the logical point that there can be no notion of the good without a notion of the better,  leading further up the slope towards an ideal, and arguing constantly from the necessity of an ideal.  A symposium of middle aged men spouting off on "our relation to the perfect" is much more off-putting than a dying man's admission of a wish for ultimate meaning.

Why Did Liberals Support the Iraq War?  
Tony Judt in 2006. I quoted him then too.
Bush’s Middle Eastern policy now tracks so closely to the Israeli precedent that it is very difficult to see daylight between the two. It is this surreal turn of events that helps explain the confusion and silence of American liberal thinking on the subject (as well, perhaps, as Tony Blair’s syntactically sympathetic me-tooism). Historically, liberals have been unsympathetic to ‘wars of choice’ when undertaken or proposed by their own government. War, in the liberal imagination (and not only the liberal one), is a last resort, not a first option. But the United States now has an Israeli-style foreign policy and America’s liberal intellectuals overwhelmingly support it.
Just stupid.
Ideas or Interests?: a not quite run of three

A Profession With an Egalitarian Core
So why report cost-benefit results only for United States citizens or residents, as is sometimes done in analyses of both international trade and migration? The nation-state is a good practical institution, but it does not provide the final moral delineation of which people count and which do not. ... 
Economics evolved as a more moral and more egalitarian approach to policy than prevailed in its surrounding milieu. Let’s cherish and extend that heritage. The real contributions of economics to human welfare might turn out to be very different from what most people — even most economists — expect.
Mark Thoma links to Cowen, and adds the following
I can understand why it might have been advantageous from an evolutionary perspective for nature to make us care most about those who are closest to us.

It seems like there are two ways to get beyond this tribalism. The first is to expand the definition of the tribe to include everyone. According to the column, and to economic theory and evidence more generally, open borders don't just benefit immigrants, they help everyone.
My comment didn't go through. Expanded below:

1-This is Tyler Cowen in 2006 (and repeated here too many times)
An Economist Visits New Orleans
"To be sure, the shantytowns could bring socioeconomic costs. Yet crime, lack of safety, and racial tension were all features of New Orleans ex ante. The city has long thrived as more dangerous than average, more multicultural than average, and more precarious than average for the United States. And people who decide the cheap housing isn't safe enough will be free to look elsewhere—or remain in Utah with their insurance checks. 
Shantytowns might well be more creative than a dead city core. Some of the best Brazilian music came from the favelas of Salvador and Rio. The slums of Kingston, Jamaica, bred reggae. New Orleans experienced its greatest cultural blossoming in the early 20th century, when it was full of shanties. Low rents make it possible to live on a shoestring, while the population density blends cultural influences. Cheap real estate could make the city a desirable place for struggling artists to live. The cultural heyday of New Orleans lies in the past. Katrina rebuilding gives the city a chance to become an innovator once again."
Socioeconomic Darwinism is not egalitarian.

2-If tribalism is dangerous then so is community and so is family. So liberal philosophers debate "Legitimate Parental Partiality"
Harry Brighouse.
These relationships appear inegalitarian in deep ways. The parties to partial relationships [parents and children] may exclude others from the mutual benefits their association yields and have special responsibilities to one another that give them the right, and sometimes the duty, to further one another’s interests in ways that may interrupt equality.
Intimacy is a danger to democracy. Love is unfair.
Now you see the line from hippies to neoliberals, right and left. Both begin with individualism and end with the formalization of all sociability, either in the name of the market or equality.
Either way you end up with this [recent repeat]

Would you have your children go to bed hungry so you could give food to the poor? Would you voluntarily cut your wages by two thirds or donate that two thirds or more to charity? Would you sacrifice your family's safety and security for the safety and security in the aggregate? Have you taken a vow of poverty? If not are you guilty of tribalism?

Cowen will never offer up his own children in sacrifice to the gods of free trade and neither will you.
Others' children are another matter. If immigration had as little effect on employment as they say then Dean Baker wouldn't be almost alone in arguing for an open market in managers and technocrats.

G.A. Cohen: "I'm a less good person than I would be if I were as good as I could be."
"It's difficult to expect a person who lives in a particular social niche to depress the circumstances of himself and his family below a certain level even for the sake of principles that he sincerely affirms." 
Bertram: "First, I'm sympathetic, I really am…"

We all agree that moralism is the only option; now, confident in our own superiority and unwilling to change our own behavior,  let's talk more about utopia.

US policy involves weakening its trading partners as much as possible. Immigration is the natural result, It brings fresh meat to the machine. Immigrants beat out the native working class; in my 25 years in and around construction wages were flat or down, and that's ignoring inflation. I keep hearing references to the decline in unionization as if it had no relation to immigrant labor. I worked with and competed against immigrants. I respect them, legal and illegal, but that doesn't change the fact you feed your children first. That people and governments should not make it a policy to beggar their neighbors does not change the fact that "No person is illegal" is an argument from a narcissistic idealism opposed to the very idea of law. We're back to the hippies and (for the second time in this post) what they became.

As I said to a friend, a legal immigrant from a poor country with connections to various UN agencies dealing with immigration, I'm not in favor of changing US immigration laws, I'm in favor of breaking them.  I defend illegal immigration as such.  My friend understood because he understands that governments have a responsibility to their citizens. He knows what American policy has been towards weaker countries, and he knows that immigrants have changed this country for the better.  He's well aware of American ignorance. Americans only travel to go to war; the world has to come to them for them to learn.

Given the loyalty of academics to their class and tribe, the discussions of politics at CT have gone beyond parody.  David Estlund credits Rawls' predictive abilities, reversing cause and effect.
The title’s term, “Real utopias,” (anticipated by John Rawls’s “realistic utopia”)... 
The Continental and Anglo-American traditions continue their collapse into one another: a unified field/fantasy metaphysics.  [Sloppy.  Not cause and effect but primacy/authority, as if I were to write a sonata in a form anticipated by Mozart.]  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

repeat: Henry Farrell, four days ago.
Farrell: "Dani Rodrik published a piece arguing that economists needed to pay less attention to interests, and more to ideas."
Today he links to two economists who "…have new paper arguing that economists need what some of us would call a theory of politics..."

I made a comment under my own name, asking Henry which we should choose, adding that of course experts and academics don't share the interests of the working class, but that democracy, as formalized performance and ritual exchange, is made for handling that discord. It's not a scientific process and focused more on means than ends so therefore unpopular with technocrats, and “science would tend to support democracy, as it supports redundancy rather than ‘efficiency’ in systems.” The comment was gone in minutes but part of it reappeared, quoted by someone else.
I also included a link
Educators around the globe are curious about the consistently high test scores from students in Finland, as measured by OPEC [OECD?]. “Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model – long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization – Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play,” reports Anu Partenan for the Atlantic. Americans are not particularly receptive to Finnish conclusions about their success: no private schools, no tuition for higher or lower education, no standardized testing except for one test at the end of high school. In Finland, the teaching profession leads to “prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility”; the career is competitive, and a master's degree is required. The Finnish education system focuses on cooperation rather than competition. Finnish experts suggest that giving every child equal opportunity strengthens society and prepares citizens for a new global economy that can no longer rely on manufacturing. 
Some tension in that paragraph:"...the career is competitive"; "...system focuses on cooperation rather than competition".
The Atlantic
During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather's TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an "intriguing school-reform model." 
Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland." 
This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D
more confusion and drift from Henry.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dworkin let me down.
How, then, can we defend a religious attitude if we cannot rely on a god? In the first lecture I offer a godless argument that moral and ethical values are objectively real: They do not depend on god, but neither are they just subjective or relative to cultures. They are objective and universal. 
The same with Balkin. I thought they were better than this.

All that's "objectively real" is enchantment: Do you love your wife, husband, your children, your parents and your dog? Do you treat friends differently than you treat strangers?

We operate on faith, and politics (all social interaction) is exchange among faiths. Democracy is the one form of government where an awareness of absurdity can actually strengthen the process.

The play's the thingJohn Mortimer and Joe Jamail.
Beyond these achievements, the social democratic moment provided space for various kinds of utopian thinking.
Note the past tense. And the "utopian thinking" was either not very utopian, or bullshit.
I hope he's not referring to the hippies.

John Quiggin dreams of Shangri-La/ Ecotopia with images of city planning for the People's Republic of China, designed by architects from Singapore. It would be beyond him to recognize the irony. We're back to Shalizi, remembering previous examples of Quiggin's genius. If "Art" is "an enemy of the people", then Henning Mankell has nothing to tell us about social democracy or asocial technocracy: neither Mankell, nor Steig Larsson nor Tim Parks, nor history.
They're all such fucking idiots: white men talking about the white man's experience.  There's no mention of the Arab spring. They haven't experienced it, and don't accept that experience as constitutive of thought.

The Guardian: "World poverty is shrinking rapidly, new index reveals."
Some of the poorest people in the world are becoming significantly less poor, according to a groundbreaking academic study which has taken a new approach to measuring deprivation. The report, by Oxford University's poverty and human development initiative, predicts that countries among the most impoverished in the world could see acute poverty eradicated within 20 years if they continue at present rates. 
It identifies "star performer" nations such as Rwanda, Nepal and Bangladesh as places where deprivation could disappear within the lifetime of present generations. Close on their heels with reductions in poverty levels were Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia and Bolivia. 
The study comes after the UN's latest development report published last week which stated that poverty reduction drives in the developing world were exceeding all expectations. It says: "The world is witnessing a epochal 'global rebalancing' with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new 'global middle class'. Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast."
UN 2013 Human Development Report 
For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies — Brazil, China and India — is about equal to the combined GDP of the long-standing industrial powers of the North.
The fight for social democracy is on more than ever. Again: Shalizi contra Mankell.

Corey Robin links to a petition in support of non-academic employees of the academy that only academics can sign. Almost all the recent post are just as bad.

Robin again. "The US Senate: Where Democracy Goes to Die"
I linked to this again a few days ago. The US began as a confederation and is now a federation, but the tension is still there. This fits here an also above. Technocratic liberals are earnest believers in their own best intentions. The narcissism is disgusting.

Farrell: "Dani Rodrik published a piece arguing that economists needed to pay less attention to interests, and more to ideas."

Dani Rodrik defends his interests.
Çetin Dogan, a retired four-star Turkish Army general, was detained and subsequently imprisoned by Turkish prosecutors, accused of masterminding an elaborate plot in 2002 and 2003 to topple the country's newly elected conservative Islamist government. 
...For us, however, this particular arrest comes very close to home: We are Çetin Dogan's daughter and son-in-law.
Ideas follow experience: they come last.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

2013: AP
WASHINGTON — Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.

In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen’s conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.
Guardian UK "Exclusive: General David Petraeus and 'dirty wars' veteran behind commando units implicated in detainee abuse"
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country's descent into full-scale civil war.
2005: The relevant links here are dead.  Google Iraq "Salvador option".
Dreyfus, Raimondo, Engelhardt

2003: Riverbend, August 28
...Yesterday, I read how it was going to take up to $90 billion to rebuild Iraq. Bremer was shooting out numbers about how much it was going to cost to replace buildings and bridges and electricity, etc.

Listen to this little anecdote. One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- we’ll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who’ll listen.

As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn’t too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.

Let’s pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let’s pretend he hasn’t been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let’s pretend he didn’t work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let’s pretend he’s wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- let’s pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let’s just use our imagination.

A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Monday, March 04, 2013

Some of the comments here are good.
The post itself is just sad. The ideological opposition to experience and imagination, and then the discovery that experience surprises you.  The individualist's family dynamic
Shelby County v. Holder  As I've said before, history is repeating with the court; it's now more conservative than the populace. In the middle of the century it was the reverse and earlier it was in a sense where we are now.  But the elite includes not only the court but the neoliberal elite and academy, and the the culture at large is more liberal, more open to change than the elite as a whole. 5 years ago the right would not have backed off the Woodward story. Woodward didn't just misread his audience he misread the times, and Josh Marshall is misreading the events.

Joey Fishkin at Balkinization makes a mistake in discussing the VRA case (issues explained here)  The VRA is not affirmative action. Josh Marshall posts a note from a reader
Compare and contrast.
1. Justice Scalia today regarding the voting rights act: “This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress.

2. The United States Constitution, Amendment XV: “SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” (My emphasis.)
The readership at TPM has always been sharper than the writers.

David Gans, also at Balkinization, focuses on a point similar to the letter writer to TPM: defending the VRA as fair without actively separating it from the history of positive discrimination. To attack rather than defend, the argument would end up weakening the case for positive discrimination itself.
Gabriel Kolko on the New Deal, a link from a commenter at CT [Rauchway on Menand's perversity in the New Yorker]

Very very, smart.  A scholar's argument relating to my amateur's observations in re: affirmative action and Wickard v. Filburn etc. see (…) above.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Worst Person In the world
Robert Huber.
At the link:
Philadelphia Magazine just published an article by Robert Huber titled "Being white in Philly: In a city that is largely poor and segregated white people have become afraid to say anything at all about race. Here's what's not being said."
I'll point this out again and again.
Atrios, a day later. The Missing Empathy Gene

Atrios (see above): "While I think quite often concerns about urban gentrification are a bit misplaced, an exception to that is when the poor get priced out of areas with access to decent mass transit."

The difference between oblivious contempt and condescension. But of course condescension is intellectually justified.

Friday, March 01, 2013