Wednesday, May 29, 2013

posted (by me) in comments elsewhere. mostly repeats.
Old conservatives went from "is" to an acceptance of a world of indulgence laced with shame. Modern liberals, following science, go from "is" to passive acceptance, laced with guilt (you're right about that).

Neoliberals, as modern liberals, lose the guilt.
Brad DeLong: "For those humans who live in the city and are not really rich, rubber tomatoes provide a welcome and tasty and affordable simulacrum of the tomato-eating experience."
After hurricane Katrina Tyler Cowen proposed letting swaths of New Orleans rebuilt as shantytowns, to foster a cultural rebirth, on the model of the corrupt and violent but vibrant New Orleans of 100 years ago. As another example he cited Kingston Jamaica, and the birth of Reggae. Interestingly enough he didn't mention the South Bronx and Hip Hop.  There's no accounting for taste.

Robert Reich goes from "is" to "ought".
Tony Judt argues against nature.

The woman who talked down killer last week in London was asked why she approached him. Her response was immediate and regarding the question itself, incredulous. "Better me than a child".
The woman has a strong and ingrained sense of moral responsibility. If she'd been more objective and less knee-jerk she might have realized that over the course of her career she would be able to instill that sense of responsibility in perhaps as much as 20% of her students, but that the odds of any children in the vicinity of the killer growing up to become like her meant that it would be better for society in the long run if she did not get involved.  But science lost out to morality. Reflex trumped reason.

"Scientific" and "disinterested" reason has shown that disinterested reason is in fact impossible in any engagements with the world.  That's your point, right?  We search for laws to govern our inevitably shallow self-interested behavior. And in our passivity we become even shallower. Delong attacks Alex Cockburn and William Safire in extremes of high dudgeon, but eulogizes Jeanne Kirkpatrick, closer to a war criminal than either of the others, as an old family friend.  Power corrupts. He can't even conceive of himself as a jackass.

"To the pure, all things are pure." From science to Saint Paul, from arrogance to stupidity. Technocracy expands and democracy fades.
"Reflex trumped reason" even if reason would defend the actions themselves as ideal.
"Tony Judt argues against nature." I shouldn't have to telegraph the irony.
Liberal idealism ends in perversity.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bring on the Thirty Years War

There is no mystery at all about the triggers to the clashes of Tripoli.  You can even tell by two factors: 1) the clashes ALWAYS occur when the Salafites of Tripoli are upset over one reason or another (and this week they were upset upon the news of the offensive against Qusayr).  2) `Alawites in Tripoli are a mere 5% of the population and they are surrounded from all sides, and it is just impossible that they would instigate a fight, especially that they have been evicted from Tripoli and their businesses all stolen and set on fire.  But Anne Barnard does not note any of that:
"Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, a retired senior security official from Tripoli, said Hezbollah, through Mr. Eid, started the fight to keep Sunnis from flocking to Qusayr after it realized its hope of taking the city in 24 hours was “delusional.
She did not say the rest of the talk of Mr. Rifi, and did not say that he is a functionary of Hariri who started his career as a bodyguard for Rafiq Hariri, and who sits on the board of the Prince Nayif University for Security Studies.  She made him sound like a neutral observer.  She said that both sides in Tripoli blame the other, but only offered one side's account, without even mentioning that he represents one side.  Of course, the dominant view in Lebanon is that when the news of the offensive reached Tripoli, the Salafite thugs there started doing what they always do when they are angry: they started shelling Jabal Muhsin.  Even the official Hariri mouthpiece website reported that Tripoli was shelling Jabal Muhsin (see citation below). And the theory of Rifi is dumb: as if Tripoli is the only place that supplies Salafite fighters for Syrian armed movement.
"استمرار الاشتباكات والقذائف الصاروخية من باب التبانة باتجاه جبل محسن"
The US is backing Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda against Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah, Sunni against Shia, supporting a reactionary monarchy where minorities face harsh discrimination and Christians and Jews are not allowed to live, and once again backing fundamentalist militias, and terrorists, who view all non-adherents to their beliefs with disgust. We're supporting both against a secular dictatorship, and one we've worked with in the past, which is centered in a minority community but broadens its support by guaranteeing the safety of other minorities. This dictatorship is allied to a country governed as a Shia "guided democracy" where minorities, including Christians and Jews, are discriminated against but safe in their homes, a government that was formed following the overthrow of a ruler installed by the US, which had overthrown in turn a secular democracy.  Both these states are allied to a Shia militia and political party from a third country with long-standing allegiances across sectarian lines.  Our actions are made in defense of "US interests" and those of our closest ally in the region, a Jewish sectarian state founded 65 years ago by immigrant refugees, scarred survivors of a European holocaust, on land captured after the expulsion of three quarters of a million people from their homes, an act which created a new group of refugees whose descendants live in nearby countries, including those listed above, many still in refugee camps, while almost 6 million more are under either direct or indirect rule of the new state built on their land.

We're backing the Spanish monarchy and the Inquisition against Calvinism and Lutheranism, on the belief that it's good for America and good for the Jews. A multi-ethnic democracy is defending its greatest enemies in defense of the prerogatives it claims for itself.

An old post from Syria Comment on the Jews of Syria.

The extra effort above because someone, somewhere, mentioned Harry fucking Frankfurt.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Frans Hals, No Worries, ca.1623-25, Metropolitan Museum,  NY
see previous
Started from the bottom now we here

Jews III
II, and  I

Friday, May 24, 2013

What is the role of science in a democracy? Leaving aside arguments over the fact/value distinction, the choice between cancer research and astronomy is a choice based on preference, and preference is value. But the research imperative ends in Stalinism; so what's to do?

The woman interviewed in the first video responded reflexively, unthinkingly, to a situation. It's safe to assume the values behind her choice were instilled in childhood.  The two men in the second video are, respectively, an empiricist, comedian, trickster, con-man, and a rationalist, rube and fool.

Greenwald is good.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

note taking my comments elsewhere.
"a class of people who are better than the rest of us, on whom we depend for our salvation and prosperity"

That sentence is a hoot. We're left to choose between the elitism of the rich or of economists and technocrats. Philosophy professors refer to "the folk". Somehow I doubt James Kwak and Mark Thoma would consider themselves folk. And DeLong?

It drives me nuts that our technocratic elite, with their fixation on ideas are so willfully ignorant of their own complexities, simply as people.

Logicians and moralists divide the world in twos, but the law of non-contradiction doesn't apply to books any more than people.  Nietzsche connects to fascism; a lot of people did and do. The problem he faced as we do is how to come to terms with the modern desires for "equality" and "liberty".  Hayek and Rand are secondary and minor figures facing the same questions.

The old aristocracy and the intellectuals around it were both anti-bourgeois and anti-capitalist, and in their contempt for mediocrity in bourgeois culture they had a point, which is why so much of the cultural left over the past 200 years has been intellectually aristocratic.  Foucault learned from the Surrealists and Symbolists, Baudelaire, Stendhal and Tocqueville.  The flaneur is aristocratic observer. Technocracy qua technocracy, in service to itself, gets us this:
"Italian rules allowing candy makers to label their products as “pure chocolate” breach European Union law, the region’s highest court said.
Permitting chocolate made from pure cocoa butter to be called “cioccolato puro,” or “pure chocolate,” clashes with EU-wide measures which allow chocolate laced with vegetable fats to be marketed as chocolate, the tribunal in Luxembourg said."
That's not an important example but it's part for whole.
A focus on the mean puts downward pressure on the mean.

Robin mocks [links below]: “The ancients sought virtue, a life of excellence lived in and through the polis; the moderns (Machiavelli, Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke) perpetrate ‘a lowering of aims.’ ”

If everyone is equal then its just a small shift to say we can refer only to averages: the average man becomes the benchmark for analysis by the new elite. And there is a new elite. What do you think it means every time Krugman says "it's a bit technical". Equality? No.  And of course experts can make stupid mistakes, and who's the first to get hurt? Any engineer can lecture you on efficiency, redundancy and stability, but somehow efficiency makes economics take on the character of a morality play. If I were less of a determinist I'd be shocked.

An exchange with Chris Bertram:
SE: "Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."Bertram: "If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right."
I wasn't raised to think of greed as noble. Yet somehow in the minds of technocratic liberals, facts became ideals, and actions became secondary, so we get elitists preaching equality, meaning the equivalence of everyone in the majority to each other, while taking their own superiority for granted. Technocracy is not democracy.

Democracy is founded on obligations before freedoms.  Libertarians are finally open in their dislike for democracy; maybe it's time defenders of democracy should develop a healthy skepticism regarding freedom defined as individualism. Freedom of speech serves the health of the polis.  And maybe compulsory education should extend over the course of a life.

If you pay attention to the culture that produced you, you'll understand your contradictions. If you think you're not contradictory, you're wrong. Too many liberals think saying "I'm a nice guy" makes it so. And of course, if I am what I say I am, others are what I say they are too.  According to Cory Robin, Nietzsche and Burke are bad guys.  Robin's arguments are based in simplistic assumptions about history, historical figures, and himself. His writing is shallow and obvious.  His primary politics is self-promotion.

US mythology includes puritans and drunks, Carry Nation and John Wayne; individualized self-righteousness is the only universal. Scandinavian mythology includes Janteloven. Social democracy wasn't the product of an idea; the ideas were the product of a culture.  If you want to debate social democracy, as I've it would make sense to read Henning Mankell before John Rawls, and read for contradictions and questions not ideas.

Responding to two comments:

1-"The wealthy are not better than the rest of us. The 1% have taken the opportunity of the past 40 years and managed all the gains in production…"

The US has 4.5% of the population of the planet. Think, just for a minute.

2-"I'm not particularly a Hayek fan, but bald statements like this are pitiful.
'Hayek cared about liberty for ultimately elitist reasons: liberty is not an end in itself, but a condition that enables the select few to make the world a better place'
How about a citation that doesn't require starting with an assumption of corrupt motives?"

Technocrats left and right refer to the need to foster "progress" and "innovation". What percentage of the population does that directly refer to? The majority are supposed to benefit from these policies only because as employees they've been given jobs. Pundits demand increased funding for education in science and technology for a new generation of leaders not for teaching all 5th graders, brilliant or not, the foundations of the Bill of Rights. A popular econ blogger (or at least one with a PhD in economics) says: 
"I'm not sure why people are surprised and even upset that some teenagers don't know who the hell bin Laden is." 
I won't even ask if they know anything about the Vietnam war, or any one before it.
But I'm sure his friends kids know something. They're the educated elite.

Another blogger, an academic whom I doubt any of you would read says:
"Yesterday, I asked 130 students in my American Government class: who has never ever heard of a country called Lebanon? Some 40 students raised their hands."
Leave it to someone born in another country to make the point a native born American would not. It's safe to say I won't be able to talk to most of you about economics for the same reason I won't be able to talk to you about foreign policy. One is no more or less based on science than the other.

The American Dream has done more damage to the world than born again Christianity, but American liberals defend one while being horrified by the other, as if they had no relation.

"They have the power. Look around and see what they have done with it."
Yes we do. And power corrupts.

Read the Krugman link above. It's not just wrong it's stupid. Krugman is fond of saying the economics is not a morality play, but the his defense of free trade is founded on cheap moralism.

Dean Baker complains that proposals to eliminate SS income for billionaires would be unfair. That's an argument from normative American morality, not logic.

The debate on blogs like this one is part of a debate among the elite in and out of power.
Let me express my condolences to her two surviving sons John Evron and Stuart Alan Kirkpatrick, whom she loved beyond all measure.
She was a good friend to my grandfather Earl. She was an American and a world patriot: her counsel--even at its most boneheaded--was always devoted to advancing the security of the United States and the cause of liberty and prosperity around the world."
"Efrain Rios Montt." The three words you need to know this week.

Dani Rodrik's defense of his father in law, a Turkish General.
"The military has long set the ground rules of Turkish politics. Its hard line defending secularism has resulted in frequent clashes with political movements it views as "soft" on Islam, such as the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has governed the country since November 2002. Periodically, the military has intervened, bringing down governments and, on occasion, establishing periods of military rule, most recently from 1980 to 1983."
Kwak: "Corey Robin's fascinating article on nineteenth-century European culture".
That sentence is bizarre. It's written from the logic of an elite happily unaware of its place as an elite. "Oh, I don't know anything about power, I only deal in numbers and logic".

The logical foundation to any argument by American liberals is that other people are the problem. Just as American individualist liberalism is the product of American culture, "the Scandinavian anomaly" in economics is the product of Scandinavian culture. There is nothing new in Robin's article. What he adds is moralism.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal". DeLong doesn't believe that; Krugman doesn't believe that; Rodrik doesn't believe that; I don't believe that; and neither do you. Robin wants to pretend he does, so he needs to describe a Manichean world. He writes for a journal published by graduates of Phillips Exeter and Harvard and named for 18th century revolutionary terrorists. In 200 years another crew will name their journal "Hamas". It's safe to say I won't be able to talk to most of you about economics for the same reason I won't be able to talk to you about foreign policy, because that obvious point, a cheap observation about cheap politics, is lost on you.
"I like to walk about among the beautiful things that adorn the world; but private wealth I should decline, or any sort of personal possessions, because they would take away my liberty." George Santayana
Santayana was not a liberal. I am. But I learn from him as I learn from Burke. I learn from Nietzsche. I learn as much from Robin as I learn from Ayn Rand, or Hayek, or Likudniks and Salafists. I learn about fear and pathology.

Libertarianism isn't an idea it's an ideology, extended from ideas most of you share; that why you go over it as much as you do. Hayek is debated in American academia the way Islamic scholars in other countries argue over Sayyid Qutb. The myopia is the same.
In the end, all simply product of the times.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

and forward, and back

For Joseph Massad
a repeat:

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."
"...the white man." Words of a self-hating Jew.

Massad's piece, now here

Saturday, May 18, 2013

NYT "Rights Group Says It Finds Proof of Torture in Syria"

Monday, May 13, 2013

Young Woman with Field Glasses, 1866-68 (circa), British Museum

Woman with Binoculars, 1875,  Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden

Deux jockeys - Femme à la lorgnette, 1868-70 (circa) Private Collection

Manet at the Races, 1870, Metropolitan Museum

Friday, May 10, 2013

New York Could Be America's First City To Let Non-Citizens Vote

Please. Yes.

Josh Marshall
What New York is proposing isn’t unprecedented. And to the extent that large numbers of people who’ve basically become Americans and are making their life here cannot participate in our politics, I understand some of the motivation. Indeed, this is why keeping the doors open to citizenship is so important. But I don’t really want anything that blurs the lines of the political community we all (those of us who are American citizens) participate in. And to me, this does that.
 "I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian"

International cities should be international, and immigrants to understand America more than Americans do.  But immigrants in NY socialize with each other, across ethnicities, while avoiding Americans.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Hamas" takes on the Palestine question.

"Why now?"
Because almost without anyone noticing, the movement in solidarity with Palestinian rights — with all its solipsisms and ultra-leftist foibles, its quarrels and magnetic attraction for eccentrics, opportunists, and, yes, the occasional antisemite — has grown to become one of the most important, inspiring, and fast-growing social movements in the country.
"Why now?" Because enough people have become involved that now it's safe for the best and brightest young American intellectuals to follow along.  Long live the academic avant-garde, always ready to play catch-up.

More credit to Hawking; he doesn't pretend to lead.
Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?
A former FBI counterterrorism agent claims on CNN that this is the case
3D-printable guns are just the start, says Cody Wilson
A self-described child of the internet age, Wilson is an admirer of Julian Assange and Kim Dotcom. "I number myself among them, at least in spirit," he says. "I think the future is openness to the point of the eradication of government. The state shouldn't have a monopoly on violence; governments should live in fear of their citizenry."
There are two options for human society: government of the people and of law, or the rule of the strong. "The eradication of government" guarantees the latter.

Technocracy is not democracy, and the knee-jerk, mirror-image, rebellion against technocracy is not a democratic movement. The decay of technocracy is something else; it produces another social order.

The bow-tied college professor, Jerry Herron, like Borges and his gauchos, idealizes a culture built from necessity. For the whites, including white DJs, in from the suburbs, the music was a discovery, but the men who invented the music have a richer more complex understanding. They were trying to preserve the humane in an inhumane world, using a language they as products of that world understood. There's a connection that runs through Herron to both Borges and Lawrence Lessig, and also Graeber and to Cody Wilson: a fundamental misunderstanding of culture. The knowing irony on all sides that connected Detroit techno and hip-hop to Kraftwerk and hip-hop to the gay clubs in the 70's is lost on followers of simple, otherworldly individualist, liberalism. Culture is conservative: it conserves.

Ideological liberals don't understand culture, seeing it as a choice rather than something constitutive of what they are. But libertarian culture like fascist and Stalinist culture could be called almost an oxymoron.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013


Bayesian epistemology... The Guardian.
It doesn't begin well...
The late Margaret "Tina" Thatcher claimed that "there is no alternative" to economic liberalism, and our own iron Frau Angela Merkel has defended her controversial fiscal policies for Europe with the very same slogan. It is not surprising that politicians use such thought-terminating cliches to push through their agenda, but remarkably the "there is no alternative" argument also plays a vital role in science. 
so it can't end well.
It fails, however, if we are certain that the number of alternative theories is infinite.
The number of alternative policies in England and Germany were/are finite.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Spot the disconnect:

Stupid Plan B Rule
Basically anything having to do with teenage girls and sex freaks people out.Whether or not 13-year-old girls should be having sex, plenty of them are. If the drug is safe then it's safe.

What Could Go Wrong
I'm not a parent, but I do know that young children only have a vague understanding of the potential consequences of their actions. Teenagers only have a vague understanding of the potential consequences of their actions. So, you know, don't give them guns.
"I'm not sure why people are surprised and even upset that some teenagers don't know who the hell bin Laden is."

"The kids are alright"
It all just boils down to "I must know what my teenage girl is doing." Which I get, and if you have a healthy open relationship with your teenage daughter (good luck!), good for you. But uncle or daddy might also be raping her, or planning to beat the shit out of her for daring to make Jesus cry.
WP: "Obama considers direct aid to Al Qaeda in Syria"
NYT: "Nasrallah annoyed"
Tens of thousands of low-paid workers took to the streets on May Day to demand higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions a week after a building collapse in Bangladesh became a grim reminder of the dangers of lax safety regulations in poor countries...

Thousands of garment factory workers in Bangladesh also paraded through the streets calling for safeguards to be put in place and for the owner of the collapsed building to be sentenced to death.

In Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous country, tens of thousands of workers rallied... 
In the Philippines, an estimated 8,000 workers marched in Manila to also demand better pay and regular jobs instead of contractual work...

Some workers rallied outside the U.S. Embassy, torching a wooden painting stamped with the words "low wages" and "union busting" that depicted Philippine President Benigno Aquino III as a lackey of President Barack Obama...

Several thousand people in Hong Kong protested, including dockworkers who have been on strike for a month. They want better working conditions and a pay raise to make up for cuts in previous years.

And an estimated 3,000 people demonstrated in Singapore, where any form of public protest is rare,...

Violent clashes erupted in Turkey when May Day demonstrators tried to break through police barriers to reach Istanbul's main hub, Taksim Square...

More than 10,000 Taiwanese protested a government plan to cut pension payouts...

In Cambodia, more than 5,000 garment workers marched in Phnom Penh,...

The garment industry globally has come under fire since an illegally built eight-story building collapsed last week in Bangladesh, bringing down five garment factories inside it and killing more than 400 people. The collapse followed a garment factory fire there in November when 112 people died. 
A loud procession of workers wound through central Dhaka, waving the national flag and chanting "direct action!" and "death penalty!" while one participant vowed the workers' deaths would not be in vain.

"My brother has died. My sister has died. Their blood will not be valueless."