Monday, July 29, 2013

Witness to a Massacre.
Mosa'ab Elshamy,

Time Lightbox
and on Facebook
repeat, for Crooked Timber
"The Jewish Question"
What fucking idiots.
And as of now still no mention of Palestine in any comment on the thread.

The Islamic world has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Muslims are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”
"Veil of Ignorance"  The post isn't as offensive as the title, but the comments are.
see also

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mendelsohn's piece was a relentless attack on the nostalgia of adults for their childhood fantasies. Corey Robin  a wannabe leftist, is capable of nothing else. That and Mendelsohn reminded me of graduates of Wellesley who were pissed off by Mona Lisa Smile (since Alfred Barr taught the first academic course on Modern Art at Wellesley in 1926) and my mother's contempt for Todd Haynes for Far From Heaven. Haynes doing his best to undermine the world of Ozzie and Harriet that only 6 year olds at the time confused with reality.
Today in Egypt, supporters of a deposed president who has not been seen or heard from in twenty-one days spend some of their time holding “parliamentary” sessions in a small mosque events hall, while the leader of the Armed Forces, in all his medaled glory, calls on the general public to hold protests to authorize the army to fight violence and terrorism.
Sarah Carr, in Jadaliyya

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Feb 2017- I've been getting a lot of hits on this page in the past week. It would be nice if someone left a comment and told me why.

Forum, Beyond Blame
Opening the Debate, Barbara H. Fried: The philosophy of personal responsibility has ruined criminal justice and economic policy. It's time to move past blame.
Responding: Christine M. Korsgaard, Erin Kelly, Adriaan Lanni, Mike Konczal, Paul Bloom, Gideon Rosen, Brian Leiter, George Sher, T. M. Scanlon
Reply: Barbara H. Fried

From Fried's opening essay
Retributive penal policy, which has produced incarceration rates of unprecedented proportions in the United States, has been at the forefront of the boom. But enthusiasm for blame is not confined to punishment. Changes in public policy more broadly—the slow dismantling of the social safety net, the push to privatize social security, the deregulation of banking, the health care wars, the refusal to bail out homeowners in the wake of the 2008 housing meltdown—have all been fueled by our collective sense that if things go badly for you, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. Mortgage under water? You should have thought harder about whether you could really afford that house before you bought it. Trouble paying back your college loans? You should have looked more carefully at job prospects for sociology majors before you took out the loans. Unless of course “you” are “me,” in which case the situation tends to look a bit more complicated.

This has also been a boom time for blame in moral and political philosophy, partially in reaction to John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971), which is widely credited with reviving these fields. Rawls focused not on personal responsibility but on ensuring fair conditions that would create opportunities for everyone to pursue their aims. Within a decade, however, Rawls’s theory was under attack from the left and right for giving insufficient attention to personal responsibility and associated attitudes toward blame. On the right, Robert Nozick’s 1974 Anarchy, State, and Utopia heralded a major libertarian revival, centered on individual rights and individual responsibility. On the left, Ronald Dworkin proposed an alternative to Rawls’s vision of liberal egalitarianism, one that brought personal responsibility into the egalitarian fold. On the one hand, Dworkin argued, our fate should not be shaped by “brute luck”—circumstances, whether social or biological, not subject to our control. But as to anything that results from our choices, blame away. As the philosopher G. A. Cohen said of Dworkin’s argument, it has “performed for egalitarianism the considerable service of incorporating within it the most powerful idea in the arsenal of the anti-egalitarian right: the idea of choice and responsibility.”

Why exactly are we trying so hard to make the world safe for blame? What have we gained and what have we lost in the effort? And is there an alternative?
repeat, this time in a comment at  The Boston Review. So fucking obvious.
[the page has been redesigned; the comments are saved at]
More evidence that philosophy qua philosophy -feigning distance from the world it contemplates- is a waste of time.  
Moral responsibility and drug dealers, bankers, politicians, and college professors: if we remove it from one group we remove it from all.  But as usual in arguments such as the one above, the free will of the managerial class of philosophers and technocrats is somehow beyond biology: "Determinism for thee but not for me" is still the rule. 
GA Cohen in If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich? found two arguments that he found "reasonable"  for a wealthy person not to give away much of his money, both involving the pain of loss, which would be greater for a rich man than a poor man who had nothing to lose, and the fact that it would be unfair to his children to be pulled away from the friendships they'd formed among their peers. Cohen is making the argument for prep schools.   Affluent, Born Abroad and Choosing New York’s Public Schools
Miriam and Christian Rengier, a German couple moving to New York, visited some private elementary schools in Manhattan last spring in search of a place for their son. They immediately noticed the absence of ethnic diversity, and the chauffeurs ferrying children to the door.And then, at one school, their guide showed them the cafeteria.“The kids were able to choose between seven different lunches: sushi and macrobiotics and whatever,” Ms. Rengier recalled. “And I said, ‘What if I don’t want my son to choose from seven different lunches?’ And she looked at me like I was an idiot.”For the Rengiers, the decision was clear: Their son would go to public school.“It was not the question if we could afford it or not,” said Ms. Rengier, whose husband was transferred to the city because of his job as a lawyer and tax consultant. “It was a question of whether it was real life or not.”
What is it that allows German bankers in NY have a better understanding of moral philosophy than Oxbridge Marxists?
If you want to develop a "technology" to manage human affairs (the term is Cohen's) you're looking for a "Colossus" or a "Skynet" (I won't bother with that link) to manage our affairs. The argument's absurd, and in the meantime we've ended up with the moral mediocrity of our contemporary class of scholastic philosophers, fixated on their own terminology of judging and judgement, seeing themselves as judges, that they can't see that their own self-interest is what drives them. Again: determinism for one means determinism for all.
Corey Robin, far from a favorite,  at Crooked Timber (ditto)
Several people have emailed me to ask why no one at CT has posted on the George Zimmerman verdict. It’s a good question. I can’t speak for anyone else; as Chris said, we’re a loose-knit crew. I know that I’ve simply not felt up to the challenge. And not able to say anything as cogent as I’ve read elsewhere. 
But this clip from 1968 of James Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show seems apposite. (The Milton Friedman lookalike trying to get a word in edgewise is the Yale philosopher Paul Weiss.)
"Yale philosopher Paul Weiss."  Most college educated people and most academics have no idea who Paul Weiss is, but almost all know the name James Baldwin. That fact is important in any discussion not of philosophy but of philosophers, even in serious discussion of the subjects they claim to deal in.
I'm fine with seeing the vast majority of animal behavior ruled by determinism but then the answer is as old as Aristotle and as new as Skinner: training and conditioned response. Raise your children to be better than you are. 
Originally I'd written, "Among other things, Cohen is making the argument for prep schools." The way it's written now implies that his broader arguments aren't equally pathetic. He had the time and money to make himself a better man. Others have done more with less, and with more. Cohen took responsibility for his ideas, and we have the right to judge his actions.

I read Leiter's essay and none of the others. My response to the first was hardly worth making. Replace Baldwin with any Palestinian advocate for equal rights and the point becomes even clearer. King's "White moderate" hasn't changed a bit.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 10: Criticism of  Bassem Youssef for defending the coup.

July 16th: Youssef in Arabic, translated here.
My dear anti-Brotherhood liberal, allow me to remind you that just a few weeks ago you were desperately complaining about how grim the future looked, but now that you have been “relieved” of them you have become a carbon copy of their fascism and discrimination. You could respond by saying that they deserve it; that they supported the security forces and used them to overpower you, to cheat and spread rumors and widen sectarian strife. But is that really your argument? Have you made of their lowly ways a better alternative for you than abiding by the principles you have stood by for so long? They lost their moral compass a long time ago- do you want to follow suit?
He's good.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The absurdity of academic culture and positive, optimistic, liberalism.
Crooked Timber on sex, gender roles and morality.

Perceived looks matter more than sports accomplishments, naturally
"Ezster says she was fascinated by “how many people decided to make such hateful and stupid comments.” But how many were there– 500? 1000? As a proportion of Twitter users, or even Twitter users who watched Wimbledon it has to be minuscule." 
Eszter Hargittai: "500 such comments on Twitter is already 500 too many"
Her link included various tweets by 14 people.

The Twitter Geography of Hate

The data behind this map is based on every geocoded tweet in the United States from June 2012 - April 2013 containing one of the 'hate words'. This equated to over 150,000 tweets and was drawn from the DOLLY project based at the University of Kentucky. Because algorithmic sentiment analysis would automatically classify any tweet containing 'hate words' as "negative," this project relied upon the HSU students to read the entirety of tweet and classify it as positive, neutral or negative based on a predefined rubric. Only those tweets that were identified by human readers as negative were used in this analysis.
The study didn't include anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim terms.

Other comments at CT
 "I will shame-facedly admit that my interest in women’s tennis is about 2/3 prurient, but it would never occur to me even to think, let alone say, such ugly things just because the Wimbeldon winner doesn’t excite me."

"It is disgusting. But not isolated to sports. Quite frankly, I’m sick of stories about Hillary’s hair, …"

"I read about stuff like this all the time on P.Z. Myers’s “Pharyngula” blog, as well as the several feminist and rad-fem sites I keep up with. But it still hits me like a fist in the gut."
That last one brought back memories. "Blam!! Out of nowhere, it's like a sock to the stomach"

The Guardian
In fact, far from being more faithful than men, we may actually be more naturally promiscuous – more bored by habituation, more voracious, more predatory, more likely to objectify a mate.
"Not the meaning of sex or the idea of sex, but sex!"

And of course being decent civilized European liberals they're not very interest in freedom of speech.

Another geography of hate, that none of them will mention.

It's not that they've failed my purity test but that they assume they've passed their own. They're absolutely incapable of second-order curiosity. The earnest enthusiasm of high-functioning autism. And they want to rule the world.

More of the same, here.  Reading fiction to reinforce previous assumptions.
"My impression is that many people read fiction as an escape from their day-to-day. I am not those people. I like to have enough of a non-fictional toehold on a story to be able to judge its verisimilitude. I don’t want to be the reader analog to the millions of people under the impression that the legal system is in any way similar to Law & Order or CSI."
Jack Webb
The themes of detective fiction revolve around the ambiguities of moral responsibility as they're experienced by individual characters. The most famous exception, more than proving the rule, was Jack Webb's Dragnet: theater written for Sparta, or fascist Spain. Detective fiction is foundational literature, the only form of pulp fiction that's ever transcended the form.

The characters in stories and the facts around them are fictional; the questions are not. In any literature worth taking seriously the plot is the armature, the means, not the end. Descriptions of our common world in the words of another with a different focus pull you away from things you know, but you have to choose to be pulled, or to make it possible.  The neoliberal imagination doesn't allow the choice.

People who read non-fiction for content read fiction for content and plot. To read for subtext in works you enjoy without mockery is to acknowledge the inevitable subtexts in your own speech.

Read the post at Savage Minds as an immature attempt (see also Graham Harman) to come to terms with art on its own terms. The result is a defense less of art than illustration, where theory precedes practice. In art, practice precedes theory.
Repeats of repeats,  Dwight Macdonald.
So, too, our Collegiate Gothic, which may be seen in its most resolutely picturesque (and expensive) phase at Yale, is more relentlessly Gothic than Chartres, whose builders didn't even know they were Gothic and missed so many chances for quaint effect.
"Collegiate Gothic" is illustration. [specifically here]
Serendipity, courtesy of God and As'ad AbuKhalil
A stunning tweet just came across the wires from Major League Baseball’s recently hired “new media coordinator” Jonathan Mael. It reads, “The @nyjets are a disgrace of an organization. The Patriots have Aaron Hernandez, the Jets have Oday Aboushi.” (Mael has since deleted his account, making him a rather ineffectual “new media coordinator”.) 
Aaron Hernandez is, of course, the former star tight end now on trial for premeditated murder. So who is Oday Aboushi? He’s a Brooklyn-born fifth-round rookie lineman from the University of Virginia. His crime, in the eyes of Mael, is being of Palestinian heritage as well as having the temerity to discuss what a life of dispossession has meant to him and his extended family. 
This ugly line of thought exists on a plane beyond tweets. In a stunningly unprincipled piece on Yahoo! Sports, a writer named Adam Waksman wrote this week that Aboushi was involved in “anti-Semitic activism...”
 Zionism is racism, Eszter.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Henry Farrell makes the case for ignorance.
MPAVictoria 07.09.13 at 5:58 pm
...Your impressions about how aristocratic they can be differ from mine. I have sat in on dinner parties where every single person there (besides me) arrived in an expensive German vehicle and listened to them complain about the gall of cashiers asking for 12 dollars an hour. So naturally your impressions made me curious.

Rakesh Bhandari 07.09.13 at 6:06 pm
Well that complaining does not seem very aristocratic to me, more petit-bourgeois.

Henry 07.09.13 at 6:09 pm
Rakesh – look up the etymology of the word aristocrat (‘aristoi’+'kratein’= …)
'Aristoi' - The best, the most noble.
SE: "Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development" 
Bertram: "If, by 'recent' you mean 1705, you may be right."
If the definition of nobility has changed, the definition of aristocracy has changed.
How the fuck did Henry Farrell, or any of them, get this far in life claiming to me members of an intellectual elite?
Al-Ghazali, as quoted by Ernest Gellner, puts Mannheim’s point more pithily – "the genuine traditionalist does not know that he is one; he who proclaims himself to be one, no longer is one."
"History is like foreign travel. It broadens the mind, but does not deepen it."
Philology is dead and "History is Bunk"

All my sympathies to Rakesh Bhandari 
I am obviously frustrated participating on this list and to some extent the blogosphere.

Evgeny Morozov rediscovers the obvious and reinvents the wheel.
In To Save Everything . . . I quote from Ken Alder's fascinating book on engineering and the French revolution, where he argues that engineering is actually one of the most revolutionary professions, since engineers are so keen to “disrupt” and are always eager to look for the most efficient solution. Here is what he wrote:
Engineering operates on a simple, but radical assumption: that the present is nothing more than the raw material from which to construct a better future. In this process, no existing arrangement is to be considered sacrosanct, everything is to be examined in the light of present aspirations, and all practices refashioned according to the dictates of reason.
Now, there's much to like about this revolutionary spirit, at least in theory. I'm not the one to defend current practices because that's how we have always done things (even though I do realize why so many conservative commentators endorse my work; the best review I got is probably from Commentary; I'm not yet sure how to react to such applause to my work). But this doesn't mean that everything should be up for grabs all the time—especially when efficiency is our guiding value. This to me seems dumb, not least because many of our political and social arrangements are implicitly based on the idea of inefficiency as the necessary cost of promoting some other values.

Take rent control or common carriers like taxis. Those two norms introduce a lot of inefficiency, as the proponents of AirBnB and Uber like to point out. But to say that these cool start-ups are good because they promote efficiency is not to say much—since efficiency may not be what we actually want. There's something odd happening here and I think we ought to explicitly recognize that inefficiency can be a good thing—at least when it allows us to get something else. To put this in broader theoretical context, I think we ought to stop being in denial about the foundations of modernity; it could be that opacity, ambiguity and inefficiency always played an important role but we never had to defend them because they were never under threat. The situation today is different and we ought to defend them—if only to make it harder for the “disruptors” to keep appealing to efficiency and transparency as if those are unalloyed goods. They aren't and we ought to make this clear.
 My comment
Books and articles like this depress me, not because I disagree with them but because the authors don't know enough of the history to realize how much of they're recapitulating old arguments that've been forgotten.

"I am however quite old-fashioned and excessively utopian in that I believe that it wouldn't be such a bad idea for citizens to know what they do and have some basic understand[sic] of why it matters—even if we have the option of achieving a better outcome with them doing it without any awareness."

That sentence is a mess, even with the irony. The definition of "utopia"  is that it's impossible: a fiction. Gamification is only the most recent example of engineering fantasy, predicted as all others have been on the distinction between designers and players, governing and governed. Morozov speaks like an earnest adviser to the Czars; his defense of democracy isn't nearly strong enough to make the case. "Virality" like the language of "memes" always resolves to "determinism for thee but not for me." Techno-fantacists and revolutionists are products of the same culture as the rest of us; there's no way for them to escape it.  But since they look foreward and not back, there's no way for them to see what made them.

Ask a historian the definition of humanism and they'll talk about the Renaissance and the rediscovery of history, and the sense of historical knowledge as both valuable and imprecise. Renaissance humanism is both curiosity and irony, an escape from the arid formalisms of the Rationalism of the scholastics ["Assume an Angel"] and the Church.  Ask a philosophy professor the definition of humanism and you'll get a different answer entirely. You'll get the optimism of engineers.  Renaissance humanism is empiricism not as philosophy but practice. Enlightenment humanism is the primacy of theory, ideas writ from above, perfection imposed on an imperfect world, on the imperfection of others. It's not even the science of practicing scientists, since science itself is empiricism. The "sciences" of history, economics, politics and philosophy all originate in models built by lovers of modeling, of engineering: rationalism not empiricism.

Descartes: "History is like foreign travel. it broadens the mind but does not deepen it"
To a historian of the Renaissance that's not humanism that's anti-humanism.

"the community of people writing about “the Internet” is just so stuffy, boring, and self-absorbed (in their defense, most of them were trained as lawyers)"

Perhaps, but they've never spent much time in courtrooms. The culture of the web is self-selecting for  tech specialists, economists, political scientists, political philosophers and theorists. Practicing lawyers don't see themselves as engineers they see themselves as tradesmen: professional storytellers who work for a fee, the sort of people Plato inveighed against. Ask a jobbing lawyer and that's what they'll say.

The the most amusing thing about all this for me is that I'm a hard determinist. I've been following this for 25 years, watching the changes. The only thing that amuses me more is watching the rise and secularization of Islam. European secular humanism over the past 200 was more than anything a Jewish tradition. "Philosophy is garbage, but the history of garbage is scholarship." Gershom Scholem was a Zionist. The leaders of the scholarly tradition over the next 200 years will be Muslim.
The European scholarly tradition.
"Philosophy is garbage." The quote is Burton Dreben. The original is here and it's not Scholem.  Just lazy.
later addition on the history of the anti-bourgois right, and left.

George Lefebvre
The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich. The great majority of younger sons had no desire to "derogate." They sought the remedy elsewhere, in a growing exclusiveness. Some held that the nobility should form a body like the clergy and be constituted as a closed caste. For the last time, in stating grievances in 1789, they were to demand a verification of titles of nobility and the suppression of automatic creation of nobility through the sale of offices. Likewise it was held that, if the king was to count on "his loyal nobility," he should recognize that they alone had the necessary rank to advise him and to command in his name; he should grant them a monopoly of employments compatible with their dignity, together with free education for their sons.
"The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich."

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A pop star, not a college professor. An actor, not a philosopher. Experience, not idea. An entertainer. One of the "folk".  All relevant. A black man, not a white man.
Church lady speaks
Events have been moving very fast in Egypt– and they continue to do so. Right about now, longtime ‘liberal’ icon Mohamed ElBaradei is being sworn in as PM of the new, coup-birthed order in Cairo. (Update: Or not… )
My instincts from the beginning were to be very wary of the ‘popular’ movement that started gathering in large numbers on Cairo’s streets last weekend. Yes, I knew that the youthful-idealist movement Tamarrod had gathered large numbers of signatures on their ‘Recall the president’ petition (though the real number of genuine, unique signatories will never be known.) Yes, I knew that the elected Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, and his government had made many, very serious mis-steps throughout their 12 months in office. Several of my friends have expressed great public enthusiasm about the popular, anti-Morsi movement.

But still.

Still, there were always many indications that this ‘popular movement’ was not all it was pretending to be. There was evidence of it being connected to a deliberate, lengthy, and well-funded campaign of defamation against Morsi, as Issandr Amrani has well documented. There was evidence of significant funding for the ‘popular’ movement, whose bilingual laser lightshows, fireworks displays, etc.,took a page right out of the theatrics  of the (also Saudi- and U.S.-backed) March 14 movement in Lebanon… And when, after the coup, the supply of gasoline and fuel oil suddenly resumed, it seemed very clear that the military-industrial complex in Egypt had previously been hoarding supplies to sow nationwide eco-social mayhem, in a page right out of the anti-Mossadegh coup of 1953.

I recall the discussion that Bill the spouse and I had with longtime MB spokesman Dr. Esam El-Erian in Cairo in June 2011, when he warned: “Without a change in the policies of Saudi Arabia, these current revolutions won’t succeed… In Egypt, Saudi Arabia is the main force of counter-revolution.” more
["Bill the spouse"]

Monday, July 08, 2013

The dethronement of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood party is giving rise to a new political power. The ultra-conservative Nour Party was the only Islamist group to support the military-backed plan to topple Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood organization that fielded him for office. The move has cast them as political power brokers, evidenced by their scuttling, at least for now, of Mohamed ElBaradei’s appointment as prime minister. 
“The Nour Party for the time being has a veto power over major decisions because the new order needs at least one major Islamist party on its side,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in the Qatari capital. “It’s never been so influential.”
Does the fierce Saudi defense of the Sisi coup not give you any pause?
Sarah Carr
On Sheep and Infidels
Before I begin, let me state some facts, so that when people begin the ad hominem attacks they can try to rein them in within the following boundaries:

I voted for Mohamed Morsi in the second round of the presidential elections (to keep Ahmed Shafiq out).

I am one of the administrators of a blog called “MB in English” that features English translations of awful statements of a sectarian, conspiratorial or bonkers nature that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) intends for domestic consumption only.

I am against army intervention in politics.

I state all this because Egyptian politics and society in general are currently split along identity lines in a way that they have never been over the last three years. This problem is so chronic that the merits or flaws of an argument are almost entirely determined by who is making the argument, considered through a haze of fury and suspicion. 
...On 4 July, the day after Morsi’s removal, I went to the Nasr City sit-in. There was a line of tanks about a kilometer from the entrance checking bags and bothering journalists. Behind the tanks, barbed wire had been put in place. Two men stood five meters apart in silence, both carrying pictures of Morsi.

A man went past them and began shouting. He was an engineer with a lisp who explained in a desperate tone that he did not take part in the 25 January protests but that these protests taught him “how to state an opinion and protect it.” He had voted for Morsi in both rounds of the elections, but insisted that he was at the protest not to support an individual, but “an idea.”

“I learned democracy from the elite. So I voted. But I have learnt that there is no revolution and no democracy,” he said.

As he was talking, a man nearby started screaming in the direction of the army while holding up a poster of Morsi. He was so furious that he succeeded in pulling his poster in two, at which point he crumpled into a ball on the ground and wept.

On Saturday I attended the somber and low-key funeral of Mohamed Sobhy, a father of two who was shot in the head outside the Republican Guards Officers’ Club. Eyewitnesses say that this happened after he put a Morsi poster on the barbed wire in front of some troops who seem to have gotten nervous. In total, four men died at the protest.

I saw his body half an hour later, covered in a sheet and surrounded by bewildered protesters. I tried to tweet the picture but the network was not cooperating and it would not send. So I tweeted that a man had been killed and his body was still here and that I was trying to send a picture for all those who I know would say I was lying.

The problem is not that people did not believe me after the first tweet (it is always good to be cautious). The problem is that they were disputing that a man had died even when the photo was uploaded. One man responded: “he doesn’t have Egyptian features.” Others suggested it was an old photo. When a video appeared and it was no longer possible to dispute the fact that a man had been shot outside the Presidential Guards Officers’ Club in Cairo at the same date and time as the pro-Morsi lot were alleging, attention turned to his injuries. Sobhy was facing the army when he fell to the ground, and blood gushed out of the back of his head.
The lack of serious discussion of world politics among US liberals is more than simply worthy of note.  The limits of normative debate, and curiosity, are more and more clear, and the arrogance of the elite is the worst of it. More and more arrogant the less they have to say. The world moves on.

Below is Crooked Timber's link list.
11D3 Quarks DailyA Fistful of Euros, Atrios, Balkinization, Best of Both Worlds, Blood and Treasure, Brad DeLong, Cosma Shalizi, Corey Robin, Critical Mass, Daily Kos, Daniel Drezner, Digby, Ed Felten, Edge of the American West, Ezra Klein, Feminist Philosophers, Firedoglake, Glenn Greenwald, The Inverse Square, Jacobin, Jim Henley, Joshua Marshall, Juan Cole, Kevin Drum, Lawrence SolumLawyers, Guns and MoneyLeiter ReportsMaking LightMarc LynchMarginal RevolutionMark ThomaMatthew YglesiasMaud NewtonMichael FroomkinMiriam BursteinNaked CapitalismNew Left ProjectThe New InquiryPharyngulaPolitical Theory Daily ReviewPolitics, Theory and PhotographyRussell Arben FoxSlugger O’TooleSociological ImagesSteven JohnsonSteven PooleTalk LeftTappedThe Virtual StoaTim LambertTimothy BurkeUncertain PrinciplesYorkshire Ranter
Beyond a few exceptions there's really not much there. The foreign policy types are American nationalists. Juan Cole is there for his writing on the Iraq war.  He's not an Arab, let alone an angry one, and they don't refer to him anymore, since he refuses to separate Israel from other issues in the region.  I've said all this before. There's a link to Jacobin but not Jadaliyya, to a journal about political ideas but not to one about politics as such, and culture.  It'd be too much to expects links to AbuKhalil, or Phil Weiss. They link to Marc Lynch, a knowledgable strategist of American power, but not Josh Landis. They link to two people at Foreign Policy, but why Drezner, and not Walt? The only excuse for that his friendship from the beginnings of blogging. That and the fact that Farrell likes to criticize Walt as a theorist while ignoring his observations on politics; we're back to ideas again. Their Greenwald link is outdated.  Following the link at the end of the previous sentence will remind you of the history.

Here's AA's July archive, full of links.  Arabist links to the NYT
CAIRO — As President Mohamed Morsi huddled in his guard’s quarters during his last hours as Egypt’s first elected leader, he received a call from an Arab foreign minister with a final offer to end a standoff with the country’s top generals, senior advisers with the president said. 
The foreign minister said he was acting as an emissary of Washington, the advisers said, and he asked if Mr. Morsi would accept the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet, one that would take over all legislative powers and replace his chosen provincial governors. 
The aides said they already knew what Mr. Morsi’s answer would be. He had responded to a similar proposal by pointing at his neck. “This before that,” he had told his aides, repeating a vow to die before accepting what he considered a de facto coup and thus a crippling blow to Egyptian democracy. 
His top foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, then left the room to call the United States ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, to say that Mr. Morsi refused. When he returned, he said he had spoken to Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, and that the military takeover was about to begin, senior aides said. 
“Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour,” an aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression for the country’s Western patron, “Mother America.”
Academic distance in the name of "science" devolves into the passivity seen both in the powerful and the damned. Irony is the glory of slaves, but the irony of the powerful is perverse.  Daniel Drezner's tone is one of snide superiority and contempt: moralizing prurience. Like Yglesias and Holbo, he plays to an audience while fully aware his own sleazy mediocrity. Robin and Bertram are moralists, but very selective in their targets: self-preservation comes first.

repeat. Yglesias: "terroritories"
After the last depressing news from the Middle East I think we have to start asking just how inhumane it would be for Israel to just expel the Palestinians from the occupied terroritories. [sic] The result would probably be out-and-out war with the neighboring Arab states, but Israel could win that.
All forced population transfers are humanitarian disasters, of course, but so is the current situation. It's not like there's not any room in the whole Arab world for all these Palestinian Arabs to go live in, it's just that the other Arab leaders don't want to cooperate.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration wants to find a way to avoid labeling the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist president a “coup” to keep crucial aid flowing to the Egyptian military without violating American law, U.S. officials said Monday.

While not directly ordering a pre-cooked outcome of a legal review into Mohammed Morsi’s ouster last week, the officials said Monday that the White House has made clear in inter-agency discussions that continued aid to Egypt’s military is a U.S. national security priority that would be jeopardized by a coup finding. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal administration deliberations.

The legal review being led by State Department lawyers has not been completed, but under U.S. law, a coup determination would require a suspension of all non-humanitarian aid to Egypt, including $1.3 billion that directly supports the Egyptian military.
John Quiggin refers to the Overton Window and Agnotology, without irony.

"Only elsewhere in the region"
I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian. I'm not asking it to allow Palestinians who were forced out (or fled) in 1948 to return to their homes. I'm not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I'm actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel's security and for its status as a Jewish state.
"Jimmy! Get the PHD!" [true story]

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Why They Hate Us
If you're in the mood to drink some haterade about rich New Yorkers...
Ms. Neidich, who owns the Chicago-based jeweler Sidney Garber, has spent much of her married life living on exclusive East End Avenue. But a few years ago, she stunned her well-heeled friends by buying a on West 12th Street in the Village. “When we come home at 10:30 in the evening,” she said, “we can sit outside at Sant Ambroeus and the streets are crowded and it’s not even a Saturday."
Duncan Black's neighborhood: from majority black to 12% black, and 67% white.

Banks and Crime
Federal prosecutors face increasing criticism for their failure to indict large banks and bankers for serious criminal conduct, including allowing violent drug cartels to launder hundreds of millions of dollars, willfully conducting business with rogue nations and terrorists.
My question regarding the definition of rogue nations and terrorists was posted and removed.
Dwight Macdonald
So, too, our Collegiate Gothic, which may be seen in its most resolutely picturesque (and expensive) phase at Yale, is more relentlessly Gothic than Chartres, whose builders didn't even know they were Gothic and missed so many chances for quaint effect.
That he could write that so easily with the assumption that he would be understood.

Friday, July 05, 2013

An email, explaining an argument from earlier in the evening.
I've never paid market rent in nyc. No trader would accept anything less.
If traders are the model, my experience becomes more and more rare.
If my landlords are the model, my experience becomes more common.
Its my empiricism vs his rationalism. D. speaks from the imperative. I speak from the descriptive.
Its that simple
I'd been arguing with a right wing Israeli, a Russian Jew, about economics and the market. He referred again and again to "the way the world is", or "the way the world works", and said I was an idiot, living in a fantasy world where morality mattered. He kept asking me if I knew how much of the market was made up of computerized trading. I kept saying the number itself didn't matter for my argument; what  mattered was that the percentage has gone up exponentially and allowing that had been a matter of policy decisions made by people who could have chosen otherwise.

D.'s economic theories and political sentiments follow the same template and are just as short-sighted. He supports Israel's partnership with Saudi Arabia, just as Zionists' attempted a partnership with the Nazis.  I said Israel in effect is backing Al Qaeda against Hezbollah. He said yes. He respects Hezbollah for defending their people.  I asked if his respect was similar to Eichmann's respect for the Jews. He said yes.

Societies and markets can be mature or not, depending on the people.

Reuters. Ginsburg vows to resist pressure to retire
Brushing off political calculations, she said, "It really has to be, ‘Am I equipped to do the job?' ... I was so pleased that this year I couldn't see that I was slipping in any respect." She said she remains energized by her work as the senior liberal, a position she has held since 2010 when Justice John Paul Stevens retired, and calls being a justice "the best job in the world for a lawyer." 
She has previously said she wanted her tenure to at least match the nearly 23 years of Justice Louis Brandeis, which would get her to April 2016, and said she had a new "model" in Justice Stevens, who retired at age 90 after nearly 35 years on the bench.
If you build your logic around the lowest common denominator it becomes hard to imagine anything higher. To say that politicians "should" value something more than their own short term interests is to no longer make arguments that can be defined as "value free". Republicans see their duty to the party now as more important than their duty to the state. Yet it's difficult for liberals to criticism them specifically for that because demanding more is accepted tacitly if not openly as unreasonable. 
I've read the same arguments for years about presidential power. It's seen as illogical to think that Obama should choose to cede power back to congress. Naturalism of this sort leads to moral passivity. 
"It really has to be, ‘Am I equipped to do the job?'

The question is, "What are my responsibilities to others, to the principles we share and to the future." Ginsburg is being a narcissistic ass.  Performative reinforcement works both ways.

"Marking to the mean puts downward pressure on the mean."
"Are we having fun yet?" John Lancaster in the LRB
As anyone who’s been there recently can testify, the blame in Spain falls mainly on the banks – as it does in Ireland, in Greece, in the US, and pretty much everywhere else too. Here in the UK, feelings were nicely summed up by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which reported on 19 June that ‘the public have a sense that advantage has been taken of them, that bankers have received huge rewards, that some of those rewards have not been properly earned, and in some cases have been obtained through dishonesty, and that these huge rewards are excessive, bearing little or no relation to the work done.’ The report eye-catchingly called for senior bankers to face jail.​1 In the midst of this cacophony of largely justified accusations, the banks have had a strange kind of good fortune: the noise is now so loud that it’s become hard to hear specific complaints of wrongdoing. That’s lucky for them, because there’s one particular scandal which really deserves to stand out. The scandal I have in mind is that of mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI). The banks are additionally lucky in that there’s something inherently unsexy about the whole idea of PPI, from the numbing acronym to the fact that the whole idea of a scandal about insurance payments seems dreary and low-scale. But if there hadn’t been so much other lurid wrongdoing in the world of finance, and if mis-sold payment protection insurance had a sexier name, PPI would stand out as the biggest scandal in the history of British banking.

This is a big claim to make: an especially big claim to make at the moment, when bank scandals come around with a regularity which in almost any other context would be soothing. Here’s a short recap of some of the greatest hits of the noughties. Just to keep things simple, I’m going to leave out the biggest of them all, the grotesque toxic-asset and derivative spree which took the global financial system to the edge of the abyss. That was the precursor and proximate cause of the difficulties which are affecting the entire Western world at the moment, but the causal mechanisms connecting the initial crisis and our current predicament are a separate subject. The crisis and its consequences are too big to count as a scandal: they’re more like a climate. We can all agree that we’d prefer a different climate. We can all agree that we have no idea when this one will change. 
-"John Henry Lanchester (born 25 February 1962) is a British journalist and novelist. He was born in Hamburg, brought up in Hong Kong and educated in England, at Gresham's School, Holt between 1972 and 1980 and St John's College, Oxford. He is married to Miranda Carter, with whom he has two children, and lives in London."

-"Miranda Carter is a British writer and biographer. She was educated at St Paul's Girls School and Exeter College, Oxford.
Her first book was a biography of the art historian and spy Anthony Blunt, entitled Anthony Blunt: His Lives. It won the Royal Society of Literature Award and the Orwell Prize and was short-listed for the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction, the Guardian First Book award, the Whitbread Biography prize and the James Tait Black Memorial prize. In the US it was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of the seven best books of 2002.
She is married to John Lanchester, with whom she has two children, and lives in London."

Culture is politics/ politics is culture. It's interesting.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Is there any question about it? The liberal-Nasserist-AUC Leftist-Fulul opposition in Egypt has proven to be more undemocratic than the Ikhwan.
No question.

7/04 AA again
Will Bassem Youssef be allowed to mock the new president and Sisi?

Press freedoms in Egypt
A comrade from Egypt writes to me: it seems that people under the Ikhwan rule (during Morsi's tenure as bad as it was) were able to insult them and attack them and mock them, but that you can't do that to the new regime now. From bad to worse.
Repeating what I wrote on fb:
Morsi blew it. Erdogan was smarter. In Egypt liberals won; democracy lost; liberalism itself is set back. The Saudis and the Israelis breathe sighs of relief. The clock keeps ticking.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Two essays on violence, from 1969

Robert Paul Wolff, On Violence, from The Journal of Philosophy
...On the basis of a lengthy reflection upon the concept of de jure legitimate authority, I have come to the conclusion that philosophical anarchism is true. That is to say, I believe that there is not, and there could not be, a state that has a right to command and whose subjects have a binding obligation to obey. I have defended this view in detail elsewhere, and I can only indicate here the grounds of my conviction Briefly, I think it can be shown that every man has a fundamental duty to be autonomous, in Kant's sense of the term. Each of us must make himself the author of his actions and take responsibility for them by refusing to act save on the basis of reasons he can see for himself to be good. Autonomy, thus understood, is in direct opposition to obedience, which is submission to the will of another, irrespective of reasons. Following Kant's usage, political obedience is heteronymy [sic] of the will.

Now, political theory offers us one great argument designed to make the autonomy of the individual compatible with submission to the putative authority of the state. In a democracy, it is claimed, the citizen is both law-giver and law-obeyer. Since he shares in the authorship of the laws, he submits to his own will in obeying them, and hence is autonomous, not heteronymous [sic].

If this argument were valid, it would provide a genuine ground for a distinction between violent and nonviolent political actions. Violence would be a use of force proscribed by the laws or executive authority of a genuinely democratic state. The only possible justification of illegal or extralegal political acts would be a demonstration of the illegitimacy of the state, and this in turn would involve showing that the commands of the state were not expressions of the will of the people.

But the classic defense of democracy is not valid. For a variety of reasons, neither majority rule nor any other method of making decisions in the absence of unanimity can be shown to preserve the autonomy of the individual citizens. In a democracy, as in any state, obedience is heteronymy. The autonomous man is of necessity an anarchist. Consequently, there is no valid political criterion for the justified use of force. Legality is, by itself, no justification. Now, of course, there are all manner of utilitarian arguments for submitting to the state and its agents, even if the state's claim to legitimacy is unfounded. The laws may command actions that are in fact morally obligatory or whose effects promise to be beneficial. Widespread submission to law may bring about a high level of order, regularity, and predictability in social relationships which is valuable independently of the particular character of the acts commanded. But in and of themselves, the acts of police and the commands of legislatures have no peculiar legitimacy or sanction. Men everywhere and always impute authority to established governments, and they are always wrong to do so.
The text is from  The Journal of Philosophy,  but both Wolff and his editors seem to have confused heteronymous (of two words that are spelled identically but have different pronunciations and meanings) with heteronomous (subject to external law).  I'm not an expert on Kant; I had to look up the words. You'd think in 45 years someone would have caught it.

"On the basis of a lengthy reflection upon the concept of de jure legitimate authority, I have come to the conclusion that philosophical anarchism is true." A vapid sentence from a useless argument. "Assume a can opener": trying to make the world fit a formal truth; prescription before description, fundamentally authoritarian, even if it's the authoritarianism of an anarchist ideal.  Again:
"If her interests have the same value as his, then my interests must have the same value as yours." 
An objective viewpoint, imagined as outside social relations and with the goal of seeing the equivalence/equality of all, by definition is a view from above.  This "scientific" process,  focused on the making of generalizations (the analysis of equivalence),  is also by definition amoral; questions of morality are allowed only after science has had its say. Popular, "common sense" morality says values should come first, teaching an ideal of service or self-sacrifice. The link is to an ad from a billionaire's foundation; my interest is in the persistence of the message not the messenger.  The message itself is the opposite of Robert Paul Wolff's academic anarchism. The Golden Rule itself is less banal than Wolff's assumptions, which are predicated on a very American interest less in science than in individual autonomy and self-interest.  His arguments cannot respond to the demands of the Golden Rule, demands of "selflessness" accepted by doctors and by priests [same link one paragraph up] or the arguments of cosmopolitan intellectuals.  It's clear from his blog, linked repeatedly by Leiter, and from his faculty page, that he's dedicated his life not to his own autonomy but to service.  He's not G.A. Cohen, and yet he's unable intellectually to engage the Golden Rule any more than he can The Story of O, or Gravity's Rainbow: to engage the dualities of obligation in human society, to self and other, to self-interest and selflessness, nobility not of ideas but behavior.  He wants to resolve conflicts; he's unwilling to face them. Corey Robin mocks "agonistic desire" and "agonistic romance", seeing them as elitist.  He forgets they're the foundation of democracy. Wolff, like Robin, is less an intellectual than simply a college professor.  Hannah Arendt is something else entirely.

Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Violence, from the NYRB
In the same vein, Marx regarded the state as an instrument of violence at the command of the ruling class; but the actual power of the ruling class did not consist of nor rely on violence. It was defined by the role the ruling class played in society, or more exactly, by its role in the process of production. It has often been noticed, and sometimes deplored, that the revolutionary Left, under the influence of Marx’s teachings, ruled out the use of violent means; the “dictatorship of the proletariat”—openly repressive in Marx’s writings—came after the revolution and was meant, like the Roman dictatorship, as a strictly limited period. Political assassination, with the exception of a few acts of individual terror perpetuated by small groups of anarchists, was mostly the prerogative of the Right, while organized armed uprisings remained the specialty of the military. 
On the level of theory, there were a few exceptions. Georges Sorel, who at the beginning of the century tried a combination of Marxism with Bergson’s philosophy of life—which on a much lower level of sophistication shows an odd similarity with Sartre’s current amalgamation of existentialism and Marxism—thought of class struggle in military terms; but he ended by proposing nothing more violent than the famous myth of the general strike, a form of action which we today would rather think of as belonging to the arsenal of nonviolent politics. 
Fifty years ago, even this modest proposal earned him the reputation of being a fascist, his enthusiastic approval of Lenin and the Russian Revolution notwithstanding. Sartre, who in his Preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth goes much further in his glorification of violence than Sorel in his famous Reflections on Violence—further than Fanon himself whose argument he wishes to bring to its conclusion—still mentions “Sorel’s fascist utterances.” This shows to what extent Sartre is unaware of his basic disagreement with Marx on the question of violence, especially when he states that “irrepressible violence…is man recreating himself,” that it is “mad fury” through which “the wretched of the earth” can “become men.” 
These notions are all the more remarkable since the idea of man creating himself is in the tradition of Hegelian and Marxian thinking; it is the very basis of all leftist humanism. But according to Hegel, man “produces” himself through thought, whereas for Marx, who turned Hegel’s “idealism” upside down, it was labor, the human form of metabolism with nature, that fulfilled this function. One may argue that all notions of man-creating-himself have in common a rebellion against the human condition itself—nothing is more obvious than that man, be it as a member of the species or as an individual, does not owe his existence to himself—and that therefore what Sartre, Marx, and Hegel have in common is more relevant than the specific activities through which this non-fact should have come about. Still, it is hardly deniable that a gulf separates the essentially peaceful activities of thinking or laboring and deeds of violence. “To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone…there remains a dead man and a free man,” writes Sartre in his Preface. This is a sentence Marx could never have written. 
I quote Sartre in order to show that this new shift toward violence in the thinking of revolutionaries can remain unnoticed even by one of their most representative and articulate spokesmen. If one turns the “idealistic” concept of thought upside down one might arrive at the “materialistic” concept of labor; one will never arrive at the notion of violence. No doubt, this development has a logic of its own, but it is logic that springs from experience and not from a development of ideas; and this experience was utterly unknown to any generation before. 
The pathos and the élan of the New Left, their credibility as it were, are closely connected with the weird suicidal development of modern weapons; this is the first generation that grew up under the shadow of the atom bomb, and it inherited from the generation of its fathers the experience of a massive intrusion of criminal violence into politics—they learned in high school and in college about concentration and extermination camps, about genocide and torture, about the wholesale slaughter of civilians in war, without which modern military operations are no longer possible even if they remain restricted to “conventional” weapons. 
The first reaction was a revulsion against violence in all its forms, an almost matter-of-course espousal of a politics of nonviolence. The successes of this movement, especially with respect to civil rights, were very great, and they were followed by the resistance movement against the war in Vietnam which again determined to a considerable degree the climate of opinion in this country. But it is no secret that things have changed since then, and it would be futile to say that only “extremists” are yielding to a glorification of violence, and believe, with Fanon, that “only violence pays.”
"The successes of this movement, especially with respect to civil rights, were very great, and they were followed by the resistance movement against the war in Vietnam which again determined to a considerable degree the climate of opinion in this country." I wish that last statement were true.


The Independent, Patrick Cockburn
Every time I come to Syria I am struck by how different the situation is on the ground from the way it is pictured in the outside world. The foreign media reporting of the Syrian conflict is surely as inaccurate and misleading as anything we have seen since the start of the First World War. I can't think of any other war or crisis I have covered in which propagandistic, biased or second-hand sources have been so readily accepted by journalists as providers of objective facts.
"If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips," Putin told reporters after a gas exporters' conference in Moscow.

When asked about speculation that Snowden might leave with one of the delegations to the conference, whose guests included the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, Putin said did not know of any such plans.

Some Russians say Putin should grant Snowden asylum, but his remarks suggested the former Soviet KGB officer has little sympathy with the actions of the 30-year-old American who leaked details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs.
Power defends power

Al Jazeera journo on FB
Egypt. In a nutshell. People take to streets. Army fights people. People topple dictator. People get new government. Government let's down people. Army intervenes on behalf of people. I'm all caught up right?
repeat from Nov 2011
American military aid and personal relationships between American and Egyptian commanders give the United States great influence, and the two sides are in daily communication formally and informally, Mr. Sullivan said. But American military officials keep their messages private, as they should, he said.

“We should not make it look like we’re deeply involved in trying to solve this,” he said. “Most Egyptians would not appreciate that.”

The US media don't report that the protests in Egypt today (and previously) have a strong anti-US component. Many signs in the protests are directed at the US and its perceived support for Morsi. In the interviews on the streets today, especially on New TV, many protesters directed their anger at the US for its embrace of Morsi, in return for security cooperation with Israel. People here still think that Arabs are too dumb to notice what is happening.
Assad backers reportedly make up 43 percent of dead in Syria

A new count of the dead in Syria by the group that’s considered the most authoritative tracker of violence there has concluded that more than 40 percent were government soldiers and pro-government militia members.

The new numbers from the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights provide a previously unseen view of the toll the civil war has taken on communities that have supported the government. They also cast doubt on the widely repeated assertion that the government of President Bashar Assad is responsible for an overwhelming majority of the deaths there.

According to the new statistics, which the Syrian Observatory passed to McClatchy by phone, at least 96,431 people have lost their lives in the more than two years of violence that’s wracked Syria.