Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Why doesn't political philosophy matter?"

Leiter asks.

QS responds to Bertram
You’ve turned sexual harassment into an intellectual game, that is where the “creepiness” originates...

Chris Bertram 06.03.12 at 10:06 am
QS: your latest tells me that you see political philosophy as it is usually practised as involving a profound mistake. You are entitled to that opinion. It is not one that I share.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tweeted by Kaura: neurobio major often distracted by cogsci & philosophy // can't stop the weltschmerz
Moral phil/game dev are essentially the same job, you sit on a computer all day coming up with horrible scenarios to put imaginary people in
Retweeted by Justin Weinberg, the editor of Daily Nous.

Liked by Will Wilson: Mathematical physics and religious obscurantism. Computers are the worst tools except for all the others. Formerly: FoundationDB, Apple. Currently: Google.

Wilson, followed by Ross Douthat

tell me about it.

Culture, Determinism, Futurism and Data Culture, Make it Idiot-Proof, Mannerism and The Gothic, Naturalism, Pedants and Children, Philosophy, Sexuality, Utopia and Intentional Communities,

Monday, November 28, 2016

NYT: Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump
At times, Mr. Bannon’s rants against the ruling class — in which he is at least as unsparing of Republicans as of Democrats — strikingly echo populists on the left. In a revealing 2014 talk via Skype to a Vatican conference, some of his words might have come from Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Mr. Sanders of Vermont.

“Not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with the 2008 crisis,” Mr. Bannon fumed. “And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken.”

But if his scathing economic analysis sometimes seemed to dabble in Marxism, on other subjects, including race and religion, he made no concessions to political sensitivities. After Mr. Bannon met Mr. Breitbart at the 2004 screening of “In the Face of Evil,” the two men hit it off, bonding over their similar views and a common irreverent streak.

Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”

Mr. Bannon’s African-American friend from his Goldman years said that he had been at pains to defend him in recent years to mutual acquaintances put off first by Breitbart’s reputation and now by Mr. Bannon’s association with Mr. Trump. Most Christmas seasons over the past two decades, he said, Mr. Bannon was “my only token white guy,” or one of two or three, invited to an annual dinner at a New York City club for nearly a score of African-American friends who work or worked in finance.

“Now I’m getting a lot of, ‘What happened to Steve?’” from concerned black acquaintances, the friend said. He said he hoped Mr. Bannon — and more important, Mr. Trump — would more forthrightly denounce the bigots who have cheered them on. Still, he said, he completely rejects the accusations against Mr. Bannon.

“Hell, no, he’s not a white nationalist,” the friend said.
Passive observation, not even observation from above, voyeurism without the acknowledgement of voyeurism that would even make it enjoyable. It's bad art and bad politics. Bannon's a fascist. It's not that the article doesn't say it directly but that reading it you get the impression Scott Shane would never want to be seen as jumping to conclusions.

Shane tweets his work: "My attempt to understand Trump's lightning rod".

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Castro was a dictator who took care of the poor. Calling him a "communist" or defending him as a one is stupid.

A lot of Yugoslavs miss Tito.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

TBogg, an old member of the "reality-based community".
Harry Frankfurt, meet Bernard-Henri Levy

Anglo-American academic philosophers think Levy is an idiot, but they make the same pedant's defense of truth. Jason Stanley [etc.] did that on twitter and I replied with the images above. He deleted his tweet.

Rashomon A new pic this time.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Another from the first years of the 60s.

Alfred Kazin, Contemporaries,
The Village Today: or The Music the Money Makes
Saloon Society, by Bill Manville; photographs by David Attie, design by
Alexey Brodovitch. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce.

Bill Manville, who writes a column for the Village Voice, is an acute if perhaps too glibly rueful observer whose subject is New or Upper Bohemia. Whatever Greenwich Village may once have been or may now be supposed to have been, anyone who has recently strayed down MacDougal Street on a Saturday night knows that now it is a playground. What Coney Island was once to the honest workingman, Greenwich Village is now to the unmarried or ex-married young professional. The Village streets, pads, coffee houses, and bars are jammed with people who look a million times more sensitive, artistic, and "interesting" than William Faulkner or Igor Stravinsky, but who live by teaching economics, analyzing public opinion, writing advertising copy, practicing psychoanalysis, or "doing research" for political candidates. They are not intellectuals, but occasionally dream that they will be. That is their secret ambition. Meanwhile, being young and frisky, they are not yet the "managers" in our highly organized technical society. But they have the skills someday to become managers. Just now they don't want power any more than they want marriage. They want a good time, and a good time is what they go to the Village for, and a good time in the Village is what they get. The LeRoy Street Saloon, Chumley's, the San Remo, the White Horse Tavern, the Kettle, Minetta, O. Henry's, Louis's, the Riviera, Julius's, the Casa Allegra, El Faro. . . .

What I like most about Bill Manville's reports of conversations in these places is his honesty. He is aware of himself and his friends as the genuinely new fact the young always are, and he has the intelligence to notice what they want and what they miss. Maybe "honesty" in a writer is only a form that intelligence takes — perhaps this is why supposed rebels like the "beats" write so badly. But the vital difference is that the beat writers tend, on their own testimony, to be victims of mother and yearners after sex, and so write about sex as if it were the revolution. Manville's people are far more worldly than that. What the traveling salesman was once vis-a-vis the rural areas, these charming lechers and morning drinkers are now to all the humdrum and respectable marrieds in the suburbs.

The lines are carefully drawn: "Married and unmarried people should never mix. You can't be sentimental about these things; when your friends marry, you have to drop them, and they have to drop you." The same character says honestly, "God, I hate rent-payers, taxpayers, husbands, fathers, citizens, voters. I hate the New York Times, the Bronx, apple pie, motherhood, the forty-hour week, the Beat Generation, and Shirley Temple!" These are people who need just to support themselves and to pay the analyst, people (as Manville doesn't say) whose technical skills are automatic enough to leave them mentally free. They haven't moved to the Village because it's cheaper. But the blunt and concentrated pursuit of pleasure is still a vaguely subversive way of life in America. It is this that gives Manville's people their gallantry, charm, sauciness — and that touch of tristesse which Manville exploits like a musician sneaking in a few bars of Brahms.


But first things first. Manville has caught the delicious, the delirious, the whirligig music that money makes for so many people in New York just now. Here, at last, is a paean to good living by Greenwich Village as she is, not as she was when Edna St. Vincent Millay and Joe Gould burned their manuscripts to keep warm. "The cocktails came, so cold the gin smoked off the ice. Salad and steak, asparagus tender as love itself. Two kinds of wine cooled beside the table in silver ice buckets." On the wings of such food, sex follows swiftly. A young man named Phil confesses, "Wherever I go, I see magnificent women hurrying into saloons, stores, hotels, theaters, women so wonderful, so beautiful, so radiant and distant in their brilliance, they make me want to yell: 'Stop, stop, I don't
want to lose you!' "

That is downtown today, and even when it laughs at uptown in the person of a brazenly cynical millionaire out of a play by Bert Brecht or a movie by René Clair, it's hard to see what the difference is. Maybe it's that downtown always has uptown to laugh at. Here is a Villager describing the millionaire who arrives "a. little late, more than a little loaded. He has the standard uptown animal with him — taller than him, blonde of course, a certain dead-head serenity, a mink tent, and a Southern accent. Vanner himself is wearing an apricot-colored shirt and a tie that instantly lowers real-estate values for two blocks around. He glitters and winks with sharp metallic lights, and in fact he's encrusted all over with little bits of metal; gold cuff links, gold ring on the finger, a gold pin at the collar, another on the tie. . . , He's the kind of man who laughs a lot, you hip?"

Manville has a sure sense of style in his own writing. Sometimes, to be sure, he introduces names that remind you of Damon Runyon —George Gam, Lou the Ladies' Man, Perlman Pace, Maggie Singleton, and Big Mary; occasionally his interjected meditations on the world at large have the sentimental bitterness that reminds you of the pompous Broadway columnist. The very showiness and anxious cleverness of his obiter dicta tell you just how bourgeois and unintellectual the world of modern professionals really is. And this, I sadly discovered, is not a book to be read twice; it is journalism, not literature. But it has the great virtue of journalism — it brings news, it really informs us. And what makes these clever yet sometimes merely wistful conversations come alive is the fanaticism of people today trying to make a world entirely out of pleasure.

The "normal" world, the armed, busy, and political world, impinges so heavily that one has to blot it out to get a little privacy. But privacy is not enjoyable any more if it's experienced alone; hence the party in our age of the party — the party that starts Saturday morning ("Don't tell me about early in the morning, we'll pull the shades. We'll wear dark glasses") and that ends, really, never. Everything builds up and builds up all the time. The only question is the one Lou Manx discovered in his own mind when he fell ecstatically in love, and was ecstatically happy. "Then I thought: 'Is
this all I will ever feel in my life? Is there nothing left now but the long, slow, peaceful walk, hand in hand, to the grave?' So I broke up with her. Love is not enough."

I'm resisting the urge to highlight what I think should be obvious.

A new tag for criticism. There's lots of overlap. As always I did word searches to find old posts that fit, but I'm sure I missed a few. And since technocrats and academics qua academics, as "experts" now see themselves as critics, and as intellectuals, and since times are changing, there's a lot of overlap with the tag for The Discovery of Experience.

Kazin's is the sort of imagination I grew up with, a faded version of something much older.
Even reading earlier into the century, Dwight Macdonald, Alfred Kazin, and Edmund Wilson, something bothers me about the American reportorial style; an artlessness that leaves me suspect even when I want to agree with its arguments. “The triumph of the fact,” as Macdonald called it, came early. C. Wright Mills, writing in the mid 1950s, was a man in the grey flannel suit, rebelling against himself. Read The Power Elite for its language and you’ll sense it’s more symptom than critique. The description itself is flat: a jeremiad written as an end of year report. Without the historical awareness of what he was or what he came from, he was unable to describe his surroundings or himself as anything more than another example of the American pendulum, swinging from rationalism to irrationalism, from Puritan to drunk, and back again. The true genius of American art is only evident in the art of drunkenness, when the artist knows intuitively that the poetry of drunkenness needs to be the description of drunkenness: the rational description of irrational action. This is where critics would have an equal role: in the reciprocal relation of artist and critic, participant and observer, actor and historian. But they would only have this role if they threw away any pretense at a universal knowledge of value, and saw only its description in the relations among people. In democracy philosophy is parasitic.
Pankaj Mishra on Edmund Wilson.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jamelle Bouie: There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter
People voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes. They don’t deserve your empathy.
Donald Trump ran a campaign of racist demagoguery against Muslim Americans, Hispanic immigrants, and black protesters. He indulged the worst instincts of the American psyche and winked to the stream of white nationalists and anti-Semites who backed his bid for the White House. Millions of Americans voted for this campaign, thus elevating white nationalism and white reaction to the Oval Office.
I'm seeing this link passed around by Muslims who've spent years trying to explain the difference between Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda and ISIS. And now they've become the equivalent of liberal Zionists. The human mind is a fragile thing.

NYT: Can Trump Save Their Jobs? They’re Counting on It
INDIANAPOLIS — By the time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years this month, Paul Roell was already asleep. He did not stay up to see Barack Obama win the presidency in 2008, or watch in 2000 as the margin of votes separating George W. Bush and Al Gore in Florida shrank to the vanishing point.

After all, he has to clock in daily at 5:30 a.m. at the soon-to-be-shuttered Carrier factory here, where he has worked 17 years.

But shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday, when the networks projected that Donald J. Trump would be the next president of the United States, Mr. Roell was wide awake. His wife, Stephanie, was up, too, and they exchanged high fives in the wee hours.

In fact, Mr. Roell was so keyed up, he did not sleep at all that night and headed straight to the plant before sunrise, bleary-eyed but euphoric. “I don’t watch sports, but this was my World Series,” he said.

It is precisely this level of enthusiasm, from Mr. Roell and millions of like-minded Americans, that pollsters and the campaign of Hillary Clinton did not appreciate, even though it was vividly on display in February after a video went viral showing furious Carrier workers here learning from management that their jobs would be going abroad.

Carrier’s decision to move the factory to Monterrey, Mexico, will eliminate 1,400 jobs by 2019. Mr. Trump quickly made the factory Exhibit A in his argument against the trade policies of Republicans and Democrats alike.

He cited Carrier again and again on the campaign trail, threatening to phone executives at the company and its parent, United Technologies, and to hit them with 35 percent tariffs on any furnaces and air-conditioners they imported from Mexico. To the cheers of his supporters, he predicted at rallies that Carrier would call him up as president and say, “Sir, we’ve decided to stay in the United States.”

Now his supporters expect action. “If he doesn’t pass that tariff, I will vote the other way next time,” warned Nicole Hargrove, who has worked at Carrier for a decade and a half and is not certain what she will do if and when her job goes to Mexico.

...And while Mr. Roell is a conservative, Mr. Trump’s tough talk about Carrier, the economy and the future of American manufacturing jobs also appealed to moderates like Darrell Presley, a steelworker in rural Crawfordsville, Ind., who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008. “He was for change, and said he would take care of the middle class, but he didn’t live up to those expectations,” Mr. Presley said. “I feel like the American people are at the point where they’ve had it, and this was the last chance.”

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trump and the Revolt of the Rust Belt
The election is over and a potentially disastrous candidate has won. The damage to civil tolerance and multiculturalism is likely to be profound. A lot of people’s lives will change. Naturally, people are asking the question: who could have voted Trump into office? Well, clearly white people. This isn’t terribly surprising. White people have plenty to answer for in American history and show no particular energy about improving their record. Others blame people of color who didn’t turn out for Clinton as they did for Obama, never mind that expecting black people to turn out for anyone other than Michelle Obama as much as they did for Barack Obama is entirely unrealistic. Latinos voted for Trump at a slightly higher rate than they did for Romney. As baffling as that is on the surface, pure block voting is simply not how voting works and Latinos still voted overwhelmingly for Clinton.
The problem for explanation is not that any of these factors are irrelevant as such, they aren’t. They just don’t have much to do with the actual reason why Trump won. The reason he won should be obvious to anyone who pays attention to the electoral map rather than exit polls. The Rust Belt revolted against the rolling out of a neoliberal New Economy and multicultural society. The fact of this economic transformation is nothing new, people have been talking about it for years. In fact, policy makers, politicians, and journalists had also stopped talking about it, probably because they were exhausted by the conversation. Democrats learned that they could win presidential contests handily with only marginal nods to the industrial Midwest (Clinton: “Trump ties are made in China!”). Some states would just be written off by Democrats. Coal-mining and unionized West Virginia, solidly Democratic since the New Deal, was flipped to the Republican column in 2000 by climate warrior Al Gore. No one much cared, even though a Democratic West Virginia would have prevented a Bush presidency. Other states, it was assumed, would participate just enough in the economic transition to fracture any conservative Old Economy majority that might emerge in the Rust Belt. And even if it didn’t, there were enough black people and union workers to prevent a Republican victory in those states. Democrats were so confident of their support in Rust Belt states that they were part of Clinton’s “blue wall” that, it was argued, would deliver her the presidency even if Trump won traditional swing states like Florida.
The cultural transformation from a tacitly white society to a more multicultural one is considerably newer and much more at the center of political discussion—a transformation that was supercharged by the Obama presidency. This isn’t simple progress; it animated white supremacists, xenophobes, and homophobes as much as it did the tolerant. Such people are always around, there may even be more of them, but they don’t deliver electoral majorities. But this conversation was also a heavily coastal phenomenon. The Rust Belt has a lot of black people, but few Latinos. When workers were in unions alongside others who had different color skin, holding together a viable multiracial working class coalition was possible. But unions have been destroyed, with the Democratic Party complicit, and stunning economic decline has made it easy for narratives of zero-sum competition between different social groups to take hold. Democrats have offered precious little to prevent people in the Rust Belt from feeling embattled and forgotten. More to the point, the Clintons are avatars of free trade, financialization, and identity politics, a triumvirate of characteristics that associates them pretty directly with what many people associate with the causes of Rust Belt decline and crisis. But it didn’t matter that Democrats stood for these things when Republicans stood for most of them as well. When lines of political conflict were organized around abortion, guns, and taxes, as the Republican operative Grover Norquist wanted, there was no room for a distinctively Rust Belt politics. Trump changed that particular calculus. It may have been cynical, but the message was clear: he would be a protectionist president. This is a part of the country that does things like smash Japanese cars at civic events. Trump’s message was likely to resonate, but probably only in the Rust Belt. People have been suspicious of the role of the white working class for a variety of suspect reasons: sure, Trump supporters were on average affluent, but they are always Republican and aren’t numerous enough to deliver the presidency (538 has changed their view in the wake of the election result). Some point out that looking at support by income doesn’t show much distinctive support for Trump among the “poor”, but that’s beside the point too, as it submerges a regional phenomenon in a national average, just as exit polls do.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I'd put in a new post, but it's a perfect introduction to the post below. Even American historians have no sense of history. It's pathetic. "The American has got to destroy. It is his destiny"
Tocqueville was an adult, writing about children. And the children of those children produced more children.

Some images from The Vulgarians, by Robert Osborn, published in 1960. Full text and images available here.  I still have my parents' copy. It's moralizing, so childish too.

A paragraph from 2013 on Daniel Mendelsohn's review of Mad Men: 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. Homosexuality and interracial sex? Of course.

Harriet Nelson started smoking at 13, and hung out at the Cotton Club

Since the summer of 2007, when Mad Men premiered on the cable station AMC, the world it purports to depict—a lushly reimagined Madison Avenue in the 1960s, where sleekly suited, chain-smoking, hard-drinking advertising executives dream up ingeniously intuitive campaigns for cigarettes and bras and airlines while effortlessly bedding beautiful young women or whisking their Grace Kelly–lookalike wives off to business trips in Rome—has itself become the object of a kind of madness.
His exchange with Molly Haskel is fun. Interesting to remember that Mendelsohn is a famously a fan of historical fiction. He must have written about his argument with James.

To the Editor:
Re "Young Ladies on the Verge of a Breakthrough" by Katha Pollitt [Dec. 21]:

I was a student at Wellesley during the period of "Mona Lisa Smile," studying art history and later becoming a professor of art. The film presents art classes at Wellesley in the 1950's as needing shaking up; in one scene the president of the college warns the Julia Roberts character, "A little less modern art, Miss Watson."

Quite ludicrous. Wellesley pioneered the study of modern art. Alfred H. Barr Jr., a professor of art at Wellesley in the 1920's, later became the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He introduced the Bauhaus to the public in a landmark exhibition at the Modern in 1938 — years after Wellesley women studied it. When I began to teach art history, I unearthed my Wellesley notebooks as a resource, and I have them here now. I am happy (but not surprised) to see that an entry for Jan. 27 — the year would have been 1953 or 1954 — shows Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Mark Tobey. Earlier sections on Picasso, Cézanne and van Gogh note assigned reading in Barr, Greenberg and The Partisan Review. We did not paint by the numbers, one of many unfortunate misrepresentations of Wellesley by this film.
related 11/20 Alfred Kazin in 1960: "Whatever Greenwich Village may once have been or may now be supposed to have been,..."

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

updated, again
He deleted the tweet.
I blame liberals for everything. Always.

(see the arrows and numbers on the right of the bottom graph)
When Harold Washington won his first term as mayor of Chicago, after an election in which the white vote was split between two white candidates, one of the first things he did was tour white working class neighborhoods. He walked around and said "Hey, These streets are a mess! These garbage cans haven't been emptied for weeks! We'll have to do something about that!" And he did. The locals were shocked. They never thought a black mayor would give a damn about them. Washington won his second term running against only one significant opponent.
Michael Moore in July: 5 Reasons Trump Will Win. 
Greenwald post mortem: Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit

Mark Blyth is good, again

Monday, November 07, 2016

From the people who brought you Funny or Die, Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, etc, etc.