Saturday, March 28, 2020


Tyler Cowen. "The real contributions of Harvard, MIT and Stanford to the world are not the food-service workers they hire."

Henry Farrell responds
There is also the conservative case (from @SWGoldman
fair) that the actual function of Harvard etc is to inculcate appropriate values in elite. On the one hand, those values might include solidarity with ordinary people in hard times.
Farrell and Cowen

"...individualism is textual originalism read into the self, as author and actor, and read forward."

The more things change...

I was thrown off Twitter for the same reason I was blocked by Crooked Timber. The difference between coronavirus denialism and other forms is only the number of layers you have to get through before you reach the hard level of faith. And the owners and managers of Twitter follow the model of enlightened seriousness originating in the church, followed by academia and now by professionalized journalism, that mandates neutrality with exceptions as chosen by leadership.  I wasn't "collegial". On Twitter that means I replied directly rather than posting a screenshot for others to mock. And today the same idiot is retweeting claims that there is no ventilator shortage and hospitals are not beyond capacity.

The rise of science denialism is the backlash against decades of academic and political pseudoscience.

Nichols is the author of The Death of Expertise; bullshit, published by Oxford.

Friday, March 13, 2020

New examples of the same old thing, and slow change. Liberal authoritarianism, the return of the social, of experience, empiricism, etc. The tags explain.

Branko Milanovic
"Swapping my Russian passport for a Dutch one, I realized that while nothing has changed about me as a person, I am treated radically differently anywhere I go. This is the random privilege that contemporary citizenship upholds."
linking to Nils Gilman
Citizenship is a morally repugnant scam whose "key function boils down to the preservation and reinforcement of global inequalities, as well as the distribution of liabilities to the majority of the world’s population, mostly former colonial subjects."
linking to The case against citizenship
When we understand citizenship’s actual functioning in faithful, accurate terms, it cannot under any circumstances be justified.
Citizenship is the foundation of self-government. Liberals support 'guided' democracy and the rule of technocrats, a ruling class searching for 'justice'.

Liberal technocrats support hate speech laws, (a recent example of German perversity).
Efforts by German authorities to clamp down on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign took a sinister turn recently after a Jewish-German singer and daughter of a Holocaust survivor was warned that a concert in which she is scheduled to perform would be cancelled if she made any remarks in support of BDS. 
The threat, which suggests that German officials are policing how Israel is discussed in arts and cultural events, shows Nirit Sommerfeld receiving a letter in which the singer is warned that if she used the word BDS or anything they deem to be “anti-Semitic” German authorities would cancel the concert in Munich on Saturday. Sommerfeld and her orchestra Shlomo Geistreich are scheduled to hold a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the band.

Videos being passed around twitter of Italians in their apartments, singing songs together out into the street. The Europeans and others are touched. One pompous Oxbridge philosoph, from Rome, posts a thread,  "to celebrate the resilience of ordinary people", with videos from Salerno, Naples, Turin, Benevento, Siena, Florence, Nuoro, Arigento. Himself not being an ordinary person, he's celebrating the fatalism of the weak. No one seems to get that this is a parallel to the inability of Italy to have an organized functioning response to the crisis. An American academic specializing in Europe notes happily that they sang songs in the plague years in 16th century. Of course they did. And it's beautiful, but it's tragic. Those singing get the point.

Arindrajit Dube:
"Maybe one thing Americans have got going for us is that as a people we actually are ok with social distancing from other human beings and don’t need to really even do balcony dances."

I made my usual response

"The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer."
Milanovic March 19, 2020, Foreign Affairs:
"The Real Pandemic Danger Is Social Collapse. As the Global Economy Comes Apart, Societies May, Too"
Even so, the human toll of the disease will be the most important cost and the one that could lead to societal disintegration. Those who are left hopeless, jobless, and without assets could easily turn against those who are better off. Already, some 30 percent of Americans have zero or negative wealth. If more people emerge from the current crisis with neither money, nor jobs, nor access to health care, and if these people become desperate and angry, such scenes as the recent escape of prisoners in Italy or the looting that followed Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 might become commonplace. If governments have to resort to using paramilitary or military forces to quell, for example, riots or attacks on property, societies could begin to disintegrate. 
Thus the main (perhaps even the sole) objective of economic policy today should be to prevent social breakdown. Advanced societies must not allow economics, particularly the fortunes of financial markets, to blind them to the fact that the most important role economic policy can play now is to keep social bonds strong under this extraordinary pressure.
Milanovic, March 30, 2019, the most recent link,  to a post from 2017:
Dining alone…in a hyper-competitive world
Is the life where we “bowl alone”, dine alone, exercise alone, go to concerts alone, live alone our ultimate objective? It seems to be the case. The average size of household has been going down with higher income. Not only do richer countries have lower (or negative) population growth rates, but the richer the country the smaller the household size. The final objective will be to live in a world where each household is composed of one person. Denmark, Norway and Germany are almost there: the average household size is 2.2 (Senegal and Mali have the average household size of 9.1 and 9.5). Japan offers a vision of a society of ultra-competitiveness combined with loneliness.

We should not be surprised by such an outcome. Being together with others always had an economic angle: expenses were less, on a per capita basis, when shared; we needed children to help us in the old age and spouses to pay our bills. But with higher incomes and higher labor participation rates, we can afford expensive utility bills, we can provide for our old age and a comfortable old-age home (so broadly advertised today). Our children (if we have any) will be too far away, cast around by the availability of jobs and hyper-competitiveness to take care of us.

Being alone is both our preference and a response to a world of competitiveness, commodification and higher incomes. The new world that we can glean will not be dystopian. It will be a Utopia, with a twist.

“It will not be a universal concentration camp for it will be guilty of no atrocity. It will not seem insane, for everything will be ordered, and the stains of human passions will be lost amid the chromium gleam. We shall have nothing to lose and nothing to win. Our deepest instincts and our most secret passions will be analyzed, published and exploited. We shall be rewarded with everything our hearts ever desired. And the supreme luxury of the society of technical necessity will be to grant the bonus of useless revolt and an acquiescent smile.” (Jacques Ellul, The technological society, 1954).
Milanovic replying to me in Feb 2018. "We all die alone"
He seems to be learning something, but it's hard to tell.

Capitalism Alone. He's considered to be on the left, which is stupid. He's a hard-wired technocrat struggling to come to terms with the need for a social cohesion that technocracy doesn't supply. I don't quibble with his description of China, and tossing his book at them is the easiest response to earnest American preachers of the end of capitalism.

Gilman's a fan of Hofstadter. He used to read me here, when he was the Chief of staff of the Chancellor at UC Berkeley. He needs his own tag.  From Berkeley to The Berggruen Institute to godawful Breakthrough InstituteMandarins of the Future indeed.

Milanovic reminds me of Zizek. That's something to write about. I like Yugos.
When Europeans talk about Liberalism, they're referring to the state of being of the modern bourgeoisie.
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois!” they say.
That’s the basis of every European conversation.
“Good morning”
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois!”
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois too!”
“Coffee?”
In America at least in big cities when we pretend to like foreigners, we talk about being Liberal instead of being bourgeois, because to attack liberalism seems to imply conservatism, or worse! That puts people in the position of arguing that Gramma’s manicotti is really not as good as the frozen kind because Gramma was a peasant who went to Church three times an hour while waiting for the Second Coming, and frozen manicotti is the wave of the future and besides, it feeds the masses, but anyway you don’t eat frozen manicotti because you go to La Maison de la Casa House or some other such for manicotti that is better than Gramma’s and that only cost $40 so why not? This is modern American liberalism.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

I left the job yesterday, and put my tools in the shop. I told my boss everything would be shut down in a week. He thought it would be three.

---
Because I'm lazy and it's easy this way.
Quiggin has a tag. It's not new.
Idiots






Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday, February 09, 2020

The night before the caucus clusterfuck, while the Super Bowl played, Bernie Sanders acolytes threw a party at a hole-in-the-wall bar in downtown Des Moines. Bearded 20-somethings smoked actual cigarettes outside and discussed the difference in rental prices between Silver Lake and Williamsburg. Inside, the crowd of canvassers and campaign staffers bopped to “Common People,” the Britpop class-rage anthem by Pulp. Writers from New York magazine, as well as leftwing publications like Jacobin and n+1, sidled up to the bar and got down to discussing labor rights. The nearest L train stop was 1,100 miles away.

...The Sanders shindig Sunday night was conjured by the hosts of Chapo Trap House, the popular podcast of the self-proclaimed “dirtbag left” — the radicalized, often vulgar, and sometimes hilarious internet creatures all in for Bernie. The show’s hosts gathered in a tiny and graffiti-covered back room that looked like a charming imitation of a Lower East Side dive bar bathroom and discussed their candidate’s chances in the caucuses and whether one could get HBO interested in a miniseries starring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Out on the dance floor, a massive image of Jeffrey Epstein’s bungalow on Little Saint James, otherwise known as “Pedophile Island,” was being beamed onto the walls.
The difference between Sanders' working class and minority supporters and those who "express solidarity" with them.  Tickets for the Chapo event were $25, $15 for students. The podcast now makes $160, 857 a month
WEST LIBERTY — Sylvia Gutierrez and her boyfriend, Kevin Fernandez, both 22, didn’t caucus four years ago. But this year, Fernandez’s grandmother, who is not a U.S. citizen, gave them a mission: Be her voice and caucus for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“I’m here because family members wanted a vote that can’t vote,” Gutierrez said. “He (Fernandez) convinced me, and so did his grandparents. His grandmother said to come and vote for her.”

The couple were among a large contingent of supporters for the Vermont senator at West Liberty’s second precinct on Monday night during the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

Solidarity,  among members of a group is not a decision; it's a reflex. The decision would be to refuse it, to chose to be disloyal, forms of which will make you  a "rat", a "snitch", or a "scab".
solidarity | ˌsäləˈderədē |
noun
1 unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group: factory workers voiced solidarity with the striking students. 
2 (Solidarity) an independent trade union movement in Poland that developed into a mass campaign for political change and inspired popular opposition to communist regimes across eastern Europe during the 1980s. [translating Polish Solidarność.]
That the dictionary editors chose the example of workers joining students is either ironic or predictable, since editors and students are members of the same group, and loyalty wins out.

etc, etc

What's interesting and good about Sanders is that he still has an unthinking loyalty to people he sees as like himself: workers and immigrants, people who are in the process of becoming or dream of becoming middle class, as opposed to the earnest children of success who want to help.

The Dirtbag Left is the new, new liberalism, a down and dirty Douglas Black.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Technocratic liberalism and Israel. In a few years no one is going to admit defending either of them.
"We're all populists now" or something.
Please Stop Calling Bernie Sanders a Populist 
The socialist from Vermont is not a threat to American democracy. The president is.
By Jan-Werner Müller
Mr. Müller is the author of “What Is Populism?”
Sanders is a populist. MLK was a populist. The technocratic definition of populism comes from continental Europe. The UK Labour Party was populist, or it was. That's why Keynes hated it.
Müller is German. Cas Mudde is Dutch. Inquisitorial vs Adversarial etc. The days of Weberian anti-liberalism being the definition of liberalism are ending. Weberian anti-liberalism is still a problem.

I'm so fucking bored.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

3/7 Hello Chicago. Who are you?
----

Just for fun, and memories of the good old days.

Henry Farrell recommends Osita Nwanevu: "This is good"

The Enemies of Truth
"The true enemy of writing Packer conjures up isn’t belonging or fear, but the reader."

The pic is Henry's sister, smiling army wife. "Chicks dig the uniform."  More here. Including these:

The Farrells and Hitchens, and "Learning by Doing"

Maria Farrell, like Hitchens, is honest.  And like Hitchens whether what she says is true or not –comporting with the facts–  is another matter. Her brother, like Packer, is dishonest. Both make a living as pedants, writing for an audience more than for themselves, imaging their own objectivity, blind to their own affect, false humility and self-importance. Nwanevu is a U. Chicago grad building a career. He has time to learn but won't.

The Independent:
War crimes court could investigate British army for first time over alleged civilian killings in Afghanistan and Iraq
HRW
When it comes to cosying up to alleged torturers in Afghanistan, the United States military has been a slow learner. 
The US-led NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan just published a photo of Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, sharing a laugh with Kandahar strongman Gen. Abdul Raziq, long accused of forcibly disappearing detainees and having his henchman drill holes in the heads of some of them. Raziq runs secret prisons where torture is rife, and he’s also been implicated in corruption involving cross-border smuggling and unpaid custom duties. Both the United Nations and Afghan human rights activists have accused Raziq’s forces of extrajudicial killings going back at least a decade.
Gilles Dorronsoro, Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present,  trans. John King, Columbia University Press, 2005 .
The role of the loya jirga, inaugurated by the former king Zahir Shah on 11 June 2002, was the transfer of the interim administration's authority to the Afghanistan Transitional Authority. There was inevitably some confusion, but the positions of the various delegates gravitated towards the exclusion of former ‘commanders' and to support for Zahir Shah. However, the crucial decisions and in particular the choice of Hamid Karzai, had already been taken by the Americans, at whose behest Zahir Shah was obliged to step aside. Actually a majority of the delegates appeared to be prepared to cast their votes for Zahir Shah, a development which would have blocked the election of the Americans’ candidate. For his part the king let it be known that he was ready to assume any responsibility which the loya jirga might wish to confer upon him, but in spite of this, shortly after the Loya jirga opened, the US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad publicly denied that Zahir Shah intended to put himself forward, and confirmed that he would give his support to Hamid Karzai. Some hours later Zahir Shah fell into line with the US position at a press conference, where the only diplomatic observers present were Americans, and irrevocably renounced anything other than a ceremonial role. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

"edenbaumstudio home"
Just like it says on the right side of the page.
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The Process of Weeding Out, I and II 1984-5
The Process of Weeding Out III, 1986

Friday, January 17, 2020

repeats, because I can't get this stupidity out of my head.
--
"Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus" It means just what it says. Ferdinand I was a Catholic absolutist.
Justice is for and of god. Kant's twist is silly, Arendt's obliviousness to history is just odd. Spinoza was writing after Westphalia.

Arendt, Truth and Politics
The subject of these reflections is a commonplace. No one has ever doubted that truth and politics are on rather bad terms with each other, and no one, as far as I know, has ever counted truthfulness among the political virtues. Lies have always been regarded as necessary and justifiable tools not only of the politician's or the demagogue's but also of the statesman's trade. Why is that so? And what does it mean for the nature and the dignity of the political realm, on one side, and for the nature and the dignity of truth and truthfulness, on the other? Is it of the very essence of truth to be impotent and of the very essence of power to be deceitful? And what kind of reality does truth possess if it is powerless in the public realm, which more than any other sphere of human life guarantees reality of existence to natal and mortal men–that is, to beings who know they have appeared out of non-being and will, after a short while, again disappear into it? Finally, is not impotent truth just as despicable as power that gives no heed to truth? These are uncomfortable questions, but they arise necessarily out of our current convictions in this matter.

What lends this commonplace its high plausibility can still be summed up in the old Latin adage "Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus" ("Let justice be done though the world may perish"). Apart from its probable author in the sixteenth century (Ferdinand I, successor to Charles V), no one has used it except as a rhetorical question: Should justice be done if the world's survival is at stake? And the only great thinker who dared to go against the grain of the question was Immanuel Kant, who boldly explained that the "proverbial saying ... means in simple language: 'Justice shall prevail, even though all the rascals in the world should perish as a result.' " Since men would not find it worth while to live in a world utterly deprived of justice, this "human right must be held sacred, regardless of how much sacrifice is required of the powers that be . . . regardless of what might be the physical consequences thereof."[1] But isn't this answer absurd? Doesn't the care for existence clearly precede everything else–every virtue and every principle? Is it not obvious that they become mere chimeras if the world, where alone they can be manifested, is in jeopardy? Wasn't the seventeenth century right when it almost unanimously declared that every commonwealth was duty bound to recognize, in Spinoza's words, "no higher law than the safety of [its] own realm"? [2] For surely every principle that transcends sheer existence can be put in the place of justice, anq if we put truth in its place–"Fiat veritas, et pereat mundus"–the old saying sounds even more plausible. If we understand political action in terms of the means-end category, we may even come to the only seemingly paradoxical conclusion that lying can very well serve to establish or safeguard the conditions for the search after truth–as Hobbes, whose relentless logic never fails to carry arguments to those extremes where their absurdity becomes obvious, pointed out long ago.[3] And lies, since they are often used as substitutes for more violent means, are apt to be considered relatively harmless tools in the arsenal of political action.

Reconsidering the old Latin saying, it will therefore come as something of a surprise that the sacrifice of truth for the survival of the world would be more futile than the sacrifice of any other principle or virtue. For while we may refuse even to ask ourselves whether life would still be worth living in a world deprived of such notions as justice and freedom, the same, curiously, is not possible with respect to the seemingly so much less political idea of truth. What is at stake is survival, the perseverance in existence (in suo esse perseverare), and no human world destined to outlast the short life span of mortals within it will ever be able to survive without men willing to do what Herodotus was the first to undertake consciously–namely λἐγειν τα ἐὀντα,  to say what is. No permanence, no perseverance in existence, can even be conceived of without men willing to testify to what is and appears to them because it is.
--- 
1. Eternal Peace, Appendix I 
2. I quote from Spinoza's Political Treatise because it is noteworthy that even
Spinoza, for whom the libertas philosophandi was the true end of government,
should have taken so radical a position. 
3. In the Leviathan (ch. 46) Hobbes explains that "disobedience may lawfully be
punished in them, that against the laws teach even true philosophy." For is not "leisure the mother of philosophy; and Commonwealth the mother of peace and leisure"? And does it not follow that the Commonwealth will act in the interest ofphilosophy when it suppresses a truth which undermines peace? Hence the truthteller, in order to cooperate in an enterprise which is so necessary for his own peace of body and decides to write what he knows "to be false philosophy." Of this Hobbes suspected Aristotle of all people, who according to him "writ it as a thing consonant to, and corroborative of [the Greeks'] religion; fearing the fate of Socrates." It never occurred to Hobbes that all search for truth would be self-defeating if its conditions could be guaranteed only by deliberate falsehoods. Then, indeed, everybody may turn out to be a liar like Hobbes' Aristode. Unlike this figment of Hobbes' logical fantasy, the real Aristotle was of course sensible enough to leave Athens when he came to fear the fate of Socrates; he was not wicked enough to write what he knew to be false, nor was he stupid enough to solve his problem of survival by destroying everything he stood for.
On Charles V
When he renounced his crown in 1555, retiring to a monastery he took nine of Titian’s paintings with him, including the monumental ‘Triumph of Faith”, La Gloria”, “and he is said to have looked at it in his dying days with such persistence and intensity of feeling that his doctors took fright.”

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Adults.

Farnaz Fassihi (NYT) on twitter "Tehran billboard replaces Gen. Soleimani's photo with the names of victims perished in airplane tragedy."

Unimaginable in Saudi.

"Unforgivable" "Ashamed"

The New Yorker, 2013,
Before the bombing began, Crocker sensed that the Iranians were growing impatient with the Bush Administration, thinking that it was taking too long to attack the Taliban. At a meeting in early October, 2001, the lead Iranian negotiator stood up and slammed a sheaf of papers on the table. “If you guys don’t stop building these fairy-tale governments in the sky, and actually start doing some shooting on the ground, none of this is ever going to happen!” he shouted. “When you’re ready to talk about serious fighting, you know where to find me.” He stomped out of the room. “It was a great moment,” Crocker said.

The coöperation between the two countries lasted through the initial phase of the war. At one point, the lead negotiator handed Crocker a map detailing the disposition of Taliban forces. “Here’s our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here’s the logic.” Stunned, Crocker asked, “Can I take notes?” The negotiator replied, “You can keep the map.” The flow of information went both ways. On one occasion, Crocker said, he gave his counterparts the location of an Al Qaeda facilitator living in the eastern city of Mashhad. The Iranians detained him and brought him to Afghanistan’s new leaders, who, Crocker believes, turned him over to the U.S. The negotiator told Crocker, “Haji Qassem is very pleased with our coöperation.”

The good will didn’t last. In January, 2002, Crocker, who was by then the deputy chief of the American Embassy in Kabul, was awakened one night by aides, who told him that President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, had named Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil.” Like many senior diplomats, Crocker was caught off guard. He saw the negotiator the next day at the U.N. compound in Kabul, and he was furious. “You completely damaged me,” Crocker recalled him saying. “Suleimani is in a tearing rage. He feels compromised.” The negotiator told Crocker that, at great political risk, Suleimani had been contemplating a complete reëvaluation [SIC-pompous/pretention] of the United States, saying, “Maybe it’s time to rethink our relationship with the Americans.” The Axis of Evil speech brought the meetings to an end. Reformers inside the government, who had advocated a rapprochement with the United States, were put on the defensive. Recalling that time, Crocker shook his head. “We were just that close,” he said. “One word in one speech changed history.”
WaPo Nov. 2018
Top Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked a small group of businessmen last year about using private companies to assassinate Iranian enemies of the kingdom, according to three people familiar with the discussions. 
The Saudis inquired at a time when Prince Mohammed, then the deputy crown prince and defense minister, was consolidating power and directing his advisers to escalate military and intelligence operations outside the kingdom. Their discussions, more than a year before the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, indicate that top Saudi officials have considered assassinations since the beginning of Prince Mohammed’s ascent.
Saudi officials have portrayed Mr. Khashoggi’s death as a rogue killing ordered by an official who has since been fired. But that official, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, was present for a meeting in March 2017 in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where the businessmen pitched a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives to try to sabotage the Iranian economy. 
During the discussion, part of a series of meetings where the men tried to win Saudi funding for their plan, General Assiri’s top aides inquired about killing Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and a man considered a determined enemy of Saudi Arabia. 
The interest in assassinations, covert operations and military campaigns like the war in Yemen — overseen by Prince Mohammed — is a change for the kingdom, which historically has avoided an adventurous foreign policy that could create instability and imperil Saudi Arabia’s comfortable position as one of the world’s largest oil suppliers. 
As for the businessmen, who had intelligence backgrounds, they saw their Iran plan both as a lucrative source of income and as a way to cripple a country that they and the Saudis considered a profound threat. George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, arranged the meeting. He had met previously with Prince Mohammed, and had pitched the Iran plan to Trump White House officials. Another participant in the meetings was Joel Zamel, an Israeli with deep ties to his country’s intelligence and security agencies. 
Both Mr. Nader and Mr. Zamel are witnesses in the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and prosecutors have asked them about their discussions with American and Saudi officials about the Iran proposal. It is unclear how this line of inquiry fits into Mr. Mueller’s broader inquiry. In 2016, a company owned by Mr. Zamel, Psy-Group, had pitched the Trump campaign on a social media manipulation plan. 
A spokesman for the Saudi government declined to comment, as did lawyers for both Mr. Nader and Mr. Zamel. 
Old news. So boring.

Akbar Ganji in Foreign Affairs
Who Is Ali Khamenei?

Ted Koppel in the WSJ, April, 2011
The Arab Spring and U.S. Policy: The View From Jerusalem: Israeli officials want a public commitment from Washington to protect the Saudi regime should it come under threat.
Iran is a democracy compared to the Gulf states. That scares them more than anything else.
MBZ is Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE