Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Two philosophy professors, with the tics and mannerisms of teenagers, upspeak, dripping false beliefs like sweat. Suburban American performative self-blindness.
"...lay theorists, um yu'know just us ordinary folks." I've known too many of them. And they treat working people like shit.

From Leiter

Another variety here. "Left Anchor" with Ryan Cooper  "Episode 157 - Imperial Rollback with Daniel Bessner".  Bessner, of The Quincy Institute, who now writes for a site run by an expert from a US propaganda shop and Chapo Frat House. 

Listen to the little intro, with the jokes about transferring military funding to antifa, and then look for the Pentagon careerists from the Naval War College. Metz, pals with Exum, the competent fratboy colonialist. The new generation of liberals think they're commies. And since they only talk to friends no one corrects them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

"Just finished a book (The Jakarta Method), after covering SE Asia for @washingtonpost. Before that, @latimes in Brazil and @FT in London but I'm from California"

"This US presidential debate is making me feel much worse than I expected"  

"Why don’t single-issue anti-abortion voters oppose this Trump Supreme Court nomination?"

"In 2016, Democrats made the mistake of focusing on Trump's rude, crude and vulgar mouth (on display, I gather at last night's "debate" [sic], which apparently some sentient people actually watched!).  Alas, Democrats may be doing it again." 

"Mr. Trump was the first modern presidential candidate to respect this culture of honor–" 

"HF: You define democracy as a 'system in which parties lose elections.' Why is this such a crucial defining feature?"

repeats "College-educated Americans speak about the economic problems of the working class in terms of trends that can be seen in tables and graphs."

repeats "My students were all obsessed with sex. Not the idea of sex, or the meaning of sex, but sex!"

The liberal elite doesn't understand the working class for the same reason that it didn't understood blacks, women, gays, Jews, Palestinians–colonial subjects, on down the list. And when all the others are accepted, the working class will still be the working class. 

repeats. recently. I forget too much.

"I'm from Austria, motherfucker!. I'm from Graz! Arnold Schwarzenegger's hometown!"
"No wonder you sound like a Guinea."
"Yeah! We're right on the fuckin' border"
"A good Irish name."
"You're alright for a Jew!"
"What's the difference between a nigger and a pizza?"
"There's a black man in the room!"
"I don't care! What's the difference between a nigger and a fucking pizza?
"I don't know."
"A pizza can feed a family of four!"
[The black man looks at the ground shakes his head slowly and laughs]
"How many languages do you speak?"
"I can say "pussy" in 12 languages!"

Those stories are old. I wasn't working construction for years but I was back until recently. For most of 2019 and into 20 I was working on a Polish crew. One Honduran laborer and one Puerto Rican. The Puerto Rican was married to a Polish woman with family in Interpol. I've never heard the word schmatte so many times in my life. And Shiksa is Polish for annoying girl. Not slut, not bad, just annoying. I have more stories, good and bad. I can have respect for asshole anti-Semites who've worked their entire lives like dogs. I'm still an asshole collegeboy. I could've been something else and I'm not. I had the advantages they never had.  I still do. Yes and no.

I want a history and ethnography of post-war academia in the Netherlands, and the spread of the Anglo-American academic culture of shit.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Therefore it is as a Jew that I must accept black nationalism. The black militants may or may not be the equivalent of the Irgun and Stern gang, but surely the parallel is there. The Jewish war of national liberation is different from that of the blacks or the Viet Cong only in that the Jews are closer to success, but what was won by Jewish fighters on the battlefields of Palestine will not be lost by Jewish moral cowards here in America. The black revolution also will succeed, but when it does the blacks will lose all their white "friends." They will be called "anti-progressive." They will labelled the aggressors. If they win again and again, they will be called “oppressors". As he does now, the black will surely stand alone. 

The tidal shift underway has little in common with the precedents pundits lean on. This is not a leftist Tea Party, because newly engaged suburban activists hail from across the broad ideological range from center to left. It’s not a Sanders versus Clinton redux, because that “last year’s news” divide is flatly irrelevant to the people working shoulder-to-shoulder in the present. It’s not an Occupy Wall Street-type questioning of liberal democracy, because these activists believe laws can make good government as strong and transparent as possible. It’s not the 1960s, with young people leading the way—although there are lots of helpful teenagers in the background saying, “Mom, it’s fine: go to your meeting; I’ll get dinner myself.”

The protagonists of the trends we report on are mainly college-educated suburban white women. We tell their stories not because college-educated white women are the most Democratic slice of the electorate (they aren’t) or because they are the most progressive voices within the Democratic Party (they aren’t) or because they have a special claim to lead the left moving forward (they don’t: nor do they pretend to). Rather, what we report here is that it is among these college-educated, middle-aged women in the suburbs that political practices have most changed under Trump. If your question is how the panorama of political possibility has shifted since November 2016, your story needs to begin here.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Adam Tooze in FP : In a little-noticed speech this week, China permanently changed the global fight against climate change. 

“China will scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by adopting more vigorous policies and measures. We aim to have [carbon dioxide] emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.” 

Xi Jinping’s speech via video link to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 22 was not widely trailed in advance. But with those two short sentences China’s leader may have redefined the future prospects for humanity. 

That may sound like hyperbole, but in the world of climate politics it is hard to exaggerate China’s centrality. Thanks to the gigantic surge in economic growth since 2000 and its reliance on coal-fired electricity generation, China is now by far the largest emitter of carbon dioxide. At about 28 percent of the global total, the carbon dioxide produced in China (as opposed to that consumed in the form of Chinese exports) is about as much as that produced by the United States, European Union, and India combined. Per capita, its emissions are now greater than those of the EU if we count carbon dioxide emissions on a production rather than a consumption basis. 

Global warming is produced not by the annual flows of carbon but by the stocks that have accumulated over time in the Earth’s atmosphere. Allowing an equal ration for every person on the planet, it remains the case that the historic responsibility for excessive carbon accumulation lies overwhelmingly with the United States and Europe. Still today China’s emissions per capita are less than half those of the United States. But as far as future emissions are concerned, everything hinges on China. As concerned as Europeans and Americans may be with climate policy, they are essentially bystanders in a future determined by the decisions made by the large, rapidly growing Asian economies, with China far in the lead. China’s rapid rebound from the COVID-19 shock only reinforces that point. With his terse remarks, Xi has mapped out a large part of the future path ahead.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Our era is drenched in narrative. From the beguiling flame spiral of neoliberalism’s end of ‘grand narratives’, to Trump’s three and four word (lock her up / maga) ultra-short stories of destruction, to our helpless fascination with the far right’s ability to govern by unverified sound-bite, to the fact that every shitty little marketer on the Internet now calls themselves a ‘storyteller’; story has eaten the world.

I'm torn. I really am

Dreams are stories. Stories are enchantments. Historians tell stories. Max Weber told stories. Statisticians tell stories. The history of dreams of an eternal present is comedy and tragedy. 

The powerful tell stories to a large audience. The powerless tell stories to each other. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful transition of power after Election Day
President Donald Trump on Wednesday would not commit to providing a peaceful transition of power after Election Day, lending further fuel to concerns he may not relinquish his office should he lose in November. "Well, we're going to have to see what happens," Trump said when asked whether he'd commit to a peaceful transition, one of the cornerstones of American democracy.   
I’ve Never Been More Worried About American Democracy Than I Am Right Now
The preemptive attack on the vote count is a five-alarm fire.
With less than six weeks to go before Election Day, and with over 250 COVID-related election lawsuits filed across 45 states, the litigation strategy of the Trump campaign and its allies has become clear: try to block the expansion of mail-in balloting whenever possible and, in a few key states, create enough chaos in the system and legal and political uncertainty in the results that the Supreme Court, Congress, or Republican legislatures can throw the election to Trump if the outcome is at all close or in doubt. It’s a Hail Mary, but in a close enough election, we cannot count the possibility out. I’ve never been more worried about American democracy than I am right now. 
If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him? 
According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires.

A culture of passive observation. Talking to your friends isn't political engagement. A politician states his intent to undermine our system of government, and the most journalists do is warn us, as if they were reporting a fire. 

"Are you a soldier or a citizen?" etc.

"Why did you choose the Corps Franc?"
"Because I understood," he said. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

 The only individualists in sports are the cheaters.

Someone on twitter made an "alignment chart" for members of her Marx reading group and I realized I'd never looked up the origins. No surprises.

Arneson's role-playing game design work grew from his interest in wargames. His parents bought him the board wargame Gettysburg by Avalon Hill in the early 1960s. After Arneson taught his friends how to play, the group began to design their own games[5] and tried out new ways to play existing games. Arneson was especially fond of naval wargames.[6] Exposure to role-playing influenced his later game designs. In college history classes he role-played historical events, and preferred to deviate from recorded history in a manner similar to "what if" scenarios recreated in wargames.[7] In the late 1960s[5] Arneson joined the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA), a group of miniature wargamers and military figurine collectors in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area that included among its ranks future game designer David Wesely. Wesely asserts that it was during the Braunstein games he created and refereed, and in which other MMSA members participated, that Arneson helped develop the foundations of modern role-playing games on a 1:1 scale basis by focusing on non-combat objectives—a step away from wargaming towards the more individual play and varied challenges of later RPGs.[8][9] Arneson was a participant in Wesely's wargame scenarios, and as Arneson continued to run his own scenarios he eventually expanded them to include ideas from The Lord of the Rings and Dark Shadows.[10] Arneson took over the Braunsteins when Wesely was drafted into the Army, and often ran them in different eras with different settings.[11]:6 Arneson had also become a member of the International Federation of Wargamers by this time.[11]:6 In 1969 Arneson was a history student at the University of Minnesota and working part-time as a security guard.[12] He attended the second Gen Con gaming convention in August 1969 (at which time wargaming was still the primary focus) and it was at this event that he met Gary Gygax,[13][14] who had founded the Castle & Crusade Society within the International Federation of Wargamers in the 1960s at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, not far from Arneson's home in Minnesota.[5][12] Arneson and Gygax also shared an interest in sailing ship games and they co-authored the Don't Give Up the Ship naval battle rules, serialized from June 1971 and later published as a single volume in 1972 by Guidon Games with a revised edition by TSR, Inc. in 1975.[12][15]

Dungeons and DragonsSlate Star Codex, "rationalists" Scott Aaronson, Aaron Swartz, David Graeber, Utopia and Intentional Communities, Transhumanism and Transgender, Fascism, Futurism and Data Culture,

The Council of Elders

As I said recently.

Take me back to 2003:
Judicial Review, and the overlapping term, "pendulum"

SCOTUS is a stabilizing force. Leiter calls it a "super-legislature", but it's more than that, if only by degree. If anyone wants to scream about democracy (and Leiter certainly doesn't) then they should complain we don't have referendums on everything. We elect our various representatives for set periods of time. Ending lifetime tenure for justices is a good idea but I'll always argue changes in behavior are more important than changes in rules. Ginsburg's self-absorption was obvious and the hero worship of the Notorious RBG just fed into it.  Liberal narcissism is responsible more than anything else for all this crap.

Someday I'll make the effort to find the passage in Montesquieu where he says strong societies need fewer laws. Rules are not a cure for immaturity.

Nothing above is an argument against a top marginal tax rate at 100%.

Whaddaya wanna do about it?

Dennis Patterson, "Law and Truth: Replies to Critics"

IX. Brian Leiter: Quine, Normativity, and Truth

Brian Leiter sets out to show that Quine is not postmodernist.134 As criticism of the discussion of Quine in Law and Truth, this arrow misses its intended target. never said Quine was postmodernist. What did say was that analytic philosophy has moved into new paradigm, which I identify as postmodern, and that Quine's thought represents significant contribution to the development of this new mode of philosophizing…. 

Leiter correctly identifies Philip Bobbitt's work in constitutional theory as one source for the main argument in Law and Truth. In this connection, it is important to recognize a pervasive influence on both Bobbitt's work and my own, that of the later work of Wittgenstein. Without some appreciation of Wittgenstein's approach to questions of meaning, no clear understanding of my work, or Bobbitt's, is possible…. 

In Law and Truth, argue that Bobbitt is right to claim that the academic debate over the legitimacy of judicial review contributes nothing to our understanding of the normative character of constitutional argument. agree with Bobbitt that more often than not, efforts at legitimation turn out to be little more than an argument for the supremacy of one form of argument over all others. 140 I agree with Bobbitt that if a lawyer wants show that proposition of law is true, she has to employ the forms of argument to do so, for they are the culturally-endorsed modes of constitutional appraisal. 

Professor Leiter is unhappy with this account of the normativity of constitutional argument. He says: 

This whole line of thought seems to trade on an ambiguity in the meaning of the word "legitimate." Legitimacy in the philosophical sense has to do with whether particular practice is justified. "Legitimacy in the sociological sense has to do with whether a particular practice is 'accepted' or 'viewed as legitimate' by participants in the practice." 141  

First, do not see how the argument trades on an ambiguity. Bobbitt employs the distinction between legitimacy and justification. He argues that constitutional argument is legitimate if it is made in the language of constitutional law, the modalities. Whether decision is "just" is a matter of justification, the province of moral, economic, or philosophical argument. Professor Leiter's distinction between two senses of legitimacy, the "sociological" and the "philosophical," is nothing more than a translation. of Bobbitt's own distinction between legitimacy and justification. Professor Leiter provides a translation of Bobbitt's terms, but Bobbitt's distinction remains intact, with no ambiguity having been shown.142 

Second, if we accept Professor Leiter's distinction between two senses of legitimacy, his point is trivial.  Professor Leiter does not want to talk about legitimacy in what he refers to as its "sociological" sense; he prefers to talk about legitimacy the way philosophers do, that is, in the "philosophical" sense. But why is this weakness in Bobbitt's position? It seems as if Professor Leiter wants to talk about a different topic. This is not criticism. 

Professor Leiter then turns to the more important topic of truth. Regrettably, labels appear again, which obscure the discussion. My account of truth is characterized as "internal"'143 to the practice of law. Worse, it is internal "in some sense that remains vague.” 144 I have no idea what this means. What would it mean to say that the weight shown on the grocer's scale is "internal?" Internal to what? To say that the forms of argument are "internal" is just to say that they are the means for deciding what is the case as a matter of law, just as to say that units of measurement are the way the grocer determines weight and price. There is no mystery there.

Professor Leiter's introduction of the adjective "internal" sets the stage for his argument for the primacy of philosophy over legal practice. He begins by stating that my account of truth in law "relies on an attractive intuition, one widely shared… by lawyers” 146 He then recasts the intuition this way:

[W]hen Dworkin gives belabored argument of moral philosophy for the constitutionality of affirmative action or Posner gives complex efficiency argument for the law of negligence, whatever it is they are doing it doesn’t look much like law. 147

In their quest to "reduce" legal categories and legal arguments to economic or philosophical ones, legal academics actually miss the distinctive "internal" logic and integrity of the actual practice of legal argument as we find it in countless oral arguments and lawyer's briefs every day throughout the country.148

This characterization of my position is offered by Professor Leiter as "a sympathetic re-statement of the intuition that animates [my] position (and perhaps also Bobbitt's).149 But the sympathy ends there, as the claims are dismissed as "inadequate as an objection to the theories of scholars like Dworkin and Posner"150 and, worse, "false"151 and "question-begging." 152 

Well, are they? Consider two quotes, the first of which is from Posner and the second from Dworkin: 

[I] think that economic principles are encoded in the ethical vocabulary that is the staple of legal language, and that the language of justice and equity that dominates judicial opinions is to large extent the translation of ethical principles into legal language. 153 

Even in easy cases, that is, even when it goes without saying what the law is, even when ... everyone knows what the law is ... we do better to explain that phenomenon by speaking of convergence on single interpretation, or, at least, on interpretations that have the same results in most cases, because of shared political culture and assumptions. 154 

It is only owing to his initial misunderstanding of the arguments about normativity that Professor Leiter could come to the conclusions he does about my arguments against Dworkin (and, by Leiter's implication, Posner). This leads Professor Leiter, again mistakenly, to characterize my error as one of "description." He states, correctly, that Dworkin claims to be describing the actual practice of law. 155 certainly do not dispute that. What I dispute is the characterization given by Dworkin (and Posner) of the practice of law. This is the distinction, Wittgenstein's distinction between understanding and interpretation, which lies at the heart of Law and Truth. But Professor Leiter has missed it, and with it the point of my criticism. 157 

For clarity's sake, let me repeat the main points of my argument. When a lawyer-or anyone else-says that the law permits, prohibits, or requires given thing, that conduct is best explained normatively. Explanation of a normative act "consists in rendering the act intelligible by clarifying its meaning, elucidating its goal and the reasons for performing it.” 158 If we want to know the meaning of what someone has done, we can ask participants in the practice. Further, we invoke rules to criticize the behavior of others: rules provide reasons and justifications for action. In short, normativity in law is all the activities connected with legal rules, such as guidance, justification, criticism, and explanation.159

deny what Posner and Dworkin maintain, that understanding law requires excavation below the surface. As Professor Leiter correctly points out, Dworkin says that there is something hidden, that it is the job of the philosopher to ferret it out. 160 This is the precise point of disagreement between Professor Dworkin and myself.

As I said in Law and Truth, Professor Dworkin reduces all understanding to interpretation.161 I criticized this central aspect of his position because I think Wittgenstein's argument against this philosophical stance is decisive.162  His argument has direct and vast implications for the ongoing debate over the nature of law. We view legal assertion in the same way we typically view all of our conduct, that is 

under the aspect of normativity. We do not interpret it thus, we see it so. Our application of normative predicates to the behavior we view thus does not typically rest on any inference. When chess player makes an appropriate move, do not interpret it as a move (as if it might have been just muscular "tic" causing him to move his queen two squares), take it as one. When someone says "What is the time?",  take him as having asked me the time, not as having made a noise which now needs interpreting (viz. maybe it was Chinese, or just meaningless sound). Yet though our use of normative language in identifying typical human conduct does not generally rest on an inference from non-normative behavior and the existence of a rule under which it is subsumed, nevertheless our explanations of the meanings of the normative terminology we thus use (e.g., "promise", "check", "buy , "sell", "vote", "elect", "marry", "will", "property) will typically involve reference to rules.163 

My argument is not only that "nothing is hidden" in the law. also dispute the claim that understanding law is always and everywhere matter of interpretation. 164  Interpretation is a defective way of characterizing much of the normative activities of lawyers. The forms of argument are not, as Judge Posner might characterize them, the mere epiphenomenal expression of hidden meanings. All of these efforts to understand law from "point of view" (i.e., an interpretive point of view) come to nought, for they are based on philosophically defective account of the nature of meaning. 

The only reason Professor Leiter could dismiss as question-begging165 my claim that theorists such as Dworkin and Posner seek to explain law by virtue of something "outside" law, is that he has failed to come to terms with the argument just given. He claims that my position constitutes "not an argument but the conclusion of an argument that still needs to be made."'166 But think have shown that the argument was made in Law and Truth....  
I described the linguistic axis of postmodernism as the idea that the modernist distinction between reference and expression was no longer viable. I invoked Putnam's discussion of this point in his Representation and Reality171 to make the (postmodern) point that reference (and, hence truth) only enters the picture once meaning is established. In other words, the world is multiply-realizable: the same underlying "brute fact" can be realized in a multiplicity of ways, owing to the language-games then available. Some –including Professor Leiter– belittle this as "relativism,"'173 but that is just name-calling. The debate about realism and anti-realism will continue to be a pseudo-debate for as long as the belief endures that meaning is a matter of truth conditions and not linguistic practices.174

"When a chess player makes an appropriate move, I do not interpret it as a move (as if it might have been just a muscular "tic" causing him to move his queen two squares), I take it as one."

When an acquaintance greets me on the street by lifting his hat, what I see from a formal point of view is nothing but the change of certain details within a configuration forming part of the general pattern of color, lines and volumes which constitutes my world of vision. 

Note 164 reads: "Interpretation is an activity, understanding is not." Both are activities. I'll have to read more to learn how Patterson describes change. Interpretation drives change, or manifests it.
"the primacy of philosophy over legal practice". Nice to see that absurdity stated, flat out. I don't see it too often.
"I never said Quine was a postmodernist. What I did say was that analytic philosophy has moved into a new paradigm, which I identify as postmodern, and that Quine's thought represents a significant contribution to the development of this new mode of philosophizing."
Quine's not a postmodernist, but his philosophy represents a significant contribution to the development of postmodernism. 

Balkin and Levinson on Bobbitt, and therefore Patterson: "Constitutional Grammar."
If Patterson is the lawyer to Leiter's philosopher, he's the philosopher here.
VII. Conclusion
All of the difficulties we have identified in Bobbitt's project flow from his insistence that the concepts of legitimacy and justification be kept separate. We think this insistence is unnecessary to his more general project of offering a grammatical study of constitutional law—a project that we heartily endorse. Moreover, we think that it is false to how languages and practices grow and develop over time. Language games lack purity: they refuse clear-cut boundaries, they borrow and steal from other sources, they overlap with other language games, and their governing rules are always in a state of flux and disputation. Lived language games are unruly and unkempt, untamed and untidy, much as life itself is. We do not doubt that Professor Bobbitt, like his mentor Wittgenstein, would fully agree.Yet in his moments as normative grammarian, Bobbitt still longs to preserve a certain purity within the language game of constitutional argument. We think this attempt is doomed to failure. Living language games are the products of history: they are motley and variegated, often chaotic, and always jerry-rigged. Their heterogeneity continually reasserts itself, especially when, as with constitutional legal argument, they are both a means and an object of intense political dispute. Such language games are both a terrain of cultural struggle and a potential prize in that struggle; they always frustrate the attempts of grammarians, normative and descriptive alike, to police their asserted boundaries and preserve their imagined purity. We think this lesson has general significance beyond the confines of American constitutional law; in any case, it is at least something to muse on, quand on mange le Big Mac avec les fries.
jumping ahead, 1/29/21, Patterson again

Monday, September 21, 2020

A time for consequences

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Graeber being a fool, about 49 mins in.

A mother takes care of a child so that child can grow and thrive of course but on the immediate level what are they doing right now to facilitate that child doing, it's mostly so the child can go and play, and freedom is the ultimate expression of freedom for its own sake... [fading, quickly]  One could argue that it's one of the constitutive principles of the universe, [fading out, vocal fry] but that's another... another argument. [Laughter.]

When met him he read Robert Graves and worshipped the White Goddess. He never stopped being a fantasist. He's one of the reasons I went from having no interest in Dungeons and Dragons to actively hating it.

Having no interest is an understatement. 

repeats It even mentions David. And he has a tag.

So much bullshit. He loved being a celebrity.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Years ago at in the basement of the Strand I saw a volume of The Correspondence of Erasmus; I don't remember the number. I opened it to a random page and read a letter written to him by a friend on the road. He was writing at an inn at the end of a day, describing the goings on: eating and drinking, laughter, noise, viewing the people around him from a distance, only as an educated man looking at less educated people who could otherwise be his peers. I've never forgotten it and I should have bought the damn book.

Monday, September 07, 2020

From the manuscript. I've posted most of it before, in one form or another.
My parents didn’t give their children credit for much, including anything resembling an understanding of what Eliot called “the objective correlative” or the relation of communicative form to ideas or emotion, but I’m not sure still they themselves even when they were younger acted on anything more than a highly tuned sense of reflex. I’ve never had a problem seeing Eliot’s work both as brilliantly complex craftsmanship and as a desperate defensive mechanism propelled by fears of political, social, and sexual failure: impotence of every sort.  To separate one from the other -form from subject- would be like separating sadness from the blues. But that separation is something Modernism demanded, either in terms of “pure” form, or of subject matter reformulated as “ideas”, “content” and reducible to ideology.

Consider a discipline such as aesthetics. The fact that there are works of art is given for aesthetics. It seeks to find out under what conditions this fact exists, but it does not raise the question whether or not the realm of art is perhaps a realm of diabolical grandeur, a realm of this world, and therefore, in its core, hostile to God and, in its innermost and aristocratic spirit, hostile to the brotherhood of man. Hence, aesthetics does not ask whether there should be works of art.[i]

Aesthetics was an invention of the eighteenth century and the age of reason, a theory of art in the shadow of production, as something to be taken or left, optional, superfluous, “parasitic”. But military uniforms are the outward manifestation of a military ethos, and they serve a purpose. The outward signs of regimentation reinforce the fact of it. Max Weber’s manners are Germanic and bourgeois. He didn’t analyze the way he dressed, walked, talked and parted his hair, but these aesthetic choices are documents of his relation to a culture, and his ideal of value-free science is as much the product of an age as he was. The fantasy of objectivity is the fantasy of the universal through the elision of the particular, beginning with the elision of the particular self. All you have to do to undermine Weber’s moralizing pedantry is to imagine him mumbling the words to himself while adjusting his tie in the mirror. It’s fascinating that although military orders don’t always conflate the authoritarian and the universal it’s one thing you can count on philosophers to do.  And Weber’s goal of course was to replace one form of aristocracy with another. 

Compare Weber with the art historian, Panofsky.  

When an acquaintance greets me on the street by lifting his hat, what I see from a formal point of view is nothing but the change of certain details within a configuration forming part of the general pattern of color, lines and volumes which constitutes my world of vision. When I identify, as I automatically do, this configuration as an object (gentleman), and the change of detail as an event (hatlifting), I have already overstepped the limits of purely formal perception and entered a first sphere of subject matter or meaning. The meaning thus perceived is of an elementary and easily understandable nature. and we shall call it the factual meaning; it is apprehended by simply identifying certain visible forms with certain objects known to me from practical experience and by identifying the change in their relations with certain action or events

Now the objects and events thus identified will naturally produce a certain reaction within myself. From the way my acquaintance performs his action I may be able to sense whether he is in a good or bad humor and whether his feelings towards me are indifferent, friendly or hostile. These psychological nuances will invest the gestures of my acquaintance with a further meaning which we shall call expressional. It differs from the factual one in that it is apprehended, not by simple identification, but by "empathy". To understand it, I need a certain sensitivity, but this sensitivity is still part of my practical experience, that is, of my everyday familiarity with objects and events. Therefore both the factual and the expressional meaning may be classified together: they constitute the class of primary or natural meanings.[i]

“…but this sensitivity is still part of my practical experience, that is, of my everyday familiarity with objects and events.”  Weber simply bypasses this as if it were irrelevant. He imagines an impersonal relation to the world. It’s a common trope of the literature of the period, but the impersonal in art and technocracy, though the product of the same events are very different things. 

[i] Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation”, in From Max Weber: Studies in Sociology,  H.H. Gerth, C. Wright Mills, Routledge.
[ii]  Erwin Panofsky, “Iconography And Iconology: An Introduction To The Study Of Renaissance Art”, in, Meaning in the Visual Arts, 1955, Univ. Chicago Press, 1983

"And Weber’s goal of course was to replace one form of aristocracy with another."
That sentence seems to be a sticking point for a lot of people (academics).
And yet they make jokes like this:

Sunday, September 06, 2020

"Demographic Change"

Adam Serwer
The Fight Over the 1619 Project Is Not About the Facts
A dispute between a small group of scholars and the authors of The New York Times Magazine’s issue on slavery represents a fundamental disagreement over the trajectory of American society.
The debate between historians and journalists is about the facts. I've said it before: The 1619 Project is bad history in the model of the New York Times bad history of Zionism. Call it progress.

Two sides of Adam Serwer: Black and Jewish. So obvious but no one says a thing.

White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots
Warnings from conservative pundits on Fox News about the existential threat facing a country overrun by immigrants meet with a similar response. “Massive demographic changes,” Laura Ingraham has proclaimed, mean that “the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” in much of the country: Surely this kind of rhetoric reflects mere ignorance. Or it’s just a symptom of partisan anxiety about what those changes may portend for Republicans’ electoral prospects. As for the views and utterances of someone like Congressman Steve King (“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies”), such sentiments are treated as outlandish extremism, best ignored as much as possible.

The concept of “white genocide”—extinction under an onslaught of genetically or culturally inferior nonwhite interlopers—may indeed seem like a fringe conspiracy theory with an alien lineage, the province of neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers. In popular memory, it’s a vestige of a racist ideology that the Greatest Generation did its best to scour from the Earth. History, though, tells a different story. King’s recent question, posed in a New York Times interview, may be appalling: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” But it is apt. “That language” has an American past in need of excavation. Without such an effort, we may fail to appreciate the tenacity of the dogma it expresses, and the difficulty of eradicating it. The president’s rhetoric about “shithole countries” and “invasion” by immigrants invites dismissal as crude talk, but behind it lie ideas whose power should not be underestimated.
 Time to redefine the term `pro-Israel’
Those who should be most pleased with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress yesterday are those who believe that “Israel should be wiped off the map,” argues Jeffrey Goldberg. He makes the compelling case that the reality of demographic change in the region, coupled with the refusal to reach agreement on a two-state solution, constitute an extential threat to Israel:

Netanyahu, who understands the existential threat posed by Iran, does not seem to understand the nature of this other existential threat. His five predecessors as prime minister — including Ariel Sharon, whose heart did not bleed for Palestinians — understood it. President Obama understands it, too.

“The number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories,” Obama told members of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, on May 22. “This will make it harder and harder, without a peace deal, to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.”

For too long, the term “pro-Israel” in the American political context been used to describe only those who minimize the suffering of Palestinians and actively enable the Israeli right’s attempt to bring the peace process to a halt, even as they offer rhetorical support for the idea of a two state solution. But political changes in the Middle East and demographic changes in the region have created a shrinking window of time for Israel to seek a resolution to the conflict on terms favorable to its long-term survival..
Serwer's twitter for "demographic"

If it's unfair in 2020 to quote Serwer from 2011, it's unfair in 2019 for Serwer to quote Ben Shapiro from 2003.  Serwer doesn't say much about Israel anymore, but it's safe to say he's with Sanders in opposing full political equality for Palestinians.

Utopians and Anti-Utopians

Dear David, 
It’s midnight. Tears come and go like tides. Last night under the full moon, you passed away suddenly and left this world that you have been so much part of transforming for the better. In the library on the ZAD (Zone à Défendre, Zone to Defend)—built where the French state wanted to put an airport, in the shadow of an illegal lighthouse erected on the site of a planned control tower—there are eight books on special display. One of them is the French edition of your Bullshit Jobs.

The library is crammed with books about anarchism, occupation movements, the Paris Commune, utopias, territorial and peasant struggles. Strangely, next to the display copy of your book there was a half-empty shelf: the only half-empty shelf in the library. That shelf seemed to be the place to mark your senseless passing, with just enough space to make a small shrine to your memory, your friendship, your brilliance and quirkiness.

We adorned it with candles, flowers from the meadow where they wanted to put the runway, a paving stone from an old barricade from the forty-five-year-long struggle here, and a photo of you smiling and looking up to your left into the air, as if calling the spirits of joyful rebellion to your side. If we followed your gaze, up from the photo across the books, it landed on the shelf marked ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards). You would have laughed your trickster laugh.

Not many libraries have an ACAB shelf, or are built on an occupied autonomous zone against an airport and its world, which worked with self-organization without police for six years. You would have loved the ZAD; it embodied your ideas where direct action became entangled with everyday life. We had often spoken about you and Nika visiting us, giving a talk here, spending time together walking through these farms and wetlands saved from destruction. But life, like revolution, is always unexpected. You were not to visit these four thousand acres which politicians once called the territory lost to the republic. We still can’t believe that we have lost you. Tonight we shot a firework toward the moon for you.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Classics at Phillips Andover, 1978. David in the black t-shirt, talking. Stuart in the back, under the chin.

Friday, September 04, 2020

When a Jew has to pretend to be black because she can't just admit her sympathy is based on her experience.
on and on and on. So stupid.

And now another one

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Graeber was my closest friend for most of the 80s. We were roommates in college in NY and later briefly in Chicago before we had a falling out. We didn't talk for years. I found out 20 years later that he'd dedicated one of his first published essays to me and to his girlfriend at the time. Our last argument was a few years ago.

Wikipedia gets a few things wrong. His father wasn't Jewish. He was German. It links his Lincoln Brigade page. Both his parents had great stories. I remember his mother showing me the Life Magazine spread with new faces in Hollywood, a page of floating headshots in five pointed stars. I recognized her but she pointed to Vincent Price. "It was so hard to be a homosexual in those days." It didn't work out and she ended up back on the shop floor. His father was 46 when David was born. His mother was two years younger. David's father's father was older than that when David's father was born, and David's great-great-grandfather fought in the battles of Leipzig and Waterloo. In his 60s David's father started studying Romani. One day he was walking in the Village and a woman called him over. Gypsy women are never prostitutes but they'll roll you. He let her go on for a few minutes with her arm around his waist before upbraiding her in her native language: "You should be ashamed of yourself!" He laughed describing the expression on her face and her apologies. He'd conned a con. I have other stories. Bella Abzug was "Bella Bets" because when she played poker she never folded. At some point David's father gave me a Roman coin. I have no idea what happened to it.  There are other things more personal that I know less about, but they're not mine to talk about either way. I learned a lot from David, and since he admitted it I can say without appearing to brag that he learned a lot from me. He was an ass, but so am I.  And he's the first person I've lost from our generation who was important to me, intellectually and as a friend.

The few times in the megillah where I mention friends it's David. Also any references here to "old roommate" etc.

The last time we communicated couple of years ago he sent me a photograph. He said it was me. I said it was him. He said it was me. It's him. It's his parents' apartment. I'm not sure of the painting on the left but the print or drawing on the right is Jack Levine. They knew everyone. I'm sure they had connections to my father, and my parents, but didn't ask. They all knew Harry Bridges.
Ruth Rubenstein singing Chain Store Daisy,
A photo on Flicker, Cornell ILGWU Archive. An interview, but not public.

The hagiographies are coming fast. I'll hold my tongue for now.

And now two other people who knew us are saying the pic is me. I'm having a bad day. A third says it's David, but now I don't trust anybody. Friends fuck with you. It's what they're there for. 
David in 1978, Cropped, from here. I think the pic above is me.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Third time repeat. I'm going to start using it as a tagline.
Black Lives Matter sentiment is essentially a militant expression of racial liberalism....Black Lives Matter is a cry for full recognition within the established terms of liberal democratic capitalism.
Neiman Reports: Buppies read the NYT.
Dear Journalism: Audiences of national media have too long been presumed to be white. A New York Times editor argues it’s time to change that. 
Adolph Reed: Ditto
In fact, if you look at how white and black wealth are distributed in the U.S., you see right away that the very idea of racial wealth is an empty one. The top 10 percent of white people have 75 percent of white wealth; the top 20 percent have virtually all of it. And the same is true for black wealth. The top 10 percent of black households hold 75 percent of black wealth. 
That means, as Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project recently noted, “the overall racial wealth disparity is driven almost entirely by the disparity between the wealthiest 10 percent of white people and the wealthiest 10 percent of black people.” While Bruenig is clear that a discernible wealth gap exists across class levels, he explored the impact of eliminating the gap between the bottom 90 percent of each group and found that after doing so 77.5 percent of the overall gap would remain.
The man in the pic in the Nieman piece is probably African. Who know where it was taken.
Nigerians are among the most successful immigrants in the US. Immigrants are more successful than native-born Americans, and think Americans are lazy. A Mexican foreman, my boss at the time, put it simply: "Americans can't compete."

Reed can't help but moralize; he still has fantasies of leading change. And he publishes on a webpage named for a word coined by Robert Smithson that has Michael Fried on the editorial board. Smithson would be amused. I'm not.

Smithson, ripping Fried a new asshole, or congratulating him on his mannerist theatrics. Two reactionaries, one more honest than the other.
I added the Smithson tag in late 2022