Saturday, August 28, 2021

I've been thinking about this post and free speech and democracy, and necessity.

There's a conflict that I take for granted. I refer to it obliquely but don't articulate it.

What's needed is an argument in defense of the need for citizens in a democratic state to be able to be all kinds of wrong, all kinds of confused, creepy, conflicted, desirous, weepy or hate-filled, so that they may be able to learn to understand and outgrow their childishness. The choice is between a community of adults with a minority of the inveterately childish and criminal or a community of children ruled by moralists and crime lords.

Palestinian and Lebanese officials repeatedly insisted that the FLLF was merely a fiction intended to hide the hand of Israel and its Christian rightist allies. Israeli officials rejected such accusations, insisting rather that the bombings were part of an internecine war amongst rival Arab factions. 

"No one" meaning no one acceptable to polite discourse, believed the Palestinians. They still don't. That's why the authors of the Harper's letter make Palestinians the exception to their rule.

Fauci lied about masks. Whitman lied about air quality after 9-11. Their reasons—justifications, to themselves and their peers—were practical and political. Science communication, global warming and "cultural cognition", etc.

Best to say my hatred of ideological liberals is their unwillingness to accept their own authoritarianism. When it was necessary, my parents broke the law, and I'm sure they got a kick out of Trudeau. Politics is a practice. Theory is for pedants. 

Another way to put it is to say that truth is private, and politics is public, and liberals with their "politics of truth", square the circle in defense of their own self-image and self-interest. Their lies begin as lies to themselves.

Arendt, Truth and Politics

Although the politically most relevant truths are factual, the conflict between truth and politics was first discovered and articulated with respect to rational truth. The opposite of a rationally true statement is either error and ignorance, as in the sciences, or illusion and opinion, as in philosophy. Deliberate falsehood, the plain lie, plays its role only in the domain of factual statements, and it seems significant, and rather odd, that in the long debate about this antagonism of truth and politics, from Plato to Hobbes, no one, apparently, ever believed that organized lying, as we know it today, could be an adequate weapon against truth. In Plato, the truthteller is in danger of his life, and in Hobbes, where he has become an author, he is threatened with the burning of his books; mere mendacity is not an issue. It is the sophist and the ignoramus rather than the liar who occupy Plato’s thought, and where he distinguishes between error and lie – that is, between “involuntary and voluntary ψευδς”– he is, characteristically, much harsher on people “wallowing in swinish ignorance” than on liars. Is this because organized lying, dominating the public realm, as distinguished from the private liar who tries his luck on his own hook, was still unknown? Or has this something to do with the striking fact that, except for Zoroastrianism, none of the major religions included lying as such, as distinguished from  “bearing false witness,” in their catalogues of grave sins? Only with the rise of Puritan morality, coinciding with the rise of organized science, whose progress had to be assured on the firm ground of the absolute veracity and reliability of every scientist, were lies considered serious offenses.

The modern age, which believes that truth is neither given to nor disclosed to but produced by the human mind, has assigned, since Leibniz, mathematicaL scientific, and philosophical truths to the common species of rational truth as distinguished from factual truth. I shall use this distinction for the sake of convenience without discussing its intrinsic legitimacy. Wanting to find out what injury political power is capable of inflicting upon truth, we look into these matters for political rather than philosophical reasons, and hence can afford to disregard the question of what truth is, and be content to take the word in the sense in which men commonly understand it. And if we now think of factual truths—of such modest verities as the role during the Russian Revolution of a man by the name of Trotsky, who appears in none of the Soviet Russian history books—we at once become aware of how much more vulnerable they are than all the kinds of rational truth taken together. Moreover, since facts and events—the invariable outcome of men living and acting together—constitute the very texture of the political realm, it is, of course, factual truth that we are most concerned with here. Dominion (to speak Hobbes' language) when it attacks rational truth oversteps, as it were, its domain, while it gives battle on its own ground when it falsifies or lies away facts. The chances of factual truth surviving the onslaught of power are very slim indeed; it is always in danger of being maneuvered out of the world not only for a time but, potentially, forever. Facts and events are infinitely more fragile things than axioms, discoveries, theories—even the most wildly speculative ones—produced by the human mind; they occur in the field of the ever-changing affairs of men, in whose flux there is nothing more permanent than the admittedly relative permanence of the human mind's structure. Once they are lost, no rational effort will ever bring them back. Perhaps the chances that Euclidean mathematics or Einstein's theory of relativity—let alone Plato's philosophy—would have been reproduced in time if their authors had been prevented from handing them down to posterity are not very good either, yet they are infinitely better than the chances that a fact of importance, forgotten or, more likely, lied away, will one day be rediscovered. 

Arendt is always torn between thought and philosophy. "Truthtellers" are merely those who remain loyal to their beliefs and honest in their loyalty. They may well be full of shit, but the loyalty itself serves a purpose. 

The fixation on the distance between truth and politics—the unwillingness of people to weigh the issues themselves–the need to be given certainty—is the source and symptom of our reactionary politics.

"Like Ordering Pizza"

Thomas Meaney in the LRB.  

Your cause is right and God is on your side!

Zbigniew Brzezinski, US national security adviser, to the Afghan mujahedin, 3 February 1980

I have benefited so greatly from the jihad in Afghanistan that it would have been impossible for me to gain such a benefit from any other chance, and this cannot be measured by tens of years but rather more than that.

Osama bin Laden, March 1997

Once, the Kabul Zoo housed ninety varieties of animals and got a thousand visitors a day, but in the era of fighting that followed the fall of the Soviets and then of Najibullah, the people stayed away, and the animals found themselves in a place more dangerous than any forest or jungle. For ten days, the elephant ran in circles, screaming, until shrapnel toppled her and she died. As the shelling went back and forth, the tigers and llamas, the ostriches, the elephant, were carried away to paradise. The aviary was ruptured and the birds flew free into the heavens from which the rockets rained.

Denis Johnson, 1 April 1997

Let’s step back a moment. Let’s just pause, just for a minute. And think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control.

US Representative Barbara Lee, 14 September 2001

This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient.

President George W. Bush, 17 September 2001

The Taliban regime already belongs to history.

Jürgen Habermas, December 2001

I have no visibility into who the bad guys are in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld, 8 September 2003

I will venture a prediction. The Taliban/al-Qaida riffraff, as we know them, will never come back to power.

Christopher Hitchens, November 2004

The markets for defence and related advanced technology systems for 2005 and beyond will continue to be affected by the global war on terrorism, through the continued need for military missions and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the related fiscal consequences of war.

Lockheed Martin Annual Report, 1 March 2005

Well, it was a just war in the beginning.

Michael Walzer, 3 December 2009

RAMBO IN AFGHANISTAN. A screening of Rambo III at the Duck and Cover. Wear a headband for $1 off drinks.

Email chain invitation, US compound, Kabul, 2010

Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanising the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German and other European women could help to overcome pervasive scepticism among women in Western Europe towards the ISAF mission.

CIA Analysis Report, 11 March 2010

The overthrow of the Taliban was the ennobling corollary of a security policy; it was collateral humanitarianism.

Leon Wieseltier, 24 October 2010

Now I prefer cloudy days when the drones don’t fly. When the sky brightens and becomes blue, the drones return and so does the fear. Children don’t play so often now, and have stopped going to school. Education isn’t possible as long as the drones circle overhead.

Zubair Rehman, 13-year-old Pakistani student, 29 October 2013

I think his legacy in terms of his country will be a strong one.

US Ambassador James B. Cunningham on Hamid Karzai, 23 September 2014

While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures.

President Barack Obama, 15 October 2015

When [Afghans] leave, they break the social contract. This is an existential choice. Countries do not survive with their best attempting to flee. So I have no sympathy.

President Ashraf Ghani, 31 March 2016

He reads books on the transition from socialism to capitalism in Eastern Europe, on the Central Asian enlightenment of a thousand years ago, on modern warfare, on the history of Afghanistan’s rivers.

George Packer on Ashraf Ghani, 4 July 2016

It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture.

Senior NSC official, 16 September 2016

We’re getting along very, very well with the Taliban.

President Donald Trump, 10 September 2020

This is manifestly not Saigon.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, 15 August 2021

The disarray of the past weeks needs to be replaced by something resembling coherence, and with a plan that is credible and realistic.

Tony Blair, 21 August 2021

Laura and I, along with the team at the Bush Centre, stand ready as Americans to lend our support and assistance in this time of need. Let us all resolve to be united in saving lives and praying for the people of Afghanistan.

George W. Bush, 16 August 2021

...The real war in Afghanistan was waged far above ground. In the early days of the conflict, an Allied patrol would need to draw fire before calling in air support, but by the end, as the rules of engagement relaxed, it was only necessary to have a sense of where a Taliban position was to radio in a drone or a fighter jet. ‘It got pretty ritualistic,’ a former US Marine pilot told me last week, ‘like ordering pizza.’...  

In 2009, when he dissented from Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan, it was less in the cause of devolving America’s global projection of force than of refining it. Biden wanted over-the-horizon capability then, and he wants something like it now.  The killing of thirteen US Marines at Kabul airport has not diverted that desire: a reduced US troop presence will provide fewer targets for local militants, Biden has argued, and those militants will be ‘hunted’ for retribution by more remote means. Biden was even more sanguine than Obama about the promise of drones and special forces to fight America’s enemies. He isn’t so much the undertaker of the war on terror as its McKinsey consultant.

The Taliban nearly eradicated heroin production in Afghanistan in the 1990s, but the Allies did everything in their power to push poppy cultivation into Taliban-held territory, and then, by destroying supply elsewhere, to raise prices. They have made the Taliban appear a better prospect to many Afghans than a government that was a byword for crookedness. The departing president, Ashraf Ghani, who in the 2019 election won the vote of 2.5 per cent of the population, who wrote his dissertation at Columbia on state failure, and who fled Kabul in a chopper (according to some sources, with piles of cash onboard), has now joined the ranks of Washington’s failed proxies: Ngô Đình Diêm, Ahmed Chalabi, Nouri al-Maliki, Hamid Karzai. The corruption of the Afghan government is dwarfed only by that of the American operation itself, which constituted a massive wealth transfer to US defence industries.

Will the Taliban behave? They have entered a very different Kabul – one with beauty salons and shopping malls – from the one they left twenty years ago. In the interim, they have developed the ambition to run a state,...

Thursday, August 26, 2021

There is also a brisk traffic in arms: US manufacturers recently announced the sale to _____ of 24 new F-16 fighter jets and other equipment, worth an estimated $3.2 billion. Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations has published a ‘contingency planning memorandum’ in favour of continued support to the regime, which, as he describes it, ‘has helped create a regional order that makes it relatively inexpensive for the United States to exercise its power’

I'm so sick of the "responsible" anti-war blather that the US could never win the war or that "America is not capable of 'nation-building'." 

The US was never interested in nation-building in Afghanistan; it was interested in exercising its power. It won the war easily, but victory wasn't enough. Trying to work on the cheap, predictably, it chose bribery. Laziness and cheapness over time is saving $5 to spend 10, as corruption reinforces itself, undermining the state in the US as in Afghanistan. 

Meanwhile this is one of the "serious" Americans:

"While the U.S. war in Vietnam was a pointless tragedy that resulted in untold human misery, it was not totally absurd for U.S. decision-makers to believe that communism was an existential threat worth fighting. The same cannot be said for the war in Afghanistan—"   

The Quincy Institute is an American organization for an American audience.

Bessner previously

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The minds behind Westworld—and The Dark Knight—and Devs, The Sopranos, The Wire, and Breaking Bad are more honest than the minds behind Jacobin, N+1, and Current Affairs, as the minds behind the Spectator and Quillette are honest.

Greenwald, the libertarian moralist, is right about liberalism. He's a reactionary, and reaction is a reflex. Reflexes exist because they serve a purpose.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Hollywood liberalism is the new leftism.

At bottom, the argument that socialists need to behave virtuously for political reasons is liberal and individualist – the same fallacy seen from Matt Bors' famous Mr. Gotcha. The whole point of leftist politics is to solve problems through collective coordination, not by convincing individuals to behave differently.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Turkey, Piker got his political commentating feet wet working for his uncle, Cenk Uygur, co-founder of The Young Turks, an L.A.-based left wing online news and commentary channel that ranks as the longest-running news and politics show online. Piker created and hosted a couple of programs on The Young Turks, “The Breakdown” and “Agitprop with Hasan Piker” among them, before he left in early 2020 to focus on an independent career as a Twitch streamer.

Now, about one and a half years since he flew the TYT coop, he’s hoovered up enough clout, audience, and revenue to shell out $2.74 million for a spacious home along a pretty, tree-lined street in West Hollywood’s bustling and centrally located Beverly Grove neighborhood. A secured and tightly hedged if otherwise bland and featureless courtyard fronts the roughly 3,800-square-foot pan-Mediterranean style residence that was built in 2014 with white stucco walls and a red tile roof. Arguably, only the exposed wooden eaves give the five-bedroom and 5.5-bath home a smidgen of authentic architectural character.

Twitch Phenom HasanAbi Talks (and Talks) His Way into West Hollywood Home  

"Collective coordination" Piker and his cleaning lady, pool boy, etc.. This returns us to Star Trek, Latour, Chalmers, Romer, 
At bottom, the argument that socialists need to behave virtuously for political reasons is liberal and individualist.

Cooper, Bruenig, Duncan Black,  Solidarity is not individualist. "Loyalty is double-edged or it's pointless" Comrades are equals.

A week ago I was on the phone with a gallerist in Dusseldorf, an heir to the Bildungsbürgertum. He prefaced a sentence... "I know it sounds bourgeois,..."  A little ironic self-awareness. 

"The glory of the United States, the thing that makes us the envy of the world, is a philosophy, if that word can even be used here, of personal freedom, combined with a sort of careless irresponsibility. It's been a fun ride, and those from this country who have argued against it most often sound like dry sticks or moralizing bores. There's a real tragedy in the story of the American left. It no longer has any peasants or workers, only priests and dilettantes."
I beat Piketty's research by 20 years. By 30 actually if I go through my files.

The tragedy of the American left is part of the tragedy of America. A culture based on fantasies and lies.

Tooze on Keynes and Keynesianism. 

Keynesianism was an ideology of mobilization, an intellectual project for winning the war. And there were Keynesians everywhere. German economists, aligned with the Nazi regime, made the same discoveries at the same time. They conducted extensive debates in 1943 and 1944 as to whether there was any upper limit to the debt that might constrain the final mobilization for Hitler’s Endsieg. It was dangerous to be a fiscal conservative in Hitler’s Germany, especially as the end approached. More on that another time.


Keynes on the Labour party.

However moderate its leaders may be at heart, the Labour Party will always depend for electoral success on making some slight appeal to the widespread passions and jealousies which find their full development in the Party of Catastrophe. I believe that this secret sympathy with the Policy of Catastrophe is the worm which gnaws at the seaworthiness of any constructive vessel which the Labour Party may launch. The passions of malignity, jealousy, hatred of those who have wealth and power (even in their own body), ill consort with ideals to build up a true Social Republic.  

As I've said too many times, I had a beer with him on election night 92. He called Clinton a Republican, and I agreed. Trudeau was a socialist and a corporate lawyer. I know it sounds bourgeois,...
Sometimes I play it too cute. "Best to say my hatred of ideological liberals is their unwillingness to accept their own authoritarianism." 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Wednesday, August 18, 2021


"Swedish staff left the embassy as their Afghan colleagues worked. Then, they refused to answer calls from the Afghan staff and even blocked their official email accounts. Left the country."

"When Afghan employees of the Dutch embassy in Kabul arrived at the office on Sunday, they were flabbergasted to find that the Dutch had all left without telling them anything. They just left."

"A German Defense Ministry spokesperson on its responsibility to get local Afghan support staff and translators out of the country: 'It's not like we forced them to cooperate with us.' " 

"Macron vows EU initiative to protect against migrant flows from Afghanistan"

The source for the German Defense Ministry is the Frankfurter Allgemeine 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The US could have admitted defeat and that the Taliban would take over the moment they left. They could have planned an exit without chaos. But of course they couldn't.

8/16/21, the twitter account @ResoluteSupport has been deleted.

repeats mostly

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. 

HRW, 2017

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.  

Patrick Cockburn, Harpers, 2015 

It was obviously something big: although the explosion had taken place on the other side of Sher Darwaza, a mountain in the center of Kabul, McWilliams had heard it clearly. After negotiating a maze of narrow streets on the south side of the city, he found the site. A massive car bomb, designed to kill as many civilians as possible, had been detonated in a neighborhood full of Hazaras, a much-persecuted minority.

McWilliams took pictures of the devastation, headed back to the embassy, and sent a report to Washington. It was very badly received — not because someone had launched a terrorist attack against Afghan civilians, but because McWilliams had reported it. The bomb, it turned out, had been the work of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the mujahedeen commander who received more CIA money and support than any other leader of the Afghan rebellion. The attack, the first of many, was part of a CIA-blessed scheme to “put pressure” on the Soviet presence in Kabul. Informing the Washington bureaucracy that Hekmatyar’s explosives were being deployed to kill civilians was therefore entirely unwelcome.

“Those were Gulbuddin’s bombs,” McWilliams, a Rhode Islander with a gift for laconic understatement, told me recently. “He was supposed to get the credit for this.” In the meantime, the former diplomat recalled, the CIA pressured him to “report a little less specifically about the humanitarian consequences of those vehicle bombs.”

I tracked down McWilliams, now retired to the remote mountains of southern New Mexico, because the extremist Islamist groups currently operating in Syria and Iraq called to mind the extremist Islamist groups whom we lavishly supported in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Hekmatyar, with his documented fondness for throwing acid in women’s faces, would have had nothing to learn from Al Qaeda. When a courageous ABC News team led by my wife, Leslie Cockburn, interviewed him in 1993, he had beheaded half a dozen people earlier that day. Later, he killed their translator. 


NYT 2013, With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.

All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

“We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.”

The C.I.A., which declined to comment for this article, has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Mr. Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.

Moreover, there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.

“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” one American official said, “was the United States.”...

No one mentions the agency’s money at cabinet meetings. It is handled by a small clique at the National Security Council, including its administrative chief, Mohammed Zia Salehi, Afghan officials said.

Mr. Salehi, though, is better known for being arrested in 2010 in connection with a sprawling, American-led investigation that tied together Afghan cash smuggling, Taliban finances and the opium trade. Mr. Karzai had him released within hours, and the C.I.A. then helped persuade the Obama administration to back off its anticorruption push, American officials said.

After his release, Mr. Salehi jokingly came up with a motto that succinctly summed up America’s conflicting priorities. He was, he began telling colleagues, “an enemy of the F.B.I., and a hero to the C.I.A.” 

And this of course. Maria Farrell, proper army wife, "Chicks dig the uniform", and the rest. 

"Sometime in Spring, two years ago, my brother Henry received a hand-written letter from a woman in Ireland he’d neither met nor heard of. It was a letter of introduction. The person being introduced was Edward, 'a decent, entertaining fellow. We have known him all our lives.'

...A month or two later, I phoned to say I’d be arriving that evening from L.A. for a couple of weeks in the DC office. Henry pressed the letter into my hands as I arrived on the doorstep. He was rushing to the airport and thought I might have more time to take an interest."

As I said: if the Farrells were Muslim, she'd be in hijab. If they were Iranian, she'd be a religious liberal; if they were Jewish they'd be Zionists.

Friday, August 13, 2021

No surprises. Determinism has been a ubiquitous trope in popular culture for 40 years.

"Build a machine with two separate and competing algorithms, for conditioned response and calculation, and a root level imperative for continued operation: survival. The result will be a neurotic machine, "haunted" by past actions."
Julian Jaynes is most interesting for his fanbase.  Tanya Luhrmann is a fan. The co-writer of the episode—with the writer of this—is Christopher Nolan's brother. He and his wife are listed as co-creators of the show and show-runners. She's the daughter of immigrants, British and Taiwanese, a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law, who passed the California bar and worked for McKinsey and Company. 

I could have written the first lines myself, but the next, not included above, follow the old stupidity of mixing determinism with the desire to be gods, or the theater of humility performed by Calvinists: "Determinism for thee..." But Ford isn't the hero of the piece, and that's why it's interesting. 

"Determinism for thee..."  A site-search of my blog for that phrase gets most if not all of them.  A web search gets me at Crooked Timber, on conservatism and culture, and at Balkinization on living constitutionalism and judicial review.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

David Brooks, via Mark Blyth: "I always wondered about David Brooks ability to spend most of his time being woefully wrong and occasionally bang on. Judge for yourself which one this is. Well worth a read either way." Sven Steinmo replies, "spot on"

recent. See also, Streeck, Therborn etc

The illustration made it easy, but there's not much to wonder about with Brooks. Conservatism is founded in a pessimistic reflex as liberalism is founded in an optimistic one. Pessimism allows for hypocrisy as the inevitability of weakness, or of failure.  Radical optimism was also a problem once. Revolutionary pessimism still is. Ideologies, easy answers, are always "optimistic."  
The exception is revolutionary nihilism, which is still the need for totality, even total destruction.  

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Two articles on judicial review in the UK.

Neal Ascherson reviews Linda Colley

This storm has been brewing for a long time. Take a late 20th-century example: during one of those recurring leak panics, somebody in Whitehall revealed to a journalist that a cabinet minister was lying. In the uproar that followed, a civil servant was challenged to confirm that she owed unconditional loyalty to her minister. But she demurred. ‘At the end of the day, I answer to the little lady at the end of the Mall.’ That reply confirmed that the United Kingdom is still essentially a monarchical structure. Not in terms of direct royal intervention, but as a polity in which power flows from the top down. The idiotic doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty – the late 17th-century transfer of absolutism from kings endowed with divine right to an elected assembly – excludes any firmly entrenched distribution of rights. Popular sovereignty in Britain is a metaphor, not an institution.

Francis FitzGibbon, The Supreme Court Retreats,

Common Sense: Conservative Thinking for a Post-Liberal Age was published in May by the self-styled Common Sense Group of around fifty Conservative MPs. Along with chapters on such themes as ‘What is Wokeism and How Can it be Defeated’, ‘The conservative case for Media Reform’ and ‘A Common Sense Model for Poverty’, are the reflections of two MPs on ‘The Judicial Activists Threatening Our Democracy’. The group has received favourable coverage from the Telegraph and the Express.

Anyone who thinks that British courts have become a hotbed of anti-government ‘judicial activism’ should ponder two judgments given by the UK Supreme Court on 30 July. The cases of Re A and BF (Eritrea) limit the scope of judicial review of administrative decisions at least as much the government’s own proposals in legislation currently before Parliament.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

APA Sarah Elizabeth Lewis Wins the 2022 Danto/ASA Prize

NEWARK, Del. — Aug. 4, 2021 — The American Philosophical Association (APA) and the American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) are pleased to announce that Professor Sarah Elizabeth Lewis (Harvard University) has been selected as the winner of the 2022 Arthur Danto/American Society for Aesthetics Prize for her paper, “Groundwork: Race and Aesthetics in the Era of Stand Your Ground Law.” It was published in Art Journal 79:4 (2020) 92–113. 

The competition this year included 15 papers, and the selection committee also awarded Honorable Mention to Michel-Antoine Xhignesse for “What Makes a Kind an Art-Kind?” Xhignesse teaches at Capilano University in Canada.

The Danto/ASA Prize, in the amount of $1,000, is awarded to a member of the APA and the ASA for the best paper in the field of aesthetics, broadly understood. In addition, a symposium in Professor Lewis’s honor will be held at the 2022 APA Eastern Division meeting in Baltimore, MD. This prize is in honor of the late Arthur Danto, a past president of the APA Eastern Division.

Amie Thomasson (Dartmouth College), the chair of the selection committee, said, “Sarah Lewis’s paper ‘Groundwork: Race and Aesthetics in the era of Stand Your Ground Law’ is a beautifully written, original, and penetrating paper that reflects on the concept of ‘grounding’ as it considers a range of works of art that address racialized life in the US. It is important work that insightfully bridges philosophy and art criticism, in a way that fits in perfectly with the legacy of Arthur Danto’s own work.”

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, "Groundwork: Race and Aesthetics in the Era of Stand Your Ground Law"

Nothing is without ground.
—Martin Heidegger

A grave. I sweat into the earth as I repair it.

—Jericho Brown

In 2016, Mark Bradford set to work on the ground of 150 Portrait Tone (2017). A color field of found papers and acrylic paint with block text centralizes a searing scene from months earlier, when thirty-two–year-old Philando Castile was killed in his car by police officer Jeronimo Yanez at a traffic stop. Yanez had pulled over Castile for a broken taillight in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. He asked for Castile's license and registration. Castile, who had no criminal record and worked as a school supervisor at a Montessori school, complied, volunteering that he also had a legally owned firearm in the car in the compartment containing the documents. While leaning over to extract these, Castile affirmed that he was not reaching for a gun, but only submitting to the officer's request. His words offered no protection. Yanez shot Castile seven times as he sat next to his fiancée, Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds, with her four-year-old daughter in the backseat. Yanez would be acquitted of all charges.

But Reynolds had been video-recording the fatal events with her phone and began livestreaming. The video went viral. Bradford was gripped as he saw the footage of Reynolds holding four conversations nearly at once as Castile lay dying just inches away. She addressed the police officer, saying, "Please, officer, don't tell me that you just did this to him"; then said to Castile, "Stay with me"; prayed to God, "Please, Jesus, don't tell me that he's gone"; and to unknown viewers of her livestream exclaimed, "Please don't tell me he just went like that."[ 1] Bradford affixed these four utterances on the canvas as a streaming text. The regularized, stencil-shaped words visually rhymed with Reynolds's voice, which seemed unnaturally composed in the face of catastrophe—possibly an indication of shock, yet perhaps a necessary decision to present herself as unthreatening to the police officer in the wake of the fatal shooting. Reynolds's words, rendered in hues of reds, pinks, and textured blacks, cover and run off the edges of Bradford's canvas, with colors seeping through and across the letters' limits filling all intervening space. These textual pleas constitute the entire ground of the canvas, prostrating Reynolds, laying out the brutality of the event, and unfurling her words like a body at the viewers' feet.

Christies "The ‘social abstraction’ of Mark Bradford"

An introduction to the highly sought-after Los Angeles artist, who represented his country at the 2017 Venice Biennale and is spoken of as the latest in a line of great American Abstract Expressionists

Who is Mark Bradford?

Mark Bradford is an American abstract artist who’s fast becoming one of the art world’s hottest properties. He was chosen to represent the United States at the 2017 Venice Biennale, where his pavilion prompted the editor-in-chief of Artnet to claim, ‘Bradford is our [generation’s] Jackson Pollock’....

Does his work also have a political dimension?

Yes, although not explicitly. Bradford likes to call his art ‘social abstraction’. In many cases, the paper he uses started out on advertising hoardings in the working-class neighbourhoods of South Central Los Angeles, reflecting much of what constitutes business there: from paternity tests and high-interest loans to fast-track immigration papers.

Bradford is represented by Mnuchin Gallery

Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles, California on November 20, 1961 to a family of hairdressers. Bradford’s early work used the materials found around salons, including the paper rectangles used for permanents, bobby pins, and hair dye, beginning an interest in the use of found materials. He is best known for his multimedia abstract paintings whose laborious surfaces hint at the artist’s excavation of emotional and political terrain. Bradford also creates public art, installations, and video, often exploring the relationship between high art and popular culture and between materiality, surface, and image. 

and Hauser and Wirth

Characterized by its layered formal, material, and conceptual complexity, Bradford’s work explores social and political structures that objectify marginalized communities and the bodies of vulnerable populations. Just as essential to Bradford’s work is a social engagement practice through which he reframes objectifying societal structures by bringing contemporary art and ideas into communities with limited access to museums and cultural institutions.

Vogue, "Mark Bradford’s Got A Brand New Bag" 

“I’m excited and I’m going to stay excited,” says the Los Angeles-based artist Mark Bradford, who is representing the U.S. at this year’s Venice Biennale, while talking at the bar in Lafayette, a downtown New York restaurant. He’s going to stay excited for six years, to be precise. A painting and sculpture installation of his intricate and mesmerizing work, Tomorrow is Another Day, will be on display through November in the Biennale’s American pavilion, and he has also dug into the city with a second, more long-term project, Process Collettivo, that is purely his own.

Bradford is in New York this week to talk about both this initiative and his pavilion show, presented by the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. At a lunch full of journalists and admirers, he brings his considerable charisma to describing what drives him as a blue-chip artist who is genuinely in the world.

Etc. etc. etc.

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.

Hauser and Wirth, Philip Guston and Hannah Black

Hannah Black, Antwaun Sargent, Parker Bright, and Dana Schutz  

Video art and Gallery Film 

Philosopher Christopher Lebron

Bradford's work is hyped, but his stylish, tasteful, abstractions exist in the shadow of films by Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins, and even of black Hollywood crap. If Bradford's work is more interesting than Schutz' it's because in one way or another his work looks forward, not as progress but as honesty, even against intention: claims for "art", half full or half empty. Bradford is a good designer; his works for what they are, are "contemporary";  Schutz' paintings are a warmed-over and flabby rehash of what in other contexts would be the recent past. And while it's a truism that minorities, women, and the marginal are allowed to play off their own situation, Schutz didn't play off her own. But claims for mixing abstraction and "content", like  Tomashi Jackson's claims for "research", are hollow, and claims for Bradford being the new Pollock, and Lewis' claims for "groundwork", are puffery at the same level of claims for Schutz.

Lorna Simpson (Hauser and Wirth again) and Kara Walker (Christies again) make work in the shadow of film, but their work is figurative, narrative and theatrical, and "subject matter" in poetry is not "content". But all these distinctions are the distinctions of criticism, subject to debate.  What's not subject to debate is that everyone above is thoroughly, and comfortably, bourgeois, and the artists in the larger scheme, conservative. Simpson's and Walker's work is more interesting because the elitism is palpable if not explicit, and the conservatism is knowing.       

All of this is the story of the growing black bourgeoisie, a new non-white elite, and the fading of the avant-garde and vanguardism of every sort, of philosophy, and "fine art".  McQueen started in the art world, but moved beyond it. He didn't "sell out"; he understood that the larger world is also now the more complex one. Simpson and Walker will never leave. 

See also Baldwin et al., and again and again, the history of intellectuals who avoided academia, or came and went. It's a long list.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

I'd added this elsewhere but it was an awkward fit. 


This is a modern world - This is the modern world
What kind of a fool do you think I am?
You think I know nothing of the modern world
All my life has been the same
I've learned to live by hate and pain
It's my inspiration drive -
I've learned more than you'll ever know
Even at school I felt quite sure
That one day I would be on top
And I'd look down upon the map
The teachers who said I'd be nothing

Punk wasn't a rebellion against capitalism. It was capitalism, rebelling against both liberalism and the hereditary aristocracy.
When it began, in the US, and UK, punk was anti-political, a reaction in the purest sense. Reading the phrase, "Punk purity". I remembered this. [and this] Varieties of perverse scholasticism. And you can see the family resemblance.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Predictably enough, this continues from the previous post 

It was getting hotter. 
Frank May got off his mat and padded over to look out the window. Umber stucco walls and tiles, the color of the local clay. Square apartment blocks like the one he was in, rooftop patios occupied by residents who had moved up there in the night, it being too hot to sleep inside. Now quite a few of them were standing behind their chest-high walls looking east. Sky the color of the buildings, mixed with white where the sun would soon rise. Frank took a deep breath. It reminded him of the air in a sauna. This the coolest part of the day. In his entire life he had spent less than five minutes in saunas, he didn’t like the sensation. Hot water, maybe; hot humid air, no. He didn’t see why anyone would seek out such a stifling sweaty feeling.

Howard Roark laughed

He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. The water seemed immovable, the stone–flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed, wet with sunrays. 

The lake below was only a thin steel ring that cut the rocks in half. The rocks went on into the depth, unchanged. They began and ended in the sky. So that the world seemed suspended in space, an island floating on nothing, anchored to the feet of the man on the cliff.

And predictably enough Ryan Cooper fits in perfectly with the old crew.

More on the decay of vanguardism and historical memory. Appended to an earlier post.

Especially for young kids first getting into the scene, punk purity is a powerful draw. I remember, as a disaffected teen, my sense was that everything sucked so completely that whatever could save me from the suckiness must feel, at least, as totalizing. The same teenage tendency to view the world as a monolithic either/or that turned me on to college radio and 7" records also made The Fountainhead my favorite book when I was 16. When we find out as punkish adults about the ghastliness of Ayn Rand's politics, it's easy enough to disavow our teen dalliances with Objectivism. But what do we do about punk when we realize that that purity to which we were so drawn was, in fact, homogenizing, exclusionary? That's the question, I realize, of a white punkish adult, as I am, and as are the editors of White Riot. For punks of color, that realization may have clouded the promise of punk from the beginning.
Today, chefs are thinking about marketing; they’re trying to get customers in the door, and they’re being deliberate about the flavors and culinary traditions they’re combining. But for Rasul’s El Ranchero, catering to Punjabi Mexicans born in the first half of the century, the roti quesadilla was more than just something new and different — it represented the organic community of Punjabis and Mexicans brought together by a confluence of immigration policies, labor laws, and cultural similarities. “We love food. So whatever the inspiration, it’s all good,” English says, when asked about restaurants selling the food she ate at home without acknowledging the history. “But there is something to be said for family comfort food recipes.”

Netervala isn’t quite sure what she thinks about today’s food trends. “This is just something made up,” she says. “Chefs are always trying different things, so they’re just doing things on their own. That’s not how we had Indian food — maybe I’ve been missing something!”

“This is just something made up,” 

"He made it all up."

 Repeats of repeats of repeats, because it's still necessary 

the next post, more of the same.