Friday, October 29, 2021

Updated, for fun this time.

Reed wrote songs about junkies on the corner.
"You know. I'm glad that we met man
It was really nice talking

And I really wish there was a little more time to speak"
Every time I hear that voice I think of a man I knew 35 years ago. I hear Jimmy Santulli, alias James Jubert. I'm pretty sure he's been dead for a long time. 
"Weird Alex" Pareene is weird in his own little world.
 

About the time Reed did the ad campaign for Honda, in  86 or so, he was asked to do something for a public service campaign for HIV prevention. He refused, saying he'd never been safe, and he was still alive.

I had dinner with Legs McNeil and a few others at some point in the mid 90s. It may have been after the premier of the film mentioned below. Or it could have been for Billy Name. Billy was there. McNeil went off on political punk. He hated it. He's a moralist.  Moralists are conservative by definition. Genet opposed prison reform because it made him who he was. I've said it before, in the same general context.  John Waters and Mike Kelley agreed, they both still loved the Catholic Church. John's a conservative. I've said that before too. And then there are the Quines 


It's still hard writing for an American audience.


The discussion of Dune and Star Wars among pseudo-leftist pundits is a corollary to Trumpist rage: varieties of childishness. And these overlap with the fanboys and fangirls of the cinematic fanboy Todd Haynes. The film critic on a website for "democratic socialists", named for anti-democratic moralists, violent political puritans, celebrates self-identified heirs of de Sade and Huysmans.

Haynes now has a tag. Haynes, Mad Men, and the nostalgia of Americans for their own childhood, or fantasies of others' youth. "They are not intellectuals, but occasionally dream that they will be. That is their secret ambition." 

Liberals and liberalism, and the whig history of the demimonde.

The Velvet Underground, like most of the self-identified avant-garde were pretentious. Pretension is defensive posturing, signaling insecurity. Lou Reed always got high on his own supply, and he was an asshole. But sometimes fuckups get something something right, describing complexity honestly, That's the basis of a large percentage of what's called "modern art". 

Picasso in 1906 is flying blind. In 1916 he's full of shit, a poseur, but still struggling. The need for easy answers, the indulgence in and struggle against kitsch, lying —to yourself and others—vs honesty,  becomes the conflict between art and pose, rebellion and its marketing.
All the albums I put out after this are going to be things I want to put out. No more bullshit, no more dyed hair, faggot junkie trip. I mimic me better than anyone else so if everybody else is making money ripping me off, I figure maybe I better get in on it. Why not? I created Lou Reed. I have nothing even faintly in common with that guy, but I can play him well, really well. 
All of this is in the context of conservatism, and an honesty that undermines intention. People who say "conservatism is the new punk rock" are right. Punk rock was always self-destructive.

I've repeated this quote from Candy Darling enough. “I’ve been up all night alone, wondering about my identity. Trying to look for an explanation for living this strange, stylized sexuality."

I'll add another, about the lover Reed dumped, from Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk.

p. 155

Eileen Polk: Everybody hung out at Max's, and then the New York Dolls played their famous show in drag at the 82 Club. I started hanging out there. The 82 Club was a famous drag-queen bar on Fourth Street, around the corner from CBGB's, which wasn't happening yet. I started going to the 82 Club real early on and made friends with all the drag queens. That's where I met Rachel, Lou Reed's girlfriend. Rachel was a drag queen who was very feminine and really nice. The drag queens liked me, but Rachel was especially nice. One night when she was really drunk she told me that she could never be a guy because she had such a small dick. Then she showed it to me, and it was really small. I said, "That's okay, Rachel. That's okay." And she said, "Well, it better be, because I make a better woman than I do a man."

Then she met Lou Reed, and he was the man of her dreams. Apparently it was love at first sight. Rachel told me, "I've met Lou Reed! I've made it! This is it! I knew this was gonna happen! Something good was gonna happen to me, and this is it and I'm in love!" She was just ecstatic.

Lou would just sit in the corner and Rachel would keep everyone away from him. She announced to everyone, "I don't want anyone near him. I don't want anyone to talk to him. He's mine." And everyone respected that at the 82 Club. All the other drag queens stayed away from him, and all the women did too. Rachel said, "He's mine," but she didn't threaten anybody. I felt like everybody wanted something good to happen for her. And when it did, everyone was happy.

p. 206 

Mary Harron: We all went off to the Locale and none of us had any money and we couldn't order food. I remember Lou Reed ordered a cheeseburger because I was so hungry. Lou was with Rachel, who was the first transvestite I'd ever met. Very beautiful, but frightening. But I mean definitely a guy: Rachel had stubble.

Legs and John were chatting with Lou so I sat next to Rachel, and I asked her what her name was—him, what his name was—and he said, "Rachel."

I thought, Right. That kind of shut me up for a bit. I think I actually sort of tried to make conversation with him, but Rachel wasn't talkative. I think that was the sum total of our conversation.

A review of Halston, on Netflix 

This is not a new lane for Murphy, and once again it seems revolutionary — how rare to make an entire five-episode series dedicated to amplifying such a sour, cynical note — until one realizes there is nowhere for this story to go. Certainly the notion that the modern history of gay life is one as colored by repression and self-loathing as much as by the power of expression is a rich vein throughout Murphy’s work. Just last year, he produced a feature film remake of “The Boys in the Band,” the 1968 play that is the ultimate theatrical howl of isolation and pain. Previously, Ben Platt in “The Politician” and Darren Criss in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” played queer men driven by ambition that looks a lot like misdirected rage.

I went to school with the director. He was the screenwriter for I shot Andy Warhol, directed by Mary Harron, quoted above. And both films have the same producer, Christine Vachon, who went to school with Haynes, and has worked him from the beginning of his career. One of my closest friends at the time was a consultant on the Warhol film; we went to the premiere. At some point after that I remember Callie saying, dryly, that it was still safe to assume every homosexual was self-hating until proven otherwise—for Boys in the Band see The Queer Art of Failure and How to be Gayboth from the second decade of this century. Vachon also worked with Cindy Sherman on her only, failed, film; Sherman's work documenting not homosexual but female self-hatred. The absurdity is the lie they tell themselves—if indeed they do—that they're liberal. Maybe it's more that earnest liberals claim them as their own. Liberalism has turned self-hatred, for some, into self-affirmation.

And this brings us back to science fiction,  the geek art of failure unacknowledged, building worlds rather than observing this one. 

Krugman in 2021

The blogger John Rogers once noted that there are two novels that can shape the lives of bookish 14-year-olds: “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Lord of the Rings.” One of these novels, he asserted, is a childish fantasy that can leave you emotionally stunted; the other involves orcs.

Well, I was a bookish 14-year-old, but my touchstones were two different novels: Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” and Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”

Many social scientists, it turns out, are science fiction readers. For example, quite a few experts on international relations who I know are fanatics about the TV version of “The Expanse.” I think it’s because good science fiction involves building imaginary worlds that are different from the world we know, but in interesting ways that relate to the attempt to understand why society is the way it is.

And in 1996

At the deepest level, opposition to comparative advantage -- like opposition to the theory of evolution -- reflects the aversion of many intellectuals to an essentially mathematical way of understanding the world. Both comparative advantage and natural selection are ideas grounded, at base, in mathematical models -- simple models that can be stated without actually writing down any equations, but mathematical models all the same. The hostility that both evolutionary theorists and economists encounter from humanists arises from the fact that both fields lie on the front line of the war between C.P. Snow's two cultures: territory that humanists feel is rightfully theirs, but which has been invaded by aliens armed with equations and computers.

Any systems engineer knows that efficiency in a system is in inverse proportion to stability.

Krugman indulged a fantasy; his preferences were founded in aesthetics before they were founded in ethics: he rationalized a desire, wanted to believe an absurdity, defended it as science and mocked anyone who opposed him as irrational. 

The only thing interesting is that he didn't learn from his mistakes.

How is the philosophy behind Asimov's Foundation less authoritarian than The Fountainhead? Krugman conflates art and illustration, and art and science, "truth and lies".  His link on The Expanse is to Drezner, indulging the horse-race model of political science and IR, the academic origin of the model of journalistic "objectivity" and passivity. Both Krugman and Drezner imagine statements without subtext, themselves without subtext. Their intellects are brittle, though Krugman is "intelligent". The only thing interesting about Dune is how it describes the desires and fantasies of its makers and its audience, and civilization on earth in 2021.

Tagged The Pictures Generation, the aestheticized politics of 80s art, made in the shadow of something worshipped and feared—hated—indulging reaction as radical. That's the mix that turns conservatism into fascism.  Needless to say I have more sympathy for Candy Darling and Rachel Humphreys, who's buried in Potter's Field, than Lou Reed. I have sympathy for them as people.

I want the illusion.
Do you want the illusion or do you want the illusion to be real? 
What’s the difference?
One means that you have an appreciation of the arts. The other means that you’re a fascist.
Art makes the world more interesting than it is. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live."
Living your life as art, and imposing your art on others is more than authoritarianism. Authoritarianism only demands that you behave a certain way. It doesn't demand that you believe. Coerced belief is the definition of fascism. I think Foucault was trying to construct a new conservatism. Neoliberalism ain't it.


I've made so many riffs on monarchists and monarchism, on liberalism, on the left, and right.
Jean-Marie Straub's film, below, was on Jonathan Rosenbaum's top 10 for 2020. In the link above [reaction as radical] he refers to Sirk and Fassbinder as "more defeatist than progressive". The man in Straub's film is reciting Georges Bernanos. It's hard to get more defeatist than Bernanos. The film is dedicated to Godard.

One more time: Facebook is not a "platform"; it is a "publisher".

ABC: Facebook employees questioned apparent restrictions on Palestinian activist's account: Documents

Earlier this year, multiple Facebook employees questioned the apparent restrictions on well-known Palestinian activist Mohammed El-Kurd's Instagram account, according to internal Facebook documents shared with ABC News and a group of other news organizations.

The document, titled "Concerns with added restrictions/demotions on content pertaining to Palestine," shows concern among some employees over content moderation decisions during the May escalation of violence in Gaza and the West Bank.

Politico: Facebook staff complained for years about their lobbyists’ power

Facebook says it does not take the political winds of Washington into account when deciding what posts to take down or products to launch.

But a trove of internal documents shows that Facebook’s own employees are concerned that the company does just that — and that its Washington, D.C.-based policy office is deeply involved in these calls at a level not previously reported.

The lobbying and government relations shop, overseen by former Republican operative Joel Kaplan, regularly weighs in on speech-related issues, such as how to deal with prominent right-wing figures, misinformation, ads from former President Donald Trump and the aftermath of the George Floyd protests in June 2020, according to internal reports, posts from Facebook’s staff and interviews with former employees. The dynamic is so prevalent that employees argued internally that Facebook regularly ignored its own written policies to keep political figures happy, even overriding concerns about public safety.

“Facebook routinely makes exceptions for powerful actors when enforcing content policy,” a Facebook data scientist wrote in a December 2020 presentation titled “Political Influences on Content Policy.” It added: “The standard protocol for enforcement and policy involves consulting Public Policy on any significant changes, and their input regularly protects powerful constituencies.” The public policy team includes the company’s lobbyists. 

WaPo: Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation 

Five years ago, Facebook gave its users five new ways to react to a post in their news feed beyond the iconic “like” thumbs-up: “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry.”

Behind the scenes, Facebook programmed the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds to use the reaction emoji as signals to push more emotional and provocative content — including content likely to make them angry. Starting in 2017, Facebook’s ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than “likes,” internal documents reveal. The theory was simple: Posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook’s business.

Facebook’s own researchers were quick to suspect a critical flaw. Favoring “controversial” posts — including those that make users angry — could open “the door to more spam/abuse/clickbait inadvertently,” a staffer, whose name was redacted, wrote in one of the internal documents. A colleague responded, “It’s possible.”

Free speech is for fascists, not monopolists.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Commercial entertainment can transcend itself. It's a foundation, as the vulgar is foundational to the fine. Terminator II is an example of two dozen people and the Hollywood machine making something more significant than the work of most auteurs. I don't take Cameron seriously as an artist, but that's irrelevant. The Avengers: Endgame, is more than the sum its parts. But what to say about people who take Frank Herbert seriously as a novelist? We've been here before. He's read as Tolkien and Asimov are, and by adults, mostly male, nostalgic for adolescence or preadolescence, who justify their fandom if they do at all with arguments for the importance of content, matching the arguments of Christian fans of Giotto who also and inevitably defend Christian kitsch. In terms of film this all goes back to the 70s and Star Wars, the first film to take a place previously left to the novels of Heinlein, Ayn Rand, Asimov and the rest. But any serious viewer of Villeneuve's film, even among those who've read the book, will pay attention to the film itself, and for those who care about the source, to what he, and the screenwriters, and Hollywood, have done with the book as raw material. Villeneuve isn't Tarantino; he's still a product of the machine; he hasn't escaped it or made it fully his. 
The most interesting thing about the film is Jessica's relationship with men, and with her son. Rebecca Ferguson gives the only performance that competes with the scenery, while none of the others are stock enough simply to to support it. The three moments that stay with me: Jessica hearing Leto say he's always known he couldn't trust her, and asking her if he can trust her with their son; putting her hand gently on the shoulder of the defeated Stilgar; and at the end, her eyes, looking at Paul's new love interest. Those moments make it Ferguson's movie, and Villeneuve's. The rest of it belongs simply to Hollywood and Paul Schrader's "techies". But this film is only part one, and after two and half hours seems more like an introduction than a half-way point. It could get interesting. 

I had stylistic hopes moreover. Fed
Up so long and variously by
Our age’s fancy narrative concoctions,
I yearned for the kind of unseasoned telling found
In legends, fairy tales, a tone licked clean
Over the centuries by mild old tongues,
Grandam to cub, serene, anonymous.
Lacking that voice, the in its fashion brilliant
Nouveau roman (even the one I wrote)
Struck me as an orphaned form, whose followers,
Suckled by Woolf not Mann, had stories told them
In childhood, if at all, by adults whom
They could not love or honor. So my narrative
Wanted to be limpid, unfragmented;
My characters, conventional stock figures
Afflicted to a minimal degree
With personality and past experience—
A witch, a hermit, innocent young lovers,
The kinds of being we recall from Grimm,
Jung, Verdi, and the commedia dell’ arte.

The Changing Light at Sandover and Gravity's Rainbow are called "postmodern apocalyptic epics".
I didn't want to add that line. I hate telegraphing this shit.
---
Googling, to see who else remembered that passage, gets Philip Pullman; reading him reminded me of this


And looking for my past mentions of Merrill led back to 2005, making the same points,  not using Giotto but Fra Angelico, and answering fans of Tolkien and the Pre-Raphaelites.

Luc Sante in the NYRB in 2006. 
That the work of H.P. Lovecraft has been selected for the Library of America would have surprised Edmund Wilson, whose idea the Library was. In a 1945 review he dismissed Lovecraft’s stories as “hackwork,” with a sneer at the magazines for which they were written, Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, “where…they ought to have been left.”Lovecraft had been dead for eight years by then, and although his memory was kept alive by a cult—there is no other word—that established a publishing house for the express purpose of collecting his work, his reputation was strictly marginal and did not seem likely to expand.

Since then, though, for a writer who depended entirely on the meager sustenance of the pulps and whose brief career brought him sometimes to the brink of actual starvation, whose work did not appear in book form during his lifetime (apart from two slender volumes, each of a single story, published by fans) and did not attract the attention of serious critics before his death in 1937, Lovecraft has had quite an afterlife. His influence has been far-reaching and, in the last thirty or forty years, continually on the increase, if often in extraliterary ways. Board games, computer games, and role-playing games have been inspired by his work; the archive at hplovecraft.com includes an apparently endless list of pop songs—not all of them death metal—that quote or refer to his tales; and there have been around fifty film and television adaptations, although hardly any of these have been more than superficially related to their sources.

There is a reason for that superficiality. Lovecraft’s work is essentially unfilmable, not because his special effects are too gaudy or too expensive to translate to the screen, but because they are purely literary. Lovecraft was bookish in an extreme, almost parodistic way. He may not have worn a fez or been able to afford a wing chair, but he assumed the archetype of the nineteenth-century man of letters (Wilson calls him “a literary man manqué“) with his circle of disciples, the roughly 100,000 letters he wrote to them (and he was only forty-seven when he died), the preciously archaic language in which he expressed himself (almost always using “shew” in preference to “show,” for instance), the humid cultivation of in-jokes that migrated from the correspondence to the stories and were perpetuated in stories by the disciples, and the carefully tended aura, if quite self-aware, of “forbidden knowledge.”

In other words, he was a nerd.

"the humid cultivation of in-jokes that migrated from the correspondence to the stories and were perpetuated in stories by the disciples, and the carefully tended aura, if quite self-aware, of 'forbidden knowledge.'"

"I was a weird kid: artsy, fay, obsessed with conspiracies, science fiction, Ayn Rand, and the occult."

I suppose I should say something about Schmitt, but Weber will do

The Name of The Rose came out in english in 1983. Its themes were the end of scholasticism and the rise of humanism. It was obvious then. I've been repeating myself since the 70s.
Again and again and again.

The rise of a self-conscious geek culture, the proud celebration of the preadolescent imagination in adulthood, came in earnest ten years after the publication of One Dimensional Man and the release of Dr. Strangelove, the title character an amalgam of Werner von Braun and the ur-geek von Neumann. 

Geeks are idiots. They refuse to face moral complexity; they refuse to recognize it.  

A “tragic dilemma”, as I understand it, is a situation in which consequentialism gives a clear answer about which alternative is better, but the answer in question is unpalatable. I don’t see why, in such a situation, consequentialism should be described as “crass” rather than, say, “jolly sensible”.

As I said, sadly after the fact, a tragic dilemma is the choice between food for your children or cancer medicine for your wife.

I'm never going to want to talk to sincere fans of Asimov about the tragedies of the 20th century, or about tragedy in general. It's something they're not prepared to face. And yet they chatter incessantly about politics. Anyone serious about art or politics will think Villeneuve might to a better job of facing it than Herbert.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Still playing with it. The old explaining the new.

We can’t re-fight old battles every time a subject comes up; there are limits to the human capacity for recall. Years after spending time and effort to come to a conclusion it’s the conclusion not the process that sticks in the mind. But that means that no matter how hard we once fought our response now is based on received opinion, even if received from our younger selves. So it’s good occasionally to revisit the past in detail, especially in cases where our relation to the past is the thing under debate. 

1

A North Texas school district apologized late Thursday after an administrator advised teachers that if they have books about the Holocaust in their classrooms, they should also include reading materials that have “opposing” perspectives of the genocide that killed millions of Jews. 

2

Mr. Döpfner said he plans to grow Politico’s footprint both in the U.S. and overseas by introducing new industry-focused products and services and by broadening the scope of coverage. He said he expects Politico’s main news offerings, now free, to go behind a paywall in the medium term.

He also said he expects Politico staffers to adhere to Axel Springer-wide guiding principles that have raised controversy at times at its German properties—though they won’t be required to sign a written commitment to the principles like employees in Germany. The principles include support for a united Europe, Israel’s right to exist and a free-market economy, among others. 

3

It would be an excellent idea to call in respectable, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of property.

To the people they would vouch for the fact that we do not wish to bring about the impoverishment of the countries that we leave.

At first they must not be given large fees for this; otherwise we shall spoil our instruments and make them despicable as “stooges of the Jews.”

Later their fees will increase, and in the end we shall have only Gentile officials in the countries from which we have emigrated.

The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.

Efforts by German authorities to clamp down on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign took a sinister turn recently after a Jewish-German singer and daughter of a Holocaust survivor was warned that a concert in which she is scheduled to perform would be cancelled if she made any remarks in support of BDS.

History needs to be re-argued because without the argument history becomes catechism: anti-historical. 

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

A

We are being told that in effect the decision of the current President and a House of Congress to investigate a violent assault on the seat of government can be stymied by a former President who led the attack! Indeed, the same former President who was put on trial for the crime and had a big majority of the Senate (57 votes for conviction) vote to convict him. And we are told that this is not because of any legitimate authority or privilege but simply because the courts – which are in essence under the management of the highest echelon of the legal profession – can’t decide things quickly enough. And by quickly enough here we mean they can’t process the question in less than a year.

They say – usually in very different contexts – that justice delayed is justice denied. If Shaub’s prediction is right, that is certainly the case here. And that is a grave indictment of the whole legal profession, especially the elite community of law professors who largely define – on the right and left – how the law functions in our society. The legal profession is one of the groups the Republic relies upon for protection and here it’s pretty clearly and disastrously failed.

Shaub: "As for the bottom line, it seems quite likely that the committee is correct that, as a legal matter, it is entitled to most of the information and testimony it seeks. But, as a practical matter, the committee may never receive it."

Shaub is an academic describing the process of lawyering. Academia tends towards passivity or moralism, two forms of evasion.  Prosecutors don't socialize with defense attorneys, but academics are all of the same tribe. That's Balkin's weakness. It takes a lot to pull him out of his shell.

And again: when a corporation filters information it becomes a publisher of it. Facebook is not a "platform". But Balkin had a point I didn't admit the first time. Targeted advertising based on public information is protected speech, but filtering at the scale of Facebook and Google is a question of access to information; anti-trust solves the problem within accepted constitutional limits. Either break them up or make them public utilities, or both. Give the search engine to ICANN.  And let a thousand flowers bloom. Other smaller networks will thrive.

"Lawyers are the rule of law." Joe Jamail, doing a deposition, and a lecturing at Stanford



The second video documents his conflicts over the relation of professions and business, self-respect and self-interest.

"Doing these cases,” he wrote, “I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate.  I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying.

Thinking about Balkin's ideas and their relation—or better, his relation—to politics, going back 18 years, but also liberals' confusion. I wrote a new post but decided to add it here, and I've rearranged things a bit.


1

More legal academics. Rick Hills, at PrawfsBlawg, in 2011: 

Eric Posner's and Adrian Vermeule's op-ed piece in the New York Times, urging President Obama to raise the debt limit unilaterally, is just a specific application of their general theory, outlined in their book, The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic, that Presidents should be free of legalistic limits on their power to initiate policies. The basic message of the book is both positive and normative. On the positive side, Eric and Adrian retail Terry Moe's line (more recently pressed by William Howell) that Presidential power to make policy unilaterally is inevitable. The public wants Presidents to respond to crises quickly without waiting for Congress' imprimatur, and Presidents will accommodate this public desire, regardless of legalistic limits, because neither Congress (bogged down with collective action problems) nor courts (lacking information) will stop them. On the normative side, Eric and Adrian retail a kinder, gentler Carl Schmitt: We should not worry about Presidents' unilaterally claiming powers to (for instance) raise the debt limit, because they will be adequately cabined by politics. Presidents want to win re-election or a favorable place in history, so they will try to accommodate opposing views to signal to the public that they are not tyrants. The plebiscitory limit of regular presidential elections suffices to constrain Presidents: We do not need law to do so.

There is a lot one could say about this briskly written, energetically argued book, but one simple, blog-worthy point leaps out at me: Eric and Adrian are cynical tough guys in dismissing legal limits, but dewy-eyed and naive idealists when it comes to politics. They have a view of presidential politics that I have seen expressed elsewhere only on the more saccharine episodes of "West Wing" (the ones where Alan Alda, the reasonable conservative guy who would not take the Ethanol Pledge in Iowa, was running against Jimmy Smits, the macho but sensitive lefty). They proclaim that voters will be able to distinguish between phony and genuine signals of Presidential trustworthiness, because “[p]eople who seek the office [of the President] have strong incentives to discover and disclose negative information about those in office,” a task in which they are aided by “powerful institutions that are not part of the constitutional structure – most prominently, the media and political parties.” (Pages 115, 119). But this assessment of press and party strikes me as a tad optimistic coming from guys who believe that members of Congress cannot overcome their own collective action problems to stop an aggressive President.

Take, for instance, the press: There seems to be a lot of evidence that the press is the President's Little Helper (to use Jonathan Zaller's phrase). According to this "indexing" theory of reporting, reporters simply repeat -- "index" -- the press releases of the White House, ignoring rival stories offered by scientists and bureaucrats that (for instance) those aluminum tubes imported to Iraq had nothing to do with WMDs. (See Chapter 6 of William Howell's and John Pevehouse's book, While Dangers Gather: Congressional Checks on Presidential War Powers for exhaustive evidence of the "indexing" theory).

There are limits to the "indexing" theory of Presidential omnipotence over the press, but Eric's and Adrian's urging of a unilateral presidency might seem reasonably calculated to destroy those limits. 

Howell, Pevehouse, and Douglas Kriner report, for instance, that, if members of Congress stand up to the President by holding hearings, issuing press releases, and generally making a fuss, then the press reports their opposition, and voters seem to listen. These political scientists do not explain why members of Congress can get public attention that others cannot attract.

Here's a theory of causation: Members of Congress are perceived by the public as being politically relevant actors without whose imprimatur the President cannot lawfully act. Eric and Adrian want to eliminate precisely that perception of Congress by pressing their "legal-authority-does-not-matter" theory. Why would reporters flock to the press conference of a senatorial committee chair whom the President could easily bypass with an executive order? Would not such a blowhard seem just as unnewsworthy as a member of, say, the House of Lords or the European Parliament?

It might be, in short, that constitutional structure has an effect on the behavior of the press. Destroy the structure that makes Congress the preeminent lawmaker, and you destroy the press coverage that members of Congress earn from their constitutional position. 

My reply on the page.
The normative changes over time; it's absurd to say otherwise. The Weimarization of American politics may make Posner and Vermeule's arguments relevant as description, but prescription is another matter.
Can we not find a more direct response to fascist logic than to criticize it as romance? 

"Certainly British journalism is not a profession. Over the years they have tried to make it one. In the United States they have mostly succeeded.... They are taught about the technical skills and the ethics, the heroes of American journalism and its theory. In the process they are moulded and given a protective gloss of self-importance. They have Standards and, in return, they get Status. In Britain it isn’t like this at all. Journalism is a chaotic form of earning, ragged at the edges, full of snakes, con artists and even the occasional misunderstood martyr. It doesn't have an accepted career structure. necessary entry requirements or an effective system of self-policing. Outside organized crime it is the most powerful and enjoyable of the anti-professions."  

3

"i'm a journalist, not an american journalist. my job is not to serve as a propagandist for anybody, just to tell stories and my advantage is that i can tell stories that are hard to come by
...imagine if that one taliban commander had not screwed up my plans to go with them when they conducted attacks, and i had seen that too. isnt that interesting? isnt it important to understand who they are? and most importantly, wouldnt it make for a fun read?" 

4
Two articles on judicial review in the UK.

"Written​ constitutions? ‘Because of where I came from, these documents seemed profoundly exotic.’"

Vermeule was always a fascist. Now he's a theocrat


Since it's now a topic: the first time I referred to "polling and passivity" was 2006.
The 'naturalization' of the discourse of law, politics, and even culture has resulted in the dumbing down of democracy to the level of polling and passivity. Intellectuals in the mold of Posner do not educate or explain—they have no interest in dumbing down their own discourse by dealing directly with the populace—they collate and presume. And if the first rule of intellectual life is to know oneself, that capacity is the first thing that's lost. The self-absorption of the logician is not too far from that of the autistic child staring at a spinning fan. If the logical system prevails over its creator, there is no need for self to be anything else but the system. Life becomes simple, and perverse.

The third time, in 2010, I linked to Jon Stewart.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Rooney had been accused of boycotting Hebrew. American liberal Zionists, supporters of Israel and the Green Line, pushed back. Anti-Zionists weren't interested in the distinction.

Rooney should publish in Arabic. Any Jew native to the Middle East will understand, and the immigrants should have learned it. 
In December 1920, the mayor of Jerusalem, Raghib al-Nashashibi, organized a large event in honor of British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel. When he invited Prof. Abraham Shalom Yahuda to speak at the event, there was no need to say the lecture would be given in Arabic. For both of them, sons of distinguished Jerusalem families, one Arab-Muslim and the other Arab-Jewish, Arabic was the local language. It was the language in which members of all religions here wrote, spoke, traded and argued.

Arabic was viewed as the language of the land also among the Zionist movement, which acted to renew the Hebrew language. David Yellin and Yosef Meyouhas, two of the founders of the Hebrew Language Committee and Hebrew education in the land of Israel, could not have imagined that their project for the rebirth of Hebrew would serve one day as a tool to displace Arabic.
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"Popularism" and the problem of leadership. Social science is passive: polling is the only way to know what people want. Any leader who wants to help people knows sometimes they don't thank you till later. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Leiter: "The Epistemology of the Internet and the Regulation of Speech in America" 

The Internet is the epistemological crisis of the 21st-century: it has fundamentally altered the social epistemology of societies with relative freedom to access it. Most of what we think we know about the world is due to reliance on epistemic authorities, individuals or institutions that tell us what we ought to believe about Newtonian mechanics, evolution by natural selection, climate change, resurrection from the dead, or the Holocaust. The most practically fruitful epistemic norm of modernity, empiricism, demands that knowledge be grounded in sensory experience, but almost no one who believes in evolution by natural selection or the reality of the Holocaust has any sensory evidence in support of those beliefs. Instead, we rely on epistemic authorities—biologists and historians, for example. Epistemic authority cannot be sustained by empiricist criteria, for obvious reasons: salient anecdotal evidence, the favorite tool of propagandists, appeals to ordinary faith in the senses, but is easily exploited given that most people understand neither the perils of induction nor the finer points of sampling and Bayesian inference. Sustaining epistemic authority depends, crucially, on social institutions that inculcate reliable second-order norms about whom to believe about what. The traditional media were crucial, in the age of mass democracy, with promulgating and sustaining such norms. The Internet has obliterated the intermediaries who made that possible (and, in the process, undermined the epistemic standing of experts), while even the traditional media in the U.S., thanks to the demise of the “Fairness Doctrine,” has contributed to the same phenomenon. I argue that this crisis cries out for changes in the regulation of speech in cyberspace—including liability for certain kinds of false speech, incitement, and hate speech--but also a restoration of a version of the Fairness Doctrine for the traditional media.

Again, Tom Nichols, et al.

Facebook is the rule of experts as power hungry and passive aggressive. "We're only giving the people what they want." Leiter prefers the rule of those like himself. He defends "truth".  End the monopoly; end the shit-funnel. Shit will always be with us, but each of us needs to judge for ourselves.

"Democracies have freedom of speech not because governments grant it but because the government is not granted the power to take it away."

Most arguments against mass surveillance don't respond fully substantively to claims that you shouldn't worry if you "have nothing to hide".  Defense of personal freedom isn't enough.  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.

I've repeated both a few times and I'll repeat them again and again.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

It's too easy

1. "Great moments in obscure rock 'n' roll: Tucky Buzzard, 'She's Meat,' 1971"

2. "Academic Ethics: Is ‘Diversity’ the Best Reason for Affirmative Action?"

Charles Mills went from arguing that liberalism is racist, to arguing for a "deracialized liberalism", and philosophers just follow along for the ride. The narrative of the change is left to historians.

Jesus fuck

Bookish as a child, Dr. Mills said he regretted spending more time reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien than Frantz Fanon, the revolutionary Franco-Caribbean philosopher. But he also joked that his love of science fiction had prepared him for a life in philosophy.

“It could just be that I’m a nerdy alienated weirdo, and nerdy alienated weirdos are disproportionately attracted to both fields,” he wrote in a biographical essay in 2002. “Have you been to an A.P.A. meeting recently? I rest my case.”

Like the man says, I rest my case. 

If I believed in the primacy of ideas, I'd have a hard time figuring who did more damage to the western and then global intellectual tradition in the post war era: Tolkien, Rawls, or the inventors of Dungeons and Dragons. But in the end of course they'd all follow von Neumann.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Leiter links to Leiter, (my emphasis)
5.  Most discussion of appropriate and inappropriate restrictions on speech on campus are not based on legal requirements, but on ideals of freedom of thought and inquiry that universities are (often uniquely) thought to stand for.  (Recall that even Marcuse, in his critique of "repressive tolerance" for harmful expression, thought universities should be bastions of unbridled expression....)

Absolute fucking bullshit. Academia polices speech in ways the government can't. 

McWhorter and Rauchway and Ronell and Tushnet

Hüppauf is honest

The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures. 

I grew up listening to legal discussions of the First Amendment and freedom of speech, arguments about the principle and the Constitution. Supreme Court justices were acknowledged as political appointees and mostly mediocre minds. And these were debates among lawyers and others involved in cases at the lowest level, who were advocates for people, not ideas. This is how change happens, how principles are preserved, expanded, shaped. The Supreme Court makes government policy; rulings can't define the terms of debate (see the idiot Tushnet, above). The same applies to discussions of foreign policy among those who eschew easy definitions of the foreign. This is what it means to be intellectually serious. Left to its own devices authority serves only itself.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

"It was strange. My students were all obsessed with sex....

Not the idea of sex or the meaning of sex, but sex!"

NFS means No Fucking Shit 

In a separate paper, “The existential function of right‐wing authoritarianism,” Womick, Ward and King, joined by Samantha J. Heintzelman and Brendon Woody, provide more detail:

It may seem ironic that authoritarianism, a belief system that entails sacrifice of personal freedom to a strong leader, would influence the experience of meaning in life through its promotion of feelings of personal significance. Yet, right wing authoritarianism does provide a person with a place in the world, as a loyal follower of a strong leader. In addition, compared to purpose and coherence, knowing with great certainty that one’s life has mattered in a lasting way may be challenging. Handing this challenge over to a strong leader and investment in societal conventions might allow a person to gain a sense of symbolic or vicarious significance.

Cultures armor themselves under threat. Bullies were once bullied.  "Early Childhood Victimization Among Incarcerated Adult Male Felons"  It was fucking obvious before 1998. It was obvious before I was born. It was obvious before the 20th century. It was obvious before 1789. 

"Very hard to defend a low-lying beach. Eventually people will come for you"


"Political scientists seek to understand politics, not engage in politics."
Social science is anti-historical, anti-political pseudoscience.

Liberal technocrats imagine themselves as defending democracy. If they recognized themselves as managers, as rulers, they'd understand the backlash when they do a lousy job. I'll repeat myself until I die. Technocracy is not democracy.


"the meaning of sex"  The Journal of Philosophy, mid 80s.  Told to me by Callie Angell, who was there.

I know what Mark Blyth does for a living. And he cowrote this book with a hedge fund manager.  Another reason I gave this one the Comedians tag.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Ryan Cooper
I made a (somewhat slapdash) video about Lord of the Rings and why America has no tradition of dutiful conservatism

Of course the same applies to liberalism. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal" only came out in 1970, and A Theory of Justice was published in 1971

In the work of Rawls, Dworkin,  Arneson, and Cohen, a central example that clinches the case against equality of welfare as the ethically correct kind of egalitarianism is the required treatment of a person with voluntarily cultivated expensive tastes. Under welfare egalitarianism, such a person must receive a larger-than-normal bundle of scarce resources, which appears to render him a kind of exploiter of others with more frugal tastes. In the model I have presented, a person who has a high rate of time discount (r) or who views education as very costly (low value of s) has expensive tastes, for he will choose a low level of education (ceteris paribus) will consequently have low expected future income, and will have a low expected welfare. 

To take a the classic example, consider the person who derives satisfaction from a drink only If it is a pre-phylloxera claret. Such a person requires more money to derive the same satisfaction that a beer lover derives from her brew. Here is how Dworkin, Arneson, and I would differ in the treatment of a person. Dworkin would not compensate the one who could derive satisfaction only front pre-phylloxera claret if she identifies with those tastes. Arneson would not compensate her if it had been prudent for her to learn to like beer: presumably, if she knew that she would not have the income to purchase the ancient claret, and if she had the opportunity to develop frugal tastes, then it would have been prudent for her to do so. I propose that the decision whether to compensate her depends on how the median person of her type behaved. Let us say that her type is "child of impoverished aristocrats." If the "median preferences" of persons of that type are for pre-phylloxera claret, then she is entitled to compensation to increase her level of welfare to what the person of frugal tastes, who exercised a median degree of responsibility in other circumstances can experience with his resources.  

If you click through the links they get you back to Rawls, Roemer et al. 

And Cooper contracts something he wrote less than a month ago. 

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. 
And as always
SE: "Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."
Chris Bertram: "If, by 'recent' you mean 1705, you may be right."

To match this, Leiter has a new paper calling for a return to Hart. Varieties of pseudoscience and anti-politics.

I'll add the Aristocrats tag. I don't have one for virtue ethics. And The Discovery of Experience. It's still Tolkien but at least Cooper is trying. But the video is pretty bad. 
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day later he tries again: "I spent like 60 hours making this video, pls watch"

Because it fits. Because an ex-editor of Commonweal[!]  asks: Does motherhood make us less free?

And that's why the fascist Sophie Lewis calls for abolition. End the family, in the name of freedom, 
self-interest, and self-hatred. 

And we're back to the previous post: "It might be worth defining fascism as the rebellion of individualism against itself, since fascists are incapable of functioning within a community. " 
updated at bit. It's depressing how unsophisticated the sophisticated have become
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Jacob Bacharach in the New Republic, 2021: Ayn Rand Made Me a Communist
How an adolescent love affair with "Atlas Shrugged" opened up the world of radical politics.

I don’t suppose that when my parents sent me off to the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop they imagined I’d return, a few weeks later, both gay and an objectivist.

Bacharach in the New Republic, 2016: I Was a Teenage Nazi Wannabe

The alt-right is a loser's poor fantasy of what a radical revolution looks like. I should know.

I was nearly expelled from high school my senior year, just before graduation. Only my grades, acceptance to a relatively prestigious college, and privileged position as the son of one of the pillars of the local economy prevented it. I was a weird kid: artsy, fay, obsessed with conspiracies, science fiction, Ayn Rand, and the occult.

Bacharach, 2021

...As for me, I’ve never quite figured where to place myself on a left-right spectrum: a moralist but a moral relativist; a queer atheist with an enduring affection for the most traditional of religions; an anarchist by intellect but a collectivist by sentiment. I do count myself a radical, and even if my later development as a political writer and thinker owed a great deal more to Didion and Vidal and Ishmael Reed and a lot of crackpot early-aughts bloggers, then it would still be no exaggeration to say that my earliest, most formative, and most enduring encounter with a radical politics was the high priestess of The Collective herself, Ayn Rand.

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).” Get it, girl!

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote".  Often, they are. It depends. Didion was a Goldwater girl, and she's still not a "liberal". Gore was always a patrician. This idiot is so confused. He still doesn't know what he is, or what he wants to be.

Bacharach, 2016

We were seniors in 1999, the year of the Columbine massacre. For most of the couple of years preceding, we’d been cobbling together a masterpiece of experimental filmmaking—actually, a semi-related skein of filthy, profane sketch gags centered on the peripatetic wanderings of a character (I use the term loosely) named “Headless,” defined chiefly by the fact that he wore, or was, a full-head rubber Tor Johnson mask. We filmed in our backyards and the woods behind them, in parking lots and alleys, in our bedrooms, and, most ill-advisedly, in the hotel where we stayed on our AP Government trip to Washington, D.C. Then one of us left the VHS master copy sitting on a table in the Laurel Highlands Senior High School cafeteria.


The movie inevitably made its way to our principal. There were plenty of bits to get a decent and unimaginative man riled up—rituals cribbed from Anton LeVay, drug use both simulated and actual, violence, and plenty of fake blood. But I have to believe that the worst moment for that poor administrator and for our poor parents was when they watched another friend of ours, a nice girl from a devoutly Christian family—Lord knows how we cajoled her into participating—crawl between my legs to perform simulated fellatio on a TV remote control. I suspect we meant all this as some kind of commentary on the media. The camera panned up to my contorted face. “Oh yeah, baby,” I growled, “Suck it. Heil Hitler, my dick is your Fuhrer.”

I was already out, the only openly gay kid at my school. I was—I am—a Jew. 
John Waters is a conservative. Ask anyone who knows him.
He even name checks Nick Land, but doesn't get the point. I'm seeing more and more of this... 

I'm so fucking bored 

"I was a weird kid: artsy, fay, obsessed with conspiracies, science fiction, Ayn Rand, and the occult."

"...he double-majored in music and English and became deeply involved in avant-garde theater, trying out and discarding various radical ideologies like costume changes."


Earlier this year, another hipster wannabe communist and Rand, linking to the history.

Jeet Heer retweeting Krugman on Asimov, and writing about comics. Asimov, the intellectual hero to Krugman and Gingrich and Henry Farrell. I liked Asimov at 12 and knew it was intelligent pop crap. Naked Sun, the one that stayed with me, is detective fiction, the only pulp ever to rise above the name. Ray Bradbury and later Philip K. Dick rose above pulp in other ways.  I read a page of Rand at 17 and knew it was incompetent.  But all of the above, as I've aid a thousand times, documents unsophisticated understanding of art. And change is slow.

More of the same, at a higher level. The brilliance of Steely Dan is inseparable from the limitations. As with the Coen brothers and Nabokov: the poetry of velvet-gloved overdetermination, the late style, not of individual artists but of a form: the Russian novel,  American popular song, Hollywood film. Nabokov is better than Borges because not conceptual or in the service of ideas, not openly reactionary, but too knowing.  Didion belongs on that list too; I think she'd agree. The fans bother me more than the people they worship, even Borges. I  didn't read comics much as a kid, but when I found one by Jack Kirby, from the late 60s, the drawings fascinated me: they combined a rough graphic style with a narrative pull in a way I hadn't seen before. My response was visceral. I recognized that Kirby had succeeded in doing something even if I didn't quite know what it was, so I returned to it. And that's a definition of art.
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I sent note to Bacharach; we had a bit of a back and forth. I told him he should follow Didion's model and be observant and honest to the point of making others and himself uncomfortable, since that's what makes good writing. He disagreed.

I reminded him of Didion's essay on the Central Park jogger. I told him the top image on the top left, above Lulu, is fascist: the identification with victimhood, and the demand for respect as a victim, of the world, and of being therefore too good for this world. Brooks was too smart to make that generalization. Didion didn't go as far as I have, but she makes the conservative case against individualism and the resulting narcissism. 

Didion is Bacharach's Judy Garland. He's a fan, writing for an audience of fans."Yes! Didion is so camp!" He can't admit to mocking her. He sees himself as a liberal, as liberals do, full of best intentions. 

It might be worth defining fascism as the rebellion of individualism against itself, since fascists are incapable of functioning within a community. 

Friday, October 01, 2021

People have been talking about this all week, noting the author, quoting the first paragraph and then footnote 2. But Rudd begins a quote from Dashiell Hammett

Nobody thinks clearly, no matter what they pretend. . . . That’s why people hang on so tight to their beliefs and opinions; because, compared to the haphazard way they’re arrived at, even the goofiest opinion seems wonderfully clear, sane, and self-evident.

Now Leiter's found it, via an article in the Times.

In his life my father was known mostly for politics, but he'll remembered beyond family and friendships for one essay on Hammett. His father was a Pinkerton, a hired killer, who died of TB a year after my father was born.