Thursday, March 31, 2022

I should write an essay titled "Against Philosophy" and submit it to the NLR. These people are such idiots.

Comes now a "Senior Political Scientist" at the motherfucking RAND Corporation.
I really think that it comes down to the fact that I hate utopians, liberal or "leftist", though I guess I use the scare quotes because I was raised in what I perceived to be the realist, anti-utopian left. Maybe my entire experience was anomalous.
The New Zoo Review
If much of the left is subdued, there seem to be two main reasons. The first stems from its relationship to the Democratic Party since 2016, which has effectively neutralized it as a caucus and activist base. Absent any movement on social reform legislation, progressives have gone along with the quest to link Trump to Putin, to the point that Russophobia increasingly defines the party as such. On this issue, most of the Squad hardly differ from the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. The second is moral sententiousness, underpinned by a powerfully selective memory. Months after the retreat from Afghanistan and theft of its reserves – and during the US-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen – this country is not in a position to dispense moral lessons. As an upholder of the principle of national sovereignty, its credibility is nil. And the moral vacuity of its position matters, not because it absolves Russia of wrongdoing in a warm bath of reciprocal turpitude, but because it points to the urgent need to proceed on some other basis if the aim is to find a peaceful solution. Crowd-funding bombs to fuel fighting in Kyiv is not that. Nor are indiscriminate sanctions in pursuit of regime change in Moscow. At a minimum, the US left should summon what modest reserves of independence and strength it has to call on its own government to de-escalate, pursue direct and indirect talks, to trade guarantees of neutrality for a ceasefire and troop withdrawal. A refusal to contemplate any alteration to a post-Cold War order forged in hubris by the victors is not toughness. It is war mongering. 

Anne Applebaum, Atlantic, Nov 15, 2021 

The Bad Guys Are Winning: If the 20th century was the story of slow, uneven progress toward the victory of liberal democracy over other ideologies—communism, fascism, virulent nationalism—the 21st century is, so far, a story of the reverse.

Max Fisher,  NY Times, Nov 16

U.S. Allies Drive Much of World’s Democratic Decline, Data Shows: Washington-aligned countries backslid at nearly double the rate of non-allies, data shows, complicating long-held assumptions about American influence.

That one gave some people a laugh at the time. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

a credit to his race

White liberals love Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  

When Will Smith stormed onto the Oscar stage to strike Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife’s short hair, he did a lot more damage than just to Rock’s face. With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community.

Everyone loves comedians until they come after you. Chris Rock leaned into the slap and smiled through it: a little vindictive honesty, a little self-hatred. Will Smith humiliated himself. It was great theater. Moralism makes people stupid.
In later footage Rock looks shaken. I should add something more on comedians and self-hatred.   

"Chris Rock is an intelligent and sophisticated observer of the world."

I'll mock the Quincy Institute for Responsible Stagecraft into the fucking ground, but since I'm linking the Economist and FT, shit must be getting real. 

The criminal US state is going to punish the Russian state in defeat, not for undeniable criminality, but for challenging the fading powers that be. It's all disgusting,

Putin jumped the shark; Russia is a paper tiger with the bomb; Europe doesn't need America as much as everybody thought; the reserve currency isn't what it used to be, and neither is NY. But I've said that for years.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Intellegenter and Idealisticer

"How Adam Tooze beat Chapo Frat House"  How a professor at Columbia "supplanted" the son of a New Yorker editor and his crew. Published in New York Magazine. 
“Is there a word for members of the Adam Tooze fandom,” wondered journalist Brendan O’Connor on Twitter last fall. What to call them? Tooze Boys, Tooze Bros, Tooze Hounds, Tooze Heads, Tooze Dudes, Toozers. (“Tooze Bro,” in my experience, seems to come up most often in relation to online fans, “Tooze Boy” in relation to students. I have heard, secondhand, of a complaint that everyone says “Tooze Bros” and no one says “History Boys.”) The name is contentious, the appeal inarguable. “For the Tooze Bros, what Adam does is he validates the little-boy interest in big machines and great men playing Risk while also embracing all the left-wing, anti-imperial, 21st-century politics we’re supposed to have,” said Ethan Winter, an analyst at the think tank Data for Progress. “That’s very fun.”

The media contingent of Tooze's fan base are readers who relish a chance to "feel marginally superior to Matt Yglesias," as journalist Alex Pareene put it.

The need to be fans and the need to have them. The need to be popular. The desperate need to belong.

In the seven years that he has been tweeting “intensively,” Tooze believes he has managed to avoid significantly offending anyone. For him, the app has provided a cordial and sustaining intellectual community. “Those are my peeps,” he said. Twitter has “become far more important for me than academic seminars.” Lately, he said, the writing he enjoys most is “the short tempos” — the articles, newsletters, and other commentary. He suspects the climate book he is working on now will be the last he writes for some time. Since the beginning of 2022, Tooze has published eight articles in The New Statesman, Foreign Policy, and The Guardian; 40 editions of Chartbook (not including link roundups); and 1,500 tweets. 

Written by a woman; that's how the irony creeps in, small and not enough. It's a puff piece. It it were written by a man it would be unbearable. She mentions his wife's business but not his role as a tour guide. Fans who could afford it would love to be led around Tuscany or Provence by their hero.

The shrinks and the house in the Bahamas are a nice touch. 

The best response to Mearsheimer I've read is the comment by a non-white non-American that his loudest critics have never gotten over his arguments about the Israel lobby.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

I've posted the first a few times over the years but not the second. It's an unscripted test, cut roughly for sound. I wanted to use it as the basis of a more fully realized pitch, but as it is, in a few words, it connects all of my arguments. At one point the director of... [not Tilton] told me to write up a proposal and offered to forward it to the curator and director of an Italian foundation. When he read the result he backed off. It was well written but informal, a friendly letter. His offer had been predicated on me knowing how to behave. He knew it was my role to be a supplicant, as he had been and is, and as the foundation director is to the people above him. I have a hard time with that. I'm a lousy actor.

The best short description I could think of was to ask them to imagine a collaboration between Jeff Wall and Christian Lacroix for the Paris Opera Ballet. I imagined the big one in the end as a muslin, sewn by the best seamstresses using every technique in the book. I wanted to make the whole thing a master class in the baroque, taking it seriously rather than merely indulging, taking having your cake and eating it as far as it could go. The show at Tilton was all part of the same big project. I'm a determinist. I knew someone was going to make a Phantom Thread within a few years. In the widest sense I've predicted everything.

Jeff Wall but also Wiseman and Robert Wilson, both of whom have worked with the Comédie-Française. Varieties of classicism. And now Wiseman has a tag.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Milanovic: "The end of the end of history"  The last paragraph.

The current war displays to us that the complexity of the world, its cultural and historical “baggage”, is great and that the idea that one type of system will eventually be embraced by all is a delusion. It is a delusion whose consequences are bloody. To have peace, we need to learn to live while accepting differences. These differences are not trivial differences that go under the current title of being open to variety, in the way we dress, in our sexual preferences or the food we eat. The differences we need to accept, and to live with, are much more fundamental and they relate to the way societies function, what they believe in, and what they think is the source of legitimacy of their governments. That of course can change in the course of time for any one given society, as it did many times in the past. But at a given point, it will differ from country to country, from region to region, from religion to religion. To assume that everyone  who is not “like us” is somehow deficient, or not aware that they would be better off being “like us” will –if we maintain this flawed belief—remain the source of endless wars.

Offensive on a thousand levels, and just stupid. "The weak suffer what they must", say the strong.

Milanovic again, with Jäger and Dominik Leusder, at Eurotrashpod. w. John Fucking Rawls.

The arguments are as absurd as the march for Charlie Hebdo. If the world is nowhere near being fully post-colonial in 2022 it sure as shit wasn't in 1989.  "[T]he idea that one type of system will eventually be embraced by all" may be "a delusion", but all communities should have the opportunity to decide that for themselves, and the comforts of the west are predicated on the fact that the majority of the planet hasn't been allowed the choice.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

On March 18th, 2022, the National Political Committee (NPC) of the Democratic Socialists of America officially dechartered the DSA’s BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group (WG). This disciplinary action constitutes the latest development in an antagonistic relationship between the WG and the highest political body of the DSA that most recently came to national attention during the WG-led call for DSA chapters to expel Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) for accepting a J Street political junket to Israel, slandering BDS, and voting for increased funding to Israel’s Iron Dome system. The NPC opposed expelling Bowman, even as individual chapters dissented from the NPC’s stance on the issue.
Dechartering means that the BDS and Palestine Solidarity WG has been disbanded. Members of its steering committee are ineligible to hold DSA national leadership positions for one year. Furthermore, the NPC has moved to ensure that future DSA Palestine work will be folded into the DSA’s International Committee, with leadership that is hand selected by the DSA NPC, as opposed to maintaining the autonomy to select and appoint leadership that had been previously enjoyed within the WG. To clarify, the DSA’s decision to dissolve the WG and instead have Palestine work be housed within its International Committee means that the DSA is actively disbanding its only working group exclusively dedicated to Palestine, and leaving it to its body tasked with international affairs to take up Palestine and BDS work amongst myriad other causes. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

 "We think the price is worth it."  Her timing—the exit—was perfect.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


As I wrote before, an email exchange with Milanovic confirmed all my assumptions. This just makes me laugh. 

Now, almost half-a-century later, as I was writing about the war, I realized how Marxism in that case really fulfilled the essential functions of a religion.

I wasn't going to comment but earnest American socialists are celebrating his brilliant observation, nodding their heads... or something.

Milanovic commented recently that Hamasmag/Jacobin has good covering Ukraine, and I won't argue. It's really become more of an international magazine, and Volodymyr Ishchenko is very good, there, elsewhere, and again...etc.

William Arkin

Leonid Bershidskiy linking Niall Ferguson 

The amazing part of this column is that U.S. officials are saying out loud that they want the war to last in order to "bleed Putin". They don't care a fig about Ukraine. It stands completely alone (and Zelenskiy knows it, btw).

Mark Ames links Anand Gopal from 2020

For four months in 2017, an American-led coalition in Syria dropped some ten thousand bombs on Raqqa, the densely populated capital of the Islamic State. Nearly eighty per cent of the city, which has a population of three hundred thousand, was destroyed. I visited shortly after ISIS relinquished control, and found the scale of the devastation difficult to comprehend: the skeletal silhouettes of collapsed apartment buildings, the charred schools, the gaping craters. Clotheslines were webbed between stray standing pillars, evidence that survivors were somehow living among the ruins. Nobody knows how many thousands of residents died, or how many are now homeless or confined to a wheelchair. What is certain is that the decimation of Raqqa is unlike anything seen in an American conflict since the Second World War. 

...if you ignore Korea and Cambodia.


What hardly any Americans know or remember,” Mr. Cumings writes, “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.” The United States dropped more bombs in Korea (635,000 tons, as well as 32,557 tons of napalm) than in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. Our logic seemed to be, he says, that “they are savages, so that gives us the right to shower napalm on innocents.”

The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops. 


The still-incomplete database (it has several “dark” periods) reveals that from October 4, 1965, to August 15, 1973, the United States dropped far more ordnance on Cambodia than was previously believed: 2,756,941 tons’ worth, dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. Just over 10 percent of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having “unknown” targets and another 8,238 sites having no target listed at all. The database also shows that the bombing began four years earlier than is widely believed — not under Nixon, but under Lyndon Johnson.

The impact of this bombing, the subject of much debate for the past three decades, is now clearer than ever. Civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the bombing began, setting in motion the expansion of the Vietnam War deeper into Cambodia, a coup d’état in 1970, the rapid rise of the Khmer Rouge, and ultimately the Cambodian genocide.

...To put the revised total of 2,756,941 tons into perspective, the Allies dropped just over 2 million tons of bombs during all of World War II, including the bombs that struck Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 15,000 and 20,000 tons, respectively. Cambodia may well be the most heavily bombed country in history.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Azov Batallion twitter account tweets their commander's appearance on CNN
Haaretz, July 2018
Rights Groups Demand Israel Stop Arming neo-Nazis in Ukraine 
Human rights activists petition the court to cease Israeli arms exports to Ukraine since some of these weapons reach neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine’s security force. 
A group of more than 40 human rights activists have filed a petition with the High Court of Justice, demanding the cessation of Israeli arms exports to Ukraine. They argue that these weapons serve forces that openly espouse a neo-Nazi ideology and cite evidence that the right-wing Azov militia, whose members are part of Ukraine’s armed forces, and are supported by the country’s ministry of internal affairs, is using these weapons. 
An earlier appeal to the Defense Ministry was met with no response.
Jerusalem Post, March 2022
Zelensky strikes the wrong note to bring Knesset to his side
“I appreciate the President of Ukraine and support the Ukrainian people in heart and deed, but it is impossible to rewrite the terrible history of the Holocaust,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel tweeted. “Genocide was also committed on Ukrainian soil. The war is terrible, but the comparison to the horrors of the Holocaust and the final solution is outrageous.”

...Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman took issue with Zelensky’s reference to Ukrainians who saved Jews and tweeted: “I don’t understand Ukrainian, but if the translation I heard is accurate, Zelensky asked us to treat the Ukrainians like they treated us 80 years ago. I’m sorry, but I think we will have to reject that request. We are, after all, a moral nation.”

Israelis know the history of the Holocaust very well. The Ukrainian Auxiliary Police rounded up Jews to be massacred in Babyn Yar, Lviv and Zhytomyr. About 80,000 Ukrainians volunteered for the SS, compared with 2,600 Ukrainians documented as having saved Jews. And before that, some of the worst pogroms in Jewish history were perpetrated in what is now Ukraine. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Happy Anniversary II

I thought I'd posted this here, but that was during my twitter years. I missed it when it was published, but it's become my favorite NYT piece on Iraq. From 2004:

Sunni-Shiite Cooperation Grows, Worrying U.S. Officials

The Falluja situation represents an emerging level of Shiite-Sunni cooperation unheard of in the year-old occupation and maybe even the modern history of Iraq. Saddam Hussein exploited divisions between the two sectarian groups. So did many other Iraqi leaders. When American soldiers invaded the country a year ago, preventing a civil war between Shiites, who make up the majority, and Sunnis, who used to hold all the power, was one of the Bush administration's chief concerns.

But now that the resistance is heating up, spreading from town to town, the Sunnis and Shiites are drawing together. American military leaders say they have been watching closely.

"The danger is we believe there is a linkage that may be occurring at the very lowest levels between the Sunni and Shi'a," Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the occupation forces, said today. "We have to work very hard to ensure that it remains at the tactical level."

He also said the call for unity is "clearly an attempt to take advantage of the situation." 

If Sunni-Shiite cooperation was a problem, then maybe the US wasn't interested in democracy in Iraq, or anywhere else.

I'm sick of watching wall-to-wall sympathy for white refugees, but I don't have control of the TV. I've still seen no mention of Iraq. It's almost impressive. Even on the left, the cynicism is lacking. 

I'd forgotten the author.

Happy Anniversary

March 20 2003

Civilian casualties are the deaths of non-military individuals as a result of military operations. The number of documented civilian deaths in the Iraq war peaked in 2006 at 29,517 casualties. Since then, the number had fallen to 4,162 casualties documented in the year 2011, and the number of casualties have been decreasing since 2014. Due to the nature of the Iraq war and of war reporting, data cannot be considered exact. Many civilian deaths that occurred during the war in Iraq may remain unaccounted for.

The Iraq war was launched in March 2003 upon the invasion of Iraq by US forces. Eight years later, in December 2011, the US formally declared an end to the Iraq war. From the start of the war in 2003 until September 30, 2015, it is estimated that the United States spent a total of over 819 billion US dollars on war costs in Iraq. This number includes funding requested by the President and appropriated by Congress, and accounts for both military and non-military spending. Spending was highest in 2008, that year over 142 billion US dollars were spent in Iraq by the United States government. As of 2019, about 7,990 U.S. active-duty military personnel were deployed in North Africa, the Near East, and South Asia. 

The number of US American soldiers killed in Iraq peaked in 2007 with just over nine hundred causalities. In the same year, there were over 25,000 civilian deaths in Iraq.

And Petraeus is on the TV talking to Jake Tapper about Ukraine.

Costs of War 

At least 929,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan. The number of people who have been wounded or have fallen ill as a result of the conflicts is far higher, as is the number of civilians who have died indirectly as a result of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure and environmental contamination, among other war-related problems.

Thousands of United States service members have died in combat, as have thousands of civilian contractors. Many have died later on from injuries and illnesses sustained in the war zones. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and contractors have been wounded and are living with disabilities and war-related illnesses. Allied security forces have also suffered significant casualties, as have opposition forces.

Far more of the people killed have been civilians. More than 387,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting since 2001.

Millions of people living in the war zones have also been displaced by war. The U.S. post-9/11 wars have forcibly displaced at least 38 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria. This number exceeds the total displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.

The U.S. could have pursued several nonmilitary alternatives to holding accountable those responsible for perpetrating the 9/11 attacks. These alternatives would have been far less costly in human lives. For example, the U.S. invasion of Iraq turned the country into a laboratory in which militant groups such as Islamic State have been able to hone their techniques of recruitment and violence. The formation of Islamist militant groups spreading throughout the region counts among the many human costs of that war.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

War between NATO and Russia would be "the coolest thing". 

2019 interview with Oleksiy Arestovych, advisor to Zelenskyy. From Leonid Ragozin, rting a pro-Russian ["Z"] twitter account.

The original, unsubbed on Arestovych's youtube channel. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

I always forget my own history. Almost everything below I've said before. The references are different.

Again on aestheticized politics, and again on Bersani,  on Liberalism and Moyn

Ryan Cooper calls Mike Davis' new piece in the NLR "disappointingly glib". Cooper is one kind of moralist; Davis is another. Davis is in love with decay, meaning in love with death. I read a bit of him years ago and it annoyed me, meaning of course that the writing annoying me. Everything worth reading is worth reading as a primary text: reading for form is reading for subtext. Marxist millenarianism, (and again). Cooper has no sense of any of this of course. Just as he has no sense of the actual situation in Chile.

Jäger fittingly (see link in the last parentheses) links to Tablet, and a piece which wraps this all into a package, with a nice ribbon and a pretty bow. It's as openly perverse as Vermeule and Ahmari. 

I used to drink with a Croatian Nazi and an Israeli fascist, both ex-military. They were friends. Barbarism and the academic defense of barbarism are very different things, and the Croat had the best short war story I've ever heard—"Cover me! I'm goin' for a beer."—a great description of urban warfare in your own country. Unlike Borges and the leftists of the library, I don't worship killers, but I've known a few, and even liked them.

Taubes had visited Schmitt, with whom he maintained a long epistolary relationship, the year before the latter’s death in 1985. In that meeting, he and Schmitt had read together Paul’s letter to the Romans, debating whether the text founded—as Schmitt believed it did—enmity between Christians and Jews. Taubes argued against Schmitt’s interpretation of Paul, which seemed to give scriptural justification for the murderous antisemitism Schmitt had endorsed as the leading legal thinker of the Third Reich. He gave his own reading of the text, and “when I had finished explaining everything to him,” Taubes said, Schmitt insisted that Taubes must, before he died, reveal it to the world.

Obeying the wish of the eminent, dying Nazi, Taubes, now dying himself, would speak about Paul, “as a Jew, not as a professor, a title to which I don’t attribute much importance.” This was not to be a scholarly exercise, but an existential confrontation with the question of Messiah—and of his enemies. The latter, Taubes argued, are those who seek to “hold back” the end of the present world, who believe that it can get along for itself without a “living God” who appears unpredictably into history and into our lives. He calls these people, with contempt, “liberals.” Paul, he argued, was “more Jewish than all the liberal or reformed rabbis” who prayed only half-heartedly for Messiah.

All philosophy is perverse. The perfect is the enemy of the world. 

MLA Forum Debates: MLA Annual Convention, 2005
"Should a homosexual be a good citizen?" Leo Bersani asked in Homos in 1995, expressing a gay skepticism that has dogged every upsurge of gay politics. Bersani's doubt results from his diagnosis of "the rage for respectability ... in gay life today." He locates that rage in postmodern dissolutions of gay identity, in clamors for gay marriage and gay parenting, in queer antisepticizings of gay sex. "Useful thought," Homos suggests, might result from "questioning the compatibility of homosexuality with civic service." And from questioning more: Bersani makes a claim about social being itself. He hypothesizes "that homo-ness ... necessitates a massive redefining of relationality," that it instances "a potentially revolutionary inaptitude perhaps inherent in gay desire for sociality as it is known." If there is anything "politically indispensable" in homosexuality, it is its "politically unacceptable" opposition to community. Thus Homos paradoxically formulates what might be called "the antisocial thesis" in contemporary queer theory.

Bersani's formulation and others like it have inspired a decade of explorations of queer unbelonging. Meanwhile, pace scholarship, gay rage for normalizing sociability—to judge by the gay-marriage boom alone has intensified.Given such divergent developments, I suggested to my colleague on the MLA's Division Executive Committee for Gay Studies in Language and Literature that stocktaking of the antisocial thesis might be in order.

I'm a lazy scholar, but this shit marks the transition of the radical/reactionary anti-politics of the demimonde into respectability. Homosexual self-hatred is defended by philosophers for whom disgust of the body is a given, but is now along with the self-hatred of "gender dysphoria", hidden behind the facade of the "liberal" academy: people so ideologically opposed to history that they've rationalized themselves into optimistic fascism. 

Thug life is barbarism. It needs no written philosophy. It needs no defense. It's not opposed to art. As I've said more than once, maybe not here, if art were about morality, killers wouldn't know how to dance.

Arendt on public and private life, and the and privacy of pain. She doesn't go far enough/wide enough. she shies away, at least in public.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Camila Vergara, before the election, and now, in NACLA. "Fear of Fascism, Hope for Popular Empowerment in Chile"

Text below from the uncorrected proofs 

In the end, it was this visceral fear of hardline Pinochetism’s return to power that won the elections. The new voters who backed Boric in the run-off are not necessarily supporters of Apruebo Dignidad, the winning coalition comprised of Frente Amplio and the Communist Party, but rather their votes were driven by a fear of fascism. They marked their ballots, perhaps begrudgingly, to avoid a greater evil.

However, Boric’s official campaign appeared disconnected from this spontaneous, grassroots anti-fascist crusade. Boric only tangentially addressed the existential threat of having a far-right leader in power, focusing instead on hope for a better future. He stressed “responsible transformations” and “building bridges” with the opposition to achieve “harmony” and “social cohesion”—as if it were possible to negotiate and work together with an increasingly neofascist Right. The sunny and colorful campaign ads, slogans, and memes were close in tone and message to Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008, which emphasized a “more perfect union” and a shared dream for the future. Of course, as we now know, backlash ensued in the United States after this dream of unity and bipartisanship capitulated to the filibuster in Congress in the first two years of Obama’s administration.

In Chile, with a divided lower house and Senate, where the far right already has a strong presence, Boric will now face a similar scenario of legislative stalemate. But he will do so with a quarter of Obama’s charisma and riding on “borrowed votes” from the extra-parliamentary Left. The union through fear elevated Boric to the position of leader of an unlikely anti-fascist alliance, which paradoxically incorporated the parties of the defunct Concertación coalition—made up of the Christian Democratic Party (DC), Socialist Party (PS), and Party for Democracy (PPD)—that administrated the neoliberal model for most of the last three decades. The inclusion of establishment parties, for whom it was never a good time to pursue transformative change and social justice, hampers hope for structural transformations and immediate material improvements. Boric affirmed the moderation imposed by this alliance during his victory speech, emphasizing the need for a “responsible” movement forward in “small steps.”

But even moderate reforms might be difficult to achieve given that Boric’s Apruebo Dignidad is a minority in both houses of Congress. While in the lower house it has 24 percent of the seats, in the Senate it has only 10 percent. To make up for this weak legislative position, Boric once again had to seek support from the parties of the ex-Concertación, which control 24 percent of the lower chamber and 36 percent of the Senate. Party negotiations produced an alliance between Apruebo Dignidad and the traditional center-left parties, excluding the DC. In Boric’s cabinet, members of the ex-Concertación not only head 29 percent of the ministries, but they also occupy two of the most powerful posts in terms of control and budget access: the Ministries of Finance and Public Works. Despite the incorporation of parties of the ex-Concertación, the government still doesn’t have a majority and thus will struggle to legislate against a strong right-wing coalition that has vowed to oppose structural transformations.

...With a social democratic president focused on parliamentary dialogue and negotiation—and for whom Congress seems more “balanced” than divided—the prospects for a transition to a new sociopolitical order look bleak. It remains to be seen whether this “hinge government” between neoliberal democracy and the new constitutional order currently being designed by the Constitutional Convention will ultimately be able to reconfigure the forces of the status quo and establish a new center in which “responsible transformations” will be possible. Given his attachment to dialogue, it is unlikely that Boric will be willing to rule by decree to bypass Congress if legislative deadlock persists. Such respect for procedures would make it impossible to properly implement new constitutional norms, deepening the political crisis and igniting the anger of the popular sectors who only supported Boric out of fear of a return to Pinochetismo.

However, not all is lost. Since Chile is in the midst of a constituent process, launched with a plebiscite in October 2020 and scheduled to yield a new constitutional text to be ratified this September, there is a chance that the new constitution could incorporate direct democracy mechanisms that would allow the people to initiate legislation and force a referendum. In recent months, the Constitutional Convention has held hundreds of public hearings with grassroots organizations that have demanded local decision-making authority and direct democratic procedures to decentralize power and properly protect the environment and human rights. These popular demands for more power prompted Convention representatives to propose a few articles that could help bypass the gridlock in Congress, such as mechanisms for direct popular initiatives, plebiscites, and recall elections.

"Democratic" vs "rule by decree".  Vergara the "theorist"

Saturday, March 12, 2022

figure it out


I’d spent the past five or so years watching celebrities, pundits, friends, and internet randos fall from grace for reasons as varied as sharing dumb jokes, making clumsy writing errors, accidentally showing their dong, and expressing controversial (though often widely held) opinions in the public execution chambers of social media. There had been more grievous allegations, of course—rape, pedophilia, physical abuse. But so many of these spectacles could be grouped under a more mundane heading. You can call it cancel culture. You can call it justice. All I know is that I hated it, and for five years, I kept very quiet about it.


If this is indeed Houellebecq’s last novel, as he proclaims in the acknowledgements, it is an underwhelming finale. Incensed as he may be by the indignities of the dying, he has remarkably little to say about the causes or material circumstances of their suffering. The pandemic is ultimately just an avenue for his growing spiritual preoccupations, increasingly detached from brutalities of the social.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Today, the self is the battlefield of politics. Blame The Beatles.

"Today, the self is the battlefield of politics. Blame Michel Foucault"

Intellectual history is fucking perverse.

Foucault’s last decade was marked by an increasing hostility to the post-war left and its ideas. Marxism, and what it represented in intellectual life (a strong state, universal social rights, control of the economy, the idea of revolution, etc.), became a target...

For the past few months I've been reading again and again that neoliberalism is opposed to government. 

Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, Lecture 11, 28 March 1979. 

What I think is fundamental in English empiricist philosophy—which I am treating completely superficially—is that it reveals something which absolutely did not exist before. This is the idea of a subject of interest, by which I mean a subject as the source of interest, the starting point of an interest, or the site of a mechanism of interests. For sure, there is a series of discussions on the mechanism of interest itself and what may activate it: is it self-preservation, is it the body or the soul, or is it sympathy? But this is not what is important. What is important is the appearance of interest for the first time as a form of both immediately and absolutely subjective will.

Shakespeare was dead before Locke was born. Philosophers have everything so fucking backwards.

Habermas, "Modernity: An Unfinished Project

The Young Conservatives essentially appropriate the fundamental experience of aesthetic modernity, namely the revelation of a decentred subjectivity liberated from all the constraints of cognition and purposive action, from all the imperatives of labour and use value, and with this they break out of the modern world altogether. They establish an implacable opposition to modernism precisely through a modernist attitude. They locate the spontaneous forces of imagination and self-experience, of affective life in general, in what is most distant and archaic, and in Manichaean fashion oppose instru­mental reason with a principle accessible solely to evocation, whether this is the will to power or sovereignty, Being itself or the Dionysian power for the poetic. In France this tradition leads from Georges Bataille through Foucault to Derrida. Over all these figures hovers, of course, the spirit of Nietzsche, newly resurrected in the 1970s.

The Old Conservatives do not allow themselves to be contaminated by cultural modernity in the first place.

That last line is absurd. Desire is not reality. 1600 is not 1830 is not 1960.

repeats: "pour Jean-Luc

A repeat from 2010. Capisce?

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Tooze in the New Statesman: "John Mearsheimer and the dark origins of realism"

Realism is as old as politics. "Realism” is the bastard child of political pragmatism and liberal idealism, invented by ideological optimists who wanted to rule the world and congratulate themselves on their willingness to bear the burden. It's fundamentally European and Christian. Remember that Mearsheimer is a Kantian: it was immoral to ally with Stalin against Hitler. The pic above is at the top of the article, chosen as an image of fear and earnest moral concern. In defense of what?

The USSR post-war was not expansionist. Its policy was defensive. It was realist to see the cold war as predictable but stupid, and that backing dictators and empire to protect against democracy and maintain your own power would only result in a more popular dictatorship opposing you. Realism is knowing that power corrupts, that people are weak, foolish, vain, and easily manipulated. 

“You never beat us on the battlefield.”  “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”
The tragedy is that in the end, Nike won the war. That was predictable too.

Some realism from Raquel Welch

Sending girls like me to Vietnam to entertain the troops is like teasing a caged lion with a piece of raw meat,’ she said. ‘I’m not criticizing our boys’ thoughts or feelings one bit, I’m just telling you that I know what is going through their minds. There they are, fighting an aimless war in a foreign land where they aren’t wanted. . . . Deep down inside, I think it would be best if stars like me stayed home and the Government sent off troupes of prostitutes instead.

It's hard to find the source of the quote now. I remember hearing it as a 7 year old; my father, spitting it out in a rage. The original source in footnote is Mark Jury, The Vietnam Photo Book. I think my parents had a copy. I remember looking at the photographs of prostitutes.


Long Thread Alert: As ever, Adam does a great job dissecting the Mearsheimer 'the west is at fault' critique.

But I think he misses one point. 
It's not just a question of agency and responsibility being dissolved by structural forces. Its also about the possibilities each perspective opens and closes. If we take Mearsheimer's line that its the West's fault...

Then there are things we can do to end this. Namely, do NATO and the EU differently = problem solved. Personally, I think this is wrong, but go with the argument...
Now, if we take the other perspective, that this a 19th Century blood and soil crusade by an unhinged dictator...

then we can't end this by our actions...Instead, the result has to be escalation with no clear exit for any side.
Ironically then, Mearsheimer's structuralism gives us the possibility of ending this, while the (probably) more accurate view contains no such path. Just sayin...

The need to moralize, in otherwise intelligent people, amazes me.  "Let us recount the sequence of events."

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Ryan Cooper 

Tracey said that Zelensky is deliberately trying to "bait" the US into starting WWIII. that is a fucking crack-brained interpretation of the evidence. he's a guy trying to save his country and his life, and advocating unwise policies out of desperation
Seems like a distinction without a difference. 
He's clearly trying to get the US to fight Russia. Whether or not you think he has a good reason for doing so isn't very important, especially when we're talking about nukes and the like.
it makes all the difference in the world. one is a guy under terrible stress doing an understandable thing, another is a Machiavellian schemer trying to end all life on earth
Cooper rt's James Surowiecki 
"Goad" is an interesting, and telling, word choice, just like Jeremy Scahill's and Glenn Greenwald's use of "legitimate" to describe Putin's "security concerns" about Ukraine.

Tracey is an ass, but yes, Zelensky is trying to goad the US into starting WWIII. 

Anatol Lieven rt's Edward Luce
Afghanistan is being starved; Yemen is being bombed to shit, but liberals gotta believe. Like Gunitsky, missing the point, which is not the morality or logical justifications of your opponent, but survival. I've spent the day listening to pro-war propaganda on the fucking TV.  Cooper doesn't even know what the fuck he is. I took the fucking quiz, which is all about "research". I chose the least offensive of bad options and got Foucault. 

update: Cooper in his new home, The American Prospect

When the nuclear deal first passed, I argued that its greatest potential benefit was its example—the U.S. dealing fairly with an overwhelmingly Muslim country in a way that cuts against the wretched tit-for-tat politics of the war on terror. I believed then, and believe now, that Iran could easily make a better friend to America than its neighbors in the region.

Stephen Kinzer also in the same publication in 2010:

The Next Power Triangle. Why America's future partners in the Middle East should be Turkey and Iran -- yes, Iran. 
Kinzer wrote a book about it, and he was late the the argument then. In 2015 Cooper linked to Josh Marshall, a bigot who named his first son after a war criminal.

Liberalism shifts; the structure is the same.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Back in Connecticut and stuck watching CNN/MSNBC, all day long. He won't turn the shit off. It's unbearable.

In recent days, militia leaders in France, Finland and Ukraine have posted declarations urging their supporters to join in the fight to defend Ukraine against a Russian invasion. The posts have been located and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, a private organization that specializes in tracking extremist groups.

Rita Katz, the director of SITE, said that numerous far-right white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups throughout Europe and North America had expressed an outpouring of support for Ukraine, including by seeking to join paramilitary units in battling Russia.

All across the United States, small groups of military veterans are gathering, planning and getting passports in order. After years of serving in smoldering occupations, trying to spread democracy in places that had only a tepid interest in it, many are hungry for what they see as a righteous fight to defend freedom against an autocratic aggressor with a conventional and target-rich army.

Danish government likely to exempt Ukrainians from controversial refugee ‘jewellery law’

A controversial law allowing Danish authorities to confiscate valuable items from refugees is unlikely to be applied to Ukrainians who seek protection in the Nordic country. 


After 20 years of US occupation, my country has been left in ruins. The US and its allies did nothing to develop Afghanistan. We were made into a dependency, relying on flows of humanitarian aid rather than building our own economic capacities. The evidence? Our current economic collapse and the humanitarian catastrophe that has followed from it.

Biden may have withdrawn the US military, but he has refused responsibility for America’s intervention in our country. Instead, he has added great insult to profound injury by stealing our scarce financial resources. His actions will make the bread queues longer and the number of children dying of painful hunger greater. This crime against humanity should never be forgotten.

In 2002, Congress passed a law enabling United States forces to unilaterally storm into peaceful Holland to liberate American soldiers held for war crimes.

Coming in the early days of the war on terrorists, and as the International Criminal Court was being formed here, the measure provoked controversy and seemed to the Dutch – stout US allies – an absurd example of America's "with us or against us" foreign policy.

The law is still on the books.

Formally titled the American Service Members Protection Act, the measure is widely and derisively known here as the Invasion of The Hague Act.

Odd as it may seem, the law allows the US to constitutionally send jack-booted commandos to fly over fields of innocent tulips, swoop into the land of wooden shoes, tread past threatening windmills and sleepy milk cows into the Dutch capital – into a city synonymous with international law – and pry loose any US troops.   

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Imitation of life/Everything is going according to plan

Illustrations of nostalgia and technocracy: 2014, and 2022
From Farrell/Brighouse/Quiggin and George Scialabba to Cooper/Bruenig and this.

The last time, in 2021: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked," etc. 

This works too. Click the link at the bottom and it takes to Alfred Kazin from 1960
Whatever Greenwich Village may once have been or may now be supposed to have been, anyone who has recently strayed down MacDougal Street on a Saturday night knows that now it is a playground. What Coney Island was once to the honest workingman, Greenwich Village is now to the unmarried or ex-married young professional. The Village streets, pads, coffee houses, and bars are jammed with people who look a million times more sensitive, artistic, and "interesting" than William Faulkner or Igor Stravinsky, but who live by teaching economics, analyzing public opinion, writing advertising copy, practicing psychoanalysis, or "doing research" for political candidates. They are not intellectuals, but occasionally dream that they will be. That is their secret ambition. Meanwhile, being young and frisky, they are not yet the "managers" in our highly organized technical society. But they have the skills someday to become managers.

And since Lehman in the New Republic, is linking to Adam Curtis, I should call, and raise. Especially appropriate considering Putin's words to Macron this morning.

Every image below is a vision of hell. And they're all in the links above as images of utopia. Are you all so fucking stupid that I have to telegraph this shit?

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Moyn is ripping me off  :-) 

Or not. If he is, it's not the first time someone has.

But he misses the point. I'd like to see some enlightenment. I'd like to see some progress, but there hasn't been much. The humanists were not optimists. Kant was not an optimist. Republicanism predates liberalism, and will outlast it. Utopia means "no place" etc, etc.

I should send him a note and politely rip him a new asshole. Now he has a tag.

I'm adding other tags—that are appropriate. I'm going to come back to this, and Judith Shklar. [I did. See below]
Utopianism is illiberal, in every understanding of the word that makes liberalism worth defending.  Political realists are more likely to be functional liberals than idealists are.
The rest was written earlier as another post. But it belongs here.

I've never thought of people as very smart. That's why I've always focused on finding the small gestures of intelligence in what's called art. People are predictable not rational. 

Chotiner interviews Mearsheimer. As others have said they talk a little around each other; they don't speak the same language. 

Chotiner: "What if Ukraine, the people of Ukraine, want to live in a pro-American liberal democracy?"

That's irrelevant. But Mearsheimer can be a bit of an idiot. Americans at best were lying to themselves.

There’s a big difference between how the United States behaved during the unipolar moment and how it’s behaved in the course of its history. I agree with you when you talk about American foreign policy in the course of its broader history, but the unipolar moment was a very special time. I believe that during the unipolar moment, we were deeply committed to spreading democracy.

And some people are debating as if it's all a Gettier problem. If Mearsheimer's predictions were right, but his justifications were wrong, the next step is ask why he was right.

Seva Gunitsky

The unasked question: what is the actual existential threat to Russia? How does Ukraine joining NATO and/or EU actually threaten the *existence* of Russia? 

Perception is reality. If you're negotiating with a man who's fearful, the fear is a fact. Whether it's justified or not is part of the analysis of that fact. Gunitsky reminds me of the anthropologist who was exited about some recent important historical event, because "it gives us more things to theorize about." I've forgotten the source but the sentiment is common enough. In philosophy as in theology the history of ideas takes precedence.

The history of events merely provides a series of pegs to hang the history of ideas on, and it is the latter that is of real interest.


You will remember that Plato said that only his body still inhabited the City and, in the Phaedo, also explained how right ordinary people are when they say that a philosopher's life is like dying. Death, being the separation of body and soul, is welcome to him; he is somehow in love with death, because the body, with all its demands, constantly interrupts the soul's pursuits. 

Philosophy by definition is either conservative or reactionary.

JM: "I don’t know anybody who talks about this whole problem in terms of imperialism. This is great-power politics." He has an old-fashioned maybe pedantic definition of imperialism. That may turn some people off.

IC: I went back and I reread your article about the Israel lobby in the London Review of Books, from 2006. You were talking about the Palestinian issue, and you said something that I very much agree with, which is: “There is a moral dimension here as well. Thanks to the lobby of the United States it has become the de facto enabler of Israeli occupation in the occupied territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians.” I was cheered to read that because I know you think of yourself as a tough, crusty old guy who doesn’t talk about morality, but it seemed to me you were suggesting that there was a moral dimension here. I’m curious what you think, if any, of the moral dimension to what’s going on in Ukraine right now.

JM: I think there is a strategic and a moral dimension involved with almost every issue in international politics. I think that sometimes those moral and strategic dimensions line up with each other. In other words, if you’re fighting against Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1945, you know the rest of the story. There are other occasions where those arrows point in opposite directions, where doing what is strategically right is morally wrong. I think if you join an alliance with the Soviet Union to fight against Nazi Germany, it is a strategically wise policy, but it is a morally wrong policy. But you do it because you have no choice for strategic reasons. In other words, what I’m saying to you, Isaac, is that when push comes to shove, strategic considerations overwhelm moral considerations. In an ideal world, it would be wonderful if the Ukrainians were free to choose their own political system and to choose their own foreign policy.

But in the real world, that is not feasible. The Ukrainians have a vested interest in paying serious attention to what the Russians want from them. They run a grave risk if they alienate the Russians in a fundamental way. If Russia thinks that Ukraine presents an existential threat to Russia because it is aligning with the United States and its West European allies, this is going to cause an enormous amount of damage to Ukraine. That of course is exactly what’s happening now. So my argument is: the strategically wise strategy for Ukraine is to break off its close relations with the West, especially with the United States, and try to accommodate the Russians. If there had been no decision to move nato eastward to include Ukraine, Crimea and the Donbass would be part of Ukraine today, and there would be no war in Ukraine.

I've said before it drives me nuts that so many people, specifically Americans, who defend illiberal states as a matter of policy—vis-a-vis US hegemony—end up defending them as as matter of belief. In my twitter days I always used the alliance with "Uncle Joe" as the definition of realism.

And Mearsheimer has a very Kantian definition of morality: "the lesser evil" is not a moral choice. So much for military piety, and trolley problems. And this fits with the need for people like Max Blumenthal to identify with the people they defend. It's two versions of the same need for simplicity, though one is affective and one affectless. 

It's obvious as Mearsheimer says that China is the biggest threat to US interests, but I'd tell smaller countries in Asia the same thing I would have told the smaller countries in eastern Europe in 1995: join together and create your own center of gravity. The US doesn't defend democracy. It protects its own interests.

Shklar, After Utopia, Chapter IV-The End of Radicalism 

What answers can be offered to these counsels of social despair? Romanticism refuses to analyze the social world with any degree of thoroughness, and Christian fatalism subjects modern history to an excess of simplification in order to satisfy its sense of outrage. But to have noted all these shortcomings is not a reply. In fact, no reply is forthcoming. The spirit of rational optimism which alone could furnish a reply does not flourish at present. The Enlightenment was not killed by its opponents; even its most natural followers found its leading conceptions inadequate in an age that has proved all their hopes false. There are, of course, traces of survival. Sartre, very characteristically, notes that the conformism of Americans is really due to their uni­versal rationalism and optimism. But even in America this spirit is no longer encountered among social philosophers. There are few serious people who really believe today that the advantages of democratic government are so self-evident that once it is established it must appeal to all. Probably President Wilson's Fourteen Points were the last great document to testify to that faith. By now it is only too well known that democracy is not inevitable, that it may be destroyed from within, and that even the most successful constitutional de­mocracies are not the models of social perfection that the En­lightenment had dreamed about. This disenchantment—per­haps it is realism—even among the most consistent advocates of democratic government is the real measure of the decline of social optimism.

"The spirit of rational optimism... does not flourish at this moment" "Sartre, very characteristically, notes that the conformism of Americans is really due to their uni­versal rationalism and optimism." Hilarious.

Her reference to Woodrow Wilson reminds me of Mearsheimer. Hope, and delusion, the white man's burden—Liberia and Israel are not caveats—springs eternal: "I believe that during the unipolar moment, we were deeply committed to spreading democracy."

As extreme hunger tightens its grip on Afghanistan, more parents are sacrificing their bodies in order to feed their children.

Illegal organ trading existed before the Taliban takeover in August 2021, but the black market has exploded after millions more were plunged into poverty due to international sanctions. 

Current United Nations estimates suggest more than 24 million people – 59 per cent of the population – are in need of lifesaving humanitarian aid, 30 per cent higher than in 2021.

“I had to do it for the sake of my children,” 32-year-old Nooruddin, pictured, told news agency AFP from Herat, a city close to the border with Iran. “I didn’t have any other option.” 

All because Biden stole their money. He'll give some of it back, eventually.

So far the post Soviet US presidents are well ahead of Putin on civilian casualties, death and destruction, war crimes etc. even including Chechnya. That could change. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Who needs the DSA when you have a German-born, fully vetted—Freiburg, Hamburg, Kennedy School, Munich—professor of corporate law? 

Links stripped from the original and even throwing fair use out the window, good bits left out.

Let us recount the sequence of events. In November 1991, the Russian Supreme Soviet (parliament) gave the then Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, extraordinary powers and a 13-month mandate to launch reforms. Then, in December 1991, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved by the Belovezh accords, which created the Commonwealth of Independent States. Russia, Belarus and Ukraine declared respect for one another’s independence.

Surrounded by a small group of Russian reformers and western advisers, Yeltsin used this unique historical moment to launch an unprecedented programme of economic ‘shock therapy’. Prices were liberalised, borders were opened and rapid privatisation began—all by presidential decree.

Nobody in Yeltsin’s circle bothered to ask whether this was what Russia’s citizens wanted. And nobody paused to consider that Russians might first want a chance to develop a sound constitutional foundation for their country, or to express through an election their preference for who should govern them.

...Moreover, the shock therapy unleashed such severe and sudden social and economic disruptions that it turned the public against the reforms and the reformers. The Supreme Soviet refused to extend Yeltsin’s extraordinary powers and what happened next would set the stage for the rise of authoritarian presidentialism in Russia.

Yeltsin and his allies refused to give up. They declared the existing Russian constitution of 1977 illegitimate and Yeltsin proceeded to assume power unilaterally, while calling for a referendum to legitimise the move. But the constitutional court and the parliament refused to budge and a deep political crisis ensued. In the end, the standoff was resolved by tanks, which Yeltsin called in to dissolve the Russian parliament in October 1993, leaving 147 people dead.

...I still recall a revealing conversation that I, a student of Russia’s reforms at the time, had with Dmitry Vasiliev, a top member of Yeltsin’s privatisation team. When I pointed out the shortcomings of the draft constitution, he said they would simply fix it if the wrong person ascended to power. They never did, of course—nor could they have. Vasiliev’s statement fully encapsulated how the economic reformers thought about constitutional democracy.

In December 1993, the new constitution was adopted through a referendum, which was held jointly with elections to the new parliament. Yeltsin’s candidates suffered a stunning defeat, but with the president’s new constitutional powers secured the economic reforms continued. Yeltsin was ‘re-elected’ in 1996 through a manipulated process which had been planned in Davos and orchestrated by the newly-minted Russian oligarchs. Three years later, Yeltsin made Putin prime minister and anointed him as his successor.