Monday, October 31, 2022

I repeat things because others do.
Leiter quotes a brief in the Harvard affirmative action case. 

Shortly after Grutter was decided, the defendant in that case confessed that he had pressed “the ‘diversity’ rationale” as a litigation strategy. Bollinger, A Comment on Grutter and Gratz v. Bollinger, 103 Colum. L. Rev. 1589, 1590-91 (2003). Bollinger bemoaned that he could not defend racial preferences as “a ‘remedy’ for past societal discrimination”—what everyone in higher education “really believed.” Id. Bollinger is hardly alone. Shortly before Grutter was decided, Harvard’s Randall Kennedy said, “Let’s be honest: Many who defend affirmative action for the sake of ‘diversity’ are actually motivated by … social justice.” Kennedy, Affirmative Reaction, Am. Prospect (Feb. 19, 2003), They would defend racial preferences “even if social science demonstrated uncontrovertibly that diversity (or its absence) has no effect (or even a negative effect) on the learning environment.” Id. NYU’s Samuel Issacharoff likewise knows “‘[t]he commitment to diversity is not real,’” and Columbia’s Kent Greenawalt has “‘yet to find a professional academic who believes the primary motivation for preferential admission has been to promote diversity.’” Fitzpatrick, The Diversity Lie, 27 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 385, 395-96 (2003). The list goes on. See id.; Schuck, Affirmative Action: Past, Present, and Future, 20 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. 1, 34-36 (2002); Levinson, Diversity, 2 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 573, 601 (2000).

I've also argued previously that "diversity" is a weak and implausible rationale for affirmative action. 

Leiter: There's no epistemological need to have blacks, or women, or homosexuals, or Palestinians, tell their own stories, or judge others' stories. 

On affirmative action, constitutional or not—and contra Leiter, there's an argument to be made that strictly speaking it never was—times change.

To be clear because I've said it before: affirmative action may have been unconstitutional, but it was necessary. 

10/21 Azadeh Moaveni in the LRB. The last 6 of  22 graphs  

A month and a half into the protests, the Islamic Republic’s most senior figures are in disarray. Setting the official tone on 3 October, the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, mentioned Mahsa Amini’s death as though it were a sad but distant event. ‘In the accident that happened, a young woman passed away,’ he told a gathering of army cadets, ‘which also pained us.’ But the riots, he insisted, were the design of Iran’s enemies, the United States and Israel. A few days later, President Raisi, visiting a women’s university, recited a poem that likened the protesters to flies. Students heckled him and told him to ‘get lost.’ The head of the judiciary declared himself ready for dialogue with any groups or individuals who had ‘questions, criticism, uncertainties or protests’, but three days later ordered judges to hand down stiff sentences to those arrested.

Looming over all these responses is the possibility that the supreme leader might not have much longer to live. Khamenei is 83 and rumoured to be unwell. Ali Larijani, a former speaker of parliament and a member of a prominent clerical family, gave a lengthy magazine interview recently in which he said that dress codes were out of touch with Iranian society and it wasn’t the state’s place, either religiously or politically, to regulate social behaviour. He wasn’t only contradicting Khamenei’s depiction of the protests but offering up an alternative mode of governance. It was a bit of a campaign speech, although it was so long and theologically ponderous, laced with references to the fall of Andalusia and tolerant ayatollahs, that it was easy to miss the implication that the supreme leader was becoming a bit Salafist in his outlook, too wrapped up in a reactionary Islam of laws and security.

To an extent, the Islamic Republic has boxed itself in. It has purged the reformists who once served as a useful distraction at such moments, allowing the highest authorities to claim the system was pushing back against over rapid change. In exchange for being admitted into politics, the reformists refrained from making the most telling criticisms: that Iran’s democratic theocracy was unworkable, that a system could not simultaneously be accountable to God and the people. Now that there are no reformists in politics any more, the Islamic Republic has no useful opposition and is finally on its own, aware of being in a moment of acute existential crisis, but unable to take any steps to save itself. As a former mayor of Tehran recently pointed out on state television, the government can’t have it both ways: it can’t claim millions of young women as loyal citizens when they turn out for the funeral of a Revolutionary Guard commander, as they did for Qasem Soleimani in 2020, but disown them as deviants and law-breakers when they show up on the streets now. 

Television is the only outlet to the outside world now that the internet is down. There isn’t a Persian-language news sphere so much as a grand theatre for the geopolitical contest between the Islamic Republic and its opponents in the region and the West. As well as the state broadcaster there are channels loyal to the absentee royal family, and one run by the terrorist cult Mujaheddin e Khalq, whose presenters speak in the stentorian tones of the 1970s and transmit messages from their long-dead leader. Iran International, set up in London with Saudi money, broadcasts a steady stream of breathless ‘no-context revolution’ videos and occasional disinformation, and explores scenarios for a post-Islamic Republic future. One of the presenters from the channel recently addressed the subcommittee on human rights at the European Parliament. The investment in this media infrastructure by opponents of the Islamic Republic has proven especially useful at moments of crisis, giving platforms to terrorist groups and advancing the narrative that Iran is riven by sectarian divisions and on the brink of fragmentation. The result is that the lines between spirited reporting, disinformation and propaganda are often blurred.

These media outlets had a remarkable effect on my relatives when they were holed up at home during the pandemic. They came out on the other side not simply derisive of the Islamic Republic, as they’d been before, but programmed with demonstrably false lines of information and an impassioned new and formulaic way of speaking about key enemies (usually diaspora journalists or organisations). Propaganda works. Last week, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards paused before starting a military drill in north-west Iran to speak to the Saudis directly: ‘Watch your behaviour and control these media; otherwise you will pay the price.’ Iran’s own conduct has helped produce the security problem it now faces: by putting a generation of journalists out of work through censorship and intimidation, it has created a talented and eager pool of labour for its opponents’ networks.

I asked one young activist what he thought of these channels and the dissidents who appear on them, some of whom claim to be leading events on the ground, even as the protesters celebrate their leaderlessness. ‘Of course they urge people to come out,’ he said, ‘promising the day after collapse will be better, a utopia, although we know the day after is when everything is broken, and when the problems start. They know how to seduce people with trickery and showmanship. But there’s also no doubt that the country is being destroyed, and that reform is dead.’ 

The choices are no change, transformation, and collapse. It's obvious things have changed, and if transformation is reform, it's obvious also reform isn't dead. 

" was easy to miss the implication that the supreme leader was becoming a bit Salafist in his outlook". US and Israel's Salafist ally Saudi Arabia just sentenced a US citizen to 16 years, for tweeting.  

Sunday, October 30, 2022

"Literature as art is the discussion of values as manifest in actions. That the actions are fictional is irrelevant."

I've used that quote a few times but I'd forgotten the source, so I googled it. It was me.


I put this passage in a post just below, but it reminded me of something I've avoided.

Eisenstein, Film Form, p. 20, defending convention, and tradition. 

We have been visited [1928] by the Kabuki theater-a wonderful manifestation of theatrical culture.

Every critical voice gushes praise for its splendid crafts­manship. But there has been no appraisal of what constitutes its wonder. Its "museum" elements, though indispensable in estimating its value, cannot alone afford a satisfactory esti­mate of this phenomenon, of this wonder. A "wonder" must promote cultural progress, feeding and stimulating the intellec­tual questions of our day. The Kabuki is dismissed in plati­tudes: "How musical!" "What handling of objects!" "What plasticity!" And we come to the conclusion that there is nothing to be learned, that (as one of our most respected critics has announced) there's nothing new here: Meyerhold has already plundered everything of use from the Japanese theater!

Behind the fulsome generalities, there are some real atti­tudes revealed. Kabuki is conventional! How can such con­ ventions move Europeans! Its craftsmanship is merely the cold perfection of form! And the plays they perform are feudal!—What a nightmare!

More than any other obstacle, it is this conventionalism that prevents our thorough use of all that may be borrowed from the Kabuki.

But the conventionalism that we have learned "from books" proves in fact to be a conventionalism of extremely interesting relationships The conventionalism of Kabuki is by no means the stylized and premeditated mannerism that we know in our own theater, artificially grafted on outside the technical requirements of the premise. In Kabuki this conventionalism is profoundly logical-as in any Oriental theater, for example, in the Chinese theater.

Among the characters of the Chinese theater is "the spirit of the oyster"! Look at the make-up of the performer of this role, with its series of concentric touching circles spreading from the right and left of his nose, graphically reproducing the halves of an oyster shell, and it becomes apparent that this is quite "justified." This is neither more nor less a convention than are the epaulettes of a general. From their narrowly utilitarian origin, once warding off blows of the battle-axe from the shoulder, to their being furnished with hierarchic little stars, the epaulettes are indistinguishable in principle from the blue frog inscribed on the forehead of the actor who is playing the frog's "spirit." 

I've linked to this a few times since I read it, because most of it is about Zizek playing the fool, and being one, in Ramallah. But a passage stuck with me that as I said above, I've avoided. Think about the relationship of form to meaning—not "content"

Darwish directed a series of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)-funded films from the early 1970s. He was a pioneer—his shorts that dealt with the armed struggle, first in Jordan, then in Lebanon, were critical documents for any student of the period. More than that, each film text experimented with a particular element of cinematography. They may have all focused on the armed resistance, but the first one was really “about” framing, the second on montage, the third on sound, and so on. These films had long been forgotten save by old comrades and an enthusiastic group of recent devotees. When I found out that he had studied at the Moscow Institute, I asked him about Sonallah and Malas, and he told me how they had all been there together. I asked if he had worked with Godard in Jordan, “Yes! How’d you guess? I was his production assistant. He was there for only a few months, but while he was here, he worked. He never rested. I’ve never seen that sort of ethic. After what happened, he didn’t know what to do for a couple years with all that footage.” 

Godard the Maoist, etc. Politicized aesthetics is aestheticized politics. Sincerity of intention means nothing. Another pithy sentence I wrote once. "The romance of orthodoxy is mannerism." Attaching formal games to political engagement is a kind of decadence. Eisenstein was younger that Panofsky and Kracauer but they all grew up and into he new age of film and their relation to it was organic. 

Film art is the only art the development of which men now living have witnessed from the very beginnings; and this development is all the more interesting as it took place under conditions contrary to precedent. It was not an artistic urge that gave rise to the discovery and gradual perfection of a new technique; it was a technical invention that gave rise to the discovery and gradual perfection of a new art.

For me, there is nothing that anyone has written on cinema that is more moving than Kracauer’s recollection of the first motion picture he saw, as a young boy in the early twentieth century: “What thrilled me so deeply was an ordinary suburban street, filled with lights and shadows which transfigured it.”
Several trees stood about, and there was in the foreground a puddle reflecting invisible house façades and a piece of the sky. Then a breeze moved the shadows, and the façades with the sky below began to waver. The trembling upper world in the dirty puddle—this image has never left me.

If Eisenstein turned to politics in a time of revolutionary hope, the hope was more important than doctrine, because possibilities were more important than limits. But defending conventionalism within his understanding of art, he set limits for himself. "The arts are Burkean".  That's another one.

I once spent a long train ride picking apart a copy of October, a special issue, maybe dedicated to Buchloh but centering on formalism and collage and the superiority of early Soviet experiments over later fascist versions. The writing was pretentious, defensive, overintellectualized and overdetermined, and every writer ignored the simplest and least intellectual observation: that the early Soviet stuff was formally fresh and open, and the designs gave an audience room to breathe. But accepting that means accepting art as something other than "a plastic art which sets itself up in place of books."

repeats from 2010 and 2003 on art and original intent. "Show us yer arse!"


I found it. Vol. 30, (Autumn, 1984)  Buchloh's in it but it's not s special issue and he's the only one wring about Soviet art. But my description of the language applies to all of it. I picked apart figuratively and literally. I keep it in a binder. Now it's conceptual art.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Milanovic defends "a thousand points of light". Jäger and the Slobodian are snobs—Jäger's admitted it— pretentious defenders of what their own seriousness. But Jäger's a proud fan of Fleetwood Mac and I think I may be responsible for Leusder shutting down his Soundcloud account—in embarrassment? And the idiot they're mocking is a fan of Mark Fisher. I don't know where the Eisenstein reference comes from. It's not in the thread, but all the thread is is bragging by citation and in-jokes, academic standard practice. "They then chuckle together in a self-congratulatory academic manner."  

It was common knowledge once that Lucas modeled the stormtroopers' helmets after the Teutonic Knights in Nevsky, and the emperor's cloak and the camera angles after the grand master.

Johnston remembered that early on, Lucas showed him Sergei Eisenstein’s classic film, Alexander Nevsky, whose opening feature featured a battle on ice between medieval warriors. Lucas told him, “I want the battle on Hoth to feel like this. I don’t want it to look like this, but feel like this.” With relative freedom from Lucas, Johnston relished the opportunity to imagine and develop the battle visually.
None of this means the Star Wars film's don't suck. But the first one has the perfection of Casablanca,  

The tragedy of cultural homogenization begins at the top: the fish rots from the head. Jäger, Slobodian and the rest have convinced themselves that only the other elite, the elite they disdain, are decadent. 
Mozart didn’t have luxury to write atonal music most people don’t understand/find ugly. He had to appeal to aristocrats for patronage & middle class who bought seats. It’s when you separate artist from audience (eg give him tenured university chair) that things turn south.

Jäger replies 

And Adorno was right when he said that Schönberg’s dodecaphony presupposes industrial class conflict as a backdrop for the music even to make sense to any audience

The Nazis weren't wrong when they said the work they banned was decadent. But the work they banned  was honest, and the work they promoted was decadence based on dishonesty: idealism as sham, backed by the gun. 

Adorno and Jäger, following Schönberg, by rhetorical sleight of hand—and out of psychological necessity—turn honest decadence into ideal truth, as liberalism and liberal economics does with greed and self-interest . In both cases awareness evinces optimism: the unexamined prior.

Back again to Arendt and Brecht. I repeat myself because everyone else does.

At that time, nobody anticipated that the true victims of this irony would be the elite rather than the bourgeoisie. The avant-garde did not know they were running their heads not against walls but against open doors, that a unanimous success would belie their claim to being a revolutionary minority, and would prove that they were about to express a new mass spirit or the spirit of the time. Particularly significant in this respect was the reception given Brecht's Dreigroschenoper in pre-Hitler Germany. The play presented gangsters as respectable businessmen and respectable businessmen as gangsters. The irony was somewhat lost when respectable businessmen in the audience considered this a deep insight into the ways of the world and when the mob welcomed it as an artistic sanction of gangsterism. The theme song in the play, "Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral," was greeted with frantic applause by exactly everybody, though for different reasons. The mob applauded because it took the statement literally; the bourgeoisie applauded because it had been fooled by its own hypocrisy for so long that it had grown tired of the tension and found deep wisdom in the expression of the banality by which it lived; the elite applauded because the unveiling of hypocrisy was such superior and wonderful fun. The effect of the work was exactly the opposite of what Brecht had sought by it. The bourgeoisie could no longer be shocked; it welcomed the exposure of its hidden philosophy, whose popularity proved they had been right all along, so that the only political result of Brecht's "revolution" was to encourage everyone to discard the uncomfortable mask of hypocrisy and to accept openly the standards of the mob. 

Eisenstein, Film Form, p. 20, defending convention, and tradition. 

We have been visited by the Kabuki theater-a wonderful manifestation of theatrical culture.·

Every critical voice gushes praise for its splendid crafts­manship. But there has been no appraisal of what constitutes its wonder. Its "museum" elements, though indispensable in estimating its value, cannot alone afford a satisfactory esti­mate of this phenomenon, of this wonder. A "wonder" must promote cultural progress, feeding and stimulating the intellec­tual questions of our day. The Kabuki is dismissed in plati­tudes: "How musical!" "What handling of objects!" "What plasticity!" And we come to the conclusion that there is nothing to be learned, that (as one of our most respected critics has announced) there's nothing new here: Meyerhold has already plundered everything of use from the Japanese theater!

Behind the fulsome generalities, there are some real atti­ tudes revealed. Kabuki is conventional! How can such con­ ventions move Europeans! Its craftsmanship is merely the cold perfection of form! And the plays they perform are feudal!—What a nightmare!

More than any other obstacle, it is this conventionalism that prevents our thorough use of all that may be borrowed from the Kabuki.

But the conventionalism that we have learned "from books" proves in fact to be a conventionalism of extremely interesting relationships The conventionalism of Kabuki is by no means the stylized and premeditated mannerism that we know in our own theater, artificially grafted on outside the technical requirements of the premise. In Kabuki this conventionalism is profoundly logical-as in any Oriental theater, for example, in the Chinese theater.

Among the characters of the Chinese theater is "the spirit of the oyster"! Look at the make-up of the performer of this role, with its series of concentric touching circles spreading from the right and left of his nose, graphically reproducing the halves of an oyster shell, and it becomes apparent that this is quite "justified." This is neither more nor less a convention than are the epaulettes of a general. From their narrowly utilitarian origin, once warding off blows of the battle-axe from the shoulder, to their being furnished with hierarchic little stars, the epaulettes are indistinguishable in principle from the blue frog inscribed on the forehead of the actor who is playing the frog's "spirit." 

I've referred to this for 40 years but never quoted it here. Nevsky was my favorite film as a kid, but it doesn't hold up. I still have fun watching it.

People comparing a Star Wars spin-off to Eisenstein is a decent argument for just letting the CCP take over and institute a ban on all cultural production west of Berlin

I can play this game

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Dear Twitter Advertisers

I wanted to reach out personally to share my motivation in acquiring Twitter. There has been much speculation about why I bought Twitter and what I think about advertising. Most of it has been wrong. 

The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence. There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society. 

In the relentless pursuit of clicks, much of traditional media has fueled and catered to those polarized extremes, as they believe that is what brings in the money, but, in doing so, the opportunity for dialoque is lost.

That is why I bought Twitter. I didn't do it because it would be easy. I didn't do it to make more money. I did it to try to help humanity, whom I love. And I do so with humility, recognizing that failure in pursuing this goal, despite our best efforts, is a very real possibility. 

That said, Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences! In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.

I also very much believe that advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain and inform you; it can show you a service or product or medical treatment that you never knew existed, but is right for you. For this to be true, it is essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs. Low relevancy ads are spam, but highly relevant ads are actually content! 

Fundamentally, Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise. To everyone who has partnered with us, I thank you. Let us build something extraordinary together.

Musk owns the "town square". Twitter is a publisher. He will set the limits on free speech.

Grozev:  Prigozhin now officially throwing the gauntlet at Shoigu. There's no off-ramp from this.

Kasparov, quoting and replying, rt'd by Grozev: Prigozhin will not be the only one preparing a private army to defend his interests when Putin falls.


Ragozin, quoting Arestovych: "Putin is screaming for negotiations because the mood in Russian society is changing and he’ll be toppled sooner rather than later." 

Analysis which likely reflects the thinking behind Ukraine’s current uncompromising position. 
No signs of that IMHO.
Looking forward to nuclear blackmail by the competing warlords of the failed Russian state. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

"Institute of Art and Ideas"

IAINews, Henry Shevlin, "The artist is dead, AI killed them Can AI be genuinely creative?"


Henry Shelvin, University of Cambridge 

"Our mission at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) is to build a new interdisciplinary community of researchers, with strong links to technologists and the policy world, and a clear practical goal: to work together to ensure that we humans make the best of the opportunities of artificial intelligence as it develops over coming decades."

"Henry Shevlin (PhD, CUNY Graduate Center, 2016; BPhil, Oxford, 2009) is a Senior Research Fellow with the Kinds of Intelligence programme and Course Co-leader of the MSt AI Ethics and Society. His work focuses on issues at the intersection of philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and animal cognition, with a particular emphasis on perception, memory, and desire. Since 2015, he has been serving as a student committee member of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness."

Remember Saint-Simon,  the avant-garde and the future of war, and the previous fucking post.  The positivist model of art is kitsch. 

I never stop posting comments, but I don't expect much. Some typos fixed, added links, misc.

If a scholar wrote an essay making an original argument using nothing but quotes from other writers with a few words in-between it would be called plagiarism. Academics don't write well, but there you go. Plagiarism wasn't an issue you 300 years ago and now it is. 

But you have no understanding of what art is. Art isn't forward looking; it's retrospective. It's not "creative" it's observational, that's why it ages well, when it does.

"So what Brasilia became in less than 20 years wasn't the city of tomorrow at all. It was yesterday's science fiction. Nothing dates faster than people's fantasies about the future." Robert Hughes had his weak points, but here he's on the money.

Picasso painted the present in 1906. It's the same present described by TS Eliot. "HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME" Plagiarism or collage? 

Most importantly both made art about arrogant schoolboys terrified of women. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is a castration scene. Eliot and Duchamp were political reactionaries, and Picasso was a cafe communist (who made a fortune speculating on his own artwork). But more importantly they were all brilliant 20th century boys, and they describe that reality—specific to place and race and class-better than their peers, or at least better than those that we know of. They describe their present better than you describe ours.

There's no such thing as AI. Intelligence is animal. Proust wrote about memory and loss: the descriptions of emotion. When you invent a program that fears its own obsolescence or death let me know. But I don't think any of us want a delusional supercomputer.


Jason Allen used a program as a tool. He's playing a language game using technology. The tool didn't make the art. And Eno at this point is a designer of sound and image. Design is a subcategory of art, but it doesn't force to rethink anything. His early work, a mixture of the Beatles, Gilbert and Sullivan and coin-tossing, did. But Eric Satie is less a great composer than a charming one. 
I've added this because I'm going to go off as a pedant on what is or is not art. Computers make patterns and patterns are aesthetic by definition. 

If you want to think about the relation of art and design and Warhol soup cans you should watch this film—Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See [no link code allowed: repeat]—and understand how much work goes into the designs we take for granted, and remember that Warhol was both a homosexual and a devout Byzantine Catholic. His printed paintings are both ironic and sincere. The works in his Death and Disaster series are terrifying. Warhol will be remembered for the art he made out of his confusions and fears, because if you pay attention you begin to understand them, through a visceral, animal, neurological, "sympathetic vibration". 

“People say Andy said he was a machine, but he didn’t. He said he wanted to be a machine, and that’s not the same thing at all.” Callie Angell 

It's a common desire these days. In the future people will ask how that came to be. Art ain't rocket science, but it goes along way to describing the minds of rocket scientists.

I spent too much time trying to find the post with the Boston Robotics video.  

Koppelman, "How Charles Koch Successfully Peddled the Snake Oil of Climate Change Denial"  

Koch, one of the world’s richest men, is often depicted as merely a greedy plutocrat hoping only to line his own pockets. This is wrong. Koch is—or, at least, he once was—an idealist. We live in a world that was shaped by his ideals—ideals that have real attractions, but which have taken on a malign form.

A lot has been written about him. But until now, his political philosophy has never been carefully examined. When we do that, we learn both the power and the limitations of the libertarianism that so many have found attractive. We also discover that Koch has not even been faithful to his own unworthy aspirations.

Any account of Koch’s philosophy must begin with the story he tells about himself.

No.  Any account of his philosophy begins with the history of his actions.

I emailed Koppelman: "Social darwinism is idealist. Let the weak suffer and die off."

He replied, agreeing, in a sentence I'd love to quote in public. I replied saying maybe he should have been more direct: the KKK is idealist. Fascism is idealist. I haven't heard back.
I'm remembering Moyn's "liberal perfectionism." 

Koppelman has a tag.

Jason Mazzone, at Balkin

Stop what you're doing and read the extraordinary amici curiae brief Akhil Amar, Vik Amar and Steve Calabresi have just filed in Moore v. Harper. That's the case involving a claim by North Carolina legislators that under the Constitution only the legislature of a state has the power to regulate federal elections--without any interference from state courts or any constraints from state constitutions. The brief from Akhil, Vik and Steve is an intellectual battering ram that demolishes the independent state legislature theory. It is also the punchiest brief filed in a very long time. In its substance and by its candor, the brief sets a new standard for friend of the court. The brief is available at this link.

Judicial Review!!!  

The adoption of new republican state constitutions across the American continent was a transcendent achievement in the late 1770s, acclaimed by Americans everywhere. These new state constitutions were the beating heart of the American Revolution. In a now-famous letter to his wife Abigail on May 17, 1776, John Adams explained, with pride and awe, the monumental import of the Confederation Congress’s decisive vote to encourage each state to adopt is own new constitution: A “whole [state] Government of our own Choice, managed by Persons who We love, revere, and can confide in, has charms for which Men will fight.”

So of course state constitutions were understood as supreme over state legislatures at the Founding! And of course state courts could—and did—enforce these state higher laws against state legislatures. Prominent state judicial review under state constitutions predated the Philadelphia Convention, The Federalist No. 78, and Marbury v. Madison. Indeed, state constitutions formed the basic template for the federal Constitution.

my highlighting. Judicial review has a tag

"Fascism is utopian." Googling it—in english—you get almost nothing, and absent "the struggle against fascism is...", even less. But you get a pirate site download of a book on Jameson, citing him.  Googling "Enlightenment anti-humanism", is still the same. I'm reminded every day, language and psychology are funny things.

Jameson, The Political Unconscious, p.289.
On the contrary, it is increasingly clear in today's world (if it had ever been in doubt) that a Left which cannot grasp the immense Utopian appeal of nationalism (any more than it can grasp that of religion or of fascism) can scarcely hope to "reappropriate" such collective energies and must effectively doom itself to political impotence.

We have a winner.

… But now we have another problem.
What is that?
What if we find out what makes each of us internally consistent? What if I find your true name, that thing which describes exactly what you are?
Then I will always be honest, or predictable at least. And you will be able to interpret everything I say and never be wrong. And of course I’ll know your name as well.
No dishonesty, no subterfuge, no Freud, no art… Then we can all be logical positivists.
But it doesn’t matter. That dream’s irrelevant.
I want unification.
It’s an illusion.
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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

It's too bad about being on UnHerd, but liberalism, self-blind moralism, is what it is.  
Julie Bindel  

I’ve been involved in the campaign against homophobia for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. For the first time, a tribunal is taking place in which one charity is attempting to strip another of its legal status. Mermaids, which advocates for “gender variant and transgender youth”, has brought a case against LGB Alliance, the only UK-based organisation that focuses exclusively on same-sex attracted people.

Mermaids claims that LGB Alliance was not, in fact, established to support lesbians, gay men and bisexuals — but rather to discredit and disband Mermaids itself. The LGB Alliance, allegedly, “does not have charitable purposes”. If Mermaids wins this case, the consequences will be devastating for lesbians and gays. Any future charity set up to advocate specifically on our behalf will be wide open to legal challenge.

LGB Alliance was founded in 2019, in response to Stonewall’s refusal to engage with concern, voiced by lesbians and gay men, about trans orthodoxy. We are concerned that “same-sex attraction” has been recast as nothing more than a dog whistle for transphobia — an argument made by Mermaids in court. We are concerned, too, that lesbians are being labelled bigots for not wanting to have sex with people who have penises. And we are concerned, most of all, by the wholesale acceptance of this orthodoxy by organisations, such as Stonewall, which are supposed to protect same-sex attracted people. Mermaids’s case is being supported by Gendered Intelligence  and the LGBT Consortium, groups that promote the notion that “gender identity” should carry as much, if not more, weight in law as biological sex. Together, they are arguing that LGB alliance is “denigrating trans people” and does not “serve the public interest”.


A lecturer has resigned as trustee of transgender charity Mermaids after it emerged he spoke at a conference organised by a paedophile support group.

Dr Jacob Breslow, an associate professor of gender and sexuality at the London School of Economics, quit Mermaids after The Times revealed that he spoke at an academic conference when he was a PhD student, organised by a group called B4U-ACT, in 2011.

That organisation promotes the use of the term “minor-attracted people” rather than “paedophile” to describe those who say they are sexually attracted to children.

repeats BBC 2021

"I thought I would be called a transphobe or that it would be wrong of me to turn down a trans woman who wanted to exchange nude pictures," one wrote. "Young women feel pressured to sleep with trans women 'to prove I am not a terf'."

One woman reported being targeted in an online group. "I was told that homosexuality doesn't exist and I owed it to my trans sisters to unlearn my 'genital confusion' so I can enjoy letting them penetrate me," she wrote.

One compared going on dates with trans women to so-called conversion therapy - the controversial practice of trying to change someone's sexual orientation.

"I knew I wasn't attracted to them but internalised the idea that it was because of my 'transmisogyny' and that if I dated them for long enough I could start to be attracted to them. It was DIY conversion therapy," she wrote.

Another reported a trans woman physically forcing her to have sex after they went on a date.

"[They] threatened to out me as a terf and risk my job if I refused to sleep with [them]," she wrote. "I was too young to argue and had been brainwashed by queer theory so [they were] a 'woman' even if every fibre of my being was screaming throughout so I agreed to go home with [them]. [They] used physical force when I changed my mind upon seeing [their] penis and raped me."

Amia Srinivasan: 

"I find this reduction of sexual orientation to genitalia – what’s more, genitalia from birth – puzzling. Is anyone innately attracted to penises or vaginas?"

"in what sense is political lesbianism, as Andrea Long Chu insists, a failed project?" 

Rachel McKinnon, now Veronica Ivy, (in the BBC piece above), is or was, a philosophy professor.

It's hard to find. Still haven't found this one.

Monday, October 24, 2022

art in the age of mechanical reproduction

graphite on paper, staples, archival digital print. It's ironic? Of course it's fucking ironic.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

October 24, Reuters
Russian military Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley spoke by phone on Monday and discussed the possibility raised by Moscow that Ukraine might use a "dirty bomb", RIA news agency reported.

The call took place shortly after a similar conversation between Gerasimov and his British counterpart.

The foreign ministers of France, Britain and the United States said earlier they all rejected "Russia's transparently false allegations". Ukraine said the Russian accusation was a sign that Moscow was planning such an attack itself and would blame Kyiv.
October 8 BBC. From Gideon Rachman at the FT, on October 13 (via Leiter.)
They begin to prepare their society. That is very dangerous. They are not ready to do it, to use it. But they begin to communicate . . . 

What do you mean? Prepare society for using a nuclear weapon?

It’s, you know, it’s... They don’t know if they will use or they will not use. I think that is dangerous even to speak about it.

Rachman interviews Alexander Gabuev of Carnagie.  It's all been obvious for awhile, which is why the below is so offensive. And remember Zelensky's chief propagandist who waxed enthusiastic in 2019 over a NATO-Russia war now says Ukrainians aren't afraid of nukes and westerners are pussies.

Jack Detch, FP,  "Russia Wages Winter Information War Against the West  The Kremlin is headhunting useful idiots to undermine European unity before Kyiv can prevail."
Russia is waging renewed influence operations in Europe designed to undermine Western support for Ukraine in an attempt to turn the tide in a war that has shifted decisively in Kyiv’s favor over the past month, top Estonian defense officials told reporters during a visit to Washington this week.

The effort includes a concerted campaign through Russian-language or Russian-backed channels in Europe as well as influencing sympathetic politicians, the officials said. It’s part of a multipronged strategy by the Kremlin to use the crunch of rising energy prices before winter to try and break the unity that has so far enabled a flood of Western military and economic aid to Ukraine.

“[They will] continue these Russian influence operations in Western societies,” Tuuli Duneton, Estonia’s undersecretary for defense policy, told reporters on Tuesday after her boss, Hanno Pevkur, met with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the U.S. Defense Department. “They will always try to have different people influencing policymakers, people from society, from the media, from parliament.”

a month ago in the FT: West shrugs off Putin’s nuclear ‘bluff’ and vows to keep up Ukraine support

“This is probably the most delicate phase of this decades-long game of chicken,” said a senior European diplomat....
Click the link and click again, and again. You're going to have to read. 
This is a good short history of the last few years of US policy. And there's always the Ukraine tag.  

The law banning US government propaganda directed at US citizens was repealed in 2013.

John Sipher is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and the co-founder of Spycraft Entertainment, a production firm providing content and talent to the entertainment industry.

John is a foreign policy, intelligence, and national security expert. His articles have been published in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Politico, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, Slate, Lawfare, and Just Security, among others. He regularly appears on the PBS NewsHour, CNN, NPR, MSNBC, BBC and speaks to corporate, academic, and governmental groups. He serves as a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project, the Steady State, and the Council on American Security. 

In 2014, John retired from a 28-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service. At the time of his retirement, he was a member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, the leadership team that guides CIA activities globally. John served multiple overseas tours as chief of station and deputy chief of station in Europe, Asia, and in high-threat environments. He has significant experience working with foreign and domestic partners to solve national security challenges. John also served as a lead instructor in the CIA’s clandestine training school and was a regular lecturer at the CIA’s leadership development program. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. John is from Cortland, New York, and graduated from Hobart College and has a master’s in international affairs from Columbia University.

Spycraft Entertainment

Spycraft Entertainment is a global production company run by former senior intelligence officers from the US and UK and experienced Hollywood producers.  

We help retired members of the intelligence community turn their ideas and intellectual property into world-class content, and we work closely with them to develop projects across a range of media, from podcasts to television series to feature films.

We focus on true fiction, emphasizing quality, authenticity, and great storytelling. Our network of “ordinary people who have done extraordinary things” comprise innumerable untold tales that have the power to inform, inspire, and entertain audiences around the world.  [Scroll  down the page for the players, headshots and bios]


The politics of fantasy is reactionary

The Art of the Future 

The Ministry for the Future

Saturday, October 22, 2022

where are your priors?

October 18, Open Democracy, "Suella Braverman quietly tries to give herself fresh anti-protest powers"

Suella Braverman is quietly handing herself new powers to clamp down on the government’s political opponents, civil right advocates have warned.

The home secretary pushed through a last-minute amendment to a widely criticised anti-protest bill on Tuesday that would allow her to apply for injunctions against anyone she deems ‘likely’ to carry out protests that could cause ‘serious disruption’ to ‘key national infrastructure’, prevent access to ‘essential’ goods or services, or have a ‘serious adverse effect on public safety’. The proposal would also give police the power to arrest anyone they suspect to be breaching such an injunction.

Leading human rights groups say that the Public Order Bill, which passed a final vote in the Commons yesterday, would align the UK’s anti-protest laws with those in Russia and Belarus.

The bill includes new powers, such as protest banning orders, that the government was forced to exclude from its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act (PCSC) after they were voted down in the House of Lords earlier this year. Peers could reject the measures once more when the bill progresses to the Lords in the coming weeks.

2015, future former home secretary Suella Fernande [now Braverman] in The Telegraph

"Britain is so obsessed with human rights it has forgotten about human duties" 

The plight of millions of people belies the noble aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly those many decades ago.

One reason for this is because the Universal Declaration was never a treaty in the formal sense. It was not ratified by nations, never became international law, and had no real provision for enforcement.

Another reason is that the rights are described in imprecise, aspirational terms which allow governments to interpret them in any way they see fit. The US, for example, did not undertake to outlaw racial segregation until many years later. And there are hundreds of international human rights – rights to work and education, to freedom of expression and religious worship, to non-discrimination, to privacy, to pretty much anything you might think important in a perfect world. The sheer volume and array of rights imply an all-embracing protection. This is impossible, because there will always be trade-offs in which some rights are sacrificed to uphold others.

Professor Eric Posner makes this point forcefully in his book, Twilight of Human Rights Law. In Brazil, there have been several cases of the use of torture by the police in the name of crime prevention. They justify this by putting a general right to live free from crime and intimidation above their rights of those who are tortured. To wipe out torture, the government would need to create robust, well-paid policing and judicial services to guarantee the same results. The government might argue that this money is better spent on new schools and medical clinics, protecting wider rights to freedom of education and health. These sort of value judgments, inherent in the practical application of human rights (whether we agree with them or not), undermine their "universality".

But across most of the West, something else has happened which devalues human rights. A fatal misassumption plagues our whole approach to civil liberties: the predominance of the individual over the communal. The importance of the individual is seen as the defining axiom upon which we should base our policy and gauge its success. Emerging by reference to individual instincts and desires, rights and entitlements are paramount in our society, prevailing over considerations of how our choices affect others, over reference to past experience, or over the consequences for those born later on.

2004, Balkin, "Vermeule and [Eric] Posner Defend the Torture Memo"

2014, Eric Posner, The Twilight of Human Rights Law, OUP, 

[P]roblems with so-called positive or social rights are well known. Less well known is that the same problem exists for the “negative rights” in the ICCPR, such as the right not to be tortured. One might think that a state could comply with the prohibition on torture at no cost by refraining from torture. But it turns out that local police officials frequently engage in torture even though they are not authorized to do so. To stop torture, then, the government must not only enact laws, but must also invest resources in investigating allegations of torture, punishing torturers, and purging and retraining law enforcement. Thus, the key question for a state is how much of its resources it must devote to countering torture at the expense of building health clinics and public schools. The treaties provide no guidance as to how resources should be allocated. If there is no way to distinguish positive and negative rights, and we are skeptical about whether judges can enforce positive rights, then we ought to be skeptical about whether they can enforce negative rights as well. The real question is not the nature of the rights but the extent to which we can trust judges or other enforcing agents to distribute resources between competing rights.

There is yet another problem. Although not all treaty terms are vague, the actual legal effect of even specific norms is often ambiguous because they conflict with terms in other treaties as well as with broader norms of public international law. Consider sections 3 and 4 of Article 9 of the ICCPR:

3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. . . .

4. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.

Whatever else these rights require, they do clearly prohibit a state from detaining people without charging them. Thus, many commentators accused the United States of violating the human rights of Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects by detaining them without charging them and taking them before a judge for a trial. However, the United States argued in response that the ICCPR does not apply to wartime conditions: the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war, which do not require the involvement of courts for detention, are lex specialis, and thus override human rights law.

The principle of lex specialis is well established in international (and domestic) law. Different sources of law conflict, and a principle is needed to resolve such conflicts. Many human rights advocates believe that the human rights treaties provide a moral minimum that other bodies of law can never supersede, much like the rights in the U.S. Bill of Rights. However, the human rights treaties themselves do not say this, nor does any other authoritative source of international law. There is no clear resolution of the dispute between the United States and its critics. [p.89]

1979, Richard Posner, "Utilitarianism, Economics, and Legal Theory",  

Among the severest critics of the use of economic theory to explain and sometimes to justify the principles of torts, contracts, restitution and other fields of Anglo-American 'judge-made law' are those who attack the economic underpinnings of the theory as a version of utilitarianism. Their procedure is first to equate economics with utilitarianism and then to attack utilitarianism. Whether they follow this procedure because they are more comfortable with the terminology of philosophy than with that of the social sciences or because they want to exploit the current tide of hostility to utilitarianism is of no moment. The important question is whether utilitarianism and economics are really the same thing. I believe they are not and, further, that the economic norm I shall call "wealth maximization" provides a firmer basis for a normative theory of law than does utilitarianism.

1948, John Houston (and B. Traven) 



But across most of the West, something else has happened which devalues human rights. A fatal misassumption plagues our whole approach to civil liberties: the predominance of the individual over the communal.

1987, Thatcher, the same point from the opposite direction.

I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’ ‘I am homeless, the Government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Jan 26, 2003. William Arkin, LA Times, The Nuclear Option in Iraq
WASHINGTON — One year after President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea the “axis of evil,” the United States is thinking about the unthinkable: It is preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iraq. At the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in Omaha and inside planning cells of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, target lists are being scrutinized, options are being pondered and procedures are being tested to give nuclear armaments a role in the new U.S. doctrine of “preemption.” 

from Mark Ames. I was surprised I didn't remember it, but going through the archives, I found Blair from Jan 21st.

Tony Blair today refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in a conflict against Iraq, as MPs grilled the prime minister for two and a half hours on the subject of Saddam Hussein.

The prime minister said Britain and the US would deal with the threat from Iraq by "any way necessary". 

British defense secretary Geoffrey Hoon in Spring 2002

Normally, British ministers are reticent about their nuclear weapons. The standard formula is to say, if asked, that we don't rule anything out if anyone attacks us. All this has now changed. The first person who says nuclear use is worth discussing happens to be Straw's colleague, Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary. In March, Hoon said, in the context of Iraq: "I am absolutely confident, in the right conditions, we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons."

Those who heard him say this, including some expert advisers, were startled. Such explicitness broke a norm that even Washington has usually observed. But they thought it was an accidental one-off occurring, as it did, at the end of a select committee session and without obvious premeditation. However, a few days later Hoon gave more particulars to Jonathan Dimbleby, insisting that the nuclear option would be taken pre-emptively, if we thought British forces were about to be attacked by Iraqi chemical or biological weapons. My colleague Richard Norton-Taylor reported and commented on this at the time, but there was little political fall-out.

Then, to make sure we understood, Hoon said it for a third time, telling the full House of Commons: "A British government must be able to express their view that, ultimately and in conditions of extreme self-defence, nuclear weapons would have to be used." This triple whammy, insisting on Britain's right to use nukes, pre-emptively if necessary, against states of concern that aren't themselves nuclear powers, has made the quietest of impacts. Yet it has no precedent in the policy of any government, Labour or Conservative.



 Chief of Ukrainian military intelligence talks about near future:
- Big Ukrainian advances by year’s end
- End of war next summer
- Changes in Russia, some regions peeling off
- Russia’s “economic centre” shifts to Ukraine

The latter point is consistent with Azovian ideas of Muscovy being the wrong Russia. Switch the capital to Kiev and things gonna be all right.


On Dylan Riley. A pedant's take on Trump and fascism. Jäger et al. (Moyn) are happy. In a recent podcast interview Jäger referred to the "fascistic" European right. I guess he just slipped.

Gavin Jacobson and Riley in The New Statesman 

The issue for the left, as Riley sees it, is that it has become far too focused on redressing past wrongs at the expense of proposing solutions to the problems of humanity. “I don’t want to be dismissive of either Black Lives Matter or other mobilisations for redistribution, but there is no alternative for what a new kind of society as a whole would look like. What rushes into the vacuum is the concern over justice, and the problem is that justice is firmly backward-looking in its orientation. It’s not that justice is unimportant but it cannot be the lodestar of a project of a new society. As a strategy, it makes the left seem like a group of moralisers, which is not a political winner. Leftists would do well to remember that point, and more generally Marx’s profound scepticism about the very idea of justice.”

A confused mess. Marx was a philosopher and an orator, a moralizer and an observer from afar. He enjoyed playing both sides: determinism and free will. 

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Chains, winning, and losing: righteous moralism, irrelevant to science. Freedom? Humbug to a materialist.

"Truth and Politics"  repeats and repeats. Truth is private; politics is public. Philosophers' need for truth is authoritarian and anti-political. Riley's claim to oppose moralism is hilarious. His is the moralism of moral and intellectual superiority.

Riley in the NLR in 2016 "What is Trump?"

He says interwar fascism united the petty bourgeois and the industrial capitalists against the working class. Later he says this:  

Analysis of Trump’s supporters before the November 2016 election suggested they were likely to lack a college degree and have slightly higher-than-median incomes; he did well among skilled blue-collar workers.

That used to called the "bourgeoisification of the working class." And poor workers didn't vote for Trump. I've posted this before.

Trump has the support of regional capitalists, in Putin's case, national, and nationalist, who make and keep their money close to home. With Putin it's only the richest, with money and real estate in Zurich and London, where he had to resort to coercion.

At this point I can imagine a college professor—Moyn!—telling self-described fascists, the Israeli and the Croat I used to drink with, both combat veterans, that they're not really fascist.
I stand by my definition.
I'm still adding to this.

Riley on Fukuyama, from his new book of musings. At the Verso blog. 
It must be said, however, that neither of the two responses to the Fukuyama moment has really adequately dealt with the democracy problem. To pose the issue correctly requires a break with the metaphysics of sovereignty. It is important to recognize how right Weber was when he said that “the people” do not rule in modern states, regardless of whatever theory of sovereignty predominates in them. (Mosca, who is often wrongly dismissed as failing to understand democracy, of course made a similar point.) It’s also never sufficiently emphasized that Weber’s types of legitimate authority make no mention of democracy. They speak instead of legal-rational authority. The Althusserians would say, I suppose, that this is a “symptomatic” silence.

What perhaps should be recognized here is Weber’s total, if implicit, convergence with Lenin on precisely this point: both of them saw the terms “democracy” and “state” as antithetical, and quite rightly so. (It is true that Weber expressed himself somewhat differently than Lenin, but he was quite clear that the “people” never rule in the modern state.) How does one abolish an antithesis? By rendering it impossible. To imagine a postcapitalist political order is to imagine an order without sovereignty—and therefore without the metaphysics of sovereignty and its terminology, such as “democracy”—but with coordination and rationality. Surprising as it may seem, the Hayekian phrase, from The Fatal Conceit, “the extended order of human cooperation” somehow gets at the idea much more effectively than the limp and trite expression “socialist democracy,” which carries with it both a legacy of defeat and the faint odor of metaphysical decay.

The "Fukuyama moment" exists only in the minds of people who've spent their lives equating the processes of the world with the teloi of European, Christian, philosophy: Augustine, Luther, Hegel, Weber, Lenin, Hayek, and the hippies; the problem of politics for those who desire truth in the world, “the extended order of human cooperation”; one way or another, back to the garden.

And I'd forgotten that along with the end of history comes the end of art—meaning again, art as truth.  The same shit. It says nothing about Aristophanes, Chaucer, limericks, fart jokes, groundlings and fiction, the art of orators and liars. But all artists are charlatans, especially the ones who work for popes. 

The Making of Neoliberal Globalization: Norm Substitution and the Politics of Clandestine Institutional Change  [paywalled above, but free here]

Since the 1980s, neoliberal policies have been diffused around the world by international institutions established to support a very different world order. This article examines the repurposing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to become the world’s leading promoter of free markets. Social scientists commonly point to two modes of global-level institutional change: formal and fundamental transformations, like renegotiated treaties, or informal and incremental changes of a modest nature. The case of the IMF fits neither of these molds: it underwent a major transformation but without change in its formal foundations. Relying on archival material and interviews, the authors show that fundamental-yet-informal change was effected through a process of norm substitution—the alteration of everyday assumptions about the appropriateness of a set of activities. This transformation was led by the United States and rested on three pillars: mobilization of resources and allies, normalization of new practices, and symbolic work to stabilize the new modus operandi. This account denaturalizes neoliberal globalization and illuminates the clandestine politics behind its rise.
"Social scientists commonly point to two modes".  Social scientists may, but historians don't.

Modes and "modalities"

Language games lack purity: they refuse clear-cut boundaries, they borrow and steal from other sources, they overlap with other language games, and their governing rules are always in a state of flux and disputation. Lived language games are unruly and unkempt, untamed and untidy, much as life itself is. We do not doubt that Professor Bobbitt, like his mentor Wittgenstein, would fully agree.Yet in his moments as normative grammarian, Bobbitt still longs to preserve a certain purity within the language game of constitutional argument. We think this attempt is doomed to failure. Living language games are the products of history: they are motley and variegated, often chaotic, and always jerry-rigged. Their heterogeneity continually reasserts itself, especially when, as with constitutional legal argument, they are both a means and an object of intense political dispute. Such language games are both a terrain of cultural struggle and a potential prize in that struggle; they always frustrate the attempts of grammarians, normative and descriptive alike, to police their asserted boundaries and preserve their imagined purity. 

 "The Making of..." Kentikelenis lays it out in a thread.

I told him they should make it a book, and they are.  But it's not social science or a history of "ideas"; it's a history of actions and events, of politics and power games. Ideas are secondary; they're the superstructure.

The Independent

He has spent the last 25 years of his life in devotion to Islam and the values of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is a member of a “hayat”, one of the network of neighbourhood religious committees that organises regular mourning ceremonies to commemorate Imam Hossein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad and a key figure in Iran’s majority Shia faith.

But over the last five weeks he has had a crisis of conscience watching Iran unravel in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality protest and the subsequent waves of protest.

“Oppression is oppression, whether America does it, Israel does it, or the Islamic Republic does it,” Vahid Khoramian, an Iranian engineer and social media personality, said during a recent public discussion on Twitter, as thousands tuned in. “And what I have learned in the ‘hayat’ over the last 25 years is to stand against oppression, not with the oppressor.”

A significant bulk of Iran’s religious conservatives and hardliners are standing by the regime. But the death of Amini and the government’s handling of it and its aftermath has prompted significant dissent within the conservative camp. Few if any senior officials have endorsed the protests, like some did during Iran’s 2009 uprising. But some have publicly questioned enforcement of the mandatory hijab law that prompted Amini’s arrest and the ire of Iranian women.

Beyond the political elite, there has been even more dissent and disgust. “The conservative guys are saying that these people, with their actions, they’ve humiliated us as well,” says Khoramian, who said he had spoken with dozens of “hayat” members since the uprising.  “They say, ‘how do we defend this?’”

Thursday, October 13, 2022

I added the first video to the post below, for obvious reasons.
[With Puberty blockers and estrogen] Avery’s testes never developed. In fact she does not make any sperm. And her reproductive capability to be a biological parent has been eliminated. Her testes are nonfunctional. In medicine, don't we often recommend the removal of nonfunctional organs?"

Avery is 12 years old. The video is cued up the that point but scroll back and watch the whole thing. The mother "knew" that her child was "trans" in infancy and raised a biological boy as a girl. Now she and her husband and medical professionals have castrated him.

The speaker in the second video says we now know that boys who've taken estrogen and blockers at the beginning of puberty will never be able to have an orgasm. But no mention of sterility.

The second video is also making the rounds of lesbians, feminists, and Christian fascists. Here's a link to the symposium. The full video on FB is now private.
It's just another fantasy that's going to be looked back on in horror.

A great and damning primer on recent history of Russia, Ukraine, NATO and the US.

Leonid Ragozin 

The suicidal culture of “podvig” (as in Aleksandr Matrosov’s kamikaze act) is driving this conflict now on both the Russian and the Ukrainian sides. It stems from the WWII trauma. I wonder if Zahorodniuk’s profiteering employers at the Atlantic Council realise this.

quote-tweeting Sergey Radchenko 

A controversial but clearly argued piece by @Andriypzag on Ukraine's military goals: Controversial because at one point he falls into the "better dead than red" line of argument e.g. here.

"Ukrainians would also fight on even if hit by a nuclear attack—for Ukrainians, there is no scenario worse than Russian occupation—so such a strike would not lead to Kyiv’s surrender." 

Ukrainian defense minister, Andriy Zagorodnyuk in Foreign Affairs: Ukraine's Path to Victory  


For context, Zahorodniuk left defence minister’s post on March 4, 2020 - same day as prime minister Honcharuk. Together they soon landed in the US and in the Atlantic Council during the election year devising a new hawkish strategy for resolving Ukrainian conflict.

This resulted in an abrupt change of tack in Zelensky’s policies the moment Biden entered office. It also resulted in Atlantic Council’s radical strategy for resolving the conflict which was published in March 2021, just before Putin started amassing troops at the border.

The link to the Atlantic Council brief is visible lower in the thread, but I'll add it here

"This resulted" Ragozin quote-tweets himself, from the middle of a thread from December 2021. 

Enter Biden. His White House takeover in Jan 2021 coincides with Zelensky’s radical change of tack with regards to Russia. Ukraine is suddenly proactive and assertive in the manner that suggests some pre-planning. Ex-PM Oleksiy Honcharuk’s posting to the US is of note here.

repeats. Honcharuk and Neo Nazis, and Arestovych in 2019,  hoping for a Russia NATO war. In a new interview, posted on his channel on October 4th, Arestovych says Ukrainians aren't afraid of nuclear war, and westerners are weak. 

Below is the thread Ragozin quotes. It's long. I like keeping things in text format, for myself if nothing else.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be building up a THREAD aiming to recap main events which led up to this hair-raising standoff over Ukraine. It will start with a little preamble reflecting my understanding of the causes and then proceed as a timeline.

What we are observing today has two components. One is Biden’s administration attempting a more assertive policy towards Russia aimed at achieving tangible outcomes for Ukraine. The other is Putin’s easily predictable heavy-handed response and complete intransigence.

The often overlooked background of this story is the change of government in Germany and the unfinished Nord Stream 2 business, which is why Germany is the main target audience of the Russian invasion scare.

Key element here is the pledge in the July 21 US-German declaration, which Biden managed to extract from Merkel.
---image text:
efforts to use energy as a weapon. Should Russia  attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit  further aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany  will take action at the national level and press for  effective measures at the European level, including  sanctions, to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector, including gas, and/or  in other economically relevant sectors. This commitment is designed to ensure that Russia will  not misuse any pipeline, including Nord Stream 2,  to achieve aggressive political ends by using energy  as a weapon.---

Until NS2 is up and running, the US and Ukraine will have a window of opportunity to advance on one of the three fronts - get concessions from Putin on key elements of Minsk, get Germany and others on board with regards to Ukraine’s NATO membership action plan or derail NS2.

Now for the timeline. I’ll begin with Putin-Zelensky Paris talks mediated by Merkel and Macron exactly two years ago, in Dec 2019. Their main result was the effective suspension of hostilities which lasted for just over a year.

America’s view on Putin-Zelensky talks is best described by a quote from the former ambassador in Kiev William Taylor in a recent WaPo article. 
---image text:Taylor recalls the warning he gave to Zelensky after he became Ukraine’s president in 2019, and was eager to negotiate a deal with Putin: “Don’t get sucked in.”---

Further progress in peace settlement was, however, derailed by the war party in Ukraine. Nationalist volunteer units took to entering grey zone villages, from which Ukrainian army was being withdrawn, and preventing the opening of new checkpoints on the line of impact.

Over 2020 Moscow grew visibly fatigued with Zelensky and eventually dismissed him as a negotiating partner because of his inability to rein in his own military, despite having a very broad mandate to end war by reaching compromise with the Kremlin from society.

In October 2020, Karabakh war broke out, in which Russian ally Armenia was defeated by Azerbaijan with no small help from NATO member Turkey. Instrumental in the Azeri success, Bayraktar drones instantly became the favourite toy among those advocating military solution in Donbas.

Here is a characteristic piece on the Atlantic Council website from the time, inspired by the Azeri win and suggesting that Minsk agreements should be ditched. Comes from a lobbyist consistently promoting anti-Zelensky party of war narratives in the US.

Meanwhile, Zelensky also started losing the trust of his own people. A landmark event happened at the very end of 2020, when the Russian-friendly OPZZh overcame Zelensky’s Servant of the People party in the polls. 

This is a very important point. Imagine you are Putin on Jan 1, 2021. All you need is stock up on popcorn and wait for the next election in Ukraine. Last thing you want is invasion. But only two months later, Russia would begin amassing troops at the UA border. What happened?

Now let’s recall that all through 2019 and 2020, on top of tackling Putin’s aggression and militant domestic opposition, Zelensky had to deal with a very difficult US president who tried to coerce him into meddling in U.S. election in order to destroy Joe Biden.

Enter Biden. His White House takeover in Jan 2021 coincides with Zelensky’s radical change of tack with regards to Russia. Ukraine is suddenly proactive and assertive in the manner that suggests some pre-planning. Ex-PM Oleksiy Honcharuk’s posting to the US is of note here.

Zelensky begins offensive on two fronts. One is against Viktor Medvedchuk, the oligarch behind OPZZh party, which came first in Dec polls.

On Feb 2, Zelensky ordered to shut down three TV channels associated with Medvedchuk. 
On Feb 20, he introduced personal sanctions against Medvedchuk and his associates.

Now Medvedchuk is correctly considered to be Putin’s man in Ukraine. After Ukraine’s military defeat in 2014-15, followed by Minsk agreement, he appeared to have been guaranteed immunity from prosecution and even played key role in peace talks on the Ukrainian side.

It would be fair to assume that Putin deemed this attack as violation of his informal agreements with Ukraine or of the fragile balance achieved at the end of the hot phase of war.

Importantly, Zelensky used a constitutionally dubious mechanism - Security Council sanctions - to get rid of his rival and his media outlets.
One of those moments, in which the Kremlin tends to see the West’s blatant hypocrisy with regards to the rule of law.

Worth noting that the channels in question were really quite mainstream and providing platform to a broad spectrum of political positions. Their closure was a clear act of censorship, which did result in OPZZh losing popularity, but didn’t help Zelensky rescue his own.

The other front, on which Zelensky started his offensive, was NATO membership. Three days after Biden entered office, the Ukrainian president told Axios that he had one “simple question” for Biden: “Mr. President, why are we not in NATO yet"?

Two weeks later an article by foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, with the same question in the title, appeared on the website of Atlantic Council, a hawkish think tank linked to NATO.

Finally on March 5, Atlantic Council released a strategy for Biden administration with regards to Ukraine. Co-authoted by four top American diplomats, including above mentioned Taylor, it was bound to make Putin mad.

These are key recommendations from the Atlantic Council strategy:
- take over Donbas diplomacy from Germany and France
- If Russia proves intransigent, offer NATO membership plan to Ukraine.
- Derail Nord Stream 2
- Show muscle in the Black Sea

It is safe to say that up until now Biden administration has been following this strategy, or something along these lines.

Within a week, Russia begins deploying dozens of thousands of troops close to the Ukrainian border, making this move as visible as possible to the Ukrainian and NATO military. Meanwhile, Kremlin TV starts airing jingoistic messages implying clear threat of invasion.

The first invasion scare continued well into April when I wrote this piece recapping previous events, which are also listed in this thread.

Now have a look at what was happening to the German Greens that spring. For once, there was a feeling that a party, which wanted to ditch Nord Stream 2 and was on the same wavelength as the US over Ukraine and Russia, would take over Germany. ---image---

The first round of the standoff ended up with Putin earning a summit with Biden. In Geneva of all places, for a full-fledged grandiose Cold War vibe. Looked perfect on Kremlin TV. Ukraine earned a very partial withdrawal of Russian troops and the US earned nothing.

But Biden only had to wait till the Greens win elections in Germany, wasn’t he? Then together with chancellor Baerbock they would force Putin into some sort of compromise by threatening to ditch Nord Stream 2.

Enter Boris Johnson, a prime minister very keen to assert Britain’s global power status after the shambles of Brexit. Geneva summit took place on June 16. A week later, British warship HMS Defender entered what Russia now considers its territorial waters off the Crimean coast.

(having snatched Crimea from Ukraine in 2014)

When three small Ukrainian vessels attempted an even more daring freedom of navigation exercise in the strait of Kerch back in 2018 (as part of Poroshenko’s failed re-election campaign), they were shot at and captured by the Russians. But Putin wouldn’t do that to a NATO ship.

He came up with a characteristically asymmetrical response. Speaking during the annual Direct Line broadcast on June 30, a week after HMS Defender stunt, he claimed that Ukraine was “under external management”, which is to say that he deems it as a direct clash with the US/NATO.

He also mentioned that he was going to write an article about Ukraine. That piece, which claimed that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people” materialized two weeks later. It was received in the West and Ukraine as proof of Putin’s imperialist ambitions.

But it was primarily aimed at domestic audience as part of Duma election campaign under way that summer. Putin was probing the appetite in society for foreign policy adventures along the lines of his 2014 invasion in Crimea. See my piece from the time.

As polls would show, the answer was a rather vehement no - Russians didn’t want another Crimea. Unable to inspire the nation with another irredentist adventure, Putin resorted to unprecedented campaign of repression against the opposition and blatant rigging in September election.

Hopes that the Greens would win German elections were dashed by the meteoric rise of SPD under the leadership of Olaf Scholz in the final months of the campaign. The Greens came third in Sep 26 elections, thus earning themselves a role of kingmakers in future coalition.

Coalition talks in Germany would continue till Nov 23. It is during this period when another spike in Russian invasion scare happened, fuelled by alarmist American statements based on classified intel.

But let’s step back and see what was happening to Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which the US was unsuccessfully trying to detail at the risk of spoiling relations with key NATO partner Germany.

The first line of NS2 was completed on June 4, but the second line was staggering with the US and some of the Baltic Sea countries trying to halt the process. Eventually, a few days after Putin-Biden summit, the US acknowledged that the completion of the project was inevitable.

But it wasn’t quite the end of the battle. While removing the threat of sanctions against companies involved in NS2, Biden managed to extract a pledge from Germany, which I mentioned at the top of the thread. The joint declaration was signed on July 20.
---image--"energy  as a weapon."-text above---

This provision left a tiny possibility of the US derailing NS2 after all - if Russia re-invades Ukraine.
Worth reminding that US opposition to NS2 is partly driven by the interests of US gas exporters, which is why Donald Trump - not an enemy of Putin - had championed the effort

The laying of NS2’s second line was completed in the early September, which is when the pipeline’s four-month certification process began in Germany.
How likely is it that Putin would decide to invade Ukraine during this period?

And how likely is it that he would invade Ukraine after NS2 is up and running?
After all, according to the opponents of the project, the pipeline is a mighty dangerous energy weapon, which would allow Putin to suffocate Ukrainian economy without any invasions.

So at the beginning of October, we find Nord Stream transiting into the second month of a four-month certification period in Germany, where coalition talks are under way and the leader of the anti-NS2 Greens Annalena Baerbock is now eyed for foreign minister’s post.

Is it a good time for Putin to threaten invasion or make any belligerent moves at all that could jeopardise the project of strategic importance for Russia? Yet we are just one month away from peak invasion scare.

What happened in between? On Sep 30, Ukraine announced that is setting up a testing and training centre for Turkish Bayraktar drones, as well as a production line for their upgrade. Those drones which had helped Azerbaijan defeat Russian ally Armenia one year earlier.

Worth reminding that during the hot phase of the war, both sides agreed to avoid using combat aviation to prevent excessive loss of life. The loss of Ukrainian military transport plane and MH17 had taught them something. But the use of killer drones would breach that agreement.

Nevertheless, on Oct 26 Ukraine used a Bayraktar drone for the first time to destroy a piece of artillery on the separatist side. There were no casualties.

It’s interesting that the video of drone attacks was uploaded by journalist cum spin doctor Yury Butusov, who represents a group of security officials and politicians who attempted to impeach Zelensky by accusing him of betrayal in the so-called Wagnergate affair.

During his press briefing a month later, Zelensky accused Butusov of precipitating the latest escalation. “During the last week I’ve been having 2-3 conversations daily, including with the leaders of the EU, the US and Britain - all because of you... Deaths are on your conscience”
---image with Zelensky Quote in Ukrainian---

Zelensky felt disoriented back then - in the wake of a revolt by his military intelligence chief, who joined (or led) Wagnergate conspiracy. His mistrust seemed to extend to the Americans, given his lukewarm reaction, when the second wave of Russian invasion scare began.

At the end of October, USS Porter entered the Black Sea, followed by USS Mount Whitney. You could feel from TASS and RIA posts at that time, how alarmed the Russians were about the prospect of another freedom of navigation operation, along the lines of HMS Defender’s.

These were the events that inevitably led to an uptick in Russian military buildup near Ukraine’s border, which in its turn triggered a massive bout of Russian invasion scare, fueled by the US. It suddenly felt like we’ve landed in something akin to a new Caribbean crisis.

Russian invasion scare peaked on Nov 10, when State Secretary Blinken made an extraordinary statement to the effect that a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine could start any time now.

The statement was backed by an intel report about Russian troops movements, which was shared with Ukraine and NATO. Bits of it were leaked into press, but it remained unclear from them in what way the situation is different from April 2021.

Leaks claimed Russia could potentially deploy up to 175K troops to UA border, although the current figure was put at the same level as it was throughout the year. But it is of course that hypothetical figure which made headlines. It all smacked of Iraq dossier and Steele dossier.
---image text: CNN US intelligence estimates Russian troop levels on  Ukraine border could reach  175,000 ---

On Nov 23, German coalition agreement was finally reached, with Annalena Baerbock, a staunch opponent of Nord Stream 2, getting foreign minister’s post. Germany remained and remains the main audience of this whole show.

All through the end of November and first days of December, US officials were making increasingly alarmist statements about Russia’s perceived intentions, while denying Kremlin’s claims that the two sides were preparing for talks between Biden and Putin.

But the “online summit” eventually took place on Dec 7. Next day, Biden stated the obvious - that the US was not going to send troops to defend Ukraine.

Thus the standoff over Ukraine, which began with Biden’s arrival in the White House in January 2021, came to a climax. It resulted in Putin clearly articulating his red lines, but it also resulted in Biden exposing his. That allowed Russia is launch a counter-offensive.

On Dec 17, Russia issued a list of demands, which included guarantees that NATO will not expand any further east towards its borders. This was received by the West with dismay, leading to more escalatory rhetorics on both sides.

Nevertheless talks were scheduled, envoys went into travelling mode and meaningful diplomatic work began. Although Kremlin’s demands regarding NATO may sound wild, it all boils down to one question: Does the US want NATO near Russia as much as Russia doesn’t want it to be there?

Little attention was paid throughout those hair-raising weeks to what was happening in Ukraine, where Russian invasion scare was not really the main political story. To be continued.