Sunday, December 31, 2023

I'd forgotten to do this. [see Jan.]

Mirowski, "The Evolution of Platform Science"
Draft 2.0, April 2023

There is a massive literature explaining how large language models comprised of neural networks actually function; but most of the crucial points can be made without venturing into theweeds of computer science. These chatbots are based on large scale statistical exercises, trained upon truly massive datasets. They are language models because they extract and report specific words (sentences, paragraphs, etc.) that would most likely follow on from the inputs supplied by the interlocutor. In the first instance, there is nothing at all present that could be graced with the term ‘intelligence’; rather, it is an overgrown word autocompletion algorithm, not so very different from one that you might find on your phone or word processor. But that is only in the first instance; chatbots are not entirely automated in their so-called ‘deep learning’ process, but are also subject to the intervention of actual human beings at various junctures in their training regimens. This is revealed in Figure I, taken directly from the website of Open AI

image source: 

Far from ‘improving’ the chatbot outputs, what these interventions do is feed further noise and indeterminacy to the system. These workers (not just ‘labelers’, pace the Figure) take the statistical results and censor or skew them according to principles which are nowhere present in the software or the underlying data sets. For instance, what the low-paid censor considers lifelikeor transgressionary may vary widely according to local standards and different objectives than any straightforward criteria of ‘intelligence’. In other words, neither the language model  protocols nor the guidelines imposed by the human censors are structured to achieve any  particular epistemic ends or values; and indeed, the criteria of the humans dragooned into the  process may diverge in profound ways from those built into the statistical algorithms. Further, if any output is deemed embarrassing or problematic for any of a smorgasbord of random external reasons dictated by the executive suites, then the censors are mobilized once again to prevent the algorithms from delivering those results. At least of this writing in April 2023, the output is a hodgepodge.

It gets worse

Friday, December 29, 2023

Here again the convergences in the translations are striking. But the minor variants talk to us too. Proust’s narrator speaks of ‘l’idée que je me suis faite du sadisme’. Nelson’s phrase ‘my conception of sadism’ is close to Scott Moncrieff and Carter’s ‘my idea of sadism’, while the original Scott Moncrieff version expands the phrase into a sort of commentary: ‘my idea of that cruel side of human passion called “sadism”’. Kilmartin and Davis respond more openly to the mention of the idea’s making – ‘the notion I was to form’ (Kilmartin), ‘the idea which I formed’ (Davis) – and Grieve does so at greater length: ‘a certain notion of the meaning of sadism was to form ... in my mind.’ The little train of words Proust’s narrator offers to describe Mlle Vinteuil’s ‘air’ as she closes the shutters (‘las, gauche, affairé, honnête et triste’) creates a quietly interesting puzzle. All the translators but one start with ‘weary, awkward’ (Kilmartin goes for ‘languid, awkward’) and they all end with ‘sad’. ‘Affairé’ and ‘honnête’ turn out to be more elusive or questionable. The suggestions here are ‘fussy, prim’ (Nelson), ‘fussy, honest’ (Davis), ‘busy, trustworthy’ (Grieve), ‘bustling, sincere’ (Kilmartin and Carter), ‘preoccupied, sincere’ (Scott Moncrieff). Small differences, but our view of the narrator’s view of Mlle Vinteuil shifts quite a bit as it moves among them. And in this context, the choice between staying with Proust’s grammar and speeding it up is intriguing. Four translations out of six convert Proust’s ‘might perhaps still not have lost faith’ (‘n’eût peut-être pas encore perdu sa foi’) into ‘might still have continued to believe’; Grieve elaborates a little: ‘preserved some scrap of faith’. We are looking perhaps at the difference between relaying meaning and tracking movements of thought.
An hour or two drifting from Levinas on the Talmud, to the Talmud, and then to someone's memories of Quine. It still amazes me how many people search for the meaning in the world itself, as if meanings were subatomic particles. It's the definition of theology, and that's one thing I have no interest in at all.

I've said it all before. My writing's changed. I don't try as hard.
And drifting again, I end back here.

If you're going to spend your life studying Proust or Michelangelo, in the end you're using them to study yourself: your own perceptions of things. It's better to admit you're using them as material. The scholarship of false humility is creepy: the creepiness of biography, and journalism.

Philosophers vs historians again, on Arendt.
Geuss vs Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment

In terms borrowed from or suggested by the language of Hannah Arendt, this book has told part of the story of the revival in the early modern West of the ancient ideal of homo politicus (the zoon politikon of Aristotle), who affirms his being and his virtue by the medium of political action, whose closest kinsman is homo rhetor and whose antithesis is the homo credens of Christian faith. Following this debate into the beginnings of modern historicist sociology, we have been led to study the complex eighteenth-century controversy between homo politicus and homo mercator, whom we saw to be an offshoot and not a progenitor—at least as regards the history of social perception—of homo creditor. The latter figure was defined and to a large degree discredited by his failure to meet the standards set by homo politicus, and eighteenth-century attempts to construct a bourgeois ideology contended none too successfully with the primacy already enjoyed by a civic ideology; even in America a liberal work ethic has historically suffered from the guilt imposed on it by its inability to define for itself a virtue that saves it from corruption; the descent from Daniel Boone to Willy Loman is seen as steady and uninterrupted. But one figure from the Arendtian gallery is missing, curiously enough, from the history even of the American work ethic: the homo faber of the European idealist and socialist traditions, who served to bridge the gap between the myths of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It is not yet as clear as it might be how the emergence of this figure is related to the European debate between virtue and commerce; but because industrial labor in America conquered a wilderness rather than transforming an ancient agrarian landscape, homo faber in this continent is seen as conquering space rather than transforming history, and the American work force has been even less willing than the European to see itself as a true proletariat. The ethos of historicist socialism has consequently been an importation of transplanted intellectuals (even the martyr Joe Hill left word that he "had lived as an artist and would die as an artist"), and has remained in many ways subject to the messianic populisms of the westward movement.

Fun and frustration, mostly frustration. 

In America there are comparatively few who are rich enough to live without profession. Every profession requires an apprenticeship, which limits the time of instruction to the early years of life. At fifteen they enter upon their calling, and thus their education ends at the age when ours begins. 

Davidson is also known for rejection of the idea of a conceptual scheme, thought of as something peculiar to one language or one way of looking at the world, arguing that where the possibility of translation stops so does the coherence of the idea that there is something to translate. 

Beginning in the 1950s and blossoming since 1961, a major scholarly controversy has sucked The Federalist into its gravitational field: What was its role in the great shift from republicanism to liberalism in American political thought? These complex bodies of ideas and practices have almost no direct links to today’s Republican party or modern American liberalism; moreover, these terms have become so vague that many historians have abandoned both words as useless.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Mishra, "Memory Failure", in the LRB.

In March​ 1960, Konrad Adenauer, the chancellor of West Germany, met his Israeli counterpart, David Ben-Gurion, in New York. Eight years earlier, Germany had agreed to pay millions of marks in reparations to Israel, but the two countries had yet to establish diplomatic relations. Adenauer’s language at their meeting was unambiguous: Israel, he said, is a ‘fortress of the West’ and ‘I can already now tell you that we will help you, we will not leave you alone.’ Six decades on, Israel’s security is Germany’s Staatsräson, as Angela Merkel put it in 2008. The phrase has been repeatedly invoked, with more vehemence than clarity, by German leaders in the weeks since 7 October. Solidarity with the Jewish state has burnished Germany’s proud self-image as the only country that makes public remembrance of its criminal past the foundation of its collective identity. But in 1960, when Adenauer met Ben-Gurion, he was presiding over a systematic reversal of the de-Nazification process decreed by the country’s Western occupiers in 1945, and aiding the suppression of the unprecedented horror of the Judaeocide. The German people, according to Adenauer, were also victims of Hitler. What’s more, he went on, most Germans under Nazi rule had ‘joyfully helped fellow Jewish citizens whenever they could’.

...Such was the ‘unprincipled political gamesmanship’, as Primo Levi called it, that expedited the rehabilitation of Germany only a few years after the full extent of its genocidal antisemitism became known. A strategic philosemitism, parasitic on old antisemitic stereotypes but now combined with sentimental images of Jews, flourished in postwar Germany. The novelist Manès Sperber was one of those repulsed by it. ‘Your philosemitism depresses me,’ he wrote to a colleague, ‘degrades me like a compliment that is based on an absurd misunderstanding ... You overestimate us Jews in a dangerous fashion and insist on loving our entire people. I don’t request this, I do not wish for us – or any other people – to be loved in this way.’ In Germany and Israel: Whitewashing and Statebuilding (2020), Daniel Marwecki describes the way that visions of Israel as a new embodiment of Jewish power awakened dormant German fantasies. A report by the West German delegation to the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961 marvelled at ‘the novel and very advantageous type of the Israeli youth’, who are ‘of great height, often blond and blue-eyed, free and self-determined in their movements with well-defined faces’ and exhibit ‘almost none of the features which one was used to view as Jewish’. Commenting on Israel’s successes in the 1967 war, Die Welt regretted German ‘infamies’ about the Jewish people: the belief that they were ‘without national sentiment; never ready for battle, but always keen to profit from somebody else’s war effort’. The Jews were in fact a ‘small, brave, heroic, genius people’. Axel Springer, which published Die Welt, was among the major postwar employers of superannuated Nazis. 

There's a lot more. This is small but it made me laugh. 

...What then of Germany’s much lauded culture of historical memory? Susan Neiman, who wrote admiringly of Vergangenheitsbewältigung in Learning from the Germans (2020), now says she has changed her mind. ‘German historical reckoning has gone haywire,’ she wrote in October. ‘This philosemitic fury ... has been used to attack Jews in Germany.’ 

Nirit Sommerfeld was threatened with arrest in 2019. 

I had an email exchange with Neiman after she published her piece on Jacob Taubes . 
"In 1945 Hannah Arendt wrote that “the problem of evil will be the fundamental question of postwar intellectual life in Europe.” She was wrong. Apart from a handful of German philosophers—all Jewish except Brentano—philosophy ignored the questions the twentieth century had raised again."

She was right. It's the subtext of everything in post-war Europe. Philosophers are pedants and pedantry is garbage. The history of pedantry, like the history of anything else, is scholarship. 
Post-war Germany was a culture of autism and denial. Nostalgia for the present.

de Man, Robbe-Grillet, Billiards at Half-Past NineOn the Natural History of Destruction, The Tin Drum, Crabwalk, Deutschland im Herbst. everything, every fucking thing.

I won't post her response, but it wasn't enough. 

Longing for reconciliation indeed. The Taubes piece—a perverse discussion of a perverse man— previously here
And Leiter is a fan. I wonder what he thinks now.

Remember Jason Stanley who also never got the point. And does he now?

It's been fun watching left intellectual Germanophiles try and fail to come to terms with this crap. 

Neiman's new piece is here. I haven't read it yet.
I'd forgotten Deborah Feldman.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Drift, the bourgeoisie, materialism, the press, etc. Change is slow, but when it becomes clear it's kind of electric. 

Prior to the recent attack by Hamas, six in 10 (57%) said the United States should be ready to meet with leaders of Hamas, including half of Republicans (51%), and majorities of Democrats (61%) and Independents (59%).

On most other questions there are great partisan differences. While most Americans preferred the United States take neither side in the conflict (64%), Republicans were equally likely to say they should take Israel’s side (49%) as no side (48%).

The attack pushed Israel over an edge, or what's become an edge.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Granta, "Once Again, Germany Defines Who Is a Jew | Part I"

 "Forensic Architecture".  I said I was going to write more, but I'm not sure I have the patience.

Weizman:  I don’t think it’s controversial to say that freedom of expression needs to be measured in relation to hate speech, and the safety and dignity of survivors. 

It's not controversial unless you defend freedom of speech. Giving the state the right to measure speech led to the censorship that he opposes. But of course he follows the German idea of freedom, which is also the academic model for permissible speech.

Kant: A lesser degree of civic freedom, however, creates room to let that free spirit expand to the limits of its capacity.

And this becomes scholastic perversity of Forensic Architecture's "investigative aesthetics", which is the model of journalism as art, and the parallel fantasy that art is "truth".

And we're back the this. 

Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability, published by Zone, of course

But the most offensive thing about he piece in Granta is the pathological blindness to things at the core of German- and European-Israel relations. Herzl was right."The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies", once we leave. Weizman and EDB are too close to their German and Zionist roots, too loyal to both, to see the obvious.  

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Anybody reading this has to be willing to recognize pathology.

—When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe.... 

—The purpose of disengagement...was to stop being responsible for a million and a half Arabs

Ruthie Blum Leibowitz, Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2007  
"'I didn't suggest we kill Palestinians'
Geostrategist Arnon Soffer: I only said Israel would 'have to kill them.'" 
Arnon Soffer arrives at our meeting armed with a stack of books and papers. Among them is a copy of an interview I conducted with him three and a half years ago ("It's the demography, stupid," May 21, 2004), and print-outs of angry responses the geostrategist from the University of Haifa says he continues to receive "from leftists in Israel and anti-Semites abroad, who took my words out of context." The passage that aroused the most ire was as follows: "When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day." A lot has happened since Soffer made that statement, most notably the very withdrawal from Gaza he was referring to and so championed. In fact, the impetus for the pull-out has been attributed, at least in part, to Soffer's decades-long doomsaying about the danger the Palestinian womb posed to Israeli democracy. The venue of our follow-up interview last month - initiated by Soffer to gloat about his "predictions having panned out perfectly" - is the Dan Accadia Hotel. Though selected due to its proximity to the IDF's National Defense College, where Soffer lectures and serves as head of research, it couldn't be a more ironic location. It was here, after all, that former prime minister Ariel Sharon announced his disengagement plan to the Herzliya Conference. While nothing seems to be the same since that fateful day in December 2003, Soffer's convictions haven't budged an iota. He still holds a deep - what critics might call delusional - devotion to the notion that exiting Palestinian-populated territories is the key to fending off the country's otherwise destined demise. Well, that, and a fence to keep a majority of settlers in and a flow of inevitable Arab intruders out. "Israel is like the Titanic," Soffer bellows with cheerful self-assurance. "I am trying to change its course - prevent it from crashing into the iceberg - and allow it to continue safely on its journey. But up on the Tel Aviv deck, they're having a big party - a stock-market orgy. And when I try to warn them of the fast-approaching disaster, they tell me I'm being ridiculous or that I'm exaggerating." To prove his point, Soffer repeatedly whips out maps to back up his pronouncements, many of which sound purposefully outrageous, such as: "Jerusalem is no longer Jewish-Zionist," and "Iran is so weak and vulnerable that it's unbelievable." And, in spite of his speaking in absolutes, Soffer does deign to concede that he's changed his mind about a couple of issues: the Jordan Valley and the Philadelphi Corridor. He no longer supports relinquishing the former, and now believes the latter has to be repossessed. No small matter, but no matter. The 71-year-old father of four and grandfather of eight still supports every other aspect of what he considers to be a "brilliant maneuver" by Sharon to guarantee a Jewish majority in Israel, with the blessing of the United States. Challenged, as he was during our previous interview, on Israel's willingness to do what he prescribes is necessary in the war against Palestinian aggression - i.e. put a bullet in the head of anyone who tries to climb over the security fence - Soffer shrugs. "If we don't," he reiterates, "We'll cease to exist." In our previous interview, you made many assertions about what could and should be expected to happen following the disengagement from Gaza. You claim now that everything has played out the way you said it would. Yes. I said, "The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill." That statement caused a huge stir at the time, and it's amazing to see how many dozens of angry, ignorant responses I continue to receive from leftists in Israel and anti-Semites abroad, who took my words out of context. I didn't recommend that we kill Palestinians. I said we'll have to kill them. I was right about mounting demographic pressures. I am also entitled to defend myself and my country. So today, I would update the headline you gave my last interview and call this one: "It's the demography and anti-Semitism, stupid." What about What about answering critics from the Right, who would argue that in spite of incessant Kassam attacks on Sderot and kibbutzim in the Negev, Israel has barely reacted at all, let alone by "killing, killing and killing"? Since before the withdrawal from Gaza, I have been saying that we have to fire missiles at anyone who fires them at us; we haven't been doing that enough. During our last interview, I asked you whether - with CNN cameras pointing at the security fence - Israel would be prepared to retaliate in the event of missile fire. Your response was: "If we don't kill, we will cease to exist." We are living in a 100-year period of terrorism, and we have another 100 years of terrorism ahead of us. We will forever be forced to live by the sword. We are not wanted in the Middle East, which is why we will have to continue to fight. The purpose of disengagement was not to put an end to terrorism or Kassam fire. Its purpose was to stop being responsible for a million and a half Arabs who continue to multiply in conditions of poverty and madness.

Ruthie Blum Jerusalem Post, May 21, 2004 "It's the demography, stupid"

...How will the region look the day after unilateral separation?

The Palestinians will bombard us with artillery fire - and we will have to retaliate. But at least the war will be at the fence - not in kindergartens in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Will Israel be prepared to fight this war?

First of all, the fence is not built like the Berlin Wall. It's a fence that we will be guarding on either side. Instead of entering Gaza, the way we did last week, we will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won't allow their husbands to shoot Kassams, because they will know what's waiting for them.

Second of all, when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.

While CNN has its cameras at the wall?

If we don't kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.

What will the end result of all this killing be?

The Palestinians will be forced to realize that demography is no longer significant, because we're here and they're there. And then they will begin to ask for "conflict management" talks - not that dirty word "peace." Peace is a word for believers, and I have no tolerance for believers - neither those who wear yarmulkes nor those who pray to the God of peace. There are those who make pilgrimages to the Baba Sali and the tombs in Hebron, and those who make pilgrimages to Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv. Both are dangerous.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Granta,  "Once Again, Germany Defines Who Is a Jew | Part I"
George Prochnik, Eyal Weizman & Emily Dische-Becker

Forensic Architecture again. The thing made me want to puke. Germany/Israel. I remember the miserable Israeli hipster who broke up with a boyfriend who loved her because she could only marry a Jew. She ended up the second wife of a German who could only marry Jews.

EDB is an old acquaintance. She's a German and a Jew: the schism is internal. She was always tempted by aestheticized politics. So am I, but I'm also tempted by nihilism. And when we used to talk she was a kid, and I didn't want to be an asshole.

More later.

various, recordkeeping. watching change happen

NYT: "Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace"

Even a conservative assessment of the reported Gaza casualty figures shows that the rate of death during Israel’s assault has few precedents in this century, experts say.

Israel has cast the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip as a regrettable but unavoidable part of modern conflict, pointing to the heavy human toll from military campaigns the United States itself once waged in Iraq and Syria.

But a review of past conflicts and interviews with casualty and weapons experts suggest that Israel’s assault is different.

While wartime death tolls will never be exact, experts say that even a conservative reading of the casualty figures reported from Gaza shows that the pace of death during Israel’s campaign has few precedents in this century. 

The tunnel arguments and videos were a dud.
ABC News (AP), "Israel reveals signs of Hamas activity at Shifa, but a promised command center remains elusive"

The Israeli military brought journalists, including an Associated Press correspondent, into Gaza on Wednesday to show them what it claimed was a Hamas military facility under Shifa. Soldiers unveiled what appeared to be a subterranean dormitory accessible by a heavily fortified underground tunnel that Israeli authorities say stretches for hundreds of meters (yards). The military said the dormitory lay behind a blast-proof door with an opening meant to be used by Hamas snipers.

The quarters included an air conditioner, kitchen, bathroom and pair of metal cots in a room fashioned from rusty white tile. They appeared to be out of use. 

Canberra Times header for the same article: "Removing the tunnel vision on a central Gaza claim"

Newsweek, Fact Check: "Did Israel Build Bunker Under Shifa Hospital?" True

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Foucault and the obvious, again and again, and again.

From an academic who found this interesting.  

There has been a lot of debate about Michel Foucault’s political orientation. He himself seemed quite content that readers found it hard to place him on a conventional left-right spectrum. But where did he stand, in the end?

I have been thinking a lot about this question. Foucault always subscribed to a number of social projects. And in his texts he was talking to readers in an ongoing transformative process. Over the past year I edited his 1971–1972 lectures at the Collège de France, together with Bernard Harcourt, and it became clear to me that his thinking revolved around the idea of change, of transformation, of individuals and collectives. In the stale climate of the 1960s we thought the transformation could occur only through literature and art. And in the early 1970s, when things were opening up, Foucault thought that social change was possible merely by changing a small number of very important relations of power — for example, the prison system. But already in 1976 he realized that this project of social change was a failure, and that people are much more easily mobilized by religious motives or nationalistic ones. The great movements weren’t social. He didn’t give up on his project of social change. But it had gotten more complicated.

The aristocratic critique of bourgeois democracy and moralism. click on the tags 

What’s on the menu?” asks Kissinger, and I can barely restrain myself from shrieking, “What’s on the menu, Henry? Would that be Operation Menu?

Liberals are idiots. Optimists are first optimists about themselves. The demimonde is always full of monarchists, etc. etc. But Ewald seems sort of grotesque.

The coverage of the Palestinian experience in the American press has never been this open. 

I got a laugh saying the fact that Bella Hadid exists is more important than anything Edward Said ever wrote. It's called naturalism. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

RAND, 2021, Alternatives in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The one-state solution ranked, on average, as the second least unfavorable alternative for the Palestinians. A number of Palestinian participants enthusiastically supported this alternative, with participants reporting that it was the “first solution proposed by the Palestinians and the best solution for us” and that, “to a large extent, the one-state solution is the best for Palestinians’ liberation.”7 Those who supported this alternative emphasized the potential benefit along core dimensions, including political and social equality, security, and economic opportunity. Detractors were primarily concerned that the one-state solution would legitimize Israeli control over Palestinian land and erode the Palestinian identity, though many also believed that Israel would be unwilling to follow through on the guarantees for political and social equality specified in the one-state solution alternative. This alternative was generally more favorably viewed by Gazans, as compared with West Bankers, which seemed to be in large part because they viewed this option as giving them the best opportunity to alleviate their poverty and improve their employment prospects.

The Palestinians overwhelmingly indicated that this alternative would not be feasible. Specifically, they stated that they did not believe that Israel, as the more powerful party, would be willing to make the many compromises that would be necessary for the one-state solution to succeed, particularly given demographic trends that suggest a gradual erosion of Jewish influence.8 Some of the participants sharing this view said that the one-state solution was incompatible with what they viewed as Zionism, which favors Jews above others, and that the hate, racism, and prejudice on both sides would make this very difficult to implement. A few participants were a bit more optimistic but stated that the details of the alternative would need to be much better articulated and have an associated international vision for overseeing and guiding their implementation:

This alternative will not be implemented unless there is there is an international vision to create one state that would be supportive to Palestinians and encourage integration similar to South Africa.9

Palestinian participants highlighted three major factors that explained why the one-state solution was preferred to the confederation, the status quo, and annexation. The first was that, for some participants, it was the only alternative that could lead to equality between Palestinians and Israelis (Table 5.4). Participants were supportive of the proposed governance structure, specifically the creation of a democratic govern- ment that represents Palestinians and Israelis in proportion to their demographic size. As compared with other alternatives, some Palestinians viewed governance under a one-state solution as achieving equality with Israeli Jews and the ability to exercise their political, religious, and cultural rights.10
7 The first quote is from Hebron, and the second is from Gaza.
8 As an example, a participant in Bethlehem opined, “I think it is a thesis from the left, but it won’t get the Israeli consensus. The majority of Israelis reject this solution, fearing the demographic expansion of the Palestinians and Arabs in general.”
9 Discussant in focus group in Khan Younis. 
10 One participant equated this alternative with secularism, which was an appealing factor: “What I like about this option is that the state would be secular and democratic. Religion has a lot of influence in many communities, including ours, leading to fundamentalism. In my opinion, a secular and democratic society makes life easier” (discussant in focus group in Bethlehem).

...The continuation of the status quo was the preferred alternative among Israeli Jews, with support across the political spectrum. Notwithstanding the problems of the status quo, as identified by some study participants as “occasional flare-ups,”1 the status quo is familiar and clear. This was true even among participants who self-identified as center-left, a group that is typically characterized as against the status quo. Israelis under the status quo are satisfied with their lives. Deviation from the status quo could entail risks, but there is no incentive to change. One participant in such a group stated that “Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t know.”

Few participants doubted the feasibility of the status quo, which most participants interpreted as its sustainability. Unlike the discussions around other alternatives, study participants for the most part seemed not to understand why they were being asked about the feasibility of the status quo. In their minds, the fact that they were living in the status quo meant that it is feasible. There was a general sense that conditions were perhaps not ideal under the status quo but that the problems were reason- ably well understood and that Israel had proven able to manage those problems. One participant described this view as follows:

The status quo is the status quo. Of course, it is feasible. It is the current situation. We have been in the same crisis for 70 years, and crisis needs to be managed. We are managing the crisis and it’s not as bad here.2

1 The relative security and “occasional flare-up” phrase were raised in every group—for example, in the groups of immigrants from the former Soviet Union (Ramat Gan, Israel, July 12, 2018), traditional right-wing voters (Ashdod, July 16, 2018), and center-left voters (Ramat Gan, Israel, May 21, 2019).
2 Soviet émigré, Tel Aviv, 2018.

, Nov. 10, "What Israelis Think of the War With Hamas" 
Poll results were also hawkish when it came to the use of force in Gaza: 57.5% of Israeli Jews said that they believed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were using too little firepower in Gaza, 36.6% said the IDF was using an appropriate amount of firepower, while just 1.8% said they believed the IDF was using too much fire power, while 4.2% said they weren’t sure whether it was using too much or too little firepower.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

TikTok Bin Laden

"I'm not sure why people are surprised and even upset that some teenagers don't know who the hell bin Laden is."


This page previously displayed a document containing, in translation, the full text of Osama bin Laden’s “letter to the American people”, as reported in the Observer on Sunday 24 November 2002. The document, which was published here on the same day, was removed on 15 November 2023.

The number of people calling for the banning TikTok doubled in a day.

" platforms are perhaps the most important speech regulators in the world." 

Youtube removed the video and gave me another strike. Back to Daphne Keller, Evelyn Douek, Stanford and the Knight Anti-First Amendment Institute.

Two days ago American big tech threw a party for Xi Jinping. Both use spyware and practice "speech regulation". It's all so obvious.
I still have the video file. We'll see how long this lasts.
DUBAI, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Iran's supreme leader delivered a clear message to the head of Hamas when they met in Tehran in early November, according to three senior officials: You gave us no warning of your Oct. 7 attack on Israel and we will not enter the war on your behalf.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Ismail Haniyeh that Iran - a longtime backer of Hamas - would continue to lend the group its political and moral support, but wouldn't intervene directly, said the Iranian and Hamas officials with knowledge of the discussions who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely.

The supreme leader pressed Haniyeh to silence those voices in the Palestinian group publicly calling for Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah to join the battle against Israel in full force, a Hamas official told Reuters.

Hamas didn't respond to questions sent by Reuters before the publication of this report. After publication, the group posted a statement on Telegram saying it denied the validity of the report, which it described as "baseless". The post didn't specify what was inaccurate, and Hamas didn't immediately respond to a request for clarification.

Oct 9 Chicago Council on Global Affairs 

Prior to the recent attack by Hamas, six in 10 (57%) said the United States should be ready to meet with leaders of Hamas, including half of Republicans (51%), and majorities of Democrats (61%) and Independents (59%).

On most other questions there are great partisan differences. While most Americans preferred the United States take neither side in the conflict (64%), Republicans were equally likely to say they should take Israel’s side (49%) as no side (48%).

from AA, on the 13th, who missed the larger point, as I said there but not here. Hamas fucked up. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Twitter is still the best news aggregator by far, as long as you stay out of a bubble.

It was played straight on CNN
It won't last, [if it doesn't last] here's the video.

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

Arabic was viewed as the language of the land also among the Zionist movement, which acted to renew the Hebrew language. David Yellin and Yosef Meyouhas, two of the founders of the Hebrew Language Committee and Hebrew education in the land of Israel, could not have imagined that their project for the rebirth of Hebrew would serve one day as a tool to displace Arabic.
Some of the hostages held by Hamas have German citizenship, so when I asked a politician from Germany’s governing coalition what the government’s position was on those people, I was shocked when his response, in private, was: Das sind doch keine reinen Deutschen, which translates to: well, those aren’t pure Germans. He didn’t choose from a host of perfectly acceptable terms to refer to Germans with dual citizenship, he didn’t even use adjectives such as richtige or echte to refer to them not being full or proper Germans – instead, he used the old Nazi term to differentiate between Aryans and non-Aryans.

"Germany is a good place to be Jewish. Unless, like me, you’re a Jew who criticises Israel"

Germany is not a good place to be Jewish. The piece is hard to read. 

Whenever I told people I was of German descent, they would argue with me -- then upon discovering that I was Jewish, would say "Oh, so you're not German, you're Jewish" (strangely, I never heard anyone say to someone, upon discovering that they were Christian, "Oh, so you're not German, you're Christian"). 

Self-hatred runs deep. Feldman, Lipton, Stanley, Lipstadt, Corey Robin; the last two can at least look for evidence in the mirror. With the possible exception of Feldman, every one of them defends the existence of the Jewish state in conquered Palestine.

Feldman's latest book, Judenfetisch, isn't available in English.

Feldman in The Forward in 2015, returning to the scene of the crime.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Leiter's language today.

An Israeli "Intelligence Ministry" document explores the possibility of relocating all the Palestinians in Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula.  This may not be the "official" policy, but for obvious reasons, that it is even being considered will greatly alarm the Palestinians and the Egyptians. 

Some people tell you to separate the Israeli state from its actions now, or the Israeli people from the actions of the state, or Zionists here and elsewhere from the actions of Israelis, but they're all of a piece.

Most states are founded in conquest. Israel is the only state that demands liberals celebrate not the richness of its culture but the crimes that brought it about. And that's why the culture is so thin. It doesn't even have the richness of a dissident culture. Any real dissident just has to leave. 

Israel is a society built on ideology, and the ideology will only fade after the state itself is gone.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Youssef is a comedian, speaking from experience as comedians do.

I'll ignore the claim that Hamas is dedicated to Israel's destruction.

Also, blasts from the past
Mountaintop on edge of Golan Heights illustrates complexities." 

Moshe Ya’alon’s office refuses to elaborate after alluding to contact with terror group"
and my old standby

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Israel's response has been so extreme and its defenders so unhinged that they're losing support of people who've been reliable in the past. Liberal Zionists needed to be able to lie to themselves; Arab autocrats needed cover for normalization policy that was unpopular with their subjects. Israel has blown it all up.

Shadi Hamid

More than 1 million Palestinians displaced, 4000 killed, 10,000 injured, and 1000 children dead and yet people are still obsessing about far-left student groups signing letters. Let's save some of our anger for the actual people being killed as we speak. 

What I've seen from any number of respectable, mainstream commentators these past two weeks has been surprising. When it comes to Palestinians, a lot of people really do have a massive blind spot. It's worth asking why and what can be done to address this.

"people really do have a massive blind spot." A new realization.

Nwanevu, another new realization and another really do

I really do think some of these people have been so corroded by their own propaganda that they're not capable of reason anymore, or at least not capable of grasping their own contradictions. It's plain who's being punished for wrongthink right now; the piece itself lays it out.

responding to Bari Weiss, quoting herself 

"The events of the last week have shattered the illusion that wokeness is about protecting victims and standing up for persecuted minorities. This ideology is and has always been about the one thing many of us have told you it is about for years: power."

She was always in favor of censorship, but events have forced a change in consciousness in moderates who once needed to give her the benefit of the doubt. Events force a change in ideas: that's how it always works.


An Israeli woman who survived the Hamas assault on settlements near the Gaza boundary on 7 October says Israeli civilians were “undoubtedly” killed by their own security forces.

It happened when Israeli forces engaged in fierce gun battles with Palestinian fighters in Kibbutz Be’eri and fired indiscriminately at both the fighters and their Israeli prisoners.

“They eliminated everyone, including the hostages,” she told Israeli radio. “There was very, very heavy crossfire” and even tank shelling.

The woman, 44-year-old mother of three Yasmin Porat, said that prior to that, she and other civilians had been held by the Palestinians for several hours and treated “humanely.” She had fled the nearby “Nova” rave.

A recording of her interview, from the radio program Haboker Hazeh (“This Morning”) hosted by Aryeh Golan on state broadcaster Kan, has been circulating on social media.

The interview has been translated by The Electronic Intifada. You can listen to it with English subtitles in this video and a transcript is at the end of this article.

One of first videos Hamas released showed fighters with children in the kibbutz, one of them tying a toddler's shoelaces, another rocking a cradle,  and a statement that they don't kill kids. The IDF showed an edited version with the statement removed.

How do you square this with Israel's description of slaughter? I don't know. Israel has a long history of lying, but Hamas can be stupid, and their teenage fighters can go off on their own. 

Their have been multiple assessments, Al Jazeera, Forensic Architecture [the packaging as art is offensive—a subject for another day], Channel 4, Middle East Monitor, that contradict the Israeli claims about the al-Ahli Arab Hospital bombing, and others have confirmed it, including the AP

The US isn't interested in a full investigation.
At a press conference of the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem the day after the bombing, Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum said the hospital had received three warnings from Israel to evacuate after the hospital had been hit twice, days before.
Source for the edit hereDecensored News is on Rumble and Gab

Israeli leaders, Bennett, Herzog, Ben-Gvir, Feiglin, are calling for genocide. State dept. veterans are signing in-house letters against US policy; peers in the EU are doing the same.

Guardian, "Pro-Palestinian views face suppression in US amid Israel-Hamas war."

Nathan Thrall 
Ads for my book were pulled from  @NPR  & the  @BBC . I told  @guardian : "I’m quite sure that a book advocating for Israel would not have had its advertisements pulled...There's an atmosphere that is wholly intolerant of any expression of sympathy for Palestinians under occupation."

via Mark Ames on twitter, if you click to follow Palestine Action US @Pal_ActionUS, and reload the page it's been cancelled.

(August 13) Times of Israel: "Ex-IDF general likens military control of West Bank to Nazi Germany"

(Sept. 6) AP, "A former Mossad chief says Israel is enforcing an apartheid system in the West Bank" 

Jewish Currents, "A Textbook Case of Genocide"

UN OHCHR, "Gaza: UN experts decry bombing of hospitals and schools as crimes against humanity, call for prevention of genocide"

I have no real interest in writing about this. It's just record-keeping of some sort.

LRB, Adam Shatz, "Vengeful Pathologies" very good about some things, less clear about others.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

 Closer and closer to genocide

Monday, October 09, 2023

This second one been passed around a lot. A pleasant surprise. I found the first one today.
Twitter may die so it's good to have a record

Saturday, October 07, 2023

 The rubber is meeting the road: pretensions to commitment.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Monday, October 02, 2023

I think I've said before; someday someone will do a book and an exhibit of these things.  The two below are far from the best, but they reminded me.  I hate the word "memes". If you want to be determinist then Dennett's arguments and their popularity are as determined as the Taylor Swift's songwriting. In the past I've said Lady Gaga. I'm offended mostly by the sense of superiority of Dennett and Dawkins, Remove that and you get Skinner, who offends more people because he seems so innocent.

NFTs are the perverse inverse: the meaningless but one-of-a-kind as a market substitute for things rich with meaning and/because infinitely reproducible. Paul Pfeiffer began with something similar—working off it, not inventing it; the art world imperative derailed him. Banksy is better. 

But "memes" are the equivalent of children's games, or slang. We know the origins of some but know them mostly as things passed around, less as things made than things chosen for survival, which is why the name of course. MoMA should do the show, but they won't. Paris would be good.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

"You quite literally wrote a book on ethnic cleansing... Are you ready to say that's what this is?"

"First question goes to Politico" That was funny
sort of amazing

pic if/when twitter dies

Monday, September 25, 2023

WaPo: Judge blocks California law meant to increase online safety for kids

U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman granted a request Monday by the tech trade group NetChoice for a preliminary injunction against the measure, writing that the law probably violates the First Amendment and does “not pass constitutional muster.”

The initial ruling deals a massive blow to state lawmakers, who passed the law with broad bipartisan support last year, and to children’s safety advocates, who touted the measure as one of the strongest children’s online safety laws in the United States. Lawmakers in several other states have since pushed to replicate the standards, modeled after regulations in the United Kingdom.

NetChoice, which counts Amazon, Meta and Google as members, sued to block the law in December, arguing that tech companies have a right under the Constitution to make “editorial decisions” about what content they host or take down and that the law would turn platforms into “roving censors of speech on the Internet.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Interim Post chief executive Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.) 

“We look forward to seeing the law permanently struck down and online speech and privacy fully protected,” Chris Marchese, who leads NetChoice’s litigation efforts, said in a statement.

Monday’s ruling is the latest in a string of recent defeats for children’s safety advocates in the courts. Last month, two federal judges temporarily blocked laws in Arkansas and Texas that would require some online service providers to verify users’ ages and to get parent consent to access social media platforms or adult content.

1—arguing that tech companies have a right under the Constitution to make “editorial decisions” 

Publishers face liability

2—the law would turn platforms into “roving censors of speech on the Internet.” 

They already are 

"the First Amendment should adjust to the new challenges of the platform era."

 "tech platforms are perhaps the most important speech regulators in the world." 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Bibi has made it official: Jews in Iran are now safer and have more rights than Palestinians in Israel.

Maybe Modi is right about Canada: Golinkin in The Forward again.

"Zelenskyy joins Canadian Parliament’s ovation to 98-year-old veteran who fought with Nazis"

In posts to the blog dated 2011 and 2010, Hunka describes 1941 to 1943 as the happiest years of his life and compares the veterans of his unit, who were scattered across the world, to Jews.

Golinkin, previously. Vladislav Davidzon is a character out of central casting.

Nagorno-Karabakh is not Ukraine, or Kosovo, never mind Libya, Iraq, Syria...

This is almost fun.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Jäger really is a model high-brow leftist dandy faggot; so attracted to abstract ideas and abstract violence as a kind of pleasure: the violence and melodrama of the avant-garde. 
His conflicted relationship to America and American vulgarity; the slumming of a European in LA. the man who fell to earth.

Jäger on Baudrillard
Anti-Americanism might be a moral imperative for Europeans. It certainly is satisfying. But a disinterest in the US is hard to justify politically, let alone strategically expedient. As Nick Burns noted in a reflection on America, Baudrillard’s real message is that “we have to perform American experiments on ourselves”
The first image below reminded me of D2. "I, in fact, don’t think that there are “tragic dilemmas”"
I hadn't thought about that for a while.

The scab could be an immigrant, legal or illegal. His wife or one of his children could be sick, or hungry; they could all be homeless.  Solidarity is a double-edged sword, or it's pointless. Dead finks don't talk.

Also Jeff Wall

Modernity and avant-garde, to you, are two separate things? 
JW: We can’t confuse them anymore.

I use modernity and modern-ism, but the references are the same. Jäger is still a modernist; everything he writes—everything he prefers—documents his emotional attachment to a fantasy.
Art and politics are inseparable because language and politics are inseparable: sensibilities are made manifest in form. 
Jäger now has a tag.

repeats: Twinks for Trump 
and "Don't worry. You're still chicken", And that's only a few months ago. I'd forgotten. All I do is repeats.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

old: What Exactly is Neoliberalism?

and new: It's all so obvious. Academia circling the wagons. I wonder what her girlfriend says.

Nihilistic Times: Thinking with Max Weber is a revised and expanded version of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values that Wendy Brown gave at Yale in 2019. As she acknowledges, Weber is, on the face of it, a surprising choice of ally for a radical political thinker who has done so much to scrutinise and oppose political orthodoxies. Weber is typically dismissed on the left as a conservative defender of bourgeois liberalism and a critic of socialism. In recent years, Brown has been best known for her critical analysis of neoliberal rationality and the way it has weakened resources for political action; recent scholarship, meanwhile, has highlighted significant continuities between Weber’s thought and that of early neoliberals such as Ludwig von Mises. Brown isn’t a sociologist, but her work is unquestionably animated by what C. Wright Mills called the ‘sociological imagination’, which connects ‘private troubles’ to ‘public issues’. Although Weber was one of the founding fathers of sociology, he has become unfashionable among sociologists because of his insistence on a rigid distinction between ‘facts’ and ‘values’, and his refusal to let politics or ethical reasoning intrude into scholarship.

So why Weber? The texts Brown focuses on are the two famous lectures given in Munich in 1917 and 1919, ‘Science as a Vocation’ and ‘Politics as a Vocation’, which Nihilistic Times reads in reverse order. Here Brown finds Weber responding to ‘crises of political and academic life bearing certain parallels to our own, including a crisis of liberalism’. In a time of war, demagoguery and bureaucratisation, and when the ‘death of God’ had become a given, Weber sought to reorient politics and scholarship through a dogged commitment to what distinguished each of them. As Brown admits, some of this made for dry and disappointing reading (‘Science as a Vocation’ is ‘one long depressive sigh about what scholarship is and requires, even apart from its miserable contemporary conditions’). But what she finds most valuable in Weber’s ethos, not least in its implications both for the left and for the academy, is the willingness to face uncomfortable truths without lapsing into wishful thinking or despair.

Weber insists that everything remain in its rightful place. Politicians should stick to politics, and scientists to science. Religion should vacate public life, except as an inner psychological ‘vocation’ through which individuals commit to their life course. The tragedy of modernity, as recognised most acutely by Nietzsche, is that modern knowledge can tell us a great deal about how the world works (facts), but nothing whatever about what we should do about it (values). This, Weber argued, is just the way it is, and to deny the split between facts and values (in the form of mysticism, say, or Marxism) only makes things worse. Modern society is therefore suffused by nihilism, in the sense that values no longer have any stable or consensual foundation, while scholars have nothing helpful to say about them, other than to study them sociologically.

In these circumstances, both science and politics carry a heavy burden. Once values come to be regarded as non-objective cultural artefacts, politics becomes a never-ending battle to assert one set of values over others. In spite of this, or because of it, values must be defended to keep nihilism at bay, and the responsibility for doing this falls especially to politicians, and political leaders in particular. Weber’s central injunction to scholars, meanwhile, is to stay in their lane and avoid the temptation to issue edicts on morality or politics. Both scientists and politicians must take ‘responsibility’ for their own sphere of activity, and ensure that there remains, as Brown puts it, a ‘moat between academic and political life’.

recently on Weber, and the political origins of value free science. 
Weber now has a tag.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Haaretz live commentary: "Israel's Supreme Court Hears Petitions Against First Netanyahu Law Attacking Judiciary"

The chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Simcha Rothman slammed the Supreme Court saying that the very existence of the hearing is a failure of the court. "Why is a judicial process or ruling which will harm the core values of democracy needed? What is the justification for taking away from the State of Israel its basic characteristic as a democratic state?" Rothman asked.

Addressing what the judicial overhaul supporters consider a gradual encroachment on the Knesset's authority, Rothman said: "For many years, through a gradual process of legally sound arguments, the Israeli Supreme Court has taken upon itself powers unparalleled anywhere in the world." He further claimed that "the public's trust in the court has eroded due to the court's extensive involvement in social, economic and political matters." 

Rothman stated that the Knesset is authorized to legislate on any Basic Law, subject to the will of the people.

Justice Anat Baron responded, 'What if there were a law that denied Arabs the right to vote or postpones elections by ten years, then what?' Rothman replied, 'If the elected parliament fails in its role, a remedy won't be found in the hands of a group of individuals authorized to annul the elected representatives without being accountable to the public through elections.'

tagged: Judicial Review, for Americans who don't get the joke.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Helena Cobban (via Helena Cobban)

From last year, updated

NYT: Maitland Jones Jr., a respected professor, defended his standards. But students started a petition, and the university dismissed him. 

Dr. Jones, 84, is known for changing the way the subject is taught. In addition to writing the 1,300-page textbook “Organic Chemistry,” now in its fifth edition, he pioneered a new method of instruction that relied less on rote memorization and more on problem solving.

After retiring from Princeton in 2007, he taught organic chemistry at N.Y.U. on a series of yearly contracts. About a decade ago, he said in an interview, he noticed a loss of focus among the students, even as more of them enrolled in his class, hoping to pursue medical careers.

“Students were misreading exam questions at an astonishing rate,” he wrote in a grievance to the university, protesting his termination. Grades fell even as he reduced the difficulty of his exams.

The problem was exacerbated by the pandemic, he said. “In the last two years, they fell off a cliff,” he wrote. “We now see single digit scores and even zeros.”

After several years of Covid learning loss, the students not only didn’t study, they didn’t seem to know how to study, Dr. Jones said.


We head back to the dorm. Double-parking, we step out of the car, and Johnny hugs and kisses his dad, then embraces me in a strong, strapping-young-man hug, burying his head in my neck; this is the exact position we found ourselves in while I walked the floors with him in my arms during his colicky phase, and as he did then, he is crying into my neck.

This shocks me. I haven’t seen him cry like this since I told him that his father and I were separating. I had imagined I might say, “Ta ta for now,” Tigger’s optimistic sign-off, but I can manage only, “I love you, sweet baby.” Reeling back to the car after he walks into his new life, I turn to my ex and say, “That was a lot harder than I thought it would be.” I plant my forehead on the steering wheel. I sob.  

A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them. 

It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.

"I'm not sure why people are surprised and even upset that some teenagers don't know who the hell bin Laden is."

The father in the car is Paul Westerberg.