Thursday, March 30, 2023

Eli Cook again

Tim Barker of Dissent replies, "Amazing!"

"Yesterday, at his request...—See? They're not all terrorists." Some are appropriately servile.

The occupation is not going to end. It's been a single state for decades. And the two state solution always meant the Palestinian citizens of Israel would have a home in the neighborhood... when they left the Jewish state.

Sinan Antoon,  "A million lives later, I cannot forgive what American terrorism did to my country, Iraq"

Many of us who had stood against Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and his regime wrote and spoke against the planned invasion for what were already obvious reasons. We challenged the false narrative of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). After 700 inspections, Hans Blix, the head of the UN’s weapons inspectors, and his teams had found no weapons in Iraq. The “mushroom cloud over Manhattan” that Condoleezza Rice warned about was a propaganda cloud to intensify hysteria. George Bush, after all, had reportedly decided to strike Iraq the week after 9/11.

The corporate mediascape in the US was an echo chamber for state propaganda. It wasn’t just the Manichaean worldview of post-9/11 national security hysteria, but a deep-seated colonial mentality – variations on the white man’s burden. An analysis of US TV news in the few weeks preceding the invasion found that sources expressing scepticism of the war were massively underrepresented. The media performed its function quite well in manufacturing consent and parroting official propaganda. In March 2003, 72% of American citizens supported the war. We should never forget this. (Up until 2018, 43% of Americans still thought it was the right decision.)

In Cairo, I watched as the US began its “shock and awe” campaign – a terrifying rain of death and destruction on Baghdad. Poetry was my refuge and the only space through which I could translate the visceral pain of watching the violence visited on Iraq and seeing my hometown fall to an occupying army. Some of the lines I wrote in the early days of the invasion crystallise my melancholy:

    The wind is a blind mother
    over the corpses
    no shrouds
    save the clouds
    but the dogs
    are far quicker
    The moon is a graveyard
    for light
    the stars are women
    Tired from carrying the coffins
    the wind leaned
    against a palm tree
    A satellite inquired:
    Whereto now?
    The silence
    in the wind’s cane murmured:
    and the palm tree caught fire.
I had always hoped to see the end of Saddam’s dictatorship at the hands of the Iraqi people, not courtesy of a neocolonial project that would dismantle what had remained of the Iraqi state and replace it with a regime based on ethno-sectarian dynamics, plunging the country into violent chaos and civil wars.

Four months after the invasion I returned to Baghdad as part of a team to film About Baghdad, a documentary about the war and its aftermath. The chaos was already evident....

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

And Leiter again, in what he would consider an unrelated post
The sociology (or politics, if you prefer) of the discipline is, alas, far more relevant to explaining the content of what gets discussed than philosophers like to admit.

Can you imagine if a law was passed codifying the US as the nation state of white Protestant Anglos and then describing it as a "a law black and Jewish citizens  claim discriminates against minorities"?...

Zonszein "Israelis Are Trying to Save a Democracy That Never Existed"
Leiter's response links a post I mentioned before.

"Even in an apartheid state"
My (pseudonymous) reply was rejected.
Another win for sociology (or politics) over philosophy.

Rationalists rationalize.
I exchanged emails with an Israeli academic in the thick of the protests who when cornered said a binational state "would be a win for me". In public he still won't do it.

The occupation of land beyond 1967 borders is the issue only if you accept conquest and ethnocracy within the borders of 1947.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Israel is dying. It's taken too long.  And I'm just watching the American "left", and the very serious intellectual left—anglophone and affiliated—live down to expectations. 

Women's Studies departments are the result not the cause. CRT is the result, not the cause. Academics lead from the rear. And Edward Said was a putz. 

The Professor of Politics
"there is a mountain of evidence that sex is a huge predictor of all sorts of outcomes, from health to pay to crime, to voting, to religion; anything you can think of....  scientifically speaking the view that sex matters is not remotely controversial. Yet many academics and students of course are too afraid to say it... This isn't just an attempt to stop us from speaking; it's an attempt to stop us from knowing.  Why are gender identity activists so outraged by data collection on sex?...  I think the only answer to that question is that data on sex allows us to state certain facts. And those facts about sex are really inconvenient for gender identity theory." 

Sullivan at Sex Matters and in the TLS 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

This one has really gone all over the place

Of course. I should've guessed about the Tillmans piece. And then tweeting Joni Mitchell.
John Waters sent a birthday card to a mutual friend on his 30th birthday:  "Don't worry, you're still chicken."

John Kelly is a very nice man, but being a "Performance Artist"—pretensions limiting his audience and career—he disables embedding. But Joni Mitchell is a fan, and so am I. Click on the link.

And now I've covered almost everything, including contradictions. Only to add that Kelly is a craftsman and a traditionalist. His performance is conservative in the best sense, and he belongs with Welles, O'Toole, and Milton, linked below. Waters on the other hand is a bit of a nasty piece of work. And Jäger can't come to terms with his conflicts.

Jäeger and Leusder, Tooze and the rest of the younger generation of technocrats, earnestly engaged with "aesthetics" and "culture", always returning to romanticism, while elsewhere and seemingly unaware of the connection, expressing concern over and admiration for American individualism: Bowling Alone, and "the American experiment has just begun."etc.

Romanticism is the melodramatic longing of individualists for a mythical idea of community. Not recognizing or accepting that they're members of a group and following its codes, they form an intentional community, a subset of their group, an artificial imagined collective dedicated to aesthetics or politics, or a mixture of the two. The first absurdity—separating form from content, aesthetics from ethics—is compounded by the second: the joining of these supposedly separate things into a new unity. The result either way is kitsch, or close to it.

Technocrats as fans of art are just fans of themselves. 

Romanticism always begins in fandom and fantasy, the memory of the feelings another older artist's work brought out in the romantic poet's childhood. Thirty years ago I took a drum lesson from a working pro, a session player, who said I talked like someone who listened to music, not someone who played it. I want to think I got the joke immediately. When my father asked a room of freshmen how many of them wanted to be poets, half of them raised their hands. Then he asked how many wanted to write poetry.

Lon Chaney and a young Peter O'Toole. I'll post it a third time.

"Yes but the point is, surely… This is the point of blank verse, "The lady shall speak her mind freely, or the blank verse will halt for it."  Hamlet says this. You don't have to think; you think after the line, not before it, or not during. The line is the thought. This is the point of iambic pentameter."

Every time I hear the phrase "thought leader" I think of John Rawls.

Artists aren't individualists. The craft precedes the craftsman.  

I may have found a job I can work at if I need to till I die. A bench job is the closest I'll ever come to a desk job. But J.P. Morgan is sending me wealth management spam again, credit to the Norwegian not at Morgan who's handling my account; I may be able to retire after all. It's good having a billionaire for a stockbroker, even if he's working to make sure dividends cover my rent controlled apartment. Cultural capital is still the next best thing.

People pointing out that the Simpsons called the Michelangelo scandal should watch the episode.
Romanticism always begins in fandom and fantasy, the memory of the feelings another older artist's work brought out in the romantic poet's childhood.

Listening to the Hammerklavier as I do every once in a while and remembering that I laughed.

"A teacher of mine, Abe Ajay, an arch modernist, a friend of Ad Reinhardt who worked with him at The New Masses, used to complain that Beethoven ruined his music with images. 'All those wonderful notes and then... Birds!!'"

Beethoven like Marx, is sui generis. That's one way to cover my ass. But there is something to be said for being first to cross the a line. He doesn't refer to art; he uses art to refer to something else. That's in the manuscript. But also, now that I've checked, in The Classical Style, Rosen says he used art to refer to itself—as a modernist—which is the debate Rosen has with Brendel. That's in the manuscript too.

The first time I heard the Hammerklavier, I recognized a form—a historically and culturally specific set of arranged motifs—stretched up to the breaking point, but not over it. That tension is modernism. The moment of release is meaningless without what preceded it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

update at the top. 
not bad.
VOA News: US Firm Secures Oil Deal with US-Backed Forces in Syria
A U.S. company has reportedly reached a deal with Kurdish-led authorities in northeast Syria to develop and export crude oil in areas under their control in the war-torn country.

A senior official at the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in Northeast Syria said the deal was approved by the U.S. government.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Vinvent Bevins: "This is the most important thing to happen in the United States since 9/11"
quote tweeting Mazzy: "The crowd omg?"

Neoliberalism is a bitch, and bitches are sexy. They really are. I'm not sure Bevins gets the joke but that's ok.
Ah, why not  go all the way.

"The Meaning of Rape" 

The current UK zeitgeist favours a drive to remove the use of the word “woman” from as many areas of public policy as possible. The word has become unfashionable as a means of describing the female body and this includes the literature and conversation specific to women’s health. Women are “people who menstruate”, “pregnant people” or “people with a cervix”. Even Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, has said “it isn’t right” to say that only women have a cervix. The word “woman’’, it is claimed, is just not inclusive enough and so other words must suffice. 
At the same time news reports invite us to believe that a male rapist is “she” and public outrage is the only way to ensure that a trans-identified man who rapes women, as in the case of Isla Bryson/Adam Graham, is rightly housed in the male prison estate. The court Bench rules have been updated to advise that a woman giving evidence should describe her rape by a man by talking of “her penis” if he identifies as a woman, or be reprimanded by judges who must abide similarly with the chosen pronouns of those entitled, rapist men.

Using brute force or state power to compel others to accept your self-definition. "Subjectivism as law". Click the fucking link, scroll down and click again.

Trannies, nuns, D. Boon. Because it works.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

the Guardian Fri 21 Mar 2003
Vikram Dodd, A modern day blitzkrieg

The shock and awe tactic was invented by the American rightwing military strategist, Harlan Ullman.

It is a modern day blitzkrieg of the enemy, targeting his mind, soul and physical being, achieved by merciless and overwhelming "precision" bombing.

By Mr Ullman's admission, the aim is to cower the Iraqis using conventional weapons, in the way Japan was terrified into surrender by America's nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the second world war.

Speaking before the war started Mr Ullman said: "You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes.

"You're sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out.

"You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted."

Of the attack on Iraq, he said: "The point is the simultaneous intensity and enormity of this, it will be a very complicated operation, it will tend to shock, awe and stun the Iraqi leadership.

"We want them to quit. We want them not to fight."

[The link's not in the original.]

the Evening Standard 19 June 2003
Bob Graham,  'I just pulled the trigger' 

At first glance they appear to be the archetypal Band Of Brothers of Hollywood myth, brave and honest men united in common purpose.

But a closer look at these American GIs, sweltering in the heat of an unwelcoming Iraq, reveals the glazed eyes and limp expressions of those who have witnessed a war they do not understand and have begun to resent. By their own admission these American soldiers have killed civilians without hesitation, shot wounded fighters and left others to die in agony.

At first glance they appear to be the archetypal Band Of Brothers of Hollywood myth, brave and honest men united in common purpose. But a closer look at these American GIs, sweltering in the heat of an unwelcoming Iraq, reveals the glazed eyes and limp expressions of those who have witnessed a war they do not understand and have begun to resent. By their own admission these American soldiers have killed civilians without hesitation, shot wounded fighters and left others to die in agony.

What they told me, in a series of extraordinary interviews, will make uncomfortable reading for US and British politicians and senior military staff desperate to prevent the liberation of Iraq turning into a quagmire of Vietnam proportions, where the behaviour of troops feeds the hatred of an occupied people. Specialist Anthony Castillo: "If civilians were there, they were considered the enemy"

Sergeant First Class John Meadows revealed the mindset that has led to hundreds of innocent Iraqi civilians being killed alongside fighters deliberately dressed in civilian clothes. "You can't distinguish between who's trying to kill you and who's not," he said. "Like, the only way to get through s*** like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can, people you know are trying to kill you. Killing them first and getting home."

These GIs, from Bravo Company of the 3/15th US Infantry Division, are caught in an impossible situation. More than 40 of their number have been killed by hostile forces since 1 May - when President Bush declared major military operations were over - and the number of hit-and-run attacks is on the increase. They face a resentful civilian population and, hiding among it, a number of guerrilla fighters still loyal to the old regime. A lone Iraqi sniper nicknamed The Hunter is believed to have claimed his sixth American victim this week in a suburb of Baghdad.

The man, said to be a former member of the Republican Guard Special Forces, has developed a cult status among some Iraqis. One Baghdad resident, Assad al Amari, said: "He is fighting for Iraq on his own. There will be many more Americans killed because they cannot stop The Hunter. He will be given the protection of people who will let him use their homes for his shooting."

In this hostile atmosphere the men of Bravo Company are asked to maintain order, yet at the same time win hearts and minds. It is not a dilemma they feel able to resolve. They spoke to me - dressed in uniforms they have worn for the past six weeks - at their base in Fallujah. Here US troops killed 18 demonstrators at a pro-Saddam rally soon after the war and now face local fighters bent on revenge.

Their attitude to these dangers is summed up by Specialist (Corporal) Michael Richardson, 22. "There was no dilemma when it came to shooting people who were not in uniform, I just pulled the trigger. It was up close and personal the whole time, there wasn't a big distance. If they were there, they were enemy, whether in uniform or not. Some were, some weren't."

Specialist Anthony Castillo added: "When there were civilians there we did the mission that had to be done. When they were there, they were at the wrong spot, so they were considered enemy." In one major battle - at the southern end of Baghdad at the intersection of the main highways - the soldiers estimate about 70 per cent of the enem

y's 400-or-so fighters were dressed as civilians. Sgt Meadows explained: "The fight lasted for about eight hours and they just kept on coming all day from everywhere, from all sides. They were all in plain clothes."We had dropped fliers a couple of days prior saying to people to get out of the area if they didn't want to fight, so basically anyone who was there was a combatant. If they were dumb enough to stand in front of tanks or drive a car towards a tank, then they were there to fight. On that day it took away the dilemma of who to fire at, anyone who was there was a combatant."

Cpl Richardson added: "That day nothing went with the training. There were females fighting; there were some that, when they saw you f****** coming, they'd just drop their s*** and try to give up; and some guys were shot and they'd play dead, and when you'd go by they'd reach for their weapons. That day it was just f****** everything. When we face women or injured that try to grab their weapons, we just finish them off. You've gotta, no choice."

Such is their level of hatred they preferred to kill rather than merely injure. Sgt Meadows, 34, said: "The worst thing is to shoot one of them, then go help him." Sergeant Adrian Pedro Quinones, 26, chipped in: "In that situation you're angry, you're raging. They'd just been shooting at my men - they were putting my guys in a casket and eight feet under, that's what they were trying to do.

"And now, they're laying there and I have to help them, I have a responsibility to ensure my men help them." Cpl Richardson said: "S***, I didn't help any of them. I wouldn't help the f******. There were some you let die. And there were some you double-tapped." He held out his hand as if firing a gun and clucked his tongue twice. He said: "Once you'd reached the objective, and once you'd shot them and you're moving through, anything there, you shoot again. You didn't want any prisoners of war. You hate them so bad while you're fighting, and you're so terrified, you can't really convey the feeling, but you don't want them to live."

These soldiers have faced fighters from other Arab countries. "It wasn't even Iraqis that we was killing, it was Syrians," said Sgt Meadows. "We spoke to some of the people and Saddam made a call for his Arab brothers for a holy war against us, and they said they came here to fight us. Whadda we ever do to them?"

Cpl Richardson intervened: "S***, that didn't really matter who they were. They wanted to fight us so they were the enemy. We had to take over Baghdad, period, it didn't matter who was in there."

The GIs spoke of shooting civilians at roadblocks. Sgt Meadows said: "When they used white flags we were told to stop them at 400 metres out and then strip them down naked then bring them through. Most obeyed the order. We knew about others who had problems with [Iraqis] carrying white flags and then opening up on our guys. We knew about every trick they were trying to do. Then they'd use cars to try and drive at us. They were men, women and children. That day we shot up a lot of cars.

"We'd shoot warning shots at them and they'd keep coming, so we'd kill them. We'd fire a warning shot over the top of them or on the road. When people criticise us killing civilians they don't know that a lot of these civilians were combatants, they really were . And they still are."

The men have been traumatised by their experiences. Cpl Richardson-said: "At night time you think about all the people you killed. It just never gets off your head, none of this stuff does. There's no chance to forget it, we're still here, we've been here so long. Most people leave after combat but we haven't."

Sgt Meadows said men under his command had been seeking help for severe depression: "They've already seen psychiatrists and the chain of command has got letters back saying 'these men need to be taken out of this situation'. But nothing's happened." Cpl Richardson added: "Some soldiers don't even f****** sleep at night. They sit up all f****** night long doing s*** to keep themselves busy - to keep their minds off this f****** stuff. It's the only way they can handle it. It's not so far from being crazy but it's their way of coping. There's one guy trying to build a little pool out the back, pointless stuff but it keeps him busy."

Sgt Meadows said: "For me, it's like snap-shot photos. Like pictures of maggots on tongues, babies with their heads on the ground, men with their heads halfway off and their eyes wide open and mouths wide open. I see it every day, every single day. The smells and the torsos burning, the entire route up to Baghdad, from 20 March to 7 April, nothing but burned bodies."

Specialist Bryan Barnhart, 21, joined in: "I also got the images like snapshots in my head. There are bodies that we saw when we went back to secure a place we'd taken. The bodies were still there and they'd been baking in the sun. Their bodies were bloated three times the size."

Sgt Quinones explained: "There are psychiatrists who are trying to sort out their problems but they say it's because of long combat environment. They know we need to be taken away from that environment." But the group's tour of duty has been extended and the men have been forced to remain as peacekeepers. Cpl Richardson said: "Now we're in this peacekeeping, we're always firing off a warning shot at people that don't wanna listen to you. You make up the rules as you go along.

"Like, in Fallujah we get rocks thrown at us by kids. You wanna turn round and shoot one of the little f*****s but you know you can't do that. Their parents know if they came out and threw rocks we'd shoot them. So that's why they send the kids out." Sgt Meadows said: "Can you imagine being a soldier and being told 'you're fighting a war, then when you finish you can go home'.

"You go and fight that war, and you win decisively, but now you have to stay and stabilise the situation. We are having to go from a full warfighting mindset to a peacekeeping mindset overnight. Right after shooting at people who were trying to kill you, you now have to help them."

The anger towards their own senior officers is obvious. Cpl Richardson said: "We weren't trained for this stuff now. It makes you resentful they're holding us on here. It pisses everyone off, we were told once the war was over we'd leave when our replacements get here. Well, our replacements got here and we're still here."

Specialist Castillo said: "We're more angry at the generals who are making these decisions and who never hit the ground, and who don't get shot at or have to look at the bloody bodies and the burnt-out bodies, and the dead babies and all that kinda stuff." Sgt Quinones added: "Most of these soldiers are in their early twenties and late teens. They've seen, in less than a month, more than any man should see in a whole lifetime. It's time for us to go home."

On whether the war was one worth fighting, Sgt Meadows said: "I don't care about Iraq one way or the other. I couldn't care less. [Saddam] could still be in power and, to me, it wasn't worth leaving my family for; for getting shot at and almost dying two or three times, there's nothing worth that to me." Even though no Iraqis were involved, and there is no proof Saddam was behind it, the attack on the World Trade Center provides Cpl Richardson and many others with the justification for invading Iraq.

"There's a picture of the World Trade Center hanging up by my bed and I keep one in my Kevlar [flak jacket]. Every time I feel sorry for these people I look at that. I think, 'They hit us at home and, now, it's our turn.' I don't want to say payback but, you know, it's pretty much payback. 

from Leiter. The funniest thing I've read all week. Mentioned before, but I'm adding the text.

Half the people living under Israeli law are living under occupation. Their existence is ignored in the proposal, but Palestinians in Israel are asked to imagine themselves behind a "veil of ignorance".

Rawls' fantasy is of a world before the Fall.
repeat. abandoning Jewish cosmopolitanism for Anglo-Protestant pedantry.
King was a Protestant, but his use of irony was not.
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Alon Harel, Alon Klement: "Separating Substance from Procedure: How to Address the Israeli Constitutional Crisis" 

Many proposals to resolve the current Israeli constitutional crisis have been recently advanced. These include the President’s proposal, Friedman & Elbashan’s proposal, Stern’s Proposal, Barak Medina proposal, and many others’. These proposals, however, appear unlikely to bring about a compromise, not because their content cannot be accepted by the parties involved, but because they do not address their substantive concerns.

Both sides aim to reach a compromise that reflects and advances their ideological goals or constituent interests. In making decisions concerning decision-making mechanisms and the role of the Court, neither side considers whether these mechanisms are good or desirable from a long-term perspective, but only whether they will enable it to further its short-term goals It is therefore imperative to separate short-term interests related to urgent substantive issues from procedural decisions that shape decision-making mechanisms in order to find a solution.

We propose a framework that, if adopted, can provide a basis for a viable compromise. The framework we propose is based on a strict separation between the urgent substantive issues, such as the conscription of ultra-orthodox, the regulation of public transportation on Saturdays, Kosher laws, etc on the one hand, and determining the mechanisms for decision-making concerning constitutional questions on the other. While with respect to the substantive issues, the interests of the parties are distinct and are based on conflicting ideologies, with respect to the institutional mechanisms of decision-making, there may be greater overlap than seems at first sight. Hence, separating the negotiations about the substantive issues from those about the procedural issues is necessary if a compromise is to be realized.

One way to establish institutional mechanisms for decision-making is to do so behind what is often called in the literature “the veil of ignorance.” The term was coined by the political philosopher John Rawls in his important book A Theory of Justice. In his view, foundational decisions must be settled in a way that is not influenced by sectarian interests. The normative foundations of a state should ideally reflect the rules that we would have endorsed had we been ignorant with respect to our identity, our social class, our religion, or sexual orientation. These are all central components of our identity, but they cannot provide a basis for constitutional decisions.

Thus if I am a Catholic, I may be voting for a party that promotes Catholicism, but if I vote behind a veil of ignorance, I would not know whether, at the end of the day, I would be a Catholic, a Jew, or an atheist. Hence I may vote for a rule that would guarantee freedom of religion. Similarly, if a heterosexual who dislikes gay couples would vote behind the veil of ignorance, he may vote for gay marriage as he does not know whether, at the end of the day, he would turn out to be gay or not.

While Rawls applied this principle not only with respect to decisions concerning procedure and decision-making rules but also with respect to substantive decisions, we wish to apply this mechanism only to procedural decision-making mechanisms. The real world however, does not provide a veil of ignorance. In the real world, we vote while knowing our socio-economic

status, our religious beliefs, our sexual orientation, etc. How can we guarantee that our decisions concerning the decision-making mechanisms and the status of the Supreme Court do not take into consideration our short-term interests? We believe that while we cannot fully realize this idea, it is possible to make some progress in this direction.

Our proposal is that the different sectors in society, including ultra-orthodox, seculars, traditionalists and Palestinians will specify what their basic, most important interests are. One may presume that the ultra-orthodox will raise the issue of conscription, Kosher food, and additional issues that seems essential to them. The modern orthodox and the seculars would raise other issues. The parties to the negotiations will have to consider accepting such demands with the understanding that once they do so these issues will be removed from the agenda and therefore the decision-making process and the status of the Court may be determined in a way that would only take long term considerations into account.

After an agreement regarding the urgent substantive issues is reached (which we admit is not an easy task), these issues would be entrenched and not be subject to judicial review. Only then would the parties negotiate long-term procedural mechanisms for decision-making. Since the urgent substantive issues would not be affected by the procedural mechanisms, it would be easier to reach an agreement with respect to the procedure. Such negotiations would be easier when urgent substantive concerns are removed from the agenda. For example, it would be easier for the Ultra-Orthodox to agree to judicial review when they know that courts cannot interfere in the decision to exempt them from conscription. Removing the substantive questions from the agenda will facilitate an agreement with respect to the procedure.

The separation between substance and procedure can be done in different ways. It is possible to reach an agreement with respect to the substantive issues and then make determinations with respect to the procedural questions. Alternatively, different committees could simultaneously engage in negotiations concerning procedural and substantive issues.

To conclude, the constitutional crisis results from the fact that the parties to the conflict shape their proposals concerning the decision-making process in a way that is conducive to their short-term substantive interests. The solution should separate the two. Our proposal facilitates such a separation and therefore seems to us promising.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Streeck's funny

Meanwhile, in September 2022, the next test, again a tough one, was the destruction of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines by, according to Seymour Hersh, an American-Norwegian hit squad. Here the task for the German government was to pretend they had no idea who had done it, to keep silent on the matter, and to get the press either to do the same or tell the public that ‘Putin’ was the culprit. This test was brilliantly passed. When a Bundestag member from the Linkspartei – alone out of 709 MPs – asked the government a few weeks after the event what it knew, she was told that for reasons of Staatswohl – the well-being of the state – no such questions would be answered: not now, not in future. (The day after Hersh had made his findings public, the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported on it under the heading, ‘Kreml: USA haben Pipelines beschädigt’ (Kremlin: US damaged Pipelines).

Yet another loyalty test, this one more protracted and cumulative, conducted in parallel with the battle of the budget, concerned the delivery of arms and ammunition to the Ukrainian army. Ukraine had since 2014 been the one industrialized country with by far the highest yearly increase in defence spending, paid for not by its oligarchs but by the United States, in pursuit of so-called ‘interoperability’ between the Ukrainian army and NATO (officially declared to have been achieved in 2020). While this may have been a cause for concern among Russian generals – who were surely aware of the dereliction of their conventional forces subsequent to Putin’s decision to keep up with the modernization of the American nuclear forces – from the first day of the Russian attack NATO states were asked to send arms to Ukraine, increasingly powerful ones and in growing numbers. As it became obvious that Ukraine would be unable to hold its own without a steady inflow of material support from a revived West, the US insisted that European countries carry a growing share of the burden, particularly those guilty of having neglected their military, above all Germany.

It soon transpired, however, that national armies were less than enthusiastic about having to surrender some of their most precious and prestigious equipment to Ukraine, claiming that this would diminish their capacity to defend their own countries. Underlying their reluctance may have been a fear that what they gave to the Ukrainians might fall into the hands of the enemy, be damaged beyond repair on the battlefield or sold on the international black market, with no hope of reimbursement even for equipment formally just on loan. Another worry concerned prospects for rearmament once the war was over and Ukraine had to be rebuilt – better than ever – by ‘Europe’, as untiringly promised by Brussels. There were also worries, typically expressed in public by retired high-ranking military officers, about European countries being drawn into a war the conduct and aims of which their governments, as demanded by the United States and public opinion, had left to the Ukrainians to determine. Not least, there seems to be a concern that if the war came to an abrupt end, Ukraine would have the biggest and best-equipped ground forces in Europe.

Again it was Germany, by far the largest West European country, that more than all others had to prove, under the watchful eyes of the United States and the international media, its readiness to ‘stand with Ukraine’. At first, the then German defence minister had offered 5,000 helmets and bullet-proof vests for the Ukrainian military, which was widely ridiculed by the country’s allies and, increasingly, its public. In subsequent months ever more powerful weaponry was demanded and supplied, including air defence missiles like the Iris-T system that has not even reached the German troops, and the mighty Tank Howitzer (Panzerhaubitze) 2000. Each time the Scholz government drew a red line, it was forced to cross it under pressure from its allies as well as the two smaller coalition partners, the Greens and the Liberals – the former controlling the foreign ministry, the latter the Bundestag defence committee, chaired by an FDP deputy from Düsseldorf, home of Rheinmetall, one the biggest arms producers in Europe and beyond.

In the winter of 2022 the debate on arming Ukraine began to focus on tanks. Here in particular, Germany had to be pushed step-by-step toward ever more powerful models, from armoured personnel carriers to that famous battle tank, Leopard 2, a global export success built by a consortium led by, well, Rheinmetall. (Around 3,600 such Leopards of the most advanced 2A5-plus product line have been sold all over the world, to such enthusiastic supporters of Western values as Saudi Arabia, to assist them in their tireless effort to bring peace to Yemen.) Partly because German tanks figure prominently in Russian historical memory, but also because there were no signs that Germany would have a say on what its tanks would be used for (it is no more than 500 kilometers from the Ukrainian border to Moscow), Scholz at first, as usual, offered one reason after another why, unfortunately, no Leopards 2 could be supplied. In response, some of Germany’s allies, in particular Poland, the Netherlands and Portugal, let it be known that they were willing to donate their Leopards, even if Germany wasn’t. Poland even announced that they would send Leopards to Ukraine, if need be, without a German license – a legal requirement under German arms export policy.

The way this story played out may have been of formative importance for the future course of events. Cornered by its European allies, Germany no longer objected to sending Leopards to Ukraine, provided the United States also agreed to supply their main battle tank, the M1 Abrams (another worldwide export hit, with a total production up to now of 9,000 pieces). As a ‘first step’, Germany promised to provide 14 of its 320 Leopards, forming a tank regiment to be handed over to Ukraine within three months. From there, it would proceed to build two tank battalions, with 44 Leopard 2 tanks each, out of its own Leopards and those expected from its European partners – training, spare parts and ammunition included – to be turned over battle-ready to the Ukrainian army. (According to expert estimates, Ukraine would require about 100 Leopards of the latest model for a significant improvement of its military capacity.) 

At this point, however, around the time of the Munich Security Conference, two unpleasant surprises ensued. First, it turned out that Germany’s European allies, now that German resistance had been overcome, discovered all sorts of reasons why they had to hold on to their Leopards, export licenses or none, leaving the provision of battle tanks essentially to the Germans. (All in all, NATO armed forces command an estimated total of about 2,100 Leopards, of both the 1 and 2 models.) Second, American investigative reporting, particularly in the Wall Street Journal, revealed that the Abrams tanks would show up on the scene only in a few years’ time if at all, something that the German negotiators seemed to have overlooked, or had been asked to overlook by their American counterparts, and had certainly not been shared with the German public.

In the end, then, the Scholz government was left holding the bag – as practically the sole supplier of battle tanks to Kiev. What made this even more uncomfortable was that precisely on the day the Germans agreed to the Leopards deal, the Ukrainian government declared that, now that this had been achieved, the next items on its wish list would be fighter planes, submarines and battleships, without which there was no hope for Ukraine to win the war. (Ukraine’s former ambassador to Germany, one Andrej Melnyk, having moved back to Kiev where he now serves as deputy foreign minister, tweeted on January 24, in English: ‘Hallelujah! Jesus Christ! And now, dear allies, let’s establish a powerful fighter jet coalition for Ukraine with F-16 & F-35, Eurofighter & Tornado, Rafale & Gripen jets & everything you can deliver to save Ukraine!’) Topping this, at the Munich security conference the Ukrainian delegation asked the US and the UK for cluster bombs and phosphorous bombs, outlawed under international law but, as the Ukrainians pointed out, held in large numbers by their Western allies. (The FAZ, always eager not to confuse its readers, in its report called cluster bombs umstritten – ‘controversial’ – rather than illegal.)

For the German governing coalition, but also the Biden administration, a crucial question with respect to the assignment of a leading role to Germany is whether the country’s postwar pacifism is still strong enough to interfere with it. The answer is that it may not be. Not unlike in the United States, the abolition of the draft seems to have made it easier to consider war an appropriate means in the service of the good: unlike in Ukraine, German sons, boyfriends, husbands are not at risk of having to go to the battlefield. Among large parts of the younger generation, moral idealism covers up the crude materialism of killing and dying. Within and around the Green party, something like a new taste for heroism has emerged, among what was until a short time ago considered a post-heroic generation. No parents, indeed no grandparents are around anymore who can offer firsthand accounts of life and death in the trenches. Dreams have arisen of a sanitized warfare, executed strictly according to the Hague Convention, at least on our side – no longer a matter of war and peace but one of crime and punishment, with the ultimate aim, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of human lives, of Putin having to stand trial in a court of law.

There may also be specifically German factors at work. Within the Green generation, nationalism as a source of social integration has effectively been replaced, more than anywhere else in Europe, by a pervasive Manicheanism that divides the world into two camps, good and evil. There is an urgent need to understand this shift in the German Zeitgeist, which seems to have evolved gradually and largely unnoticed. It implies that, unlike in a world of nations, there can be no peace based on a balance of power and interests, only a relentless struggle against the forces of evil, which are essentially the same internationally and domestically. Clearly this bears some resemblance to an American conception of politics, shared by neocons and Democratic idealists alike, and embodied by someone like Hillary Clinton. The syndrome seems to be particularly strong on the left side of the German political spectrum, which would in the past have been the natural base of an anti-war and pro-peace, or at least pro-ceasefire, movement. Now, however, not even Die Linke would endorse the peace demonstration organized on 25 February by Sahra Wagenknecht and Alice Schwarzer, Germany’s feminist icon, at the risk of breaking the party apart and ceasing to be a political force.

Moreover, postwar Germans have long tended to listen with sympathy to non-Germans attributing to them collective moral deficiencies and demanding humility in one form or another. It is hard to think how else to account for the extraordinary popularity enjoyed by the above-mentioned Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Melnyk, an unashamed fan of the terrorist, Nazi collaborator and war criminal Stepan Bandera and of his co-leader of the Ukrainian nationalists in the interwar years and under German occupation, also named Andrej Melnyk. Via Twitter, Melnyk has relentlessly lambasted German political figures, from the federal president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, downwards, for not standing sufficiently with Ukraine, in language that in all other countries would have led to his accreditation being revoked. There was hardly a week when Melnyk was not invited onto one of the weekly television talk shows to accuse German political leaders of genocidal conspiracy with Russia against the Ukrainian people. Named deputy foreign minister in the fall of 2022, Melnyk continued to figure prominently in the German debate on the country’s obligations toward Ukraine. For example, referring to an article in Süddeutsche Zeitung in which Jürgen Habermas advocated a cease-fire in Ukraine to enable peace negotiations, Melnyk tweeted: ‘That Jürgen Habermas is also so brazenly in Putin’s service leaves me speechless. A disgrace for German philosophy. Immanuel Kant and Georg Friedrich Hegel would turn in their graves out of shame.’ (To gauge the tone of much of the discussion, see a tweet from a young aspiring comedian, one Sebastian Bielendorfer: ‘Sahra Wagenknecht is simply the empty shell of a completely mentally and humanly depraved cell cluster. She shouldn’t be invited on talk shows, she should be treated.’ A day later: ‘Twitter has deleted the tweet. Regrettable. The truth remains.’)

There's a lot more. And the ending is great.

repeats. Melnyk

Poland’s foreign ministry has intervened after Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany denied that Ukrainian national leader Stepan Bandera was responsible for the mass murder of ethnic Poles and Jews, and also sought to justify his collaboration with Nazi Germany.

And the other one 

Kyiv City Council voted to name street in Kyiv after Andriy Melnyk - leader of OUN and Nazi collaborator. Melnyk and members of his organization actively assisted Nazis in Holocaust - mass murder of 1, 5 million of Ukrainian Jews.

more twitter comedy

Today, we Latvians, remember our soldiers in WW2 who fought in nazi uniforms. Although they were part of the Waffen SS, they were not nazis and rather fought for their families and land. 

The hottest brand in Ukraine 

Previously on “Ukes, Kooks & Spooks,” we peeked at the far-right underbelly of M-TAC, Ukraine’s “largest and most powerful brand of clothing and equipment in the tactical and military industry,” that became central to Volodymyr Zelensky’s “de facto uniform” after Russia invaded Ukraine. But “Zelensky branded by fascists?” just scratched the surface.

Alexander Karasyov is the founder of M-TAC and the owner of its parent company, Militarist. Looking at his social media, it is apparent that Karasyov is a neo-Nazi. The day before Ukraine celebrated thirty years of independence in August 2021, he shared a point of view shot of himself making a Nazi salute at a Ukrainian flag on Facebook. But Karasyov has been most unhinged on the Russian social media platform VK.

“I will also celebrate the day of the Holocaust. Happy holidays to all!” he declared on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2017, reacting to an image of Jewish children in a concentration camp. A few months earlier, he shared former Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess’ last words at the Nuremberg trials. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Leiter and David Enoch, then and now; and Alon Harel, then and now
Rationalists rationalize, until they can't anymore.

Railway porters and college professors, 1923 or 2023. One leads, the other follows, even against their will. We're getting there.

I posted the text of Harel's proposal above.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

updated etc.
kind of incredible, but US Fed's emergency lending to US banks was higher over the past week than during the global financial crisis/Lehman moment in 2008

Violent protests in France over Macron’s retirement age push 

PARIS (AP) — Angry protesters took to the streets in Paris and other cities for a second day on Friday, trying to pressure lawmakers to bring down French President Emmanuel Macron’s government and doom the unpopular retirement age increase he’s trying to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.

A day after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked a special constitutional power to skirt a vote in the chaotic lower chamber, lawmakers on the right and left filed no-confidence motions to be voted on Monday.

At the elegant Place de Concorde, a festive protest by several thousand, with chants, dancing and a huge bonfire, degenerated into a scene echoing the night before. Riot police charged and threw tear gas to empty the huge square across from the National Assembly after troublemakers climbed scaffolding on a renovation site, arming themselves with wood. They lobbed fireworks and paving stones at police in a standoff.
Exclusive: EU concerned by Ukraine’s controversial labour reforms
Experts say the government is taking advantage of the war to pass otherwise difficult legislation dating from 2020 and 2021. The country is currently under martial law, meaning protest is forbidden.

Other measures passed by the Ukrainian government in the past year include the introduction of zero-hours contracts and a wartime suspension of collective agreements between employers and trade unions.

Parliament has also passed powers permitting the state to confiscate trade union property – despite the fact that the ILO is overseeing two complaints over disputed union property....
Ukrainian social policy analyst Natalia Lomonosova previously told openDemocracy that she feared that the government’s radical wartime socio-economic policy could exacerbate the vulnerable situation of millions of Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s war.
The anonymous European diplomat’s summary was stark: “We are witnessing the breakdown of the social state in Ukraine.
“Everything apart from the military is now outsourced internationally. Social affairs are more and more outsourced to international donors – which is why international donors should pay more attention to this,” they added.
“​​The Washington Consensus has never been more alive than in Ukraine. It is Ukrainian-initiated, but in the West we accepted it,” the European official said, referring to the policy of pushing developing states to move away from state regulation and towards the free market. “And for Ukraine, this is a way to get closer to the West, and to fight the local oligarchs.”
The EU told openDemocracy it would “follow up as appropriate to ensure that commitments under [Ukraine’s] association agreement are properly upheld.”

“​​The Washington Consensus has never been more alive than in Ukraine. It is Ukrainian-initiated,..."

I'm bored 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023


Well, I think people, people have stopped asking me what's a bailout ? You know, I keep giving them the wrong answer. Yeah, it's a bailout and bailouts are good. Bailouts are almost always the right thing to do. A bailout just means that the state steps in and provides insurance so that something economically destructive doesn't happen. And lots of people who did economics degrees start talking about moral hazard, but I noticed that there's very few people who work in the insurance business whose first concern right now is about moral hazard. I also very much doubt that anyone involved with Silicon Valley Bank, even those that are getting paid back at a hundred cents in the dollar, will look back at this last week and regard it as a case of moral hazard where they got looked after really well. In a crisis, you just need someone to stand in and show that they are managing it. And there's a lot of, to my mind, really quite silly rhetoric about bailouts because when it happens, it's kind of easy to do a political speech about how you are against bailouts and how you are in favor of saving money for the taxpayer, but it doesn't actually solve anything.

Monday, March 13, 2023

I just saw this today. It's all you need to know about Taibbi.
The readers added context makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Foreigners being celebrated in Hollywood like Americans once celebrated in Europe: prestige as the power is waning. It's more complex than that since the foreigners also know they're slumming, but it's funny.

In the real world the vanguard are the grunts. Intellectuals coopted the word to refer to themselves as the elite. Lineker's always been a mensch. An entire career without even a fucking yellow card. 
I've been following this, but it's getting bigger. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Update at the top, because the spoiled children at Stanford Law and the "Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion", a former "Chief Program Officer at the ACLU of Northern California",  are concerned about "harm" and "safety". If the discussion were on twitter or Facebook and the speaker were't in a position of authority, the adults at Stanford law, like Daphne Keller would agree with them.

I keep returning to this. It's a perfect teaching model for art, of how it's made and how it functions. Look at the man between the two trees at the top left of the frame beginning about 0:14., and watch him moving away to make room for the woman. And remember that every actor in the frame has been told when to move and where to stand and where to plant their feet. It's as formal as ballet. The scene is artificial, and the artificiality is explicit, undeniable, but at the same time functions as representational "realism". Is it the cognitive reconstruction of non-cognitive activity? In its artificiality it achieves an unnatural perfection: everything comes before our eye as an ordered series of events. It contains the irony that Plato could never muster. That would would require the character of Socrates reminding us that Plato was the author of his words! This goes back to my point that the "Euthyphro problem" is described more richly by Euripides in Alcestis, and also of the pathetic absurdity that we now have autistic professors of philosophy.  Next is AI. Computers can now beat people at chess so why not? If Chomsky is right and linguistics is physics, why not? 
repeats. on the use and abuse, the flattening, of language.

I've posted the Freberg before but I can't find it. Lehrer I've posted too many times to count.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Tooze in the FT: The west’s limited support for Ukraine fails to measure up

Europe and the US may sincerely want Kyiv to prevail over Moscow but they are failing to match ends with means

In the first 12 months of the war in Ukraine, the condemnation of Russia and rhetorical backing of Kyiv by the governments of Europe and the US has been intense and largely unanimous. But the economic numbers tell a different story. Judged against current potential and historical standards, the war looks like an exercise in calculated restraint.

This is not necessarily a sign of strategic failure. Though the moral force of war may seem to demand absolute commitment, total war is the dream of fascists or revolutionaries. For the rest of us, total war should be an absolute nightmare. War that does not envision the overthrowing of all order must involve the weighing of means and ends, costs and benefits, even in the face of death. And this is true for both combatants and their allies.

Tooze on Substack

What does it feel like to see a major war coming? Not to “sleepwalk” but to wake to the reality that one state, with deliberation and intent is about to invade another with massive military force? With drastic consequences for millions of people and huge loss of life.

We have experienced this before. For many of us that moment came in 2002 and 2003 when we watched with horror the massing of the “coalition of the willing”, including our own country’s forces, for the invasion of Iraq. Around the world the memory of that moment hangs like a shadow over events today. This, indeed, is one of the points brought out by Politico’s oral history of the Biden administration in the autumn of 2021. This remarkable collage of interview segments conveys vividly what it was like for those who were privy to the most top-level military intelligence to face the dawning realization of Putin’s intent.

Tooze on twitter with a screengrab from Politico 

VICTORIA NULAND: Suffice to say that in December I brought all of my shower stuff, a couple of changes of clothes, things to sleep in, a blanket and a much more nutritious array of snacks into the office, because I knew it was unpredictable what our hours would look like.

Nuland, then and now

repeats: Ragozin, from last October and December 2021, beginning with Zagorodnyuk's article in Foreign AffairsUkraine's Path to Victory  

Ragozin. (click the link and read the whole thread):

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.

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. 

 Le Monde Diplo: Western media as cheerleaders for war

Western journalists are all but unanimous that negotiating with Russia would equal forgiving it its aggression. Nothing short of a crushing victory for Ukraine is conscionable. The risk of escalation is rarely mentioned.

After speeches by British prime minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky at a joint press conference on 8 February at a military base in southwest England, it was time for questions. BBC Ukraine correspondent Natalia Goncharova greeted Zelensky with, ‘I would really like to hug you, but I’m not allowed.’ Ignoring his security service, Zelensky got down from the podium and embraced her to general applause. Then Goncharova asked Sunak, ‘You know that Ukrainian soldiers are dying every day. Don’t you think that that decision about warplanes is taking too long?’ In 2003, during the invasion of Iraq, the embedding of journalists with the US military had caused some in the profession to wince; 20 years on, in the Ukraine war, it’s become a journalism of the all-out embrace.

Wapo: In race to arm Ukraine, U.S. faces cracks in its manufacturing might

The war has exposed an inability to rapidly surge production of many weapons needed for Ukraine and for America’s self-defense

SCRANTON, Pa. — A sharp hissing sound fills the factory as red-hot artillery shells are plunged into scalding oil.

Richard Hansen, a Navy veteran who oversees this government-owned munitions facility, explains how the 1,500-degree liquid locks in place chemical properties that ensure when the shells are fired — perhaps on a battlefield in Ukraine — they detonate in the deadly manner intended.

“That’s what we do,” Hansen said. “We build things to kill people.”

Ragozin adds

US arms producers are going to have a decades-long bonanza because of war in Ukraine. Of course it will help them if Putin’s regime remains intact, Ukraine remains a hot or frozen battlefield and a new Cold War ensues.

NYT: Pentagon Blocks Sharing Evidence of Possible Russian War Crimes With Hague Court

President Biden has not acted to resolve a dispute that pits the Defense Department against other agencies.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is blocking the Biden administration from sharing evidence with the International Criminal Court in The Hague gathered by American intelligence agencies about Russian atrocities in Ukraine, according to current and former officials briefed on the matter.

American military leaders oppose helping the court investigate Russians because they fear setting a precedent that might help pave the way for it to prosecute Americans. The rest of the administration, including intelligence agencies and the State and Justice Departments, favors giving the evidence to the court, the officials said.

President Biden has yet to resolve the impasse, officials said. 

 The FT: The Iraq war left western societies unchanged

Twenty years on, the political and cultural legacy of a divisive war is minimal

...Yes, US casualties were far higher in Vietnam. Yes, a conscript war scars a society in a way that an all-volunteer one can’t. But Iraq was easily the most controversial war fought by a western state in the past half-century. It set citizen against citizen in Britain and Germany as much as in the US (no European nation participated in Vietnam). Those who lived through it might have assumed it would mark our culture for a generation: that pro and antiwar would become signifiers of one’s wider worldview, even one’s tastes, as Leave and Remain now are in the UK. Instead, it is often an ordeal to persuade the young what a saga it all was.

And that, I think, is what makes this 20th anniversary so eerie. At least within the western world, the Iraq war has left little trace.

Tooze adds: "Discuss"

Marlene Laruelle, "Russian Studies’ Moment of Self-Reflection" Russian Analytical Digest No. 293
Almost the entirety. It's hilarious. From Ragozin and Kevin Rothrock.
Anglophone Russian Studies are largely autarkic, existing with little knowledge of (or at least reference to) what is produced outside of the English-speaking world. The very limited references made to the Russian-language literature belie the richness of Russian publications, as any visit to such Russian intellectual hotspots as the Falanster bookstore in Moscow would have shown—at least until the onset of the full-scale war. And this does not even take into account what is published in Russia’s regional capitals, whose publishing markets are segregated from those in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Even within so-called “Western” academia, publications in French, German, and other national languages rarely transcend their national borders to be engaged by the English-speaking literature. By contrast, history and literature seem to have been better able to integrate locally produced scholarship.

A second feature is that in contrast to old “Sovietology,” social scientists working on contemporary Russia are rarely invited to train in and enter into dialogue with the humanities. How many U.S. political scientists studying Russia have read Viktor Pelevin? More globally and more structurally, social sciences struggle to put into practice their self-proclaimed commitment to multidisciplinarity, or at least crossdisciplinarity. Segments of Anglophone political science on Russia, by stressing the need for causal identification study designs, have contributed to an overreliance on data from surveys with experimental designs at the expense of interactions with history, cultural anthropology, sociology, or geography. Here, too, the segregation is largely internal to the “Western” and especially Anglophone realm: Russian publications display much deeper cross-disciplinary approaches. And except in such marginal subfields as Russia’s Arctic policy, climate change, and sustainability policy, there is even less dialogue between the social sciences, geography, and the natural sciences.

A third feature relates to the succession of prisms or lenses used on Russia that have created distortions in analyses. At least four such prisms can be identified. First is a Putin-centric prism that entails looking at Russia through its president, his professional background, his inner circles, trying to identify his ideological gurus, illuminating his supposedly “irrational mindset,” or offering purely instrumentalist analysis of the regime.

Second is a Moscow-centric vision of Russia in which the capital city and its more liberal-minded residents obscure regional perspectives, which are often ideologically more diverse and are generally more nuanced. Similarly, internationally well-connected Russian scholars from the two capitals are frequently seen as the only legitimate “Russian voices” —because they are the only ones known in the West and able to speak its language, both literally and symbolically.

Third is an ethnic Russian-centric reading of Russia in which the ethnic minorities who were so intensively studied in the 1990s have become one of the blank spots of research. This contributes to the difficulties of capturing potentially “hidden scripts” of ressentiment—aggravated by the general Western lack of knowledge of Russia’s national languages and the marginalization of identity politics, seen as a “sub-area” that cannot explain Russia’s general features.

Last but not least is a Western-centric prism imposed on Russia, its regime and society, which are always com- pared to the West’s as the obvious normative benchmark. This approach, which treats the West as the only mirror of Russia, blatantly excludes views of Russia from non-Western perspectives. Scholars from countries neighboring Russia have increasingly called to be recognized as agents in interpreting Russia on the basis of their own experiences. Scholars from the Global South, too, look at Russia and at the West through their own prisms and experiences, including a vivid postcolonial approach.

Where do we go from here?

Acknowledging academic inequalities in knowledge production—of which there are many—would be a first step. The most obvious starting-point is probably that native scholars and indigenously produced work should be acknowledged as critical additions to the field that cannot be ignored. But there are other knowledge hierarchies, too: of English-speaking works over non-English ones; of Western-centric views over those from the post-Soviet world and from the “Global South”; of political science—the “reigning” discipline through which (Western) understandings of the Russian regime and society are developed—over sociology, cultural anthropology, history, and the humanities.

A second step would be to favor more granular and grassroots approaches that would allow for thicker conceptual knowledge. The Post-Soviet Affairs special issue shows us the path: it would entail, among other things, changing the questions we ask; being cognizant of the issues related to aggregative approaches and the need to blend survey data with qualitative analysis; going back to long-neglected ethnographic methods; looking at societal transformations over the course of generations; focusing on vulnerable segments of the population (both classes and ethnic groups); borrowing from social psychology to study ressentiment-based politics and collective emotions; and opening up to new comparative frameworks.

This is a transformative time for the Russian Studies field. Russia scholars have the opportunity—and duty— to both rethink the systemic features of their field and to contribute to changing the lenses applied to Russia in the hope of contributing modestly to new pathways for the peaceful coexistence of the nations that share the Europe-Asia continent.
Remember, the humanities are dying. "The End of the English Major"
Leiter reads the New Yorker too.

In 2022, though, a survey found that only seven per cent of Harvard freshmen planned to major in the humanities, down from twenty per cent in 2012, and nearly thirty per cent during the nineteen-seventies. From fifteen years ago to the start of the pandemic, the number of Harvard English majors reportedly declined by about three-quarters—in 2020, there were fewer than sixty at a college of more than seven thousand—and philosophy and foreign literatures also sustained losses. (For bureaucratic reasons, Harvard doesn’t count history as a humanity, but the trend holds.) “We feel we’re on the Titanic,” a senior professor in the English department told me.

Students lacked a strong sense of the department’s vaunted standing. “I would never say this to any of my English- or my film-major friends, but I kind of thought that those majors were a joke,” Isabel Mehta, a junior, told me. “I thought, I’m a writer, but I’ll never be an English major.” Instead, she’d pursued social studies—a philosophy, politics, and economics track whose popularity has exploded in recent years. (Policy, students explained, was thought to effect urgent change.) But the conversations bored her (students said “the same three things,” she reported, “and I didn’t want to be around all these classmates railing on capitalism all day”), so she landed uneasily in English after all. “I have a warped sense of identity, where I’m studying something really far removed from what a lot of people here view as central, but I’m not removed from these cultural forces,” she told me.

English professors find the turn particularly baffling now: a moment when, by most appearances, the appetite for public contemplation of language, identity, historiography, and other longtime concerns of the seminar table is at a peak.

"philosophy, politics, and economics track whose popularity has exploded in recent years."

Isabel Mehta's choices describe the situation of humanism in a world of ideological instrumentalism and moral certainty: positivist, leftist or capitalist. She didn't want to know the history; she can't take it seriously, but she does it anyway, because she needs to tell her stories. Her LinkedIn page reminds me of Nwanevu.

I can't not think of LinkedIn as embarrassing. But that reminds me of my mother's reaction when I told her a friend of a friend had asked me to ask her for an introduction to a friend of hers. Her eyes widened: such things were not done. Mehta went to my high school, which means she probably was there for more. I got in, in the last year of elementary school, through the matriarch of one of the oldest families in Philadelphia, whose grandson was a staff lawyer at the ACLU. These were the days when the ACLU was principled, and frankly fun. The school had a few scholarship kids from my neighborhood but I never thought to mention to anyone that I was the only white or demi-white kid in the school who had a sibling who'd gone to the public school the scholarship kids had succeeded in avoiding. I'm not sure anyone would have gotten the joke. In my 20s I told my mother I was a tradesman. She was horrified. I said I was a carpenter and she was relieved. She's thought I meant I was "in trade".

Agnes Callard again, this time in the New Yorker. She now admits what was always obvious.