Skip to main content


Showing posts from February 13, 2005
Portents If the Bush administration’s embrace of both unilateralism and third world deficit financing really does signal the twilight of the American era – and if projections of the budget deficits to come are accurate, it is hard to see post Bush America as anything more than a much bleaker place – one wonders what happens after the hegemon self destructs? There’s a story in Fortune this week by Vivienne Walt about the deals being made between the Iranian government and China’s businesses that might be a small indicator. A little background music, maestro. The U.S., pursuing its cordon sanitaire around Iran, long ago set itself up for a Persian Gulf policy that was completely at odds with reality. Of course, the Bush people, exemplary nitwits, have been the enthusiastic gravediggers of that policy, going from an unnecessary invasion to a war crime studded occupation to the current narcotized superfluity as patrons of the coming Iraq Islamic Republic. Always trust these people to t
LI was reading a paper by a philosopher, Alexander Bird, the other day. The paper defended the view that scientific progress is measured by the accumulation of knowledge – on the Baconian scheme – rather than measured by its generation of true statements, as the semantic philosophy of science would have it. It is coming out in Nous. So far, so good. But then we came across this counterfactual: “Imagine a scientific community that has formed its beliefs using some very weak or even irrational method M, such as astrology. But by fluke this sequence of beliefs is a sequence of true beliefs. These true beliefs are believed solely because they are generated by M and they do not have independent confirmation. Now imagine that at time t an Archimedes-like scientist in this society realises and comes to know that M is weak. This scientist persuades (using different, reliable 4 methods) her colleagues that M is unreliable. This may be that society’s first piece of scientific knowledge. The
Impatience as politics In an essay on Turgenev, Isaiah Berlin cited the review of one of his first novels, On the Eve, by a radical Russian critic, Dobrolyubov: " 'If you sit in an empty box, and try to upset it with yourself inside it, what a fearful effort you have to make! But if you come at it from the outside, one push will topple the box."... Those who are truly serious must get out of the Russian box, break off every relationship with the entire monstrous structure, and then knock it over from the outside." This is our feeling about the U.S.A. at the moment -- although it alternates, every day, with other feelings. What American writer, after all, can afford to be out of the box? But what American writer can afford not to dream, at least, about climbing out and giving it a splendiferous kick? So one ends up half in and half out of Dobrolyubov's box. This is the awkward state that has prompted LI to examine our impatience, exhibited at large on this s
“He was inadequate, certainly, even laughable at times, but he was a thinker and not a dictaphone, and when he blew his brains out he did the job thoroughly. – Eleanor Clark First, to brag: We notice that Juan Cole today quietly proposed the analogy to Mehdi Bazargan we floated last week. Hey, LI is, in its own eccentric way, sometimes ahead of the game. ... LI is growing increasingly snappy about the multitude of political imbecilities against which, as a citizen of the Leviathan, we have to strive. Mentally, at least. There was a meme on the ‘sphere a week or so ago about how liberals can express their love for America. Apparently, the thing to do at the moment is to find lyrical words to match the catch in the throat and the heart whenever Old Glory goes by. LI wants to know – how does America love us? We want a little return glow. We want America not to try to kill us, rob us, or send the cops and the taxmen to club us in order to extract the uber-tithe now demanded by the weal
Anthropology alert Those who are interested in the everyday life of the average red state citizen should read this New York Times story about an upstanding Republican D.A. in Texas. See him prosecute drug users. See him inject himself with methamphetamine before his secretary. See his secretary turn him into the feds. See his ex-wife, interviewed at the Yellow Rose in Dallas, tell of finding crack, cocaine, marijuana and various other drugs around the house or in the barn during their Christian marriage to each other. See how his drug use, alcoholism, and racism were known before he was elected to the D.A. position. Here’s a swatch of dialogue that is pure Bush culture: “Four years later Mr. Roach [the D.A.] beat Mr. Mann by 6 votes in a Republican primary marred by charges of fraud, and then beat him again - by 21 votes - after a court ordered a new election. He went on to win the general election. Mr. Mann said the voters were chiefly swayed by Mr. Roach's highly popular fam
On the lynching front… Since lynching academics seems to be all the rage in the 'sphere right now, we've found a deserving object: Berkeley law professor John C. Yoo. Why? Yoo didn’t make any little speeches to demonstrators. No, Yoo made himself responsible for electroshock, sleep deprivation, electrodes to the genitals – the standard American advice to rightwing death squads in the seventies and eighties. Yes, Yoo worked in the White House on normalizing torture. What was that phrase about little Eichmanns that is being bandied about? Here are some choice bits from the New Yorker story: “The Bush Administration’s redefinition of the standards of interrogation took place almost entirely out of public view. One of the first officials to offer hints of the shift in approach was Cofer Black, who was then in charge of counter-terrorism at the C.I.A. On September 26, 2002, he addressed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and stated that the arrest and detention of terro
My friend, M., has been teaching a class in twentieth century history this winter. She is teaching a session on Lenin and the Russian Revolution this week. This made LI daydream about how we’d teach Lenin. LI thinks that we’d turn to Chekhov’s novella, The Duel, as a sort of exegetical parable to illuminate the cultural conditions that made Lenin possible. History, of course, tells us that Lenin was strictly inevitable, meaning that he is part of the core of fact through which history courses, and which makes its bed out of destroyed alternatives. The constitutive element of alternative histories is that they were destroyed by actual histories – to try to get around that is to revert to a revolting form of childishness, which is why philosophers who take possible worlds too seriously always exude a slight air of the idiot savant: Kripke and Lewis spring to mind. There’s an article (Whom did the Devil Tempt, and Why?) in the Russian Social Science Review, by Vladimir Kantor, tha