Spotlight

Ah, Look At All The Lonely People-‘Jeff Koons Is Back’ Via Vanity Fair

Full piece here. -Koons gets the Annie Leibovitz treatment (an unfortunate photo ...

Update & Repost-A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

Koons has a retrospective at the Whitney going on right now: —————– ...

Repost-A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

—————– Koons’ site here.  Part 1 of a 5-part documentary above. I often ...

Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.

Three Friday Links-Public Sector Unions, The ‘Libertarian Moment,’ & Ken Burns’ Logic

From The Federalist: ‘12 Things You Need To Know About Government Unions:’

A quote that jumps out regarding the Harris v. Quinn case:

‘If the Supreme Court had found the scheme to be constitutionally permissible, the implications would have been enormous. Doctors who accepted Medicare or Medicaid could have been forced by gubernatorial executive order or state legislation to accept a particular private organization as their lobbying agent. Moreover, doctors could have been forced to pay mandatory dues and fees to such an organization.’

Richard Epstein has a piece and podcast on the ‘Libertarian Moment.’ He’s been lately making a good case for classical liberalism/libertarianism. For my piece, if individuals, aided by technology, are increasingly disconnected from the Charles Murray-esque traditional civic and religious structures, voluntary associations and obligations of small-town American life, does it follow these individuals will embrace libertarian reasoning?

My guess is, a majority clearly doesn’t, and perhaps never will. Will the libertarian coalitions forever be tilting at windmills?

I suppose we’ll see.

Another quote that jumps out from the below video from Reason’s Nick Gillespie interviewing Ken Burns, whose pieces often end-up on public television:

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In the video Burns discusses how he is primarily an artist, not an historian. He does, believe, however, that his work has other goals besides art. He sees himself as:

“…rooted in a humanist tradition of American History..that includes not just the old top down version, but the bottom up version that acknowledges women and labor and minorities….”

I’m guessing such a vision of the public good acts as a beacon for many at PBS, NPR, and other people interested in speaking for all of the public. Usually they end up, like all of us, presuming their ideals are universal and forming coalitions of self-interest, money, sentiment, political influence etc.  Their ideals have clear limitations and consequences.

Who among us can speak for all the public, or design some rational framework upon epistemological foundations that could ever do so?

To my ears, it’s pretty clear Burns’ ideals lead him to his own top-down version of things.  It would seem Big Labor, Left-liberal Woody Guthrie-like populism, coalitions of 60’s activists, feminists, environmentalists etc. tend to prosper under such a vision.

At what cost to me, to you, to those who might not share in the ideals?

Friday Quotation: Arthur Schopenhauer

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

-Arthur Schopenhauer

A re-post.

Same Quotation, Different Day: Karl Popper

From Popper:

“…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

Repost-Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

Piece here (link may not last)

Oh, the humanity.

I agree that students, when facing a syllabus, shouldn’t also have to face the great books mediated, nor their young minds circumscribed, by overt political ideologies.

MacDonald:

‘In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

Upon hearing “gender, sexuality, race, and class,” I confess my head hangs down a bit and a sigh escapes my lips. Such a lack of imagination does great disservice to works of such powerful imagination.

Then again, I remember my last trip to Southern California (zing).

Of course, there still needs to be an intellectual framework and curriculum for the humanities.

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On that note, Roger Scruton had some keen insights:

“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”

“…in the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”

Quite importantly:

“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”

This is a matter of deep debate in our society right now.

Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.

Will Marxism & continental philosophy become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America as we find much more so in Britain?

Are we really that thick in the postmodern weeds?:

 —————————–

Judgment, as Scruton points out, shouldn’t necessarily be subsumed to political ideology.  I would agree, and I generally default in assuming that each one of us is the ultimate arbiter of our own judgment.

But, no man is an island.

Does Scruton’s thinking eventually lead us back to the problems that religion can have with artists and writers?

Is there anybody whom you trust to decide what you should and shouldn’t read?

Parents?  Great authors?  Public intellectuals?  Professors?  God?  Laws and lawmakers? Religious leaders?  A school-board?  A democratic majority?  People who think like you?  A Council of Cultural Marxists?

The Department of Institutionalized Idiocy?

See Also On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Martha Nussbaum says the university needs to be defend Socratic reason and still be open to diversity:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’ 

Stanley Fish also says keep politics out of academia: From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux…

Via A Reader: ‘Glorifying Graffiti’

Via The NY Post:

American cities have seen steadily lowering homicide rates, but predictions that NYC is headed back to 70’s and early 80’s style crime rates under de Blasio are blossoming, and the institutionalization of graffiti as art may represent an undermining of the rule of law.

Is this something museums should be showcasing?

Is it art?

What about the criminality and the harm to property owners and citizens caught in tag and turf wars?

‘A visit to the Museum of the City of New York’s graffiti exhibit is a reminder that New York was once far less livable — and that nostalgia for a more colorful past can be most dangerous for the kids who don’t remember.’

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5:38 video at the link.

Mick Victor walks down the streets and alleyways of L.A. with camera in tow, his focus eventually drawn to some forms, shapes, colors or configuration.

Some of those abstract photos here.

———————–

Would you be willing to undermine property-rights and the rule-of-law in order to celebrate ‘graffiti-art’?

NY Curbed had 5Pointz coverage here.

A NY Times beat reporter shared in the pathos and suffering of those graffiti artists whose 5pointz canvas was whitewashed in preparation for demolition by owner Jerry Wolkoff.

One street artist, who would give his name only as Just, had at least two works painted over. He spent hours early Tuesday gazing at the whitewashed buildings, leaning against a red-brick wall across the street. Then he bought himself a tall glass of beer, which he sipped slowly from a brown paper bag.

“Heartbreaking,” he said. “This is not just about graffiti — it’s about the unity of people who met here from all over the world.” He paused and took a drink. “That’s what really hurts.”

Three photos and some backstory here.  5pointz had become something of a graffiti mecca, arguably more than the sum of its parts:

Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’

So, You’re Telling Me What’s Cool?-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Banksy In Neverland’ What are these people doing with art?:  Often combining them with a Left-of-Center political philosophy as they are at NPR for popular consumption. 

On this site, see: From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics… Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Brasilia: A Planned City

Robert Kaplan At Real Clear World-‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Record: TBD’

Full piece here.

Kaplan as to claims of Obama’s foreign policy realism:

‘This leads to Obama’s fundamental problem. Actually he is not a realist, at least not in the vein of a Henry Kissinger, James Baker or Brent Scowcroft. Yes, Obama understands restraint. He rushes in with drones and advisers rather than with ground troops. But that is only the beginning of realism, not its culmination. Realism, when it works well, requires patriotism. It requires a profound loyalty to the patria — a specific geographical ground and its storied history, which the realist feels deeply in his bones — and whose basic interest is then pursued by the realist, often very aggressively. Baker and Scowcroft had this, and Kissinger, while an immigrant, had it as well. They all probably would have negotiated with Iran rather than pursue a military strike — but they also would have applied brinksmanship and other means to prevent being taken to the cleaners by the Iranians.’

Well, I suspect Obama is loyal, but to Civil Rights activism and various forms of progressive and Left-liberal ideals first and foremost…

Addition: Link sent in to a Ben Domenech piece at The Federalist: ‘Reject Naive Foreign Policy, Whatever Its Source

Is Barack Obama A Realist?

I’ve been referred to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to show the framework upon which he hangs his foreign policy. He’s been called a realist, or one who generally deals with the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be.  In the speech, Obama sets an expectation of using force against evil in the world if necessary. He’s willing to part company with Gandhi and MLK in the face of a genuine possible evil and the grim choices events may require.

Naive foreign policy is naive foreign policy.

I don’t believe that we can appease Islamic extremists, which is the whole premise of this administration’s approach…blunt American power and incentivize Muslim societies to drive the extreme elements out through international cooperation: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Just how far Left is this administration anyways? Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

Repost-‘From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

Worth revisiting.

‘Given my warped little philosophy, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that my teeth grind themselves into dust when I encounter people making art out to be more important than it should be while whining that ever more resources must!! be devoted to propping up one favored enterprise or another.’

I think the popular idea in Seattle of providing art lofts and workspaces for some artists with taxpayer money, and/or the way that the Richard Hugo House also attracts many homeless and runaway kids are examples of how people can confuse art, ideology and the ‘public good.’

Are some people really supportive of the arts, or do they want a whole bundle of other ideas to be true about the world, which bind them together in common cause?

See Also On This Site: From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy? Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss

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Charles Murray argues that controlling the data for just for whites in America, a gap has opened up between working-class ‘Fishtown’ and professional-class ‘Belmont.’ Fishtowners have increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, more isolation from churches, civic organizations and the kinds of voluntary associations that Murray suggests can make a life more fulfilling, regardless of income beyond certain basic needs. Fishtowners have higher incidences of drug and alcohol use and intermittent work.

Belmonters, on the other hand, are mostly college-educated and beyond, still tend to court, marry, engage in family planning and tend to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Folks in Belmont are still living more moderate personal lives and working to stay ahead in the changing economy through academia, the professions, government, tech, business and global business.

Being a social scientist with a more limited government/small ‘c’ conservative/libertarian worldview, Murray likely sees a smaller role for government and limited ways in which some people acting through government can actually solve problems in other people’s lives. As a contrarian social scientist in a small minority, then, he disagrees with many basic assumptions often found amongst a majority of social scientists.

Murray thus advocates for people in ‘Belmont’ to increasingly preach what they practice, to look outside the bubble of their daily lives and wealthier enclaves, and perhaps reconstitute the kinds of family and civic associations, moral virtues and opportunities for independence and success he’d like to see more broadly.

What this would look like in practice, exactly, is unclear.

=======================

Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Murray about what much of what the data highlights: Working-class whites are behaving more like working-class non-whites, and college-educated non-whites are behaving more like college-educated whites.

Putnam also focuses more on economic factors, the decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of working-class jobs that has without question affected large parts of America and small-town life. Globalization has opened American firms to global competition, global capital markets and mobile labor. Whatever your thoughts on race, Putnam creates some daylight between the data and strictly race based interpretations (often aligned with ideology, especially in academia nowadays) and focuses more on ‘class’ in a way slightly differently than does Murray.

An interesting discussion, in which the empirics of social science can highlight important differences in political philosophy and try and transcend the inevitable political and ideological battles of the day.

Also On This Site: Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

Race and IQ: Malcolm Gladwell On The Flynn Effect

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working. Check out his series at The American Interest. Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs. Even so, we can’t cling to the past. This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly.

Repost-Hipster Romanticism? From The Atlantic Photo: ‘Adventures Of A Serial Trespasser’

Photos here.

Isn’t ‘urban exploration’ a bit ruin-pornish?

The individual travels along with small groups, trespassing through cityscapes and abandoned buildings as though they were archeological ruins.  Breaking the law or possibly breaking the law is part of the appeal.

Perhaps such folks are traveling as well through their own imaginations, romanticizing themselves as transgressive outsiders, taking the idea of archeology as fixed knowledge and applying it to their own present as though it were a mythic, imaginative quest, where some camaraderie, historical meaning and beauty are to be found.

A video explanation:

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Naturally, one impulse expressed here is the desire for group membership and meaning. Like kids who’ve found something new and cool to do, some recognition is desired from others or from society at large, even if it’s negative.  There’s a vagabond-hipster feel to much of this, and it’s easy to imagine listening to an indie-music-montage with the latest stop-motion technology or documentarianism when one looks at the photos.

Readers will know I tend to think some of this is a sign of a newer, more anarchic/nihilistic individualism and subsequent collectivism in our culture that is partially, but not wholly, a product of the 1960’s.

One theme of this blog is how this process of increased nihilistic individualism merges with a search for meaning, group membership and identity in our culture,  as in the above.  This can increase the desire for collective solutions to problems, which can cast increased upward pressure on old boomer/nationalistic liberalism and liberalism in general.

At the very least, we end-up rehashing the battles of the 60’s in perpetuity. Liberalism follows the logic and incentives it’s helped to create.

James Fallows at the Atlantic, former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, is now exploring the wonders of post-hippie settlers in Vermont to stay relevant to a new generation of readers:  Vermont Report:  Shaping The Soul Of A School.

I didn’t know schools had souls.

Don’t you want to live in Austin, or Boulder, or Portland, or Williamsburg (not colonial, addition: yes, there’s sarcasm here )?

NPR looks at hipsterism while their guiding ideals have helped create hipsters through all that boomer’s 60’s activism.  One challenge is mixing the Lawrence Welk crowd while staying relevant with the hipsters they’ve helped create.

Related On This Site:What about the victims of crime, not all this romanticization of criminals?:  Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’.

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…  Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Institutionalized Leftism in the Arts:  From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

Obamacare, The Islamic State & Vietnam-Three Friday Links

Avik Roy is working towards Obamacare alternatives, but has always supported some form of universal coverage, about which this blog harbors doubts. Perhaps much in the same way that human rights and human rights institutions have become part of the foreign policy institutional landscape, so too could universal coverage become part of the furniture.  Big, heavy furniture.

A healthy skepticism might recognize that such a delivery system could likely create too tantalizing a prize for Leftward ideological interests and perhaps too immovable an institutional object to remain nimble and responsive to We The People over time.

Nevertheless, Roy is really working on rising health-care cost problems, and it addresses many of the flawed incentives and ridiculous complexity and overreach of the ACA:

‘One of the fundamental flaws in the conservative approach to health care policy is that few—if any—Republican leaders have articulated a vision of what a market-oriented health care system would look like. Hence, Republican proposals on health reform have often been tactical and political—in opposition to whatever Democrats were pitching—instead of strategic and serious.

Those days must come to an end. The problems with our health care system are too great. Health care is too expensive for the government, and too expensive for average Americans.’

Bing West at The National Review on the Islamic State, and possible options:

‘As war author Karl Marlantes has written, don’t treat a human life as a bargaining chip, unless you are willing to be that chip. Too many policymakers and generals think of violence, if they think of it at all, as a negotiating tool.’

If we go in with guns blazing, aren’t we aligning ourselves with Iran and their proxy war in Iraq and Syria and goals for nuclear domination?  I mean, as far as nuclear negotiations, we’re already out on a limb with an increasingly desperate American President and a repressive authoritarian regime in which the Ayatollah has final say over a very real divide between Iranian and American interests.

Perhaps we have interests to let both sides fight it out. This could weaken both Tehran and IS.  We could help arm the Kurds and see if the branches of the Peshmerga are up to the task of battling IS, try and have Maliki’s departure not devolve into a bloody mess, keep channels open with the Turks, Jordan, Lebanon and…develop something vaguely representing leadership and protection and advancement of our interests and alliances.

Lead!

But how aggressively?

Meanwhile, given the extreme lunacy and violence of IS against the Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, and others in their path, and the clear security threat they post to Western interests, even the humanitarian interventionists and the American public are beginning to see the tatters of current foreign policy and the fires raging throughout the Middle-East.

On that note, it’s nice to relax and read about another part of the world, even if it has an old Communist structure in place.  Michael Totten visited Vietnam:

‘Some parts of Hanoi are a bit messy, but aside from the outdated rat’s nest of electrical wires, its messes are the kind you make in your house when you’re in the middle of a remodeling project. Parts of the Old Quarter still look a little decayed, but even there the decay is like a holdover from the past that’s being blotted out with one high-end boutique store after another.’

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