Saturday, November 28, 2009

A fortiori, the internet

Very little is read. This is the fact dissimulated by the enormous diffusion of authors and books.
-- Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation at 134.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Poetry break

Scott Horton translates a poem by Nietzsche:
The Lonely One

I detest following, but also leading.
To obey? Never! And just as bad--to govern!
He who wishes not to be terrified, will summon no terror for others:
Yet only he who peddles fear can lead others.
I even detest having to lead myself!
Like the creatures of the forest and the sea, I love
To lose myself for a while,
In meek error thoughtfully to cower,
Drawn home at length by distant things,
Being enticed by myself to my Self.
I think Kaufmann says somewhere that Nietzsche is a "good bad poet" per Orwell's definition, sort of a German Kipling.

(Commas added per Horton's transcription of the German text.)

When reading the review is more fun than reading the book

This being an Auster novel, accidents visit the narrative like automobiles falling from the sky.
-- James Wood, reviewing Paul Auster's new novel and generally hatin' on Auster in general.

The relationship of this review to Wood's laurels for the collected stories of Auster's ex-wife, Lydia Davis, would make a good subject for a 3-page Davis story, or "story," or whatever the hell those things are. I'm halfway through the Davis, and thinking that avant-garde belles lettres are a bit beyond me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dead poets

Via Bookslut, Some of the pix (such as of Byron's various plaques) cry out to be enlargeable, but still, very cool. Of course they include what may be the second-most-famous poet-grave in England, Plath's. But not just English sites -- Baudelaire's, for instance.

... I have to believe that Shakespeare's grave is the most famous.

When I was 8 or 9, I read a horror comic about grave-robbers snatching Sh're's bones. The bones were NOT amused.

But my insurance STILL won't pay for my Scotch

More on the wonder drug, alcohol:
Drinking alcohol every day cuts the risk of heart disease in men by more than a third, a major study suggests. * * *

The study was conducted in Spain, a country with relatively high rates of alcohol consumption and low rates of coronary heart disease. * * *

For those drinking little - less than a shot of vodka a day for instance - the risk was reduced by 35%. And for those who drank anything from three shots to more than 11 shots each day, the risk worked out an average of 50% less.

The same benefits were not seen in women, who suffer fewer heart problems than men to start with. Researchers speculated this difference could be down to the fact that women process alcohol differently, and that female hormones protect against the disease in younger age groups.

The type of alcohol drunk did not seem to make a difference, but protection was greater for those drinking moderate to high amounts of varied drinks.

The exact mechanisms are as yet unclear, but it is known that alcohol helps to raise high-density lipoproteins, sometimes known as good cholesterol, which helps stop so-called bad cholesterol from building up in the arteries.
Of course, the Brits are appalled at the reckless Spaniards:
UK experts said the findings should be treated with caution because they do not take into account ill-health from a range of other diseases caused by excess drinking.

"Whilst [Whilst! I love it! -TBA] moderate alcohol intake can lower the risk of having a heart attack, coronary heart disease is just one type of heart disease. Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, is associated with high alcohol intake and can lead to a poor quality of life and premature death," said the British Heart Foundation's senior cardiac nurse, Cathy Ross.

"The heart is just one of many organs in the body. While alcohol could offer limited protection to one organ, abuse of it can damage the heart and other organs such as the liver, pancreas and brain."

The Stroke Association meanwhile noted that overall, evidence indicated that people who regularly consumed a large amount of alcohol had a three-fold increased risk of stroke.
Even the Brits concede that moderate drinking is probably good for you, nonetheless. TBA has one drink most days, zero drinks some days, 2 or 3 on one day a week at most.

"Officer, my son won't eat his broccoli -- would you please tase him?"

That seems to be the next logical step:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A prosecutor wants Arkansas State Police to open a criminal investigation after an Ozark police officer used a Taser on a 10-year-old girl.

David Gibbons, the prosecuting attorney for the 5th Judicial District, made the request Thursday in a letter to state police director Col. Winford Phillips.

State police spokesman Bill Sadler says Phillips received the request and passed it along to the commander of the agency's criminal investigation division. Those two officials will discuss the request.

Police were called to the home Nov. 11 after the girl's mother couldn't get her to take a shower. Officer Dustin Bradshaw's report says the girl was "violently kicking and verbally combative" when Bradshaw tried to take her into custody.

He said he delivered "a very brief drive stun to her back."
The Smoking Gun has the incident report:
According to the below Ozark Police Department report, when Officer Dustin Bradshaw arrived at the residence last Thursday, he found the girl "screaming, kicking, and resisting every time her mother tried to touch her." Bradshaw added that, "Her mother told me to tase her if I needed to." After Kiara continued to refuse her mother's instructions, the cop concluded that "there was not going to be a peaceful resolution of the issue." Bradshaw warned the girl that she was "going to jail," but the child continued kicking and crying and resisted his attempt to handcuff her. During the tussle, Kiara "struck me with her legs and feet in the groin, reported Bradshaw, who countered with a brief "stun to her back" with his Taser. The child, not surprisingly, "immediately stopped resisting and was placed into handcuffs. She would not walk on her own and I had to carry her to my police car."
21st-century parenting. Just one of the many services of the modern State.

(Alternate post title: "Don't tase me, Mom!")

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's a constant of nature, like Planck's

Kevin Drum is astonished that 52% of Republicans think ACORN somehow stole the 2008 election for Obama:
There aren't words for this. Something like 40 million Republicans are now convinced that ACORN (!) somehow managed to steal an election that McCain lost by seven percentage points. Another 20 million think they might have stolen it but aren't sure. The Fox/Limbaugh/Palin axis, which probably directly reaches maybe 10 million people on a regular basis, has nonetheless convinced six times that number to buy into a conspiracy theory that makes the Area 51 crowd look sane by comparison.
Drum's chart however makes the answer clear: 26% of all persons polled buy the ACORN theory. And that's well within the margin of error of the 27% Crazification Factor.
John: You realize this leads to there being over 30 million crazy people in the US?

Tyrone: Does that seem wrong?

John: ... a bit low, actually.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Against italics

And this is why the practice of putting single words into italics for emphasis (again the Victorians are guilty) is so vulgar; a well-constructed sentence should be able to carry a stress on any of its words and should show in itself how these stresses are to be compounded. Both in prose and poetry, it is the impression that implications of this sort have been handled with more judgment than you yourself realise, that with this language as text innumerable further meanings, which you do not know, could be deduced, that forces you to feel respect for a style.
-- William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 28.

... We might concede his point for poetry, but does it really carry over to prose? Note that what Empson asserts is that level emphasis is what "forces respect" because it implies that the text has more meanings than we realize, perhaps than we can realize. (Oops, see, there I go.)

Polysemy would not seem to me to be indispensable for respecting a work's style. It rather seems to assume the desirability of a "stylistic sublime," which is corroborated in some degree by Empson's saying that polysemy "forces respect"; force and respect are elements of the sublime. But we can admire a style that is clear and unambiguous, at least for some purposes.

Note Empson's definition of poetry:
... two statements are made as if they were connected, and the reader is forced to consider their relations for himself. The reason why these facts should have been selected for a poem is left for him to invent; he will invent a variety of reasons and order them in his own mind. This, I think, is the essential fact about the poetical use of language.
(P. 25; emphasis, of course, added.) In other words, parataxis is the essence of poetry.

That is the exact opposite of what rhetorical prose seeks to do: it wants the reader to carry away exactly one meaning and thus to be persuaded in the manner the author intends. Naturally, TBA thinks of lawyers' briefs. Courts do, to their sorrow, occasionally confront briefs of which they are "forced to consider their relations" and to "order them in their own mind," but they are not typically pleased to be put to the labor, and it does not bode well for the poetical brief writer's chances of success.

And in briefs, certainly, TBA frequently resorts to italics (I try to reserve boldface for blockquotes). A poet may owe his reader the respect of supposing that said reader is unreservedly literate, educated, attentive to nuance, and replete with free time. These are not assumptions I would make about judicial clerks and their supervising judges, and I daresay those readers would not want me to make that assumption. If well-placed italics can help them avoid wondering what the main point is supposed to be, then bring 'em on.

Sarah Palin, fluent in English AND German!

Palin on Israeli settlements:
I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is, is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.
Shorter Palin: Lebensraum, baby, Lebensraum!

H/t Matt Yglesias, who spells things out:
But of course the population of the United States is growing. Does that mean we should start colonizing portions of Canada? Almost every country is experiencing population growth--and that growth with be accommodated within those countries’ boundaries. After all, the population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is also growing. Should their be Palestinian settlements inside Israel?
Silly Matt fails to realize that Israel is entitled to enjoy the population density of Alaska, a/k/a God's Country.

Not Bush's worst AG, but most disappointing

Scott Horton tears Michael Mukasey a new one:
Former Bush Administration Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey addressed the Federalist Society only hours after his successor, Eric Holder, announced his plan to bring a group of Guantánamo prisoners up on federal charges in Manhattan. He offered harsh words, claiming that the trials would prove a “circus.” Such attacks on the nation’s criminal justice system have become routine on the political right. * * *

Will the trials be a “circus”? No doubt there will be a circus on Fox News and in the pages of the Weekly Standard. But in the courtroom? An example is furnished by the case of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, tried in a New York courtroom in 1995. The government charged that he planned to set off five bombs simultaneously, striking the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge, and a federal building housing the FBI. They showed videotapes of defendants mixing bomb ingredients in a garage before their arrest in 1993. The trial was a major test of the ability of prosecutors to present a terrorism case and of federal judges to manage it. The defendants wanted to use the case to turn themselves into martyrs, but the case was handled with exemplary decorum and fairness, producing convictions in 1995. There was no “circus.” The judge who presided over the case made his reputation through it. His name is Michael Mukasey.
What a sad, sad little man. No one ever had high hopes of Ashcroft or Gonzales, but many (including Horton) hoped for better from Mukasey. They erred.

Pia fraus?

The reviewer is justifiably bemused by a book entitled Pious Nietzsche:
The argument in this volume is that Nietzsche retained his native Pietism. He was brought up in a Pietist home and broke away from the beliefs which it housed, but he did not thereby cease to be religious or pious. He aspired to become a disciple of Dionysus, a devotee of Life, of which Dionysus is the symbol. This determination to pursue a way of life is rightly called "piety" when we observe the continuities between Nietzsche's background Pietism and his later quest. His Pietism was a way of life rather than a set of doctrines. The form remains where the content changes. In pursuit of what changes, Nietzsche sought out a musical askesis. Benson explores this carefully. Ask sis is a form of spiritual exercise in self-transformation. It is not identical with asceticism, which carries connotations of bodily denial. It is affirmative of bodily life as well as negative toward spiritual sickness and the enemy of decadence, also carefully explored by the author, which Nietzsche self-consciously fought in himself. * * *

* * * a question goes unanswered: what difference does it make whether or not we regard Nietzsche as pious in Benson's sense or religious in any sense? It surely strains language beyond what is permissible to describe the mature Nietzsche as a kind of theist, but I shall not pause here to quarrel over language or, for that matter, to analyze types of Pietism and therefore the language of "piety." Nietzsche is called pious in this volume because of certain structural similarities between his Dionysian faith and Pietism, abstractly considered (the latter is shorn of its Christian content). Possibly Nietzsche was "pious" in a sense arrived at by (relative) abstraction; possibly Nietzsche should be called "religious" in some non-trivial sense of that word. But what does it matter? What exactly do we forfeit if we refuse to call him "religious" or "pious"?
But when we're presented with a book arguing for a religious Nietzsche, we should respond as did Dr. Johnson with regard to the woman preacher: it matters less whether it's done well, than that someone tried to do it at all?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


My concern is these students are in this developmental phase, and I don't think it's a good developmental practice to just tell somebody to just sit around and masturbate. I don't think that promotes relationships.
-- Father Joe Vetter, of the Duke (Univ.) Catholic Center, re: an on-campus study recruiting Duke coeds to participate in "sex-toy parties" a la Tupperware, in which they will "view sex toys and engage in sexually explicit conversation with other female Duke students."

Father Vetter's concern is for the students' souls; TBA is still just trying to figure out how the "behavioral economics" guys got this past the school's human-research ethics committee. And when the videotaped interviews will hit the internet.
Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs, said that all kinds of research are important on university campuses and that the sex toy party project went through a peer review process before any students were sought.

"Not all research will make people comfortable," Schoenfeld said.
But evidently, some research will make some people very comfortable indeed.

(H/t Tyler Cowen.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike ...

I guess you either like "Tyler Durden's" kind of humor or you don't, but I do, so:
Fight Club’ is unquestionably the best movie ever made, and tomorrow, finally, it comes out on Blu-Ray and a special DVD to celebrate its 10th anniversary. In high school me and my friends used to get together and fight for no reason other than to do it, and that was before this was even a movie, so maybe that’s why it still resonates with me. I mean we didn’t actually punch each other, because I would have been frightened and I didn’t have any friends, but on Friday night I would make popcorn balls with my mom, and she would send me to my room if I ate too many and then I would kick my stuffed animals, so in that sense it was still very much like ‘Fight Club’.
... In unrelated but similarly lurid news, Belle de Jour reveals herself. "Who?" you ask. You have spent your time on the web much too responsibly. But you can change that.

Surreal Sarah

"Surreal" is, to TBA, the proper word for the spectacle of Steve Schmidt, in his role as campaign advisor to John McCain, Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States of America, trying to convince McCain's choice for vice-president that evolution is a fact:
"But your dad's a science teacher," Schmidt objected. "Yes." "Then you know that science proves evolution," added Schmidt. "Parts of evolution," I said. "But I believe that God created us and also that He can create an evolutionary process that allows species to change and adapt." Schmidt winced and raised his eyebrows. In the dim light, his sunglasses shifted atop his head. I had just dared to mention the C-word: creationism. But I felt I was on solid factual ground.
Has Sarah Palin ever in all her born days *not* "felt she was on solid factual ground"?

(Hint to Sarah: a species that changes and adapts, becomes another species.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Please refrain from glorifying the terrorists

Matt Yglesias puts it very well:
In political terms, the right likes the war idea because it involves taking terrorism more “seriously.” But in doing so, you partake of way too much of the terrorists’ narrative about themselves. It’s their conceit, after all, that blowing up a bomb in a train station and killing a few hundred random commuters is an act of war. And war is a socially sanctioned form of activity, generally held to be a legally and morally acceptable framework in which to kill people. What we want to say, however, is that this sporadic commuter-killing isn’t a kind of war, it’s an act of murder. To be sure, not an ordinary murder--a mass murder--but nonetheless murder. * * *

After all, do we really want to send the message to the world that a self-starting spree killer like Nidal Malik Hasan is actually engaged in some kind of act of holy war? It seems to me that we don’t. A lot of people in the world are interested in glory, and willing to take serious risks with their lives for its sake. Insofar as possible, we want to drain anti-American violence of the aura of glory. And that means by-and-large treating its perpetrators like criminals.
It's like if the Fort Hood shooter had killed 3,000 people and we decided that was "war" (but executed him anyway).

If Khalid Sheikh Muhammad plotted the 9/11 attacks as an act of war, then we should be ruefully praising his ingenuity. How is 9/11 more of a war crime than Dresden or Nagasaki? But it's not an act of war. Al-Qaeda doesn't get to "declare war" any more than Tim McVeigh did. It's not a sovereign state. It's a criminal organization, like the Mafia, and its members need to be put on trial like the criminals they are, rather than like the warriors they fantasize themselves to be.

At the most extreme, one could suggest that the Right insists on calling the terrorists "soldiers" because the Right shares the terrorists' fantasy of private insurgency against the American government. But that is another story.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Slave morality

Just like every pediatrician's waiting room used to have volume one of The Bible Story, one always sees volume one of the Harvard Classics on folks' bookshelves. I don't think I've ever seen a complete set.

I did finally crack open my sis-in-law's copy, and read some Epictetus for the first time:
For men sell themselves at various prices. This was why, when Florus was deliberating whether he should appear at Nero’s shows, taking part in the performance himself, Agrippinus replied, ‘Appear by all means.’ And when Florus inquired, ‘But why do not you appear?’ he answered, ‘Because I do not even consider the question.’
Very old-school.
When we are invited to a banquet, we take what is set before us; and were one to call upon his host to set fish upon the table or sweet things, he would be deemed absurd. Yet in a word, we ask the Gods for what they do not give; and that, although they have given us so many things!
Jesus would've been proud to add that one to the Sermon on the Mount.

... Volume 2, says the Bartleby link above. Damn if I've ever seen the alleged vol. 1 however: Ben Franklin, William Penn, and "John Woolman"?

Fascinating anyway to see what was considered indispensable at the time.

So what am I looking long into, then?

In the course of spending too much time with numbskulls at the VC re: Heidegger, I happened upon some more thoughtful commenters, one of whom observed:
[Heidegger] was at least smart enough to understand that the loss of God and the sacred is a big problem, which is better than the typical nitwit we have now running around practicing nihlism without the abyss.
Which led me to a thought I hadn't had before:
I do have some hope that Nietzsche pointed us towards post-abyssal philosophy, as it were. Perhaps the philosopher can dance on the edge of the abyss because he knows there is no abyss?
I will have to bear that in mind if I go back through Zarathustra.

(Excessively obscure blog title explained here.)

... At the same thread, Salamantis links to a series of 8 columns by Simon Critchley in the Guardian, a sort of mini-course on Being and Time. Mark Wilson also linked to a podcast of Hubert Dreyfus's B&T course at Berkeley (which it seems, like Dreyfus's commentary, confines itself to the first half of the book).

Does that make our nation a douche? I'm so confused!

I did not read Kathleen Parker's Save the Males because yuck, if you've read one "women's sluttiness and performances of The Vagina Monologues are destroying the fragile male ego" book you've read them all. But apparently not. It's apparently crazier than a Glenn Beck Rabbi Boteach mash up. Our nation is "awash in vaginaism", whatever the fuck that means.
-- Jessa Crispin.

... I doubt Parker is correct, but frankly, the more vaginaism the better, says TBA.

Richard Scruggs, history's greatest lawyer

Let's just steal an NMC post and comment thread, shall we?

Dickie Scruggs got into the judicial-bribery business (AFAWK, for the first time) trying to get the Jones Law Firm's suit against his group referred to arbitration.

After the bribery was exposed and Judge Lackey naturally recused himself, Judge Coleman took over, and sanctioned Scruggs's group by refusing to allow them to invoke the arbitration clause.

They appealed, and yesterday the Miss. Supreme Court held that (1) bribing judges was outside the scope of the partnership's business, hence Scruggs's partners weren't sanctionable for his trangressions, and thus (2) the case should go to arbitration.

Which brings us to: NMC's commenter Chesterfield:
So, do I have it right that the so-called brilliant, masterful, litigator extraordinaire Dickie Scruggs risked (and lost) his integrity, his right to practice law, his personal freedom, and potentially large sums of money by bribing a circuit court judge to grant a motion compelling arbitration in a matter that the MS Supreme Court would have ultimately granted anyway?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You CANNOT make this stuff up

The Republican National Committee’s health insurance plan covers elective abortion – a procedure the party’s own platform calls “a fundamental assault on innocent human life.”

Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC’s policy covers elective abortion.

Informed of the coverage, RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told POLITICO that the policy pre-dates the tenure of current RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

“The current policy has been in effect since 1991, and we are taking steps to address the issue,” Gitcho said.
-- Politico (h/t Political Wire).

A task force we'd be happy to serve upon

I've forgotten where I found the link, but this blog post by Claire Berlinski on how she came to write an article for Penthouse is pretty great.
Parenthetically, I have never experienced more rigorous fact-checking in my entire career than I have when writing for Penthouse. You can believe every word of those letters. “But our reputation,” said my editor sadly whenever he called, “is lower than whale shit.” He seemed genuinely hurt.

He wanted, for example, proof that Sifu Emin was the most lethal man in the world. "Peter," I wrote back patiently, "who would you consider appropriately qualified to issue a verdict on that question? The Chairman of the International Lethalness Measurement Task Force? I mean, for all we really know, there's a still-more lethal man living in some remote tribal village in Equatorial Guinea, thoughtfully chewing on his enemies' entrails even as I type."

He saw the wisdom in what I was saying, but he stuck to his guns: I had to say that he might be the most lethal man in the world. I thought that sounded as if I lacked courage in my convictions, but I guess I have to respect Penthouse's commitment to accuracy over sensationalism.
She doesn't mention what issue the article's in, but apparently it's a newer one.

Not so fast, Mr. President?

Just when it seemed Obama was ready to send 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan, our ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has pushed back in a big way:
The U.S. ambassador in Kabul sent two classified cables to Washington in the past week expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban's rise, senior U.S. officials said. * * *

In addition to placing the Karzai problem prominently on the table, the cables from Eikenberry, a retired three-star general who in 2006-2007 commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan, have rankled his former colleagues in the Pentagon -- as well as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, defense officials said. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has stated that without the deployment of an additional tens of thousands of troops within the next year, the mission there "will likely result in failure."

Eikenberry retired from the military in April as a senior general in NATO and was sworn in as ambassador the next day. His position as a former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is likely to give added weight to his concerns about sending more troops and fan growing doubts about U.S. prospects in Afghanistan among an increasingly pessimistic public and polarized Congress.

Although Eikenberry's extensive military experience and previous command in Afghanistan were the key reasons Obama chose him for the top diplomatic job there, the former general had been reluctant as ambassador to weigh in on military issues. Some officials who favor an increase in troops said they were surprised by the last-minute nature of his strongly worded cables.

In these and other communications with Washington, Eikenberry has expressed deep reservations about Karzai's erratic behavior and corruption within his government, said U.S. officials familiar with the cables. Since Karzai was officially declared reelected last week, U.S. diplomats have seen little sign that the Afghan president plans to address the problems they have raised repeatedly with him. * * *

Eikenberry also has expressed frustration with the relative paucity of funds set aside for spending on development and reconstruction this year in Afghanistan, a country wrecked by three decades of war. Earlier this summer, he asked for $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending for 2010, a 60 percent increase over what Obama had requested from Congress, but the request has languished even as the administration has debated spending billions of dollars on new troops.

The ambassador also has worried that sending tens of thousands of additional American troops would increase the Afghan government's dependence on U.S. support at a time when its own security forces should be taking on more responsibility for fighting. Before serving as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Eikenberry was in charge of the Afghan army training program.
This is consonant with David Sanger's brief mention of Eikenberry in The Inheritance, his roundup of the foreign-policy dilemmas facing us in 2009:
Eikenberry was among the few with the experience and the rank to argue the case that Washington was missing an opportunity to build a bulwark against the Taliban and to keep the country from backsliding into anarchy. Whenever visiting dignitaries arrived, he took them on a tour of Afghanistan's missing infrastructure -- the blown-up bridges, the nonexistent roads -- and explained how it was keeping the economy from coming back to life.

"I remember Karl saying to me, 'If you give me the choice between another division and another big road, I'll take the road,'" Rice recalled later.

"The key question is, 'Is the government of Afghanistan winning?'" Eikenberry asked during a congressional hearing in 2007. "In several critical areas -- corruption, justice and law enforcement, and counter-narcotics -- it is not."
I suppose there's a tension between road-building and keeping the road-builders alive, but at the very least we should combine "more troops" with "more infrastructure" and with some definable goals for Karzai's government, without which we will leave Karzai to his own devices.

It's the classic problem:
When one state is completely dependent on another, it is the weaker which can call the tune: it can threaten to collapse unless supported, and its protector has no answering threat in return.
-- A.J.P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848-1918.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The end of history, revisited

Kishore Mahubani, of the National University at Singapore, reflects that the "end of history" in the West (1989 and all that) is reciprocated by the rise into history of the East, and comments on one aspect of the West's decline:
Sadly, in all the recent discussions of “the end of history,” few Western commentators have addressed the biggest lapse in Western practice. The fundamental assumption of “the end of history” thesis was that the West would remain the beacon for the world in democracy and human rights. In 1989, if anyone had dared to predict that within 15 years, the foremost beacon would become the first Western state to reintroduce torture, everyone would have shouted “impossible.”

Few in the West understand how much shock Guantánamo has caused in non-Western minds. Hence many are puzzled that Western intellectuals continue to assume that they can portray themselves and their countries as models to follow when they speak to the rest of the world on human rights.
It becomes that much difficult to inspire liberty when the citizens of authoritarian countries can come to believe that America is just the same under its skin.

Even more juvenile than the Green Lantern theory

Ilya Somin notes the uncanny resemblance between Bush's theory of executive authority and He-Man's "I have the power!"

What Prof. Somin does not remark, however, is the bizarre circumstance of He-Man's selecting Skeletor to be his vice-president.

Despite his occasional bungling actions and personality, all versions portray Skeletor as being extremely cunning and intelligent but with a sense of hubris that invariably leads to his downfall.
Indeed, an eerie resemblance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't say they didn't warn you

Daphne Eviatar reads the latest torture memo -- really, an FBI anti-torture memo -- so you don't have to:
The memo lays out clearly and simply what the interrogation experts at the FBI knew about interrogations of terror suspects, what would or would not work on them, and what sort of conduct was illegal. And it reads much like the sorts of arguments we’re now hearing from the America Civil Liberties Union and other civil and human rights organizations arguing that senior defense department officials and lawyers who approved abusive techniques ought to be criminally investigated.

“Central to the gathering of reliable, admissible evidence is the manner in which it is obtained,” the authors write to the General. “Interrogation techniques used by the DHS [Defense Human Intelligence Services, part of DoD] are designed specifically for short term use in combat environments where the immediate retrieval of tactical intelligence is critical. Many of DHS’s methods are considered coercive by Federal Law Enforcement and [Uniform Code of Military Justice] standards. Not only this, but reports from those knowledgeable about the use of these coercive techniques are highly skeptical as to their effectiveness and reliability.”
The memo went on to explain the need for interrogaton psychologically tailored to each captive, and to criticize as unconstitutional (and in violation of the Torture Act) many of the DOD methods.

That was in November 2002, 3 months after the Bybee-Yoo memos. I'm pretty confident the full record would disclose that no one up top let the FBI analysis bother their pretty little heads.

(You can read the memo here, it seems, if this ubiquitous-and-obnoxious "Scribd" software works in your browser -- it doesn't in mine.)

... In related news, an article on the solitary confinement of al-Marri. Relies rather heavily on his defense counsel, but the feds aren't talking.

Must we burn Heidegger? (updated)

That would seem to be the next logical step, if Emmanuel Faye's advice is heeded:
Drawing on new evidence, the author, Emmanuel Faye, argues fascist and racist ideas are so woven into the fabric of Heidegger’s theories that they no longer deserve to be called philosophy. As a result Mr. Faye declares, Heidegger’s works and the many fields built on them need to be re-examined lest they spread sinister ideas as dangerous to modern thought as “the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples.”

First published in France in 2005, the book, “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.
Leaving aside the question of whether all, or even most, of Heidegger's works have said qualities (and I don't believe they do), the notion that fascism and racism are somehow exclusive of "philosophy" leaves me wondering just how Mr. Faye defines "philosophy." Can there be no evil philosophy? What about a mistaken philosophy -- also impossible?

While I'm not well-read enough in Heidegger to pronounce with much authority, my impression from what I've read (primary & secondary) is that Heidegger's suspicion of rationalism and democracy left him a fairly easy mark for the Nazi emphasis on instinct and authoritarianism, but not that Heidegger's philosophy taught anything "Nazi" as such. Heidegger's shameful rectoral address, and his comment on the "inner truth of National Socialism" in Introduction to Metaphysics, are sheer opportunistic flattery. As Rorty wrote somewhere, Heidegger was basically a very smart Black Forest redneck.

Damon Linker's blog post excoriating the Heidegger-banners, mentioned in the NYT article, shows a much stronger grasp of what philosophy is:
I'm a liberal democrat and a humanist who considers totalitarianism in general, and Nazism in particular, to be moral and political abominations. I believe in the truth of science, and I like many things about technological modernity. I accept logic as a valid means of determining many forms of truth. And I happily accept the vision of Being that has prevailed in the Western world since the time of the ancient Greeks. In other words, I'm not inclined to follow Heidegger in its efforts to prepare the way for a more "primordial" encounter with Being by subverting these and other aspects of our world. But what a breathtakingly exciting experience it is to be forced to think about and make a case for, rather than lazily accept as self-evident, our most fundamental assumptions about the world and ourselves!

That is--or should be--what philosophy is all about. Which is why Heidegger was right at assert in an electrifying lecture course from 1929 that "philosophy is the opposite of all comfort and assurance." What Carlin Romano has advocated in his essay is something altogether different--something tamer, more congenial, more comforting. Fine: By all means, let's offer another seminar on Rawls and the foundations of liberal justice. But surely there should also be a place in the university for a close encounter with a dramatically different style of thinking--with the stunningly radical (and perhaps radically erroneous) thought of Martin Heidegger.
Some may disagree with Linker because they don't believe it's safe or desirable to question the fundamental assumptions of liberal thought, which always has its enemies. That would be to set political priorities and limits on what's philosophically acceptable ... which is not too far from the confusion of quotidian politics and fundamental philosophy that Heidegger apparently fell into. But in a good cause, right? Anything's justifiable in a good cause ....

... John Holbo comes at the NYT piece from the angle of Nazi typography. No, really. Must we burn Helvetica?

... Holbo's thread includes this great comment by Hidari, which Hidari follows up with:
Heidegger’s brother was called Fritz, was famous as the town (Messkirch) ‘card’, never went to University, and was famous for his antics and his anarchic sense of humour (he picked fights with the Nazis during the war). In Messkirch (you’ll like this, Alison), Martin was always known as ‘oh you know…..Fritz’s brother!’. This when Martin was one of the most famous philosophers on earth.

... Finally I've been able to google the fellow whose lecture at the New School a few years back dwelled on two sentences from B&T that he said demonstrated Heidegger's fascism. That's Johannes Fritsche, who wrote a book. As I recall, his previous book had been on Aristotle, and the New School thought it was getting an Aristotle professor -- then he arrives, and it's all Heidegger all the time. He is now teaching in Istanbul.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I think you've got the wrong "wise ruler" there

Picked up Frank McLynn's biography of Marcus Aurelius at the library over lunch, and the introduction is not inspiring me with confidence. McLynn begins with the rather modest goal of persuading the reader that Marcus Aurelius is worth reading about, for instance as the author of the Meditations, citing
... the example of Cecil Rhodes, multimillionaire, politician and would-be empire builder. As his biographer writes: "He carried a well-thumbed, personally marked-up copy of this last book with him everywhere, favouring such aphorisms as 'Can any man think he lives for pleasure, and not for action or execution?' 'Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.'"
Apparently neither Rhodes's biographer nor McLynn was familiar with Proverbs 6:6?

(McLynn's source, Rotberg, was chastised for the quoted error in a book review, one which McLynn evidently did not have the leisure to consult.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Now that's a successful lede

From the NYT website, their teaser for "Justices Weigh Life in Prison for Youths Who Never Killed":
There are just over 100 people in the world serving sentences of life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles in which no one was killed. Seventy-seven are in Florida.
Rather to my surprise, the rest are not in Texas:
Florida is one of eight states with juvenile offenders serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonhomicide crimes, according to a report prepared by Professor Annino and two colleagues at Florida State. Louisiana has 17 such prisoners; California, Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Carolina have the rest.
And supposedly that's the world total, since no other country is said to allow such. Though I wonder what that rule is worth in China, for instance.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


12 dead, 31 wounded at Fort Hood; of 2 or 3 gunmen, the dead one is a major, "Malik Nadal Hassan."

Cue the flying monkeys.

... Can't find the link now, but earlier Friday was reading about how the fellow had been speaking out in favor of suicide bombers, criticizing our deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. Did NO ONE think this was out of line in a major? Sounds like another example of "Neighbors Remember Serial Killer As Serial Killer."

... Here's the NYT quoting Colonel Lee, who spoke to Fox News -- there were direct quotes earlier today but the Times has scrubbed them:
Fox News quoted a retired Army colonel, Terry Lee, as saying that Major Hasan, with whom he worked, had voiced hope that President Obama would pull American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, had argued with military colleagues who supported the wars and had tried to prevent his own deployment.
There's also evidence that he left internet posts re: suicide bombers and such. Fox has video up of Col. Lee but no quotes.

Hasan seems to've had the worst possible job for someone with qualms:
A cousin, Nader Hasan, told The New York Times that after counseling soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder, Hasan knew war firsthand.

"He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy," Nader Hasan said. "He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there."
Still not evident why he felt the need to shoot 40 people rather than just himself.

... Kevin Drum passes along what purports to be a firsthand account of the shootings.
I was walking into the medical SRP building when he started firing (he never made it to the main SRP building....the media accounts are understandably pretty off right now). He was calmly and methodically shooting everyone. Like every non-deployed military post, no one was armed. For the first time in my life I really wish I had a weapon. I don't know how to explain what it feels like to have someone shoot at you while you're unarmed. He missed me but didn't miss a lot of others. Just pure random luck. It's a very compressed area, thus the numbers.
More here.

... Ah, I saw Col. Lee's quoted comments at Sullyblog (via the UK press):
"He was making outlandish comments condemning our foreign policy and claimed Muslims had the right to rise up and attack Americans," Col Lee told Fox News. "He said Muslims should stand up and fight the aggressor and that we should not be in the war in the first place." He said that Maj Hasan said he was "happy" when a US soldier was killed in an attack on a military recruitment centre in Arkansas in June.

An American convert to Islam was accused of the shootings. Col Lee alleged that other officers had told him that Maj Hasan had said "maybe people should strap bombs on themselves and go to Time Square" in New York. He claimed he was aware that the major had been subject to "name calling" during heated arguments with other officers.
Did Colonel Lee report any of this conduct? If yes, what was the result? If not, why the hell not?

... More along the Onion line:
The second thing the fellow psychiatrist at Walter Reed said was that he and co-workers were not at all worried that he was a devout Muslim but it was the way he talked about it. A couple of years ago he gave a Grand Rounds presentation. That's when all the doctors come into a big auditorium and you take turns giving a lecture on procedures, diagnosis and treatment and so forth --the best treatment for bipolar, or schizophrenia, etc.

Instead of giving an academic lecture, Hasan gave a lecture on the Koran, and it wasn't informational as much as it was his own interpretation of it --as the co-workers put it. He talked about how if you're a non-believer, the Koran says you should have your head cut off, you should have burning oil poured down your throat, you should be set on fire.

Another Muslim in the audience, another psychiatrist, raised his hand, quite disturbed and said, "Ya know, a lot of us [Muslims] do not believe these things you're saying."

People actually talked in the hallways afterward whether Hasan was one of these people so tightly wound that he might one day freak out and shoot people --sort of half kidding and half serious.
The writer's conclusion that "this couldn't have been prevented" does not seem terribly plausible. That's the case with someone who doesn't send off about a dozen warning signs.

If other countries enforce their own laws, they must be trying to game the system

Our evil twin, Kenneth Anderson at the Volokh blog, gets in a snit and closes comments on a post regarding Italy's conviction in absentia of 23 (presumed) CIA operatives who tried to kidnap an Egyptian terror suspect on Italian soil.

KA complains that his commenters are "annoying/uncivil." Evidently he lacks the self-awareness to grasp how he might draw such comments from his own post, which states:
... I’ll make again the side observation that I have made before that this is the next step in what I have described here and on the OJ blog as “gaming Spain.” It has been remarked by many observers how the effect of foreign prosecutions or the threat of foreign prosecutions is a backdoor way of punishing administration lawyers and others, such as these CIA agents, for various things that can’t be or are not pursued in American courts.
IOW, the Italian courts are said to be acting in a roundabout way to punish Americans for things better addressed by American courts?

KA is an expert on international law, who however can't seem even to admit the possibility that Italian justice was offended by foreign agents' kidnapping someone? That couldn't possibly be more than "gaming"?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Death of a structuralist

The last of the greats of the "theory generation" has passed away: Claude Levi-Strauss, aged 100. He outlived not only the eclipse of the theory he named "structuralism," but also the eclipse of post-structuralism as well.

... Perhaps it's ungenerous to imply that Umberto Eco is not of the same magnitude.

... Superior NYT obit. Nothing up at NYRB yet.

... I was wondering what anthropologists think of Levi-Strauss's work; here's one appreciation (from back in July). (Via 3QD.)

I thought those gummi bears looked possessed, all right

Gary Farber notices kooks being kooks:
In a column on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Web site, writer Kimberly Daniels asserts that “demons” sneak into bags of Halloween candy at grocery stores.

“[M]ost of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches,” Daniels wrote. “I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.”
I could believe the occasional stale bag is the result of demonic interference, but "most"? How many witches are employed in this function? Is it seasonal, or year-round? Because my kid may have to check out this potential career.
Daniels asserts that far from being harmless fun, Halloween is a veritable doorway to hell, full of literal monsters.

“Halloween is much more than a holiday filled with fun and tricks or treats,” she wrote. “It is a time for the gathering of evil that masquerades behind the fictitious characters of Dracula, werewolves, mummies and witches on brooms. The truth is that these demons that have been presented as scary cartoons actually exist. I have prayed for witches who are addicted to drinking blood and howling at the moon.”
As opposed to addicted to drinking Bud and howling at the moon, which is simply part of the college experience.

... Farber also notes, with ample commentary, the Rev. Mark Grizzard, who with all 14 members of his congregation held a Bible-burning. Not *real* Bibles of course. No, Satanic profanations of the Holy Word, such as "NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, NEV, NRSV," etc. ... which are all "perversions of ..."

... wait for it ...

... "God's word the King James Bible."

Could they not find some scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew to add to the flames?

They also burned every kind of music except, to judge by their omission, classical and outright hymns (tho "Southern gospel" is Satanic). And books by heretics such as Rick Warren, Billy Graham, and Bruce Metzger. And "Westcott & Hort." Who? The guys who produced what appears to be a standard critical text of the Greek New Testament. Jack Chick is vewy mad!

... Okay, this stuff is too fascinating for a work day. Peter Ruckman, an Independent Baptist, argued the KJV was superior to the Textus Receptus:
For instance, in his Christian's Handbook of Manuscript Evidence, Ruckman says, "Mistakes in the A.V. 1611 are advanced revelation!"
Cf. Stephen Dedalus: an artist's errors are "volitional and are portals of discovery."
Ruckman also believes that the Septuagint was a hoax created by the Alexandrian cult in the 3rd century A.D. in order to subvert belief in the integrity of the Bible.
Which is why Paul quotes it so often. -- Or seems to quote it!

OTOH, anyone who calls Bob Jones University "the world's most unusual hell hole" cannot be completely devoid of good sense.

It's always worked for me

Via Tyler Cowen:
Bad moods can actually be good for you, with an Australian study finding that being sad makes people less gullible, improves their ability to judge others and also boosts memory.

The study, authored by psychology professor Joseph Forgas at the University of New South Wales, showed that people in a negative mood were more critical of, and paid more attention to, their surroundings than happier people, who were more likely to believe anything they were told.

"Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking paying greater attention to the external world," Forgas wrote.

"Our research suggests that sadness ... promotes information processing strategies best suited to dealing with more demanding situations." * * *

The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style."
This is why I have Melencolia I hanging above my desk. As should all lawyers, evidently!

No remedy for torture

Maher Arar's Bivens action regarding being sent off by the U.S. for torture in Syria has been rejected by the en banc Second Circuit. Judge Sacks, dissenting:
The majority affirms the dismissal of the Fourth Claim for Relief on the ground that Arar's complaint does not "specify any culpable action taken by any single defendant" and fails to allege a conspiracy. * * *

It should not be forgotten that the full name of the Bivens case itself is Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) (emphasis added). * * *

A plaintiff must, after all, have some way to identify a defendant who anonymously violates his civil rights. We doubt that Iqbal requires a plaintiff to obtain his abusers' business cards in order to state a civil rights claim. Put conversely, we do not think that Iqbal implies that federal government miscreants may avoid Bivens liability altogether through the simple expedient of wearing hoods while inflicting injury.
That's a majority bending over backwards to affirm a dismissal.

Judge Sacks also rejects the notion that the court was asked to expand the context of Bivens remedies:
Indeed, even the most "international" of Arar's domestic allegations -- that the defendants, acting within the United States, sent Arar to Syria with the intent that he be tortured -- present no new context for Bivens purposes. Principles of substantive due process apply to a narrow band of extreme misbehavior by government agents acting under color of law: mistreatment that is "so egregious, so outrageous, that it may fairly be said to shock the contemporary conscience." Lombardi v. Whitman, 485 F.3d 73, 79 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). Sending Arar from the United States with the intent or understanding that he will be tortured in Syria easily exceeds the level of outrageousness needed to make out a substantive due process claim.
So one would think:
Although the "shocks the conscience" test is undeniably "vague," see Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 430 F.3d 140, 156 (3d Cir. 2005); Schaefer v. Goch, 153 F.3d 793, 798 (7th Cir. 1998), "[n]o one doubts that under Supreme Court precedent, interrogation by torture" meets that test, Harbury v. Deutch, 233 F.3d 596, 602 (D.C. Cir. 2000), rev'd on other grounds sub nom Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403 (2002); see also Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165, 172 (1952) (holding that the forcible pumping of a suspect's stomach to obtain evidence to be used against him was "too close to the rack and the screw to permit of constitutional differentiation"); Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 326 (1937) (noting that the Due Process Clause must at least "give protection against torture, physical or mental"), overruled on other grounds, Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784 (1969); Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 285-86 (1936) ("Because a state may dispense with a jury trial, it does not follow that it may substitute trial by ordeal. The rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand.").
Judge Parker, dissenting:
My point of departure from the majority is the text of the Convention Against Torture, which provides that “[n]o exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Art. 2, cl. 2, December 10, 1984, S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85 (“Convention Against Torture”). Because the majority has neglected this basic commitment and a good deal more, I respectfully dissent. * * *

The majority would immunize official misconduct by invoking the separation of powers and the executive’s responsibility for foreign affairs and national security. Its approach distorts the system of checks and balances essential to the rule of law, and it trivializes the judiciary’s role in these arenas. To my mind, the most depressing aspect of the majority’s opinion is its sincerity.
Judge Calabresi, dissenting:
I write to discuss one last failing, an unsoundness that, although it may not be the most significant to Maher Arar himself, is of signal importance to us as federal judges: the majority’s unwavering willfulness. It has engaged in what properly can be described as extraordinary judicial activism. It has violated long-standing canons of restraint that properly must guide courts when they face complex and searing questions that involve potentially fundamental constitutional rights. It has reached out to decide an issue that should not have been resolved at this stage of Arar’s case. Moreover, in doing this, the court has justified its holding with side comments (as to other fields of law such as torts) that are both sweeping and wrong. That the majority--made up of colleagues I greatly respect--has done all this with the best of intentions, and in the belief that its holding is necessary in a time of crisis, I do not doubt. But this does not alter my conviction that in calmer times, wise people will ask themselves: how could such able and worthy judges have done that?
A disgraceful decision, and a disgraceful Executive that continues to oppose Arar's claims to have his case heard.

Monday, November 02, 2009


In the LRB, Jonathan Raban has a nice little essay on learning how to read -- really read -- from Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity.
The first lesson Empson taught was to slow down drastically; to read at the level of the word, the phrase, the line; to listen, question, ponder, think. This was easy because his own writing enforced it. A single paragraph in Seven Types of Ambiguity was like a street closely punctuated with traffic-calming sleeping policemen: you had to study the relationship between one sentence and the next – and often one clause and the next – to see the logic that connected them, and if I tried to read them in my usual skimming style, I instantly lost the thread.

The second, more general lesson required one to greatly enlarge one’s understanding of what writing is and does (all writing, not just poetry; Empson illustrated his arguments with sentences from novels, book titles, newspaper headlines that had caught his eye and so on). On this, Empson was inexplicit except by inference, but as a fisherman, I saw it in angling terms. Every piece of writing was like a pond, sunlit, overhung by willows, with clustering water lilies, and, perhaps, the rippling circle made by a fish rising to snatch a dying fly. This much could be seen and appreciated by any passing hiker. But the true life of the pond lay below the surface, in deep water where only the attentive and experienced eye would detect the suspended cloud of midge larvae, the submarine shadow of the cruising pike, the exploding shoal of bug-eyed small fry. It was with the subaquatic life of literature that Empson – a scientist by early inclination, whose interest in science is a recurrent feature of his writing – was concerned.

Beneath the clean line of type on the page lay the muddy depths of the living and changing language, a world of stubborn historic associations, swarming puns, suggestive likenesses and connections (as between trees and carved choir stalls), meanings that were in a continuous process of evolution and decay, sometimes enriching the word in print, but as often subverting it. (Spare a thought for Coleridge when he wrote the line ‘As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing’. In 1797, he wasn’t to know that shortly after his death pants would become an abbreviated version of pantaloons, and by 1880 a word for men’s drawers.)
With the possible exception of the trotting-out of Wimsatt and Beardsley on the intentional fallacy, I think Empson may have worn the best over time of the "New Critics."

Gutsy mathematician

This fellow deserves to have his courage widely known:
It was near the end of a meeting Wednesday between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a group of university students when the man who is Iran's highest political and spiritual authority asked if there were any other questions.

He spotted a young man in the corner with his hand raised and called on him, asking him to go to the podium to speak through the public address system.

What followed was an extraordinarily candid 20-minute speech by the student, later identified as national math Olympiad winner Mahmoud Vahidnia, in which he publicly and explicitly criticized Khamenei for the government's conduct in the unrest that followed Iran's June 12 elections. * * *

He criticized the violence against protesters during the election. He said Khamenei lived in a bubble, unaware of the sentiments against his rule. He critiqued what he described as Iran's "cycle of power" in which entrenched elites in institutions such as the Guardian Council and Assembly of Experts exert what he described as a stranglehold over the nation's political life.

He criticized state broadcasting and the media, saying their unwillingness to criticize Khamenei deepened Iran's divisions. * * *

On Friday night the Sharif University dormitories erupted with cries of "God is great!" and "Death to the dictator!" in support of their fellow classmate. University activists warned that if any harm comes to the “courageous student" the campus would explode.
Good luck, mister. (Via TNR.)