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December 15, 2003

BLOG PARTY RECAP....So what do bloggers chat about when they get together? Here's a miscellaneous assortment of stuff from last night's get together with David Adesnik of OxBlog, Pejman Yousefzadeh of Pejmanesque, Robert Tagorda of Priorities & Frivolities, and Mark Kleiman of, um, Mark Kleiman:

  • Is chess getting too deterministic and therefore less interesting at the highest levels? Answer: yes. Solution: play Go instead.

  • Richard Neustadt's Presidential Power really is a classic that ranks right up with Machiavelli, but only if you get a copy of the slender and elegant first edition, not the bloated and execrable second edition.

  • Jimmy Carter deserves a lot of credit for the democracy promotion agenda later adopted by the Reagan administration. The Reaganites didn't want to adopt it at first, but eventually did because too many people in their own party began insisting on it. (But Carter himself never promoted democracy effectively because he was too committed to non-interventionism.)

  • Eugene Volokh is a very good Scrabble player.

  • It's pretty hard to know what's really going on in Iran these days. But if the moderates gain power in the next election it might really mean something.

  • Most lefty bloggers are actually pretty moderate liberals: me, Josh Marshall, Atrios, Matt Yglesias, Jeralyn Merritt, Brad DeLong, etc. (Atrios is a hardnosed partisan, but his politics are actually fairly centrist liberal. Surprise!) Most righty bloggers are actually libertarians, not conservatives.

  • Is France afraid of what Saddam might say during a war crimes trial? The consensus was that everything there is to say has already been said (after all, it's not a secret that France sold him lots of arms). On the other hand, the spotlight of a trial might be something they'd like to avoid.

  • Genealogy is a lot easier for me than it is for someone whose ancestors are all from Iran.

  • If cats get hungry enough, they will eventually come downstairs even if they are extremely skeptical of strangers wandering around their house.

  • No one likes postmodernists. None of us do, anyway.

    Today's pomos strike me as a perfect example of what happens when you take a perfectly respectable idea (different cultures are different, not necessarily inferior or superior) and take it to such an extreme that it loses all grounding in human experience.

  • Clark/Dean or Dean/Clark would be a great ticket. However, it's probable that both men have such large egos that neither one would be willing to serve as the other's veep.

There was lots more, but you get the idea. Sort of like a blog except with real people....

Posted by Kevin Drum at December 15, 2003 04:14 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Kevin, that's not quite what PoMo is about. It's about the problems of implicit assumptions in language and art, not cartoonishly-rendered cultural relativism.

I'm not a huge backer of PoMo (or it's more academic cousin, post-structuralism), but the warning "check your assumptions and definitions" merits a lot of attention.

(The assumption that self-defined "libertarians" are anything of the sort, for example, or who gets to define what a "libertarian" is.)

I will concur with one thing: Go is much cooler than chess.

Posted by: Demosthenes at December 15, 2003 04:20 PM | PERMALINK
Is chess getting too deterministic and therefore less interesting at the highest levels? Answer: yes. Solution: play Go instead.

Yes, but don't forget that this problem can potentially be solved by making the placement of the pieces random, and campaigning against having grandmasters use other grandmasters as a support staff to analyze the favorite moves and game history of their opponents.

Many thanks again for your hospitality, Kevin.

Posted by: Pejman Yousefzadeh at December 15, 2003 04:23 PM | PERMALINK

Postmodernism is soooo over with, man. :)

Posted by: rea at December 15, 2003 04:29 PM | PERMALINK

Chess too deterministic? Never! You guys just aren't smart enough.

Posted by: Get HR2239 Passed Now at December 15, 2003 04:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Is chess getting too deterministic and therefore less interesting at the highest levels? Answer: yes. Solution: play Go instead." This sounds like a statement from someone who has a limited knowledge of chess. That is not a knock on Go however which is another wonderful game.

Posted by: Norm Jenson at December 15, 2003 04:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Most lefty bloggers . . . most righty bloggers . . ."

It's about time somebody said it. Such temperance (this term understood loosely) is perhaps nothing more than an effect of the community on the individual blogger.

Posted by: charles at December 15, 2003 04:37 PM | PERMALINK

My impression of postmodernism was the same as Demosthenes' . . . I always thought of postmodernism as that "perfectly respectable idea" (i.e., that most/all descriptions of objective fact are in some sense shaded by the experiences and agendas of the people describing them) taken to an unhealthy extreme. In law school, we had the "crits" (Critical Legal Studies, the legal equivalent of the pomos) and the Chicago school of economic analysis of law, and while my preferred policies are much closer to the latter, I always thought of both as very handy tools to have in your intellectual toolbelt but not something you should use as your exclusive lens for looking at the world, anymore than you should walk around looking at life through a microscope or a telescope all day.

Posted by: Crank at December 15, 2003 04:38 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a big fan of both go and chess, and I'm not sure what you mean by "deterministic at the highest level." Do you mean that it's too easy to know who will win, when two top players meet? (That seems wrong.) Do you mean that most games have been played already, and there aren't very many new games? (That hasn't happened either.) Do you mean that opening theory is too... expansive and theoretical, and has sucked the life from the game? (Yeah, but which of us is a grandmaster? We don't play with opening books in our laps, so what does it matter?)

Or do you mean that powerful computers can outplay all but the strongest players?

Well, sure... but does that mean the game is less interesting? I think we'd all agree that the existence of NFL or the NBA hasn't diminished the excitement of college football or basketball. Perhaps they've even had the opposite effect...

And anyway, someone like Kasparov can still give the best computers a good game (or a good match) when properly prepared. Computers may be absolutely ascendant in 10 years, or 20, but not today.

Personally, I think people should play both go *and* chess: they complement each other nicely.

Posted by: Arthegall at December 15, 2003 04:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Is France afraid of what Saddam might say during a war crimes trial?"

Yes. But they're in a very, very long line. Which includes some various persons who have, yeah even, who still hold, jobs with the US Goverment.

Posted by: Bill Skeels at December 15, 2003 04:44 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno. The problem with Post Modernism seems to me an assumption that humans don't actually live on the earth. I don't know if that makes sense...hmmm...I guess the basic tenet of it, checking your assumptions and definitions, is sorta ignored when considering that we're just animals, and that what something like "libertarian" or "Republican" or any other term of in/ex-clusion actually means is less important than why we need to call ourselves one of them. I still don't think I'm making sense. You see, this is why I dropped out of grad school, this inability to make sense thing...

Posted by: Furious|T| at December 15, 2003 04:57 PM | PERMALINK

Umm, yes, exactly!

Posted by: scarshapedstar at December 15, 2003 05:06 PM | PERMALINK

Also:

Is Go too boring?

Answer: yes.

Solution: Lightsaber duels in Jedi Academy.

Posted by: scarshapedstar at December 15, 2003 05:08 PM | PERMALINK

PoMo is not a fad, but one of the more compelling theories/movements to recently gain traction, if only because of its greater accuracy. Ignore reality if you want; Americans always have (witness 9/11) -- you guys will always think that a *new idea is possible*, fools. There's nothing original about America the world hasn't seen before.

Posted by: Digit@l.com at December 15, 2003 05:08 PM | PERMALINK

Let me know about your next get-together, Kevin.
I'll explain post-modernism and you can explain why you consider Matt Yglesias to be a Liberal.

Also I have found the ideal cat toy--sent to me via a friend in Japan. Are you familair with the films of Chris Marker? (Le Joli Mai, La Jetee, Sans Soleil) When asked to supply a photo he always sends a picture of a cat.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at December 15, 2003 05:16 PM | PERMALINK

There are plenty of bloggers to your left, Kevin: certainly Billmon, Tom Tomorrow, Alas, Body and Soul, etc.

I don't think that France has more to worry about from a trial of Saddam than the US: don't you think that Saddam would like to get revenge on Donald Rumsfeld? Rumsfeld visited him twice at the peak of the Gulf War, the first time giving him golden cowboy spurs, the second time just days after his blatant use of chemical warfare against Iran became a huge issue. Saddam might be able not only to testify, but come up with hard documentary evidence that he was the US's boy up through the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Imagine if he got Rummy on tape talking about chemical weapons making a Kissinger-like comment (we understand why you need to do it, old pal, but could you get it over with quickly and try to do it quietly?)

You've got to have a large ego to run for president, but then LBJ agreed to serve as Kennedy's Veep, despite his own massive ego (Senat e Majority Leader serving under some freshman kid senator?) so large egos can be overcome.

Posted by: Joe Buck at December 15, 2003 05:21 PM | PERMALINK

Demosthenes: "check your assumptions and definitions" is indeed good advice. Taken to extremes, however, it becomes ridiculous, and I would argue that academic pomos have indeed done this. Virtually all good advice becomes destructive when taken to extremes, I think.

Pejman: But you said randomization would never happen!

Posted by: Kevin Drum at December 15, 2003 05:23 PM | PERMALINK
Pejman: But you said randomization would never happen!

It probably won't, since it was largely pioneered by Fischer, who is perceived to be a nutcase, but it still could solve the problem if the association is ever removed.

Posted by: Pejman Yousefzadeh at December 15, 2003 05:31 PM | PERMALINK

PoMo is as dying as it deserves to be. Its greatest merit is as an example of going so far in a direction that you can palpably recognize that it's too far and therefore get some triangulation on where the truth lies. Relativism is fine and necessary. The outright denial of rationality from within a rational framework is comical.

Go is indeed a finer game than chess, in my eyes. As is backgammon.

Posted by: sidereal at December 15, 2003 05:32 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Kevin, most any theory can be ridiculed by looking at its more dogmatic and pedestrian proponents. The point is that most writers are not very good, and that's as true for traditional historians as it is for Foucauldians. But Foucault himself is brilliant, and you ignore him at your intellectual peril. Same for anti-PoMo crusader E.P. Thompson--yet I could present you with an awful lot of utter tripe from the pages of Past & Present. As someone upthread said, you need both in your toolbelt.

Posted by: robert young at December 15, 2003 05:34 PM | PERMALINK

"But Foucault himself is brilliant, and you ignore him at your intellectual peril."

SING OUT LOUISE!

I cannot tell you how many arguments I've gotten into with people about Foucault who have obviously never read him. They think that whatever Camille Paglia said about Foucault constitutes Foucault's thought. It doesn't. She doesn't understand Foucault at all, nor does she desires to. He's a bean-bag for her to attack will with the sure knowledge that he can't defend himself (being dead) and that her intended audience doesn't want to read him -- or indeed anyone with any depth or complexity. They just want a cheat sheet of "What's Hot." Their Watch-Cry is "Will this be on the final?"

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at December 15, 2003 05:42 PM | PERMALINK

I agree on the high quality of Foucault, but that doesn't justify the entire movement. And I don't mean the excesses. . I mean the center of gravity, particularly in aesthetics (to the extent that you can call post-modernist art 'aesthetics')

Posted by: sidereal at December 15, 2003 05:51 PM | PERMALINK

You all need to read Alan Sokal if you haven't already.

He's a physicist and his speciality is deflating windbags.

Here's a nice interview. The rest (like his book) can be found by google.

Posted by: Felix Deutsch at December 15, 2003 06:00 PM | PERMALINK

Robert: agreed. I thought I made that clear, actually. Perhaps where we differ, however, is that I think the dogmatic proponents have way too much influence.

As I said, the basis of pomo is perfectly respectable. If we could get rid of the all-too-influential nutballs, it would probably be fine.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at December 15, 2003 06:01 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno, Kevin, I read you on the supermarket strikers and I say to myself, "He's getting radicalized."

I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I'm just saying.

Posted by: adamsj at December 15, 2003 06:01 PM | PERMALINK

I think that Foucault is one of those writers whose works only get understood in the second generation. (Wittgenstein was another.) I think that the first generation Foucauldians picked him up from the wrong end. (Camille Paglia is a whole different, lower story, sort of an intellectual sub-basement outlet).

Everything Foucault did was different from the thing before, and he was always digging up people like Benthan and Condorcet and Bentham who you never planned to read or even read about.

To me the pomo bad guy is Lacan, with Derrida coming a close second. After a certain point Foucault wrote very straighforwardly, unlike those two.

Unfortunately, the "moderation" of Dem bloggers might be a sign that the middle has shifted. To me even Wellstone was moderate (in a very good sense), but there are a lot of people who think that Krugman is far left, whereas to me he is dead center or maybe just barely center-left.

Some of it is just a function of defeat. It's worth noting, though, that a fair proportion of Gore voters were considerably to his left. There still are lots of real left-liberals out here, but it's as if we don't exist because the Dems can only get a majority by stealing moderate Republican votes.

Posted by: Zizka at December 15, 2003 06:06 PM | PERMALINK

"If we could get rid of the all-too-influential nutballs, it would probably be fine."

Precisely who are you talking about in this regard?

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at December 15, 2003 06:06 PM | PERMALINK

My understanding is that Chess has gone through many such periods, usually leading to changes in the way the game was played (e.g., making the queen the most powerful piece on the board) -- but only after a fight between traditionalists and the champions of the new variant.

Isn't there some variant now that adds a "prime minister" who combines the bishop and knight?

Posted by: dn at December 15, 2003 06:31 PM | PERMALINK

To be fair about chess, when Karpov was playing Kasparov, International Grand Masters had trouble following what was going on. So it really didn't matter unduly what the world champions were actually doing. Of course, people can then rush off and crunch the moves for a while after the fact.
I don't follow chess these days, but I'd imagine that's still the case. Now having a computer beat us all does change things, and there's your Go argument right there. Go gives us a few years yet.
Fischer became crazy, putting weird flyers on car windscreens. He wasn't crazy at 15, when he became the youngest IGM in history, IIRC. Ditto for world champion. Back when I followed chess, Kasparov was far more lively than Karpov was.
One problem with chess is that a small gap in skill means endless victories for the stronger player. Chess is unforgiving. But that's not new.
A young Fischer on why he played chess: "I like to see them squirm."

Posted by: John Isbell at December 15, 2003 06:36 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, Kevin, I didn't know cats were just like dogs. Now that's profound.

And doesn't it seem like the nutballs end up too influential is way too many human endeavors? Except art, of course. It's like a truism. Or whatever.

Posted by: jackson at December 15, 2003 06:36 PM | PERMALINK

I like dean for Prez, and Clark as VP in charge of getting bin laden. Screw the Senate duties, anybody can do that, have him use his experience to coordinate efforts to get bin laden. I am very frustarted he is still at large and our troops looking for him are minimal.

Posted by: lk at December 15, 2003 07:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Jimmy Carter deserves a lot of credit for the democracy promotion agenda later adopted by the Reagan administration. The Reaganites didn't want to adopt it at first, but eventually did because too many people in their own party began insisting on it. (But Carter himself never promoted democracy effectively because he was too committed to non-interventionism.)"

Permit me as a quasi-neocon right-winger to second this analysis. Jimmy Carter, while a naive and stubborn man who made a fair number of mistakes in foreign policy, was not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. He not only understood the morality of democracy he grasped it's long-term ideological importance. Carter's human-rights campaign eroded the morale of the Soviets ( the younger generation like Gorbachev who came of age during Khrushchev's thaw, the older leaders were hopeless neo-stalinists )more than anyone realized at the time and it served as a springboard for Ronald Reagan to put the Soviets on the defensive.

Carter also, after Afghanistan was invaded, gave up on Brezhnev's clique as murderous and untrustworthy bastards and initiated the arms build-up that Reagan vastly expanded. Not many presidents have the nerve to change course that dramatically when a policy is failing but Carter did. Overall, there's more continuity between the foreign policies of the late Carter and early Reagan administration than officials of either would care to admit.

Posted by: mark safranski at December 15, 2003 07:24 PM | PERMALINK

Is it strange that no one has mention this:

Supreme Court accepts Cheney appeal on energy taskforce
CNN - 10 hours ago
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Vice President Dick Cheney's
challenge to a court ruling that would force him to disclose details of ...

Will the Supreme Court let Cheney keep his secrets? I hope not and I wonder if this will be another 5/4 split vote. Its really quite a big deal.

Posted by: Cheryl at December 15, 2003 07:26 PM | PERMALINK

Zizka wrote:
"Unfortunately, the "moderation" of Dem bloggers might be a sign that the middle has shifted. To me even Wellstone was moderate (in a very good sense), but there are a lot of people who think that Krugman is far left, whereas to me he is dead center or maybe just barely center-left."

I'm not sure about Wellstone but I agree regarding Paul Krugman. Krugman seems further left than he is because he's hyper-partisan and he's a demand-sider. If we had a Democratic president I don't think he'd be propososing anything particularly radical in his columns.

Posted by: mark safranski at December 15, 2003 07:29 PM | PERMALINK

" Proposing " I'm not sure what " propososing " is but I probably wouldn't like it. Sheesh.

Posted by: mark safranski at December 15, 2003 07:31 PM | PERMALINK

When I come back to L.A., everyone's invited to my blogging party/salon. It'll be held in the only place in O.C. worth going to: Little Saigon. There will be cheap, unidentifiable buffet food. And hookers.

Posted by: Lonewacko: I'm Still Blogging Across America at December 15, 2003 07:33 PM | PERMALINK

""If we could get rid of the all-too-influential nutballs, it would probably be fine."

Precisely who are you talking about in this regard? "

I'd say it's a disease of the culture, rather than of the leaders. Which means the problem is in the postmodern values suffusing academia and art and the nutballs are the day to day professors and critics.

Postmodernism works well as a reaction. When it's the status quo, you have issues. And we have issues.

But if you really want names, I'd start with Derrida, Latour, and McCarthy.

That said, I have a soft spot for Duchamp and Eco.

Posted by: sidereal at December 15, 2003 07:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Clark/Dean or Dean/Clark would be a great ticket. However, it's probable that both men have such large egos that neither one would be willing to serve as the other's veep."

Ha! Not something that either one of them has to lose any sleep about, thanks to the voters.

Posted by: JK at December 15, 2003 07:44 PM | PERMALINK

"To me the pomo bad guy is Lacan, with Derrida coming a close second."

I agree about the first, but not the second.

Saw lacan lecture once. A real showman. Bu you can't pull a rabbit out of a hat if you've negelected to put the rabbit in the hat first.

Derrida is quite a different story. I've been reading him since the early 70's. La Dissemination blew me aware. But it'sLa Carte Postale that left its major mark on me.He is superb literary stylist.

"That said, I have a soft spot for Duchamp and Eco."

What does Duchamp have to do with post-modernism? He was a surrealist.

Eco is a completely straightforward essayist and novelist. He hangs with the post-modernists but I don't think that's his balliwick.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at December 15, 2003 07:51 PM | PERMALINK

David E., you're probably right. The "Pharmakon of Plato" was amazing, whether or not it was true. Probably it's the people called Derridists that I was talking about. Though I do think that as he went along Derrida became more obscurantist, though since I quit reading him I'll never really know.


Posted by: Zizka at December 15, 2003 07:59 PM | PERMALINK

From what I see, as a dedicated gamer, Chess in itself is a very flawed game. There is a few things that really keep it from being totally playable in my eyes.

The biggie is the Check-Checkmate problem. It is a very sloppy gameplay mechanic, as it tends to limit surprise wins, and especially baits/bluffs.

The other problem is the predictabilty factor, as you mentioned. I think this is directly related to the first problem, to be honest, as entire games revolve around a setup.

Try Blitz Chess, with a strict time-limit and no Check. Much more interesting game IMO, and a much better mental work-out.

And yes, most of the big "leftie" bloggers are strictly moderate. Actually, that just shows you how far left you need to really go to be an "extremist". You really can make good solid, arguments for a lot of the traditional "leftist" arguments. A better run UHC system is both more efficient and better for health, welfare is needed because to fight inflation we maintain a policy of keeping structural unemployment around, etc.

Posted by: Karmakin at December 15, 2003 08:06 PM | PERMALINK

Karmakin, you are right that chess has no bluffs and is inevitable. Often a player can spend an hour staving off humiliating defeat, with no - I mean no - escape. Just slow attrition.
You might also not like Racine or Aeschylus.

Posted by: John Isbell at December 15, 2003 08:41 PM | PERMALINK

All of the complete information games such as Go or Chess are too "deterministic."

Try an incomplete information game such a bridge.

The computer does not yet exist that can beat decent human players at bridge much less one that can even compete with a world class human team.

Posted by: dwight meredith at December 15, 2003 08:54 PM | PERMALINK

I am deeply hurt at my exclusion from the Southern California bloggers conference. You may all be wider read, smarter, and older by orders of magnitude, but I am still good looking and charming and therefore ought to have been included...

Posted by: Ezra at December 15, 2003 08:55 PM | PERMALINK

If you want something that's not deterministic, try something with cards, dice, or some other random element.

Posted by: rachelrachel at December 15, 2003 09:04 PM | PERMALINK

POSTMODERNISM, as opposed to POSTSTRUCTURALISM, DECONSTRUCTION, and PSYCHOANALYSIS is not a specific set of beliefs or methodology.

Nor is postmodernism a 'tool' to be put on 'your belt.' You would need a very big belt to hold the 'postmodern tool' since it wouldn't be a single piece of hardware but rather a differentiated set of work done in an exhausting field of social theory; feminism, philosophy, critical legal studies, sociology, communication studies, critical race theory, literary criticism, history, and political science.

The narratives of each particular one often conflict with each other but that's postmodernism at its best: contradiction and reproduction. We then might call this vertiginous movement: simulation.

For a 'contemporary' application of 'postmodern theory' check out:

THE GULF WAR DID NOT EXIST (jean baudrillard)

Do postmodernists really exist?

Posted by: JA at December 15, 2003 09:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Karmakin, you are right that chess has no bluffs and is inevitable. Often a player can spend an hour staving off humiliating defeat, with no - I mean no - escape. Just slow attrition."

John, this is wrong. There is for example in sacrificial attacks a spectrum from bluff (an unsound sac to frighten an opponent) to complicating the position to you're-damned-either-way. The World Champion Tal specialized in all three. And while there are games where a player like Karpov slowly throttles an opponent, defensive theory has come up with ways to bend but not break under such pressure, leading to a draw - and it frequently enough happens that the attacker runs out of time to think and the tables are turned. You're also wrong about the "small skill gap = lots of victories." A small skill gap can lead to slightly more victories than defeats or lots of draws. And (for a given set of opponents) a large difference in skill can lead to zilch or an opposite-from-expected outcome (the "bete noire" phenomenon).

Posted by: rilkefan at December 15, 2003 09:19 PM | PERMALINK

"What does Duchamp have to do with post-modernism? He was a surrealist."

Duchamp is the godfather of postmodern art. He invented ready-mades and he espoused "anti-retinal art" which could easily be the credo of postmodern aesthetics. He was practically reincarnated in Warhol. But, like I said, I like him.

"Eco is a completely straightforward essayist and novelist. He hangs with the post-modernists but I don't think that's his balliwick."

His work in semiotics and literary criticism is distinctly postmodern (in theory, not in writing style). His fiction is considered canonical postmodern literature, though I find it too readable to be comfortable with that.

My wife reminds me that Douglas Adams could also be considered post-modern. He'd definitely be added to my approval list.

Posted by: sidereal at December 15, 2003 09:21 PM | PERMALINK

Karmakin, the problem with chess is check and checkmate?

That's like saying the problem with poker is the cards! Check and checkmate are the name of the game (literally, in some languages).

Although actually, checkmate is not really what decides most chess games- queening a pawn is. So how can check and checkmate can be the big problem, when usually the goal is to gain a sufficient material advantage to queen a pawn and checkmate is not an issue?

And I'm not sure what you mean by "entire games revolve around a setup." I don't think that's totally true even at the highest levels, and for most amateurs it's never the case.

I'm hardly an expert on chess, but your criticisms (as phrased) make little sense to me.

Posted by: JakeV at December 15, 2003 09:26 PM | PERMALINK

Postmodernism as a literary force includes the works of Umberto Eco, and I would not trust someone who can't find at least one book to love among The Name Of The Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, Travels In Hyperreality, Six Walks In The Fictional Woods, How To Travel With A Salmon, et al. In music, it manifests (among other ways) as the eclectic sampling and recombination of folks like Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno (as well as the cultural mixing that goes on in industrial, hip-hop, electronica, and other forms of popular music). The assault on organizing narratives on the grand scale can be self-indulgent wankery, but it can also liberate fresh creative impulses.

(And for that matter, Eco argues in Postscript To The Name Of A Rose that the cycle of ironic revisitation to fresh creation to purification to isolation and alienation to ironic revisitation is a perpetual one, with "modernist" and "postmodernist" simply being the labels for their stages of this trip through.)

Posted by: Bruce Baugh at December 15, 2003 09:27 PM | PERMALINK

"The computer does not yet exist that can beat decent human players at bridge much less one that can even compete with a world class human team."

Dwight, is this true? I see from the 1998 Par Contest that a program did well running on a pc. I can imagine that bidding would be hard to program, but I don't a priori see why bridge would be as hard as chess (though obviously a computer can't pick up on tells.)

Posted by: rilkefan at December 15, 2003 09:37 PM | PERMALINK

David: It's been a while since I've been called Louise, and well, I like it.

Zizka: They're called Derridians, and many of them are indeed awful. Some, however, are clear writers and politically engaged--Bill Martin ("The Radical Project," "Humanism and Its Aftermath") comes to mind. If you stopped reading Derrida before "Specters of Marx," you need to go back.

Lacan haters: OK, he's he worst writer in all history, but you can access his ideas through the brilliant, funny, engaging Slavoj Zizek. After "The Obscure Object of Ideology," you can return to "Ecrits" and almost get it. Lacan was excessive, but he actually had important things to say--however badly he put them.

Kevin: You overestimate the PoMo influence. The big dogs (Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, Ricour, Levinas) are required reading. The lesser lights don't cross the academic landscape, other than to be made fun of. Grad students and profs are much more cynical and much less credulous than you assume.

JA: Uh, you're kind of the problem we're discussing. You assume that your favored theory has eaten everything. I'm sympathetic to it, but it'll get eaten like everything else. It's a tool--don't you be one by pretending it's more.

Posted by: robert young at December 15, 2003 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

How do computers do playing poker?

Do computers playing against flesh-and-blood still have human coaches tweaking them?

Posted by: Zizka at December 15, 2003 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

though obviously a computer can't pick up on tells

But it could also keep a perfect "poker face."

Posted by: rachelrachel at December 15, 2003 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I wonder how deep your knowledge of postmodernism is? Your description smacks of multiculturalism, not pomo. The basic tenet of pomo is that all knowledge, scientific knowledge included, is socially constructed through and through. This is more a commentary on our ability to know reality or the truth.

I can understand why you don't like it though. Most political junkies (myself included) can't get far away enough from the "news" -- however biased, it always contains one grain of truth, we say -- to question truth, and our ability to know it.

Yet, most of us also know that "each of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward, and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality" (author Michael Crichton, fellow human being). I think we both agree that faith is in an ingredient in at least some human actions (witness Bush), so this doesn't leave the pomos too far off. If there be theorists that haven't thought it all through, and still mouth off, well, they're not the first. But that's not necessarily a problem with postmodernism, and your dismissal is too easy, too convenient, intellectually, my friend.

The lesson from forays into postmodernism, other theories, and reality itself is "don't make assumptions".

Posted by: Bugs Benny at December 15, 2003 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Postmodernism comes after modernism like police after thieves. Don't remember who said that. Guess it's probably not true either.

Plus, there's more than a few OC places to go besides little Saigon, but I don't think anyone's interested in that.

Posted by: keir at December 15, 2003 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

keir,

That's refering to postmodernism of a different kind. See dictionary:

"Of or relating to art, architecture, or literature that reacts against earlier modernist principles, as by reintroducing traditional or classical elements of style or by carrying modernist styles or practices to extremes"

Even as such, the comment is a failed metaphor.

Posted by: Bugs Benny at December 15, 2003 11:51 PM | PERMALINK
Clark/Dean or Dean/Clark would be a great ticket. However, it's probable that both men have such large egos that neither one would be willing to serve as the other's veep.
Hm. One could (most likely) have said the same of LBJ and JFK in 1960 and yet they managed to work things out. Posted by: wrog at December 16, 2003 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

sidereal:

Latour isn't a postmodernist. His whole thing is that postmodernists and modernists have both got it wrong. Many of the really smart cultural theory types think that Latour is part of the way out of the postmodern philosophical dead-end.

Posted by: Nick Caldwell at December 16, 2003 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

A postmodernist might suggest that implicit in the sentence

"Chess is too deterministic"

is an attempt to conceal the statement

"I'm too stupid or lazy to learn openings and endgames".

Or indeed that implicit in the statement

"Today's pomos strike me as a perfect example of what happens when you take a perfectly respectable idea (different cultures are different, not necessarily inferior or superior) and take it to such an extreme that it loses all grounding in human experience"

is the concealed statement

"I haven't read any books on this subject. Not a single bloody one. Here's my opinion, and aren't you glad you didn't pay any money for it".

Come on mate. You can do better than this.

Posted by: dsquared at December 16, 2003 01:11 AM | PERMALINK

>Today's pornos strike me as a perfect example of >what happens when you take a perfectly >respectable idea (different cultures are >different, not necessarily inferior or superior) >and take it to such an extreme that it loses all >grounding in human experience.

Oh I don't know. I kind of like interratial pornos, although there's usually at least one seen that certainly beyond my human experience.

Posted by: Alex S at December 16, 2003 02:17 AM | PERMALINK

Can I stand up for Dick Neustadt amidst all the postmodernising? There is nothing wrong with the later editions - it might be less well-structured (although the 1st Edition is largely all in there somewhere) but if anything the discussion of later Preznits fills out his account in important ways. Whoever made this distinction gets a big pomposity raspberry from me, at least.

Posted by: Nasi Lemak at December 16, 2003 02:28 AM | PERMALINK

rilkefan, fair enough about Tal, and about the shock value of the unexpected in chess, even with time to analyse moves. I built a lot of my early career out of the Alekhin Defense, which I knew and many opponents didn't, though in that case bluff is an imprecise term. They could be badly wrong in three moves, though.
As to your experience about slight differences in skill levels, I think you would be better saying your experience differs. I played tournament chess for about 15 years, playing for the City of Canterbury and Trinity College, Cambridge, and I stand by my comment. A slightly better player defeats a slightly weaker player. Repeatedly. Yes, you can throw some draws in. That is my experience on this subject.
Omar Sharif played international level bridge.

Posted by: John Isbell at December 16, 2003 05:09 AM | PERMALINK

Safrinski:>" Krugman seems further left than he is because he's hyper-partisan"

Nonsense. Krugman is not "hyper-partisan." He is merely opposed to the Bush fiscal program, if borrow-and-spend-til-you-drop can be called a program. He's also opposed to Bush Administration secrecy and attacks on civil rights, but any true patriot should be.

I'm sure Krugman would not be the least bit critical of Arnie Carlson, a recent Republican governor of Minnesota with a well deserved reputation for fiscal conservatism.

Posted by: Joey Giraud at December 16, 2003 05:25 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ

Posted by: karmar at December 16, 2003 05:48 AM | PERMALINK

Furious|T|: "You see, this is why I dropped out of grad school, this inability to make sense"

I find this hard to believe, no one _ever_ dropped out of grad school because they had a hard time making sense.

Hey, _someone_ had to say it ...

Posted by: Michael Farris at December 16, 2003 06:19 AM | PERMALINK

The definition is expanding to the point where Krugman is a post-modernist?

So glad Baudrillard's The Gulf War Did Not Take Place was brought up. It's required reading. Especially now.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at December 16, 2003 07:17 AM | PERMALINK

"The basic tenet of pomo is that all knowledge, scientific knowledge included, is socially constructed through and through."

That's nice. When a pomo artist is able to provide evidence from other cultures that suggests that, for example, general relativity is incorrect, he may have a point. Otherwise, he's just bloviating.

Posted by: raj at December 16, 2003 07:23 AM | PERMALINK

"Is chess getting too deterministic and therefore less interesting at the highest levels? Answer: yes. Solution: play Go instead."

Of course, Emanuel Lasker (Chess World Champion 1894-1921) said much the same thing. People still play chess.

Posted by: rea at December 16, 2003 07:40 AM | PERMALINK

Ah "you just haven't tried hard enough to understand it!" Such a convenient rallying cry.

Two words: Alan Sokal. If his piece of obvious garbage managed to get to get published in a respected journal without a peep, just imagine how many pieces of slightly-better-camouflaged garbage have gotten into print, and perhaps even become "required reading" in some circles? Just imagine.

Where's the incentive to waste hours and years of your life trying to understand and appreciate something when you have zero evidence that what's at the bottom is worth anything?


Posted by: JakeV at December 16, 2003 07:41 AM | PERMALINK

an amusing dialog on pomo ! to me derrida is and was a fraud . also interesting this discription of mostly centrist , so slightly left of center liberals as " recognised " left in general discourse here in blogs and in general . i grew up outside US and my first reaction to lot of this ( and similar ) conversation in US is this alice in wonderland quality to how things are recognised and labeled . words mean what we want them to mean ( was it queen or humpty-dumpty ? )

Posted by: badri at December 16, 2003 07:41 AM | PERMALINK

I know nothing,but I liked a book by Lacan when I read it long ago.

Many chess players are quietly moving to poker,Texas Holdem online. Chess knowledge with computer analysis is moving to a point where it is theoretically uninteresting,but practically exciting because we have passed the limits of human memory. And moderns can't play a decent endgame anymore.

And you can make thousands a night with real aggressive calls at poker. Trust me, I wouldn't lie. Join me at Partypoker.com.

My cat,God rest his soul, loved strangers, they made neat scratching posts

Posted by: bob mcmanus at December 16, 2003 07:48 AM | PERMALINK

badri: if you'd condescend to explain WHY you think Derrida "was and is a fraud," somone might be able to engage your point. That makes for a more "interesting" discussion, don't you know.

Posted by: robert young at December 16, 2003 07:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Nonsense. Krugman is not "hyper-partisan." He is merely opposed to the Bush fiscal program, if borrow-and-spend-til-you-drop can be called a program. "

Hmmmm, so you are saying that Krugman is opposed to deficit spending and for a balanced budget*on principle* ? Or he's just against the particular political choices that Bush has made ( tax cut) that contributed to the deficit ? Which is it ?

"He's also opposed to Bush Administration secrecy and attacks on civil rights, but any true patriot should be."

Some of the Bush administration " attacks on civil rights", particulary FBI and Justice misuses of PATRIOT and Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty act provisions are worrisome. Other instances are not "attacks" but are actually actions in concordance with Supreme Court rulings and international law regarding war criminals that simply rub ppl on the left the wrong way because they can't bring themselves to admit that the War on Terror constitutes a real war.

" True Patriots " are also capable of drawing distinctions.

Posted by: mark safranski at December 16, 2003 08:06 AM | PERMALINK

Mark Safranski; good and interesting analysis on how the transition from Carter to Reagan worked out in terms of various relationships notably the USSR.

OTOH, your response re: Krugman seems less strong.

"Hmmmm, so you are saying that Krugman is opposed to deficit spending and for a balanced budget*on principle* ? Or he's just against the particular political choices that Bush has made ( tax cut) that contributed to the deficit ? Which is it ?"

Well, as you note about 'true patriots', true fiscal conservatives can make distinctions. Isn't it reasonable to say that 1) Krugman is opposed to deficit spending (or, at least, massive deficit spending), almost no matter how you get there? If you're in charge, and we get into massive deficits, you're failing, end of story, and 2) OK, now that we've established that, how 'bout the incoherent, all purpose sauce, nature of the philosophy behind the Bush tax cuts (gotta give back that surplus! gotta stimlulate our way out of ... well, whatever). If we were gonna create massive deficits (which we shouldn't), isn't this a particularly clueless way to do it?

Now, you might agree with 1 (though you'd apparently be among a minority of conservatives to do so), and still not agree with 2. But the points are anything but mutually exclusive, yes? One can easily hold both 1 and 2, and thus your 'Which is it ?' makes no sense.

Of course I would argue that not holding both positions 1 and 2 is limited to those with bad math skills, but I recognize that reasonable folks may differ in that regard.

Posted by: Bill Skeels at December 16, 2003 08:25 AM | PERMALINK
Other instances are not "attacks" but are actually actions in concordance with Supreme Court rulings and international law regarding war criminals that simply rub ppl on the left the wrong way because they can't bring themselves to admit that the War on Terror constitutes a real war.

Which particular actions are you thinking of, and which Supreme Court precedent and provisions of international law do you think justify them?

Posted by: cmdicely at December 16, 2003 08:26 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, "postmodernism." The "relativism" of the 90s.

Time for a new bogeyman, guys.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan at December 16, 2003 08:33 AM | PERMALINK

raj (7:23 AM):

You should read Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions regarding the status of scientific truth and the always-changing social practices by which such truths are asserted and sustained and finally changed or abandoned. (Not to mention that general relativity, unlike quantum physics, encounters a number of problems when applied to observed phenomena...)

Posted by: rorschach at December 16, 2003 08:51 AM | PERMALINK

Krugman doesn't play the nice liberal game of balancing a partisan statement with a non-partisan statement. He's not more partisan than George Will, but Will, who's really a partisan gutterfighter, puts on a careful pretense of being "above the battle". Safire likewise.

Krugman vehemently supported the Republicans and Clinton, and opposed the liberal and labor Democrats, during the free trade battles. The guy looks mild-mannered, but he actually tend to speak strongly. More power to him on that.

Krugman has become much more partisan as he watched Bush's game play out. He's right on that too; the temperate moderates are the ones who are out of touch with reality.

So who are these wackos on the Atrios comment? Don't remember seeing any except the occasional Bush loyalist troll.

Posted by: Zizka at December 16, 2003 09:14 AM | PERMALINK

Bugs:

you're probably right. I used that old dingy quote for an undergrad paper. Don't know who the bigger sucker is, though- me, for writing it, or my professor, who gave me a big fat A. Yer patience is appreciated.

Posted by: keir at December 16, 2003 09:33 AM | PERMALINK

These arguments against chess seem silly to me - but what do I know.

But cards and dice are no better. I'm a cards and dice man myself - over chess - but cards and dice have odds ... and if you play the odds, you are therefore predictable. Only the human elements of "ahh, what the hell, I'll go for it" -- or just not knowing the odds, changes this.

Bottom line - what's been said about chess can be said about anything. It's all a matter of perspective. (is that a post-modern comment?)

Posted by: AdamW at December 16, 2003 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Since the machines began to peak as high as the best human players, i wonder if we will see one day (in 5 year? 50 years?) the Last Game (or a set of these Last Games) : entires games you would have to reproduce, or lose.

Differ from the Last Moves as white, and you'll draw, differ as black and you'll lose.

Last Games would be determined by the first moves, and go on immutably, till the black quits (or draws?).

Really don't know if it'll happen, but funny thought.


About france being afraid of saddam's revelation in a trial i'sd tend to agree with the other posters : i don't think so.

As for arms, everybody armed him, at one point or another. The administration don't want that subject looked into too precisely (rummy testifying... yum).

For exports there france is more or less tied with australia, iirc. For import from there, a veeery distant second (usa first).

As for debt, france should be around third (?) with japan first -i think.

So the whole thing _could_ end up as a pretty big mud-wreastling contest, but in these cases everyone gets dirty, right?

Posted by: yabonn at December 16, 2003 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Some typically patronizing dismissals of post-modernism here -- mistaking it for trivial truisms like "different strokes for different folks" and "how you see things depends on your perspective", or dismissing it all as junk. That's partly the fault of American humanities academics, who blew the continental tradition they could have inherited with their hipper-than-thou leftie posturing. But it's very worthwhile to go back into the great 19th century social thinkers that the best European theorists start from (for Foucault it's Nietsczche, for others Marx and Freud) to see what is at stake. Social theory is too important to be left to the economists and other "rational choice" theorists the way it is now.

And the contention that ideology enters into the belief structures of even the physical sciences is not controversial among mainstream philosophers of science now. Raj above with his little know-nothing sneer ('show me a culture where general relativity doesn't apply') is just showing he doesn't know anything about the philosophy of science. The events described by general relativity might happen everywhere, but you can't prove that general relativity is the best (or "truest") way to explain those events without swallowing a whole bunch of unprovable ideological assumptions first. I like science and I'm a partisan of those assumptions, but that's not the point.

Posted by: Marcus Stanley at December 16, 2003 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Fair question. The use of military tribunals is governed by two key precedents - Ex Parte Milligan and Ex Parte Quirin. The former was a Civil War era case dealing with a civilian U.S. citizen tried by the military for in essence sympathizing with the South. The Quirin case dealt with a mix of Nazi saboteurs caught in the U.S. out of uniform including an American citizen, who sentenced to death.

In Milligan, the Court ruled that the military might only try civilians according to military law only in active war zones where civil courts were not in operation - the issue of combatants was not addressed. Ex Parte Quirin overruled some aspects of Quirin regarding U.S. citizens fighting with the enemy and ratified FDR's use of a military tribunal in that instance. Presumably, Milligan would still govern cases where U.S. citizens aided the enemy without actually becoming active combatants - but that is only an untested assumption at this point.

Many law profs say Quirin " is bad law " in terms of reasoning but that is arguably so about many high Court rulings that remain governing precedents.

In terms of international law the United States relies upon the prohibitions against targeting civilians, fighting out of uniform and violating the requirement to bear arms openly. These are war crimes that make individuals ineligible for POW status and rights under Geneva. The United States is *not* a signatory to the additional protocols to the 4th Convention that extend quasi-police model requirements to field armies ( many EU states are signatories)and those requirements do not apply.

As a practical matter this means, for two prominent cases, Mr. Hamdi caught bearing arms in Afghanistan is likely to be S.O.L. and be tried by a military tribunal while Jose Padilla *might* find his way back into Federal court relatively soon. ( Ironically, if a Federal court finds that he is indeed a member of al Qaida Padilla could later face war crimes charges in addition to criminal conspiracy ).

Posted by: mark safranski at December 16, 2003 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry - should read " Ex Parte Quirin overturned some aspects of Milligan "

Posted by: mark safranski at December 16, 2003 01:15 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, concerning your comment about Carter and the general "ineffective" tag that apparently has been attached to him by the majority of Americans, perhaps for domestic reasons, I would like to tell a little story on his behalf:

(a) My country, Brazil, underwent a military coup in 1964 (with American support, evidently) and suffered some 20 years of fierce dictatorship. The whole works: indiscriminate arrests, people who disappeared during the night, censorship, death under torture (again, with invaluable American technical expertise - just google "Dan Mitrione", for example).

(b) Eventually, the military rule petered out, mostly by sheer economic incompetence and widespread corruption among our military rulers, but I must say that a healthy push towards this end was given by your president Carter and his Human Rights policy. We do owe him that. I wouldn't go so far as to say he actively helped us to regain freedom, but at least he did not prevent it as others had done.

(c) I believe part of the dislike Americans seem to have for Carter springs precisely from his greatest quality: he seemed to be genuinely concerned for human beings and tended to include even un-Americans in this category, which, I am sad to say, is not a concept that goes down well with the majority of the American public.

(d) In other words: he seemed to believe that the so-called American ideals - freedom, security, fair trial, democracy - were applicable to the world at large even when that collided with American short-term interests. Just compare that with the way these words are being used to mean exactly their opposite in Iraq - ok, you can have a go at free elections, provided you don't let everyone vote and the winner is somebody we like.

(e) In short, viewed from our side of the fence, Carter was the last American president who actually seemed to believe in the grandiose role Americans are peculiarly fond of attaching to themselves in the world. We may argue it was already delusional them, but it did some good anyway. From then on, cynicism and greed prevailed and tooks us all into this downward spiral that has just reached its lowest point with the sinister people you have in government right now. When I hear the words "freedom" or "democracy" uttered by Mr Bush, they somehow sound repulsive to me.

Posted by: Pedro at December 16, 2003 06:26 PM | PERMALINK

As to chess, I believe what sets it apart from most other games is that there is no luck involved - and, therefore, no excuses for losing. It is a battle of egos in its purest form (which, incidentally, is why women are such lousy chess players; they are not fooled by this ego stuff). If I win, it follows that I am more intelligent than you. This is also why we are so bothered by machines beating humans. Ultimately, however, this is no intelligence at all, just sheer calculating power. The machine doesn't even know it has won or what "winning" means.

We will continue to play chess and have fun with it because our brains will never be able to grasp the huge number of possible variations. Computers, just like calculators or pliers, are man-made tools that extend our habilities. Giving the game up because a machine can beat you everytime is the same as giving up walking because cars are faster - or giving up language because the Oxford dictionary has already exhausted the full range of usable words.

Posted by: Pedro at December 16, 2003 07:33 PM | PERMALINK

I really want to know...what is the difference between a libertarian and a conservative??

(I was married to one of the above, I guess that's the challenge).

Posted by: KissyO at December 16, 2003 08:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kissyo

The primary difference revolves around individualism - Libertarians are far more more extreme individualists than conservatives and do not attach any special weight to arguments based upon religion,tradition or community values. Particularly when a conservative is using them as rationales to try and get the government to control someone else's private behavior.

Posted by: mark safranski at December 16, 2003 09:19 PM | PERMALINK

"why women are such lousy chess players"

Tell that to one of the Polgar sisters, Pedro . . . :)

Posted by: rea at December 17, 2003 09:42 AM | PERMALINK

>I really want to know...what is the difference between a libertarian and a conservative??

--A libertarian is a Republican who likes to smoke weed.

Posted by: Norsecats at December 17, 2003 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Point taken, Rea... However, although I do enjoy chess, I also believe the refusal to have such a life-and-death concern about what is, after all, just a game is a sign of maturity. There is a Brazilian joke: what is the difference between men and mangoes? Answer: mangoes mature.

Posted by: Pedro at December 17, 2003 04:11 PM | PERMALINK

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