From a disreputable news source:
'CNN personality Richard Quest was busted in Central Park early yesterday with some drugs in his pocket, a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals, and a sex toy in his boot, law-enforcement sources said.'
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Amid fanfare and deferential treatment that have performed the seemingly impossible feat of transforming Manhattan into some thirteenth century eastern French village, it is worth remembering that beyond the gold jewelry and God-awful sixteenth century art lie a man and an institution that continue to hold sway over a not-insubstantial share of a billion people. And I do not mean to detract from the brilliant and agreeable rhetorical turns offered by the pontiff—the Church badly needed some good stateside spin.
Tzvetan Todorov—perhaps best known stateside as an interlocutor for Russian Formalism—gives a fascinating and pugnacious interview in Critical Inquiry's winter issue. The interview, conducted by Danny Postel, finds Todorov asked the manner of question that one wishes Derrida were given more often and more pressingly and gives the sort of responses that nearly vindicate Derrida's political reticence. While Todorov punts the opening question on his general reluctance to "get political," as it were, he more than makes up for it in his responses to subsequent questions on the Danish cartoons and the November 2005 banlieues riots—yeah, it's that kind of interview.
Here's a good bit on the Paris riots:
The particular forms of violence displayed are also worthy of note. At no point were political, ethnic, or religious demands expressed. The gangs of youngsters did not come to Paris where the rich live, and they didn’t attack city halls or other institutional buildings. They hardly stepped out of the housing projects where they live. Instead of taking their anger out on symbols of the French Republic, they did so on their neighbors who resemble them in every respect but age and on structures of social order that are there for their benefit. They burned cars on their streets and their parking lots, cars that belonged to their uncles or neighbors. They tried to destroy sports facilities and other meeting places intended for their use. They set fire to day-care centers and schools where their younger siblings went and to state employment services that were meant to help them. All these acts have an evident self-destructive character (even if their agents do not always realize it). When they burn buses that connect (however poorly) their housing projects to the outside world, they and their families are the ones to suffer, not the people residing in the upscale districts.Thanks to DP.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Given the many ironies of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'—not least among them the central position telling has played in military life 'from time, from time,' if we translate literally a wonderful Levantine expression—one can only hope that the next administration will quickly do away with the oft-mocked policy. Meanwhile, Harvard's president, Drew G. Faust, will attend what is called a 'commissioning ceremony,' following—and perhaps in light of?—the right's flamboyant outrage at Harvard's various slights of the military. From the Crimson:
University President Drew G. Faust will attend this year’s Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) commissioning ceremony during Commencement, continuing a new precedent set by her predecessor Lawrence H. Summers.Moot in two years? Let's hope so.
According to Harvard spokesman John D. Longbrake, Faust will be “part of the program,” although he did not say what her precise role would be. Summers spoke at the commissioning ceremony each year as Harvard president in an effort to show support for students participating in ROTC.
Harvard has had a fractious relationship with ROTC since its removal from campus in 1969 in the wake of strident anti-war protests. ROTC remains banished due to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which Harvard considers discriminatory, and is not deemed an official Harvard organization.
Harvard students involved with ROTC conduct their exercises with a battalion at MIT.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Critical Inquiry is preparing to publish an interview with Badiou on the rather grand topic of philosophy's relevance to politics. The interview is noteworthy, although perhaps mostly for an accessible take on what is presently on the mind of the former philosophy chair at the ENS. While refusing any sort of renunciation of old-guard communism, Badiou appears to have largely redefined the term in his usage to refer to more 'cultural struggles'—à la Laclau. The interview also gives treatment to Real Existing Socialism—Badiou is critical of Leninist praxis—and to the thinker's hopes and fears for the communist project at present. Here's part of what he has to say about events and the socialist possibility in the Middle East:
The attacks of September 11, for example, were not accompanied by any political discourse addressed to the entire world, nor with any declaration of war—such declarations are the condition for politics. What we have instead is a violent destabilization whose concept is ungraspable. The only declarations that followed the event were completely rooted in a religious particularism that I read as exclusively negative. I won’t have anything to do with this type of practice.
I don’t confuse this phenomenon with the theological character of certain mass organizations in the Middle East. But I do think that the fact that the organizations that are the most active and most rooted in the “people” are of this type is part of what I have been calling the contemporary crisis of negation. In this case, religion presents itself as the surrogate for something else that has not been found, something that should be universalizable, should be able to uproot itself from the particularity of religious limits. It is for this reason, I think, that Marx still seems so current. Communism, according to Marx, is essentially internationalist in character. With religious dogmatism, in this case with Shia Islam, we are confronted with a collective messianism that I know and recognize is quite powerful but which is, finally, intrinsically limited. We need to consider these phenomena on their own terms, but also understand their limitations. I think these movements represent a passage that bears witness, in a very vivid way, to the limits of our thought on the problems of the negative, critique and political organization.
A moving passage from Thursday's NYT:
As for Blackwater, one is likely in Kuwait to hear 'absolute cowboys' at the mention of their name.
General Mraweh is passionate about traffic control. He is particularly irked by the driving behavior by the employees of security companies like Blackwater, who sometimes throw water bottles at people walking down the street or shoot their guns in the air to clear the road, he said.
But primarily, General Mraweh sees his job as a way to piece together his shattered country.
'If everyone says there are killings, there are massacres, then I will stay powerless at home and this will disable the country,” he said. “But if the grocer goes to work, the merchant goes to work, I go to work, even you go to work, there will be no more killing, and the criminal will be afraid and he will go back to his den like a mouse.'