Tuesday, November 30, 2004

from The Nation (or, Brian Leiter's doltishness exposed)

Finally, something of real substance, doing justice to the facts without engaging in the reductive, pop-analytic kind of biography so often passing for literary criticism these days (those plentiful American Freudians who have never bothered to read Freud). (Nor, of course, showing any interest in the predictable Anglo-centric sledgeyammering by people in unfortunately high places who should certainly know better.) A brief exerpt from the longer piece:

Another charge that stalked Derrida throughout his career was that he was an enemy of the Enlightenment, indeed of reason itself, and that deconstruction was a sinister anti-Western doctrine. It is true, of course, that Derrida lambasted the philosophical tradition for having marginalized "women, children, animals and slaves." In a 1974 essay, he notoriously described metaphysics as a "white mythology which reassembles and reflects the culture of the West," a mythology "the white man takes...for the universal form of...Reason." Deconstruction was, he proudly declared, "a gesture of distrust with respect to Eurocentrism," as well as to "phallogocentrism."

Not surprisingly, feminist and post-colonial literary critics drew inspiration from Derrida's critique of "white mythologies." More often than not, however, they overlooked the profound tribute his work paid to the Western canon; his distrust was that of a lover, not a prosecutor. As Derrida pointed out, "even when [deconstruction] is directed against something European, it is European.... Since the Enlightenment, Europe has always criticized itself, and in this perfectible heritage, there is a chance for the future." In an age of uncontested American dominance, he said in one of his last interviews, Europe "has responsibilities to assume, for the future of humanity, for that of international law--that is my faith, my belief." Among these responsibilities, he argued, was the creation of a European army independent of NATO, "neither offensive nor defensive nor preventive," that "would intervene without delay in the service of resolutions finally respected by a new UN (for example, in all urgency, in Israel, but also elsewhere)." (more)

-"The Interpreters of Maladies: Maxime Rodinson and Jacques Derrida," by Adam Shatz

There is also a subtle reflection (and good summary of the "culture wars" context endlessly re-hashed by the gross Jonathan Kandell obituary), penned by one Ross Benjamin, a dear friend.

Update: Some more thoughts on Brian Leiter here.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Descent of Man

For my own part I would as soon be descended form that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon, who descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs--as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason permits us to discover it; and I have given evidence to the best of my ability. We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system--with all these exalted powers--Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

-Charles Darwin

Jesus Freaks

I would like to extend a warm welcome to the fine folks at Abundant Bible who are currently re-directing pas au-dela to their wonderful site. As proof of my good faith, and perhaps as a way of saving them the trouble, a choice cut for those who may have missed it:

(A brief summary)

This message may be called a road sign of warning. Some may look
at a sign that reads—THE BRIDGE IS OUT, and say, "Oh, someone is just
trying to scare us into taking another road; let's go on the same
way." They go on and plunge to their death. The sign was not meant to
scare people, but to warn them of impending danger. The sign was put
there, because someone cared and didn't want others to perish.
God wants you to know, WHEN YOU SEE THESE THINGS COME TO PASS (the
prophecies from the Bible in this message), KNOW YE THAT THE KINGDOM

Will Russia and some Arab nations invade Israel and the U.S.A. become
involved? Yes.

Will 1/4th of the world's population die? Yes.

Will there be a one-world system or global economy? Yes.

Will diseases increase such as AIDS? Yes.

Did you know the Bible tells us about what is happening?


People have said the end was near many times in the past—true. But
did you know the Bible shows us no prophecy of the latter days meant
anything until Israel was reborn into a nation? Did you know God's
Word indicates to us a generation would not pass from Israel's
rebirth, till all be fulfilled (which includes the Rapture, the
Tribulation, and Jesus Christ's return)? A generation could be as
little as 40 years or as much as 70 to 80 years (Note Parable of the
Fig Tree in site menu).

Many people have been preaching about the latter days of the end
times in churches, on radio, TV, and through books and magazines. Some
include Billy Graham, Hal Lindsey, Ray Brubaker, John Hagee, Zola
Levitt, Jack Van Impe, Peter Lalonde, and Tim LaHaye just to mention a
few. To those that understand the Bible, no explanation is needed. To
those that are prideful, self-centered, that love this world, that
despise God's correction, that are contentious or seeking the praise
of men rather than of God, no explanation is possible-ref Dan 12:4,
10; Mt 24:37, 39.

It has been said that it is virtually impossible for anyone to
make 11 straight predictions, 2000 years into the future. There is
only one chance in 8 x 10 to the 63rd power, or 80 with 63 zeros after
it that such a thing could be done. If such a set of predictions
existed, it would have to be the Word of God.

Consider, could you write eleven straight predictions that would
take place in the year 4000 A.D.?



"After" we believe on Jesus Christ, "after" we have repented of
our sins, we are commanded to be baptized by full immersion in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It is
BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED-Mk 16:16. Note, believing on Jesus comes
"before" water baptism. Infant baptism or any baptism prior to
repenting and believing on Jesus has no meaning. You cannot be
baptized into One on Whom you do not believe. It is written, FOR AS
3:27. Water baptism is by full immersion. As it is written, BURIED
WITH HIM (with Jesus) IN BAPTISM (or buried in the water)-Col 2:12,
ref Ro 6:4. Jesus commanded, GO YE THEREFORE, AND TEACH ALL NATIONS,
WORLD. AMEN-Mt 28:19,20.
Surrender means "you give up." You stop putting your will before
God's will. You allow Jesus (God's Word) to reign over you. You submit
to Jesus and let Him become the Lord of your life.
If you have not yet humbled yourself, and totally surrendered to
Jesus, and become as a little child (ref Mt 18:3), and continued
steadfast in the faith, I would suggest that NOW IS THE ACCEPTED TIME;
BEHOLD, NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION-2 Cor 6:2. Please submit to God,
say the prayer, and mean it with all of your heart. God loves YOU and

LIVE-Deut 30:19.

May God bless you.

Amen, and thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Dicks.

A Softer World

To: Human resources, The University of Victoria
Re: Linguistics Professor

I am applying to the position for university linguistics professor with your university, because while my love is language, it is also worth noting that language's love is me, for real, and it isn't as strange as it sounds because I think you will agree that while the verb love requires an agent of a living nature, language fills that requirement nicely – living as it does in the hearts and souls of every man, woman, child, and seeing eye dog that wanders this earth with a song in masculine, feminine, or neuter's possessive pronoun's heart and mind, and I feel that working in your university program, teaching undergrads and graduate students would not be the hell that this description evokes, but instead an opportunity to teach a love of language to a world that has decided to hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate, and hey, have you ever stopped to think that explicity is a much nicer word than explicitness on all fronts, at every border, in every way I feel this is true, and because I sat down to write them out, about a dozen times each, I feel I can speak with authority, using definiteness, definity, and seriously –it's just nicer I think, spiritually, though I'm still working on this study to try and prove it through polling of students at my current university, even though they just sort of stare at me all slack jawed, drool making the mad dash for a pavement that couldn't help but offer more in the way of intellectual stimulation than the chasm that is the modern undergraduate mind, that couldn't help but challenge the drool in a way that no English composition course could hope to, not in a world where universities are just as willing to hire professors who prescribe standard grammars as truer languages as they are to grant doctorates to such nincompoops with nonsense in their heads, no hearts in their chests, making me wonder about, well, don't think I haven't noticed that explicity has that little red underline in my word processor, my computer's way of endorsing those effers and their effing prescriptions, their nasal voices preaching "no prepositions at the ends of sentences, unless you have to, no split infinitives, no run on whatever, no this, no that," and I sincerely believe that they've cheated on their significant others, like I bet they've heard someone say something hateful toward the speech patterns of foreigners just learning English, and laughed, like I bet they've used the word "ebonics" knowing full well the condescending, racist nature of the word itself, relishing that root, "ebony", smiling at their coworkers from the African studies department in the hall, all the while having to consciously refrain from asking "what is it that be the up?" in perfect imitation of the phonetic transcripts they've been reading about in little journals, hate rags, and maybe they've picked up on the careful lexical selections in my anonymous letters, in the casual threats I leave on their answering machines, and no I can't promise that I won't physically attack these people if you hire me, but I can promise you this, I will be the best linguistics professor you've ever had, the professor that students recommend to one another, the new hotness, the rad, and in dark corners my colleagues over in the department of "Standard English is the one true lord," will fear the truth I bring to their students, my anger, my explicity.

Joey Comeau

(I hope he doesn't mind my posting of his stuff this way. If Joey responds to my email with any objections it will be most promptly removed. In any case, everyone go over there now and support his ass. He deserves it.

showing off

Today we know that the electronic image dominates over all other kinds of images. But even an electronic image could be an image of true collaboration, ergo, images as art of collaboration do not have "nationality." (Somewhere else, I talk about collaboration in terms not of artist/model but in terms of collaboration between artists: influences, intertextuality, originality as regulative, the joy to influence each other vs. the angst of influence, etc.) What happens is that today -- more than ever -- the medium or media itself becomes the message, the "gift", what remains to be seen, felt, understood. There is no real symbolic exchange, dialogue, collaboration, because it is mainly about the performance of separate techniques, a showing off instead of participation in the visible. But there are many happy exceptions in "media-art," "performance," etc. (more)

- "Steps Toward A Small Theory of the Visible" (for Yves), by John Berger (via)

speaking of which...

Adam Zagajewski


Bent under burdens which sometimes
can be seen and sometimes can't,
they trudge through mud or desert sands,
hunched, hungry,

silent men in heavy jackets,
dressed for all four seasons,
old women with crumpled faces,
clutching something a child, the family
lamp, the last loaf of bread?

It could be Bosnia today,
Poland in September '39, France
eight months later, Thuringia in '45,
Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt.

There's always a wagon or at least a wheelbarrow
full of treasures (a quilt, a silver cup,
the fading scent of home),
a car out of gas marooned in a ditch,
a horse (soon left behind), snow, a lot of snow,
too much snow, too much sun, too much rain,

and always that distinctive hunch
as if leaning towards another, better planet,
with less ambitious generals,
less snow, less wind, fewer cannons,
less History (alas, there's no
such (alas, there's no
such planet, just that hunch).

Shuffling their feet,
they move slowly, very slowly
toward the country of nowhere,
and the city of no one
on the river of never.

-Translated by Clare Cavanagh
Adam Zagajewski

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Michael Dare, with camera

Tom Waits For Nobody But Me (I can relate to this vain, strange young man)
Andy Kaufman's Last Performance (sadly, my own friends often fail to place my rather frequent Andy Kaufman imitations, thus further contributing to the weirdness factor)
and other poloroid-nick adventures by Michael Dare. (thanks)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Power of Nightmares

By all accounts this is a "must-see" documentary (and a truly exceptional reason to be PROUD OF BRITAIN)...

The deep influence of Leo Strauss’s ideas on the current architects of US foreign policy has been referred to, if sporadically, in the press (hence an insider witticism about the influence of “Leo-cons”). Christopher Hitchens, an ardent advocate of the war, wrote unashamedly in November 2002 (in an article felicitously titled Machiavelli in Mesopotamia) that:

“[p]art of the charm of the regime-change argument (from the point of view of its supporters) is that it depends on premises and objectives that cannot, at least by the administration, be publicly avowed. Since Paul Wolfowitz is from the intellectual school of Leo Strauss – and appears in fictional guise as such in Saul Bellow’s novel Ravelstein – one may even suppose that he enjoys this arcane and occluded aspect of the debate.”

Perhaps no scholar has done as much to illuminate the Strauss phenomenon as Shadia Drury. For fifteen years she has been shining a heat lamp on the Straussians with such books as The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (1988) and Leo Strauss and the American Right (1997). She is also the author of Alexandre Kojève: the Roots of Postmodern Politics (1994) and Terror and Civilization (forthcoming).

She argues that the central claims of Straussian thought wield a crucial influence on men of power in the contemporary United States. She elaborates her argument in this interview...(more at Information Clearing House)

I.C.H. also has a very readable introductory piece: How We Got Into This Imperial Pickle: A PNAC Primer. Highly recommended.


Just a quick post before the mandatory "thankful" gluttany. I confess that I have not read much Hardt and Negri, or read them well, but lately I have been absorbed by the reviews in this issue of ACME. The review by Moore may be a bit harsh and off the mark, but

"Today the enemy, just like war itself, comes to be at once banalized (reduced to an object of routine police repression) and absolutized (as the Enemy, an absolute threat to the ethical order)" (Hardt and Negri, 2001, 12).

As perceptive as the above description may be, we are faced today with a series of American global strategies that not only shed doubt on the successful realization of Empire (in the fashion imagined by Hardt and Negri) but that, increasingly, appear to be heading in a rather different direction. What Empire does the Bush administration have in mind? Is the war on terror actually the sign of a retreat from the realisation of Empire? Is it a return to Modernity? A way to militarise its crisis? Does not the unilateral turn of the US administration over the past two years negate the very principles of Empire (based within a recognition of global law and order as prescribed by international organisations)? Does not the US administrations decision to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol, and from the anti-ballistic missile treaty, its failure to ratify the Rio pact on biodiversity, its reactionary opposition to the ban on landmines, the biological warfare convention and the creation of the international criminal court, its progressive delimination of the United Nations and its new vision of Nato's world role--do not all of these actions fundamentally undermine the realisation of Empire's global geography? Are we not being faced, perhaps, with an attempt to create a counter-Empire, characterised by a militarised globalisation and monolithic imperialism--a far cry from the domination of a bio-political system of uncertain boundaries and high mobility that Hardt and Negri describe--and invite us to combat, "from the inside"?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Ohio, Ukraine

From The Free Press:

How a Republican election supervisor manipulated the 2004 central Ohio vote, in black and white
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
November 23, 2004

The Republican head of the Board of Elections in Franklin County, Ohio, manipulated the supply of voting machines on November 2, denying thousands of likely Democrats the right to cast their votes in a fair and timely manner.

As indicated in the sworn testimony below, offered here for the first time, the election was engineered to make voting as difficult as possible for inner city residents, and to drive away those who could not afford to stay away from work or families, or whose health made it imprudent or impossible to endure the long, cold, wet lines.

Amidst one of the hottest presidential elections in US history, voters in Columbus, capitol of Franklin County and of Ohio, faced 35 separate ballot choices. Eleven were extensively worded Issue questions. For Columbus voters, it was one of the longest ballots in history. Yet in many inner city precincts, the Republican-run Board of Elections demanded voters cast their ballots within five minutes after waiting in many cases more than three hours.

In addition to deciding whether George W. Bush would get another term in the White House, inner city voters faced Issue One, amending the Ohio Constitution to ban gay marriage and other forms of civil union. They also had to read through eight infrastructure bond issues, a zoo levy and a school levy.

The man running the show in Franklin County was Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroder, former head of the county's Republican Party. Damschroder now admits that at least 77 of his machines (out of 2866) malfunctioned on Election Day. The most infamous has been the machine in Gahanna Ward One-B that registered 4258 for George W. Bush in a precinct where only 638 people voted.

Damschroder's official records also show that while desperate poll workers called his office throughout the day, at least 125 machines were held back at the opening of the polls and an additional 68 were never deployed. Thus while thousands of inner city voters stood in the rain, were told their cars would be towed, and were then forced to vote in five minutes or less, Damschroder sat on machines that could have significantly sped the process.

Put another way: if voters took ten seconds each to read and push the button for the 24 candidates on the ballot, it would take four minutes, leaving one minute to wade through long paragraphs describing eleven Issues, including one of the most complex and controversial amendments ever offered to the Ohio Constitution.

Census data indicates that the suburban areas have higher levels of literacy and educational achievement. This suggests that in a fairly administered election, there should have been more machines in the central city to avoid rushing voters through the ballot after a 2-7 hour wait in line, mostly in a driving rain.

Despite an increase of 25% in voter turnout, 29% of precincts in Columbus had fewer machines than in the 2000 election.

The testimony below was sworn under oath at the Monday, November 15, 2004 hearing at the Franklin County Courthouse. Note the clear discrepancies between the voting experience in the affluent white suburban areas of Franklin and Delaware counties versus the conditions in the wards of Columbus' central city, where the heavy majority was expected to vote Democratic..." (more)

via The Collective Lounge

In other, entirely unrelated news, A Fistful of Euros has good coverage of the impending revolution(?) in Ukraine.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Here is a poem written by Julia at Eagle's Wing:

I seem to be a seagull flying in the air,
but I really am a scare crow just sitting there,
I seem to be a house sitting there,
but I am really a book sitting there,
I seem to be a scientist,
but I am a poet writing all day and I am.

-Julia, age 9

Hey, I used to write poems too. So in the spirit of friendly competition:

My Holstein Cat

My holstein cat is a riot.
He is black and white.
He is as graceful as a kite
flying through the sky.
He sits in the tall grass
and waits.
Then, like a timb bomb finally
about to go off
he leaped into the air
as a leaf floated down.
And he only catches the ground
as he lands with a Thud!
And he just gets up and waits
in the tall grass
until something comes by to chase.

-Matt Christie, age 7

Ok, she wins. Here is another of her poems:


I am a blackboard there
are some ways I don't like
being a blackboard
do you know this white thing
makes marks on me it really
hurts those people are crazy
I get cleaned by this black thing
they put fingers on my face sometimes
those boys punch me with their fist
they get in trouble anyway I
hate this woman she presses very
hard with the white thing I will
have a horrible day for sure

-Julia, age 9

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ukraine: Puti-Poot Cites Exit Polls

"It's true I congratulated a candidate, but not according to the official results -- according to projections from exit polls," Putin said.

More intelligent than either Atrios or Daily Kos, Max is still speaking. But never fear (fear!) because Homeland Security is hear to indoctrinate your kids:
"We don't think this will be any different than anything else parents have been asked to do for a long, long time," Ridge said. "This is only a difficult subject if the parents make it a difficult subject."

The new campaign is part of a government effort to get families to plan for emergencies. In one ad, three siblings ask whether they should go to a neighbor's house and how to keep in touch if the phones are out.

An adult voiceover says: "There's no reason not to have a plan in case of a terrorist attack. And some extremely good reasons why you should." It refers parents to www.ready.gov for information.(via)

One might reasonably object that the language of the add is severely misleading; "we" are, after all, not at war with terrorists but with terra itself. Things are only going to get worse. In fact, the Cunt administration is counting on it. If things get better, they lose the "justification" for their extreme and radical agenda. But apologies for belaboring the obvious.

More worthy of attention, Dialogic points to an intriguing journal called, Killing the Buddha. An article therein particularly noted :
A vociferous congregant or a member of the church's "prayer team" bellowed "yes" after Ssempa made each point. All the while, live musical accompaniment and the "prayer team" singers successfully encouraged the congregants to throw in praises and claps of their own.

My favorite number, in Luganda, featured alternating sections of slow burn and intense fury that brought the crowd to its feet and had them dancing in the aisles. It boasted a chorus of "Hallelujah, amen, They will ask where the savedees got to after they're gone…"

No one required the punchline to that prayer, but Ssempa delivered it anyway, to take his flock higher: "Jesus, you are everything that we love. May we never lose you. May we never forget you. May we always raise you up," he preached. "You are the reason for our existence. You created the heavens and the earth. We exist to worship you, O God. We were created to love you. We were created to magnify you."

Lately he’s been magnifying others as well. When Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ made its way to Uganda earlier this year, Ssempa called on friends and associates to give him enough bankroll so that he could hand out free tickets to the movie to tastemakers and the media.

In a city where a movie costs about $5 and a good monthly salary reaches about $500, Ssempa enabled thousands of non-skeptical moviegoers to absorb the largest passion play the world has ever known. In fact, The Passion shattered box-office records in Kampala by selling out for three consecutive weeks, which probably wouldn't have happened without the pastor's zealous promotion.

"Why would I want people to watch it? It's my business. It's my business as an evangelist and a preacher of Jesus Christ to let people know, 'Hey, this is Jesus. Make an informed decision,'" Ssempa told me at his base of evangelical operations, the White House, a drop-in ministry center. "They do not know who he is, what he did, how he did it, the pain he went through. They make a decision to reject Christ ignorantly. Mel Gibson gave us good information through a multimedia presentation. Thank God, we live in the day and age of pictures and cinema to show this."

Ok, maybe this article is a bit more interesting:
Agnosticism, then, is in its origins the edited atheism of a fastidious mind. It is a slim concept, a sort of supplement. What has lately begun to happen, however, is that other, less fastidious minds have begun to grant it a more robust, more relevant sense. It is not unreasonable to assume, on the one hand, that a point of true compromise between faith and atheism cannot be found. Tolerance and ecumenism may gesture toward such a point. And yet their influence, in the end, may serve only to underscore the difference: that one either is or is not a person of faith.

Suppose, though, that such a compromise, a balsam for our partisan scars, were possible. Suppose the discovery of the tertium quid, the third spiritual thing. Agnosticism has been dislodged and its meaning lifted into flux. The forces behind this shift may derive from the need, felt dimly by those on either side, for something like a genuine middle ground. Where Huxley was circumspect, the New Agnosticism offers a generous welcome. It is ecumenism drawn out almost to the vanishing point. Any tradition, any myth, perhaps even a persistent sense of gratitude, will do. Can this be the properly modern form of faith?

-"The New Agnosticism" by Ben Rutter


(image is click-able)

I have applied for several positions with The Center for American Progress. If anyone has further advice or insight into this group, please do not be shy.

In other news, the R&R (that's "Rump and Residue") DNC has finally jumped the recount bandwagon in Ohio, and The Orifice of Homeland Absurdity is a new and growing site worth a look, as may be this forthcoming journal: Cultural Politics, for those digging hoittoit PMS. I am disappointed to see that ANSWER is the group leading January 20 anti-inauguration protests. As n+1 once opined, the protestors have already, once again, "mobilized around a zero." For the record, this blog will never post photos of Cunt clowning with foreign leaders with his fly down, or playing Mao on billboards, as Cunt does not, despite the redundancy of his delusions, set my standards. Incidentally, n+1 has issued a fresh mandate, which I may take up:
From here on out, we are only going to publish things that suck. Did you hear that, everyone? Our former guidelines were complicated and ambiguous ("only that which, generically, cannot appear in the print issue," etc.), but this one is beautifully simple: only that which sucks. If you've written something that sucks, please send it, and up it goes.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Richard Rorty on Derrida

Mr. Rorty has been kind enough to not only reply to my email request, but also attach what appears to be a working version of a piece he wrote for THES (bugmenot required). One hopes to be forgiven if his original title at least is here retained.

A Playful Philosopher

Richard Rorty
Published: 12 November 2004

Derrida made it possible for us to think of philosophy as, among other things, a symptom of obsessional neurosis. Heidegger had read the history of Western philosophy as a series of increasingly desperate attempts to achieve what Derrida called "a fundamental immobility and a reassuring certitude... beyond the reach of play". Freud had associated such yearnings with the compulsion to keep washing one's hands, or to inspect food for minute particles of forbidden substances, or to worry that the efficacy of a religious ritual might be impaired by the impure thoughts of the celebrant. Derrida wove Heidegger and Freud together. He referred to them as his "two grandfathers".

Most of the canonically great philosophers have shared an almost manic desire to achieve an impossible purity. When William James argued that the search for truth could not be disentangled from the attempt to fulfil human needs, and that therefore "the trail of the human serpent is over all", Bertrand Russell rejected the imputation of inevitable sliminess. "The free intellect," Russell said, "will see as God might see, without a here and now, without hopes and fears... calmly, dispassionately, in the sole and exclusive desire of knowledge - knowledge as impersonal, as purely contemplative, as it is possible for man to attain." Such attempts to imitate God were described by Heidegger as denials of human finitude.

Derrida, picking up on Freud, characterised them as expressions of phallogocentrism - of the conviction that the human intellect must stand proudly erect, towering above the squishy world of hope and fear, displaying the clean-cut, virile autonomy that is its birthright.

In a witty and brilliant essay called "White mythology", Derrida describes what happens when philosophers obsessed with purity turn their attention to language. They typically try to cleanse discourse of any trace of metaphor.

Derrida thought this ludicrous. His essay shows that the Western philosophical tradition itself was a tissue of imaginative metaphors, and none the worse for that. His larger point is that words gain their fluctuating meanings from the fluctuating contexts in which people put them. What matters are the relations between those contexts, not the relation of words to reality. Many of us read Derrida as echoing Wittgenstein's suggestion that we stop asking about meaning and start asking about use. As long as you can figure out how somebody is using a word, and how her use differs from yours, there is no point worrying about whether she is misusing it.

The philosopher Samuel Wheeler has pointed out the similarities between Derrida's critique of Husserl, Quine's critique of Russell and Davidson's critique of Quine. I have emphasised the similarities between Derrida's view and that of Robert Brandom. For Brandom, the fact that no two people have quite the same background beliefs means they never draw exactly the same inferences from the same assertion. We should conclude, he argues, that no two uses of a sentence ever have exactly the same import. Derrida would have agreed. This is not to say that rational discourse is impossible, or that the intention of the author of a text can never be discovered. But Derrida and Brandom think we can get along without the sort of fixity that philosophers have obsessed over. Analytic philosophers who insist on stability of meaning think that unless they can convict opponents of misusing words (and therefore of "conceptual confusion"), they will be unable to defend Truth and Reason against their cultured despisers. Those of us who agree with Derrida and Brandom, however, are content to say that complaints that words are "misused" or "used metaphorically" are just invitations to the participants in the conversation to try to reach agreement about which inferences should be drawn from which assertions. To ask that words be used literally is simply to ask that certain inferential relationships be held stable for the duration of the argument.

It is a pity that discussion of Derrida so often gets bogged down in attempts to answer the question: What is deconstruction? I have often wished that Derrida had just admitted that the word "deconstruction" had outlived whatever usefulness it might have had. It would be best to get rid of the idea of a "deconstructive method", for the last thing that philosophy needs is a new method to replace Kantian transcendental reflection, Husserlian eidetic reduction, Russellian logical analysis, and all the others that promised so much and delivered so little. But just as the first generation of Nietzsche's readers usually described him as "the philosopher of the superman", so the first generation of Derrida's insisted on thinking of him as "the philosopher of deconstruction".

The work of Nietzsche and Derrida was picked up initially by the wrong handle. Most contemporary readers of Nietzsche think that his importance does not lie in his occasional fantasies about Übermenschen, but rather in the story he told about the unfortunate effects of Plato's obsession with fixity and certainty, and in his description of Western philosophers as "ascetic priests" - people who invoke the form-matter, mind-body, objective-subjective, and reality-appearance distinctions to make other people feel impure and ashamed. Heidegger folded that story into his own larger account of the Western intellectual tradition, and Derrida folded Heidegger's into his still larger and more imaginative one. Though I find all three stories illuminating, I have never found either Heidegger's or Derrida's jargon helpful. I have not been able to make much use of expressions such as Ereignis, Wahrheit des Seins, différance or trace. Yet I feel greatly indebted to Heidegger and Derrida for enabling me to read the canonical works of Western philosophy with fresh eyes. Unlike the mean-spirited Nazi Heidegger, though, Derrida was not only a good social democrat, but a generous and tolerant man. Like Kierkegaard, he had a bubbling wit and the ability to make fun of himself.

Richard Rorty is professor of comparative literature and philosophy at Stanford University.

As published in The Higher Education Supplement.

There is also a somewhat less hospitable piece by Simon Blackburn. (Login: Johantorre, Johan)

Onward, Christian Soldiers!

Onward, Christian soldiers! Duty's way is plain;
Slay your Christian neighbors, or by them be slain,
Pulpiteers are spouting effervescent swill,
God above is calling you to rob and rape and kill,
All your acts are sanctified by the Lamb on high;
If you love the Holy Ghost, go murder, pray and die.
Onward, Christian soldiers! Rip and tear and smite!
Let the gentle Jesus bless your dynamite.
Splinter skulls with shrapnel, fertilize the sod;
Folks who do not speak your tongue deserve the curse of God.
Smash the doors of every home, pretty maidens seize;
Use your might and sacred right to treat them as you please.

Onward, Christian soldiers! Eat and drink your fill;
Rob with bloody fingers, Christ okays the bill,
Steal the farmers' savings, take their grain and meat;
Even though the children starve, the Savior's bums must eat,
Burn the peasants' cottages, orphans leave bereft;
In Jehovah's holy name, wreak ruin right and left.

Onward, Christian soldiers! Drench the land with gore;
Mercy is a weakness all the gods abhor.
Bayonet the babies, jab the mothers, too;
Hoist the cross of Calvary to hallow all you do.
File your bullets' noses flat, poison every well;
God decrees your enemies must all go plumb to hell.

Onward, Christian soldiers! Blight all that you meet;
Trample human freedom under pious feet.
Praise the Lord whose dollar sign dupes his favored race!
Make the foreign trash respect your bullion brand of grace.
Trust in mock salvation, serve as tyrant's tools;
History will say of you: "That pack of God damn fools."

- John Kendrick
Not a popular man

Critical Art Ensemble

It is suggested that to show support this Holiday season for the Critical Arts Ensemble's efforts that you address a blank post card to a Senator or Representative with an inverted american flag postage stamp licked on both sides. Any additional body fluids are optional. May I suggest a kiss or two from strangers made aware of this plight.

p.s. Be sure to leave only your fingerprints and DNA as a return address.
-m. clarren

Art as Next Terrorist Suspect

Nataša Petrešin

Due to an overall danger of various forms of terrorism, paranoia as a state-of-the-art has developed after 9/11 into an actual reality of the globalised world, the one which is burdened by the past colonial, social and psychological exploitation of the inferior or minor layers of society and by the ever-present cultural and capital hegemony of the First World over the Third World. What is happening before our eyes, which are pinned to the mass media and the World Wide Web, seems like the most tasteless and worst case scenario, yet we all participate in it. The narrow-mindedness of the most powerful states that still decide the fate of most geopolitical situations on our planet includes searching for scapegoats. The search allows them to avoid (and for how long?) all real, effective and realisable solutions, ones that in any case are not in their interests. Dr. Steven Kurtz, the founder of the art collective Critical Art Ensemble and associate professor at the art department of the University of Buffalo, and Dr. Robert Ferrell, Kurtz’s collaborator and professor of genetics at the University in Pittsburgh, charged with mail and wire fraud in a federal court arraignment in Buffalo this spring, are such scapegoats in an absurd and terrifying court process. The trial, which is actually only now beginning, brings forth catastrophic consequences to the freedom of creativity and artistic expression, to unrestrained artistic and interdisciplinary research, and to the right of all individuals and lay audiences to knowledge concerning the biopolitical mechanisms that directly steer the course of bare life.

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is an art collective consisting of five activists coming from the fields of computer graphics, performance, photography, film, video and text art. Since the foundation of the collective in 1987, they have been one of the key elements in international theoretic discourse and artistic activist practice, civil disobedience, resistance and the basic right to knowledge. The group has been exploring the kinships between art, science, technology, political activism and critical theory. Their artistic mission involves interventions, introducing the potential of tactical media, capital and power in the information society. Most recently they have revealed the strategies, interests, dangers and manipulations with which hermetically sealed scientific circles and the escalating development of the biotechnological industry are misleading the public. Critical Art Ensemble has defined the role of the artist as one according with the transforming nature of engaged art. They see the artistic position and function as an operation by a public amateur within a system of transparent financial support for the arts and visibility in the public domain. Working as a collective for many years, they have created performative, interactive and participatory projects, advocated the methodology of and necessity for interdisciplinary research and published five books.

In recent years, CAE has unfailingly demystified the strategies of the biotechnological industry in their participatory projects, wherein they develop practical models and situations where the audience can confront its own fear of science: "By interacting with us and our models [where the audience can develop harmless transgenic bacteria, raise bacteria found within their bodies and take them home, or observe the process of identifying genetically modified organisms in the most common food products] they hopefully developed some understanding of the potential risks involved in the positive use of transgenic organisms." Acting out the role of amateur biotechnicians and scientists, the collective's own term for their performative methodology is "contestational biology initiative". This format has allowed them to investigate the methods, equipment and databases of the professional scientific sphere in search for answers to politicised questions about the representation and control of food products that the biotechnological industry has achieved under the supervision of multinational companies. In these projects, analogical to their earlier critical projects about the Internet, tactical media and hacktivism, Critical Art Ensemble have succeeded in establishing their main thesis about the necessity and right of all individuals to information, about "knowledge as a commons which is as vital as the air that we breathe.".

Critical Art Ensemble

Update: Visit the Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund.


What should one do in order to read everything? And even if one can read everything here, quoting everything "integrally" once more, the everything would still be missing... I turn some three pages and read again: " he/it: at the border of writing [il: au bord de l'écriture]...".
It-paralyses it. Is this the coat of arms of his name, this "barred zero, heraldic"? of his name without name (not Without-Name, this is still too much), or equally, of an anonymous island, bordered on every side, as the borders of the o or the o of the borders, without any other quality or determination, white or black island, white water [eau]/black water, zero degree of the appearance, of the first step [pas] or of the first word, when this begins to walk or to speak, to heave up upon itself or to raise its voice. The white and the black are just as suitable to this o of the name without name. Isn't the eau, white or black, the o, clear or obscure, day/night, this double zero, this "equal power of the 0 and the 2 in the distance not marked and not measurable as difference", this equal power that the Eternal Return neither permits nor identifies, nor resembles, nor excludes the one nor the other? Thinking of the o, I then allow myself to drift towards what he says about 0/2 in Le pas au-delà, or about the "word-gap" in L'Entretien infini ("a hole-word, hollowed out in its centre by a hole, the hole in which all the other words should have been buried": so he quotes Marguerite Duras and he [il] is this word-gap, "immense, endless, an empty gong", he is the "narrative voice"), but there is also a similar hole in all names, in all words, in his name, in his words hollowed out by the o at [p. 110] their centre (le bord [border], la bouche [mouth], le mot [the word], le mort [death, the dead], le trou [gap], le nom [name, noun], le non [no], le moment [moment]). The double colour (white/black) of the o, the opposition day/night is effaced without confusion in the night remarked upon as follows: "All that which Anne still loved [...] were called the night. All that which Anne hated [...] were called night. Absolute night where there were no longer contradictory terms, where those who suffered were happy, where white found a common substance with black. And yet, night without confusion..." I read this in Thomas l'Obscur which you [vous] described, at the moment when, from the start, from first word, "Thomas sat down and looked at the sea", as a genesis of colour, from the "absolute night" "where white found a common substance with black. And yet, night without confusion..."


(hat tip).

(courtesy of)
Also of note: Found Photos (hat tip).

Sunday, November 21, 2004

nothing is inevitably

"Police learn to use big guns, thanks to Homeland Security":
"Vermont is not the community it was 10 years ago," said Williston Police Detective Sgt. Bart Chamberlain. Several times a year officers need the big guns when they go on ever-more volatile drug raids. "Unfortunately, we are starting to use these more and more."

Well if it is inevitable...then I suppose you must!
The four-day training course was courtesy of the Federal Protective Service, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for law enforcement in 84 federal buildings in Vermont.

"We are training for a worst case scenario," said Inspector Paul McManus of the Federal Protective Service. "It's better to have the skills and not need it than need it and not have it."

Right, because this is a whole new kind of wargame here, where the worst imaginable excesses of the entirely predictable are reflexively dignified, encouraged, and all but insured as the entirely inevitable. Just as Iraq now being a hotbed of terrorist activity further justifies the US presence there, one supposes. Meanwhile, the compassionate destruction of Fallujah may have indeed just prevented anything resembling respectable elections from taking place (as the invaluable Juan Cole points out), Bin Laden has been granted official religious sanction to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons by a Saudi sheik, and nukular-crazed neo-cons are claiming a "mandate" from God and vowing to spend "political capital" they have "earned" from "the people." Things could probably be going a little better in the shared world.
"This is a lot of fun," McManus said, outfitted in a black jumpsuit, magazines to his AR15 rifle strapped to his chest, and a black hood over his head.

But it's work they spent hours outside in the cold, firing shoulder to shoulder. More than one of the officers received minor burns from the hot shells that were ejected onto their necks from their neighbor's weapon.

My, how erotic.
"I have learned a lot," said Chamberlain, the Williston officer. "One of the benefits of when you are out here for two days is you can do the repetitions. It takes three (thousand) to five-thousand repetitions to embed it in your long-term memory, so you don't have to think about it."

Thinking? What's the purpose of thinking? Isn't that something comedians used to do?

n.b. No, he has not been reading Wonkette.

further PSYOPS watch

From Philosophy Now, Douglas Gearhart, in an article entitled "Humanism on the Front Line", writes:
...A man far from home has no neighbors. This is one of the more chilling realities of human behavior during war. For a soldier far from home, war quickly distills and separates the core ‘Self’ from the biographical self of their normal civilian identity. In Iraq, hordes of young troops unmoored from their normal worlds, well armed, and in a position of awesome power, perhaps more power over human life than they could ever have previously imagined, are thrust into a land of chaos and confusion. Normal life, the adornments and habits of everyday life that define one’s civilian identity, are packed away along with civilian clothes. When you strip away the layers of this everyday-life ‘self’, the core had better be sound. Training the core of a person is what we might call instilling a sense of ethics, morals or values. We are all ethically fuzzy and the core shows its face on war’s vast moral playing field.

The military trains soldiers and not philosophers. War is far from the secure walls of the academy. Among other things, war is exhausting, filthy, terrifying, and stressful. After you have gone through the experience, you tend to look askance at anyone who utters such things as, “Man, I really worked my ass off today”; or, “My life is so stressful,” particularly when the speaker is an academic or someone in the professional class. It is no disparagement of or diminishment of anyone’s legitimate daily struggles, but a reminder of the peace and safety we generally take for granted in the universe of our ‘normal lives.’


Thucydides wrote in his History of the Peloponnesian War that the reality of power between states is, “the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.” Armies operate as an extension of state power, but in a free society where our soldiers are volunteers and not conscripts, they meet their situations as individuals with values and a moral core absorbed through a variety of sources. Their behavior affects the hopes for fellowship across cultures, languages, and religions. From the security of our normal lives, we can bemoan and criticize the invasion of Iraq. But we must never forget that everyday, essentially decent young men and women face the most challenging situations and dilemmas they will ever encounter. They are far from their homes and neighbors. What will guide them?

I challenge philosophers and humanists to develop a work that targets this audience. The soldiers need your help if they cannot get it from their leadership. As humanists and free thinkers we need to get our message into the hearts and minds of those young soldiers who are becoming the diplomats of the free world, for better or for worse.


If you're not outraged, YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.


A letter sent to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Justice who is also Canada's Attorney General, asking that Bush's planned visit be cancelled and that Bush be declared a persona non grata.

Dear Prime Minister Martin:

It was with absolute dismay that we learned of the planned visit of
President Bush to Canada on November 30th 2004.

Surely you are aware of the many grave crimes against humanity and war
crimes for which President Bush stands properly accused by the world,
starting with the Nuremberg Tribunal's 'supreme international crime' of
waging an aggressive war against Iraq in defiance of international law and
the Charter of the United Nations, and including systematic and massive
violations of the Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners
of War and Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, as
well as the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As recently as November 16,
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former war crimes prosecutor
Louise Arbour called for an investigation into crimes against the Geneva
Conventions in the assault by US forces on the densely populated city of

The terrible toll in life and limb of these crimes was documented in a study
carried out by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in
Baltimore and published in the October 29, 2004 issue of the British Medical
Journal The Lancet which conservatively estimated that the war had taken
100,000 Iraqi lives, mostly women and children. This was well within the
range predicted before the war, for example by a British affiliate of
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War who, in November
2002, assessed the probable death toll at a minimum of 48,000 deaths, mostly
civilians, and predicted that post-war conditions would cost an additional
200,000 lives.

The President's responsibility for these offences derives not only from his
'command responsibility' as Commander in Chief of US forces, for crimes that
he knew were being committed, or ignored through willful blindness, but did
nothing to prevent; it also comes from his direct involvement in the
formulation of policy. This includes his personal involvement not only in
the devising and waging of an aggressive, illegal war, but also of the
unlawful refusal to grant prisoner of war status to prisoners of war,
contrary to specific provisions of the Geneva Conventions, an act repudiated
in the US Courts. It also includes the approval of techniques of
interrogation by his direct subordinate, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, that
legally and morally constitute torture and that led directly to the
disgraceful violence against Iraqi prisoners, for example at the prison at
Abu Ghraib.

As you know, not only are these acts criminal under international law, but
many of them are also criminal under Canadian law, under laws enacted in
pursuance of our international obligations, most importantly the Crimes
Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, put in place just four years ago under
a Liberal government. They also violate the provisions on torture in the
Canadian Criminal Code.

By these laws, Canadians and non-Canadians alike are liable to prosecution
in Canada, no matter where in the world they have committed their crimes.

Furthermore, as the Attorney General can advise, the fact that these crimes
have been committed by Mr. Bush while President of the United States is
absolutely irrelevant to his personal liability to prosecution in Canada,
according to principles established at Nuremberg and universally recognized
since then, including by the British House of Lords in the Pinochet case in
1999. And if President Bush were to visit Canada after leaving office, we
would be seeking the Attorney General's permission under section 9 of the
Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act and section 7 of the Criminal
Code to commence proceedings against him.

However, as you also know, should President Bush come to Canada now, while
still President, he would be clothed with both diplomatic and head of state
immunity from our laws and we would be powerless to bring him to justice.

Your invitation in these circumstances, therefore, shows contempt for both
Canadian and international law and is a grievous insult to the literally
hundreds of thousands of victims of President Bush's international crimes.

It is also our belief that the invitation endangers Canadians' security at
home and abroad, because it is a departure from our steadfast refusal to
this point to participate in this criminal war of the Bush administration.
In fact, it is our belief that this invitation can only act as an
encouragement to President Bush in his continuing criminal activity,
providing him with an important platform in this, his first post re-election
foreign visit, to defend illegal US actions in Iraq and to improve his
international standing despite them, all this against the wishes of the
majority of Canadians.

Indeed, we feel bound to point out that your invitation to President Bush
may thus constitute an abetting of the crimes he and his administration and
military continue to commit. As such you and your colleagues could be
personally liable to prosecution under the Crimes against Humanity and War
Crimes Act by virtue of section 21 of the Canadian Criminal Code, for crimes
so serious that they are punishable in Canada by up to life imprisonment.

Abetting a crime, as the Attorney General will advise, is regarded as
equally criminal to actually committing it and is complete when one
intentionally, knowingly, or with willful blindness encourages the
commission of a crime by another.

Nor would President Bush's immunity be capable of shielding you and your
colleagues from prosecution, because, as the Attorney General will advise,
the immunity applies only to foreign officials visiting Canada and not to
members of the Canadian government itself. Nor does the inability to
prosecute a criminal affect the criminal liability of an abettor.
It is for all these reasons we urgently request a meeting with you, the
Foreign Minister, the Attorney General or your representatives in Ottawa, so
that we might have the opportunity to elaborate on these matters and to
persuade you to declare President Bush persona non grata in Canada, or at
least to rescind this invitation, and thus to avoid implicating yourselves
and Canada in the most serious of international crimes.


Michael Mandel and Gail Davidson on behalf of Lawyers against the War (LAW)
a Canada-based committee of jurists and others with members in thirteen

Michael Mandel, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, 4700
Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3. Tel: 416 736-5039, Fax:
416-736-5736, Email: MMandel@osgoode.yorku.ca

Protests in Santiago

Welcome to Chile, Mr. President (many more photos).
Unfortunately, while such protests may have had an effect on the likes of Kerry, they will certainly only reinforce and further entrench ––––'s worldview, at least in the short term, as this little incident suggests, and as tends to be the case with fundamentally insecure people more generally, especially when such traits are combinded with a seemingly embedded need for power and control.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

this one should get me in the Village Voice

Right up there with Marco Roth's, is this essay, subtitled: The late, great Derrida's last lectures had a mysterious double in the crowd. Somehow it's the pieces that are most anecdotal, ironic (gently), and precisely descriptive that reward the most. This one is relatively short, and quite funny (courtesy of here).

Apologies Accepted

A response site to sorryeverybody.com. Elsewhere, an alternative look at the sixties:
But the real power behind the sixties revolution was the Italian communist thinker Antonio Gramsci. For Gramsci grasped that the most effective means of overturning western society was to subvert its culture and morality. Instead of mobilising the working class to take over the world, the revolution would be achieved through a culture war, in which the moral beliefs of the majority would replaced by the values of those on the margins of society.

And this would be brought about by capturing all society’s institutions — schools, universities, churches, the media, the legal profession, the police, voluntary groups —and making sure that this intellectual élite all sang from the same subversive hymn-sheet. (courtesy of The Grand Hotel Abyss)

I might have substituted "hippies" for "sixties," myself.
Care to read a worthy blog? Check out Daniel Brett.

further journal watch

The New Formulation: An Anti-Authoritarian Review of Books carries this brief review of Michael Albert's important book, Parecon: Life After Capitalism and similar efforts. Constituent Imagination: Research + Resistance in the Global Justice Movement, edited by Stevphen Shukaitis, is calling for contributions
of essays and interviews as well visual contributions that explore the relation between research, resistance, and organization occurring in the global justice movement. That is, we wish to seek out the voices not of those who comment upon organizing from afar or from above, but engage in research and investigation from an engaged perspective and political praxis, people who take seriously the Zapatistas' concept of walking while asking questions. Contributors are encouraged to be creative with format and style (think beyond the generic academic paper format!). Please send your proposal of 500 words or less to proposals@constituentimagination.net by January 15th, 2005.

Elsewhere an edited abstract from one of Derrida's last speeches:
Caught between US hegemony and the rising power of China and Arab/Muslim theocracy, Europe has a unique responsibility. I am hardly thought of as a Eurocentric intellectual; these past 40 years, I have more often been accused of the opposite. But I do believe, without the slightest sense of European nationalism or much confidence in the European Union as we currently know it, that we must fight for what the word Europe means today. This includes our Enlightenment heritage, and also an awareness and regretful acceptance of the totalitarian, genocidal and colonialist crimes of the past. Europe’s heritage is irreplaceable and vital for the future of the world. We must fight to hold on to it. We should not allow Europe to be reduced to the status of a common market, or a common currency, or a neo-nationalist conglomerate, or a military power. Though, on that last point, I am tempted to agree with those who argue that the EU needs a common defence force and foreign policy. Such a force could help to support a transformed UN, based in Europe and given the means to enact its own resolutions without having to negotiate with vested interests, or with unilateralist opportunism from that technological, economic and military bully, the United States of America.

I would like to cite Ignacio Ramonet’s "Resistance", an editorial written for the 50th anniversary issue in May. I agree with every no and yes in that piece, but I would like to single out one yes for special emphasis: the yes to a less market-dominated Europe. To me, that means a Europe that is neither content merely to compete with other superpowers, nor prepared to let them do as they please. A Europe whose constitution and political stance would make it the cradle of counter-globalisation, its driving force, the way alternative ideas reach the world stage, for example in Iraq or Israel-Palestine. (courtesy of)

Bush Twins Kicked Out Of NY Restaurant For Four Years

Freemans tuesday night the 16th of nov. the bush twins along with 2 massive secret service men tried to have dinner they were told by the maitre 'd that they were full and would be for the next 4 years upon hearing the entire restaurant cheered and did a round of shots it was amazing!!! [Ed: We're hearing that this is actually true.] (source).

This treasonous assault on their freedoms will not stand!

Friday, November 19, 2004

the smiting of homosexuals

...received in an email this morning:

Thanks for the inspiration. We are working on a series of posters using Leviticus tag lines and it's accompanying literal imagery.

Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said "in the eyes of God marriage is based between a man a woman." I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however,regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that
this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have
tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision haveto be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is
eternal and unchanging.

Well it looks like the latest strategery in Fallujah may have obliterated any chances for elections. And our legislature is now officially a haven for proven criminals. About time, that. Protesters anticipating –––'s visit to Santiago are currently boning with police. "I am afraid of America. Because you are dangerous. You are the real terrorist," one said. To which the reported replied in her head, "Oh, don't be so silly. We're spreading freedom."

And we will continue to spread it in Iraq for the next decade or so, just as planned and predicted. This is my post for the early afternoon. Less cut and pasting on palimpsestual air coming soon.

Something Stinks: Further Anomalies Suggesting Vote Fraud

'Stinking Evidence' of Possible Election Fraud Found in Florida
by Thom Hartmann

Bev pointed out that the printouts given her were not the original poll tapes and had no signatures, and thus were not what she'd requested. Obligingly, they told her that the originals were held in another location, the Elections Office's Warehouse, and that since it was the end of the day they should meet Bev the following morning to show them to her.

Bev showed up bright and early the morning of Wednesday the 17th - well before the scheduled meeting - and discovered three of the elections officials in the Elections Warehouse standing over a table covered with what looked like poll tapes. When they saw Bev and her friends, Bev told me in a telephone interview less than an hour later, "They immediately shoved us out and slammed the door."

In a way, that was a blessing, because it led to the stinking evidence.

"On the porch was a garbage bag," Bev said, "and so I looked in it and, and lo and behold, there were public record tapes."

Thrown away. Discarded. Waiting to be hauled off.

"It was technically stinking, in fact," Bev added, "because what they had done was to have thrown some of their polling tapes, which are the official records of the election, into the garbage. These were the ones signed by the poll workers. These are something we had done an official public records request for."

When the elections officials inside realized that the people outside were going through the trash, they called the police and one came out to challenge Bev.

Kathleen Wynne, a www.blackboxvoting.org investigator, was there.

"We caught the whole thing on videotape," she said. "I don't think you'll ever see anything like this - Bev Harris having a tug of war with an election worker over a bag of garbage, and he held onto it and she pulled on it, and it split right open, spilling out those poll tapes. They were throwing away our democracy, and Bev wasn't going to let them do it."


When they compared the discarded, signed, original tapes with the recent printouts submitted to the state and used to tabulate the Florida election winners, Harris says a disturbing pattern emerged.

"The difference was hundreds of votes in each of the different places we examined," said Bev, "and most of those were in minority areas."

When I asked Bev if the errors they were finding in precinct after precinct were random, as one would expect from technical, clerical, or computer errors, she became uncomfortable.

"You have to understand that we are non-partisan," she said. "We're not trying to change the outcome of an election, just to find out if there was any voting fraud."

That said, Bev added: "The pattern was very clear. The anomalies favored George W. Bush. Every single time."

full article

Some important developments on Thursday, 18th November:

Berkeley Researchers Report "Unexplained Discrepancy" in FLA Vote Totals:

A research team at UC Berkeley reported Thursday morning that irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 - 260,000 or more in excess votes to President George W. Bush in Florida in the 2004 presidential election. The study showed an unexplained discrepancy between votes for President Bush in counties where electronic voting machines were used versus counties using traditional voting methods.

Discrepancies this large or larger rarely arise by chance -- the probability is less than 0.1 percent. The research team, led by Sociology Professor Michael Hout, formally disclosed the results of the study at a press conference and called for an immediate investigation by Florida officials.

The full study is available here.

Meanwhile, The Free Press is reporting on some tense public hearings in Ohio:

Highly-charged, jam-packed hearings held here in Columbus have cast serious doubt on the true outcome of the presidential election.

On Saturday, November 13, and Monday, November 15, the Ohio Election Protection Coalition’s public hearings in Columbus solicited extensive sworn first-person testimony from 32 of Ohio voters, precinct judges, poll workers, legal observers, party challengers. An additional 66 people provided written affidavits of election irregularities. The unavoidable conclusion is that this year's election in Ohio was deeply flawed, that thousands of Ohioans were denied their right to vote, and that the ultimate vote count is very much in doubt.


“In this past election, Kenyon College students and the residents of Gambier, Ohio, had to endure some of the most extenuating voting circumstances in the entire country. As many of you may already know, because they had it on national media attention, Kenyon students and the residents of Gambier had to stand in line up to 10 to 12 hours in the rain, through a hot gym, and crowded narrow lines, making it extremely uncomfortable. As a result of this, voters were disenfranchised, having class to attend to, sports commitments, and midterms for the next day, which they had to study for. Obviously, it is a disgrace that kids who are being perpetually told the importance of voting, could not vote because they had other commitments and had to be put up with a 12-hour line.”

Blackwell characterized Ohio’s Election Day as “tremendously successful” in the Washington Times. Several people at Saturday’s hearing said they’d like to hear Mr. Blackwell testify under oath, preferably under a criminal indictment.

full article

The reward for conclusive proof of election fraud has been doubled to $200,000.

[UPDATE: Kieran at Crooked Timber has taken up a detailed analysis of the Berkeley study, followed as always by knowledgeable debate and discussion.]

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Postcards from Fallujah

A blog composed of pictures "that probably won't be on your television" (courtesy of here). There is a global petition at occupationwatch.org for those so inclined.

There is a brief "history lesson about the town we are currently destroying" at In these Times:
The United States was once celebrated as a non-colonial, sometimes anti-colonial, power in the Middle East, renowned for more than a century for its educational, medical and charity efforts. Since the Cold War, however, the United States has intervened increasingly in the region’s internal affairs and conflicts. Things have changed fundamentally for the worse with the invasion and occupation of Iraq, particularly with the revelation that the core pretexts offered by the administration for the invasion were false. And particularly with growing Iraqi dissatisfaction with the occupation and with the images of the hellish chaos broadcast regularly everywhere in the world except in the United States—thanks to the excellent job done by the media in keeping the real human costs of Iraq off our television screens.


The stench of hypocrisy rises when the United States, a nation supposedly com-mit-ted to democratization and reform, does not hesitate to embrace dictatorial, autocratic and undemocratic regimes like those of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia and now even Libya, simply because they act in line with U.S. security concerns or give lucrative contracts to U.S. businesses. The United States claims to be acting in favor of democracy, yet embraces Qaddhafi! People in the Middle East notice this gap between word and deed—even if Americans don’t notice the things being done in our name.

David Walsh at World Socialist writes:
Not a single major voice has been raised in the American media against the ongoing destruction of Fallujah. While much of the world recognizes something horrifying has occurred, the US press does not bat an eye over the systematic leveling of a city of 300,000 people.

A journalist for the Times (London) described the scene the night the US onslaught began: “The districts comprising Fallujah’s perimeter—where most of the insurgents are concentrated—were already largely in ruins. The crumbling remains of houses and shell-pocked walls reminded me of my home town Beirut in the 1980s at the height of Lebanon’s civil war.... I began to count out loud as the bombs tumbled to the ground with increasingly monotonous regularity. There were 38 in the first half-hour alone. The bombing continued in waves until 5:15 a.m. as the American forces softened up their targets.”

And now? Buildings have been destroyed by the hundreds, corpses buried under many of them. A Christian Science Monitor reporter observes: “Some districts reeked from the sickening odor of rotting flesh, a stench too powerful to be swept away by a brisk breeze coming in from the sandy plain surrounding the city 40 miles west of Baghdad.

“A week of ground combat by Marines and some Iraqi troops, supported by tanks and attack helicopters, added to the destruction in a city where the homes and businesses for about 300,000 people are packed into an area a little less than 2 miles wide and a little more than 2 miles long. ... Cats and dogs scamper along streets littered with bricks, broken glass, toppled light poles, downed power lines, twisted traffic barriers and spent cartridges. Walls are full of bullet holes. Marines have blown holes in walls and knocked down doors to search homes and shops. Dead Iraqis still lay out in the open Monday.”

For all intents and purposes, the US military declared any male in Fallujah and any family unlucky enough to be caught in the hail of deadly fire legitimate targets for death. We will perhaps never know how many civilians have been slaughtered by US forces.

on the "at least" 800 Civilians Murdered in Fallujah

Someone from the Red Cross has allegedly leaked the story. What a trivializing way for one's death to be reported to the world - the truth of war and the substance (such as it is) of today's journalism so reduced to the quasi-detective story pop-porn of hushed "conspiracy theories" and anonymous sources. Has it ever been any other way? The radio just now relates that Margaret Hassan is most likely presumed killed. May I suggest channeling any sadness into anger, anger. Myself, I am pouring more coffee and turning through a few tears back to some reading. I was mistaken, it seems, in thinking Greg Palast would be on WAMC today. Alan Chartock does interview Paul Krugman. Loooking forward to The Book Show in half an hour.

From the Library of Social Science, an interesting article, The Soldier as Sacrificial Victim:
Many people claim to be astonished by terrorists who blow themselves up in the process of attempting to kill their enemies. Many would also find the
Aztec ritual of heart extraction shocking and painful to contemplate. Yet we
barely reflect upon our own suicidal political rituals, for example the
First World War in which nine million people were killed and twenty-two
million wounded. The vast casualties were the result of millions of men
acting precisely like contemporary terrorists: allowing their bodies to be
blown to bits as they attempted to blow up the bodies of their enemies.


In the West, we disguise the sacrificial meaning of warfare by pretending that the other nation is responsible for killing soldiers.

Joanna Bourke, in her book Dismembering the Male, observes that the most
important point to be made about the male body during the First World War
was that it was "intended to be mutilated." We view war as a drive for
conquest and outlet for energetic activity even as its fundamental purpose
and inevitable consequence is injury and death. We encourage the soldier's
delusion of masculine virility and call him a hero-in order to lure him into
becoming a sacrificial victim.

And a cute something on philosphy as therapy.

Dec embers

Spontaneous Arising (whose self-description alone warrants a click) seems convinced, among other things, that Kerry will launch a "December Surprise." A Yale Law School Dean dares to say the entirely obvious:

We should have had trained observers - computer scientists, not lawyers! - verifying the integrity of polling data from machine upload through the tabulation of countywide and statewide results (via metafilter).

And Dostoyevski has apparently found my blog. Therefore I post, and salute with dark glass, his portrait. Elsewhere, I am falling in love, but it is not love. The falling is good.

Monday, November 15, 2004

this and that

I very much agree with Mr. Sauer-Thompson - this new journal looks promising:
ACME is an on-line international journal for critical and radical analyses of the social, the spatial and the political. The journal's purpose is to provide a forum for the publication of critical and radical work about space in the social sciences - including anarchist, anti-racist, environmentalist, feminist, marxist, postcolonial, poststructuralist, queer, situationist and socialist perspectives.

- ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies

Relatedly, a new issue of Naked Punch Magazine (part of the Postanalytic Collective) is about to come out, and I have a feeling - call it a hunch - that it will be, at least in part, extremely well edited.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


A rather brilliant painting: American Fundamentalists (curse the image for the 1888 original) would of course risk naturalizing the Nth Coming if it wasn't already a parody. Relatedly, see TheocracyWatch.org. And speaking of the problem of irony, it seems Donald Rumsfeld is busy, as usual, nihilistically mangling the words, "patronizing" and "hypocritical" as he lectures El Salvadorians on their new historical narrative:
And the people of the United States, I must say, take special pride when having stood with you during those tough times and they were tough. I believe someday both of our countries, the people of both of our countries, will look back with pride on the role that you are now playing in helping the Iraqis on their paths to freedom and a more peaceful future. Today the Iraqi people are learning that our people, your people, discovered during our own struggle for independence and freedom, that the fight is not easy, it never is, that it requires patience and that it has costs.

And sometimes the struggle for freedom gives us heroes. Earlier this year and on Najaf in Iraq, a 16-member El Salvadoran squad came under the attack by assassins. El Salvadoran troops fought until they ran out of ammunition. I’m told that [Inaudible] they then fought against these criminals with their knives, holding on valiantly, until other coalition soldiers were able to help break through and come to their aid.

No comment.


A brief review of Vancouver: Representing the Postmodern City:
Postmodernism is a lot like a dog chasing its tail: it's always in sight, but just out of reach. Postmodernism is a product of itself, constantly trying to stay one step ahead of its detractors, constantly re-inventing itself and apologizing for it. To this end the last words go to Heesok Chang, who in his preface to "Allegories of Community" explains the book this way: "These essays---for example, this one---may just as well be read as a symptom of the spectacular culture it is attempting to diagnose." Indeed!

Free Culture

Lately the international student movement, Free Culture, has been receiving some well-deserved attention, in Wired Magazine among other places. This is a group that successfully sued Diebold Election Systems after the company misused the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to threaten Swarthmore students who posted copies and links to some 13,000 internal Diebold memos. On the Free Culture blog Nelson Pavlosky writes:

It’s about free speech and the ability to express yourself, not passive complaining about the homogenization of corporate media. That’s what makes us different from some other groups that oppose media consolidation. We don’t just want to break up the oligopolies, we want to create the technology and culture necessary for everyone to become an active participant, we want to be free to collaborate on and interact with and comment upon and remix the media around us. We want everyone to have their own digital printing press so that they can make their voices heard, and to give everyone the tools to make professional-quality creations even if they are amateurs. Whining about the stupidity of mainstream media is not what we’re about. We’re vaguely annoyed when the people are referred to as “consumers” rather than citizens, and the implication that what we are fighting for is the right to consume as we like, rather than the ability to be active participants in a democratic society.

Well worth a look.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Wegway, and A Taste of Vermont

A spy has brought to my attention an intriguing publication entitled Wegway: The Magazine of Primary Culture:

Wegway is an artists' magazine published twice a year in the Spring and Fall. Artists and other culture producers often want to publish things that don't fit into the formats of most art and literary magazines. Wegway provides print access for these unique and important projects.

There are no restrictions on content - Wegway is free and wide open. It is a venue for artists and all culture-producers to say or do whatever they want.

Wegway gives artists direct media access - their ideas are not filtered through the prose of professional critics and interpreters. This is an art magazine that doesn't review shows; we don't have an at-the-galleries section. What you'll find instead, is painters, sculptors, curators, composers, poets, photographers, filmmakers, architects, designers, choreographers, multi-media artists, comic artists and other primary culture producers presenting their own work and expressing their own views. This is not the place for secondary literature.

The images on the preview page are especially intriguing.


Two nights ago he stood on some anonymous and foggy shore watching whales. I kid you not; it was a beautiful thing. Strange mixture of memories from Alaska fishing and indulgent pleasure of the imagination. They entered a bay and then left by way of a rocky point. The last one even (of course!)hovering its tail for one long, impossible, balancing moment - that most nostalgic of Nature's gestures. Slow, surreal, majestic, and almost touchable. The memories are based somewhat in reality: on more than several occasions were we surrounded by whales as we set the net for salmon. Sometimes they surface within mere meters, and all one can say to one's crewmates after such moments, and with shining eyes, is the happy and fatigued refrain, "Hey, it's not a job; it's an adventure."

At other times, we were scared. Whales, needless to say, can easily ruin a season of fishing, leaving a house-sized hole in the sein. Or if, heaven forbid, they were to get tangled and dive... in short, a whale sighting when the net is out is ample justification to reach for one's knife. We are happy to let the salmon circle back out, opening the net and losing an hour of the day. They have been granted a free pass by the roaming Gods of the sea.

Later, the dream takes a more bizarre and ominous turn. A passage, 30 miles, from the relative protection of the island to the open coast of the mainland. For some reason the conservative skipper wears a red fedora. An uncharacteristic, crazed look in his eyes. We are beset by enormous, slow rollers, inexplicably moving backwards from the high cliffs of the coast toward the open ocean. There is something in the sky, very large, menacing and mythical. Perhaps a giant squid. The look on his skipper's face is now saying, quite clearly, and in that dug-in way that only decades and generations of experience can muster; "Well, we may be out of our league here." A certain rather touching humility his skipper seems to have acquired after the age of 55; a fragility and letting go of ancient pride. Perhaps the old world, of movies, men and myths, is simply too far gone now. It is a look attentive and resigned at once, purely in preparation for the moment when the only words worth uttering are a curse.

A Taste of Vermont

The woman next to him gave an exceptionally warm hello before she sat down. She is wearing some sort of traditional African dress. He sits in an adorable library at a place called The School for International Training. Wisps of snow almost blowing onto the computer screen through the windows. It is said there are only two Republican students here, both of them are on full scholarship. The word, "quaint" does come to mind, but there are certainly worse things. One of these days he must finish Moby Dick. Maybe after Counterpath:

The problematic of the approach to the other is inseparable from the logic of the pas, which has to be understood in two ways: the pas as noun relating to passage (step, advance), and the pas of negation. Both signal toward the act of crossing a border and at the same time the impossibility of passage. The sense of the formula, "step not beyond" [pas au-dela] or what "goes for a certain pas"] is therefore undecidable. The step-not toward the other doesn't find its place.
(Catherine Malabou, Counterpath, 168)