Sunday, November 27, 2005


...on Walter Benjamin's "Critique of Violence" having now begun, on a Long Sunday. For the circuitous-inclined, a more originary plug may be found here and a more interesting one here. So far there have been excellent contributions from Marc Lombardo and Alain Wittman. Update: Better late than never.

I've also switched the comments back to blogger, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who uses Haloscan. Apologies to all deleted on the main page. By all means feel free to start again.

Alternatively, here's something by Scott McLemee on Barthes' The Neutral.

And in case you missed it (as apparently I did, by about an ocean), Zizek and Badiou and others were recently at Birbeck (extensive sound files, transcription, photos, and interesting coverage here and here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

suggestion, for Jon Stewart

So you're breaking out of character a little Jon, in fleeting moments; your seriousness is showing. Is there another genuine confrontation on the way? Granted, it doesn't take much these days, but that fuck-you flare, the shot of direct and deserving anger in your eyes, however ephemeral it may be, has got to be the most refreshing television in decades.

Why not branch out a little now, into genuinely populist territory? Maybe pass up on some vapid celebrity hairjob or two and interview, say, Jim Hightower? See here.

{The next post will either be on the philosophy of pop or a book review, or I'll delete the entire blog.}

Also, please note: I did not tell Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent. Just in case anyone was wondering.

permanent spring

So this is what the future will be, then? Warm sun on thawing mud, subdued smells, off-color and vaguely toxic floods, a permanent Spring unearned from any Winter. And for three months every year, cold nights. And never far, the sexless punishing storms. The world mushes and warms, the seasons blend; their forgotten rhythm becomes the stuff of legend. He was born in Spring, a mud-season baby. How strange to be as if condemned to one's primal experience of the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


This American Life was good this afternoon (in their typical, about-a-year-behind-the-times manner). They aired, (or re-aired?) that guy from the My War blog, if you remember those days: Strangers in a Strange Land (Audio: Real Player). And someone even spoke up against this irrelevant emotional blackmail shit (rubbish propaganda polls that strive to say such things as, "70 percent (including 55 percent of self-described Democrats) say such criticism hurts troop morale.") In short, this talk of "morale" is just what those slumming with perma-war crooks, in their well-known fanatic fidelity to a higher (party) cause, learned to say after Vietnam (the only lesson they learned from that disaster, apparently). The troops aren't fucking babies, we don't need to protect their feelings. They're gonna do their blessed job, while trying to avoid getting killed, no matter what. What they deserve, as grown-ups, is a realistic plan. A clear time-table and some measures reasonably defined for, um, "success" in this illegal war of aggression would be a nice gesture to start (assuming that an end to all this neo-Fukuyama jubilatory free trade neoliberal bullshit all-millionaires-bootstraps-are-created-equal thing is, you know, probably not immediately in the works. Though it's good to see it finally losing some steam, I dare say). Bush, meanwhile, is obviously dead in the water (time to send Condi overseas somewhere--hell, send anyone but The Embarassment). The make-things-a-whole-lot-worse-to-gain-spin-control-on-the-global-protest-movement thing was good for a first term, but even stick-up-the-butt conservatives think he's rubbish now. Nice that the Republican drones couldn't resist one last fuck-you and-your-college-tuition spending bill before the impeachment, or painstakingly neutralcratic, endlessly drawn-out demise (depending on whether any democrats find a "politically-feasible" spine anytime soon or not). A question: what happens when he cracks up for real, can't even talk to his mother and wife anymore, is drunk 24-7 and decides to do something truly stupid? And if Cheney and Rove are busy in court that day? Or rather, as a wise man once said, if the real criminal hard-liners, Cold-War-era dinasaur wonks, get to make the calls that day...that month? Even moreso than usual? A terrifying prospect. (But no doubt Lieberman will be there, either like a traffic cop on valium: "stoooop;" or to say a mealy-mouthed piety for all our souls.)

Maybe it's time the Parrhesia Watch moved to the other place.

For those unconvinced (as if) about the need for voting reform, the excellent Mark Crispin Miller has a blog up.

Anyway, this should be enough to put these drones to bed for a while at least.

celebrity watch: Onfray anyone?

So who in the hell is this guy (rather depressingly lauded for bad reasons here)?

There is no philosophy without psychoanalysis

Well that's interesting.

This blog pretends to speak French, but then it couldn't tell you the fifth thing about Atheist/Communist/Socialist Michel Onfray...

That statement does seem to rather conflict with another one I seem to recall (from some eclectic French Theorist or other):
According to psychoanalytic vocabulary (which, I believe, only those who practice psychoanalysis can use--only those, that is, for whom analysis is a risk, an extreme danger, a daily test--for otherwise it is only the convenient language of an established culture)...(The Writing of the Disaster, 67)

Then again, it may not.

Just to continue this rampant eclecticism, allow me to quote myself quoting someone else. Perhaps a quote from Benjamin on quotations (I dunno, does it qualify as a greatest hit?) would be too much, however.

Friday, November 18, 2005

pulling rank

This morning between 4:30 and 5:00am while driving S. to the airport, I passed a black sedan with vanity plates that read simply, "Blog."

The driver, once I finally caught up and passed him in the tank Volvo wagon, struck me a lot like Markos Moulitsas.

He passed me shortly thereafter, and needless to say this also struck, in the ungodly and hazy hours of the hurtling world, everyone involved as quite profound. Fare thee well, oh Interstate stranger.

this and that

But on its way to producing a new generation of lawyers and engineers and surgeons (and risk arbitrageurs and pharma lobbyists), was it so wrong for a university to indulge one department whose time was spent agonizing over the entire mission of knowledge production itself? By never firmly establishing what it itself was for, the English department cultivated habits of withering self-reflection and so became one mechanism by which the university could stay in touch with its nonutilitarian self and subject its own practices to ongoing critique. Did the theory era produce bullshit by the mountain-load? Of course it did. But by allowing "literary theory" to turn into a pundit's byword, signifying the pompous, the outmoded, the shallow, the faddish, we may have quietly resolved the argument over what a university is for in favor of no self-reflection whatsoever.

(hmm. now if only philosophy departments would do likewise, no wait; that won't happen. And to yawn at the jubilatory Sokal bandwagon's passing, staying faithful to the literary theory that is serious? I hear there was once a department concerned with "knowledge production" in Germany somewhere...)

and that:
"Making me popular is a resistance to taking me seriously"....So how can you talk; what is philosophy for? "It's not to provide answers, it's to correct the questions," says Zizek. "Terrorism, freedom, democracy: The duty of philosophy is not to explain what would be true democracy, how to beat terrorism, but to ask, is this truly the question? This is the only thing a philosopher can do. Other questions are for politicians—I mean, what do I know? Fuck it, who am I, what do I know how to fight terrorism? Every secret policeman, I give him moral right to know more than me."

Zizek's lack of seriousness is serious itself.
(Thanks to The Decline for both of these items.)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Blanchot things, not to be missed

Mark Thwaite interviews Blanchot and Genet translator Charlotte Mandell. And of course this should keep you busy for a good week.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Philosophy of Pop

Aenesidemus responds, blog-fashion to Mark Greif, whom pas au-delà continues to productively (more or less productively) stalk.

To be updated...

Friday, November 04, 2005

France, stuff

• I have this vague unease, that I'm missing all the jokes on "The Cobert Report" (the "t" being silent) because I don't watch O'Reilly. Possibly discussion topic: is there any sense in which the parody of O'Reilly verges on a sort of cruelty...(do we care)? Or risks being a sort of advertisement for him? (Everything hinges on the correct diagnosis: either O'Reilly is already established enough to not risk unduly dignifying him by merely talking about him, or he isn't. Then again, "The Cobert Report" is not the very deconstruction of dignity itself. Though you can tell the brand name theme music irks him. He's more mature than Stewart; it shows in the interviews.)

• The Agamben post on the theory of "Profound Boredom" has been updated.

• Pas au-delà correspondants in France...please stand up. Is Paris burning or what. Lou Dobbs, Daily Show fan and fascist pseudo-journalist liberal (these days) just called it "an insurgency." The BBC news mentioned something about an array of complaints, poverty, unemployment, police state repression. Is there about to be an anti-immigrant backlash (admittedly, not the most important question)? Are the so-called "anarchists" setting things on fire because they hate America? Important people need to know. Thanks.

Update: In addition to things linked in comments, I thought this was smart (via):
Fifty years ago, in a brilliant, premonitory book entitled France Against Herself, Herbert Luethy pointed out the incredible, contradictory existence of a fascist police state within an open, democratic society. This contradiction goes back to the French Revolution when the Republic, One and Indivisible, found it needed to reaffirm its uniqueness, its indivisibility and generosity by imprisoning, excluding or murdering off all who would threaten it, including of course its own children. A highly centralized authority balanced an iron repression of all non-assimilable elements with remarkable benevolence, arguing that it acted against a part of itself for the greater good of itself as a whole. The theories of a Robespierre are already colonialist: the "immigrant problem" is built into the French political system.

So the riots of the past few days were a matter of semantics even before they had begun: the people of the suburbs could be understood as either French or not-French, either weaker wards of a benevolent Mother France or elements deserving of exclusion because they were Africans or Muslims or immigrants. As a matter of fact the vast majority of actors in these riots are French citizens, many of them third- or second-generation at that. Then again, the French State has always been adept at alternately welcoming and disenFrenchizing various groups, like Jews, for instance.

And that is what Sarkozy had been doing for a while. His earlier promise to "mop up" the suburbs might have been acceptable if it had been directed at a slum in Haiti: more likely it would have passed unnoticed. But to treat other Frenchmen and women like colonial subjects of the State was unacceptable talk, even if it's done all the time in fact, and not to North Africans only.

Much has been written about the meaning of crowds in the French Revolution. For my money the most common form of riot is the "People's Veto:" the crowd can't tell you what it wants, it can only tell you what it doesn't. And the fear from the Left, and the hope from the Right, is that the rioters are saying: "We don't want to be French to begin with."

It's one thing to be French, and perhaps not quite French enough, and to hope your time will come, which has been overall the narrative of all would-be French people, immigrants, Jews, or Muslims. It's another thing altogether when you give up and turn to gratuitous violence.

But turn how? Against whom? Against the State? Against Being French (now redefined as being white, or being bourgeois, or having a car and a job)? Against a MacDonald's, a symbol of neo-liberalism? That is the Pander's Box Sarkozy's opened, and it may be a lot harder to close, for him or for anyone else.

Update: see also archive: s0metime3s and Amie Marker.
Update Again: As well as Badiou (translated by IT) and Negri.


From here:
Bush's official margin of victory in Ohio was just 118,775 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast. Election protection advocates argue that O'Dell's statement still stands as a clear sign of an effort, apparently successful, to steal the White House.

Among other things, the GAO confirms that:

1. Some electronic voting machines "did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected." In other words, the GAO now confirms that electronic voting machines provided an open door to flip an entire vote count. More than 800,000 votes were cast in Ohio on electronic voting machines, some seven times Bush's official margin of victory.

2. "It was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate." Numerous sworn statements and affidavits assert that this did happen in Ohio 2004.

3. "Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level." 3. Falsifying election results without leaving any evidence of such an action by using altered memory cards can easily be done, according to the GAO.

4. The GAO also confirms that access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected, so access to one machine provided access to the whole network. This critical finding confirms that rigging the 2004 vote did not require a "widespread conspiracy" but rather the cooperation of a very small number of operatives with the power to tap into the networked machines and thus change large numbers of votes at will. With 800,000 votes cast on electronic machines in Ohio, flipping the number needed to give Bush 118,775 could be easily done by just one programmer.

5. Access to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user IDs combined with easily guessed passwords. So even relatively amateur hackers could have gained access to and altered the Ohio vote tallies.

6. The locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy, meaning, again, getting into the system was an easy matter.

7. One DRE model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary fashion that a power failure on one machine would cause the entire network to fail, re-emphasizing the fragility of the system on which the Presidency of the United States was decided.

8. GAO identified further problems with the security protocols and background screening practices for vendor personnel, confirming still more easy access to the system.

In essence, the GAO study makes it clear that no bank, grocery store or mom & pop chop shop would dare operate its business on a computer system as flimsy, fragile and easily manipulated as the one on which the 2004 election turned.

The GAO findings are particularly damning when set in the context of an election run in Ohio by a Secretary of State simultaneously working as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign. Far from what election theft skeptics have long asserted, the GAO findings confirm that the electronic network on which 800,000 Ohio votes were cast was vulnerable enough to allow a a tiny handful of operatives -- or less -- to turn the whole vote count using personal computers operating on relatively simple software.

The GAO documentation flows alongside other crucial realities surrounding the 2004 vote count. For example:

# The exit polls showed Kerry winning in Ohio, until an unexplained last minute shift gave the election to Bush. Similar definitive shifts also occurred in Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico, a virtual statistical impossibility.

# A few weeks prior to the election, an unauthorized former ES&S voting machine company employee, was caught on the ballot-making machine in Auglaize County

# Election officials in Mahoning County now concede that at least 18 machines visibly transferred votes for Kerry to Bush. Voters who pushed Kerry's name saw Bush's name light up, again and again, all day long. Officials claim the problems were quickly solved, but sworn statements and affidavits say otherwise. They confirm similar problems in Franklin County (Columbus). Kerry's margins in both counties were suspiciously low.

# A voting machine in Mahoning County recorded a negative 25 million votes for Kerry. The problem was allegedly fixed.


# In Gahanna Ward 1B, at a fundamentalist church, a so-called "electronic transfer glitch" gave Bush nearly 4000 extra votes when only 638 people voted at that polling place. The tally was allegedly corrected, but remains infamous as the "loaves and fishes" vote count.

# In Franklin County, dozens of voters swore under oath that their vote for Kerry faded away on the DRE without a paper trail.

# In Miami County, at 1:43am after Election Day, with the county's central tabulator reporting 100% of the vote - 19,000 more votes mysteriously arrived; 13,000 were for Bush at the same percentage as prior to the additional votes, a virtual statistical impossibility.

# In Cleveland, large, entirely implausible vote totals turned up for obscure third party candidates in traditional Democratic African-American wards. Vote counts in neighboring wards showed virtually no votes for those candidates, with 90% going instead for Kerry.

# Prior to one of Blackwell's illegitimate "show recounts," technicians from Triad voting machine company showed up unannounced at the Hocking County Board of Elections and removed the computer hard drive.

# In response to official information requests, Shelby and other counties admit to having discarded key records and equipment before any recount could take place.

# In a conference call with Rev. Jackson, Attorney Cliff Arnebeck, Attorney Bob Fitrakis and others, John Kerry confirmed that he lost every precinct in New Mexico that had a touchscreen voting machine. The losses had no correlation with ethnicity, social class or traditional party affiliation---only with the fact that touchscreen machines were used.

# In a public letter, Rep. Conyers has stated that "by and large, when it comes to a voting machine, the average voter is getting a lemon - the Ford Pinto of voting technology. We must demand better."

But the GAO report now confirms that electronic voting machines as deployed in 2004 were in fact perfectly engineered to allow a very small number of partisans with minimal computer skills and equipment to shift enough votes to put George W. Bush back in the White House.

Given the growing body of evidence, it appears increasingly clear that's exactly what happened.

GAO Report

Revised 10/27/05

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available via and Their WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO, with Steve Rosenfeld, will be published in Spring, 2006, by New Press.

One can only wonder what John Pussy Kerry has to say about all this.

Update: John Kerry now believes the election was stolen.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


• If one were to begin making a list of bloggers who only most rarely suffered, in their very writing, from an inflated sense of self-importance, what would such a list look like? A start:

Acanthus Leaves
à Gauche
Charlotte Street
Critical Montages
Dem Wahren
Fort Kant
Paul Kerschen
Red Thread(s)
The Decline
The Pinocchio Theory
The Rhine River
The Young Hegelian
This Space
Side Effects

That's about as far as I got (and before I realized how potentially insulting such a lazy late-night gesture could be. Also, what's with all the Russian spam lately? And the viral infections? My Dog.

• And the DailyKosers are shocked as Bush fucks up a photo-op with black students:
To set off a student protest at this school, you'd have to be politically tone-deaf in the extreme, out of touch and flying blind. And yet, Bush did it.

God help us in Iraq.

• Oh, and The French kids don't seem to really like the Police State:
Riots erupted in an outburst of anger in Clichy-sous-Bois over the accidental electrocution Oct. 27 of two teenagers who fled a soccer game and hid in a power substation when they saw police enter the area. Youths in the neighborhood suspect that police chased Traore Bouna, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, to their deaths.

Since then riots have swelled into a broader challenge against the French state and its security forces. The violence has exposed deep discontent in neighborhoods where African and Muslim immigrants and their French-born children are trapped by poverty, unemployment, racial discrimination, crime, poor education and housing.

Ah, those crazy intelligent French (courtesy of Le Colonel Chabert).

• An anonymous emailer writes in with a question:
Hey Matt,

Is there a good word that people like you and Derrida (not to lump you together indiscriminately, though I'm sure it's flattering) use to mean "a text and all the things said about it", as in "the entire universe of references to / comments on / things having some noted relation to the text"? It's gestalt, so to speak.

The term I'm seeking could also apply to referents other than texts, i.e. subjects of any kind, people, events, concepts, whatever. In fact I need both a text-specific and a general term, hopefully two different words.

I'm looking for a good word (or two) to abscond with for my metadata software. You know, we computer people are always robbing terminology and repurposing it; this is an ancient and honorable practice (found in every field of study of course, not just computers, we're just notorious for doing a whole lot of it and all of it in the last 50 years). I hate to invent when I'm sure there is something with exactly the right sense out there somewhere for the taking, already.

By the way, one inverse term I'm using is 'venue', as in 'virtual place' (like your blog is a 'venue'). The general term I'm looking for would mean, among other things, "all references to a venue", as in everyone who goes there, comes from there, talks about it, etc.

So I need name(s) for that distributed entity which is everything that names or refers to a venue (or other generality), or a text (specifically).

I know you guys have names for everything of semantic importance in meta-relationships. Even if what you and I think of as metadata (in our daily use of it) is on rather different scales (like, the cosmos in your case versus the atomic nucleus in mine?), the 'physics' behind the terminology ought to transfer via analogy, I hope.

Update: it can be short as well, the word. Anyone? I can vouch for his motives and they are pure, as driven snow.

Funnier Valentine

I first learned of top mp3 blog, Said the Gramophone, from Steve Mitchelmore about a year ago. Now it seems I've won the opportunity to post a song or two there myself. What an honor this is. So in the spirit of self-aggrandizing and radical dictatorship genuine and spontaneous fleeting curiosity, I'm more than open to any suggestions readers may feel like sending (songs, via email, that is, the more obscure and gem-like the better), reserving of course the right to go ahead and post what I was going to anyway in order to be ridiculed quickly off the stage by their legions of pop-ish fans. Seriously, those guys know their music, and I'm a little intimidated. Whatever else it may be, the internet is a real swell way to share the gift of music. So back to changing the world in the next heartbeat, sure, but not until we learn from music a thing or two about the wait.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gaurdian, of something or other

The British journal performs a bit of a hatchet job on Chomsky, poor fellow. Right up there with Howard Zinn, Chomsky was positively revolutionary to read back in high school, and for that I will be forever grateful. Nevertheless this cantankerous quote was interesting, regarding the Internet:
It's a hideous time-waster. One of the good things about the internet is you can put up anything you like, but that also means you can put up any kind of nonsense. If the intelligence agencies knew what they were doing, they would stimulate conspiracy theories just to drive people out of political life, to keep them from asking more serious questions ... There's a kind of an assumption that if somebody wrote it on the internet, it's true.

More on why this is interetesting on Long Sunday shortly.

In the meantime, do waste a bit of time with Agamben, if you like.

Update: Chomsky responds to the Guardian genre drivel, having finally seen a copy:
It is a nuisance, and a bit of a bore, to dwell on the topic, and I always keep away from personal attacks on me, unless asked, but in this case the matter has some more general interest, so perhaps it’s worth reviewing what most readers could not know. The general interest is that the print version reveals a very impressive effort, which obviously took careful planning and work, to construct an exercise in defamation that is a model of the genre. It’s of general interest for that reason alone.

via Qlipoth.

animalia encore

Sounding a lot like Berger is Agamben (glossing Ernst Haeckel and Heymann Steinthal, whoever they are):
What distinguishes man from animal is language, but this is not a natural given already inherent in teh psychophysical structure of man; it is, rather, a historical production which, as such, can be properly assigned neither to man nor to animal. If this element is taken away, the difference between man and animal vanishes, unless we imagine a nonspeaking man – Homo alalus, precisely – who would function as a bridge that passes from the animal to the human. But all evidence suggests that this is only a shadow cast by language, a presupposition of speaking man, by which we always obtain only an animalization of man (an animal-man, like Haeckel's ape-man) or a humanization of the animal (a man-ape). The animal-man and the man-animal are the two sides of a single fracture, which cannot be mended from either side.

from The Open: Man and Animal, page 36

See also here. As for me, please don't hesitate to join in else where.