Annals of Bad Faith: “Bush on Bush”

NY Times review of Bush’s Decision Points:

Doubts arise about the depth of Bush’s principles in part because he so often clung to them even as he violated them. A typical Bush mind change goes like this: (1) I have always believed deeply that X. But (2) in this case X would cause vast human suffering or higher taxes or some other terrible tragedy that I couldn’t, as president, allow. Therefore (3) I will abandon X on this occasion. But (4) I still believe deeply that X.

Bush claims to have been the first president to really get tough on terrorism. “My decision” to invade Afghanistan “was a departure from America’s policies over the past two decades.” President Reagan withdrew American forces from Lebanon after Hezbollah bombed our Marine barracks there. President Clinton withdrew from Somalia when warlords shot down an American helicopter. He doesn’t mention his own father’s decision to stop the Persian Gulf war of 1991 at the Kuwait-Iraq border rather than proceed to Baghdad and take Saddam Hussein down. Bush concludes: “Terrorists had interpreted our lack of a serious response as a sign of weakness. . . . I was determined to change that impression.” So he made a serious response.  A pugnacious determination to be taken seriously is about half an inch below the surface of “Decision Points.” It’s poignant that even as a former two-term president, Bush should feel the need to strut the way he does. The book is full of maxims and advice. “I prided myself on my ability to make crisp and effective decisions,”

SUNY-Albany: in the 9th Bolgia,8th Circle of the Inferno?

Gregory A. Petsko, Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry & Chemistry at Brandeis University,wrote an open letter to George Phillip, President of SUNY Albany in his column in Genome Biology.  While there is much to quote, I found this passage particularly amusing:

It seems to me that the way you went about [announcing the closure of the departments in a Friday afternoon meeting] couldn’t have been more likely to alienate just about everybody on campus. In your position, I would have done everything possible to avoid that. I wouldn’t want to end up in the 9th Bolgia (ditch of stone) of the 8th Circle of the Inferno, where the great 14th century Italian poet Dante Alighieri put the sowers of discord. There, as they struggle in that pit for all eternity, a demon continually hacks their limbs apart, just as in life they divided others.

The Inferno is the first book of Dante’s Divine Comedy, one of the great works of the human imagination. There’s so much to learn from it about human weakness and folly. The faculty in your Italian department would be delighted to introduce you to its many wonders — if only you had an Italian department, which now, of course, you don’t.

Zing.  Read the complete article here

Accountability Regimes and Academic Life

Great article by Gaye Tuchman in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, “The Future of Wannabe U,” in which she continues her analysis of the accountability regime that drives the academic life:

Annually, other job and tenure candidates list how many articles and books they have published, how many talks they have delivered (including how many to which they were invited, and by whom), how many students they have advised and taught. Now and again, senior professors, writing letters to evaluate a candidate’s suitability to get or keep a job, provide their own lists. Sometimes they, too, are so intent on constructing them that they forget to discuss a candidate’s intellectual contributions. Last year, when presenting a distinguished-research award, a top Wannabe administrator noted that the recipient had published well more than 100 articles. He never said why those articles mattered. Continue reading

Ann Coulter: Once Banned Resurfaces!

First she told me I needed to be perfected, now she’s on the Today Show annoying the freakishly chipper Matt Lauer.  When will she find what she’s looking for?  You have to admit that without Ann Coulter life would be slightly more boring…

Anyway, here’s Ann Coulter doing whatever it is she does (which includes hating single mothers, it seems):

Rethinking Marxism CFP

Rethinking Marxism: CFP

RM09: New Marxian Times will be held over four days, beginning on Thursday evening, 5 November 2009 and ending on Sunday afternoon, 8 November 2009. In addition to two plenary sessions and an art exhibition, there will be concurrent panels, workshops, and art/cultural events. We invite the submission of organized sessions that follow traditional or non-traditional formats (such as workshops, roundtables, and dialogue among and between presenters and audience) as well as individual presentations. Since Marxism covers a wide variety of fields, from literature to public health and forms of political practice, from environmental organizing to opposing global inequality and envisioning new economic and social practice, anyone engaging with Marxism in any discipline or form of activism is encouraged to submit paper and panel proposals. We encourage those working in areas that intersect with Marxism, such as critical race theory, feminism, political economy, anarchist studies, cultural and literary studies, queer theory, working-class and labor studies, postcolonial studies, geography and urban studies, psychoanalysis, social and natural sciences, philosophy, and around issues of class, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, and disability, to submit proposals. We also welcome video, poetry, performance, and all other modes of presentation and cultural expression. Continue reading

(Newish) Badiou on Financial Crisis

From Le Monde, via Infinite Thought (translated into English), to us: 

Telle qu’on nous la présente, la crise planétaire de la finance ressemble à un de ces mauvais films concoctés par l’usine à succès préformés qu’on appelle aujourd’hui le “cinéma”. Continue in French.

As it is presented to us, the planetary financial crisis resembles one of those bad films concocted by that factory for the production of pre-packaged blockbusters that today we call the “cinema”. Continue in English.

It Depends On Interpretation: Iraq Pact

This story and this topic has been slowly getting traction in the media, it seems, or I am just now catching up with it. Of course, knowing little or nothing about international diplomacy or international law, I have little to say about it, however, this particular article was pretty interesting – McLatchy reports:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday — just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote.

These include a provision that bans the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.

Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes. Continue reading

Critchley on Obama (Again).

I think we should start a new series “So-and-so on Obama” as many people have expressed their opinion on the significance of the election. Simon Critchley’s take

Obama’s victory marks a symbolically powerful moment in American history, defined as it is by the stain of slavery and the fact of racism. It will have hugely beneficial consequences for how the United States is seen throughout the world. His victory was also strategically brilliant and his campaign transformed those disillusioned with and disenfranchised by the Bush administration into a highly motivated and organized popular force. But I dispute that Obama’s victory is about change in any significant sense.

So Obama’s victory is not about change. Check. It’s all about the search for unity which in politics, Critchley argues, translates into political moralism – exactly how that takes place is not really dealt with in the article: Continue reading