Last week free copies of a spoof edition of The New York Times were being handed out at subway stations across the NYC, declaring the end of the Iraq war and the passage of progressive legislation on health care, climate change and taxation.  Hands down, my favorite comment regarding the recent hoax (See an article about the event here) was this:

The thing I disagree with is how they did it,” said Stuart Carlyle, who received a paper in Grand Central Station while commuting to his Wall Street brokerage. “I’m all for freedom of speech, but they should have started their own paper.


Obama: Overcoming Anti-Intellectualism?

Clearly influenced by this post Nicholas Kristof has this to say about Obama:

The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.

Maybe, just maybe, the result will be a step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life. Smart and educated leadership is no panacea, but we’ve seen recently that the converse — a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance — doesn’t get very far either.

We can’t solve our educational challenges when, according to polls, Americans are approximately as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution, and when one-fifth of Americans believe that the sun orbits the Earth.

Almost half of young Americans said in a 2006 poll that it was not necessary to know the locations of countries where important news was made. That must be a relief to Sarah Palin, who, according to Fox News, didn’t realize that Africa was a continent rather than a country. Continue reading

Christianity and Law

David Opderbeck of Concurring Opinions draws attention to a collection of essays that seems like a great read in this quiet yet restless post-election state: 

With all the chatter recently about Sarah Palin and the religious right, and Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright, it’s all too easy to charicature the relationship between law and religion in general, and law and Christianity in particular. A splendid new book edited by John Witte and Frank AlexanderChristianity and the Law: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press 2008), seeks to recover the deep and nuanced connections between Christian social theory and Western jurisprudence. Unlike many polemical works written by today’s battling theonomists and strict separationists, Christianity and Law doesn’t dwell on defining founding myths about America and its original status as either a religious “city on a hill” or a walled garden in which enlightened rationalists could feel safe from the Church. Most of the essays in Christanity and Law dig deeper into the Jewish, Roman and medieval roots of Christian jurisprudence.

The comments to the post are quite interesting as well.

Prof steals signs, quits

In other campus related oddities:

A visiting professor at St. Olaf College who confessed to stealing several Republican campaign signs has quit his teaching job.

Philip Busse, acknowledged last week in The Huffington Post that he had stolen signs touting John McCain from yards along a rural stretch of highway near Northfield, Minn., where the college is located.

Mr. Busse, who had a one-semester temporary visiting appointment to teach one course on introductory media studies, “has tendered his resignation and is no longer affiliated with St. Olaf College,” according to a college spokesman quoted in the Northfield News.

On top of losing his job, Mr. Busse has been charged with misdemeanor theft and faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, the newspaper reported.

Apparently, Busse saw his theft as a form of civil disobedience.  Ok.  Really, I thought the most honest part of his confession in the Huffington Post was when he talked about how satisfying stealing the signs were.  I’m not sure why he had to resign, nor do I think this should make him “un-hirable.”  Was it the smartest thing to do, probably not, but it will just provide more ammo for those who think that the university is overrun with wack job lefties…

Virilio in [Obama’s] America

More musings on the economic state of things–this time from the perspective of Virilio.  In a sort of (maybe) interesting article –with the inexplicable title “City of Transformation: Virilio in Obama’s America”– Arthur and Marilouise Kroker ask if “we are beyond Speed and Politics:”

Economists are quoted as saying the financial crisis effects “everyone on earth.” Is this Virilio’s “global accident?” Quite certainly it is panic finance: that moment when the credit mechanisms necessary for capitalist liquidity slam shut, a time made to measure for Virilio’s brilliant theory of bunker archeology, with each bank its own toxic bunker of junk assets, each banker a born again socialist. For example, always vigilant automatic circuit breakers working in the darkness of night recently prevented a global plunge of the futures market. Allan Greenspan throws up his hands, exclaiming “I’m in shocked disbelief.” Continue reading

American Experience: Changing Your Mind.

I have always been trying to be observant and curious while residing in the US if for not other reason than to have something to tell my compatriots in the unlikely event of my deportation.  It is an ultimate narcissistic exercise because it makes me recount certain events that I encounter to myself as if I was telling a story to my distant and intrigued descendant. A kind of self-reflection that inevitably leads to self-importance and arrogance, but I am willing to take the risk. Continue reading

Ethics of the Lie (New Book)

Jean-Michel Rabate (whose The Future of Theory I quite liked) has written a book call The Ethics of the Lie, a particularly apt release since the U.S. presidential elections are in full swing.  Here’s a not so complementary review from Bookforum, but it certainly looks like good subway/bathroom reading:



Click for more info.

Jean-Michel Rabaté, Vartan Gregorian Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, bookends The Ethics of the Lie with Jacques Lacan, the French psychiatrist who connected the anxieties of poststructuralism to those of psychoanalysis. At the beginning, we have the proposition, apropos Monica Lewinsky, that Bill Clinton may have been “the world’s first Lacanian president” because, as Lacan saw it, “there is no such thing as a sexual relationship” (and as Clinton tried to explain to a mortified nation, oral sex should be thought of as an aperitif rather than an entrée). At the end, and apropos Pinocchio’s nose, we are told that from a Lacanian point of view, “the lie always keeps something of the structure of the phallus, because the phallus is always like a joke, partakes [sic] of its mythical origins with the ludicrously inflated prosthesis carried on the stage in Aristophanes’ theater.
”One might venture that phallic jokes depend on who’s getting screwed and by whom, and that for women, the punch line isn’t always metaphoric or funny. Nevertheless, if there is a moment of comic relief in Rabaté’s investigation into America’s “obsession” with lying, it is in the image of Clinton as a red-faced Pinocchio, freed from guilt by Lacan only to find himself and the country cast in one big dick joke. Whether you think this kind of reading deft or daft will largely depend on where you stand regarding the literary/philosophical, Continental/Anglo-American divide. For contemporary literary investigation, Lacan is crucial; but for mainstream American philosophy of an analytic cast, he is irrelevant, the argumentative equivalent of a bridge to nowhere. The objections are: Lacan trades in concepts that are either unfalsifiable or nonsensical, and he robs the sciences willy-nilly, squandering his plunder on hermetic cock and bull. Continue reading

Charisma, Obama and Weber: A Discussion

Two things.  Here’s an interesting conversation between Paul Price and Craig Calhoun over at Societas:

In another conversation with Paul Price, Craig Calhoun continues his analysis of supposedly irrational factors at play in electoral politics. This time they focus on charisma: to what extent is Barack Obama’s unique mix of political passion and a cool demeanor the source of his political appeal? Referring to Max Weber’s model of charismatic leadership, Calhoun notes that Obama has the gift of making us see him as someone who stands outside the traditional structures of government-and therefore someone who can help Americans break the “iron cage” of bureaucracy, politics-as-usual and dominant social roles.

Click here to listen to the discussion.  Also, here’s a CFP for the Lighthearted Philosophers Society. Continue reading

Lieberman and Hagee: Best Friends Forever

Joe Lieberman is at it again.  He can’t help himself!  Lieberman is scheduled to be a featured speaker and honored guest of none other than Pastor John Hagee next week. If you don’t recall, Hagee’s the same delightful guy that said in public that God sent Hitler. Even McCain had the smarts to renounce Hagee’s endorsement in June, and common sense would have figured that Lieberman would do the same. Yet, they are, to use tweener vernacular, BFF!  Lieberman has called Hagee a “eesh elokim like Moses” even though Hagee (among many other things) has spouted such tolerant and fair-minded judgments, whether calling the Catholic Church a “great whore,” blaming Hurricane Katrina on the gay community of New Orleans, or repeatedly declaring that “all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews,” Hagee knows just how to sweet talk Joe Lieberman.

Now, whenever people point this out to Joe he likes to gesture to Hagee’s pro-Israel record.  Now, last time I checked Hagee supports such counterproductive measures like the construction of more settlements and has advocated for going to war with Iran, but most troubling is this whole apocalyptic, Armageddon, Christian Zionism nonsense, by which I mean that Hagee and his traveling circus believe (see this article) that

before the Second Coming of Jesus, Jews will return to Israel for a final confrontation with Iran, which will cause all the Arab nations to unite under Russia’s leadership, and lead to an “inferno [that] will explode across the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon.

Seriously Joe, what the fuck?  Good grief! I wonder if Joe Lieberman got arressted, sent to Rikers and was then raped in the shower he’d put his rapist on the payroll as his very own proctologist.  Just saying, you know?

Israel at 60: Interview with Mitchell Cohen

While its faced its fair share of knee jerk reactions, unpleasantnesses, accusations of ethnocentrism, and other semiorrhea, Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary last month.  I just came across an interview with Dissent editor Mitchell Cohen from last month. Cohen touches on a number of interesting questions and issues. There are some particularly interesting exchanges:

Daniel Buarque: You point out in your article, “Anti-Semitism and the Left that Doesn’t Learn” (check it out, a fine article-SO), that Israel’s legitimacy is often questioned in the world because of conflicts in the Middle East and because of Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians. Should the rest of the world celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Israeli independence? Why?

Mitchell Cohen: One of the points I tried to make is that Israel is subjected to double standards, especially on the left. Saying that gives me no joy: I identify with the left so my criticism comes from within the left. I celebrate the birth of the state of Israel because it represented the success of a national liberation movement. Here you have a people, the Jews, who had been persecuted for centuries, who had been the internal “Other” of the West. Their suffering culminated in the Nazi slaughter. From its origins in the late nineteenth century, the Zionist movement was pessimistic about the future of the Jews in the West and in Russia. Many liberals and leftists told them that they were too “particularist” and should put all their faith in universalizing political movements—communism or liberalism, for examples—but nobody can look back at the last century and say that the Zionists were wrong in seeing that emergency was at hand and that what might be called political Esperanto was wrong. Continue reading