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.
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 →
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 Alexander, Christianity 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.
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…
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 →
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 →
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:
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 →