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Showing posts from January 22, 2006

the pre-game report

On the eve of the Enron trial, LI watched the Smartest Guys in the Room yesterday. And we scanned the Economist tout sheet of the prosecuted and the let off. Of course, as we know, corporate law is designed, basically, to allow the governing class to rob people without the expense and fuss that comes from having to buy pistols and wave them in various strangers faces. That the prosecution has to prove an epistemological point to the jury – viz, that Skilling and Lay knew they were committing a crime by signing off on various deals to conceal Enron’s debt while pumping its stock, thus making it a crime – is funny in itself, like one of Zeno’s paradoxes – how can you prove someone knowingly committed a crime when the crime depends on knowingly committing it? If I decide to knock somebody down, steal their credit cards, and use them, the police don’t have to bother convincing the jury that I knew I was committing a crime. But the more money one has, the more murky the line between the cr
Continuing from yesterday… Wilson finds few direct criticisms of road building. But she does find one, and she contrasts it with the standard argument: “Few outright critiques of road building can be found. One that stands out is Fairhead’s (1992) analysis of the destructive effects of road-building in Eastern Zaire. There, he argues, roads represent ‘paths of authority’ and need to be understood as qualitatively different from the flow of goods and people that take place along local pathways. ‘From colonial times, roads were associated with the exercise of power by the state or the chiefs; forced labour was recruited to build them, personal movement along them was taxed and controlled and indigenous land near them was expropriated for plantations and mission stations’ (Fairhead, 1992: 21). In the current phase of roadbuilding financed by the World Bank, relations of power and violence have not changed; indeed, Fairhead claims, roads have further depleted and impoverished a region alr

seeing like a biker

“All these cities were connected with each other, and with the capital, by the public highways, which issuing from the Forum of Rome, traversed Italy, pervaded the provinces, and were terminated only by the frontiers of the empire. If we carefully trace the distance from the wall of Antoninus to Rome, and from thence to Jerusalem, it will be found that the great chain of communication, from the north-west to the south-east point of the empire, was drawn out to the length of four thousand and eighty Roman miles. (85) The public roads were accurately divided by mile-stones, and ran in a direct line from one city to another, with very little respect for the obstacles either of nature or private property. Mountains were perforated, and bold arches thrown over the broadest and most rapid streams. (86) The middle part of the road was raised into a terrace which commanded the adjacent country, consisted of several strata of sand, gravel, and cement, and was paved with large stones, or in some

liar, accessory, nullity

LI has grown tired of punching the President. It is like punching one of those blow up punching bags that were popular when LI was a kid – the bag just wobbles and comes back up, the cartoon figure imprinted on it bearing the same goofy, factory made smile. So, knowing that this is the man who left the country vulnerable to the 9/11 attack to fulfill the Bush mandate – to take as many vacations as possible – it comes as no surprise that the man who said, three days after Katrina, that nobody expected the levees to break, was warned three days before Katrina that everybody expected the levees to break. “In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show. A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), wa

lifeless life

When W.G. Sebald, in a famous essay, asked why no German literary response to the massive bombing of Germany ever developed, he had to make a partial exception for Hans Erich Nossack Der Untergang, an account of the firebombing of Hamburg written in 1943 and published, I believe, after the war was over. There is a trove of Nossack material at this site . One autobiographical essay, Lifeless life, is not, I believe, well known in the English speaking world. In fact, I’m not sure that it has been translated. Anyway, it is a partial account of normal life in Nazi Germany by a man who did, actually, oppose the Nazis before they took power, was harassed by them, but never joined a resistance movement – in other words, your normal liberal German. I include the latter not to blame Nossack, but to give you the circumstances that make Lifeless life a peculiarly interesting vision of living in a Western country in which the presuppositions of the liberal society are visibly crushed, and a highl


Philosophers ask absurd questions. Jonathan Bennett, in The name of Events, poses the following question: suppose I take a walk around the garden every day. Some day when I am indisposed for some reason, can someone else take my walk? The question is absurd because we live in a world where events – walkings and such – are subordinate to substances – the walkers. Someone can take my bicycle, but my walk is “owned” in quite a different way. I do it, I don’t have it. Yet, what if the walk does me? What tells us that the world’s order is so immutable that the first shall always be first, the last shall always be last, and substance shall always reign over events? I am thinking about this because of two things I recently read. V.S. Ramachandran’s book, Phantoms of the Brain, describes Ramachandran’s study of the phantom limb puzzle. Phantom limbs usually occur when an arm or a leg is amputated, and the amputee feels an arm or a leg still there. Ramachandran found that sometimes the phe