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Showing posts from April 8, 2012

Notes on the French election

In the campaign of 2006, Nicholas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal were both asked, by Jean-Jacques Bourdin, about the capabilities of the French nuclear submarine fleet. Royal said that there were 7 nuclear armed submarines. Sarkozy said there were 6. And the interviewer said there were 5. As Royal points out in her account of the campaign, Ma plus belle histoire c’est vous, that all three numbers were wrong did not mean that all three respondents were treated equally. Rather, while Bourdin, the intereviewer, received no flack for asking a question the answer to which he did not know, and while Sarkozy was treated as having a sort of minimal knowledge of the fleet – given a C, so to speak – Royal’s answer was supposed to reveal a fundamental and disqualifying ignorance: « I haven’t forgotten the UMP communiqué which gave the angle that the commentators were supposed to make about me: “It is not a question of pilling on the candidate. [feminine in the French]. But still, we need to

The new and no-future: a story of waste

In “Old Newspapers”, an essay written in 1920, Kurt Tucholsky went back and read some newspapers from 1910. The essay begins by taking the paper as a physical object – a text with a destination. “The editor sent me a sausage   wrapped in an old newspaper that, like the sausage, came from the now bypassed era of peace.”   This makes Tucholsky think of – a topic to write about: newspapers. The topic soon grows wings. Old newspapers are funny. 1910, 1911 – God send us such cares, such Liliputan concerns. “The social democratic court report”. “The resignation of Crown Prince Hohenlohe from the Presidium of the Reichstag.” (The Reichstage had nothing to say, its Presidium had nothing to say, thus what did it have to say, when…?) “The Battle against Hermann Nissen.” Oh yes, it was a gay, a harmless, a good old small time. Old papers are funny. But how is it that, when one reads them, one soon becomes sad? Because one sees, how badly they have done their task. Because one se

studium -study

“… the new visual era, opened by the photograph, is still seen through the enchanted screen of the ‘graphosphere’. The exposition, however positivist, guards the aura that fiction and classical culture gives unmistakeably to the object to which they apply themselves. The cultural doubleness is not only characteristic of the 19 th century; it extends its influence well beyond and continues to haunt, like a fantome, the most recent discourse, in saturating La Chambre clair with latin and greek terms (the punctum, the studium, the spectrum, the noeme, etc.) Roland Barthes himself has recourse to this screen, as if the abandonment of the concept ‘of writing’, up to then central in his work, to the benefit of the imprint and the Referent, can only be done in maintaining,in extremis,a lexicon issue from the classical and rhetorical culture with which photography, and more generally, visual industries, strongly break.” [Philippe Ortel, 1999] The ruptures are always followed, it seems


One of my crankeries is my notion that the U.S. made a very wrong turn back all the way in 1911. Glenn Beck is notorious for being a maniac about the same period, but where he is a maniac about the communization of the U.S. that was birthed by the progressive movement, my position is just the opposite: the progressive movement, lacking a strong socialist movement, created half measures that have b een decaying ever since. One of them, a crucial one which is now costing every 99 percenter thousands of dollars per year, was the defeat of a law that would have required interstate companies to register with the Commerce Department. The bureaucratic quibble of a committed statist? No, this is the reasoned response of another underground and underwater man to a system set up to be gamed by the powerful. And gamed it has been. In Treasure Islands, Nick Shaxson's book about tax havens, there is an interesting tale about how usury became one of the quotidian parts of Ameri

wallfare - the eternally forgotten

In a blog post today, Paul Krugman deplores the ‘empathy gap’ – that is, the inability of the people at the top to have any empathy with the welfare of those on the bottom. He quotes some typically inane comment of Paul Ryan’s about welfare reform. He received the standard mix of admiring and disparaging comments. (As an aside: one of the best things that has happened in the media scene ever is the advent of the comments section, to which I have become addicted.   to those things.) One of the disparaging comments read like this: “I'll start by, 'disclosing,' as we all have to do today, that I'm retired after close to fifty years of work. I did what I had to do to insure myself,did not over-spend because I wanted a car, or house, or whatever came to my mind and so lasted until today where I'm comfortable. I'm not sorry that I'm comfortable,I'm not sorry that I have a bit more than some around me and I'm certainly not sorry for those who,to