Wednesday, January 30, 2002

The question is now not how much has he plagiarized, rather
has Stephen Ambrose ever written an original sentence?
Yet more accusations have surfaced, but Viacom supports their multimedia profit machine:
"We assert once again that Stephen Ambrose is one of America's most original and brilliant historians," Simon & Shuster spokeswoman Victoria Meyer said today. "We are saddened to see him become the subject of a witch-hunt."
Huh? I'll just not comment on "original and brilliant historian," but "witch hunt"?That will not pass. Copying and pasting without attribution will result in stern disciplinary action at any reputable high school and Stephen Ambrose has already confessed to a disturbing pattern of lifting the words of others, most of whom aren't gazillionaire official historians. Hmm, I wonder if Simon & Shuster would publish my period piece about a boy and a runaway slave on a raft trip down the Mississippi?

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Pierre Bourdieu, pesimismo liberador por Marc Saint-Upery
quick and dirty translation:
Pierre Bourdieu was one of the giants of 20th century sociology. In the last decade of his life, he broke with the relative political silence that had characterized his career until the eighties and sent himself into battle for social justice and against neoliberal globalization. In a mixture of audacity and naivete he put his immense authority in the service of these struggles, irritating many experienced activists, but nobody can deny the generosity of this drive.

The work of Pierre Bourdieu, as it was disseminated widely in the seventies, constituted an encouraging alternative for left intellectuals displeased by the Chinese and Russian versions of dogmatic marxism or the scholasticism of Althusser, yet eager not to fall into the positivist triviality of certain American social science. Uniting rigor and radicalism, empirical precision and theoretical ambition, the work of Bourdieu offered a synthesis of the best of the grand sociological tradition of Marx, Durkheim and Weber, far from sterile opposition and crude ideology.(...)
Concise remembrance of Bourdieu from The Guardian
In October 1999 he spoke to some 70 leading patrons of the audio-visual arts in Paris. "Masters of the world, do you know what you are doing?" was his question. His answer was that, since they obeyed the law of maximum profits in the shortest possible time, they were killing culture.
The direct quote is, "Are you even aware of what you are doing? Do you realise that your law of maximum profits will kill culture?"
Barry Crimmins' month by month analysis of GWB's Year One
CAN IT REALLY be a year since we didn’t elect George W. Bush president?
Time sure flies when you’re going straight to hell.

Let’s take a look back at our first 12 months with the court-appointed chief

December 2000

Happy holidays! The Republicans, hell-bent on returning ethics to Washington,
formalized the theft of the election with an assist from the Supremacist Court,
when George W. Bush was appointed president of the United States.

The turn of the millennium, which reached a de facto conclusion a year earlier
when marketers commandeered the calendar, actually expired at midnight,
December 31, 2000, outliving the credibility of America’s electoral process by
several days.

January 2001

The New Year arrived with the feel of one of those action movies where a comet’s
hurtling toward Earth and, short of a miracle, it’s going to hit — hard.(...)

September 11 and 12

On September 11, the whole world changed — except for large portions of
Europe, Asia, and Africa, several island nations, and those parts of the world
where terrorism, whether state-sponsored or rogue, was already part of everyday
life. Okay, on September 11 life in the US began to resemble, just slightly, life

The court-appointed prez was addressing elementary-school children in Florida
when the attacks occurred. (Somehow it’s always Florida.) He quickly headed
to Louisiana and then into a game room in Omaha.

I might have given Bush a pass on going Barney Fife that morning except for a
few things. During a time when even Rudolph Giuliani rose above venal political
considerations (albeit briefly), the Bush administration’s apparent top priority was
to propagate alibis about why the president headed for the Grain Belt while the
Northeast Corridor burned. This included telling us about a call to the Secret
Service stating that the president was in imminent danger. Problem is, no such
call was received. Bush was supposed to be a hard-ass Texas Republican
naturally inclined to fly to DC, climb to the roof of the White House, and wave
pearl-handled revolvers, yelling, " Try me, motherfuckers! " Instead, the Incredible
President Limpet headed for a bunker in the Central Time Zone.

On September 12, while people lay trapped and dying under piles of rubble,
several administration officials spent the morning telling us about the mythical
phone threat, along with other prevarications that must have taken much of
September 11 to prepare.

They also said the assault on the Pentagon was sort of a coincidence because
the terrorists were really aiming for the White House. They called the Pentagon
a " secondary target. "

Even if the Pentagon had been a terrorist afterthought (and of course it wasn’t),
why bring it up while people were still dead and dying in its wreckage? Because
the cheesy people who operate the marionette that occupies the Oval Office value
political viability over human life, that’s why. This episode is important to recall as
we watch the Bush administration seize this crisis to further its entire agenda.
SDI, oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge, destroying the federal judiciary,
and yet another tax break for the rich — all have suddenly become essential
weapons in the War on Terrorism. Yeah, and W. will be joining Mensa soon,
Barry Crimmins

Friday, January 25, 2002

US ally attacks US citizen as terrorist
Noam Chomsky, one of America's greatest philosophers and linguists, has become the target of Turkey's chief of "terrorism prosecution".

Scarcely two months after the European Union praised Turkey for passing new laws protecting freedom of expression, the authorities in Ankara are using anti-terrorism legislation to prosecute Mr Chomsky's Turkish publisher.
Bourdieu remembered by friend
nice interview with Loic Wacquant, coauthor of Invitation to Reflexive Sociology

Bourdieu ist tot
obituary from Frankfurter Allegmeine Zeitung

Bourdieu esta muerto
obituary from La Jornada

Thursday, January 24, 2002

Update: My apologies to the newspaper of record for earlier calling into question their cultural vigilance and suggesting their intellectual sophistication may not be up to that of dailies on the Continent and Latin America. They have now noticed the death of Pierre Bourdieu.

Reprint of unsigned, bland Reuters obit of 'Leading French Thinker' on page somewhere near the classifieds.

However, here is a serviceable Bourdieu obituary from the NYT (I think) subsidiary,
the International Herald Tribune
The good Doctor Menlo's new collective project, American Samizdat.
Thankyou Menlo.

Pierre Bourdieu est mort

One of the great minds of our time and this world has passed. But at least we still have these:

Reproduction: In Education, Society & Culture.
Outline of a Theory of Practice.
The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art & Literature.
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.
State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power.
Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market.
The Rules of Art: Genesis & Structure of the Literary Field.
Homo Academicus.
Language & Symbolic Power.
Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action.
Free Exchange.
The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society.
Pascalian Meditations.
An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology.
On Television.

merci pour tout, m. bourdieu


It should be noted that this news, the loss of an important thinker, is the front page top story of at least two of France's largest newspapers: Liberation and LeMonde. As of this afternoon, it remains unreported in the New York Times. Lest anyone believe the social importance of intellectuals and the intellect a peculiarly French phenomenon, a couple of years ago the great Argentine novelist and collaborator of Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy-Casares, passed away. Many, including Borges, thought Bioy-Casares the best Spanish language writer of the 20th century. His death was announced in a front page banner headline of La Jornada, the wonderful Mexico City daily. His obituary never appeared in the New York Times.
Was Enron a Cult? And if so why didn't the FBI firebomb the Enron compound with Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay inside?
Enron is a big company going down the tubes, to be sure. But was it also a corporate version of the Branch Davidians or Heaven's Gate? And did Enron's chairman, Kenneth L. Lay, operate in much the same way as David Koresh and Marshall Applewhite?

"There are elements of cultish behavior in Enron," asserts Dave Arnott, management professor at Dallas Baptist University. Arnott is author of
which describes how some companies take over their workers' lives, using methods similar to those employed by traditional cults. The book identifies other all-consuming organizations as corporate cults. They include Southwest Airlines, Microsoft and Nike (where some employees had the swoosh logo tattooed onto their ankles).

Cults share three basic traits, according to Arnott. (1) They demand complete devotion of their followers, (2) they have a charismatic leader, and (3) they foster separation from the community. Enron scores on all three.

Enron nurtured a quasi-religious belief in the company's mission and its leader's greatness. It ran elaborate motivational sessions, where moderators would distribute inspirational rocks bearing the words "integrity," "respect" and "Enron." Many employees referred to Enron as their "family," and only team players need apply.

Workers at the Houston headquarters spoke of devoting 12-hour days to the company. They skipped lunch. Anyone who didn't put body and soul into the job got fired (as did two employees who criticized the company on Internet message boards). At any hint of attack, they'd rush to their company's defense. Journalists who criticized Enron's role in the California energy crisis received piles of angry mail from the Enron ranks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Clintonista faction of Democratic Party again attempts to out right the Right
The Bush administration needs to develop a comprehensive policy encouraging law enforcement to use the latest high-tech gadgetry and information-sharing tools if it wants to maintain any hope of preventing the next terrorist attack, a think-tank said today.

The recommendations were detailed in a pair of policy reports issued prepared by the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington think-tank affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council and the technology-minded New Democrats on Capitol Hill...

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the PPI proposals "a blueprint for a high-tech surveillance state."

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

How to write fiction in the absence of an aesthetic theory or a conscience
1. Keep characters simple. Good people are good; bad are bad. No ambiguities, please. Focus on the movement of the story and any high-tech or military aspects. Here, for instance, is what the official Amazon review -- traditionally a kiss-up -- says of Stephen Coonts's recent novel "America," which features Rear Admiral Jake Grafton: "Stephen Coonts describes the submarine at the center of the action so lavishly and lovingly that the U.S.S. America is much more real -- and even more human -- than any of his flesh-and-blood characters, including Grafton himself."

2. Put people in mortal danger. Plot is everything. Grisly murders, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, scientific emergencies, edgy sex and inexplicable events are essential. (Don't worry too much about plausibility. Inexplicable events are, natch, inexplicable.)

3. Pick a catchy title. Like those of Sue Grafton, author of 16 alphabetized No-Style mysteries such as "A Is for Alibi" and "B Is for Burglar." Or of No-Stylist Janet Evanovich, who has published "One for the Money," "Two for the Dough" and "Three to Get Deadly," among others. "When the Bough Breaks" is already taken. So are "Along Came a Spider" and "Clear and Present Danger."

4. Study the bestsellers. After his first novel failed, Robin Cook dissected a whole shelf of bestsellers. He made a note of each clever device. His second novel, "Coma," used every trick in the books. And sold like crazy.

5. Pay no attention to the critics, such as Pat Holt, a longtime book reviewer in San Francisco and editor of Holt Uncensored, an online newsletter for bookstore owners.

"Years ago," says Holt, "I noticed that the style of commercial fiction had shifted over to a television mentality."

Novels began to be written with "short paragraphs, a lot of switching of locations and lots of dialogue."

Recently, she says, "I was in an airport bookstore and I looked at the books and it really was to me a lot of propaganda." Many of the novels looked the same, she says, as though they had been written by advertising copywriters.

"The heroes we're supposed to look toward are strong silent men who get the job done," Holt says. The protagonists usually have some secret in their past that they must overcome. The books are designed "to manipulate."

"I don't know," says an exasperated Holt. "It's just, oh, God. One after another after another."

6. Know thyself. Many successful No-Stylists make no secret of the way they choose to write. When critics attack, the No-Stylists just take it -- all the way to the bank. "I have no illusions," occasional No-Stylist John Grisham told the Memphis Commercial Appeal in 1991. "I'm not trying to write great literature, can't do it. I'm just trying to write the best commercial novels I can."
Memo to Delillo Get with the program.

[via null device]
"Unbreakable" Oracle breakable
"I don't like it when marketing jargon takes over reality," says Schneier. "The word 'unbreakable' has a meaning in English. When they say their software is unbreakable, they're lying."
And Larry Ellison wants to be the sysadmin for a national i.d. scheme.

Why not just merge the CIA and the FBI into one agency, like the KGB?
Congress has given the C.I.A. new legal powers to snoop on people in the United States — not limited to investigating groups like Al Qaeda. It has been granted these new powers, along with billions of dollars, without any public post-mortem into how all these guardians of national security failed to protect against the September attacks.

The C.I.A. is now permitted to read secret grand jury testimony, without a judge's prior approval. It can obtain private records of institutions and corporations seized under federal court-approved searches.

In proposed legislation circulated on Capitol Hill last month, the C.I.A. is also seeking the power to intercept e-mail messages routed through the United States from abroad, on the say-so of the director of central intelligence, without a warrant. In addition, the F.B.I. would like to expand its ability to eavesdrop on individuals in the United States.
Phil Agre's astute wit on CIA: "the authoritarians claim we've hobbled them; the truth is that they're lame"

Friday, January 18, 2002

Yesterday was the anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba
In a meeting held with security advisers in August 1960, two months
after Congo achieved its formal independence from Belgium, Eisenhower ordered
the CIA to "eliminate" Lumumba, according to Johnson's account.

"There was a stunned silence for about 15 seconds and the
meeting continued," Johnson recalled.

The CIA's director, Allen Dulles, referred to the Congolese
leader as a "mad dog."

Among the American agents on the ground in the Congo was a
young CIA man working under diplomatic cover, Frank
Carlucci, who tried to work his way into Lumumba's
confidence in the months before the murder. Carlucci went on
to become national security advisor and defense secretary in
the Reagan administration and is today the chairman of the
Carlyle Group, the influential merchant bank that includes
George Bush Sr. among its directors.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

When in doubt, invade the Phillipines
U.S. Special Forces have begun arriving in the Philippines to assist Philippine troops in their fight against Muslim guerrillas linked to Osama bin Laden, part of a significant expansion of the U.S. war on terrorism outside Afghanistan.
Unions are threat to national security, says W
Invoking security concerns, President Bush has issued an executive order barring union representation at United States attorneys' offices and at four other agencies in the Justice Department.

Although federal law bans strikes by federal employees, White House officials said Mr. Bush had issued his order out of concern that union contracts could restrict the ability of workers in the Justice Department to protect Americans and national security.

The order, issued on Jan. 7, has angered unions, which say the president is exploiting the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to pursue a campaign against unions.
A living wage is an act of terror against the owners of the Republic.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Memo to the alleged Christians running the US Government: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone
Some time in the next few weeks, the vast apparatus of the US State Department will disgorge a large report grading the human rights performance of pretty much anything worth calling a country.

The Americans, being Americans, have been producing these reports annually since 1977, all the better to nudge the rest of us towards the apex of human endeavour Americans like to believe they embody.

It's a terrifically supercilious act, one few other countries would even contemplate, not that it really matters...

In last year's report, for example, the State Department gravely commented on the difficulties in getting a fair trial in Iraq where there are "special security courts" which "hear cases in secret" and, worse, "many cases appear to end in summary execution, although defendants may appeal to the President for clemency"...

In Singapore, the department reported there were "informal methods of government influence, that continue to restrict freedom of speech and the press significantly"...
For laughs, read last years report in it's entirety.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Bruce Schneier, predictably lucid, on National ID's
What problem are IDs trying to solve? Honestly, I'm not too sure. Clearly, the idea is to allow any authorized person to verify the identity of a person. This would help in certain isolated situations, but would only have a limited effect on crime. It certainly wouldn't have stopped the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- all of the terrorists showed IDs to board their planes, some real and some forged -- nor would it stop the current anthrax attacks. Perhaps an ID card would make it easy to track illicit cash transactions, to discover after the fact all persons at the scene of a crime, to verify immediately whether an adult accompanying a child is a parent or legal guardian, to keep a list of suspicious persons in a neighborhood each night, to record who purchased a gun or knife or fertilizer or Satanic books, to determine who is entitled to enter a building, or to know who carries the HIV virus. In any case, let's assume that the problem is verifying identity.

We don't know for sure whether a national ID card would allow us to do all these things. We haven't had a full airing of the issue, ever. We do know that a national ID document wouldn't determine for sure whether it is safe to permit a known individual to board an airplane, attend a sports event, or visit a shopping mall.

How can IDs fail in practice? All sorts of ways. All four components can fail, individually and together. The cards themselves can be counterfeited. Yes, I know that the manufacturers of these cards claim that their anti-counterfeiting methods are perfect, but there hasn't been a card created yet that can't be forged. Passports, drivers licenses, and foreign national ID cards are routinely forged. I've seen estimates that 10% of all IDs in the US are phony. At least one-fourth of the president's own family has been known to use phony IDs. And not everyone will have a card. Foreign visitors won't have one, for example. (Some of the 9/11 terrorists who had stolen identities stole those identities overseas.) About 5% of all ID cards are lost each year; the system has to deal with the problems that causes.
Terry Jones discusses the War on Grammar
WHAT really alarms me about President Bush's "war on terrorism" is the grammar. How do you wage war on an abstract noun? It's rather like bombing murder.

Imagine if Bush had said: "We're going to bomb murder wherever it lurks. We are going to seek out the murderers and the would-be murderers, and bomb any government that harbours murderers."

The other thing that worries me about Bush and Blair's "war on terrorism" is: how will they know when they've won it? With most wars, you can say you've won when the other side is either all dead or surrenders. But how is terrorism going to surrender?

It's hard for abstract nouns to surrender. In fact it's very hard for abstract nouns to do anything at all of their own volition - even trained philologists can't negotiate with them. It's difficult to find their hide-outs, useless to try to cut off their supplies.

The bitter semantic truth is that you can't win against these sort of words - unless, I suppose, you get them thrown out of the Oxford English Dictionary. That would show 'em. Admittedly, the Second World War was fought against fascism.
Houston Chronicle on Enron, Ari, and W
Ari Fleischer, that simpering twit of a White House spokesman, urged Thursday that the Enron debacle not be turned into a partisan witch hunt. OK, Ari, let's make it a bipartisan witch hunt.

But all the news seems so Republican-specific at the moment. You know they're getting edgy at the White House when both President Bush and Fleischer -- within about 30 minutes of each other -- try to blame Enron Chief Executive Officer Ken Lay (the single largest contributor to Bush's political career) on Ann Richards.

Monday, January 14, 2002

Terry Jones, President of the Humane Society for Putting Bags Over Suspects' Heads
We in HSPBOSH have been trying for years to get more armies to put bags over the heads of anyone they suspect of anything. For one thing, the placing of a bag over the heads of suspects protects those of us who are not involved from unpleasant feelings of sympathy for the prisoners. There is nothing more offensive to ordinary, law-abiding newspaper-readers than seeing rows of sorry-looking peasants being herded into the backs of cattle-trucks by our lads in the Army. The prisoners often looked frightened, dejected and hungry, and how can anyone eat a decent full breakfast over photos like that?
Hitch back in dissent biz, sort of
That would-be martyr John Walker--the mujahid of Marin County--has done something more than give a bad name to my favorite Scotch whiskey. He has illuminated the utter unfitness of our police and intelligence chiefs for the supreme power they now wish and propose to award themselves. And he has also accidentally exposed the stupidity and nastiness of the Patriot Act. Consider: With no resources beyond his own evidently rather feeble ones he was able to join the Taliban and become a confidant of the Al Qaeda network; an accomplishment completely beyond the wit or strength of our multibillion-dollar CIA, which possessed no human asset within a thousand miles of anywhere Osama bin Laden happened to be.

Monday, January 07, 2002

elegant dialectic from George Monbiot in The Guardian:
Nothing has threatened the survival of "Western values" as much as the triumph of the West.
Swans' Stephen Gowans on The Tape and The Credibility:
Not only did well-known liars make an allegation without even deigning to adduce a scrap of evidence to back up their claim, they used the charge to justify a war against one of the world's poorest countries, on grounds that the country's rulers wouldn't give up the guy they had no evidence on in the first place. But there was a hole in the story, a gaping one. On three occasions the Taliban offered to extradite bin Laden, if Washington presented its evidence. On all three occasions the offer was rejected. "We don't bargain," said Bush. To anyone who didn't have their head up Uncle Sam's ass, it was apparent Bush had no evidence at all.
So, look. We have a renowned fabulist, hiding an apparent absence of evidence behind bluster about not bargaining, who could resolve the matter of bringing bin Laden to justice quickly and peacefully, and yet refuses to. America the peace-loving country? America the country that wants justice? Huh?
So for Bush and Blair and their bevy of bullshitters, all was going well. There was one glaring, inconvenient fact that threw a spanner into the works of the whole carefully crafted case, but no one was paying any attention to it: Osama bin Laden had never admitted to the attacks, and had, on the contrary, denied having been involved in their planning, a seemingly critical point, but one mostly unremarked on.
The Tape was real and bin Laden was our man. But there were problems. Perhaps the biggest was this: The videotape came from a government whose credibility was stretched so thin by crying wolf repeatedly you'd need a micrometer, in much of the world, to measure it. And then the White House had made a big show of enlisting the services of Hollywood to produce propaganda in connection with the war on terrorism. Wasn't this exactly the kind of thing Hollywood was capable of producing - a doctored videotape? And Bush's lame defense of the tape didn't help. "What," sputtered the president in indignation. "To say this is faked is preposterous." That's a defense?

Saturday, January 05, 2002

westerby is not defunct. the 2002 edition will begin next week.