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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

Grace Period II

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Another sort of grace period, from Bob Herbert’s column Monday in the NY Times:

Mr. Delgado, who eventually got conscientious objector status and
was honorably discharged last January, recalled a disturbance that
occurred while he was working in the Abu Ghraib motor pool. Detainees
who had been demonstrating over a variety of grievances began throwing
rocks at the guards. As the disturbance grew, the Army authorized
lethal force. Four detainees were shot to death.

Mr. Delgado
confronted a sergeant who, he said, had fired on the detainees. "I
asked him," said Mr. Delgado, "if he was proud that he had shot unarmed
men behind barbed wire for throwing stones. He didn’t get mad at all.
He was, like, ‘Well, I saw them bloody my buddy’s nose, so I knelt
down. I said a prayer. I stood up, and I shot them down.’ "

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May 1, 2005 at 11:55 pm

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Grace Period

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Just received in the mail a set of Important Amendments to My Credit Card Agreement from MBNA. (extra-US readers: MBNA is one of the big players, I imagine the biggest, in the US credit card industry…) I take it that this set of Amendments represents a rather significant turn, judging from the chatter on financially minded boards when I searched for a translation out of creditcardese into English… And it goes without saying that it comes exuberantly in the wake of this.

Here’s one bit:

(Payment Change) – GRACE PERIOD
Summary of Change: We are changing your grace period for purchases. With this change, you will need to pay your balance in full by the Payment Due Date each month in order to have a grace period and avoid finance charges on purchases. Prior to this change, you needed to pay your balance in full by the end of each business cycle.

Funny thing, this sneaky survival of the theological in our credit card statements. But then, what of the translation of the lunar month into the "business cycle."

From Debord, Society of the Spectacle, the good part:

Psuedo-cyclical time typifies the consumption of modern economic survival – of that augmented survival in which daily lived experience embodies no free choices and is subject, no longer to the natural order, but to a pseudo-nature constructed by means of alienated labor. It is therefore quite ‘natural’ that pseudo-cyclical time should echo the old cyclical rhythms that governed survival in pre-industrial societies. It builds, in fact, on the natural vestigest of cyclical time, while also using these as models on which to base new but homologous variants: day and night, weekly work and weekly rest, the cycle of vacations and so on.

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May 1, 2005 at 12:54 am

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Cargo Containers, Elizabeth NJ

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(Perhaps a followup to the previous followup…) Took my Nan to Newark Airport today – she stopped here on the way to see the folks where they live. And of course was treated to the fantastic perspective that the NJ turnpike provides upon the material remainder (reminder?) of the US trade deficit. The piles and piles of cargo containers that come full of the bountry of the world, but never leave. It is cheaper, apparently, to rent acre after acre of NJ swamp-land and simply let them rust than to disassemble them, sell them for scrap.


The last (and first) time I was in northern California, I was amazed by the fact that you could actually see the fault-lines. Drive right through them, over them, on US 1.



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April 16, 2005 at 12:51 am

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Preemptive Blogging II

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James Wolcott’s got a great example of preemptive blogging up today, where he asks us to watch for an uptick in the chatter of/about Hezbollah in the coming weeks and months.

Here’s your homework assignment, boys and girls. Study cable news in
the coming months, if you can stand the stomach upset, and see how many
segments are devoted to the emerging threat posed by Hezbollah, and
what America must do to protect itself. Particularly what-if scenarios
about Hezbollah obtaining WMDs, and what they could do to American
cities. I suspect we’ll see quite an uptick.

Wolcott seems to see this rolling towards Iran, but I’m wondering about the preoccupation with Syria in the last week or so. What, exactly, does Syria have to gain by way of the Lebanon assassination and the bombing in Israel, just when everything was "going so well"? If you were a mideast pariah state, is this the time that you’d pick to launch a quixotic region-wide terror campaign? Seriously?

Maybe this is what that unnamed Bush aide meant by "we create our own reality."

We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality- judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

This dude was right out of Heart of Darkness central casting, no? Speaking of which, I handed out these two passages from Said’s Culture and Imperialism today in class. Think they’re, um, timely.

Let us return to Conrad and to what I have been referring to
as the second, less imperialistically assertive possibility offered by Heart of Darkness. Recall once again
that Conrad sets the story on the deck of a boat anchored in the Thames; as
Marlow tells his story the sun sets, and by the end of the narrative the heart
of darkness has reappeared in England; outside the group of Marlow’s listeners
lies an undefined and unclear word. Conrad sometimes seems to want to fold that
world into the imperial metropolitan discourse represented by Marlow, but by
virtue of his own dislocated subjectivity he resists the effort and succeeds in
so doing, I have always believed, largely through formal devices. Conrad’s
self-consciously circular narrative forms draw attention to themselves as
artificial constructions, encouraging us to sense the potential of a reality
that seemed inaccessible to imperialism, just beyond its control, and that only
after Conrad’s death in 1924 acquired a substantial presence (28-9)

Yet the whole point of what Kurtz and Marlow talk about is
in fact imperial mastery, white European over
black Africans, and their ivory, civilization over the primitive dark continent. By accentuating the discrepancy
between the official “idea” of empire and the remarkably disorienting actuality
of Africa, Marlow unsettles the reader’s sense not only
of the very idea of empire, but of something more basic, reality itself. For if
Conrad can show that all human activity depends on controlling a radically
unstable reality to which words approximate only by will or convention, the
same is true of empire, of venerating the idea, and so forth. With Conrad,
then, we are in a world being made and unmade more or less all the time. What
appears stable and secure – the policeman at the corner, for instance – is only
slightly more secure than the white men in the jungle, and requires the same
continuous (but precarious) triumph over an all-pervading darkness, which by
the end of the tale is show to be the same in London and in Africa (29).

Great stuff…


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March 3, 2005 at 12:15 am

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Mr. Brown’s Neighborhood

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OK, please don’t take this as a horrifying burst of naivete, because it’s not. Let it be clearly stated: I am fully aware of the near collapse of U.S. television news, and print journalism, in the last half-decade. I’ll say it again: I am fully aware of the near collapse of U.S. television news, and print journalism, in the last half-decade.

I don’t really watch Aaron Brown’s show on CNN anymore, not since the election anyway. He’s always been a bit of a mixed bag – actually does hard news / often lashes out jingoistically or repeats the idee recue of the day. Not a great program, by any means, but a little better than the usual stuff.

But I flip over to Brown’s show tonight, and what do I find. Here are the big stories of the night:

1) Rise of poker on television and the internet
2) "After three days of intensive hearings, the FDA says three pain
medications are safe enough to use despite their links to heart risk."
3) "The Marines are investigating the death of a West Virginia boy who drowned at boot camp at Paris Island.  His parents want answers, understandably, after they saw the tape of
what preceded their son’s death, pictures shot by CNN affiliate WIS in
Charleston, South Carolina and reported by our Jason Bellini." (OK – this one was pretty good…) Leads into allegations of sex abuse in the military (US on US, of course, not Gitmo / Abu G. style)
4) Endless two segment-long interview with NBA commisioner David Stern (???)

What’s going on here? Feels as though (though I have no real evidence) Brown’s taken a ratings nosedive and the powers that be have asked him to straighten up and Zahn-ify his show… Wonder if that’s what’s happening?

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February 19, 2005 at 1:39 am

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What I Heard About Iraq

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Eliot Weinberger, "What I Heard about Iraq," London Review of Books (2/3/05)

I know others mentioned / linked to this back when it appeared at the beginning of the month, but I just got to it today. Terrific piece – and very much worthy of clipping into a Word document for your archive.

Better yet, print it out, fold it up, pry up a floorboard in the place you live, and hide it there…
The way things are going, when we’re all scribbling in our journals just outside of the gaze of the Screen (or so we thought), it’ll provide some nice material for the first chapter…

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February 19, 2005 at 1:15 am

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We’re Sorry!

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From today’s Times, "G.I.s Under Inquiry for Killing of 2 Afghans":

The first reports in the local press said that American forces had
killed two members of Al Qaeda, and that three more had escaped. But
Colonel Hayes said it was clear to him that the victims were just
villagers, and he confirmed that the military had given each of the
families $2,000 to help them through their immediate difficulties.

have no reason to say there were Taliban or Al Qaeda," Colonel Hayes
said, adding that in the few weeks he had been based in Shindand he had
seen no evidence of Taliban or Al Qaeda activity in the area.

"I can only say it was a mistake," the district chief, Mr. Kamin, said. "They had no weapons, they are from a poor family."

Of course there’s an article something like this one everyday, every other day, in the Times. There’s something to reading slowly through them, watching the absurd and horrible develop like a scene  from a terrible movie, a movie that goes nowhere…

Two men are gathering firewood
and then an SUV pulls up with US soldiers in it
and then the men run
and are shot by the soldiers.
And then, because one isn’t quite dead, the soldiers
shoot him again to make sure.

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February 18, 2005 at 10:52 am

Posted in Current Affairs