Archive for the ‘capturing’ Category

Boiling

Educative descriptions of the kettle at Parliament Square in “Inside the Kettle” (Letters, London Review of Books, vol. 33, no. 1, January 6 2011).

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Plug: society testers should try to find any legal or illegal way to watch Foreign Parts, a documentary film by Véréna Paravel and Jonh Paul Sniadecki which was screened for instance at the 48th New York Film Festival. Trailers here. It’s about Willets Point, Queens.

The Fassin brothers (Didier Fassin, anthropologist, and Eric Fassin, sociologist) object, in an interesting opinion piece (“Misère du culturalisme”, Le Monde, September 30 2010), to the general climate of rehabilitation of the Moynihan Report. In France, for instance, a couple of recent books (here and here) just added another layer to the “we should not remain blind to the question of their ethnic origins” motto (note the deictics) in the national conversation on anti-social behavior.

Another comparison: try this.

This is a little reminder about how French policemen like to use their great weapon, the proverbial flash-ball (from Verney-Carron),  in order to to fight chaos and defend order: pointing straight towards the face of the “chaotic” (a note on terminology below). Someone lost an eye in a demonstration this summer in Montreuil. And the little device is now an acknowledged tag in the French media.

TV  journalist Mélissa Theuriau just got a little pushy on this and related topics with Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux (this blog’s old friend). Cops got pissed off and issued a letter saying that the lady was under the influence of evil anti-cop primal forces. Hey, perhaps she’s a “chaotic” too! Radical Chic rightly spotted the cops’ unconscious: she’s married to Jamel Debbouze, comedian of Moroccan descent, agent of the chaotic.

Note on terminology: “chaotic” means arabs, leftists and women (especially if they ask the right questions).

More than twenty years after France’s terrorist attack on the Rainbow Warrior, the French national nuclear intelligence bunch seems to be as alert as ever:

“Two senior executives at French state energy giant Electricité de France (EDF) have been charged on suspicion of spying on Greenpeace, a judicial official said Tuesday. EDF security chiefs Pierre François and Pierre Durieux are charged with conspiring to hack into computer systems including at the environmental group, the official said, confirming a report on the Mediapart website. A computer expert is also charged in the case along with Thierry Lorho, the head of private detective firm Kargus Consultant, and a third unnamed person, the official said. Both executives deny knowingly hacking into a computer system, but the computer expert has admitted the charge, the judicial official said. EDF confirmed on Tuesday that an investigation had been opened for “fraudulent intrusion into computer systems” and that a search had been carried out on its premises. But the energy giant said it was a victim of the detective firm Kargus, and that it had registered as a civil plaintiff in the case, a spokesman told AFP. A source close to the investigation told AFP that Kargus had signed a contract to provide unspecified “services” for EDF.” (from “EDF bosses probed for spying on Greenpeace”, AFP, March 31 2009)

Well, no hard feelings. There were no bombs this time, after all.

Online petitions are quite useless. That said, it doesn’t hurt signing one once in a while.

So French-reading followers of this blog might want to catch up on one most favorite theme — cops terrorizing people in planes from France to Africa, see a couple of old posts on that here and here — and sign the petition published by RESF to call for a withdrawal of all charges against André Barthélémy, president of Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme (a human rights organization) who, back in April 2008, had a word to say (“délit de solidarité”) during a flight to Brazzaville in which some people on board were screaming their complaint to the police agents that forced them in.

An extension of the petition is humbly added here, just in case it works, addressed to the national crew of expulsive efficiency: get lost.

One reputable French union is alerting here the scientific and teaching community about what is happening to public statistics on science and education in France. The government’s mot d’ordre seems to be here “contrôler le chiffre” (“controlling figures”).

So there is this statistics department working for the ministries in charge of education and scientific research, called DEPP (Direction de l’évaluation, de la prospective et de la performance), which is supposed to be responsible for the production and publication of statistics about schools, universities and so forth. But the cabinet of Xavier Darcos, Sarkozy’s minister of national education, is now considering these public statistics as confidential, blocking publication — are concerned in particular surveys from the DEPP that could hinder the minister’s demographic justifications for downsizing the education system.

That’s relieving: a government that cares so much about statistics that it prefers to keep them for itself alone.

The collapse of Bernard (Bernie to his friends) Madoff’s Ponzi scheme is exposing some interesting networks in the world of investment and philanthropy. Not only did the scam spread through word of mouth and country club contacts, but apparently a large part of the appeal of the scheme was in its apparent exclusivity. “Dealing with him was all about getting behind the velvet rope to get into a downmarket bar… His entire fund was structured around a cult of access,” in the words of Fabio Salvoldelli, global strategist of Optimal Fund Management (article here).

The extension of the fraud in Spain, where the financial elite has been hit hard, provides an interesting illustration of the personal networks through which ‘investment decisions’ and ‘trust’ flow. Especially, and this might well be a Spanish idyosincrasy, of the pivotal role of the son-in-law. Madoff’s funds were marketed to wealthy Spaniards by M&B Capital Advisers, which is run by Javier Botin-Sanz and Guillermo Morenes (respectively son and son-in-law of Banco Santander’s Chairman Emilio Botin). Another key agent of contagion in the spreading of the pyramidal scheme was Andres Piedrahita, fund manager at Santander’s Banif and a fixture of Spanish high society, who also happens to be the son-in-law of Fairfield Greenwhich owner Walter Noel. As a result of these ‘connections’, Santander has reported the largest exposure to Madoff’s plot so far: €2.33 billion, mostly invested by its clients.

Back in New York, Madoff seems to have been at the epicenter of the city’s network of Jewish charities, many of which are now on the brink of collapse due to their involvement (or the involvement of their benefactors) in Madoff’s funds. Dr Gary Tobin, President of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research offers some insight in an interview in today’s Wall Street Journal:

“Specifically, Jewish philanthropy is built on social and personal networks. High-end solicitations are person to person and built in the social culture of philanthropy. It’s like finding out your brother is a murderer, it’s really bad for the family, it’s bad for the family of Jewish philanthropy.” (‘Madoff: The Atomic Bomb for Jewish Charities’, Wall Street Journal. See also this Bloomberg article, this one in Haaretz, and this one in the New York Times)

This philantrophic angle might prevent Madoff from adopting the ‘Jerome Kerviel Defense’: namely, to claim he was only robbing the richest of the rich and become in the process a popular hero. ‘Free Bernie’ t-shirts on sale in Times Square? Unlikely, given that the institutions suffering the brunt of the scheme include the likes of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, or the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of the Imagination.

Readers interested in the fate of quantified performance can have a look here at the performance targets which accompany the 2009 budget for the French Ministry of Immigration and National Identity (a gem of Sarkozy’s France, already blogged about here). The number of actual deportations (“nombre de mesures de reconduites effectives à la frontière”) should increase to 30,000 for next year. (On the problem of the sinister naming of managerial devices, check out also the meaning of the acronym GESTEL, the database upon which this counting is done here: it looks like it stands for “gestion de l’éloignement” that is, “management of estrangement” or “management of the taking away”.)

Well, national deportation statisticians should actually be thanked. They provided a quite astonishing slogan for the recent donation campaign for the CIMADE (a French organization helping migrants held in detention centers): “behind this figure, lives are shattered!”.