Archive for the ‘invading’ Category

What does it take for France to get used to fascist junk? Claude Guéant, France’s minister of the interior, provides some help whit that question: “French people have the feeling that uncontrolled migratory flows change their environment, they are not xenophobic but they want France to remain France” (“Claude Géant: Les Français veulent que la France reste la France”, Le Monde, 15 March 2011, linked in “A Paris, Le FN défile ‘en l’honneur des travailleurs'”, Le Monde, 1 May 2011). But what about the French people who do not have that feeling at all? Easy: they are not truly French.

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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.

Quite nicely put by Jackson Lears:

“Since 9/11, a cult of the warrior has settled over America like morning fog over the Mekong Delta.” (Jackson Lears, 2010, “Mad Monkey”, London Review of Books, vol. 32 n. 18, 23 September)

A scrutiny of the mentality behind a recent bestselling war novel — with reference to the foundational, thrilling “I do not know the meaning of the universe” Holmes quote — leads alas to the sad objection:

“The political questions remains: why are these men in that place? Who is responsible? Is this what we want? Until we learn how to ask them more insistently, we will be stuck with the demons of Vietnam, which won’t be exorcised any time soon, and more imperial misadventures are on the way. There it is.” (Jackson Lears, 2010, “Mad Monkey”, London Review of Books, vol. 32 n. 18, 23 September)

The Test Society blog proudly presents the first of a series of qualitative indicators on pre-fascist tendencies. This one, still in development, consists in spotting books displaying the notion of “vampire” to refer to any collective instance of the Great Oriental Menace, and openly getting a mainstream media nod. For today’s indicator hit, the vampires are the Chinese:  Philippe Cohen and Luc Richard’s Le Vampire du Milieu: comment la Chine nous dicte sa loi (advertised here, here, here or even here).

A more refined version of the indicator shall include in the future a correlation between the use of “vampires” and the use of political deictics, in particular of the resourceful “them or us” thing (today’s finding is a gem in that sense: the title reads “The Middle Vampire: How China Imposes its Law upon Us”).

El Roto today here. Translation (the entrepreneur talking to himself):

“- We need to act soon! The Chinese are invading us with their products!

– But I’ve got my factories in China!

– Yes, right. But I’m not Chinese!”

Civilization-wise, the new recruitment campaign for the French Army is really spot-on. The website goes like “Becomeyourself.com” (Devenezvousmeme.com) and posters in the same vein can be seen everywhere (please do admire the use of camouflage, even Marinetti would have freaked out).

Another comparison: try this.

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.

The last soldier from the French trenches of World War I died. Nicolas Sarkozy said:

“Through him, I bow to the millions of ‘poilus’ who responded with exemplary everyday courage to the call of the invaded homeland.” (from “Lazare Ponticelli, 110, last ‘poilu’ of World War I trenches”, International Herald Tribune, March 12 2008, full press release here)

“Responded”. Good boys. Maybe France should ban again the screening of Paths of Glory.

Sociologist Luc Boltanski (co-author of recently translated important books such as On Justification and The New Spirit of Capitalism) says of Nicolas Sarkozy:

“In the previous model of political representation, institutions play a semantic role. They do not primarily serve the purpose of coordination, administration or police. What they really do is that they state what is. Nobody can state what is for others because individual persons have a body, are situated, have libido, have interests. It is thus an entity without a body that shall speak about what is. That is what we call an institution. Of course, this being without a body has spokespersons that do have bodies. Hence, the fear expressed by Rousseau in Le Contrat Social of these beings with bodies not really representing the being without a body — even if they try hard, for instance wearing fancy hats and nice costumes, making their voices sound graver and, in short, keeping aside their libidinal body. But what our new President does is, precisely, to reduce dramatically this gap. He pops up into the institution with his body and his libido, his interests and his wealthy friends. Of course, this is a violent shock.” (from Sylvain Bourmeau’s interview with Luc Boltanski, “Nicolas Sarkozy s’inscrit dans la continuité de Valéry Giscard d’Estaing”, MediaPart, February 14 2008)

It’s true. Which unfortunately means that Sarkozy’s body becomes a most legitimate political topic — and hard to follow.