Archive for the ‘politicizing’ Category

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).

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For those who follow economists in their world-making activities, this roster of brilliant economists in The Economist provides some ancillary relevance. It says that

[…] today’s economists show no great attachment to the rational model of behaviour that guided Mr Becker. Economic theory has become so eclectic that ingenious researchers can usually cook up a plausible model to explain whatever empirical results they find interesting. Economics is now defined neither by its subject matter nor by its method.

It also seems that the stories economists tell about the world are becoming ever more interesting politically. Take the new economics of unemployment: bigger, longer subsidies may in fact be better than pushing the unemployed to get a job, any job, as soon as possible. Pay people to find good jobs vs get those lazy bastards to work now. In social sciences, all the cognitive handiwork is propped up by a moral tale. But hey, that’s the way we are made to be.

Financial stress testing is becoming a political issue (see “Bank objections delay strest tests” and “BofA and Citi in last push on stress tests”, Financial Times, May 1, May 3 2009). Accordingly, the very problem of the release and usage of the results of stress tests is put to the test: a leak to the media is, in a way, a sort of a political experiment (see subsequent blogging by Brad DeLong, John Hempton, Yves Smith and Paul Krugman). The polity of testing is a very serious thing (even in finance). Will stress testers end up appointing test diplomats?

(Or test political commissars.)

This blog’s lasting advice: in times of crisis, learn Spanish with El Roto. This month’s selection: “We won’t tolerate disorder against disorder!” (here), “All this time struggling against the system, and now it falls apart alone” (here), “When things turned bad, magicians of finance took their hats off and disapeared” (here), “A financial consultant taking his ‘stuff’ back” (here).

Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total, expresses the following opinion on today’s strikes in France:

“It’s a big sign that people don’t know where they are, they don’t know what they want. […] They are lost.” (from “Strikers protest French economic strategy”, International Herald Tribune, March 19 2009)

It is very sad that people are lost. It is much better not to be lost. Total is not lost, and this is very good. The lost people are actually very jealous about Total not being lost, and are consequently angry about Total:

“Many people are angry that big companies like the oil giant Total is making staff redundant while simultaneously announcing record profits, the BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby in Paris says.” (from “New nationwide strike hits France”, BBC News, March 19 2009)

But this is wrong. The reason why this anger is wrong is that it exposes a lack in the mastery of contradiction. Instead, these people should examine the contradictory aspects present in all things, and thus learn from Total.

Did Christophe de Margerie study Mao during his B-School years, or what?

The initial hearing of Duch, the first out of five “senior Khmer Rouge leaders” to appear as defendants in front of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), started this week. To some, this is an occasion to ask a question of political arithmetics: why five only? And why should this one go first? Peter Maguire has a couple of interesting thoughts in this respect:

“Unlike the Khmer Rouge political leaders who continue to deny knowledge of atrocities and even of Tuol Sleng Prison, Duch is now an evangelical Christian who has stoically accepted his fate, admitted his guilt, and taken responsibility for his actions. […] Some speculate that the Cambodian government is serving up this easily convicted thug as a sacrificial lamb in the hopes that the other over-80 defendants won’t live long enough to see the inside of the courtroom. If nothing else, we might finally learn whether or not there were “Chinese advisors” inside Tuol Sleng.” (from “Brother Duch in the dock”, International Herald Tribune, February 12 2009)

UN prosecutor Robert Petit has expressed the need to carry out further criminal investigations and possibly issue more indictments, but Chea Leang, his Cambodian counterpart in the “mixed” tribunal, said this could dangerously jeopardize the country’s political stability. Maguire adds: “If nothing else, the UN’s attempt to broaden this criminal inquiry will serve both as a test of the mixed tribunal’s legitimacy and its ability to function as a court”.

But the test is also on how much political “political justice” should or should not be. As aptly put for instance by this blogger, who quotes Maguire’s piece, Chea Leang’s (or, perhaps more exactly, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen‘s) reluctance to massive international justice can be interpreted as a case for “political interference” in the tribunal (negative connotation for “political” here). However, Maguire seems to be using the word “political” in a rather different (slightly positive) sense when he claims, before quoting political theorist Otto Kirchheimer, that “what remains to be seen is whether or not the Cambodian prime minister has the political will to try the Khmer Rouge political leaders”.

So the question remains. Is a political interference a threat to justice? Or is justice as such, at least in part, a political interference?

Nassim Taleb and Nouriel Roubini (formerly economists, now financial sociologists, apparently) have set a Facebook group in order to call for a socialization of finance. Their motto on how bonuses are the crux of “a situation in which profits were privatized and losses were socialized” looks like it is coming straight from Olivier Godechot’s book. Excellent news for anybody interested in a steady transition from economics to sociology in the appraisal of finance.

But, just in case: before registering to the Facebook group, remember Mao’s “Let a hundred flowers blossom”. They’re economists after all, so you never know.

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.

An important anonymous manifesto has been publicised at Will Davies’ Potlatch. It has been decided to cut-and-paste it here for the sake of knowledge diffusion:

“I don’t give a fuck about economics or the so-called economy. The concepts I choose to deal with are ‘society’, ‘power’ and ‘justice’. I’m not some Marxist twat. It’s just my unfortunate existential fate to have been born in an age when those concepts are only accessible via the categories of economics.”

This is a quick plug for a short (but epochal) piece by Keith Hart and Horacio Ortiz published as a guest editorial in the last issue of Anthropology Today and titled “Anthropology in the financial crisis” (relevant excerpts also available here): the anthropology of finance is defended as both an intellectual and a political venture (the notion of a “political anthropology of finance” is in Horacio Ortiz’s doctoral thesis).