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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mediawatch World Apr 02: Is Critique Secular?, April - Nat. Poetry Month, Ghailani, Attack on Iran, Maliki Begs Iran, Martin Amis

The series of posts at The Immanent Frame that have responded to the question “Is critique secular?” were initially inspired by an event that I, along with Judith Butler and Chris Nealon, organized last year at The Townsend Center for the Humanities at UC Berkeley. Given the SSRC’s current focus on religion and secularism, Jonathan VanAntwerpen invited the conference organizers and participants, and a range of others, to post their reflections on this event and the question that framed it (see posts by Talal Asad, Chris Nealon, and Colin Jager—all of whom participated in the symposium). Here I would like to give a sense of the ongoing stakes some of us have in this conversation and why I think it is important to think about secularism in relation to critique given the political bent of our times. Is critique secular? by Saba Mahmood

In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and at home, the position of the globe's "sole superpower" is visibly fraying. The country that was once proclaimed an "empire lite" has proven increasingly light-headed. The country once hailed as a power greater than that of imperial Rome or imperial Britain, a dominating force beyond anything ever seen on the planet, now can't seem to make a move in its own interest that isn't a disaster. The Iraq government's recent offensive in Basra is but the latest example with -- we can be sure -- more to come. The End of Empire?: By Howard Zinn,

For the 12th year running, April is National Poetry Month, deemed so by the Acadamy of American Poets back in 1996 and celebrated creatively throughout the month:
Poetry and The Creative Mind: A gala event on April 1 at Linconln Center in New York, now the largest literary celebration in the world. 10 Years/10 Cities Reading Series: Poetry readings around the country from April 1 through April 26. Poem In Your Pocket Day: April 17 marks the first annual Poem In Your Pocket Day. Simply select a favorite poem to keep in your pocket to share with friends, family, coworkers. There are unlimited ways in which to celebrate poetry. offers thirty suggestions right off the bat. You can also visit for poetry mobile ringtones or for a mobile version of the web site. Poets are so cutting edge! Celebrate National Poetry Month By Mark Flanagan

Ghailani is the sixth of the 14 so-called "high-value detainees" -- those held in secret, CIA-run prisons, who were transferred to Guantánamo in September 2006 -- to be put forward for trial by military commission. He joins Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash (plus Mohammed al-Qahtani, a notorious victim of torture in Guantánamo), who were put forward for trial in February, in connection with the 9/11 attacks. The novel system of "War on Terror" trials, conceived by Dick Cheney and his advisors in November 2001, have yet to secure a conviction Sixth "High-Value" Prisoner Charged at Guantánamo Amidst Disturbing Evidence By Andy Worthington

The US Congress, the US media, the American people, and the United Nations, are looking the other way as Cheney prepares his attack on Iran. If only America had an independent media and an opposition party. If there were a shred of integrity left in American political life, perhaps a third act of naked aggression--a third war crime under the Nuremberg standard--by the Bush Regime could be prevented. On March 30, the Russian News & Information Agency, Novosti, cited a high-ranking security source: "The latest military intelligence data point to heightened US military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran." Russians, Saudis Expect U.S. Attack On Iran by Paul Craig Roberts

Yesterday, McCain outdid even himself. First, he expressed surprise that the al-Maliki government launched its offensive against the Shia militia in Basra, despite having been with al-Maliki the prior day. [n.b. the British had reduced their forces from 40,000 in the city to 4000 at the airport (a "de-surge"), leaving Basra under the control of competing Shia militias but relatively non-violent]. Now, there's a potential president we can depend upon to get good information -- can't wait, can you? But, even more foreboding, McCain then asserted that al-Maliki had "won" the battle with al-Sadr. Why? Well, said McCain, the side that sues for a ceasefire is usually not winning. Yet, it was al-Maliki who asked the Iranian government to intercede with al-Sadr to ask al-Sadr for a ceasefire. As Keith Olbermann said, by McCain's own metric, al-Sadr was the winner. Or, as a President McCain is likely to tell us, "Mission Accomplished." Maliki Asks Iran to Get al-Sadr to Ceasefire -- And John McCain Declares "Victory!" Paul Abrams

Amis ....discussing his fiction in an interview with the Paris Review, he dismissed "story, plot, characterization, psychological insight and form" as merely "secondary interests" compared to a novelist's prose, little more than the apparatus on which to hang some bitchin' sentences. So it hardly seems an insult to say that his specialty is not substance, but style. Nevertheless, Amis has never been content with the boundaries of his own aptitudes. Earlier in his career, when seeking subject matter with which to demonstrate his seriousness, he often settled on the topic of nuclear weapons. Lately, for obvious reasons, he has switched to Islamist terrorism. Clearly, his taste in issues runs toward the apocalyptic. The pieces collected in "The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom" ruminate on a few aspects of the current conflict between East and West, but Amis' main interest is Islamism, the militant ideology that motivated the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, in 2005, the London transit system, among other targets. Martin Amis may not know much about Islam and 9/11, but he knows what he hates. By Laura Miller


The U.N. World Food Program's executive director told the Los Angeles Times that "a perfect storm" is hitting the world's hungry, as demand for aid surges while food prices skyrocket. Cost increases are affecting most countries around the globe, with prices for dairy products up 80 percent, cooking oils up 50 percent, and grains up 42 percent from 2006 to 2007. (For more specifics on how prices have changed since 2000, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has a handy chart.) Why are groceries getting so expensive all at once? Energy prices. The global food system is heavily dependent on petroleum, not just for shipping goods from one location to another but also for production, packaging, and processing. As the price of oil rises—crude oil is currently hovering at around $100 a barrel—so do the costs of planting, harvesting, and delivering food. Why Are Global Food Prices Soaring?Energy costs, investment in ethanol, bad weather in Australia …

Footage of a hijacked airplane slamming into the World Trade Center on 9/11. Hate-mongering mullahs calling Muslims to a holy war. Images of the mangled corpses of victims in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. These are the tools by which right-wing Dutch populist Geert Wilders tries to "shock" his audience. But it doesn't work. First, these images lost their impact long ago. We've seen them in the news a thousand times, much like images of Hamas supporters in Gaza, waving machine guns in the air and bellowing anti-Semitic slogans at the camera. It may sound macabre, but they are worn out -- we were desensitized long ago to these inflammatory television images. 'I'm Not the Least Bit Offended' By Fatma Aykut

SPIEGEL: Last Thursday, you released a long-awaited film that rails against the Koran. Heads of government across the EU are already discussing it and in Afghanistan Dutch flags are going up in flames. Have you achieved your goal: to provoke?

Wilders: The political elite has demonstrated with astonishing clarity that it learned nothing from the debate over the Muhammad cartoons. It bows to the Islamists. For example, our government has developed evacuation plans for our diplomatic missions abroad. That's just an invitation to militant Muslims. SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH DUTCH POPULIST GEERT WILDERS

From Paul Jay of the RealNews

Washington rules out negotiation with the Taliban
Musharraf swears in new cabinet, Pak government wants to negotiate with Taliban forces view

Basra: Class struggle, not civil war
Professor Sabah al Nasseri: Iran and US may be losers in Iraq - Watch full interview here view

On the ground coverage in Mosul, Iraq
AP video essay showing US Army soldiers from Killer Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment view

Paulson's plan to revamp the financial future
AP: Democrats and other critics say his focus should be on the here and now view


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