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3.03.2004

today, my arch nemesis has returned. yes, you guessed it, the dreaded ice-cream truck is freely marauding the streets of brooklyn, terrorizing the ears of all with relentlessly repeating sonorities. oh, how i loathe it... but not the good weather which has heralded its return. (woo!)

so i haven't blogged in months and probably have lost even the cursory audience i might have had. no matter. this is for my own self aggrandizement. like the mighty puffer fish, i will fill the space of my self regard with florid prose, in hopes of justifying the ten years i spent avoiding my latin homework.

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and now for the news:
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lately, i have been assiduously following the gay marriage debate in the news. it has seemed obvious to me that the closest parallel in our history to this rancid attack on equal protection lies in the interracial marriage laws. in today's nytimes, kristof gives us some harrowing history on the matter.

what he does not point out is that the same slur of "activist judges", now hurled at the Massachusetts supreme court for ruling that anti gay marriage laws violate the equal protection clause of the MA constitution (their grounds for ruling that gay marriage must be made legal in MA) was also used against the Warren court, when it ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate facilities are inherently unequal, and thus that schools must be desegregated. the howls of protest that ensued from committed white suprematist citizens, governors and legislators in the south made it clear that often the morality of the masses is not particularly just.

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recent reading:
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i am currently perusing selected interviews and other writings by Michel Foucault, which is wrong of me as i haven't read any of his books. however, despite my lack of grounding in his basic ideas, i think i'm getting to some interesting stuff. i am particularly keen on what he has to say about the history and unjust nature of the prison system (fully outlined in his book discipline and punish: the birth of the prison). here are a few tasty quotes (my favorite is the last one):

Now my hypothesis is not so much tha tthe court is thenatural expression of popular justice, but rather that its historical function is to ensnare it to control it and to strangel it, by re-inscribing it within institutions which are stypical of a state apparatus.

Now, I believe that the judicial system as a state apparatus has historically been of absolutely fundamental importance. The penal system has had the fucntion of introducing a certain number of contradictions among the masses, and one major contradiction, namely the following: to create mutual antagonism between the proletarianised common people and the non-proletarianised common people.

There was a particular period when the penal system... became organized around the struggle to stamp out rebellion... It is a system which has basically a triple role: ...its role is to force the people to acept their status as proletarians and the conditions for the exploitation of the proletariat... on the other hand, this penal system was aimed, veryspecificaly, against the most mobile, the most excitable, the 'ciolent' elements among the common people: those who were most prepared to turn to direct, armed action... The third role of the penal system: tomake the proletariat see the non-proletarianised people as marginal, dangerous, immoral, a menace to society as a whole, the dregs of the population, trash, the 'mob'.

My hypothesis is that the prison waslinked form its beginning to a project for the transformation of individuals.

...once capitalism had physically entrusted wealth, in the form of raw materials and means of production, to popular hands, it became absolutely essential to protect this wealth... by a rigorous morality... hence the formidablelayer of moralization deposited on the nineteenth-century populatino. Look at the immense campaigns to christianise the workers during this period. It was absolutely necesarytoconstitute the populace as a moral subject and to break its commerce with criminality, and hence to segregatethedelinquents and to show them to be dangerous not onlyfor therich but for the poor as well, vice-ridden instigators of the gravest social perils.

Prisons manufactured delinquents but delinquents turned out to be sueful, in the economic domain as much as the political... from the 1830's, it became clear tha tin fact the aim ws not to retrain delinquents, to make them virtuous, but to regroup them within a clearly demarcated, card-indexed milieu which could serve as a tool fro economic or political ends. The problem thereafter was not to teach the prisoners something, but rather to teach them nothing, so as to make sure that they could do nothing when they came out of prison.

At the end of the eighteenth century, people dreamed of a society withoutcrime. And then the dream evaporated. Crime was too useful for them to dream of anything as crazy--or ultimately as dangerous--as a society without crime. No crime means no police. What makes the presence and control of the police tolerable for the population, if not fear of the criminal? The institution of the police, which is so recent and so oppressive, is only justified by that fear.



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