Richard Ford On ‘Secular Redemption’

In his review of Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book (Ecco, 2014) Michael Dirda quotes Ford as saying: For me what we are charged to do as human beings is to make our lives and the lives of others liveable, as important, as charged as we possibly can. And soContinue reading “Richard Ford On ‘Secular Redemption’”

Oscar López Rivera and the Cabanillas

My essay on the Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera “Oscar López Rivera and the Cabanillas” is out in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Please read and share. Oscar’s case–and the miscarriage of justice at the heart of it–deserves to be known and talked about far more widely than it is now.  I oweContinue reading “Oscar López Rivera and the Cabanillas”

The Legal Protection Of Armed And Deadly Assault By The Police

There are, supposedly, many legal protections to guard a citizen’s interaction with law-enforcement agencies and their officers: you may not be detained without cause (‘Am I under arrest?’ ‘Am I?’ ‘If I’m not, may I go?’); you and your personal spaces and possessions may not be searched without cause (‘Do you have a warrant?’); youContinue reading “The Legal Protection Of Armed And Deadly Assault By The Police”

Political Protests And Their Alleged Associated Criminality

In The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New Press, New York, 2012, pp. 40-41), Michelle Alexander writes: The rhetoric of “law and order” was first mobilized in the late 1950s Southern governors and law enforcement officials attempted to generate and mobilize white opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. In the years following BrownContinue reading “Political Protests And Their Alleged Associated Criminality”

Adam Phillips On “The Leavisite Position” On Reading

In the course of his Paris Review interview on the Art of Non-Fiction (No. 7, conducted  by Paul Holdengräber) Adam Phillips says: If you happen to like reading, it can have a very powerful effect on you, an evocative effect….It’s not as though when I read I’m gathering information, or indeed can remember much of what I read. IContinue reading “Adam Phillips On “The Leavisite Position” On Reading”

Serendipity In The Library Stacks

I like libraries. Always have. My most favored writing space these days is a library, that of the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan. I arrive by subway at the 34th Street station, exit at 35th Street, enter the B. Altman Building through the lobby, buy myself a coffee, and then head upstairs to theContinue reading “Serendipity In The Library Stacks”

The Incompatibiity Of Democracy And The Modern Nation-State

A few days ago, I posted the following status on my Facebook page: Sometimes, over the course of a semester’s worth of reading and discussing material with one’s students, you can feel a sort of collective convergence on some substantive theses. This semester, my Political Philosophy class and I were in agreement on this one:Continue reading “The Incompatibiity Of Democracy And The Modern Nation-State”

‘The Hunt’: A Life All Too Easily Ruined

It might seem an odd thing to say about a movie that generates, very quickly, an atmosphere of claustrophobic tragedy, that it could have been darker, but I think that assessment is apt for Thomas Vinterberg‘s The Hunt (2012). This frightening tale of an otherwise sympathetic man whose life is almost destroyed by an untruthfulContinue reading “‘The Hunt’: A Life All Too Easily Ruined”

Richard Feynman on Philosophy of Science and Ornithology

Richard Feynman is supposed to have said, in his usual inimitable style, that “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.” Cue chuckles from scientists and grumbles from philosophers. Science is useful! Philosophy is useless! Go back to counting angels. Or something like that.  The persistent disdain that distinguished scientists–likeContinue reading “Richard Feynman on Philosophy of Science and Ornithology”

Vincent Simmons: ‘The Innocent Burn When Falsely Accused’

A few decades ago, while watching a Bollywood potboiler at home with my parents, I saw a central character react sharply to a concocted accusation–perhaps of theft–by the movie’s villain, out to frame him and send him to jail so as to clear the way for his other nefarious plots. As our hero responded toContinue reading “Vincent Simmons: ‘The Innocent Burn When Falsely Accused’”