dimecres, 15 de maig de 2019

And the executioner was his father

The first time that Tom White saw a criminal hanged he was just a boy, and the executioner was his father.

The first hanging that Tom witnessed was carried out in January 1894. A ninteen-year-old black man, Ed Nichols, had been convicted of raping a girl and sentenced to be "hung by the neck until he is dead". The duty of performing the execution, wich hadn't occurred in the county for a decade, fell to the sheriff.
Tom's father hired a carpenter to construct the gallows near the southern wall of the prison, the only place where the ceiling was sufficiently high. The location was ten feet from Nichol's cell, and the condemned man –who maintained his innocence and still hoped for a reprieve from the governor– could hear the planks being sawed and nailed, sawed and nailed, the pace quickening. Tom's father was determined to make the killing mercifully swift, and once the apparatus was completed, he repeatedly tested it with sacks of sand.

On the day of the execution, Tom, who was twelve years old, stood on a tier inside the jail. No one shooed him away, not even his father, and he could see Nichols, who was dressed in his new suit, being led by Tom's father to the scaffolding, time measured in each step and breath. As Tom listened, a preacher read Nichols's finals statement: "Sheriff White has been very accommodating to me indeed. I feel prepared to meet death. My soul is at peace with all mankind." The preacher offered his own holy words. "Ed Nichols is to swing to eternity," he said. "Sheriff Death is on his black steed, is but a short distance away, coming to arrest the soul of this man to meet the trial at the higher bar where God himself is supreme ruler, Jesus, his son the attorney, and the Holy Ghost the prosecutor".
When the preacher finished, Tom heard a familiar voice. It was his father, reading the death warrant. The noose was fitted around Nichols's neck, and a black hood placed over his head. Tom could no longer see Nichols's face, but he could see his father holding the lever for the trapdoor. At two minutes before four in the afternoon, his father sprang the trap. The body fell before jerking violently upward. A sound of astonishment and horror rippled through the crowd. Despite all the meticulous construction, Nichols was still moving, still trembling with life. "He kicked and jerked around a long time," Tom later recalled. "It seemed like he would never give up and die". Finally, his body stopped moving and was cute down from the rope.

David Grann, Killers of the flower moon.

dissabte, 23 de març de 2019

El demagogo

Desde la aparición del Estado constitucional, y de forma más completa desde la instauración de la democracia, el “demagogo” es la figura típica del líder político en Occidente. Las resonancias desagradables de esta palabra no deben hacer olvidar que no fue Cleón, sino Pericles, el primero en llevar este nombre. Sin cargo alguno u ocupando el único cargo electivo existente (en las democracias antiguas todos los demás cargos se cubrían por sorteo), el de estratega supremo. Pericles dirigió la soberana ecclesia del demos ateniense. La demagogia moderna se sirve también del discurso, pero aunque utiliza el discurso en cantidades aterradoras (basta pensar en la cantidad de discursos electorales que ha de pronunciar cualquier candidato moderno), su instrumento permanente es la palabra impresa. El publicista político, y sobre todo el periodista, son los representantes más notables de la figura del demagogo en la actualidad.

Max Weber, Politik als Beruf.

[Original auf Deutsch:
"Der »Demagoge« ist seit dem Verfassungsstaat und vollends seit der Demokratie der Typus des führenden Politikers im Okzident. Der unangenehme Beigeschmack des Wortes darf nicht vergessen lassen, daß nicht Kleon, sondern Perikles der erste war, der diesen Namen trug. Amtlos oder mit dem – im Gegensatz zu den durchs Los besetzten Ämtern der antiken Demokratie – einzigen Wahlamt: dem des Oberstrategen, betraut, leitete er die souveräne Ekklesia des Demos von Athen. Die moderne Demagogie bedient sich zwar auch der Rede: in quantitativ ungeheuerlichem Umfang sogar, wenn man die Wahlreden bedenkt, die ein moderner Kandidat zu halten hat. Aber noch nachhaltiger doch: des gedruckten Worts. Der politische Publizist und vor allem der Journalist ist der wichtigste heutige Repräsentant der Gattung."]

dimecres, 13 de març de 2019

Don Pimpón y Epi votan a Vox

–Blas, voy a votar a Vox para echar a Pedro Sánchez de la Moncloa, ahahah.
–¿Pero qué dices, Epi? ¿Tú no sabes cómo funciona la Ley d'Hondt?
–No lo sé, yo solo quiero quitarle las llaves del Falcon, ahahaha.
–¿Pero no te das cuenta que si votas a Vox estás apoyando a Sánchez y a toda la tropa de independentistas?
–Pues no lo entiendo, Blas.
–Es muy fácil, Epi. En nuestra provincia de Barrio Sésamo se necesitan 1.000 votos para conseguir un escaño. Imagina que un partido constitucionalista tiene 998 votos, pero Don Pimpón y tú votasteis a Vox. Ni un partido ni otro consiguen así escaños, y todos esos votos, se pierden. Si esto mismo ocurriera en muchas provincias, se perderían cientos de miles de votos, y Sánchez y Begoña seguirían en el Falcon. ¡No huyas! Y aprende a votar con la cabeza utilizando la ley d'Hondt, porque si votas a lo loco, en vez de echar al okupa de la Moncloa se comprará otro colchón, y seguirá riéndole los chistes a los separatistas.

La Vanguardia: "El PP elige a Epi y Blas para convencer a sus simpatizantes que no voten a Vox."

dimecres, 6 de febrer de 2019

The sound of that knife

Simco was out of the hole. He was back and everybody was aware of it. Anybody else might have gone unnoticed, but not Simco. He was a coldblooded killer.
It wasn't that he invited anybody's notice, he didn't. He was quite, polite, and if you didn't know better you'd swear he was recently graduated from some Ivy League college, maybe Yale, and then you might guess he'd gone on to serve his country for a few years, maybe as a fighter pilot. Clean-cut, handsome, with a good smooth jaw, you might want to introduce him to your daughter, do a little match-making, for he must have great genes. And he had those eyes, calm, non-offensive. Might be a marine, no, not enough fire in those eyes. The calm before the storm? Maybe. A cat ready to pounce? Absolutely not, for he was too relaxed, too sure of himself to bother with such aggressive games.
But then when took his shirt off and you saw his smooth skin and slim, hard-packed waist and hard muscled body, well, something didn't add up.
He had killed his punk. I don't know why, I'm just telling you what I know. He killed his punk, his sissy, whatever you wan to call him. He killed him in cold blood down in the shower room with a guard looking straight at him. He stood over his punk and calmly watched him die while the guard threw a roll of toilet paper at him from a distance trying to break it up. That's the truth. Threw a roll of toilet paper at him, which as far as I'm concerned was a brave act, for I wouldn't even have done that. I'd have got the hell out of there as soon as I heard the sound of that knife thudding into flesh. The killing thrust of a knife is not silent. It has a distinct thud, and if you ever heard it you'll remember it forever. Simco killed his punk right there in broad daylight in front of a guard who committed the brave acte beyond the call of duty of throwing a roll of toilet paper at him.
And then Simco calmly and voluntarily allowed them –for in short order there were a whole gang of guards present, all out of breath and none willing to get close to that bloody knife –Simco allowed them to take him to the hole where he remained for many months until he went to court over in San Francisco and was found not guilty by a jury, not guilty of anything because the jury of ordinary people couldn't believe for one minute that such a nice, clean-cut boy imprisoned at Alcatraz with all those monsters could possibly be guilty of murder and if he was he must have done it in self-defense to keep from being raped or mutilaed or maybe even eaten alive.

William G. Baker, Alcatraz #1259.

dimecres, 30 de gener de 2019

Els millors llibres de l'Iceberg 2018


Iceberg d'Or: Maximum city, de Suketu Mehta.

Iceberg de Plata: The Courtier and the Heretic, de Matthew Stewart.

Iceberg de bronze: A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again, de David Foster Wallace.

4. Les possessions, de Llucia Ramis.

5. Zinc, de David van Reybrouck.

diumenge, 27 de gener de 2019

The founding virtues of the new world order

In the closing sections of his Tractatus, Spinoza sketches the outlines of a radical and quintessentially modern political theory. His fundamental aim is to replace the reigning, theocratic conception of the state with one founded on secular principles. According to the theocrats, the state is the temporal representative of a divine order. The purpose of the state, in other words, is to serve God; and the role of the ecclesiastics is to tell the people just what it is that God wants. Spinoza says, in a nutshell, that the purpose of the state is to serve humankind; and it is up to the people to tell the state what they want.

Spinoza, like most modern theorists, grounds the legitimacy of political authority in the self-interest of individuals. He argues not only that everyone, and every thing, for that matter, is driven by self-interest but that they ought to be as well. "The more every man endeavors and is able to seek his own advantage, the more he is endowed with virtue," he says in the Ethics. "To act in absolute conformity with virtue is nothing else in us but to act, to live, to preserve one's own being (these three mean the same) under the guidance of reason on the basis of seeking one's own advantage."

It turns out, of course, that self-interested human beings have much to gain from cooperation. Spinoza stresses that human beings in the absence of an ordered society live in miserable circumstances. Like Thomas Hobbes before him, he envisions something like a "social contract," according to which individuals cede their rights to a sovereign collective in order to acquire the benefits of living under the rule of law. The function of the state, in this view, is to provide the peace and security that enable naturally free individuals to cooperate with one another and thereby fulfill themselves. Spinoza, with the pithiness so characteristic of his work, condenses it all into a lapidary formula: "the purpose of the state is freedom."

Unlike Hobbes, however, Spinoza does not present this social contract as a one-off, absolutely binding surrender of all rights by the individual to the state. Rather, Spinoza says, the contract is constantly up for renewal; and should the state fail to live up to its end of the bargain, the citizenry has a right to revoke the agreement. Furthermore, he maintains, there are some rights that no one is able to cede-such as the right to think and hold one's own opinions, or what he calls "the freedom of conscience." Finally, whereas Hobbes concludes that the terms of the original contract are best realized in an absolute monarchy, Spinoza concludes (albeit with a number of caveats) that justice is most fully realized in a democracy, for a democracy is most apt to express the collective will that legitimizes the state in the first place.

Spinoza's advocacy of democracy on the basis of individual rights was extraordinarily bold for its time, and it qualifies him as the first truly modern political philosopher. He was indisputably the forerunner of the theorists who would later underwrite the Constitution of the United States, the French Revolution, and the rest of the secular, liberal, and democratic order of today.

Spinoza did not invent the idea of a secular state founded on self-interest; rather, he observed it clearly for the first time. In the late seventeenth century, the bewildering diversity of religious creeds that grew out of the Reformation, the variety of human experience on display in public life brought about by economic development and urbanization, and the manifestly secular quality of allegedly divine rulers who emerged at the top of national administrations –in other words, the same combination of developments that made Spinoza's own life as a double exile possible– had already rendered the old theocratic ideals de facto obsolete. The "problem of authority"–that is, the source of the legitimacy of political power– had already become the subject of intense concern among thinkers such as Hobbes and Machiavelli. The defining move of Spinoza's political philosophy was to affirm this new world of secular self-interest. He embraced modernity as the foundation of a new kind of ideal-the ideal of a free republic. The very features of modernity that were then and are still regarded by many as its signature evils –the social fragmentation, the secularity, and the triumph of self-interest– he enshrined as the founding virtues of the new world order. His political philosophy was, in essence, an active response to the challenges of modernity.

Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic.

dilluns, 21 de gener de 2019

The 2018 Best Iceberg movies

Golden Iceberg: Roma, de Alfonso Cuarón.

Silver Iceberg: Mauvais sang, de Léos Carax.

Bronze Iceberg: Wild, wild country, Maclain and Chapman Way.


4th: Wadjda, Haifaa al Mansour.

5th: Le souffle au coeur, Louis Malle.

divendres, 11 de gener de 2019

The 2018 best music of the Iceberg

Golden Iceberg: Kaltes klares Wasser, Malaria!.

Silver Iceberg: King kunta, Kendrick Lamar.

Bronze Iceberg: Oh Jesús!, Vainica Doble.


4th, A galopar, Niños mutantes.

5th, Tristis est anima mea, Carlo Gesualdo.