Monthly Archives: May 2009

Strike!

This blog is on strike due to non payment of one of its advertisers. It will remain on strike until such time as payment is made. You wouldn’t know it some days, but I am in fact a working man.

It will not be Friday, Oxalá’s day, it will not be the weekend, and we will not sing until I am paid.

Noam Chomsky’s article Exterminate All the Brutes (Gaza 2009) will provide plenty of reading material for everyone until my labor issue is resolved.

Comments on the article are most welcome. I would also like to know what other countries, besides Israel and the United States, believe that only their own citizens (of the right religion and party, of course) are actual persons.

I know my answer to that, of course — if everyone is not a person, nobody is, and it is only a matter of time.

Axé.

5 Comments

Filed under Movement, News

Greta Garbo

I finally tried Twitter, and I found it distasteful. Other technologies and software I dislike include:

+ television
+ point and shoot digital cameras
+ cell phones
+ Blackboard
+ WebCT
+ Moodle
+ Twitter
+ Blogger
+ chat/talk
+ text messages
+ instant messages
+ iPods.

But I am literally repulsed by Twitter, which expects one to peer into a screen, decipher text messages from random persons, and follow up on mysterious references.

I am further repulsed by its marketing of ENMESHMENT and VOYEURISM as “connection.”

I understand the research value of the question Twitter wants people to answer, “What are you doing?” But I do not want to answer it, nor do I burn to know what other peoples’ answers to it are.

I would like at least some time during the day when a communication device is NOT jabbing at me for attention and a response.

I could see Twitter if I were a child and my mother were on it, though — then I could Tweet at her to let her know I was all right.

But imagine this scenario: you are at summer camp and your mother Tweets you hourly, and if you do not answer, phones the camp to ask whether you have been killed or something.

There is a lot to be said for being incognito. I suppose summer camps have rules for parents, which nowadays include restrictions on Tweeting.

For if I were expected to LISTEN to Twitter, to be called by it, or to search through it for pearls of wisdom, I think I would break all of my machines and go live in a hut somewhere.

There is entirely too much noise already. Tweeting is very stressful and should be paid overscale.

Axé.

16 Comments

Filed under Banes, News

Malcolm X

Greetings are extended to Malcolm X, who is 84 today — and whom I would like to see alive and speaking on Afghanistan and Guantánamo.

When we were very young, we were told Malcolm was “unstable.” When I got old enough to actually read his words, he was already dead. Reading him, though, I realized he was not at all crazy — he just had an incisive mind and a will.

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, ¡presente!

Axé.

4 Comments

Filed under News

On Reeducation and Interrogation/Torture

So I had a conversation about SEX — yes, SEX — with an old friend and I do mean from a very long time ago. He is now a major libertine. As I told him once I got a word in edgewise, he was out of line to be pressing this information upon me. Still, the conversation was strikingly less oppressive than many other conversations I have had in life. Here is why.

–Would you ever do anything like this? he asked.

–No, said I, –and please do not try to tell me it is out of repression.

–I wouldn’t say that, said he –I would say it is a question of taste.

And I realized how different this conversation was from any I had in Reeducation. Reeducation never took no for an answer and always called disagreement denial.

*

That, of course, is also why interrogation under torture does not lead to accurate intelligence. Neither is it undertaken in the misguided belief that it will do that.

It is undertaken to mark people, to change them. In this way many victims, malgré eux — when their bodies are left in garbage dumps or allowed to wash up on beaches as if by accident, or when, living, they are released — become in one way or another agents of the state.

These things are well known.

*

Another friend from long ago was trained as an interrogator and as part of this training his (mock) capture and interrogation were staged. This was done by surprise and the [relevant military organization in the country in question] had a great deal of information about his life, as well as the results of several personality sorters and other psychological tests.

They were thus able to take this information and, at 2 AM under unnaturally bright lights, reflect a heavily distorted, yet somehow recognizable version of his past, his motivations, and his desires at him.

Now, we know you never stood up to anyone, Mr. A., they started out, citing an example from kindergarten in which he had run away as opposed to defend another child from a bully. It got worse from there.

*

This happened to him while I was being reeducated. We could each see what had happened to the other. Yet he was loyal to his unit, and I was going to Reeducation voluntarily. We looked at each other from across a large room as if in a mirror, aware we should not move closer, acknowledging that we knew but could not now, and might not ever speak about this.

*

That is what I know about conversation, information, Reeducation, and “enhanced” interrogation techniques.

Axé.

9 Comments

Filed under Da Whiteman, Movement, News

At Least Lyndon Johnson Felt Bad About It

Obama’s restoration of all of the most notorious Bush Era policies and the appointment of Bush’s most brutal commander is based on his total embrace of the ideology of military-driven empire building. Once one believes (as Obama does) that US power and expansion are based on military conquests and counter-insurgency, all other ideological, diplomatic, moral and economic considerations will be subordinated to militarism. By focusing all resources on successful military conquest, scant attention is paid to the costs borne by the people targeted for conquest or to the US treasury and domestic American economy. This has been clear from the start: In the midst of a major recession/depression with millions of Americans losing their employment and homes, President Obama increased the military budget by 4% – taking it beyond $800 billion dollars.

At this point, no matter what warnings the Democrats give me in 2012 about the evils of Republicans, I will not support their Blueness. They have repeatedly blamed me for the Bush policies because I voted third party. This time I bowed to them and voted Democratic. Look what they have given me and the world. Again.

Axé.

1 Comment

Filed under News

On “Changing” Higher Education

First, an epigraph of sorts from Dr. Crazy, who first answered the question ten of us were asked. Her answer is so good, it is hard to top (although it might be complemented, which is my aim here). She introduces her piece thus:

Craig Smith from AFT (and the blog FACE Talk) asked me (along with a slew of cool folks) to weigh in on questions surrounding how and if higher education needs to change. I like the premise of Craig’s call to arms:

Now, there are some out there who are offering up solutions, but I am curious–since the inclination when discussing the future of higher education is to do what the CHE did and chat up association and institutional leaders–if there might not be just a teensy bit more room for faculty and staff in that discussion? And that is what this is really about.

So, here are two questions:

  1. Do you believe the U.S. system of higher education is in need of change and, if so, why and to what degree?
  2. What are the top three things you would change in the long-run if you had the power to do that?

Finally, the intention is not just to encourage folks to talk about staffing (unless that is one of the areas you firmly believe needs changing), but rather to generate a wide range of ideas from a faculty and staff perspective since one fundamental change we believe in is more faculty voice in academic decision making . . . but I get ahead of myself.

I again urge everyone to read and contemplate Dr. Crazy’s well thought out response to Smith’s questions, as well as Historiann’s truly important (and funny!) criticism of some NYT pieces which appear to have helped to prompt Smith’s query.

My piece is not so well researched as these because (a) I am behind on something else, and (b) I do actually plan to write a scholarly article on the academic industrial complex one day. I even have a manila folder full of materials for this piece, and I am reserving my deepest thoughts for that manuscript.  However, massively flattered to have been contacted by Smith, I will sketch out answers to his two questions.

Do you believe the U.S. system of higher education is in need of change and, if so, why and to what degree?

Yes. First of all, the U.S. system of higher education [hereafter USSHE] is not well enough funded to support its expanding mission(s). Therefore it must constantly seek patches and temporary solutions. As these become standard practice by default, teaching and sometimes research goals become distorted. Yet more importantly, the USSHE must seek partnerships with industry and government which often benefit those entities more than they do the university itself. The result is another distortion, or in other words, a profound change which is not necessarily one the USSHE would have chosen had it been in a position to choose freely.

Secondly, the USSHE is overly politicized. By that I do not mean it has too many “liberal” professors, or that the curriculum has “gone crazy” — these things are simply not true. I mean that for the public universities, the power of legislators in determining curriculum and in some cases funding for programs and departments is too great. I do not think it should be up to a legislature to decide which disciplines are valid — it should be up to the university.

Finally, the USSHE is outsourced and unevenly professionalized. For example, decisions which could easily be made by faculty and students are outsourced to consulting firms, and courses which should be taught by regular faculty are outsourced to underpaid adjuncts. If we had as many regular faculty positions as we actually need, we might find we have not overproduced Ph.D.s to the degree we now commonly claim.

What are the top three things you would change in the long run if you had the power to do that?

1. Reallocate much war and other DoD funding to education, including K-12 as well as the USSHE. That way we can address the problems outlined above, as well as eliminate NCLB (which I am convinced is a cost cutting measure and not a way to enhance learning), combat the pernicious and inappropriate “business model” and the related concept of the “university of excellence” (concepts I would explain here if I were not anxious to return to other writing, but which interested parties can easily look up).

2. Restore faculty governance, as opposed to outsourcing academic, curricular, and other decisions to out of field administrators, nonacademic staff, and consulting firms. Note that this outsourcing has become “logical” in part since so many faculty are now temporary and part time staff, and so many full time staff do not hold professorial rank. Recognize what a reduction this is of faculty and also student power. You know, the power of ones who learn, teach, and do research — the things a university is supposed to do — and who might have some very good ideas about what “changes” might be desirable and how they might be realized.

3. Greatly expand the student role in all matters having to do with curriculum and governance. By this I do not mean we should further inflate the currently encouraged image of the student as a spoiled consumer of academic credentials and entertainment, or merely give a yet greater voice to student government as it currently exists. I mean: the social construction of “students” as one or more of these: a. spoiled consumer, b. underpaid/subsidized low level clerical or lab worker, c. denizen of actually existing student government in a well circumscribed role, is ridiculous. What if, for starters, majors and minors were given a serious voice in every department and program? What if they were a powerful committee with a charge and a budget?

These are just some Sunday thoughts before I go back to reading about Haiti. I welcome your ideas and I thank Craig Smith for requesting mine.

Axé.

7 Comments

Filed under Questions, Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

Dick Cheney

Read this closely, including the comments. It is important to watch Cheney and then figure out what to do. I am particularly startled by this comment:

Cheney, whatever he may say, wants to be president. He figures that no one else will want to run against Obama and that he will have the full support of the party grassroots activists. As the only defender of the Bush policies, he will stand out as the true believer in the GOP. When he said he preferred Rush Limbaugh to Colin Powell as a Republican, he knew what he was doing. Rush still carries considerable weight in the GOP and will be a big help in getting him the nomination. He figures that he will be very far behind in the polls and written off as a loser until, voilà, there will be the first terrorist attack since 9/11. We were right, he will shout. I made you safe and look what Obama has done. He has let down our guard. As your president, I will make you safe again! Just watch.

Axé.

5 Comments

Filed under Movement, News