Posts Tagged ‘democracy’
* Transcript from the September 19 meeting of the Cooper Union Board of Trustees. Even putting aside that their short-sighted and obviously bad decisions caused the problem in the first place, the enthusiasm with which these supposed trustees speak about the possibility of closing the school is just unreal.
* All of which brings you back to one central point: if you care about the integrity of elections and people actually being able to vote, the supposed cures for vote fraud are vastly more destructive than the problem. All evidence suggests that vote fraud is a minuscule, minuscule problem. Voter ID and most of the other nostrums are solutions looking for a problem. The people who support these policies are either ignorant of the facts or actually want to cull a certain subsection of the population from democratic participation. There are simply no two ways about it.
* “Since it won’t reform itself, Starfleet needs to be destroyed.” Star Trek into Darkness Hostile to Star Trek, Intelligence.
Remember how Kirk was going to nobly take Khan to Earth to stand trial? Did this actually happen? Is it possible to imagine such a trial ending with a court imposing the punishment of cryogenic stasis? How could a court not demand the other 72 be brought back to life? Wouldn’t such a trial inevitably entail Marcus’s cimes — leading to the exposure of his massive corruption and a public outcry to structurally reform Starfleet?
* The best headline ever? The FBI Investigated the Song ‘Louie Louie’ for Two Years.
* The kids are all right: Teens hate Facebook.
* Historian Helen Fry, who has written a book called The M Room: Secret Listeners who bugged the Nazis, says the information gleaned by the eavesdropping of the German generals was vitally important to the war effort – so much so that it was given an unlimited budget by the government. She believes what was learned by the M room operations was as significant as the code-breaking work being done at Bletchley Park.
* It is very hard to accept this — the wealth gap is not a mistake. It is the logical outcome of policy and democratic will. From the streets of Cicero on up, the point was to imprison black people in the black belt and then exploit them. The goal was pursued through public policy, private action, and open terrorism. The goal was accomplished.
FD: Chinese sci fi has about a hundred years of history. When it started, in the late Qing dynasty around 1902, it was chiefly concerned with the problem of bringing ancient China into modernity. At that time, Liang Qichao [translated sci fi] because he thought it would be beneficial for China’s future … as something that could popularize scientific knowledge. And Lu Xun thought that if you gave ordinary people scientific literature to read, they would fall asleep. But if you blended scientific knowledge into stories with a plot, it would be more interesting. [He thought that] in this way, the people could become more modern.
* Chris Beckett wins Arthur C. Clarke award for Dark Eden. Probably the first book I’ll read once the semester is over, thanks to @shaviro’s great paper on it at ICFA.
* See no evil, hear no evil: Republicans propose abolishing the unemployment rate.
* Administrators are maniacs: School Conducts Surprise Shooting Drill with Real Gunmen Firing Blanks.
1. Increase the starting salary for a three-credit semester course to a minimum of $5,000 for all instructors in higher education.
2. Ensure academic freedom by providing progressively longer contracts for all contingent instructors who have proven themselves during an initial probationary period.
3. Provide health insurance for all instructors, either through their college’s health insurance system or through the Affordable Care Act.
4. Support the quality education of our students by providing their instructors with necessary office space, individual development support, telephones, email accounts and mail boxes.
5. Guarantee fair and equitable access to unemployment benefits when college instructors are not working.
6. Guarantee eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to all college instructors who have taught for ten years, during which they were repaying their student loans.
7. With or without a time-in service requirement, allow all college teachers to vote and hold office in institutional governance, including faculty senates and academic departments.
* There were a few radical writers like Tom Paine who did use the word “democracy” from early on, but the first official use was by Jefferson and Madison when they founded the “Democratic Republican” party — which is clearly just some sort of PR trick, since Jefferson himself never uses the word “democracy” at all in his own writings. But the person who really transformed the language was Andrew Jackson. He ran as a “democrat” and it was so effective that over the course of the 1830s, everyone started calling themselves that. So basically the Republican system that was set up to contain democracy itself got renamed “Democracy.” Interview with David Graeber on Democracy in America.
For the prison to close, lawmakers would have to lift a ban on transferring prisoners to the United States. But it was good that Mr. Obama also pledged to “examine every option that we have administratively” — because there are steps he could take without Congress.
* Interactive infographic at the New York Times shows long-term Democratic hegemony (at least at the presidential level) given most demographic assumptions.
* National Louis, a private, nonprofit institution based in the greater Chicago metropolitan region, served about 10,000 students before the restructuring process in 2012. In addition to terminating 63 faculty members, among them 16 tenured professors, the institution eliminated four departments in its College of Arts and Sciences: English, fine arts, mathematics and natural sciences. Today, about 8,300 students attend the university — 9 in 10 on a part-time basis. What does this school teach if not English or math or arts or science? What’s left?
* The fertilizer plant that exploded in West, Texas on Wednesday night was fined by the Environmental Protection agency in 2006 for failing to have a risk management plan that met federal standards, an EPA report shows.
* Yesterday’s Senate Gun Control Vote Was Even More Undemocratic Than It Appeared. Angus crunches the numbers.
In twenty-one of the nation’s 50 states, both Senators yesterday voted in favor of the Manchin-Toomey background check amendment. Although those 42 Senators represent less than half the body, they represent more than half the country — 157 million people out of 313 million. The 16 states whose Senators both voted against the amendment, in contrast, represent less than a quarter of the nation, but nearly a third of the senate. That’s the equivalent of dividing the country up into states of equal population, but giving the no-vote states three senators each, and the yes-vote states just two.
And what of the other states, the ones who split their votes yesterday? Well, if you allocate half of their population to each senator, and add up the totals, you find that senators representing 62.7% of the nation’s population voted for Manchin-Toomey yesterday.
Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss.
They lost their kids. What would Bob Davis have lost even if the bill passed?
* Also from Richard: What do asteroids, MOOCs, and medical records have in common? All are examples, currently in the news, of the way in which public policy in the US is driven not by the common good or professionals or expert knowledge, but by the generation of mediashock in the service of the entrepeneurial desire of cybercapitalism to monetize data.
All of us that use the internet are already practicing Drone Ethnography. Look at the features of drone technology: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Surveillance, Sousveillance. Networks of collected information, over land and in the sky. Now consider the “consumer” side of tech: mapping programs, location-aware pocket tech, public-sourced media databases, and the apps and algorithms by which we navigate these tools. We already study the world the way a drone sees it: from above, with a dozen unblinking eyes, recording everything with the cold indecision of algorithmic commands honed over time, affecting nothing—except, perhaps, a single, momentary touch, the momentary awareness and synchronicity of a piece of information discovered at precisely the right time. An arc connecting two points like the kiss from an air-to-surface missile. Our technological capacity for watching, recording, collecting, and archiving has never been wider, and has never been more automated. The way we look at the world—our basic ethnographic approach—is mimicking the technology of the drone.
* The ACLU on what Rand Paul achieved.
* “Defense attorneys believe the girl, who lived across the river in Weirton, W.Va., made a decision to excessively drink and — against her friends’ wishes — to leave with the boys. They assert that she consented to sex,” reports the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s Rachel Dissell. Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, is getting specific, citing “an abundance of evidence here that she was making decisions, cognitive choices … She didn’t affirmatively say no.” She was unconscious at the time.
* The Herbalife war: Hedge-fund titan Bill Ackman has vowed to bring down Herbalife, the 33-year-old nutritional-supplement company, which he views as a pyramid scheme. With his massive shorting of Herbalife stock, the price plummeted, prompting two fellow billionaires—Ackman’s former friend Dan Loeb and activist investor Carl Icahn—to take the opposing bet on Herbalife. As the public brawl rivets Wall Street, William D. Cohan learns why, this time, it’s personal.
* The most influential songwriter of his time has become the first rock star voted into the elite, century-old American Academy of Arts and Letters, where artists range from Philip Roth to Jasper Johns and categories include music, literature and visual arts.
The already notorious In Praise of the Three-Fifths Compromise piece from Emory’s president has spawned a number of good “teaching moment” pieces from a number of young academic bloggers, as well as a quasi-retraction from Wagner himself. (Don’t call it a gaffe!) First, the retraction; I’m glad this is up so quickly, but it importantly misses the mark.
In retrospect we can fairly ask ourselves, would we have voted for the Constitution—for a new nation, for “a more perfect union”—if it meant including the three fifths compromise? Or would we have voted no—that is, voted not to undertake what I hope we see as a noble experiment, however flawed and imperfect it has been.
To locate this question in the agency of a privileged class—should we have voted for this?—replicates again the error of the original piece, in which the suffering of the disprivileged is bracketed in the name of the “higher purpose” of the elites. It’s a profoundly anti-democratic narrative, in which decision-makers take notice of the consequences of their actions only from 10,000 feet (if they deign to notice at all). This is the angle Natalia Cecire takes up in “Race and the Privilege of Innocence”:
Wagner apologizes for his “clumsiness and insensitivity,” framing his column as a bumbling, stumbling error, a sort of intellectual version of a lack of motor skills. He seems bewildered that anyone could take him to be suggesting that slavery was okay, because that wasn’t his point. But the fact that it wasn’t his point is the point. It only makes sense to view the 3/5 Compromise in a purely formal register—as an example of compromise rather than a famous historical instance of wealthy white men bartering with one another over the political value of black bodies—if you can only imagine yourself as one of the barterers and not as one of the bartered, if slave history is not your history. Wagner was thinking of “compromise” as such, from the point of view of the people in a position to compromise: the wealthy white male landowners who had a legal say in this country’s founding; he is, as it were, innocent of blackness. Circulating in a universe in which enfranchised whiteness is the norm and disenfranchised blackness is not on the radar except as an abstract concept to be bartered over, Wagner demonstrates a basic unawareness, compounded by his after-the-fact bewilderment that others don’t share it.
Tressie McMillan Cotton takes up the difficult task of pulling out the metaphor to the context of cuts to the liberal arts to which it is meant to apply:
What Wagner revealed with his slavery allusion, I believe rather unintentionally, is how ideologues in higher education debates conceive of the spoils. If slaves were a means to an economic and hegemonic end, then education credentials are not conceptually altogether different to those with the authority to have the debate. That distinction matters. As the 3/5ths compromise was for slaveholders an ideological debate as opposed to the material reality of the enslaved, this higher education debate a matter of something altogether more than just an ideological battle over who will control the means of production, whether that be cotton or sheepskins.
And Aaron Bady twists the knife on the figure of the CEO university president:
James Wagner’s casual and apathetic ignorance about slavery is one thing, and his assault on the liberal arts is another. I want to be clear about that: I am not equating them with each other, even if there is a certain overlap (as Tressie McMillan Cottom argues). But the kind of thinking that allows a person to value “compromise,” as such, is the kind of mind that doesn’t care very much about what is being compromised. The kind of mind that can cut a university’s education studies division, physical education department, visual arts department, and journalism program—sacrificing core functions of the university in order to save money so the university can “continue”—is also the kind of mind that could see slavery as the unfortunate broken eggs that were needed to make the national omelette. There is nothing surprising about this, in other words. This is what we should expect when a university president is essentially a CEO. And the easiest response is simply to shrug our shoulders. Can we expect better? Should we be surprised?
UPDATE: Two more good ones. Chris Taylor:
Ultimately, antebellism gears us up for political war only to tell us that the battle has already been decided—there’s no longer any politics, no longer any open struggle through which the future will be decided. Instead, we’re invited to invest political meaning in the technologies of neoliberal governance, in what Wagner calls “the rich tools of compromise.” We need to read Wagner’s choice of example, then, as the end result of an attempt to derive a political feeling from the withdrawal of the political. Ultimately, that’s what all antebellism does: it allows us to feel political even as we abandon the political—or, rather, even as the political abandons us. “Compromise” both names this withdrawal of the political and invests our acquiescence to it with a pseudo-political affect. It does not so much describe a peaceful, pacifying working relationship between willful and opposed political subjects (Republicans and Democrats, say, or partisans of the humanities and the sciences) as it does the conformation of varied and antagonistic political wills to an exorbitant, apolitical logic (i.e., neoliberal capitalism). We don’t compromise so much as our possibility for political action has been compromised. It is our recognition of the compromised nature of any political action that is supposed to subtend all contemporary politics—indeed, it’s supposed to pass as politics.
and Noelle McAfee:
As shocking as Wagner’s invocation of the 3/5 compromise to make a point is, let’s not lose sight of what is so troubling about the point he was trying to make: that maybe the value of the liberal arts should be compromised. If there’s a debate on the value of the liberal arts, let’s have that debate. But rather than do so, the Emory University administration has been unilaterally deciding the outcome of this question. The vast majority of programs chosen for closure in the recent cuts at Emory have been in the arts and humanities. Rather than any open opportunity to come to a collective compromise, the process for the decisions (consulting a committee sworn to silence, which never kept minutes, and hugely underrepresented faculty in the humanities) compromised any chance that those targeted in the humanities could have their say.
Democracy ‘Has a Hidden Failure Mode, We’ve Landed in It, and We Probably Won’t Be Able to Vote Ourselves Out of It’
The great Charlie Stross, elaborating on his sense that we are living in the aftermath of an alien invasion:
Overall, the nature of the problem seems to be that our representative democratic institutions have been captured by meta-institutions that implement the iron law of oligarchy by systematically reducing the risk of change. They have done so by converging on a common set of policies that do not serve the public interest, but minimize the risk of the parties losing the corporate funding they require in order to achieve re-election. And in so doing, they have broken the “peaceful succession when enough people get pissed off” mechanism that prevents revolutions…
So the future isn’t a boot stamping on a human face, forever. It’s a person in a beige business outfit advocating beige policies that nobody wants (but nobody can quite articulate a coherent alternative to) with a false mandate obtained by performing rituals of representative democracy that offer as much actual choice as a Stalinist one-party state. And resistance is futile, because if you succeed in overthrowing the beige dictatorship, you will become that which you opposed.
A study finds that a well-intentioned, totally partisan-neutral attempt at voter ID requirements will have the completely unintended side effect of disenfranchsing a tenth of legitimate North Carolina voters, disproportionately African-Americans and the poor. I’m certain Republican legislators are already hard at work improving the bill before introducing it in the new session to prevent this unhappy and undesired outcome.
* My electoral map prediction from two weeks ago still looks pretty good to me, though (optimist to the last!) I feel less certain about Florida now than I did then, and it looks like I was too pessimistic about IN-SEN. If it’s good enough for InTrade…
* One thing is clear: Tuesday will be huge.
* A great democracy would have elections that don’t look like this. As I was ranting on Twitter the other day, there’s simply no worse crime in a democracy than elected officials compromising the integrity of elections.
* BREAKING: only white people count. It’s what the founders intended!
If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.
A broad mandate this is not.
* Next time you teach, open a window: Elevated carbon dioxide may impair reasoning.
* Gavin Mueller reviews the Onion’s bizarre (but intriguing) reality-TV parody Sex House.
* Douglas Wolk reviews Building Stories.
* Scenes from the future: Boy kicked out of school because he has gene for cystic fibrosis.
* And another: After committing a crime with a printed weapon, a person could simply melt down the plastic and reprint it as something as mundane as a statue of Buddha. And guns made of plastic might not be spotted by metal detectors in airports, courthouses or other government facilities.
* The CIA is urging the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones, a move that would extend the spy service’s decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force, U.S. officials said. What could possibly go wrong?
* We have allowed ourselves to become mired in the habits of oligarchy, as though no other politics are possible, even in a putatively self-governing republic, and resignation is one of the most obvious of those habits. We acclimate ourselves to the habit of having our politics acted upon us, rather than insisting that they are ours to command. TV stars tell us that political stars are going to cut their Grand Bargain and that “we” will then applaud them for making the “tough choices” on our behalf. That is how you inculcate the habits of oligarchy in a political commonwealth. First, you disabuse people of the notion that government is the ultimate expression of that commonwealth, and then you eliminate or emasculate any centers of power that might exist independent of your smothering influence — like, say, organized labor — and then you make it quite clear who’s in charge. I’m the boss. Get used to it.
* Baldwin holds slight lead in Wisconsin. Obama up in Iowa, Wisconsin. Obama’s Lead Falls To 3 In Colorado. Ohio Remains Obama’s Firewall. Why the Gallup poll showing Romney +7 is almost certainly wrong: 1, 2, 3. Why I’d have you vote for Obama just one time more.
* ‘Armed Militia’ of Soldiers Plotted to Take Over Army Base, Assassinate Obama. We’re just going full-bore dystopia all the time I guess.
It’s worse to imagine a world with Obama getting a second term than it is to imagine a world without pizza. Because with Obama in a second term, there will be no pizza. For anyone.
* I found out today with great sadness that Congress has killed the Jacob Javits Fellowship. That thing paid for my MFA. It was a great program.
* There are many ways to destroy a person, but the simplest and most devastating might be solitary confinement. Deprived of meaningful human contact, otherwise healthy prisoners often come unhinged. They experience intense anxiety, paranoia, depression, memory loss, hallucinations and other perceptual distortions. Psychiatrists call this cluster of symptoms SHU syndrome, named after the Security Housing Units of many supermax prisons. Prisoners have more direct ways of naming their experience. They call it “living death,” the “gray box,” or “living in a black hole.”
* The Republican strategist told Brownstein, “This is the last time anyone will try to do this” — “this” being a near total reliance on white votes to win a presidential election.
* Stat of the day: There are three times as many gun dealers as grocery stores in America.
* College Humor, against malaria. I thought Ellie Kemper, Tony Hale, and Rhys Darby alone were worth it.
* Vera Farmiga set to play Norman Bates’ infamous mother in A&E’s Psycho prequel series. We had some fun with this on Twitter earlier today, as this Storify may attest. And here’s one that was Facebook only: Before “North by Northwest” there was “Where’s my compass?”
* Who’s ruining Justice League this week? The Wachowskis.
* Nation Celebrates Full Week Without Deadly Mass Shooting (UPDATED). The vast majority of those injured today were apparently shot by police, putting the lie to any fantasy that “more guns” will solve this problem. If trained police can’t return fire without harming bystanders, weekend gun enthusiasts don’t stand a chance.
* GOP Attorneys General: Democracy Is Unconstitutional. Well, it’s certainly not what the Founders intended.
* At last, something that won’t destroy the soul: LEGO Rivendell.
* And of course you had me at The Most Breathtaking Space Pictures You’ve Never Seen Before. Below: The Tholian Web.
The U.S. defense budget is greater than the combined defense budgets of the next seventeen largest spenders….
$1 of every $5 the federal government spent in 2011 went to defense, and about 20 cents of that $1 was spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just some of the facts available in Salon’s big think piece on the national budget. Meanwhile, in the polls: A new poll shows deep support among liberals for the very Bush/Cheney policies they once pretended to despise.
* How is copyright ruining your fun today? Well, for one thing, it’s keeping you from reading The Last Ringbearer. Via an Atlantic piece on technology in Tolkien, via MetaFilter.
* In the L.A. Times: The human race at 7,000,000,000.
* This won’t go well: science perfects the 3D-printed gun.
* The New York Times interviews the great Alison Bechdel.
* Meanwhile, in American democracy:
Probably the first post I ever wrote that got actual attention was this one, figuring out just how badly you could lose the popular vote and still win the presidency. (I made a couple minor mistakes, so for the sake of correctness the actual answer is that up to 78.05% of the population can vote for the losing candidate.)
I’d note in particular two things: 1) during the last two months of the 2008 election, just four states got more than half of the time and money from the candidates, at the expense of the rest of the country, and thirty-two states got no visits at all! And 2) the electoral college has failed for more than 5 percent of presidential elections! That’s preposterous. A great nation shouldn’t pick its leader by some goofy hairbrained scheme that breaks down one time in twenty.
That said, the proposed solution (the National Popular Vote compact) is also a goofy, hairbrained scheme that would collapse into crisis the second it ever made a difference. Perhaps a “great nation” shouldn’t be hopelessly bound by two-hundred-year-old political compromises whose terms are effectively impossible to alter or amend.
* Also at Washington Monthly: inflation is really not our problem right now.
* We find that electorates punish presidents and governors for severe weather damage. However, we find that these effects are dwarfed by the response of attentive electorates to the actions of their officials.
* The headline reads, “There will be no more professional writers in the future.”
* And just for fun: Miniature People Living in a World of Giant Food by Christopher Boffoli.