Posts Tagged ‘politics’
* At last we have it in English. Summa Technologiae, originally published in Polish in 1964, is the cornerstone of Stanislaw Lem’s oeuvre, his consummate work of speculative nonfiction. Trained in medicine and biology, Lem synthesizes the current science of the day in ways far ahead of most science fiction of the time.
According to one observer, “the ones who fell asleep (or at least appeared to be asleep) [were] Tranel, Marklein, Pridemore, Tittl, Hutton, Bies, Nass, Tiffany, and Knodl. It was hard to tell with some of them, but Tranel was definitely asleep. Nerison, who sits next to him, shook him awake at one point.”
I think we have to accept that traditional colleges like ours have benefited from inequality. That’s biting us in the ass now because it’s being used to say we’re elitist as if we weren’t designed to do precisely what we’re doing. I mean c’mon. So let’s accept that part of our own story and say yeah we’ve got other stories too.
* Yale fined $165,000 for underreporting sex offenses. Is that a lot of money? You might very well think so.
* The Freud Museum announced earlier this week that it needed £5000 to restore Freud’s couch, the centerpiece of a study crammed with other relics, a cluttered cabinet of antique curiosities that Freud called his ‘old and dirty gods’.
* And the headline reads, “Venezuela Has Run Out of Toilet Paper.”
One aspect of MOOCs is that the stars are (almost) all men. At one website only 9 of 56 History MOOCS were presented by women. Without a doubt, the model of the MOOC – of the authoritative talking head – is one that privileges cultural perceptions of men and male control over certain types of knowledge. The gendered nature of the hierarchy of knowledge transmission that takes place is clear in the MOOC model of education. Although “students” are invited to respond at different points, to a large extent, the presenter controls the topic, the vocabulary, and the trajectory of whatever “dialogue” might take place. In recent stories on MOOCs at Princeton and Harvard, the instructors (all men) are described by their reputation as charismatic teachers.
* Angelina Jolie writes in the New York Times about her preventive double mastectomy.
* Justice Department Responds To Freedom Of Information Act Request On Online Snooping With 100% Blacked-Out Document. That is just straight trolling.
* Adam Kotsko on the Mad Men backlash. With special guest appearance!
* And a good piece for understanding the IRS scandal. Not that it will make a lick of difference in how this thing plays out.
Here we see a real purpose behind lesswrong.com. Ultimately it doesn’t matter that people like Thiel or Kurzweil or Yudkowsky are pushing a crackpot idea like the singularity; what matters is that they are pushing the poisonous ideas that underlie Bayesianism. Thiel and others are funding an organisation that advances an ideological basis for their own predatory behaviour. Lesswrong and its sister sites preach a reductive concept of humanity that encourages an indifference to the world’s suffering, that sees people as isolated, calculating individuals acting in their self-interest: a concept of humanity that serves and perpetuates the scum at the top.
* Predictably outrageous: University endowments and teachers’ pension funds are among big investors in Sallie Mae, the private lender that has been generating enormous profits thanks to soaring student debt and the climbing cost of education, a Huffington Post review of financial documents has revealed.
* And just when you thought the culture had scraped the bottom of the barrel: 24 is coming back.
“We want to be a leading university, and we wanted to attract faculty who think out of the box, and who are ambitious and creative,” said Ghazi Darkazalli, vice president of academic affairs. “We don’t want them to be worrying within the first five or six years whether they’re going to be tenured or not.”
Far better for them to spend those five or six years trying to get a TT job at another school.
* In practice, however, that doesn’t happen. The scholarships go towards “merit aid”, which is often, dismayingly enough, a polite way of saying that the college is helping to pay for wealthy kids to attend, even if they’re not particularly smart. Some 20% of students with GPAs below 2.0, for instance, receive merit aid. And at the same time, the “need aid” is carefully calibrated so that poor kids won’t take the colleges up on their offers… See also: Colleges Soak Poor U.S. Students as Aid Funneled to Rich.
* Food service workers in St. Louis have gone on strike. So might adjuncts in Chicago. Amazon workers sue over mandatory post-shift search. Cooper Union Students Occupy President’s Office To Protest Tuition.
* “Demolishing the Competition: The Longitudinal Link Between Competitive Video Games, Competitive Gambling, and Aggression,” a new study that will appear in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found that aggressive behavior is tied to competition, not violence, in videogames and gambling, according to Forbes.
* Here’s another example — I’ve watched every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (several times) and I never noticed that Riker doesn’t know how to use a chair. When the guy sits down he pulls the chair back and dramatically slings his leg over the back of it like he’s mounting a freakin’ horse. He apparently does this all the time, regardless of the situation. It’s nuts.
* Lucas wanted Indiana Jones 2 to be a dinosaur movie. I honestly can’t decide if this is the best or the worst idea I’ve ever heard.
When I returned to the U.S. from Kenya in December 2011, I could feel the poison re-entering my system: my skin changed again, as the hard Baltimore water scrubbed off the softer Nairobi water, and, with it, whatever healing Nairobi had effected. I returned to James MacArthur and Christopher Dorner, to the disposability and killability of black men; I returned to “jokes” about nine-year-old girls; to a panel discussion on Django Unchained hosted by film scholars at my university that did not, in the initial panel composition, include any single black scholar; I returned to a post-racial U.S., which meant that racist jokes could circulate with impunity; I returned to a world that Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. Du Bois would have found too familiar, and mourned.
At a required end-of-year meeting with my then department chair, I confessed that I was exhausted. I was tired of the banal and uncomprehending racism of white students who spoke of blacks as “they” and “them” and complained about “their broken English” and “bad dialect”; I was tired of a system that served black students badly, promising an education that it failed to deliver, condemning them to repeat classes, to drop out, to believe they were stupid; I was tired of colleagues who marveled when I produced an intelligible sentence; I was tired of attending conference panels where blackness was dismissed as “simple,” “reactive,” “irrelevant,” “done”; I was tired of being invited to be “post-black” as the token African, so not “tainted” by the afterlife of slavery; I was tired of performing a psychic labor that left me too exhausted to do anything except go home, crawl into bed, try to recover, and prepare for the next series of assaults.
From Keguro Macharia’s excellent and moving essay in The New Inquiry, which (along with this one yesterday at the Chronicle and host of others like this recently) prompted a Twitter conversation about my growing frustration with exclusively negative discourse around the academy (specifically with respect to tenure). Adam wrote today that the ontological structure of the academy is grading, but I’d like to suggest instead it’s something closer to academic freedom as guaranteed by the tenure system; what makes the academy (semi-)unique is the (always partial, always dreadfully incomplete) suspension of the usual operation of capitalist waged labor. And what’s killing the academy today is not the proliferation or evacuation of graders but the destruction of tenure.
* The quest for Shadow of the Colossus‘ last big secret. Very interesting piece about game fandom and community.
* …the 401(k) is a way for both your government and your employer to disown you, and to leave your life savings to be raided by the financial-services industry and its plethora of hidden and invidious fees.
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.
Then, when you turn the corner and look at what hulks across the street from the main Cooper Union building, you can see where a huge amount of the money went: into a gratuitously glamorous and expensive New Academic Building, built at vast expense, with the aid of a $175 million mortgage which Cooper Union has no ability to repay.
The bland name for the building is a symptom of the fact that Cooper’s capital campaign, designed to raise the money for its construction, was a massive flop: no one gave remotely enough money to justify putting their name on the building. It’s also a symptom of the fact that no one on the board had any appetite for naming it after George Campbell, the main architect of the scheme which involved going massively into debt in order to construct this white elephant.
Campbell, pictured grinning widely in a now-notorious 2009 WSJ article, claimed that Cooper was a financial success story when in fact it was on the verge of collapse. He’s the single biggest individual villain in the Cooper story, and it’s a vicious irony that Cooper’s latest Form 990 shows him being paid $1,307,483 in 2011 — after he left Cooper’s presidency. (Cooper Union explainsthat the amount represents six years of “deferred compensation/retention payments”, but the timing couldn’t be worse.)
Campbell’s enablers and cheering squad were a small group of trustees, many of them Cooper-trained engineers gone Wall Street, who had so internalized the ethos of the financial world that it never occurred to them that they shouldn’t be constantly trying to get bigger and better and shinier. Campbell was paid $668,473 in his last year at Cooper — he was one of the highest-paid college presidents in the country, despite running a naturally small institution with serious space and money constraints. Board-member financiers enabled his dreams of growth and glory, hoping that some of the glamor from the newly-revitalized institution would reflect back on themselves. Naturally, when the whole project turned out to be a disaster, they scurried ignobly off the board as fast as they could.
* Duke University faculty members, frustrated with their administration and skeptical of the degrees to be awarded, have forced the institution to back out of a deal with nine other universities and 2U to create a pool of for-credit online classes for undergraduates.
* At this point, both parties really just represent different fractions of the 1%; Wall Street funds both, but where the Republicans are supported largely by business, especially the extractive industries, the Democratic Party has become that of the upper echelons of the professional and managerial classes: of university administrators, museum board directors, doctors, lawyers, designers and marketing consultants.
* The debt debate is reminiscent of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In a grand inversion, minor characters have usurped center stage, while the more important ones are out of sight. The Debt We Shouldn’t Pay.
* Also at NYRoB: Wikipedia’s Women Problem.
* The right to work less: Not only does the U.S. economy tend to produce lots of bad jobs, U.S. workers tend to spend far too much of their time doing them. In 2009, the average U.S. worker worked 1,681 hours compared to 1,390 in Germany. Germany’s experiments withkurzarbeit, a government program that provides income support to workers who accept reduced hours, has helped it avoid the problems of high and long-term unemployment that confront us here in the U.S. Instead of fighting for more work, much of which is likely to be bad, how about fighting for less work for everybody? This could be a very effective way to make sure that there are enough jobs to go around for everyone while limiting the amount of time workers spend in deadening, alienating labor.
* Science! “Our findings confirm that beardedness affects judgments of male socio-sexual attributes and suggest that an intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive while full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring,” the researchers wrote.
* What is the legal justification for signature strikes? What qualifies as a “signature” that would prompt a deadly strike? Do those being targeted have to pose a threat to the United States? And how many civilians have been killed in such strikes? The administration has rebuffed repeated requests from Congress to provide answers – even in secret.
* And just in from the local tourism board: 100 things to do in Wisconsin this summer.