Monday, June 30, 2014

From the Academic Abolitionist Vegan blog:

"Euthanasia is an essential component to capitalism....

The arguments for euthanasia are really quite disturbing in this light, especially given similar projects designed to eliminate unwanted human populations that are a burden on the capitalist treadmill. I have heard it argued that not killing dogs and cats waiting on homes is “a waste of people’s time and money.” Ironically, I saw this argument made in an anti-capitalist animal rights space. But this is the very logic of capitalism, that is, to view sentient beings as disposable objects measured by their monetary value. Strange, when it comes to privileged groups, where there's a will, there's a way. When it comes to devalued groups, killing is just "common sense."

I also thought this was interesting, these debates chutning away in this corner of things:

"Classical Marxism is inherently speciesist and thus it should be the intellectual priority of socialist animalists to retheorize the position of non-humans within the system of thought. In classical Marxism, domesticated animals are literally reduced to machinery. So long as this is unchallenged, an anti-speciesist Marxism is impossible."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

There is nothing else that really needs to be said at this point beyond this, John Stewart at his best

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

worth reading in whole. Here is a glimpse

" For better or worse, universities seeded the very changes—neoliberal economics, technological innovation, and the education of the Calvinists who now declare a reformation—that Shirky sees as inevitable Oedipal threats to the academy. Agency, contingency, and complexity never figure into the baby-simple analysis of discredited public monopolies of knowledge falling before the spontaneous liberating sway of crowdsourced intellectual inquiry. Predestination, or maybe some oracle, explains everything.
The market surely can’t—and shouldn’t. The richest nation in the history of the world subsidizes all sorts of luxuries and inefficiencies. Football stadiums, bridges to nowhere, bases and planes that even the military does not want, churches, temples, cathedrals, and vacation homes. Yet in the present consensus on the future of our higher learning, the notion that perhaps we can afford a reasonable level of public investment in the inefficient institutions that gave us the Green Revolution and Google is deemed unrealistic. The public debate is locked on measurable outputs. But the opportunity costs of failing to reinvest never come up. What is the public expense, for instance, if we continue to gouge funding for research on communicable diseases or climate change? How do we measure the cost of failing to inspire and guide the student who might write the next great work of political thought that can guide us safely through the challenges of this century? Why can’t the richest country in the world afford to adequately support passionate potential scholars in the pursuit of their calling? We make explicit value choices in this republic. We have chosen tax breaks over history, poetry, and science. Nothing is inevitable. We can choose otherwise.

When we scholars explain our passions—the deep satisfaction we feel when we help a nineteen-year-old make a connection between the Mahabharata and The Iliad, or when our research challenges the surprising results of some medical experiment that the year before generated unwarranted headlines—many of our listeners roll their eyes like my fellow students did back in that classroom in 1995. How embarrassing that people find deep value in such uncountable things."

Friday, March 7, 2014

I've been hither and yon and flat out busy, the blog has suffered accordingly. Etc.

At the end of February I was happily down in Texas in participate in a festival and symposium on Texas polka music, put on jointly by Texas Folklife and Texas Dancehall Preservation, Inc, at the restored and truly lovely Senglemann Hall in Schulenburg, Texas. This is a grand old dance hall which was just perfect for the array of bands all day.

This was a great event filled with music of all kinds, alternativing with a series of really worthwhile presentations on dance halls, food, and music. I was there to talk about sustainability theory and vernacular music, in a session along with the great Czech musician Mark Halata and Texas Polish musician Frank Motley. The audio for each of the sessions can be heard here (mine is the last) along with a bunch of pictures of the festival overall. A great event overall which is intended to start running on an annual basis. I already look forward to it.

I'll be in Korea next week talking about the same issues, only focused specially on conjunto music. More on the Korea trip and those topics later. I am very excited about going, as you'd imagine.

Here is a picture of me playing some tunes in the evening with Lala Garza, one of the very rare female conjunto accordionists.  Even rarerr--she had her own conjunto back in the 1960s. You can hear a full story about her here.  I was fortunate to get to meet Lala on a previous trip to Texa,s and was pleased to get to play some more with on this trip. Here we are sitting in an 1835 house between Schulenburg and LaGrange that was once considered as a spot for the capitol.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Virginia textbooks have not always been known for their historical accuracy, but at least now they will no longer unwittingly serve as reminders of Japanese colonial rule in Korea.

"RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - Two of America's closest Asian allies played out their historic rivalry in the U.S. state of Virginia on Thursday, with South Korea celebrating victory after state lawmakers approved legislation requiring that the Korean name for the Sea of Japan be included in new school textbooks.

Virginia's House of Delegates voted 81-15 to approve the two-line bill, which requires "that all text books approved by the Broad of Education ... when referring to the Sea of Japan, shall note that it is also called the East Sea."

The bill had already been approved by the state Senate. Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has veto power but spoke on behalf of the Korean perspective during his campaign for governor and is widely expected to sign the measure.

It was a significant victory for vocal campaigners among Virginia's 82,000 Korean-Americans, who greatly outnumber the state's 19,000 ethnic Japanese and showed up in the hundreds to cheer the vote in the state capital, Richmond.

The vote followed intense lobbying not only by Korean-Americans but the governments of South Korea and Japan more than 7,000 miles away, which have been squabbling for years over the name for the sea, which separates their countries."

The local news story on this issue had this quote worth considering.

"Opponents of the measure warned that it sets a bad precedent for legislative interference in academic matters.

“I’m wondering what business is it of the commonwealth of Virginia to engage in the nomenclature of bodies of water or land masses?” said Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Henrico County.

He suggested that the Assembly might next be asked to weigh in on the Persian Gulf, the Irish Sea or even the English Channel.

Del. Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth, drew on his Greek-American heritage to argue against the bill, noting that Constantinople, which fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 1400s, ultimately lost its centuries-old name when the Turks rechristened it Istanbul.

Nevertheless, Joannou said, he has no plans to introduce a bill to recognize the name Constantinople.

“I have some deep feelings, but I’m an American. I was born in this country and I love this country,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that have happened in history which were wrong…. That was all in the past.

“I can’t change history.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

You can be a Messiah nowadays, at least in Tennessee.

It is worth reading this whole story and also following the link through to the article about the right to control your own name, which I found fascinating.

I just found out that Volokh had migrated to the Washington Post. Maybe this happened awhile ago and I missed it, but I wonder what it means for the blog overall.

Friday, January 24, 2014

In lieu of detailed analysis of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's multiple personal and professional failings and the connections between his core venality, greed, and duplicity and his deeply held religious convictions honed at Regent University here in Virginia Beach, of all godforsaken places, Nunal offers this possible soundtrack to his morality play: Horatiu Radulesco's String Quartet No. 5, "before the Universe was Born"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This is really compelling listening for this midweek moment. (Placed here to save you the hours of getting sucked into youtube)

Definitely beyond the kayagum sanjo I can play, which I have been thinking about (and which she plays starting at 1:37 until 2:07).

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ya Basta, plus 20

Twenty years on with the EZLN


We are a product of 500 years of struggle: first against slavery, then during the War of Independence against Spain led by insurgents, then to avoid being absorbed by North American imperialism, then to promulgate our constitution and expel the French empire from our soil, and later the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz denied us the just application of the Reform laws and the people rebelled and leaders like Villa and Zapata emerged, poor men just like us. We have been denied the most elemental preparation so they can use us as cannon fodder and pillage the wealth of our country. They don't care that we have nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a roof over our heads, no land, no work, no health care, no food nor education. Nor are we able to freely and democratically elect our political representatives, nor is there independence from foreigners, nor is there peace nor justice for ourselves and our children.

But today, we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Friday, December 20, 2013

more banda, and a little livelier too

Banda de Policia de Mexico - Viva La Industria (1910)

I'm reading a history of Mexican military bands, so here's a soundtrack dating from the cylinder era:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Watch his feet, he'll kill you with his feet."

Tom Laughlin, aka Billy Jack, R.I.P.

I knew quite a bit about Billy jack, not only from watching the movie many times but also from living in Wisconsin and remembering fondly his shortlived run for president in 1992. Laughlin was a Milwaukee native.

This LA Times obit I linked to has some amusing lines:

"Over the years, critics assailed Laughlin's performances. Leonard Maltin called him "the only actor intense enough to risk a hernia from reading lines." The New Yorker's Pauline Kael called "The Trial of Billy Jack" extraordinary — that is, "the most extraordinary display of sanctimonious self-aggrandizement the screen has ever known."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This issue of Chinese sovereign jurisdiction assertion into the East China Sea is interesting on numerous levels form UN Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) angle to the broader significance in terms of U.S. power projection in the Pacific.

The Washington Post reports just now:

"The U.S. military has flown two warplanes over the East China Sea on a training exercise, the Pentagon announced Tuesday, blatantly ignoring a recent edict from China that it must be informed in advance of any such flights over the region."...

Japan and the United States immediately protested the move. The Pentagon, which frequently conducts naval and air exercises in the East China Sea, said it had no intention of bowing to China’s demands, calling them “a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region.”

On Tuesday, the White House blasted China’s imposition of the air defense identification zone, but urged Beijing to address territorial conflicts diplomatically instead of militarily."

  Julian Ku, who has been writing the best analyses of the territorial and jurisdicitonal disputes between China and Japan and China and the Philippines write this:

Meanwhile, China Draws a Provocative, Dangerous, But Perfectly Legal Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea"

But I did want to note one other big sort-of-law news item from the other side of the world: China’s announcementthat it is drawing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, including over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

China’s announcement has riled up both Japan (which has declared it “totally unacceptable”) and the United States (which has expressed “deep concerns.”)

Why all the fuss? China’s new ADIZ appears to overlap with Japan’s own ADIZ in some crucial places (like the Senkakus/Diaoyu) as well as South Korea’s and Taiwan’s. China has declared that aircraft entering its ADIZ must report flight information to Chinese authorities (actually, its military) and (here’s the scary part), “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.” The U.S. is already hinting that it will test this resolve by flying aircraft through the ADIZ. (Wonder which lucky US pilot draws that mission!)

Although provocative and dangerous, it seem clear to me that China’s ADIZ does not violate international law. Indeed, China’s Foreign Ministry was perfectly correct today in its claim that its ADIZ is consistent with “the U.N. Charter and related state practice.” Countries (led by the U.S.) have long drawn ADIZs beyond their national sovereign airspace as a measure to protect their national airspace. This practice, although not exactly blessed by any treaty, does not appear to violate either the Chicago Convention or UNCLOS. "

W eare reading this worthy book Drug War Zone in my borderlands class this week.  Light holiday week reading...

This film Narco Cultura has been getting a lot of press, I think it looks like it will be worth seeing. The director Shaul Schwartz's photography of the drug violence is really quite striking and working seeing. (not for the squeamish)

Though your time would best be spent reading 2666.
Every house needs one of these:

"The Laib Wax Room, lined with fragrant beeswax and illuminated by a single bare light bulb, is the first permanently installed artwork at the Phillips since the Rothko Room in 1960. German artist Wolfgang Laib (b. 1950) installed the work in a space he helped to select in the original Phillips house. The Phillips Laib Wax Room is also the first wax room that Laib has created for a specific museum. Accommodating one to two people at a time, it offers a personal, meditative encounter.

To install the work, Where have you gone – where are you going?, Laib melted approximately 440 pounds—at a constant temperature to achieve a uniform golden hue. He used tools such as a spatula, spackle knife, electric heat gun, and warm iron to apply the wax, on the walls and ceiling of the 6-by-7-by-10-foot space.

For Laib, The Phillips Collection was a logical choice for the work because of its intimate, experiential character. Laib visited the Rothko Room for the first time in October 2011, and it left a profound impression. “A wax chamber has a very deep and open relationship to Rothko’s paintings,” he explains. To enter a wax room, Laib says, is to be “in another world, maybe on another planet and in another body.”

Laib began working in beeswax in 1988 and has used removable wax plates to create wax rooms for exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1988), the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Germany (1989), the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, the Netherlands (1990), and the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany (1992). Laib went on to create beeswax chambers in nature—his first, created in 2000, is situated in a cave of the French Pyrenees and is accessible only by footpath; his most recent is on his property in southern Germany."

I'm definitely going to go visit this next time I'm in DC.

I actually made a bunch of beeswax candles and Buddhas this past weekend, so our house smells nicely of beeswax, though I am sure it is not the same as a beeswax room.

Kind of tempting to do this in a room in my house, though the flammability of it is a bit unnerving. Brings to mind that story of the Hartford waxed circus tent fire

Friday, November 15, 2013

 This article about Korean literature is worth a look, especially once you wade through the filler intro (can we at last dispense with the phrase "neon-saturated"?) and the sweeping generalizations about Korea which litter it.

Nevertheless, it makes some observations about the relative invisibility of Korean literature in the U.S. and the globe more widely, and presents the directed Korean state response to the problem.

This is a telling section:

"Still, when it comes to American recognition, Korea has a ways to go. Charles Montgomery, a California native who’s now a professor in Seoul and the proprietor of a lively literary blog, puts it this way: “Imagine, we’re drinking martinis with a bunch of educated people, and I say, ‘Who is your favorite Japanese author?’ You can say one of ten names. ‘Who is your favorite French author?’ One of ten names.” Montgomery continues: “But ‘Who is your favorite Korean author?’ Everyone will run to refill their drinks.”

When people ask me, I of course always start with the obvious and best, in my estimation: Ko Un.  I also like O Chōnghūi and Kim Young-ha. I've thought about using the latter in my class recently. A lot of the Korean stuff I admit I have thought about in terms of pedagogical usefulness. Not
Ko Un, there is nothing quite as arresting as reading him. I use him in class too, of course, how could I not?

I am pretty excited about Dalkey Press publishing this whole slew of new translations. Now I just need to find the time to read them.

Sometime when it is not 2 in the morning and I am not out of time I will lay out the article I am working on that looks at the detective fiction of South Korea alongside that set in (though it is not of) North Korea.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

This was amusing. A prosecutor in Tennessee moved that the defendent's lawyer could not refer to the prosecution as "the government," and this was the lawyer's response:

via Volokh

..."Should this Court disagree, and feel inclined to let the parties basically pick their own designations and ban words, then the defense has a few additional suggestions for amending the speech code. First, the Defendant no longer wants to be called “the Defendant.” This rather archaic term of art, obviously has a fairly negative connotation. It unfairly demeans, and dehumanizes Mr. D.P. The word “defendant” should be banned. At trial, Mr. P. hereby demands to be addressed only by his full name, preceded by the title “Mister.”

Alternatively, he may be called simply “the Citizen Accused.” This latter title sounds more respectable than the criminal “Defendant.” The designation “That innocent man” would also be acceptable.

Moreover, defense counsel does not wish to be referred to as a “lawyer,” or a “defense
attorney.” Those terms are substantially more prejudicial than probative. See Tenn. R. Evid. 403. Rather, counsel for the Citizen Accused should be referred to primarily as the “Defender of the Innocent.” This title seems particularly appropriate, because every Citizen Accused is presumed innocent.

Alternatively, counsel would also accept the designation “Guardian of the Realm.”

...Along these same lines, even the term “defense” does not sound very likeable. The whole
idea of being defensive, comes across to most people as suspicious. So to prevent the jury from being unfairly misled by this ancient English terminology, the opposition to the Plaintiff hereby names itself “the Resistance.” Obviously, this terminology need only extend throughout the duration of the trial — not to any pre-trial motions. During its heroic struggle against the State, the Resistance goes on the attack, not just the defense.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I am fairly well behind posting pictures to Nunal and likely will never catch up with all the stuff from the summer I had intended to put here. Oh well.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Texas working on a project with Texas Folklife (and particularly its visionary director, Cristina Ballí, who launched the effort) on helping to foster sustainable cultures of young musicians in Texas Czech polka music. I got to meet a bunch of musicians and cultural workers involved in the Czech polka scene, which was a marvelous experience.

I've been working on sustainability issues in Conjunto music, which is a real model for developing programs for teaching young musicians and vibrant traditional transfer (I've written about it here). I am currently collaborating with Cristina on a full book on sustainability in Conjunto music culture, so you can look forward to that.

This polka project is an important one and a lot of fun too, not least because it means spending time with musicians in Texas, which I always welcome.  This time around I was in some places I had never been, as well as places I love to be, like San Antonio and also Austin.

That is to say, the music playing parts of Texas, not the Nut-Haus Tea party parts of Texas. Though these elements are not rare in the state.  Case in point:

It's hard to read, but that bumper sticker says "SECEDE". It is even spelled right.

Or in front of this statute in Schulenberg (a Czech town with a polka museum and a famous old timey dance hall)

Yup, that is not one but three fetuses on this statue. The fetuses are persisting in stylized drops of blood, with some angels cavorting along the base.

Another place I went was Dallas, where I was at a Czech festival that started with a polka mass and ended in a big party with two polka bands and a lot of food. The food was ok, the music was better.

Interestingly to me, the sermon was an extremely caustic critique of the wealthy and their unwillingness to accept responsibility of the poor. Quite powerful, actually. I would not have been surprised by it in South Texas, but was a bit un[prepared for it here.

The priest is quite an accomplished harmonica player, and he played a nice version of Amazing Grace while peddling his cd at the end of the mass.  Don't worry, all proceeds went to charity.

I was a bit shy taking pictures during the mass. I wish I hadn't been. The music was supplied by three accordions and a tuba,
I was surprised by the highly charged sermon given the general political vibe.
That sticker says "fight terrorism, support a missionary." Indeed.  I was thinking of marketing "support terrorism by supporting a missionary" stickers, but that might be a harder sell

Here is the scene at the polka fest proper.  The pictures don't really capture the happy feeling and the load of kids running around. I was a bit focused on the size of the hall, which was built to accommodate thousands.

Of course, I had to stop by the grassy knoll before leaving Dallas.  It was marked.


Very strange and not welcome feeling to be at that site. On the road there are two X's taped onto the spots of the shots.  People would run into the road, grin, point at the Xs, and take pictures. The pointing and the grinning reminded me of Errol Morris' film "Standard Operating Procedure."
It was weird, this pointing and grinning.
On the way back south I managed to stop by a place I have always wanted to go --Mount Carmel.  It was very peaceful and worth visiting for that reason.  I have taught about these events for years, quite interesting to be there in person.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Michael Lind does a good job contextualizing and historicizing the Tea Party movement.  He demonstrates how this moment has some deep continuities with longstanding political realities in the South, which won't be at all surprising to anyone who has studied the region and especially its politics (see below).  I liked this line "By using a semi-filibuster to help shut down the government rather than implement Obamacare, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is acting rationally on behalf of his constituency—the surburban and exurban white local notables of Texas and other states, whom the demagogic Senator seems to confuse with “the American people.”"


"While each of the Newest Right’s proposals and policies might be defended by libertarians or conservatives on other grounds, the package as a whole—from privatizing Social Security and Medicare to disenfranchising likely Democratic voters to opposing voting rights and citizenship for illegal immigrants to chopping federal programs into 50 state programs that can be controlled by right-wing state legislatures—represents a coherent and rational strategy for maximizing the relative power of provincial white elites at a time when their numbers are in decline and history has turned against them. They are not ignoramuses, any more than Jacksonian, Confederate and Dixiecrat elites were idiots. They know what they want and they have a plan to get it—which may be more than can be said for their opponents."

Meanwhile, over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall throws tenured history professors under the bus:

'As an historian, though not a practicing one, I would only say that I don't think historians are necessarily the best ones to address the issue, either substantively or politically. In other words, I don't think many Americans care to hear what tenured history professors have to say and I'm not sure I blame them. But on the broader point, I agree with FN's point. The real issue, as I see it, is the marquee DC journalists and pundits, who refuse to speak plainly about what's happening and won't go beyond the pablum of false equivalence."

Of course, I know that virtually nobody cares what historians have to say, tenured otherwise! But this doesn't mean that their political or substantive perspectives aren't important. Just sayin.

Friday, October 4, 2013

42 dead and 1600 injured!?

This sounds made up it is such a crazy story.

SHANGHAI — Swarms of giant hornets have killed 42 people in Shaanxi Province and injured more than 1,600 in recent months, according to Xinhua, the official news agency. Government officials have yet to figure out why their attacks have been so widespread and deadly.

Officials said on Thursday that 206 people were being treated in hospitals in Shaanxi Province and that emergency response teams were working to locate and destroy the nests of Asian giant hornets, the species involved in the attacks. Their venom is highly toxic and can cause shock and renal failure, experts say.

Hornet attacks have been reported elsewhere in China as well. Last month, a swarm attacked a primary school in the Guangxi Autonomous Region in southern China, injuring 30 people, including 23 children. But the most serious attacks, according to the state-run news media, have taken place in rural areas near Ankang City, in the southeastern part of Shaanxi Province

More news of it here

It is actually starting to sound like a bad movie

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Regular violence and shootings aren't uncommon in Hampton Roads, but this home invasion by armed intruders seems a bit extreme. Not surprisingly, this being the 757, they were repulsed by armed force.

"Four people entered a home on Long Point Boulevard armed and masked and intent on robbing their victims, police said.

But the intruders were greeted with resistance. One person in the home pulled a gun and fired, hitting an intruder, according to police. Others grabbed a second masked man and held him. Two intruders escaped. The residents were unharmed.

When police arrived about 11 p.m. Wednesday at the home in the 3900 block of Long Point Blvd., they found a 29-year-old man shot in the back. He was taken to a hospital and was in critical condition, but he is expected to recover. Charges against him are pending, police said.

A second suspect, a 26-year-old, was charged with robbery, use of a firearm in a felony, breaking and entering, and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Police have not identified the two men. They are continuing the search for the two who escaped."

the first day is a difficult day

Of particular interest to my students reading about samathabhāvanā and other approaches to mastering the mind might be the sad news of the passing of S.N. Goenka, a global vipassana pioneer.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I was really happy this weekend to get to play some music with Art Rosenbaum, an artist, musician, and field recorder of incredible stature both for me and for all people who love old time music.  You can check out his page detailing his many projects here.

When I first got into old time music I checked every record I could out of the public library, one of which was Art's banjo records which I listened to a lot and was hugely inspired by. I still have a tape of it somewhere.  (Yup, even have a means of playing said tape still).

 I've know Art for a few years ever since we were in a really fun and interesting symposium in Buffalo together, but I've never had the chance to play tunes with him. He was in town for an exhibit at a gallery in Williamsburg called the Linda Matney Gallery. The exhibit was the work of several Southern artists, the work in it was quite good.

So the Gallery was snapping pictures and I've been informed that a few were of me, and then posted on Facebook. Not being on Facebook, it took some doing for me to get them. But here is one:

Art is playing a fiddle made by the great John W. Summers, who Art recorded (a podcast on Summers is here). I guess Mike Seeger owned this particular fiddle for awhile and now it has made its way to Art. So a double honor for me, to play with Art and to play with Summers' fiddle (and, of course, Art played some of Summers' tunes) And through it all I got to play Art's sweet custom Wildwood banjo, too. A nice day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I am using this book by Daniel Innerarity in my freshmen seminar and I liked this line: "we practice an imperialism that is no longer related to space but to time, an imperialism of the present that colonizes everything.. There is a colonization of the future that consists of living at its expense and an imperialism of the present that absorbs the future and feeds off of it parasitically."

The other book I'm using for this class is Jaron Lanier's Who Owns the Future?

I guess I am future minded this fall. Must be the effect of the looming apocalypse.

boutique freedom vs. "wholesale breach of privacy"

Oops, the NSA accidentally and illegally scooped up "56,000 “wholly domestic” communications each year."  But you don't need to worry yourself, John and Jane Q. Public, it was just an accident.

“This was not in any respect an intentional or wholesale breach of privacy of American persons,” Robert S. Litt III, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence, said Wednesday.

No, that "wholesale breach of privacy" is what the NSA is doing legally by gathering every phone call and every internet search.

This implies that freedom is rapidly becoming a boutique item, like those enjoyed not by our reassured Mr and Ms Q. Publics, but by that smaller number of one percenters, knowwhatI'msayin?

Monday, August 19, 2013

If you are still fooling yourself that MOOCs are revolutionary for the ways they are helping education to evolve, than this should help you understand that the change is really to be found in the ways that administrators no longer even pretend that higher education is anything but a business that requires the approaches and sensibility of a business. That is, profit is the sole legitimate motivation.

In this NYTimes story on Georgia Tech adopting for-credit MOOCs, we read

" The Florida Legislature has directed the University of Florida to start fully online bachelor’s degree programs and set the price for residents at three-quarters of the campus in-state tuition, or about $4,700. But Bernie Machen, the university’s president, said he had not yet decided whether to charge out-of-state online students the full $28,000 tuition they would pay on campus, in part because he wondered if online pricing models were changing.

Most of us got into online graduate programs more from the revenue side than the service side,” said Mr. Machen, whose university brings in $75 million annually from its more than 70 online graduate degree programs. “It was an untapped market.”

The "service side" he refers to would be what the uninitiated or old fashioned might call "education."

But you would only think this if you failed to understand that students should be viewed in terms of the marketplace. To be uneducated is to be untapped.

My own school seems to have adopted this model by having all of the freshmen required to read a largely empty management book dressed up as an exploration of the science of habit formation. This book presents the worst kind of journalism that we are, in theory, attempting to teach the limits of to our students. (I am not the first to note that  "Duhigg is a wannabe Malcolm Gladwell. His prose is less elegant, but his approach is similar: Find a Big Theme and illustrate it with an array of eclectic examples. Like Gladwell, Duhigg is very comfortable making sweeping inferences from limited data."

Duhigg breezily connects things with a simple monocausal explanation, and then demonstrates how this simple rule in fact governs all behavior. And it is written in distracting TV-talking head short bursts, wherein single sentences are made into important sounding single sentence paragraphs. This is the kind of writing that I actively encourage my students to avoid.

It is that kind of book.

It is that bad.

  This is a book which fuses the habit denial of Rosa Parks with the Christian mega church formation imperialism of Rick Warren.

Don't ask.

Actually, you can ask. This linkage seems to imply a moral equivalency between the two, which is foul enough.  Is Rick Warren's homophobia a habit? Or just evidence of poor character?

At the same time this telling simplifying the civil rights movement into a mere act of habit maintenance. The historical context conveniently gets muddied, and the historical agency and hard work of Parks and the whole movement is reduced so utterly in Duhigg's telling as to count as counterfactual mythology.

Another chapter, perhaps the most depressing, argues approvingly (even gushingly) that Starbucks is really a massive educational institution teaching "willpower." The example is a man who's eparents both died of drug overdoses but for whom Starbucks helped him learn his true potential in customer service. The power of the corporate ideal to triumph over life adversity, family failure, and personal weakness. The willpower to say invented words like "vente" instead of "medium"

But it occurs to me that Starbucks knows something about untapped markets. A Starbucks Will-to-Power MOOC can't be far behind, don't you think?

It turns out that the forces of higher education marketing have already noticed this book is a good ally for their propaganda campaigns

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I don't know why this particular DEA aspect of the federal government Big Brother system in the NSA hasn't gotten more attention.

The NSA data collection wasn't much of a surprise except in scale given the reality of the Patriot Act, but the domestic ramifications in other agencies and their use of the data is actually shocking (though not exactly surprising).

Take for example the secret branch of the DEA called the "Special Operations Division". Nothing sinister about the name, nope, nothing at all. 

The initials are S.O.D.  Perhaps a reference to that other S.O.D.?

Andrew O'Hehir writes:

"The feds really were after him. In the latest post-Snowden bombshell about the extent and consequences of government spying, we learned from Reuters reporters this week that a secret branch of the DEA called the Special Operations Division – so secret that nearly everything about it is classified, including the size of its budget and the location of its office — has been using the immense pools of data collected by the NSA, CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies to go after American citizens for ordinary drug crimes. Law enforcement agencies, meanwhile, have been coached to conceal the existence of the program and the source of the information by creating what’s called a “parallel construction,” a fake or misleading trail of evidence. So no one in the court system – not the defendant or the defense attorney, not even the prosecutor or the judge – can ever trace the case back to its true origins."
Worth noting that the Encyclopaedia Metallum, cite above, has 90,000 bands listed.  Ninety Thousand.

But they do not have an entry for Los Wetbacks del D.F., which I have written about. (now defunct, quickly disappearing from Myspace too)
This is a real shock...there is zero proof smartphone apps teach your kids to read.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

This article by David Sirota exactly gets to the heart of the Big Lie surrounding the Detroit bankruptcy

Don’t buy the right-wing myth about Detroit

It brings to mind the hullbaloo over, say, NEA fundin, which the Republicans are trying to cut to save the country from the scourge of arts and cuklture funding,

This at time when an apparently limitless amount is being squandered in Afghanistan for absolutely no purpose whatsoever except to run down the clock until 2014.

Speaking of clocks:

The NYTimes followed up on the Goldman Sachs warehousing story a few times this week, and one of the articles had a picture of the warehouse in Detroit which identified it as a Foreign Trade Zone. I should have guessed! This means the price gouging is not only not regulated by the federal government, it is in fact shielded from, onerous things like customs duties.

By the way, there are many hundreds of FTZs around the country, and probably there is one right down the block from you. The Department of Commerce has a nifty webpage for you to search.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

And while you are in an artistic frame of mine, you should go over and think about investing in the work of another old pal of mine, Andrew Miksys.  He is a brilliant photographer based in Lithuania, with a new project in the form of a study of discos in the decayed fringes of the former Soviet bloc:

DISKO: Photographs of Lithuanian village discos

Here is his personal website, you can see a lot of his work here.  It would be worth picking up a copy of his BAXT while you are over there.

A-Rok is getting close, so please do help support his work and get yourself a copy of his new book in the process.
If you are in New York you should stop and check out this show of forgeries curated by an old friend of mine. It looks like it will be great, (whether or not you are not obsessed with The Recognitions)

"Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware): An exhibition of confiscated art forgeries from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s holdings"

Some of these will amuse you for a few minutes. The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vampire Squid smells money in warehouses

I ended up writing a short piece on the Goldman Sach's warehousing scheme, it is up at History News Network.
Frank Pasquale gets to the heart of it:

"If only Detroit were a big bank, Treasury officials would be working round the clock this weekend to save it. Alas, this city is no Citi. It lacks a "winning business model" (like lobbying and bonuses for key federal officials). So municipal bankruptcy is on the horizon."

It is always interesting to watch how the process of squeezing money from the least powerful happens so effortlessly and so loftily when "emergency" is declared. Pity the retired Detroit city worker who now faces the obliteration of promises made decades ago. No sanctity to that contract.

When GM hit crisis and went bankrupt for a time, the unions negotiated sharply lower salaries for workers. The claim was that it was essential in this emergency for the chokehold of union labor to be broken. The contracts had to be broken, it was, you know, like an emergency.

And yet, one can easily recall those days of emergency when AIG went bellyup in an entirely avoidable financial mess built on stupidity and greed at AIG (among other places). The word of the day from the Obama administration on down was sanctity of contract. The bonuses were paid in full. Like any profitable year, they were paid, only of course this happened when AIG had ceased to exist.

Detroit is clearly in an emergency situation. It is interesting to see which contracts will be the first that get sacrificed to the requirements of emergency.

Also will be interesting to see how many other major metropolitan areas would decline with the one-two punch of deindustrialization and slowing of military spending.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Speaking of financial institution misdeeds, it is worth reading through this list of jaw-dropping list of settlements J.P. Morgan Chase has paid in the past few years. It will just take a second, go read it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

This is a fascinating story of the power of the warehouse, a deceptively simple space which Goldman Sachs has been using quite cleverly to manipulate (that is raise) global aluminum prices. Basically, they are shuffling around a quarter of the global supply (1.5 million tons) between buildings in Detroit as a way to create artificial scarcity. 

This isn't actually illegal, just sleazy and harmful to the global public.

"In the meantime, the Federal Reserve, which regulates Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other banks, is reviewing the exemptions that have let banks make major investments in commodities. Some of those exemptions are set to expire, but the Fed appears to have no plans to require the banks to sell their storage facilities and other commodity infrastructure assets, according to people briefed on the issue."

Whatevs. Good thing we have a useless financial regulatory structure in the U.S., no?

Not least interesting is some long overdue attention paid to the impact of speculation on commodity prices, particularly oil.  When prices spiked several years back the claims at the time was that it was entirely due to peak oil and had nothing to do with speculation. Turns out this wasn't the case. But prices haven't dropped, have you noticed? This seems to me (having filled my usual 50 dollar tank this week) to be a weirdly silent issue.

A nice confluence of my interests in warehousing strategies as a means of controlling both space and time in global trade, and the whole realm of strategizing raw materials. If you want to read my new piece about nineteenth century warehousing (and you know it is tempting) then see the most recent World History Bulletin.  For some reason, the new issue is not online yet, but if you want to read it, email me and I'll send you a copy.

I've been thinking a lot about strategic materials. I've been fortunate to have become involved with a group of historians from around the globe who are interested in these issues, called the History and Strategic Raw Materials Initiative. I presented at their conference in Glasgow last month and it has had a really welcome impact on my thinking about my current book project on jurisdictional aspects of U.S. foreign trade policy.  It turns out that framing questions relating to strategic materials opens up a lot of new policy making that I had not really delved into fully before.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Wee Oscar, 1998-2013

He was a sweet and gentle little dog who brought a lot of love into this world.  He died Thursday with great dignity and grace.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My blogging has been pretty weak of late. Summertime, blah blah blah.

But there is plenty of excellent blogging on conjunto music and on Valley related things generally over at Pharr From Heaven.  Go catch up on the past few years, I'll be back in a jiff.

Friday, May 24, 2013

I hate hurricane season, which is just another reason to dislike this area-- being by the ocean and all.  So I do not greet the news that this season is forecasted to be an especially active one very kindly.

Last year I was driving to the Blackpot festival in Louisiana and heard on the news that this massive storm was heading to the coast. There had been zero mention of it so it was surprise. I had even left our attic windows open.  I had some big fears of coming back to a lot of problems but the storm (Sandy) instead decided to destroy the NE and leave this stepped on area alone.  Thankfully.

Ok, if you are looking for a sharp criticism on the speech and on Obama policy, Kevin Jon Heller's comments ought to do the trick:

There is a classic jury instruction that reads, “[a] witness who is willfully false in one material part of his or her testimony is to be distrusted in others. You may reject the whole testimony of a witness who willfully has testified falsely as to a material point, unless, from all the evidence, you believe the probability of truth favors his or her testimony in other particulars.” I immediately thought of that instruction when I read Obama’s national-security speech today, because it contains such a blatant lie that it is impossible to take anything else that Obama said seriously:
And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.
The United States, of course, has used drones to attack wedding parties. And funerals. Andrescuers. And densely populated villages. Yet Obama has the temerity to claim that the US does not launch attacks unless there is “near certainty” that no civilians will be harmed. Has there been a bigger — and more obvious — lie since John Brennan’s risible claim in 2011 that drone strikes had not caused “a single collateral death”?
What is most perverse about Obama’s purported requirement is that, from a legal standpoint, it is completely unnecessary. International humanitarian law does not demand perfection; it demands proportionality. Innocent civilians die in legitimate military attacks. They always have, and they always will — no matter how “precise” weapons like drones become. Every military commander in every country in the world accepts that basic fact of warfare. But not Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He cannot bring himself to acknowledge that the US is — like every other country — willing to launch attacks that are likely to kill innocent civilians when it believes the targets are important enough. He would rather pretend, in public and seemingly without shame, that the US is more virtuous and has cleaner hands than everyone else, friend and foe alike. Never mind that if the US took his targeting standard seriously, its drone fleet would be gathering dust in a hangar somewhere."

sorry about these white blocks, I can't seem to get rid of them in quotes.
I think about the drone program a lot because the extraterritorial issues in it so directly intersect with my research and teaching, but also because it has a moral dimension that I consider essential to confront.

Butr closer to home I still worry about the killing with impunity that is the standard for local police forces, let alone the highly militarized wings of them.

It is again sadly easy again post a depressing story of police killing in the US to frame some of the outrage directed toward the Obama drone program.  I am sympathetic with the concerns, but I think we should be contextualizing it all with consideration of  Obama pointed out that we allow SWAT teams to kill people in the U.S. who are considered dangerous, such as snipers.

"or the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen—with a drone, or a shotgun—without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil. But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team."

But what about people trying to pass bad checks? Should they be shot by police?  In Norfolk, this proved to be sufficient for police to kill an unarmed guy.  The guy trying to cash the check tried to drive off and was killed as a result.

DWB has always been a hazardous thing around here. Turns out CCWB ("check cashing while black") is also  dangerous here in parts of Norfolk as well.

I'm glad to see that there was a protest in Ghent, which is the fancy part of Norfolk. The shooting happens at a bank I go to all the time.

I just spent a week in San Antonio playing, listening to, and talking about conjunto music. Definitely among my favorite places to be.  Saw a bunch of old friends and made some new ones, learned a lot of tips on the bajo sexto from old timers, and of course heard some great music that perfectly meets the needs of the soul.  All linked together by a series of awesome meals...

 I'll get around to posting some details of that time when I have more of a moment to post some pics.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A friend of mine who reads this blog and is an academic recently said he was surprised to hear that I had written something negative about MOOCs since he had only heard positive things. 

That's funny--I have only heard (and thought) negative things.  Then again, I have been known to hang around with historians, who are a critical and even dour lot who often a good sense of the reliability of gauzy future projections.. (Especially if they have the foggiest idea about the reshaping of labor as it has emerged over the past century as means of social and economic control).

Me, I don't intend to take part in (or be silent during) the dismantling of American higher ed, or the hollowing out of the virtues of small colleges and small classes.

There has been a lot of discussion about Amherst's big rebuke of edX's MOOCs (and their 2 million dollar price tag).  That was gratifying to hear.

"Sitze, though, compared edX and MOOCs to a litany of failed dotcoms, including other education ventures with similar ambitions. He said MOOCs may very well be today’s MySpace – a decent-looking idea doomed to fail.

“What makes us think, educationally, that MOOCs are the form of online learning that we should be experimenting with? On what basis? On what grounds?,” Sitze said. “2012 was the year of the MOOCs. 2013 will be the year of buyer’s regret.”

Ouch. The Myspace comparison is always a bit deadly.

But Amherst is as elite as they come, so they are free from ever having to yield to these new trends.  Not so the poor state university systems, the mid rank colleges and universities, and no less the  hopelessly and cluelessly trend-following locally-focoused provincial schools (names withheld)

For more trenchant thoughts on MOOCs I referred him to More or Less Bunk, as I have linked to before.  He gets how the new technology is being rolled out as a means for the professoriate to eat its own young. Or maybe to sit immobile while its young is devoured, a la the end of Cormac McCarthy's Outer Dark

Now that I think about it, that is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves...

Today Rees writes:

"In the name of increasing access to higher education, extremely well-meaning liberals are cooperating in destroying its quality. They’re sending a signal to the people who make higher education budgetary decisions that an automated education is henceforth and forever acceptable. You want to fight permanent austerity? Tough luck. Davidson has already raised the white flag of surrender on your behalf. ["If I had a magic wand...," she repeats like a mantra, thereby implying that real change is impossible almost by definition.] She’s also raised the white flag on behalf of most of the world’s potential college students for generations to come.

Education is supposed to be an exceedingly personal enterprise. This is why forcing students into MOOCs as a last resort is like automating your wedding or the birth of your first child. You’re taking something that ought to depend upon the glorious unpredictability of human interaction and turning it into mass-produced, impersonal, disposable schlock."

All of these future promises and technological makes me want to re-read the founding document of Hampshire College, which was visionary and also not immune to some technological pie in the sky. It is , Franklin Patterson and Charles R. Longsworth, The Making of a College: Plans for a New Departure in Higher Education, published by MIT of all places in 1966. I have an old copy of it somewhere and will dig it up.  It envisioned video lectures available remotely, among other innovations.  But of course it was all in service to an experimental little school built on community that soon recapitulated itself into a radical little place (though the radicalism mitigated over time).

I remember a shortlived snarky little rag published at Hampshire when I was there that if I recall correctly was modeled on Spy Magazine (if you are old enough to remember that) which skewered some of the more b.s. parts of that book

UPDATE wait--you don't have to be old to remember Spy, Google has helpfully digitized it all. Worth it to link through even if just for the covers, which are still amusing. As in

Front Cover