Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

Your Sunday Reading! And the movement is spreading, it seems.

These pictures of Titoist monuments in the former Yugoslavia so much more interesting than I would ever have expected them to be (via). My favorite:

It seems a propos, then, to turn from that to the figure of American police enforcing freedom by cracking down on illegitimate crime-dancing  in the Jefferson Memorial:

Lying about Reading and keeping score:

On one hand, we have big, painful books we feel compelled to see through to the end. On the other, the books we’ve sort of read and glibly lie about having finished. Both of these seem tied to some sort of reading scorecard, one in which the readers are measured and judged by—perhaps even more than—the books that they’ve read. If you hate a movie, you probably have no qualms about turning it off or walking out of the theatre, and the blame is placed on the film and those who made it, not on your movie-watching abilities. By the same token, no one will pat you on the back for watching something long and difficult, but they will if you’ve read “Ulysses” (and if you’ve given up halfway through, no one can blame you, though if you lie and say you finished it, I guess you’re in good company).

Glenn Greenwald on David Brooks’ Political Dream:

[T]he Congress — from top to bottom — is now structured to avoid any actual democratic debate and instead ensures the resolution of all matters in secret.  In response to last night’s 74-8 cloture vote on the Patriot Act, the always-superb, hyper-informed commenter pow wow — in a comment that I highly recommend everyone read – explained perfectly how this works.  Citing the joint efforts of both parties’ leadership to block any debate over authorization of the war in Libya, he explained: “the Party (= fundraising) organizations and their leadership operate almost entirely off the public record and out of public view. Their objective at all times: avoid unpredictable democratic floor action, and the accountability of public debate.”

It is true that public opinion very occasionally plays an important role in determining what happens in Washington (it sidetracked Bush’s efforts to privatize Social Security, and is likely to prevent any serious dismantling of Medicare).  But that’s what Brooks and his like-minded establishment mavens are angriest about:  that the ignorant, ignoble masses very periodically are able to prevent David Brooks’ establishment political views from being implemented; that dreary problem would be solved by vesting all political power in “people who live in [Washington] and who have often known each other since prep school” — and who think just like David Brooks. One can debate whether that undemocratic model is desirable.  But what’s not debatable is whether American political culture is already dominated by that model.  It plainly is.  And that’s what explains most of what has happened — and continues to happen — to the country.

And his follow-up today; read in full.

The Flecktones have a new album, back with the original lineup. I bought it because, I mean, of course:

I’m not in love with it so far; I actually am not the hugest fan of the original line-up, for what that’s worth. My favorite Flecktone albums are the ones with the widest variety of musicians (Left of Cool and Little Worlds). Also, just because, Mike Marshall and Chris Thile are just really sickeningly good at doing the thing they do with mandolins:

And this, also because:

Monoranjan Mohanty on “America’s Geronimo.”

Homelessness in the Age of Bloomberg.

A month ago, racists in Tel Aviv protested against African immigrants. It was vicious and ugly, as racist protesting against the existence of human beings always are. A month later, the filmmakers followed up:

Perhaps these guys should re-tool their mission?

Tendai Marima calls for Zenga Zenga in Zimbabwe:

If any lessons are to be learnt from the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions by Zimbabweans, it is that dictators can be overthrown by the people; security and stability be damned. But before any fantasies of popular uprising or ousting Zanu by the ballot can be organised by serious activists and non one-hit wonder online revolutionaries or used as campaign rhetoric by a formidable opposition party (yet to be seen) Zimbabwe needs a zenga zenga revolution, to remix Gaddafi’s words.

A revolution of conscience in every city, every street, every house, every village and every hut. Zenga zenga; every nook and cranny must be cleansed of the viral strains of apathy that allow evil to flourish and culminate in an inability to equate human rights with the right to pursue prosperity and live in a relatively stable country. If Zimbabweans truly want a change in the status quo or “no other but Zanu, but without the violence” as some desire, then it begins with this critical mass realisation. Legitimate desires for stability and prosperity can never justify indifference towards the unjust persecution of another Zimbabwean…

“Did UCSD breach professor’s academic freedom?” asks the headline, and the easy answer is “Yes”:

In June 2009, [Professor] Biernacki submitted a manuscript titled “Inside the Rituals of Social Science” to Duke University Press. The manuscript examines what Biernacki calls “methodological problems in the field” and critiques the work of other sociologists, including one of Biernacki’s colleagues at UCSD. The same month [Dean] Elman wrote Biernacki a letter ordering him not to publish his work or discuss it at professional meetings. Doing so, Elman wrote, could result in “written censure, reduction in salary, demotion, suspension or dismissal.” Elman did not respond to a request for comment. But his concern, according to his letter to Biernacki, was that Biernacki’s research and manuscript “may damage the reputation of a colleague and therefore may be considered harassment.”

Why white men should refuse to be on panels of all white men:

After watching this happen again and again, something occurred to me: Why don’t the white men who are asked to engage in this nonsense simply stop doing it? The boycott is a protest with a long history of success. If white, male elites started saying, “I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men,” chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up—or become more diverse.

“I think it’s ridiculous that this kind of thing goes on in 2011,” says Wired magazine’s Spencer Ackerman, a white guy who’s often written about and asked to be on panels thanks to his vaunted national security reporting. “It’s especially bad when it happens in progressive media, which makes an effort—or at least pays lip service—to promote the idea that media diversity isn’t just an optional thing but a necessity.” Asked what he thinks about a white-dude panel boycott, Ackerman said it makes sense. “It’s within our power and it’s up to us to say, ‘Why don’t you include my colleague who works on something similar, who has possibly more to say because they’re not listened to as frequently,’” he says. “And if we don’t do it, there’s no incentive for people organizing these things to think more critically about why it is they’re not including these diverse voices.”

Of course, less prescriptive words than “boycott” (yet inclusive of it) would be, simply, consciousness and conscientiousness. When you are aware of the privileges that are given to you, you become able to mitigate their disempowering effects (and be responsible for them, which is why so many people of privilege prefer to remain ignorant). There is never any one singular solution, but all solutions begin with owning up and addressing what is the case. And anyone who appears on an all-white, all-male, all-anything panel is responsible for that fact, one way or another.

Oh, the hilarity! Because he seems like he might be a rapist!

Interviewing a buccaneer, worth reading if only for this line:

“Somali pirates are hard to track down, constantly moving around and changing phone numbers.”

Zanran, the search engine for nerds, and also from Kevine Drum: let the dead pay for medicare, an idea too reasonable and humane to ever be considered.

Mark Sample argues that

The heart of the digital humanities is not the production of knowledge; it’s the reproduction of knowledge. I’ve stated this belief many ways, but perhaps most concisely on Twitter:

“DH shouldn’t only be about the production of knowledge. It’s about challenging the ways that knowledge is represented and shared.”

The promise of the digital is not in the way it allows us to ask new questions because of digital tools or because of new methodologies made possible by those tools. The promise is in the way the digital reshapes the representation, sharing, and discussion of knowledge. We are no longer bound by the physical demands of printed books and paper journals, no longer constrained by production costs and distribution friction, no longer hampered by a top-down and unsustainable business model. And we should no longer be content to make our work public achingly slowly along ingrained routes, authors and readers alike delayed by innumerable gateways limiting knowledge production and sharing.

The New York Times employs a new terrible columnist on its op-ed page! Stop the presses! (No, really, please do, kind of.)

An open letter to the gentleman blow-drying his balls in the gym locker room.

On protests in Morrocco.

On a report showing that the press doesn’t do much to quell political misinformation, Craig Silverman at CJR:

If you believe, as most journalists do, that we play an essential role in providing quality information to society, then knocking down rumors and combating misinformation is part of our mission and daily work. Thus the rise of fact-checking organizations like PolitiFact and FactCheck.org, and the increased attempts by news organizations to fact-check statements and claims made by politicians and public figures. This is important work that helps inform and educate. Or at least it has always seemed that way to me.

I’m suddenly feeling rather powerless and conflicted because, over the last few weeks, I’ve been familiarizing myself with a growing body of evidence that suggests the mainstream press is ineffective at combating misinformation and debunking falsehoods, and in many cases can reinforce and help spread misinformation.

Will the future of academic journals be the path of cable TV or music? asks the Economist:

In Britain, 65% of the money spent on content in academic libraries goes on journals, up from a little more than half ten years ago. With budgets tight, librarians are trying to resist price increases. But Derk Haank, the chief executive of Springer, a big publisher, is firm: “We have to make a living as well.”

And what a living it is. Academic journals generally get their articles for nothing and may pay little to editors and peer reviewers. They sell to the very universities that provide that cheap labour. As other media falter, academic publishers have soared. Elsevier, the biggest publisher of journals with almost 2,000 titles, cruised through the recession. Last year it made £724m ($1.1 billion) on revenues of £2 billion—an operating-profit margin of 36%.

Howard French asks “Is the Crisis in the Congo complex?”:


An injured Cheetah found roaming the streets of Abu Dhabi. Pics or it didn’t happen.

Some good commencement addresses. Atul Gawande. Nate Silver. Robert Krulwich.

Of course, Mike Konczal would turn Bridesmaids into an economic parable and be persuasive in doing so:

The main character Annie (played by Kristin Wiig) is in a depressed slump because her bakery business failed during the recession. Most of the reviews I’ve read say that the recession wiped out her business. A subtle, yet important, plot point is that she opened her bakery during the recession and it didn’t take off. In one of the few times Annie directly mentions what went wrong with her business, she blames herself for the timing of the opening, saying something disparaging like she was the genius who decided to open a business in a recession. This left her alone, broke, and the victim of a vicious case of bad timing while the timing for her best friend works out very well.

Is Annie alone? Annie was one of the few to try and start a business in this recession. Most other entrepreneurs have taken the recession off…This is an important point that goes against the “creative destruction” view of recessions. Those who believe that kind of classical theory think that the “work” of a recession is to let the economy recalculate what goods and services are needed going forward, while also letting the virtuous and hard working purge the incompetent and the lazy out of the system. But recessions are terrible for new entrants! Good ideas or bad ideas, who wants to launch a business in a climate with 10% unemployment? Even if you are the best manager, even if your idea is killer, if all your customers can barely pay their own bills it is unlikely that your work will pay off. The realization that this depressed state could perpetuate itself was an important breakthrough for macroeconomics. The government needs to step in to jump start the economy so that the normal trucking and bartering and allocation of a market economy can function.

I always link to Timothy Burke, but today I’m just going to say this: you should just read him, in general.

Youth revolt in Palestine?

Last year’s great New Yorker piece on the late great Gil Scott-Heron.

A reporter reports and reports on reporting: “What I learned in Joplin.”

A Subjective Atlas of Palestine.

What opening the Rafah crossing means and doesn’t mean.

Saudi snipers that shoot civilians in Bahrain? Trained by the UK, right now!

Barcelona police beating peaceful citizens in square

[For context; also, in Madrid.]

And you know what? I like Ian Murphy’s style.

Jonathan Franzen, on technology:

Let me point out how ubiquitously the word “sexy” is used to describe late-model gadgets; and how the extremely cool things that we can do now with these gadgets — like impelling them to action with voice commands, or doing that spreading-the-fingers iPhone thing that makes images get bigger — would have looked, to people a hundred years ago, like a magician’s incantations, a magician’s hand gestures; and how, when we want to describe an erotic relationship that’s working perfectly, we speak, indeed, of magic.

Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.