Week Resadieu

by zunguzungu

The fact that this organization wants you to “Adopt a Clitoris” in Africa — and is apparently serious — leaves me without words. They want to build a “Pleasure Hospital,” and “operate on all African women, for free, with the help of Raelian or non-Raelian benevolent doctor.” (for some sanity on the issue, by the way, one needs to at least take into account the work of Fuambai Ahmadu on this issue, who argues the “FGM” and most mainstream Western ways of framing the issue are, at best, deeply compromised by parochialism).


And for more in the “white people gone wild” category, Jeffrey Goldberg gives us a great piece on some American conservationists who went all “exterminate the brutes” in Zambia:

On the Web site of the Owens Foundation, Africa is referred to as “the Dark Continent,” and throughout “The Eye of the Elephant” the Owenses expressed a desire to live in an Eden-like Africa, free of the complications created by the presence of humans. In “Secrets of the Savanna,” they issued a strong call for human population control in Africa. “Unless human numbers are in balance with those of neighboring wildlife populations, the decline of wildlife will continue to be a hard reality,” they wrote. “Despite the ravages of AIDS and a plethora of other diseases, Africa’s populations continue to outstrip the carry capacity of the continental resource base.” Zambia, though, is larger than France, with only one-fifth the population. Mark Harvey told me that the Owenses earned a reputation in the valley for their intolerance of local people. “Their whole attitude was ‘Nice continent. Pity about the Africans,’ ” he said. P. J. Fouche, a professional hunter who manages a hunting concession in a game-management area outside the park, said that Mark Owens developed a proprietary feeling about the park’s wildlife. “He didn’t want them”—the Africans—“to be anywhere near his animals. That’s how he saw the animals, as his…

…In the broadcast, Owens tells Vieira, “I love life in general so much that to be brought to the point of having to extinguish human life to protect wildlife is a tremendous conflict and contradiction. But give me another solution. It’s why we still have elephants here.” He later wrote, “I was not speaking of Zambia in particular, but of Africa in general. . . . I merely stated that I regretted that humans were sometimes killed in defense of wildlife; not to imply that I was doing it, or Zambia’s game scouts were doing it.” But in another exchange Vieira asks him specifically about his work with the scouts of North Luangwa, who Owens says would not tell him if they had killed poachers. “You’re the one who’s helped the scouts reach the point where they’re capable to go in there,” she says. Owens replies, “Well, that’s true, but I’ve laid that question to rest for myself. I say, I’m not the one pulling the trigger.”


In the great state of California, it seems that when Jerry Brown re-phrased a budget initiative which would have originally read:

All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote.


Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass a Budget or Raise Taxes from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

It changes the legislative vote requirement necessary to pass the budget, and to raise taxes from two-thirds to a simple majority. Unknown fiscal impact from lowering the legislative vote requirement for spending and tax increases. In some cases, the content of the annual state budget could change and / or state tax revenues could increase. Fiscal impact would depend on the composition and actions of future legislatures.

our attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) reduced support for the bill by likely California voters from a 73-to-22 percent margin (+51) to a 38-to-56 percent unfavorable margin (-18). Ever attentive to issues of political framing, George Lakoff suggests that Jerry Brown is not exactly unbiased


This quote, from the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan on military operations in Afghanistan, still blows my mind: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.” I still can’t believe he actually said that.


David Simon on Treme:

The Wire was a tract about how political power and money rout themselves,” he says. “But there was no place to reference on some level why it matters, emotionally, that America has been given over to those things. This show is about culture, and it’s about what was at stake.


On how and why English departments actually make money for their universities:

If you count what patients pay for treatment as income earned by a medical center, but do not count what students pay for literature courses as income earned by the humanities department, the hospital will surely look like a much smarter business…But, according to spreadsheet calculations done at my request by Reem Hanna-Harwell, assistant dean of the humanities at the University of California at Los Angeles, based on the latest annual student-credit hours, fee levels, and total general-fund expenditures, the humanities there generate over $59 million in student fees, while spending only $53.5 million (unlike the physical sciences, which came up several million dollars short in that category). The entire teaching staff of Writing Programs, which is absolutely essential to UCLA’s educational mission, has been sent firing notices, even though the spreadsheet shows that program generating $4.3 million dollars in fee revenue, at a cost of only $2.4 million. So the answer to “Who’s going to pay the salary of the English department?” is that the English department at UCLA earns its own salary and more, through the fees paid by its students — profits that will only grow with the increase in student fees…

Because that evidence runs up against the widespread myth that other units and departments subsidize the humanities, and up against such well-entrenched forces within the university, it is regularly ignored or even suppressed…That scientific researchers always subsidize the humanities was blithely repeated at the commission’s public forum at UCLA without challenge — and without a single humanist on the podium. The official budget-crisis website of the University of California warns that “a federal grant for laser-beam research can’t be used to fund a deficit in the English Department.”

It’s an interesting illustration of how an ultra-market based mindset can actually produce bad market logic. After all, since an English department doesn’t articulate its goals in market terms, how can it possibly be profitable? This is less about facts than ideology, and the myth of the destitute English department is much more important to the dim bulbs in admin than any paltry spreadsheet.


Interesting take on what the author sees as a sudden explosion of manifestos in America:

[i]f this drumbeat of “manifestos” strikes a false cultural note, perhaps it’s because Americans aren’t much known for writing them. The most memorable — Communist, Futurist, Surrealist — come from Europe, like the word itself. Of course, exceptions have proved the rule at other revolutionary moments in our history — “Common Sense” (1776), “The Bitch Manifesto” (1970), “The Cluetrain Manifesto” (1999) — but for the most part, the manifesto is not a native plant. We Americans tend to gravitate in another direction.

From the 17th century on, our writers have taken their cue from the biblical prophet Jeremiah and the particular form of Puritan sermon — at once lament and indictment of the community’s sins and exhortation to return to the true faith — that bears his name. Americans aren’t supposed to write manifestos. We write jeremiads.

In his classic study “The American Jeremiad” (1978), the Harvard scholar Sacvan Bercovitch put his finger on the distinctive shading our writers have given the ancient form: “American writers have tended to see themselves as outcasts and isolates, prophets crying in the wilderness. So they have been, as a rule: American Jeremiahs, simultaneously lamenting a declension and celebrating a national dream.” We Americans, the jeremiad proclaims, have failed to live up to our founding principles, betrayed our sacred covenant as history’s (or God’s) chosen nation, and must rededicate ourselves to our ideals, reclaim our founding promise.

If the manifesto looks fearlessly to the future, seeking to replace the established order with something alto­gether new, the jeremiad is at once jittery and nostalgic, looking anxiously over its shoulder at a prelapsarian past. The American jeremiad, Bercovitch observed, “made anxiety its end as well as its means. Crisis was the social norm it sought to inculcate.” Whether “denouncing or affirming,” its vision “fed on the distance between promise and fact.” Aware that the present fails to measure up to past ideals, the jeremiad nonetheless can’t imagine a future on any other terms. It yearns to repair the breach.

It’s interesting. But the problem is the coherence of the “we” that both the jeremiad and the article‘s author presume: a jeremiad presumes that we are a “we” (in ways that are not always the case) in order to exhort a conservative return to form, and so does this writer in his sense of what makes America (though I’m sure he gets it from Bercovitch) as a basically conservative form we need to return to. But we’re not necessarily that, are we? Manifestos are for people who find the conservative return to form a dim prospect.


Eric Hammell decides that “The makers of The Pacific have, in only two segments, proven themselves to be lazy and arrogant, disrespectful of their viewers.”


In the snowy woods, Robert Frost comes across:

…a cord of maple, cut and split

And piled—and measured, four by four by eight.

And not another like it could I see.

No runner tracks in this year’s snow looped near it.

And it was older sure than this year’s cutting,

Or even last year’s or the year’s before.

The wood was grey and the bark warping off it

And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis

Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.

What held it though on one side was a tree

Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,

These latter about to fall. I thought that only

Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks

Could so forget his handiwork on which

He spent himself, the labour of his axe,

And leave it there far from a useful fireplace

To warm the frozen swamp as best it could

With the slow smokeless burning of decay.


In the Left Behind video game:

“you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission – both a religious mission and a military mission — to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state – especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is “to conduct physical and spiritual warfare”; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice.”

[the article’s author asks] Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, “Praise the Lord,” as they blow infidels away…There is, for the most part, a remarkable verisimilitude except for one detail – all of the ambulances have 911 painted on their roofs. In the reality-based world, most ambulances have a red cross on top. Yet the game designers make prominent use of these 911 ambulances to evoke the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The historical context of 911 is invoked as if to say, We are living in the End Times, and Muslims are among the kinds of infidels whom you should fear, whom you should be prepared to kill for your cause.

The game, by the way, has links with mega-church pastor Rick Warren, whose stated goals are not so dissimilar:

According to Mr. Warren, the establishment of this earthly kingdom requires “foot soldiers.” As part of his plan, Mr. Warren said he would encourage laypeople to “adopt” needy villages overseas in order to plant churches, expand business opportunities, educate children, influence governments, and overthrow corrupt political leaders, whom he described as “little Saddams.” Mr. Warren said his purpose is to enlist “one billion foot soldiers for the Kingdom of God” in the developing world.


The quotable Ta-Nehisi Coates:

“Sociology is porn for public intellectuals–or rather we seem intent on making it so.”


On Violence compares the war memoirs of Evan Wright (Generation: Kill) and Lt. Fick, who featured in Wright’s book but wrote his own memoir:

“both writers describe the same incident, the shooting of two Iraqi children, in radically different terms. Death–mainly Iraqi–goes down hard in Wright’s book. After Corporal Hasser shoots an unarmed civilian at a check point, Wright asks him how he is, “‘Just taking it all in,’ he says.” After Lance Corporal Trombley shoots two people, he says wryly, “Shooting mother***ckers like it’s cool.” After he finds out they are children, the platoon nicknames him “baby killer.” These details are absent in One Bullet Away. Fick doesn’t name who shot the young boys, doesn’t explain his men’s reactions, and never mentions the future nickname. Instead he blames the Rules of Engagement and, not openly, his commanders, who refuse to provide medical support to the children. He ends the chapter with an inspiring speech about what it means to be a Marine, and how the Platoon will move forward and get better. Fick searches for easy, digestible morals.”


Via Kerim, the invention of fingerprinting in colonial policing in British India:

…shortly after the Rebellion of 1857-58 that William Herschel, Magistrate at Jungipoor on the upper reaches of the Hooghly, realized its uses as a method of identification. … Herschel then left for England, but in India fingerprinting had another proponent, Edward Henry, who in 1891 was appointed Inspector-General of Police for the Lower Provinces, Bengal. Henry first experimented with the anthropometric system, but was not satisfied with the accuracy of the measurements. In a report submitted to the Government of Bengal in 1896, Henry detailed the experiments he had conducted with fingerprints, which he observed were not only inexpensive to obtain, but also a surer means of detecting and confirming the identity of any given person. Henry is then said, with the aid of a team of Indian assistants, to have developed a system of classification under which 1,024 primary positions were identified, which when considered along with secondary and tertiary subdivisions, made fingerprinting a fool-proof form of fixing identity.


Via Chris Floyd, Charles Davis protests at liberals defending “the state” from the Tea Party freaks:

C]olor me unimpressed with the argument that I have more to fear from the talk radio right than I do the incarcerating-and-assassinating state. I just don’t fear a rollback of the Reconstruction period “and the descent of a vicious new Jim Crow terrorism” as much as I fear and abhor the actual, happening-right-now terrorism carried out by my esteemed public officials with the tacit approval of the humanitarian progressives too busy lecturing the rabble on the need to pay taxes and pledge allegiance to their betters in Washington than to challenge their leader’s wars. In addition to the hundreds killed without so much as a show trial by hellfire missiles since the glorious advent of The Liberal Ascendancy, agents of the U.S. government have been implicated in several headline-grabbing atrocities, the latest of which involved the pre-dawn slaying of a pair of pregnant women and a teenage girl. That female civilians are being killed at a level on par with Afghan males is no doubt being hailed in the halls of Brookings as a feminist triumph, but it’s more troubling to me than the idea of some people questioning the legitimacy of the perpetrators’ employer.

Perhaps they shouldn’t just be ignored, but until Glenn Beck’s followers kill two dozen people in a remote village, I’m going to spend most of my time focusing on those with control over the tanks and nuclear weapons. And rather than seeking to bolster the state and reinforce the idea of some mythical, mystical social contract, I just might seek to undermine this government, so far as I can, for as long as it continues enriching a politically connected corporate elite while imprisoning and enlisting the rest of its population, no matter how “duly elected” our politicians might be as a result of the sham two-party electoral system. When political leaders are engaged in senseless war and widespread human rights abuses — and the occupation of Afghanistan and the U.S. prison system at home and abroad qualify — the person of conscience’s duty is not to the state but to justice, which usually means opposing the state and questioning its presumed legitimacy.