Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not Allowed: Hats Festooned with Animal Ears, for Adults

I'll admit it, when it comes to the culture of punk (and its affiliates) I accept and embrace punk terminology that denotes youth exuberance and juvenility, particularly the use of terms like "kids" to refer to others in the scene. I recognize these efforts as attempts to distinguish the punk community as somehow outside the confines of those who are responsible to state and capitalist efforts, a rejection of the public demand that as adults we assume the role of citizen-consumer, etc. At the same time as a generation (punk or not) I think we are not doing ourselves any favors when we consciously wear things that infantilize us. 

There has been a rash of wearing winter hats, over the last few years, with all sorts of animal-like adornment, most popularly hats with some sort of mammalian-ears (cats, fox, etc) that seem to infantilize its wearers. This has been particularly noticeable at various Occupy movements throughout the country, which has struck me the wrong way. Not because I want to use a fashion accessory to critique the underlying seriousness of the protests. I'm not going to do that, because then I might sound like Roger Ebert's (glib) recent post on Occupy Wall Street that suggests his utter lack of understanding of the motivations of these protests, just how out-of-touch he is with the status working and poor America, and just another reason why we don't turn to mediocre film critics for appropriate political vectors (I might be stabbing myself in the back with this last statement). I am clearly someone who supports these movements and sees them as the far-left return to the focus of politics for which I have waited all of these years. Fuck arguments about how we look as indicative of the credibility of our politics. But...

Get it the fuck together youth of America! Being "cute" in the sense of being 4 years-old is not useful, but is embarrassing! YOU ARE NOT A CHARACTER OUT OF A JAPANESE ANIME CARTOON!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bicycle Accident Saga 2: Administration Failure

Because both instances of colliding with a car, while riding my bicycle, occurred while I was within blocks of or actually on the campus of the university that I attend, I necessarily received contact with a Dean from Student Affairs. These two interactions were both incredibly frustrating and also instances wherein I enjoyed another of the indispensable pleasures of graduate school, administrative condescension.

After discussing the accident in May with a lawyer, he determined that even if I was partially liable for the accident (which you might recall I can't remember due to a concussion I received from the experience) the University's negligence (enumerated in an e-mail I sent below) certainly contributed to the accident. I made contact with this Dean in the hopes that I might just wrangle some funds for replacing my bike. I made several allusive comments though no specific demands in hopes that the woman from Student Affairs might catch one, suggesting how much I was put out by the issue and the ways in which that is a rather dangerous intersection. I found she was either willfully blind to these appeals as should be her role as an administrator for a University that is run like a corporation or prone to being a dense person. 

She treated our interaction as if I needed my fears, about the future of my funding in the department and the problems that might ensue from delays in my work for my status in the department, to be assuaged, rather than just giving me some help with my now twice broken central means of transportation. 

Here is a letter I wrote to her about my 1st bicycle issue:

To Whom It May Concern:
It has been almost two months since my accident and I haven’t received any correspondence from you about the possibilities of helping me following the collision that occurred on ______’s campus between myself, my bicycle, and another student in a car. I have to say I am more than a little disappointed in _______’s tepid response to the collision. Students are more likely to hear about undergraduates being mugged eight miles from campus than a student being run down by a car feet from a _____ facility building.

I am also disappointed in the fact that the core problems have not been addressed. Looking at the accident scene over the past two months there has been no posted speed limit, no signs to warn drivers and cyclists about a single-lane two-way street, no mirror installed to give drivers turning onto _______ Road a view of what might be coming the opposite direction, and only the occasional patrol car monitoring the spot. This is a real problem because cyclists use that route constantly from the _____ Trail in order to head toward Squirrel Hill, South Oakland, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened again.
The drafting of my dissertation prospectus has been delayed by a month due to repercussions from the concussion I received during the collision. After consultation with a concussion specialist I was advised to take all tasks slowly, and that I would be easily fatigued by many every day activities. What I discovered that after an hour or reading, drafting, or focusing I became so tired that I needed to sleep in order to continue. This severely slowed my progress to the goal of completing my dissertation prospectus by the end of the summer. 
Moreover, my central means of transportation, my bicycle, in which I invested several hundred of dollars over the course of years is rendered unusable from the accident. As a graduate student in the humanities I will not be able to afford to replace my bicycle for some time. 
Given the lack of signs, mirrors, warnings, or posted speed limits and little correspondence from the university I don’t believe _________ has lived up to its responsibility with regard to the collision on May 26th.
The second time a car decided to break the law and hit me, just this past September, this same Dean called me on the phone, giggling, with the words, "I thought to myself, 'lighting does not strike twice!'" coming out of her mouth. I thought to myself, "It does when your incompetent campus police and the city police do not do their job and protect non-drivers, and the campus refuses to protect bicyclists properly." 

The more I think about this interaction the more it fills me with rage, particularly when I read the Washington Monthly Article "Administrators Ate My Tuition.

Being part of a department that tends to politicize academic work and simultaneously discusses the ways in which academic work is labor I was accustomed to think in these terms about the dilemmas facing universities and the various employees at the university. But I think in the state I was in reading these statistics and this assessment enraged me even more. 

Essentially the article attributes the ballooning tuition rates in the United States to the self-propagating efforts of various administrative bodies who bloat their ranks in order to garner prestige for their departments. For example:
between 1947 and 1995 (the last year for which the relevant data was published), administrative costs increased from barely 9 percent to nearly 15 percent of college and university budgets. More recent data, though not strictly comparable, follows a similar pattern. During this same time period, stated in constant dollars, overall university spending increased 148 percent. Instructional spending increased only 128 percent, 20 points less than the overall rate of spending increase. Administrative spending, though, increased by a whopping 235 percent.
Not to mention
Students of bureaucracy have frequently observed that administrators have a strong incentive to maximize the power and prestige of whatever office they hold by working to increase its staff and budget. To justify such increases, they often seek to capture functions currently performed by others or invent new functions for themselves that might or might not further the organization’s main mission.
Such behavior is common on today’s campuses. At one school, an inventive group of administrators created the “Committee on Traditions,” whose mission seemed to be the identification and restoration of forgotten university traditions or, failing that, the creation of new traditions. Another group of deans constituted themselves as the “War Zones Task Force.” This group recruited staffers, held many meetings, and prepared a number of reports whose upshot seemed to be that students should be discouraged from traveling to war zones, unless, of course, their home was in a war zone. But perhaps the expansion of university bureaucracies is best illustrated by an ad placed by a Colorado school, which sought a “Coordinator of College Liaisons.” Depending on how you read it, this is either a ridiculous example of bureaucratic layering or an intrusion into an area of student life that hardly requires administrative assistance. 
These problems would not be as galling had I not just experienced the evasive non-help of the administrator in question, who pretended to believe that I needed someone to vent to more than someone who might actually remunerate me as the result of this corporatized university's negligence to properly monitor traffic and provides signs and aid to visibility where there clearly was none.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Planned Palestinian City, Argument for Sovereignty?

Poverty Statistics Hitting News Outlets, 1 in 15 Americans Affected by Poverty

From The Skanner:

They demonstrate the shifting compositions of urban poverty in the United States, with a recognition of undocumented and increasing Latino poverty:

"The new supplemental poverty measure for the first time will take into account non-cash aid such as tax credits and food stamps, but also additional everyday costs such as commuting and medical care. Official poverty figures released in September only take into account income before tax deductions.Based on newly released estimates for 2009, the new measure will show a significant jump in overall poverty. Poverty for Americans 65 and older is on track to nearly double after factoring in rising out-of-pocket medical expenses, from 9 percent to over 15 percent. Poverty increases are also anticipated for the working-age population because of commuting and child-care costs, while child poverty will dip partly due to the positive effect of food stamps.For the first time, the share of Hispanics living in poverty is expected to surpass that of African-Americans based on the new measure, reflecting in part the lower participation of immigrants and non-English speakers in government aid programs such as housing and food stamps. The 2009 census estimates show 27.6 percent of all Hispanics living in poverty, compared with 23.4 percent for blacks."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thoughts on Punk and Race, from the Editors of White Riot

In an interview with

Friday, October 28, 2011

2nd Accident, Hateful Insurance Companies

After being hit by a car earlier this summer I was still resolved to commute around Pittsburgh once the fog of the concussion lifted and I had the opportunity to adjust and build up a spare bicycle I had purchased from a friend a year before. 

Needless to say the accident before made me much more careful of how I conduct myself on the road, the risks I'm willing to take, and the attention I pay to others on the road. 

On one such careful commutes to school from my home I was sitting at a red light in a very busy intersection (actually approximately 2 blocks from the previous accident) and preparing to cross. This red light is particular because it is on a very busy road that is also between two university campuses. In order to allow pedestrians the ability to cross said road without having the potential threat of being struck by a turning vehicle the pedestrian walk sign lights up 10 seconds before the green light for vehicles headed in the same direction. 

At one such moment, sitting at the red light, I looked at each light in turn making sure all reds were illuminated as with the pedestrian light. I saw no vehicles in the intersection. I started pedaling into the intersection. I hear the roar of acceleration coming from my left turning just in time to see a red Suburban slamming into me and the tanned, chubby, blonde-hair ringed face of the driver staring down at me as she attempted to brake. She failed to run me over, and I looked up at her weepy face and yelled, "not another time this fucking year!" I limped to the corner dragging my bent (steel frame bicycle) behind me.

The driver parked and ran up to me weeping and shrieking to see if I was ok. Other drivers and bicyclists stopped and circled around checking on me, calling the police, and helping get the driver's insurance information. The Pittsburgh police did their usual bang up job by insisting that they were not going to write a report, nor were they going to issue the driver a citation for running the red light and hitting me. They were instead much more interested on whether or not the driver who was helping me was properly respecting their authority. (This is no shock as the Pittsburgh police are known to have a hefty history of violating resident's constitutional rights

The driver continued to hyperventilate and since I didn't detect immediately any broken bones and any real emergency, I was surprisingly lucky, I limped to my office to call the driver's insurance company and start the claim process. During the call I notice my left ankle swelling more and more, turning blue. The student health center determined that I had no significant bone breaking, mostly soft tissue damage, and eventually an injured tendon. 

Although I know I probably could have sued this woman's insurance company I didn't really have the time and emotional energy to get into a legal battle. So I gave the insurance company my statement expecting at least some sort of minimal recompense besides the medical costs associated with the accident. That was a semi-delusional attitude, as I later learned, moreover, NEVER GIVE AN INSURANCE COMPANY A STATEMENT IF YOU EXPECT THEM TO GIVE YOU A DECENT RECOMPENSE FOR THE SHIT YOU GO THROUGH, OR DESTROYED PROPERTY. First, speak with a lawyer, that is if you are certain you are not at fault. 

The insurance company gave me the run around offering me at the end around $500 for future medical costs, and for my destroyed bike because the frame was older. Little did they know or care was that the frame was a very sturdy 30 year-old frame which I had augmented with newer parts. I had to argue with them and suggested a much higher amount of a few thousand dollars. After hearing my objections they tacked on another couple of hundred dollars which frustrated me, and I started to object to which the agent, replied by insulting me. She insisted, "I know you got in another accident earlier this year and this makes me wonder..." Because I didn't want to hear the bullshit insurance company logic that dictated this incredibly soft-voiced, soprano midwestern woman I suggested that I would seek legal action and then hung up. I was in a rage for hours following that interaction, the notion that I would just liberally ride my bicycle in the way of cars only to wheedle money out of insurance companies had to be the largest deposit of feces I had ever been asked to ingest. Why the fuck, I thought, as a PhD student just recovered from a concussion would I ever risk my brain like that again? For a few hundred bucks? That is insane.

In the end I gave in. I have a prospectus to write, mounds of grading, and at the time a controversial argument to write for a panic inducing bilingual conference. I took the money so that I could eventually get a new bicycle and get on with my life and not endure anymore of the insults leveled at me by this woman, who for a second, almost got me to question my recollection of the collision itself. Fuck insurance companies. 

(Part 2, coming shortly, discusses the uselessness of university administrators in cases like these).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Just Gathering Statistics," Alabama's Kristallnacht for the Undocumented

I grabbed this story from Tex(t)Mex blog,which points to a similar logic behind the recent changes to Alabama's racist new citizenship laws. The response by many undocumented families in the region was to flee:

Mass deportation is not a new story when it comes to undocumented laborers in the United States. It is a standard means of producing labor control even if the move is garnered by grossly nativist sentiments (see "Operation Wetback" for example). At the same time, their rate is accelerating and expanding, additionally seeding a set of subcontracted companies of incarceration and control that are exorbitantly profitable.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hearts of Darknessess + Shitface

Movie Trailer for a collaboration between band Hearts of Darknessess and filmmaker Shitface.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

State of Exception Discourse, It's Problems

Michael Hardt discussing how claims about "sovereign power" as based on "a state of exception" (e.g. Abu Ghraib, the new jurdical category of "enemy combatant" that enables torture, etc., preemptive defense) is always governed by a constitutionalist tendency, a desire for the rule of law, rather than any ethos that might be revolutionary, or transform the conditions for such exceptions:

Never Forget...

Of all of the 9/11 memorialization hysteria, Vladimir Lenin would remind us, cui prodest?:

"In politics it is not so important who directly advocates particular views. What is important is who stands to gain from these views, proposals, measures.

For instance, “Europe”, the states that call themselves “civilised”, are now engaged in a mad armaments hurdle-race. In thousands of ways, in thousands of newspapers, from thousands of pulpits, they shout and clamour about patriotism, culture, native land, peace, and progress—and all in order to justify new expenditures of tens and hundreds of millions of rubles for all manner of weapons of destruction—for guns, dreadnoughts, etc."

Let's remember, in the case of Iraq:

"There is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with al-Qaida or with the September 11 attacks.

Wall Street Journal, right after 9/11: “Few U.S. officials believe that any real alliance between Iraq and al-Qaida ever emerged… The two groups share few aims and have very different motivations.”(Sept. 19, 2001)

BBC, Feb. 5, 2003: “There are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaida network, according to an official British intelligence report seen by BBC News.”

New York Times (Oct. 11, 2001) reported that intelligence officials from Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia do not believe there is any serious Hussein-bin Laden connection.

On Sept. 11 itself, top government officials decided to use the airliner attacks to justify war with Iraq. “CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq–even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.” (Sept. 4, 2002)

In October 2002, the New York Times reported that Rumsfeld created a Pentagon operation “to search for information on Iraq’s hostile intentions or links to terrorists”–despite CIA reports saying there were none.

Shortly afterward, Rumsfeld announced that he had “solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qaida members” (Seymour Hersh, May 28, 2003). Soon other officials of the U.S. government were presenting what he said as “evidence.”

When examined, these U.S. government claims have no basis in fact. Their “evidence” relies on a bogus McCarthyite method of linkology– If A is linked to B, and B is linked to C, then D must be backing terrorists, and anyone who questions that is probably also linked to terrorists."

And also, there is always the fact that the Taliban seems to be making some gains.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Judith "Jack" Halberstam and the It Gets Better Project

I attended a lecture by Dr. Judith "Jack" Halberstam entitled "Transgenders in a Global Frame" that described the various ways in which the gendered categories of Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual are imposed by the United States, and the West generally, on more localized and more gender ambiguous forms of sexual and gender behavior. Of course, this critique leans toward a kind of anti-imperialist rhetoric that tends to see the colonial or local as subaltern and therefore in some ways more congruent with emancipation. 

At the same time, in Western countries, Halberstam argued, that gender norms, particularly those of women, have been scrambled by models of transgenderism, insofar as 51% of women over 45 in the United States are single, suggesting something fundamentally askew in the production of feminine subjects, ready for state legibility. Instead, Halberstam promoted some notion that gender is a kind of ecology, wherein we might migrate to differential performances of gender and sexual life depending on where we are in life, and how we transform.

None of these claims are particularly revolutionary, and none I particularly took issue with. The notion of  gender as ecology makes a great deal of sense particularly with regard to the constant extension of human life in time might suggest a temporal evolution of sexuality and gender identity.

I questioned "Jack" with regard to "imposition" of gender/sex norms as being completely uniform, insofar as groups in Uganda fighting the execution ban have attempted to "take refuge" in LGBT set of identities at least to appeal for international aid against the law. Halberstam reminded me that it was U.S. pastors who helped initiated or at least fostered this law in Uganda in the first place, something I was already aware. But here is the problem with that argument:

On the one hand the state imposes a sexuality on its subjects and this is done with the aid and abeyance, perhaps initiative, of an imperialist/missionary element from the United States. Somehow LGBT groups in the West are responsible or complicit with this process in Uganda because they insist on identification with their categories and cause in order for those suffering under the threat of the new legislation and massive social intolerance to receive succor or aid, and they thus quash the fragile ecologies of gender/sexual life in these other nations. But at the same time, were this law to have passed, as soon as the subjects were to have emerged, i.e. identified themselves, power could do nothing productive with them, but to kill them (which at least for Foucault, the floating influence behind her argument, would be a rather unproductive use of power). LGBT groups operating within a liberal imperialist tradition are therefore retroactively to blame for these deaths which do not really mobilize more bodies ready for governance, or biopolitical regulation, but only death.

Halberstam closed her talk with a discussion of Dan Savage's "It Gets Better Project" that made some rather scattershot and I would say fucked up claims. She suggested that "It Get's Better" is a project that is comensurate with a cultural of neoliberalism, that insists on a generalized faith in the "future," as in market futures will generate profit and social equity if we only have faith in them. This was a claim that garnered at least my tacit assent, but then Halberstam seemed to indicate that somehow the rash of finally publicized suicides (queer teens are 75% more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teens) by imputedly gay teens were not a socially significant phenomenon because the suicides were just boys. 

This last comment pissed me off to a significant degree, for obvious reasons, in large part due to the fact that outwardly perceived gay men, tend to be the object of public scorn and violence more often than lesbian women in the United States. Her suggestion to my mind seemed like a sort of knee-jerk reaction of a former 1970s radical feminist attitude that treats all men as pristine representatives of the patriarchy. At time, I will admit I thought there was something somewhat cute for me in the "It Gets Better Project," a reaching out across queer generations in a way that queer life in the U.S. tends to prohibit or make untenable.

Later in the year, Dan Savage came to town to discuss this project and basically give a live version of his column "Savage Love," a largely sexual and relationship advice column with national attention. And although I loathed and found completely disagreeable some of Halberstam's grisly conclusions, I have to say that her argument that Savage's project was commensure with neoliberal culture held. 

Savage continually made light of people who responded to the "It Gets Better" project with suggestions that "It Gets Worse" or "It Doesn't Get Better," by indicating that all of these videos to some degree affirm his message despite their interpretations to the contrary with your typical B.A. educated, dismissive certitude. In one response to a student question, Savage actually attempted to depoliticize the work of attempts to reach out. This student asked something to the effect of, "But shouldn't we also be saying that, what you are experiencing is discrimination, this is wrong. And it is part of a system of injustice." Dan, insisted that in the aim of safeguarding said queer child from harm we shouldn't be making such statements, or ask them to. It was in that moment that my lukewarm support for Savage's vision of thethe project was washed away and I found myself agreeing with that single claim made by Halberstam that Savage's work is in fact commensurate with the culture neoliberalism. If we depoliticize the struggle, by excising claims to justice and against oppression what we get is sentimentality and the weak claim that "everything will turn out right in the end." The ways in which the GLBT establishment attempts to depoliticize and make bipartisan what are concrete claims for liberation and against discrimination cut in precisely the same way as the way Savage wants to circumscribe the meaning of his project. So extending Halberstam's logic here is much more useful, than in the tortured logic she proposed above, that LGBT groups were somehow retroactively responsible for Ugandan violence against non-heteronormative peoples. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tracks that Occupy the Space of Dread Leading Up to Prospectus Draft Submission

The first is a track by Chavela Vargas, a lesbian caught up in the heady days of México's revolutionaries and vanguards. Reconfiguring the traditional, torch-song ranchera songs, with some queer flavor. For a brief period she had an affair with Frida Kahlo.

Chavela vargas - la llorona by laodameia

Death Grips. I tend to think that more often than not rock/punk/hip hop intersections don't always work out for the best. I think a good example of this might be Mad Decent World's podcast that set punk and hardcore anthems in a kind of hip hop ambience as podcast/mixtape which doesn't completely fit with the irruptive qualities of punk/hardcore, at least in places. This does an interesting merger by not always trying to balance elements to give each their due, but rather in cases merely channeling a punk angry affect, in other cases chanting more than rapping to reduce the dissonance between the two elements. Download this full album free at the Death Grips website.

Stay+ (formerly Christian AIDS, but had to change the name after a cease and desist order from Christian Aid the NGO). This track is double reminiscent of both 1980s era New Order-like melancholy, '90s dance pop, but is also an indirect tribute to the intensely driven, urgent, and anti-establishment activism of ACT-UP in the 1990s (an organization I have a lot of respect for) in response to the accelerating AIDS crisis to which the Reagan administration turned a blind eye (in the end killing thousands just in New York City). Download some of their material here.

In my endless pursuit of musical material that appeals to my punk/metal interests that nonetheless is something I can read, write, or study to, I recently stumbled upon this beautiful video by Kerretta.

Sunglitters have incredibly chill tracks perfect for a panic-stricken summer:

Also, Cayos, supply me with some tracks to lower the blood pressure:

IceAge, some atypical Danish teens, producing a post-punk fuzz ridden track that instills occasional desire to start dancing

Iceage - New Brigade from iceage on Vimeo.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thinking New Political Prisoners

Stolen from our friends at Franc-tireurs:

"Firstly, a man, Tim DeChristopher, who disrupted the auction of public assets in Utah by making bogus bids has been sentenced to two years in prison. This sentence is clearly out of proportion with the offense. Moreover, we support his action, regardless of their legality. Somewhat similarly, a man, Bilal Zaheer Ahmad, has received 12 years in Britain for apparently threatening Western politicians, or rather encouraging others to harm them on the internet.  We have to be clear that in both cases, these men are political prisoners. Both of them have engaged in actions which are fundamentally threatening to the basic norms of our society, though different norms in each case. DeChristopher's action is a crime against commerce; Ahmad's is a crime against politics. DeChristopher's action threatens our ability to buy and sell at auction, and as such he received an exemplary sentence. Ahmad's action threatens the ability of politicians to pose as the representatives of the people, and as such he incited the vengeance of the state. In both cases, the rationale is that commerce and politics as they are conducted in our society are perfectly proper activities that need the protection of the state. This is not our position. Rather, we think that commerce and politics as they go on are anything other than proper activities. That is not to say that we advocate the deliberate disruption of either as a strategy: in neither case will this be likely to be productive. Despite the feeling that the pseudo-elected leaders who unleashed slaughter on the world deserve to be executed, this cheap moralism must be eschewed in favor of the sober judgment that killing politicians who support war will play precisely into the hands of the warmongers. I do not make a pacifist argument: it's not that all killing is counterproductive, just this killing, because it plays to the prevailing rhetoric of fear.  Still, these men are political prisoners, because their crimes are political. They are at odds, as we are, with the way our society operates, are a threat to it, and it is for this that they are in jail."

Ghostface Killah, Top 10 Softest Rappers

Some of Ghostface's comments here are a little fucked-up, particularly those that regard gender norms, but I think there is something fundamentally right about his assessment of Soulja Boy:

Aka the 2011 Mr Bojangles. This nigga also deserves recognition as the coon of the decade namsayin. I dont even kno how muthafuckas listen to this niggas music….nevermind callin that shit hip hop. If it was 1930 this nigga would be rockin a necklace made of chicken legs n pigs feet n be tap dancin on watermelons for a livin. Anyways…sons music is only technically hip hop….like drinkin a beer wit a straw n a umbrella in the bottle is technically drinkin a beer namsayin. Hidin behind 50 Cent wont protect you from ya own bitchassness tho son. This nigga been germinatin in the garden of wackness for a hot minute now. This nigga done splashed hisself wit enough water from the fountain of coonery to last 12 lifetimes. Stop givin this nigga a pass jus cos he young. Muthafuckin Run DMC was around this niggas age when they made King Of Rock yo. LL Cool J was on his first comeback when he was this niggas age yo. NWA made Fuck The Police when they was this niggas age son. You cant hide behind youth forever you clown ass muthafucka. If I see you Imma smack the slaves outta you nigga. Its open season on you son."

Despite the proliferation of rap artist personas we see in the media, some even transgressing boundaries that make Ghostface uncomfortable, there remains a need to furnish America with a metonymic stereotype or icon upon which we might heap blame upon as a representative not only of the "poverty" of culture in African-American communities, but also for the affliction of its persistent economic poverty. To the reactionary mindset, the former produces the latter.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Koch Empire and Venezuela

You may remember the Koch brothers from the recent outbreak of popular outrage over the liquidation of public employee bargaining rights by the current governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. The Koch brothers spent over $34 million dollars trying to undermine workers rights particularly of public employees seemingly in collusion with Walker. What you might not know about them is that last October they saw the fertilizer plants they owned in Venezuela nationalized by standing President Hugo Chavez.

You might think this would be a story ripe for Fox News or various rightwing pundits to pounce upon. Here's why they kept the nationalization hush hush, from eXiled:

"The Kochs made hundreds of millions on every end of this deal…and even more surprising, bond markets cheered the nationalization. In other words, the free markets championed by the Kochs gave a big thumbs-down to Kochs’ negative influence on the value of the business, while at the same time, the free-market Kochs earned huge windfalls doing business with socialists. No wonder this story hasn’t made the rounds.

Here’s what happened: When Chavez’s nationalization of the plant took Koch Industries out of the picture, bond investors responded by driving up the value of the company’s bond debt by a whopping 33 percent. That means they had a lot more confidence that the debts would be paid back AFTER the free-market Kochs were out of the picture. As every business school flunky knows, price fluctuations of bonds are very much like those of stocks: the more they cost, the higher the confidence in a given company. And that means investors had less faith in the ability of the Kochs to run a tight business operation than they did in a bunch of Venezuelan socialist bureaucrats.


So for all the enterprising Americans out there wondering “What’s the secret to the Kochs’ success?” The answer isn’t pretty—especially if you’re one of the gullible Tea Party libertarians who believe the Kochs practice the free-market libertarianism that they preach. Their ability to reap billions and billions in profits year after year isn’t about buying low and selling high, but about buying subsidized-by-the-state, and selling subsidized-by-the-state. Using taxpayer money to cover the costs and ensure profits every time—that’s the simple formula to the Kochs’ success."

What's more is now the Koch's appear to be taking Chavez's government to court over the nationalization, before a investment dispute body in the World Bank. Check out this article from the Latin American Herald Tribune for more.

Tepoztlán and Movements for Autonomy in México

A Narconews report on a community's response to "a building project that would’ve turned communal lands into a golf course. When the people of Tepoztlán found out about the plan, they expulsed the mayor and the police and barricaded all entrances to the town. During the eight months that followed, Tepoztlán organized its own community police and elected an autonomous government, free of political parties.


After eight months of autonomy, in April 1996, the police killed a local campesino, Marcos Olmedo, near the spot where Emiliano Zapata was shot exactly 76 years earlier. The man’s death was followed by the cancellation of the construction plan. The townspeople, exhausted and mourning but also pleased with their victory, gradually allowed the police and political parties to return to Tepoztlán.

Tepoztlán’s struggle is not the only of its kind. The eviction of the golf course marked a renaissance of resistance movements in the state of Morelos. During the almost 17 years that have passed since Tepoztlán first declared itself a free town, autonomous municipalities have popped up in different parts of the state. They have an impressive track record of winning most of their battles, but those victories have often been, like the one in Tepoztlán, tinged with sadness: many of the movements have failed to bridge the gaping class divisions that characterize Mexican society. Many times autonomy has lasted only a fleeting moment."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Explaining Cultural Capitalism

Fuji - Connoisseur

I am seriously considering purchasing this bike. It's chromoly steel, which I value in the rough terrain of Pittsburgh's warped and battered roads. It also beats the Soma "Smoothie" I was thinking about getting in terms of price.

One thing is certain--waiting for the bus and sitting in traffic for an hour once a day is not a pastime I prefer and would be better spent at the pool or reading for my dissertation prospectus.

@ Nashbar, for half regular price.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Radicalize Graduate Students:

From Academe's July-August Issue:

Take these simple steps to intimidate, alienate, and agitate your own flock of graduate students.

By Heather Steffen

As the recession, budget cuts, endowment losses, and Republican governors gut university funding, campuses across the country have become host to occupations, union actions, and demonstrations.

Except for yours. When you gaze out on the quad, all that greets you is a file of book-bagged undergraduates nose deep in text messages, a few graduate students hauling books and lab equipment, and that weird squirrel with the crooked tail. What’s wrong with your corner of the ivory tower? Why aren’t your students marching shoulder to shoulder with the others? You included a three-week unit on Marxist criticism in your fall syllabus and proudly display your Obama ’08 poster, and last month you tacked a strip of Jorge Cham’s comic critique of academia over the photocopier, but your graduate students stubbornly look only to their reading, teaching, and the lab.

If this sounds like your campus, it’s time for a change. The steps below offer simple ways to rile up and radicalize your university’s graduate student population. Why target graduate students? Because they live and work at the crux of the university: when they’re not bothering you, these people are teaching undergraduates, giving conference papers, and living lives entwined with the community. Radicalize them and your university’s troubles will be broadcast where it counts—the classroom, the hotel bar, the statehouse. (And you can be assured, doctoral students will protest with abandon, having already demonstrated an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation by considering academic employment in the first place.)

But before we get to the steps you need to take, one caveat administrator: the things that radicalize are the same things that enervate. Your graduate students, appearances to the contrary, are intelligent adults with adult responsibilities and concerns. Those Chuck Taylor sneakers carry them home at the end of the day to support partners, care for children, feed pets, and call aging parents. Pressures and duties of that magnitude, on top of the commitments they’ve made to your university, are what make each turn of the screw worth two. But if you push too far, you’ll exhaust your most capable rabble-rousers and wind up with nothing but a bunch of broken-spirited, careerist brownnosers in your program.

On the upside, they’ll probably improve your program ranking, but walk this tightrope carefully. If you follow these six steps and keep a sharp eye out for signs of the tipping point between insurrection and burnout, your campus, too, can ring with the tones of disaffection, discontent, and incipient democracy.

Step 1. Build on graduate students’ existing strength: worrying. Depending on your region and Carnegie classification, you may be well on your way to creating a culture of anxiety, uncertainty, and self-doubt among your graduate students, and lord knows they arrive with plenty of that already on hand. But no matter how competitive and intimidating your campus is, the first step to fostering a vibrant radical population of graduate students is getting their hearts beating faster. These three tactics are sure to give any grad student’s pulse a jump-start:

A. Evaluation Assassination. When you evaluate a graduate student’s work, do you treat it like that of a future colleague, engaging with its ideas and style as if you were reading a friend’s article draft? If so, you’ll need to relearn your approach to grading. every seminar paper and dissertation chapter represents an opportunity to shake a graduate student to the very core. An offhand “This is not doctoral-level work” will more than suffice in most cases. (Nota bene: The probability of a demand for rationale decreases in inverse proportion to the time between submission and return of work.)

B. The Draft-and-Switch. Prospectus, research performance evaluation, thesis overview, dissertation: the merest whisper of any of these words makes graduate students curse having lapsed (“It was only one slice!”) on that irritable bowel syndrome diet. The draft-and-switch takes advantage of their inevitable prostration before the task of defining an academic identity. Advisers, perk up your ears.

A prospectus draft hits your inbox. Open that sucker up and give it a skim—does the lit review or the original research get more airtime? Whichever it is, fire off a response within hours apprising your student that she’s failed to incorporate the other. Include a list of at least six monographs against which the student has not adequately positioned herself, and request a total rewrite within three months.

Revision in hand, warm up your reply button, because you’re about to drop a bomb: the document must again be completely recast, and you are concerned about the project’s viability: “This reads like a review essay; what is your argument?” Before closing, recall to the student’s mind that her standing in the program depends upon swift approval by multiple entities and reveal that you are not at this juncture certain of her ability to meet the deadline. Will the student think she’s lost her mind? Will she spend the next two hours combing through her e-mail for your previous comments? Yes, all the while shaking like a leaf. Give yourself a pat on the back, open a celebratory diet coke, and wait for draft three.

C. The HPT Meeting. Around the Pentagon, HPT stands for “high-payoff target,” and that’s exactly what you’re aiming for, so use this tactic sparingly. Here, HPT is a mnemonic you can use to plan meetings with overconfident graduate students.

A few days after a friendly interaction (drinks at a reception, a chat in the hall about good news on the publishing front, or some similar light conversation), casually request a meeting with your student to check up on his progress. Be sure to say something personal in the e-mail to maximize the sense of informality (“I was glad to hear that your cat’s surgery was successful!”).

Meeting set, the HPT agenda proceeds as follows: (1) Humiliate the student immediately by asking an exam-style question tangential to his area of knowledge. After he stumbles through an answer, inform him that he is devastatingly wrong (for proper affect management, imagine he’s just farted audibly while speaking). As he tilts toward the abyss of his self- doubt, (2) patronizingly offer an olive branch to help him out—a task useful to your own research that also happens to be the only thing capable of saving him from his overwhelming wrongness. You’ll either get a domesticated free research assistant or he’ll resist, declaring that that is not what his project is about at all. If the latter occurs, (3) bring out the threats: “It will be very hard for your thesis to gain my approval if this is not accounted for.” As fear enters your student’s eyes, open the door, extend your best wishes to the cat, and tell him you’ll look forward to seeing how his work progresses. If you’re not naturally coldhearted, the HPT meeting might shake you up a little, but keep in mind that as you’re sipping your evening pinot, your student might be getting in touch with his inner Wobbly at the bar down the street.

Step 2. Practice nepotism and lack of transparency in policy and decision making. Experienced administrators will roll their eyes at this one: “I already do that. I wasn’t promoted because of my sterling teaching record, you know.” But for the sake of faculty readers new to the managerial rim of the labor divide (that’s you, Ohioans), a few words on nepotism and obfuscation are in order.

Nepotism in regard to graduate students is easy, and chances are you’re already better at it than you think. Have you ever invited a couple of friends to present on a panel because writing a call for proposals would take too long or given the nod to a mediocre job candidate whose thesis happens to be signed by your college roommate? Congratulations, you’re half-way there! Now just turn the same principles to the assignment of plum classes and jobs to your favorite graduate students.

When they start to notice the repetitions in the course catalog, it’s time to shut the window on your decision-making process. Remember that graduate students are heavily invested in meritocratic and democratic ideals, so if they see perks accruing where they aren’t deserved and program requirements becoming a moving target, they’re going to want to nose out the culprit. By keeping the decision-making process tightly under wraps, you’ll not only increase its efficiency but also help your graduate students hone their investigative research and networking skills while they close read the handbook and compare notes with their comrades in other departments. Suppression of information is the agar in the petri dish of revolt, after all.

Step 3. Raise tuition and fees. Graduate students don’t pay tuition, do they? But why not? Take a look at your department’s budget sheet—how many of your hard-earned FTEs are wasted reimbursing the university for graduate credit hours? No one’s even teaching those classes, what with the pack of dinosaur ABDs you’ve got hanging around. A refresher on accounting and some well-timed hints about counterbalancing the athletic director’s fall spending spree will not only unify students across the two cultures, it might even get your name on the CFO’s go-to list next time a spot opens up in administration. To preview the results you can get from this one simple tip, look no further than California and Illinois, where just the threat of tuition increase spurred months of strikes, insurgent dance parties, and the authoring of manifesto upon manifesto.

Step 4. Pay them below the living wage. Choosing to starve your students might sound distasteful, but if they’re getting PhDs in late-thirteenth-century barley farming or the morphology of south Bolivian musk gnats, they must come from well-to-do backgrounds, right? These pampered savants need a reason to identify with the working man, and there’s no better way to foster identification than to make sure they’re standing behind him in the Shop ’n Save checkout line instead of flipping through a Dwell at Whole Foods. It might make them less entertaining dinner companions, but the gains in class consciousness will more than compensate for any lack of fluency in microgreens and manchego.

Step 5. Cut centers, programs, and departments. Even—if you’re as daring as the Minnesotans were—dissolve the graduate school. For maximum impact, go for the arts and humanities first. Donors and corporate partners are unlikely to register the loss, and students on the softer side of campus are already steeped in leftist theory, jealous of their profs’ glory days in the sixties and convinced of the need to enlighten the masses, so they’ll take the dissolution particularly hard. (And when was the last time you saw video of stomatology students getting arrested for failure to disperse?)

Step 6. Keep that tenured head buried in the sand. Are flyers about a graduate student union showing up on the bulletin board across the hall? Did the administration just announce that graduate tuition and fees are going up? Who cares? You’ve already got fifty-two hours of research, peer reviewing, committee work, and lecturing to do every week, so going to bat for your grad students is the last thing on your to-do list, and you should let them know that—loud and clear. If a wild-eyed graduate student idealist asks you to talk to your faculty senate or to advocate for the union, blink confusedly, mumble something that intelligibly includes the word “busy,” and remember to keep your office lights dimmed next time you come in for a meeting. Knowing they’re on their own encourages graduate student self-reliance and solidarity with organizations that really can help them out.

Follow these six easy steps, and pretty soon your campus could join the lucky ones already garnering the attention of police and Fox news anchors. Then you can sit back and let your grad students and the exasperated public take it from there. As one effectively and efficiently radicalized student at the University at Albany put it last January, “A lot of people who are supposed to be protecting us aren’t doing that. So unless we turn a little wolfish on them, they’ll just eat the sheep

Monday, July 11, 2011


A fascinating piece by artists duo Allora & Cazadilla featured in the U.S. pavillion at the Venice Biennial:

An innocent performance laced with political themes is what audiences will experience in Venice. The tank, from 1945 and used in the Korean War, will sit outside the pavilion. There, a USA Track & Field athlete in uniform will run for about 45 minutes on the treadmill above its right track. The associations are many: militarism, national identity, competition.

Also, check out their interview with on PBS' Art 21 show. Here is an excerpt from an interview with the couple discussing another war themed piece entitled 'Clamor:'

"What triggered this piece was our interest in how people use music or sound as a weapon—how you can have a gun made of sound that can immobilize you. Then we started getting interested in the relationship between sound or music and war. Our research opened up an enormous quantity of material related to this idea, an incredible archive of sounds related to war—from actual combat, where music was historically used to command and control troops, to more contemporary uses such as propaganda to instill patriotism.


Interestingly enough, in the history of military music, one of the ways they describe the instruments’ function on the battlefield is to create a clamor. They’d create a noise that was so unbearable for the opponent that it would actually distract them and keep them from being able to effectively fulfill their job of fighting.

It’s described by one Crusader as comprising trumpets, clarions, horns, pipes, drums, cymbals, a prodigious array creating a horrible noise and clamor. And he says they did this to excite the spirit and their courage—for the more violent the clamor became, the more bold they were for the fray.

We’re trying to reinvigorate this word, to redirect it to a new end in this exhibition. We want to talk about the global state of war of today—something that resonates with contemporary experience."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mark Krikorian is a Racist, Anti-Immigrant Immigrant

A commentator for the rightwing organization the Center for Immigration Studies (note the fact that it seeks to give the academy access to correct information on immigration as if the academy's own biases make this impossible) and Armenian immigrant, Mark Krikorian makes a fairly telling comparison (on National Public Radio) between how worthwhile immigrants are to the United States and some sort of national doughnut orgy:

Krikorian says we can think of immigration like a good fat-filled doughnut.

"When you're 11 years old, you eat all of the doughnuts that your parent will let you eat, and they're probably good for you at that point," he says. "When you're 50 years old, you can't eat doughnuts like that anymore. There's nothing wrong with the doughnuts. They're the same doughnuts. But your metabolism has changed. And our body politic's metabolism has changed so that we need to start now looking at what's good for our grandchildren, not what was good for our grandparents."

This comment with its veiled allusions to immigrants as sugary foods that not only pollute the bodies of elder members of a society, but also poison generations to come evinces ideas of racial/cultural purity, albiet ones impacted by a crude behaviorism. As much as this comment seems downplay its racism by reverting to a metaphor of unthreatening food, it still reeks of miscegnation panic of previous decades and centuries.

If you needed a little more convincing Krikorian's "post"racism observe his enlightening comments on Haiti following the earthquake:

"My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough…But, unlike Jamaicans and Bajans and Guadeloupeans, et al., after experiencing the worst of tropical colonial slavery, the Haitians didn’t stick around long enough to benefit from it. (Haiti became independent in 1804.). And by benefit I mean develop a local culture significantly shaped by the more-advanced civilization of the colonizers."

Commentators from Think Progress follow this comment up nicely with:

"In fact, Haiti’s comparatively short-lived colonial history might be the best thing the island had going for it. Haiti’s revolution inspired the fights for independence across Latin America and ushered in the end of slavery in the New World. Meanwhile, a never-ending sphere of Western influence and self-serving intervention probably offers a better explanation for why Haiti is as “screwed-up” as it is. Unlike the islands of Jamaica, Barbados, and Guadalupe, Haiti has long been the 'poster case for the vicious circle of colonial and foreign intervention, poverty, violence and political instability.'"