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Friday, October 24, 2014

News round-up: Election non-fraud, Syria, academia, Hong Kong and more...

The Arizona ballot-stuffing scam: I wrote about this incident a couple of days ago. Turns out that our friend A.J. LaFaro left out an important part of the story: The alleged "ballot stuffer" was delivering absentee ballots collected legally. In other words, he issued propaganda which conveyed the impression that a perfectly legit activity was Filth Incarnate.

A real piece of work, LaFaro is. Keep an eye on this guy. He wants attention and he will get it. I suspect that he won't quit until he has infuriated the entire nation.

Leslie Gelb: He's CFR, he supported the Iraq war, and he's Establishment All The Way -- but on Syria, he's 100% right.

Incidentally, he also happens to be 100% in agreement with the brutishly bloviating Alex Jones, with the brilliantly beautiful Syrian Girl, and with the bewilderingly bizarre Joseph Cannon. Who'd a thunk it...?
In the short term the only way to check ISIS, as the self-declared caliphate is widely known, is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran. It is a tricky and perilous path, but there are no realistic alternatives.

In short, here’s why: First, air power alone can’t stop, let alone, defeat ISIS. Even those who now demand an escalation of the overly restrained U.S. air campaign don’t argue that it is a solution. Second, neither Iraq nor American-backed Syrian rebels can field viable ground forces, at least for some time. Just look at their performance to date and see if the U.S. can afford to pretend otherwise.
Sing it, Brother Gelb! I certainly feel like less of an oddball when a mainstream Serious Thinker says the same things I've been saying all along.

It's time for us to stop interfering in Syrian affairs. Yes, Bashar Assad is a dictator, and all dictators are bad news -- but American imperial overreach is even worse news. We cannot hope to understand the history of the Middle East when most of us barely understand our own history. Let's face it: Our track record in that part of the world is pretty miserable.

Occupy Hong Kong: I haven't yet talked about the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. This site compares the way the HK authorities have treated their protestors with the way US authorities have treated the American Occupy movement.
One of the most striking differences between Occupy Hong Kong and Occupy Wall Street is the temperance of the police if you will or the lack of slashed, destroyed tents. In Hong Kong, the protestors are being taken seriously and their possessions (private property) is not being seized and destroyed as the Zucotti Park or other OWS patrons were.

During Occupy Wall Street protests, the U.S. government refused to meet with protestors or to acknowledge their grievances with government – conversely the Chinese government wishes to talk to the protestors. Also, the U.S. media seems to side with the protestors, the hypocritical opposite of the news media with the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

The Hong Kong protestors do not contend with NSA Mossad Prism in their homes, cellphones and laptops.

At the 2011 Occupy Camps, two men were fatally shot at Occupy Oakland and Occupy Burlington, respectively. A third man survived being shot in the head with a tear gas round by Oakland Police. The Police in Hong Kong are so far much less brutal than the U.S.A. paramilitary police were as they busted up the 2011 Occupy camps in America. Hypocritically, the U.S. is calling for “a swift investigation into Hong Kong Police Brutality”.
Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, and I think I want to be sick.

Academia is a racket: A long time ago, I mentioned my drawing teacher Nancy Ohanian, the finest pen-and-ink draftsperson I've ever met (and I've met quite a few). Check out this portrait of Alexander Haig! Back when I was in her classes -- we're talking the late Carter years -- she was (aside from being a superb artist and teacher) an adorably sweet religious person in a blue cashmere sweater who didn't really know much about politics, even though she illustrated the Opinion pages of the Los Angeles.

Well, I got in touch with her a couple of weeks ago, and guess what? Nowadays, she's roughly a zillion times hipper than I am when it comes to politics. (And she's welcome to take over this blog when I finally decide to stop annoying the world with my presence.) She directs our attention to this interview with Noam Chomsky on the corruption of American academia. This is a subject she knows very well, since the university has been her professional habitat for a number of years.

Here are some excerpts. I've added a few paragraph breaks to increase readability...
If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management—a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination. And the same is true in universities. In the past 30 or 40 years, there’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up.
But using cheap labor—and vulnerable labor—is a business practice that goes as far back as you can trace private enterprise, and unions emerged in response. In the universities, cheap, vulnerable labor means adjuncts and graduate students. Graduate students are even more vulnerable, for obvious reasons. The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education. The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations.
If you go back to the early 1970s when a lot of this began, there was a lot of concern pretty much across the political spectrum over the activism of the 1960s; it’s commonly called “the time of troubles.” It was a “time of troubles” because the country was getting civilized, and that’s dangerous. People were becoming politically engaged and were trying to gain rights for groups that are called “special interests,” like women, working people, farmers, the young, the old, and so on.

That led to a serious backlash, which was pretty overt. At the liberal end of the spectrum, there’s a book called The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, Joji Watanuki (New York University Press, 1975), produced by the Trilateral Commission, an organization of liberal internationalists. The Carter administration was drawn almost entirely from their ranks. They were concerned with what they called “the crisis of democracy,” namely that there’s too much democracy.

In the 1960s there were pressures from the population, these “special interests,” to try to gain rights within the political arena, and that put too much pressure on the state—you can’t do that.

There was one special interest that they left out, namely the corporate sector, because its interests are the “national interest”; the corporate sector is supposed to control the state, so we don’t talk about them.

But the “special interests” were causing problems and they said “we have to have more moderation in democracy,” the public has to go back to being passive and apathetic. And they were particularly concerned with schools and universities, which they said were not properly doing their job of “indoctrinating the young.” You can see from student activism (the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movements) that the young are just not being indoctrinated properly.

Well how do you indoctrinate the young? There are a number of ways.

One way is to burden them with hopelessly heavy tuition debt. Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. It’s a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you can’t get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. They can even garnish social security if you default.

That’s a disciplinary technique. I don’t say that it was consciously introduced for the purpose, but it certainly has that effect.

And it’s hard to argue that there’s any economic basis for it. Just take a look around the world: higher education is mostly free. In the countries with the highest education standards, let’s say Finland, which is at the top all the time, higher education is free. And in a rich, successful capitalist country like Germany, it’s free. In Mexico, a poor country, which has pretty decent education standards, considering the economic difficulties they face, it’s free.

In fact, look at the United States: if you go back to the 1940s and 50s, higher education was pretty close to free. The GI Bill gave free education to vast numbers of people who would never have been able to go to college. It was very good for them and it was very good for the economy and the society; it was part of the reason for the high economic growth rate. Even in private colleges, education was pretty close to free.

Take me: I went to college in 1945 at an Ivy League university, University of Pennsylvania, and tuition was $100. That would be maybe $800 in today’s dollars. And it was very easy to get a scholarship, so you could live at home, work, and go to school and it didn’t cost you anything.

Now it’s outrageous. I have grandchildren in college, who have to pay for their tuition and work and it’s almost impossible. For the students that is a disciplinary technique.
There's much, much more. Even if you're not a Chomsky fan, I strongly urge you to give this one a read.

By the way: I was shocked to discover the cost of community colleges here in Maryland. How can working people afford these outrageous per-unit fees? Back in California, community colleges have begun to get pricey, but  my home state's schools remain dirt cheap compared to their east coast counterparts.

And let's not even talk about what they're teaching the kids in today's art schools...! Here in Batimore, MICA is supposed to be one of the most prestigious schools in the country, but the kids who go there have given me the impression that their "classes" are really more like therapy sessions. No-one cares about the fundamentals. They don't even know who Jacques Maroger was -- and he taught there!

Bottom line: Academia is a racket. Modern art is a racket. Art schools therefore give you two rackets in one.

And finally: You know what's starting to bug me? The phrase "wreak havoc." Isn't there something else we can wreak other than havoc? Why is it that the verb "to wreak" never affixes itself to any other noun? Is it possible to wreak order? (My ex often tried to do just that, but I defied her at every turn.)
Isn't there something else we can wreak other than havoc?

Of course there is. One can "wreak vengeance", for example. It may, in fact, mean "to avenge" all by itself.
Sounds right, Prop. Can "wreak" be an intransitive verb? On many occasions, I've been told that I wreak.

I see now that they meant it as a compliment.
"In the short term the only way to check ISIS, as the self-declared caliphate is widely known, is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran. It is a tricky and perilous path, but there are no realistic alternatives".

Oh, my. I sense some kind of very high dimensional strategic multi layered diversionary conceptual kabuki going on in that sentence there.
Great post, Joe, but I'd point out that that the protesters in Hong Kong were attacked with state-developed malware designed to capture key strokes, passwords, etc. The malware was found to have been coming from popular protest-centric websites, so it makes sense to point out that while our overlords do indeed spy on our every communication, so too do the Chinese overlords.
Joseph, we went to the local "art fair" put on by the JC every year. I think every exhibitor had less skill than me when it comes to drawing. However, they were tackling some mighty impressive topics. Dovetails with your idea about art criticism being oriented to literature rather than actual skill and execution. I think it is kind of sad, really what they are being taught. Frankly, if I want to tell a story I will write a short story, novella or even a full fledged novel as I am quite capable. Literature is its own separate art form and sometimes I just want to draw a flower and paint the darned thing to the absolute best of my ability.
Yes, Joseph, "wreak" can be intransitive and even reflexive (although both uses are "archaic" according to the OED). When used in that way, it means "to avenge" or "to seek vengeance".
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