As If This Were A Very Long-Winded Link Blog
First things first: I’m going to be posting here regularly, and probably much less regularly here (but then anyone who reads this is used to that). It will be a series on cultural representations (read: books and movies) of the future in the 20th century, dealing with things like utopia, dystopia, projection, extrapolation, prediction, etc. and also some half-assed attempts to contextualize them historically and even (gasp) economically and politically. The first few posts are on Thomas More’s Utopia, as a warm-up.
This article and this post give a sort of remedial reminder that all the talk we’re hearing about ‘change’ in the U.S. elections is so far just that: talk. The Republicans are a joke at this point, as even Rick “Santorum” Santorum is willing to admit. We’ll come back to them when they’ve picked a candidate. The Democrats are the real focus. They have three choices that The Media tells me is really two choices. Each one seems specially designed to catch people like me with our pants down. The one who says the things I want to hear is losing, and in a bizarre twist of fate, is the wrong race and sex by virtue of being a white man from the South. Such things do matter in presidential elections after all, perhaps as much as policy promises, most of which will not pan out (and which, if one does one’s homework, are not terribly different from each other). The one who says the things I wish I wanted to hear is my default favorite in order to prevent another Clinton from becoming president. Domestically the big issues are the recession and health care — no one’s going to end America’s credit addiction, while the health care is something even Republicans claim to want, and in any case we will have to slog through years of debate before anything concrete emerges. Despite the persistence of Al Gore, the environment seems to be a minor issue so far. Not hopeful enough, I guess.
But in terms of foreign policy, one thing the president really does affect strongly, the two frontrunners draw their advisers from the same pool, leading me to believe that the only major difference between them is that one hates Pakistan and the other hates Iran. The balkanization of Pakistan will undoubtedly move forward under both, something similar will probably be attempted in Afghanistan, and we will all be sentenced to many more years of saber-rattling against Iran. There will be differences in the distribution of severity, but either way we are looking at Clinton Redux. Anyway, one picks a personality and a set of thematics when one picks a president, not a list of proposals, and mediatized Americans everywhere are choosing ‘hope’ and ‘change’ over ‘revolution’ or ‘experience.’ Barring some unforeseen gaffe, whoever can properly channel those desires — or scare them away — has the best shot at being the big toothy grin on America’s face.
A lot of people have been linking to this old rerun by Stanley Fish. The same old anxieties about the humanities, what is their ‘value.’ But the more pressing questions involve economic value, such as this here, and especially this discussion about the corporatization of the university. Related to the crisis this is causing for the humanities is the equally ‘precarious’ future of media-related jobs in the U.S. As some may know, both the Ivory Tower and media Big and small rely more and more on labor that is free or nearly so, i.e. interns, grad students, adjunct lecturers, and freelancers. Those with ‘outside funding’ experience this as the extended nomad childhood you read about in the papers, those without experience it as extended humiliation, and those who are actually poor don’t even bother trying. And people discuss ‘Everything Studies‘ as if the dispersal of the disciplines (which are the sole justification for the doctoral degree) was good for the future of humanistic science and not simply the next logical step in the corporate restructuring of Higher Ed. Why bother with tenured faculty and grad students at all after that? Wouldn’t those designations quickly become redundant? Classes could be taught by limited-contract ‘public intellectuals’ competent in one or two minor subjects, just as easily (and more cheaply) as by a single retained expert. Wouldn’t be much of a change from how things are done already.
I support grad student and adjunct unions, but the fact that they are becoming necessary is a sign that the humanities can’t expect to continue the way they have. They operate off the university’s dwindling largesse, not by serving any specific consumer demand. While it won’t solve any structural problems, what might at least put the humanities on life support is this: first, everyone who can get out should get out — history, for example, can with a little tweaking pass itself off as a social science. For everyone who’s left, link up with the professional writing, film, or fine art programs. A lot of people complain about creative writing MFA programs churning out cookie-cutter writers only capable of writing about what happened to them yesterday. A lot of English programs complain about low enrollment and consequently low resources. Put them together, problem solved. The humanities now teach writing and criticism as a single (‘interdisciplinary’) skill set. A lot of people will get fired, probably, but as long as creative fields remain glamorous enough that people are still willing to shell out large sums of cash for training they are not likely to make much money from, the future of the humanities will be assured.
It’s all about buying time.
A WHISTLEBLOWER has made a series of extraordinary claims about how corrupt government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal nuclear weapons secrets.
Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office.
She approached The Sunday Times last month after reading about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.
Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.