Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stimulating Unemployment

Limited, Inc. has very lucid post on the crisis and current economic stimulus plans:

So the only argument about the stimulus is this: should the government absorb the extra unemployed or not? That is, should the government grow 3 or 4 percentage points?

The argument against this is not an efficiency argument. That is a stupid argument. The argument is, rather, that somehow, business can absorb the extra unemployed. Which means that the right is saying that, in the next year, the private sector can expand 4 or 5 percentage points to assume its usual standing in the economy.

Do you believe this? Does anybody? No tax break tax cut bullshit should take anybody’s eye off that ball. The question is: how can the private sphere possibly expand to absorb the 4 to 5 percent of the unemployed?

In reality, the right is saying, let the unemployed grow. And underneath that is the notion that if we can actually diminish the salary of the average worker, then businesses will be inclined to hire them.
Very clear. And exactly right.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just In Case...

... you haven't seen this yet. You too can play along with Barack, Paper, Scissors.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Over the break, I watched the anime series Akagi with my oldest lumpkin. The plot consists solely of mahjong games being played out as if they are epic battles. I know nothing of mahjong, yet I found the series gripping. Below is a fan video composed entirely of the stunned reactions by minor characters to the various mahjong tiles being played during the matches. I think it's hilarious. I may be the only one though.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Our Digital Archive

This is from an interesting article in the recent New York Review of Books:

Google will enjoy what can only be called a monopoly—a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of access to information. Google has no serious competitors. Microsoft dropped its major program to digitize books several months ago, and other enterprises like the Open Knowledge Commons (formerly the Open Content Alliance) and the Internet Archive are minute and ineffective in comparison with Google. Google alone has the wealth to digitize on a massive scale. And having settled with the authors and publishers, it can exploit its financial power from within a protective legal barrier; for the class action suit covers the entire class of authors and publishers. No new entrepreneurs will be able to digitize books within that fenced-off territory, even if they could afford it, because they would have to fight the copyright battles all over again. If the settlement is upheld by the court, only Google will be protected from copyright liability.
Basically, the issue is that Google has won a monopoly on all digitized books and articles because they had the deep pockets to weather a gigantic class-action suit representing all the copyright owners. No one else on the horizon has the resources to replicate either the technical feat of digitizing our print archive, or the legal feat of settling with all copyright holders. Sadly, this massive privatization of our print heritage has unfolded this way because current copyright law has extended the copyrights for everything published in almost a century -- and not just for the small amount of things which stay in print that long. Nothing passes into the public domain any longer. This terribly short-sighted public policy has now inadvertently created a mammoth new monopoly which may not be easily undone. It is an unfortunate way to have dealt with our digital heritage. One can imagine much better ways to set public policy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hey, Hey!

While searching YouTube for inaugural music for the post below, I ran across this wonderful video of Big Bill Broonzy playing "Hey, Hey." I had no idea that film existed of Big Bill playing. Take a look.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Songs for the Next Eight Years

Limited, Inc. sent a new meme my way: "10 Songs to scare away the evil spirits of the past eight years, and welcome the new spirits of the next eight." I love this meme. Anyone else want to play along? Here's my playlist:

Get Happy (Judy Garland's version)
This Land Is Your Land (Woody Gutherie version not owned by HBO)
Bourgeois Blues (a song about DC which is now no longer true)
The Great Leap Forward (Billy Bragg)
Dancing In The Streets (Martha & the Vandellas)
What a Wonderful World (The Ramones' version)
Ain't Gonna Study War No More (Sister Rosetta Tharpe)
Exaltation (Matisyahu)
Black, Brown and White (inspired by Joseph Lowery's benediction)
Wang Dang Doodle (Koko Taylor)

Happy Inauguration Day!

A screenshot of our new White House website.

Monday, January 19, 2009

This Land Is HBO's

Un-fucking-believable. HBO has scoured the web clean of videos of yesterday's inaugural concert - including the YouTube video I linked to in the post below. Evidently, Pete Seeger singing Woody Gutherie's "This Land Is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is the property of Home Box Office. Those lines in the song about "Private Property" were more prophetic than we knew.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.
"This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Home Box Office, Inc. claiming that this material is infringing"


Two highlights from the pre-inaugural festivities yesterday. Pete Seeger and the Boss singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" complete with its most subversive verse; and the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, giving the invocation at the opening inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., January 18, 2009:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears -- for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger -- at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort -- at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience -- and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility -- open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance -- replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity -- remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand -- that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Examined Life

Here is the trailer for Astra Taylor's new film Examined Life featuring Cornel West, Avital Ronell, Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor.

I hope the dvd for this comes out soon. I have a class this summer I would love to use this film in.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And the Winner Is ...

... LumpenProf! Dr. Curmudgeon has kindly bestowed the coveted blogger Inspiration Award on yours truly. I am deeply touched. It is heartening to know there are people who can find inspiration in the writings of a bitter and disaffected academic. Or, perhaps, I only inspire curmudgeons. Either way, I am truly honored.

I find the idea of viral awards to be oddly subversive. An award that is propagated like a ponzi scheme seems to undercut the scarcity which gives most awards their value. Blog awards seem to operate by a different logic and gain value as more members of the community come to share in them. So I will happily pass along this award to others who have inspired this cynical and pessimistic blogger. With deepest apologies, my winners are:

  1. What the hell is wrong with you for inspiring me to write by hosting InaDWriMo.
  2. Poet's Musings because I find it inspiring that there are poets still.
  3. Abject Learning because it inspires me to learn that sometimes my luddite tendencies are actually cutting-edge.
  4. What in the hell... for his inspiring sub-zero activism.
  5. Limited, Inc. for inspirations too numerous to mention.
  6. Baudrillard's Bastard for inspiring books and music.
  7. Academic Cog who inspires me to care more about my teaching.
Finally, here are the rules as handed down with the award:
  • Please put the logo of the award (above) on your blog if you can make it work with your format.
  • Link to the person from whom you received the award.
  • Nominate 7 or more blogs.
  • Put the links of those blogs on your blog.
  • Leave a message on their blogs to tell them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No Comment

Here's an example of the kind of crap the LumpenProf won't be commenting on while on sabbatical:

In its agreement with the university, dated March 14, 2008, BB&T agreed to give WCU $1 million over seven years. ...

The agreement called for the establishment of a new Distinguished Professorship of Capitalism. “The Professor shall work closely with the Ayn Rand Institute and have a reasonable understanding and positive attitude toward Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism,” it stated. ...

Another concern lay with BB&T’s requirement that Atlas Shrugged be required reading for at least one course, and that a free copy of the book be provided to all juniors. ...

Faculty brought their concerns to the university administration, which agreed to address them even though the agreement between the school and BB&T was already in place.

Friday, January 09, 2009

On Sabbatical

The LumpenProf is officially on sabbatical now. My first ever. W00t! I'll be leaving soon to spend three months in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Writing. In the sun. If anyone out there has any recommendations for me about things to see, or eat, or drink in that part of the world please pass them on.

I expect to be able to blog while on sabbatical, although I'm going to lean towards research and photo blogging posts, and stay as far away from academic politics as possible. I need the break. Look for pictures of sunny, tropical things here soon!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Epidemiology of Wal-Mart

Watch how quickly the Wal-Mart pandemic has spread from a single outbreak in Arkansas in 1962.