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"Folklore notwithstanding, Washington’s false teeth were not wooden. He obtained them instead from horses, donkeys, cows — and human beings. (According to his account books, in 1784, emulating some of his affluent friends, he bought nine teeth from unidentified “Negroes” — perhaps enslaved African-Americans at his beloved Mount Vernon; the price was 122 shillings.)"


The painter is condemned to please. By no means can he transform a painting into an object of aversion. The purpose of a scarecrow is to frighten birds from the field where it is planted, but the most terrifying painting is there to attract visitors. Actual torture can also be interesting, but in general that can’t be considered its purpose. Torture takes place for a variety of reasons. In principle its purpose differs little from that of the scarecrow: unlike art, it is offered to sight in order to repel us from the horror it puts on display. The painted torture, conversely, does not attempt to reform us. Art never takes on itself the work of the judge. It does not interest us in some horror for its own sake: that is not even imaginable. (It is true that in the Middle Ages religious imagery did this for hell, but that is precisely because art was hardly separable from education.) When horror is subject to the transfiguration of an authentic art, it becomes a pleasure, an intense pleasure, but a pleasure all the same.

—Georges Bataille, Cruel Practice of Art.


This period in the MOOC lifecycle is reminding me of a couple of years I spent in the late 1990s as a consultant to a water-treatment start-up company.

The company was pitching a promising but unproven technology to some of the worst non-point-source polluters in California.  These operators couldn’t control stockyard waste runoff, chemical drainage from olive packing, and many other kinds of dispersed pollutants that didn’t come out of a pipe and that thus were impossible to filter.  Our company was pitching something new to a conservative tightfisted industry—agriculture—and it had limited money and not very good connections in that industry.  So how could they find customers while they were improving the actual technology?”


Wagner’s absurd example of the slave compromise was an attempt to put a big smiley-face Band-Aid over what has become an oozing scab at Emory. He wanted alumni to think his administration was happily compromising with the very people and programs it is purging from the campus while marching forward to an even more glorious future for the health and science programs. He ends his column by saying: “I am grateful that we have at our disposal the rich tools of compromise that can help us achieve our most noble goals.”

The thing is, he and his administration did not use the rich tools of compromise. The discussions about cutting the programs were conducted by a committee in secret. People were tricked and deceived. The head of the committee that studied which programs to axe, political science Professor Micheal Giles, admitted “he would always ‘lie’ about how well everything was going” when asked by colleagues how the situation was looking, according to another Evan Mah article, this one from last fall in Wheel. (Disclosure: Mah was an Atlanta magazine intern last summer. And will be one of the final graduates in Emory’s doomed journalism program.)

David Dillon, CEO of Kroger, put it succinctly: “If you look through the economics of the penalty the companies pay versus the cost to provide coverage, the penalty’s too low, or the cost of coverage is too high.” The penalty for not covering a worker is $2,000 a year—less than half the cost of covering a single worker ($4,664, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation), and less than a fifth the cost of covering a family ($11,429). Uncovered employees will be forced to buy coverage on the new insurance exchanges—with a government subsidy if their income is low enough—or pay the penalty themselves.

"He was the first athlete whose public persona was entirely constructed by commercials, and his influential gospel was that the ultimate aspiration of any athlete should be to become a brand. This marked a Reagan-era break in the tradition of athletes—particularly African-American athletes—to use their platform, influence and power for the greater good.

There are many who argue that this highly racialized political critique of Jordan is unfair. They’ll argue that just by being a successful African-American businessman, he is being a powerful role model. They argue that people like New York Times sports columnist William Rhoden, who said that Jordan had “abdicated his responsibility [to the African-American community] with an apathy that borders on treason,” are asking too much. He is a “post-civil rights” athlete and should be allowed to be “just an athlete.” Let’s leave aside that a country where racism persists in jobs, hiring, voting rights and the system of mass-incarceration is not “post-anything.” Certainly, if Michael Jordan doesn’t want to speak about and support community uplift, that’s his business. But at some point, it has to be recognized that these choices to do nothing are, in fact, political choices all the same. We also need to recognize that this wasn’t just a political choice. Bluntly, Michael Jordan profited massively from his silence. By being the Seinfeld era superstar—standing for “nothing”—Jordan was able to shill for everything, no matter the company, no matter how controversial their labor practices.”

This is how the university ends: not with a bang, but a chart.

This is how the university ends: not with a bang, but a chart.

How to be a writer in Mozambique?

How to be a writer in Mozambique?

[Mia Couto] - I’ll tell you a little episode that can help answer that question. One day I was coming home and it was dark, it was about six o’clock. There was a boy sitting on the wall waiting for me. When I arrived, he introduced himself, but had a hand behind his back. I felt fear and the first thing I thought is that this boy was going to rob me. It seemed almost cruel to think that the world we live in today we can be afraid of a child of ten, it was the age of that boy. Then he showed what he was hiding. It was a book, a book of mine. He showed the book and said: “I came here to return something that you should have lost.” Then he explained the story. He said he was in the lobby of a school, where he sold peanuts and suddenly saw a student entering school with this book. On the cover of the book, there was a picture of me and he recognized me. Then he thought: “That girl stole the book from that guy.”

Because as I appear on TV, people know me. Then he asked: That book you have is not the Mia Couto? “. And she replied: “Yes, it’s Mia Couto.” Then he took the book of the girl and fled. This story is to say that for a part of Mozambicans, the relationship with the book is a new thing. This is the first generation that is dealing with the writing, the writer with the book. We Mozambican writers, we know that we wrote for a small percentage of the population who are the ones who can read and write. The book has a very restricted circulation. But even so, the print runs of my books in Mozambique are around 6000, 7000 copies, which is a high number. When I compare with the runs I do in Brazil, I can say that Brazil is not going very well. Brazil does not read as much as we think. If we count the entire population of Brazil and only one that reads and buys books, we see that the situation is proportional to Mozambique.


Calling the Chancellor to Account

All week, we’re holding pickets at noon in front of California Hall (the UCB admin building); this is why.

I sincerely apologize for the events of November 9 at UC Berkeley and extend my sympathies to any of you who suffered an injury during these protests. As chancellor, I take full responsibility for these events and will do my very best to ensure that this does not happen again.
        —Robert Birgeneau, November 22, 2011

(A deafening silence)

—Robert Birgeneau, today

When we saw students and faculty being beaten on the steps of Sproul Plaza last November, we were horrified. And when Chancellor Birgeneau dared to suggest that the victims of police had deserved it — because, as he put it, linking arms was “not non-violent” — he became the much-deserved subject of national ridicule, to such an extent that he retracted the statement, claimed he had been out of the loop, publicly apologized, and took full personal responsibility. He also declared that the students who had been arrested would have amnesty from student conduct proceedings and instituted multiple police review proceedings to ensure that such police misconduct does not occur again.  

Now, four months later, our community is being forced to relive this violence, and the Chancellor is nowhere to be found.  The Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley is pressing charges against at least 9 of the students and faculty who engaged in public protest on November 9. These charges range from “malicious obstruction of a thoroughfare” and resisting arrest to battery of a police officer. They have been issued against several people who were arrested on November 9th but also against others who were not arrested. While all the charges are unwarranted, both the timing of the charges and the fact that visible activists have been particularly targeted raise a variety of very disturbing questions.

First and foremost, where is Chancellor Birgeneau? After accepting responsibility for the events of November 9th (see above), he remains conspicuously silent while Alameda County prosecutes his students and faculty. It is not nearly enough for the chancellor to do nothing: he has an affirmative responsibility to safeguard the free expression of political dissent on his campus.  Chancellor Birgeneau must publicly denounce all criminal charges and obey the UC Berkeley Faculty Association’s demand that he accept financial responsibility for legal fees incurred by those charged.

Secondly, to what extent have the UCPD and the UC administration facilitated the prosecution of its UC community members? In theory, the UCPD protects and serve campus values — of which free speech must be one — but in practice, UCPD routinely invokes mutual aid with outside police departments, invites riot cops onto our campus, and cooperates with outside agencies that have no necessary commitment to campus values. Several of the students singled out by the DA have a history of involvement in student activism.  Given this, it’s hard not to see the charges they now face as anything but a coordinated attempt to undermine public protest by intimidating the very student activists who are speaking out in defense of public education.

In the immediate aftermath of the November 9th protests, the UCPD solicited — and received — the medical records of protesters who sustained injuries at the hands of the police. These records were released by the UC Berkeley Tang Center and local hospitals without the knowledge or consent of the patients; they were then used to identify protesters. The fact that medical records can be turned over to the UCPD in order to incriminate victims of police violence raises serious questions about the ethics of medical care on the UC-Berkeley campus.  As the many videos taken on November 9th show, students and faculty were beaten simply because they were there.  When evidence of physical harm at the hands of the police is immediately read as culpability, our university has effectively criminalized protest.  By funneling confidential records to the UCPD and outside bodies, our medical system corroborated this view. What university policies allowed such breaches of confidentiality to happen?

We, the UC-Berkeley community, implore the UC administration to take responsibility for shielding the democratic values of free speech, political engagement, and socio-economic diversity upon which public higher education in California is premised.  Such responsibility starts with a frank assessment of the UCPD and UC administration’s role in the Alameda County DA’s actions.  We demand that the UC administration do what it always should have been doing: protect the right to protest on our campus.  Criminal charges against students and faculty must be dropped so that the work of restoring our university system can continue.

Numbers to contact:

Chancellor Birgeneau
phone: 510-642-7464 
email: chancellor@berkeley.edu

Charles Robinson (UC General Counsel)
phone: (510) 987-9938 
email: charles.robinson@ucop.edu

Nancy O’Malley (District Attorney of Alameda County)
phone: (510) 272-6222

On charging Nov 9th protesters

This is primarily for UC folks, but please, any and all, be in solidarity! 

(and context

1. Chancellor Birgeneau declared — under heavy pressure and criticism — that Nov 9 protesters would not face student conduct charges. He even apologized and took personal responsibility for what happened. Now that the Alameda County DA is laying criminal charges on them, his silence is deafening and infuriating. 

Birgeneau’s phone #: 510-642-7464 email: chancellor@berkeley.edu

2. The entire logic of having UC cops on campus — a rationale we’ve heard over and over again — is that they “share our values,” that if we don’t have “our” cops on campus, we’ll have to deal with outside cops policing us. Whether or not you agree with that, that’s the party line: Dean Edley said this at the police review meeting, and the general counsel, Charles Robinson, said exactly the same thing, in exactly the same words. What we are seeing here, however, is a total breakdown of that logic: the UC chooses not to charge its students and faculty, but says nothing as “outsiders” lay charges. 

Charles Robinson’s phone #: (510) 987-9938 email: charles.robinson@ucop.edu

3. Even more directly we should note that the DA’s actions are VERY convenient for the UC admins, who will be facing lawsuits for what their police did on Nov 9th. Having the Alameda county DA charge the plaintiffs — ostensibly an “independent” actor — serves to retroactively legitimize what the police did and insulate them from these lawsuits; putting criminal charges on people who are or could be suing for infringements on their civil liberties, or police brutality, makes police actions seem more legitimate.

4. Our beloved president loves to proclaim himself a first amendment scholar, and that “free speech” is in the UCB’s DNA. I think he needs to go back to school: this is (not only but also) a first amendment issue, and if the admins do not actively support their students’ right to assemble, they are actively abandoning their responsibility. Not that we expect anything less from them, of course. But we need to say that we see it, and as loudly as possible.