Adventures in Bureaucracy Part I: The Basic Rules
Always remember that because the bureaucracy has been around since before you were born, it will outlive you. The greatest potential for your achievement within it may in fact be negligible. Quite unoriginally, I would liken a good bureaucracy to a vast machine whose individual parts may be comprehensible to the people who operate within them, but whose entirety and operation are...
[Jacobin] Against Innovation →
Innovation as dogma. Innovation recognizes that we face challenges now and responds with faith in the future. Maybe this is all to the good. Maybe the best escapes from our current entanglements have not yet been found. But the notion of innovating our way out of contentious debates is fishy. Our seemingly insurmountable disagreements reflect what we think of as real ethical and ideological...
[Nadia El Awady] Reflections on My Journey With... →
What I’m seeing in this experience is that as long as a woman normally exposes her hair, most if not all people will deal with her as a whole individual and not as the woman with the hair. But the fact that some women cover their hair creates an aura of mystery to some people about what exists beneath the cloth that can sometimes border on obsession, in which case the woman turns into the woman...
[The Atlantic] #MuslimRage: How a Cynical... →
The people. They are revolting. Which brings us back to Hank, the Angry Drunken Dwarf. In his book Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky explains what Hank can teach us about our ever-more-participatory media: “If you give people a way to act on their desire for autonomy and competence or generosity and sharing, they might take you up on it,” Shirky writes. On the other hand: “[I]f...
[The American Scholar] Virtually Exhausted →
We’re in a panic, as a nation, that we don’t work hard enough, and blame this iniquity for our “decline.” God—the one who blesses America—is withdrawing his favor. Hence the sanctimoniousness with which the topic of work is approached. If you don’t work as hard as people think you should, you’re not just morally inferior, you’re committing a kind of spiritual treason. And if you deny the value...
[John Scalzi] You Never Go Full McCain →
Any hole worth digging is worth digging deeper? Was there a legitimate criticism to be made of the administration’s handling of the embassy attacks? Sure, although it would have been smarter not to release it on September 11. Did Romney make it? No. When presented with a fine opportunity to recraft and restate his criticism, did Romney take advantage of it? Quite the opposite, in fact. Has...
[Club Orlov] Suicidal Services →
You’ll die for your country whether you like it or not. And yet the information they have been looking for has been available for over a century now, at any good research library. I am referring to the 1897 book Le Suicide by the pioneering French sociologist Émile Durkheim. In it he compiles tables of prevalence of suicide in various militaries around the world and finds that there is...
[Al Jazeera] Benghazi: What Happened? →
Politics hides behind religion when it is most convenient to do so, and the rest of us are content to keep the masks in place so long as the masks conform to our preferred narrative. And that, of course, raises the question of who did it? The initial reports of the violence in Benghazi suggested that those responsible were members of “Ansar al-Sharia”, one of the many extremist...
There is nobody in charge
Over time, as the amount of global information in a system increases, its complexity increases and the global amount of canonicity decreases. More properly, this can be referred to as Canonicity Decay. Canonicity is the quality of being canonical. Something is said to be canonical if it is authoritative. What is authoritative is determined by experts. Experts typically are characterized as...
[Ftrain] Rotary Dial →
The rotary dial was a building block of civilization, the key that unlocked the phone system for millions of people. It was an integral part of your parents’ lives. Imagine your father stuffing his dirty fingers into the waiting greasy dialpits, over and over and over again, over and over and over and over again, ringing your mother’s bell until finally she shudders and reaches—for...
I. Vibrancy is a euphemism for disorder We imagine our cities to be vibrant When what we mean is that they are disorderly II. Doesn’t shoegazing imply gazing at one’s own shoes? I spend my train commute examining the shoes of others. Feet, too. And not passively either. No, I inquire to myself — but never aloud — why this one chose to wear those shoes with that outfit Or why...
[HTMLGIANT] We Need to Talk About Batman →
I know that this Bat is supposed to wow me, but, truthfully, it horrifies me. Becausewhat the hell is that—”tight-geometry urban pacification”? And what third world country is that intended for? Or might the thing have domestic applications? … Might I suggest that the Defense Department is already wrong enough hands? And might I also suggest that street criminals, terrorists, and deranged...
When the Bosphorus Dries Up - Orhan Pamuk →
I am speaking now of the new neighborhoods that will take root on this muddy wasteland that we once knew as the Bosphorus, even as city councilors rush here and there waving penalty notices: I speak of shantytowns and shacks, bars, nightclubs, and amusement arcades, of rusty horsedrawn Lunaparks, of brothels, mosques, and dervish lodges, of nests where Marxist splinter groups go to hatch their...
[The Atlantic] The Economics of Magazines and... →
Now take that thin profile and put it under severe economic duress. It was always a privileged life to be able to support oneself writing for magazines. Now it is an almost unheard of life. (Observe the medium through which I am speaking to you right now.) Even in the halcyon days of Gay Talese, I would bet that many of the writers supplemented their income by doing something else. So while it...
The Real Reason Big Brother’s Still Spying on New... →
Pay no attention to the white guys amassing weapons and ammo and, occasionally, spree shooting. But more than a week after the acknowledgement, the city seems as convinced as ever that public safety relies on police regularly watching and documenting the movements, religious practices, conversations, name changes and student activities of New York’s Muslim communities. As the deposition made...
[Jacobin] Gimme the Loot →
Pirate ships were different – they were under democratic worker control. Captains weren’t absolute rulers, but elected leaders who commanded only during battle. Day-to-day operations were handled democratically by the entire crew. Loot was divided equally and immediately, and pirates ate – and drank – better than their law-abiding contemporaries. This was the major reason pirates were feared: it...
Pentagon threatens Seal over Osama bin Laden... →
I’d hate to be the prosecutor here. The Pentagon’s top attorney also warns it is considering legal options against anyone “acting in concert” with the author to publish the book. The letter identifies two separate non-disclosure agreements the Seal signed with the navy that legally committed him to never divulge official secrets. “You are in material breach and...
[TNI] The Thin Blue Line →
But there is a fundamental difference between a lying civilian and a lying police officer. When cops lie, they are part of a system of language that is integral to the state’s monopoly on violence. And If language is a weapon, cops were equipped with firepower and the training to use it, just as they were with actual guns. Meanwhile complainants—civilians whose circumstances put them in...
[BBC] South African Marikana miners 'face murder... →
Nothing says “Rule of Law” like charging massacre survivors with murder. Stay classy, South Africa. Workers arrested at South Africa’s Marikana mine will be charged later with the murder of 34 colleagues shot by police, an official has said.
The Charlatan-Haunted World →
Basing a genetic program on the concept that genes determine high-order behavior is like planning an expedition to Mars based on the Ptolemaic system.
Everything You've Heard About Failing Schools Is... →
Overall, the last 10 years have revealed that while Big Data can make our questions more sophisticated, it doesn’t necessarily lead to Big Answers. The push to improve scores has left behind traditional assessments that, research indicates, work better to gauge performance: classroom work and homework, teachers’ grades and quizzes, the opinions of students and parents about a school....
...more than you can bear
Of course it’s not literally what the Book says, but even so many have taken it to mean that. It’s folly anyway, no matter how you look at it. Temptations or burdens, same thing if you ask me. What conclusions are we to draw from this idea that, though our god(s) will somehow spare us from bearing too heavy a personal load, so many of us seem to have such loads anyway. Even more,...
bint battuta: We read books to find out who we... →
bintbattuta: We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel – or have done and thought and felt; or might do and think and feel – is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become. A person who had never known another human…
You’ll lay paths as you go, and sometimes they’ll converge with the paths of others. These are more like roads than paths. But mostly you’ll walk alone. It doesn’t matter which way you walk; there’s only forward. Even if you retrace your steps, the ripples of your passing the first time will have irrevocably altered the landscape, or your mind will have undergone...
And then you board the elevator, full today, just before the doors close. Your coffee joins the five or six other coffees in the enclosed space, and for the brief ascent to the 24th floor (your stop), that aroma becomes a cradle that lulls the group of you into cozy silence. And nor will anyone break this silence. There’s a code, like on a crowded subway train, that most have no interest in...
Some Thoughts on Organizations
All organizations possess inertia. When in motion, they have momentum. They will continue to move in a linear fashion (or remain motionless) until an external force is sufficient in magnitude to change them. An organization is a collection of people and processes harnessed together to achieve a set of goals. Individual members may push or pull their way in any direction, but organizational...
Black Boxes All the Way Down
Let’s posit for a moment that technological progress, in general terms, leads to a sort of density of knowledge such that one need not fully grasp underlying processes to make effective use of them. This is sort of a holy grail in software development, the creation of standalone “black box” modules whose inputs and outputs are the only pieces of information of any relevance to the programmer....
Perhaps I’m just being sensitive or allowing my pattern recognition engine get the best of me, but of late I’m detecting a good deal of misdirection in terms of stated and actual values, largely on the part of very large organizations. While perhaps not large in absolute budgetary terms, these organizations are nevertheless very large in the sense that what they control or oversee has a large...
The Tyranny of Precision
Human civilization as we know it, the post-agricultural coalescence into cities and states and nations, is underpinned by a singular drive: the drive to measure things. It’s as difficult to escape as it is to fully recognize, but measurement has been the enabler of most of the things we’ve done so far as a species (think about it a moment). For instance, we can’t understand modern views of...
daniel sinker: I'm starting to think Lego is evil →
sinker: Well, maybe not evil, but “highly problematic.” First, let’s remove what we all *think* Lego is (i.e. our own nostalgic memories, our aspirational beliefs, or $250 robot sets), and instead concentrate on what Lego today is, for the most part: It’s movie-tie-in model sets marketed pretty much…
Some Occupy Our Homes Stuff
Two from Rortybomb. The first from Rortybomb deals with hygiene and safety related to home foreclosures as a point of contrast with the hygiene and safety “concerns” of the various city police forces with regard to Occupy encampments. “The problem, she said, is the abandoned pool in her neighbor’s backyard…County records show the bank took possession of the property in August...
“I’m not a racist, but…” « An und für sich →
All this is of course a symptom of the narcissism of the straight white male who thinks everything is about him — but more importantly, it points toward the seemingly ineradicable individualism of our culture, which leads to the absurd conclusion that the systematic oppression of a given racial group is due exclusively to the racist feelings of individuals and that therefore the problem is...
Structural Violence and OWS
I’ve been thinking about structural violence, especially as it relates to systems of human organization. This was prompted by David Graeber’s excellent 2006 essay “Beyond Power/Knowledge: an exploration of the relation of power, ignorance and stupidity,” (available here and elsewhere: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/pdf/20060525-Graeber.pdf) in which he argues, among other things, that states...
How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS... →
There’s so much right about this article I don’t want to paint any particular picture with a quote. Seriously, just read the whole thing.
3 Officers to Face Discipline for Detaining City... →
Mr. Williams said he believed racial bias fueled the episode in which he and Mr. Foy, an aide to the public advocate, were stopped by police officers after walking down a sidewalk that had been closed because of the parade. Despite identifying himself a councilman, Mr. Williams said he was handcuffed. Mr. Foy was pushed to the ground by a police officer and also arrested, a video of the episode...
Extreme Poverty Is Now at Record Levels -- 19... →
Today, there are many Americans that openly look down on the poor, but that should never be the case. We should love the poor and want to see them lifted up to a better place. The truth is that with a few bad breaks any of us could end up in the ranks of the poor. Compassion is a virtue that all of us should seek to develop. Not only that, but the less poor people and the less unemployed...
What I Didn’t Write About When I Wrote About... →
Instead of writing about any of this, once I was not on Facebook anymore, I found myself sending emails with some witty insights or photos of my baby, but it just wasn’t the same; a request for housing help for a friend via email got no responses. However, I was now talking a lot about quitting Facebook, and this for a time became the most interesting thing about me. Fueled by how interesting I...
Google, despite neglecting Reader for over 2 years, making basically no updates...– Hate the new Google Reader? Blame Steve Jobs. « Dispatches from the wilds of Spenceria (via sconover)
Essay on the librarians in the Occupy movement |... →
The issue here isn’t just the impact on the librarians’ own standard of living. Their professional ethos is defined by a commitment to making information available to the public. They are very serious about that obligation, or at least the good ones are, and they are having a hard time meeting it. If knowledge is power, then expensive databases, fewer books, and shorter library hours...
What Happens in Yemen: The "End" of Citizenship... →
As the U.S. continues its manic descent into center-right authoritarianism, we can no longer lay claim to the liberal-democratic label. How can we pretend that we are liberal when the state can mark its own citizens for assassination for the mere publication of speech it thinks is harmful? How can we pretend to be democratic when the National Security and Military Industrial Complex create...
Pay your interns! -- New Internationalist →
Interns are a business asset to be encouraged and developed, not a form of employment underclass to be exploited and bullied. It is time the trade unions recognized the injustices meted out to young people desperate to get an ‘edge’ on their CV when a degree is no longer a guarantee to employment. They should be offered a reduced membership rate, information about their rights and protection...
Comprehensive Sex Education Bill Introduced in... →
Excellent. Today, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act. This legislation would provide youth and young adults with comprehensive sex education replacing ineffective abstinence-only programs and also would provide funding for teacher training in sex education. The legislation would make grants available to...
The Shadow Superpower - By Robert Neuwirth |... →
Inside System D, a USD 10 trillion per year globally scaled ad hoc enterprise. Welcome to the future? It used to be that System D was small — a handful of market women selling a handful of shriveled carrots to earn a handful of pennies. It was the economy of desperation. But as trade has expanded and globalized, System D has scaled up too. Today, System D is the economy of aspiration. It...
Quebec police defend fatal shooting of two cattle... →
Think of the children. But he says the video is 77 seconds long and does not reflect the reality of the intervention, which lasted more than an hour, during which, he says, police consulted with the animals’ owner and other cattle breeders in an effort to calm the animals and isolate them. “An hour during which every attempt failed, and during which one of the animals, who may not...
Reporter stumps State Department spokeswoman on US... →
Watch as reporter Matthew Lee with the Associated Press grills State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on the United States’ apparent disappointment with the UNESCO vote that welcomed Palestine as its newest full member state. The questions are straightforward and logical, and it becomes clear that the Obama administration is only concerned with Israel’s one-sided demands. The spokesperson...
Chocolate's Bittersweet Ties to Labor Abuses in... →
The vast majority of chocolate candy is produced from cacao grown under dubious labor conditions. In fact, the use of slavery was critical to large-scale cacao production for centuries, as it was for other labor-intensive crops such as cotton and tobacco. Though slavery has been legally abolished worldwide, serious labor abuses on cacao plantations remain. These problems persist throughout West...