My alma mater the University of Chicago has managed to get what it’s always wanted: attention from the national press. Unfortunately, it did so by sending a completely unnecessary letter to incoming students announcing the school’s opposition to trigger warnings and safe spaces, concepts the letter doesn’t seem to understand at all. So let me wade into this muck in the hope of achieving some clarity. As the University of Chicago taught me, it’s best to begin by defining one’s terms.
Just as sexual harassment is a form of expression which is nonetheless regulated to make it possible for women to function in the workplace, various kinds of campus behavior are forms of expression which may nonetheless be regulated to make it possible for non-majority students to function in academe. Surely there are ludicrous examples of demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, just as there are egregious examples of on-campus hostility and discrimination (e.g. men parading outside a women’s dorm yelling “No means yes! Yes means anal!”). The issue in either case is the boundary between free expression and expression designed to intimidate or silence. No one can deny that a burning cross is an example of expression but as its purpose is to terrorize, it’s considered to be on the wrong side of that boundary. So, in Europe, is Holocaust denial, though it’s tolerated on American college campuses (while assertions that the earth is flat, say, would not be).
Thus people who take seriously the possibility that a person calling black women “water buffaloes” intends to demean and silence them are simply engaging in the type of critical thinking to which universities are supposed to be dedicated as well as the complementary analysis of what is necessary to protect an environment of civil discourse.
I’m a passionate advocate of the educational experience I had at the U of C, and nonetheless I think the letter to incoming students could more succinctly have been rendered as “F**k you if you imagine anything you think will be of interest or concern to us; you must have mistaken us for someplace that cares. And if you don’t like it take your female and black and brown and queer sensibilities elsewhere.” And I am revolted that my alma mater decided its reputation was best spent on that kind of dog-whistle right-wing nonsense.
You don’t want to use trigger warnings? Don’t. But there’s no need to denounce them unless your real purpose is to let people (especially, perhaps, donors) know that you’re indifferent to any concerns about mistreatment based on identity, and that any complaints about such mistreatment will be met with dismissiveness and derision because how dare any of these 21st Century concerns impinge on the 19th Century approach to which we’ve apparently dedicated our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor?
When I spoke up at the law school, I was thanked for expressing “what the women think.” When a classmate objected to the teaching of Plato’s Symposium as though it didn’t refer to gay love, he was told that the University didn’t “cater to special interests.” When students and faculty spoke out for diversifying the curriculum beyond the dead white “mods and greats” beloved of the British university system, the response (from Saul Bellow, no less) was “where is the Proust of the Papuans?” though the whole point of his query was to ridicule the idea of our finding out.
There was nothing “micro” about these aggressions; they were perfectly visible examples of the majority’s desire to humiliate and stifle the minorities. And the University’s admissions policies in those days (though not now, happily) were carefully designed to make sure that black and brown and even female people were in the tiniest minorities possible.
So the U of C has a long history of behaving as if modernity were a personal insult, and this letter to first-years is as much in keeping with that tradition as any boob’s expressed desire to make America great (meaning white) again.
I’ve heard there are donors to other schools who’ve withdrawn their support when their alma maters have acknowledged their role in slavery or in any way made a reckoning with the imperfections of the past. So just to balance things out, I’m withdrawing my support of an institution which seems to glory in denying there ever were any such imperfections or that any discrimination or hostility continues to exist today. The U of C exercised its privilege of flipping the bird to its incoming students and I’m exercising my privilege to flip the bird to the U of C.
I hope the faculty and administration don’t experience that as traumatic; but just in case I’m providing this trigger warning.
To me, the most striking thing about macro-photography is the narrow depth of field. Sometimes (as in the penultimate moment of a life-death struggle shown below the fold) the entire depth of field is maybe one-tenth of an inch.
I posted on Facebook that “No animals or insects were harmed in this production.” To which my sister replied: “Too bad.” I believe the spider is an orb-weaver. It’s maybe 0.75 inches long. I took its picture as it hung motionless on its web waiting for prey outside my family room window. Things would have been a bit sharper if the window were a bit cleaner.
Just a snapshot with my new pocket Lumix camera. It’s nice to be able to manually control the camera, shoot in RAW format, and so on, without having to lug a big DSLR.
It’s true, I got our fearless leader to spend 2 days in Vermont at a fishing lodge with no cell service and no internet access. Confession: after 12 hours, I tried to hack the lodge’s router.
Chicago’s Field Museum has a great exhibit, Women of Vision, with pictures by the women photographers of National Geographic. It’s possible that I would have to raise my photography game to match their efforts.
These two heartbreaking pictures by Stephanie Sinclair show girls forced into marriage.
We sometimes hear the argument: Who are you outsiders to criticize someone else’s culture? One answer can be seen in the picture below. The women most intimately affected often object.
The crying bride in the picture, Surita Shreshta Balami, is only sixteen. She is howling in protest at what she is being made to do.
The picture below of two married couples speaks for itself.
The last global trade deal was the Uruguay round, finally agreed in 1994 after seven years of negotiations. The deal included the setting up of the WTO, a stronger organization than GATT, which it replaced. But no further global trade deal has been agreed. The WTO launched the Doha round in 2001, but it has fittingly run into the sand.
Trade negotiators are nothing if not obstinate, and tried a new tack. If a global deal is too difficult, why not try regional ones? So TTIP, the transatlantic deal, and TPP, the Pacific one, were born. Well, conceived.
Both are moribund. Hollande has declared France’s opposition to TTIP in its current form, which is also under sustained attack in the European Parliament, especially over ISDS. [Update 30/8: the French trade minister has called for the talks to be suspended. If this is a negotiating tactic, it’s reckless hardball – it would be very hard to walk back.] TPP is opposed by both Clinton and Trump. Obama still officially hopes to get TPP through the Senate in the lame duck session. (See supportive comment from Harold Pollack.) Do you credit this? McConnell has not shifted from his policy of Adullamite obstruction of every Obama proposal. Even if he allowed a vote, would senators really vote against the platforms of their parties, which accurately reflect a hostile public opinion?
This widespread failure of the trade liberalisation agenda is usually put down to a widespread turn in public opinion against free trade, now seen by many on both left and the populist right as a callous neoliberal plot to enrich capitalists at the expense of workers. (It is true that the compensatory support for workers who lost their jobs as a result of past agreements like NAFTA somehow failed to materialise.) Some trade advocates resort to the absurd argument that the failure of TTIP and TPP would put existing trade at risk. But there is very little support for proposals to roll back existing trade agreements, from NAFTA to Uruguay to the European single market. There is something in the trade negotiation process of these new deals that gets voters’ goat.
Let me nail up a thesis to the trade church door. Modern trade negotiations are illegitimate. In their current form they cannot possibly lead to a democratically acceptable result. That is why they are doomed to fail.
The argument has two parts. Continue Reading…
Google not and try your hand at this quiz, in which you must name the mythical places that each of the directions given will take you. Answers after the jump, please post your score.
1. Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
2. Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.
3. Pass through the tool booth and then decide something without having a good reason.
4. Go down the rabbit hole.
5. Find the wardrobe in the spare room, and push your way through the old clothes hanging therein.
6. Speak friend and enter.
7. Pick up the train at platform 9 and three-quarters.
8. Go to Mist County and look for the place where all the children are above average.
9. Search by the shores of Lake Parime.
10. Go down the volcanic tubes at Snæfellsjökull.
My little corner of Chicago–two wards, with a tiny boost from Evanston–has more than 100 people signed up to go to Wisconsin to knock on doors for Hillary this Saturday. With less than 10 days’ notice, we’ve turned out enough people to spill over the boundaries of our original target (Kenosha) and conquer Racine as well.
To put that in perspective, that’s a bigger group of volunteers than we sent to Wisconsin at this time during the Obama campaign. After Labor Day, we’re going to flood the zone in Iowa.
So don’t let anyone tell you there’s no enthusiasm for Hillary.