Category Archives: Movement

Lacan, Žižek

Jacques Lacan proposed as the axiom of the ethics of psychoanalysis: “Do not compromise your desire.”  I am using this quotation for other purposes but you should follow the link and read the article, which has turned me into a Žižekite.

It now being the 17th, I am six months un-depressed and I think I will celebrate the next phase by acting on this; I may be un-depressed but I have not shed all depressed habits and it is time for it.

In Reeducation all bad things were things you had caused or imagined, and you had to learn to limit yourself so that they would not keep happening. But I think bad things are things to fight, and that you have to strengthen yourself for this.






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Sobre Chile

…the atavistic Catholic-fascist ideas underpinning the Pinochet dictatorship, in conjunction with the forces of US neoliberalism, produced the norms that govern the world today.

Study and quote.


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On “policing the norms of academia”

At last I understand academic advice: it is not advice at all, it is a speech act undertaken to police the norms of academia. This phrase was invented by one of my reader-friends, who noticed that the Tenured Radical was upset today with Sarah Kendzior for speaking clearly, and not in the terribly indirect way that is the academic custom.

A Friend of the Radical had rushed in to explain how things work, how one works, how to publish, and things like that. If one were not repeating the basic instructions, as Kendzior was not (she was talking about something else), it meant one did not understand the basic instructions. Only repetition of the basic instructions was relevant.

Academic advice is that kind of power move.




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Winter Storm Leon


This is alleged to be a picture rejected by Fox News, showing Louisiana National Guardsmen spreading salt on the roads by hand, due to the state’s lack of general preparedness and also funding.

A friend wrote:

Nobody says this in the reports I have seen so far, but it is blatantly obvious to me that the disaster that a 2-inch snow storm creates in the Southern states is not a matter of people being “wimps” like some idiots have said. It is the result of cities and states, with radical tax cutting governors, who have abdicated from their responsibility of taking care of the infrastructure and of responding adequately to a situation like this. No wonder we talk about places like Louisiana, where Bobby Jindal has assaulted public services, or Alabama, one of the most conservative states in the country. I can imagine how many cities and states could have decided that investing in more plows, or buying more salt for the roads, or strengthening the first response systems was less important than cutting taxes to the rich and destroying the labor rights of public employees. And this is the price you pay. My solidarity is with my friends who live in the South and are dealing with this mess, in the hopes that in the future that nonsense gets reversed and our cities and states can get what the cities and states of the wealthiest country in the world should have.


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The United States

Here is a State of the Union checklist I received from CREDO.

Reject the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama has said that action on climate change will be a centerpiece of his second term agenda. But he simply cannot make the necessary progress on climate changes as long as he allows tar sands production to expand. Sign the petition.

Drop his offer to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits in exchange for a grand budget bargain with Republicans. In a preemptive cave to Republicans, President Obama made the offer as part of budget negotiations last year, in a deeply wrongheaded quest to strike a grand bargain on taxes and the debt. He shouldn’t make the same mistake – and should commit to not give away cuts to Social Security and Medicare to Republicans under any circumstances. Sign the petition.

Bring ALL the troops home from Afghanistan. In his State of the Union address last year, President Obama said that Al-Qaeda was a “shadow of its former self,” and “to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations.” Yet after over 12 years and thousands of American lives, more than 30,000 troops still remain and aren’t scheduled to leave until the end of this year. It is long past time for President Obama to bring them home.

Stop breaking up families, by ending the deportations of those eligible for a pathway to citizenship under pending immigration reform legislation. The president doesn’t need to wait for obstructionist Republicans to take action on immigration reform. He should show he’s serious about it now by halting deportations of aspiring Americans who would qualify for a path to citizenship under the bill already passed by the Senate. Sign the petition.

Fire National Intelligence Director James Clapper and stop warrantless NSA spying on Americans. Clapper unambiguously lied to Congress about the NSA’s unconstitutional spying on Americans. But amidst this growing scandal, President Obama has so far offered no substantive reforms. He should fire Clapper and shut down the NSA’s shocking dragnet immediately.

Fill all the federal judiciary openings with judges who will uphold the Constitution, enforce environmental laws, and fight corporate abuse. Senator Majority Leader Reid’s filibuster reform finally stopped Republican obstruction on Judicial nominees. With over 90 vacancies this is a major opportunity to bring progressive champions to the bench, but President Obama needs to make sure he takes advantage.

Issue a strong carbon rule on existing power plants. President Obama has called for the first-ever rules to limit carbon pollution – long required under the Clean Air Act – but so far, all we’ve gotten are delays and watering down on his rule to cut pollution from unbuilt power plants, which does nothing to reduce actual current pollution, and is still months from being finalized. If the President is serious, we need a strong rule to cut the pollution that is causing climate change now. Sign the petition.

Raise the minimum wage for federal workers and contractors. The president has already said that income inequality is the defining issue of our time – and committed to take executive action to helping the middle class. Raising the minimum wage for the more than 2 million low-wage federal contractors would be a good step in the right direction. Share the petition.

Instruct his FCC chair to save Net Neutrality. Verizon killed net neutrality last week when a federal appellate court ruled in Verizon’s favor, and struck down the FCC’s Open Internet Order. Internet providers are now free to discriminate – block or slow down – any web site or application they choose. But President Obama’s FCC chair has the power to save Net Neutrality by reclassifying broadband internet access to require that it be regulated as a telecommunications service. Sign the petition.

Close Guantanamo. This January marks 12 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, and five years since President Barack Obama signed an executive order to shut it down. Congress recently fulfilled the president’s request to make it easier to transfer prisoners out of Guantanamo; it’s long past time for him to keep his promise, too. Sign the petition.


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On the adjunct situation

My subunit does in fact use adjuncts. The people we hire as adjuncts are people we also hire as FTEs. They teach 5 courses for their FTE, and then 1-2 more as adjuncts.

Another department’s chair points out that this amounts to discrimination against my discipline: lower division students in it have to have overworked instructors when other students in the same department do not, and my discipline has to produce more student credit hours with less personnel and salary money than other discplines in the unit.

Discuss. How can we frame this to the administration, in such a way that we can get more FTEs? We can get another instructor line, but the instructors we have voted against this since they want to continue adjuncting. I want raises for the instructors and then one or more tenure-track lines.

My step in the meantime is to find out how many departments, or better said disciplines, have the same situation.



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Le samedi

→I woke up and did not even have to talk myself into getting up, so I must be improving. I have had good dreams for two days. I still say I threw my life away. However, I am only teaching three classes and they are all interesting.

This blog gathered together some interesting old posts, including two by me, on a question the Spanish Professor has taken up again. How would I now respond to the original question?

• My university, one of those hardest hit by the 2008 crash, is improving now from my perspective, and so am I. But we are on an entrepreneurial model and I can only say things are improving because they had been so bad for so long — since this region’s crash in the 1980s, I am told.

• I have written a certain amount on the state of the university under my own name. I am not repeating those discussions here. The immediate problem is defunding, and the larger problems are longstanding. But I do not believe our universities are “failing.”

• Some in the adjunct movement want non-tenure-track jobs on long-term contracts, with lower pay than tenure track. They want this for everyone, permanently. I am against such measures for labor reasons, among others. That is an enormous ideological difference.

• My unit doesn’t use adjuncts, of course, and my own project is to turn instructorships into tenure-track and tenured lines. But I want to fill these with people interested in doing a little more than inventing ways to bend to corporatization.

• My university and department are an interesting hybrid of a liberal arts college, a community college, and a large public research institution, and I think we have potential as a place for this reason. Perhaps, precisely because we are so obscure, we can remain somewhere a non-elite person can get the kind of education that now will normally be available only at the very best schools.

→ More interestingly, I have derived a marvelous insight from Shedding Khawatir: the fact that we have a lot of demand for lower division courses, and a lot of dissatisfaction with the nature and quality of the ones we offer, is a very good argument for hiring more Ph.D.s, on the tenure track. It is not true that we just need more attractive, workhorse instructors, or an SLA czar: we just need more people with Ph.D.-level training, and that kind of commitment to development. This is very intriguing and it is not something my administration or colleagues see; I hope I can teach them.

This is the post and comments thread on teaching that I am still considering. Shedding says we should have common syllabi and assessments, but make our own “lesson plans.” The assessments have to be very good, not just something a committee throws together by (probably false) “concensus” and without research.

She has chapter tests and no midterm. Each chapter test is part “traditional” (grammar and vocabulary) and part proficiency based (focused on reading, listening, speaking, or writing). So it is (short) traditional test + listening text or oral exam or writing prompt or reading text. She makes the traditional part very short so there is time for the rest, and can be done in 50 minutes. The final exam contains all of these parts, although the oral part is not at the same time.

To make the proficiency based exercises “objective” she uses a grading rubric, and in the case of the oral examination, she records the groups so that she can listen to them later and grade them. Importantly, it is impossible to pass the test without doing well on the proficiency section as it is always worth 50% or more of the grade.

In terms of lesson planning, she suggests a common language goal across sections for each lesson (e.g., activate the past tense in interpersonal communication, global listening, etc.) but says the actual implementation should be up to the teacher based on the context.

The syllabus should not include instructions like “cover page 2″ or “do drill 6,” she says, because this can lead to varying interpretations. However, if the teacher knows the students are going to be tested on their listening skills, for example, they are more likely to have them do an actual listening activity rather than, say, dictation.




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We live in a corporate state and corporatism is always in danger of turning fascist. One of the signs, in my opinion, is what Heidegger called “an atmosphere of incisiveness”, i.e., the idea that we’ve got to “get out there” and “get our teeth into it” and “get the thing done”. Something important is lost when this mood prevails in a university. And it is lost as people of a particular stamp, i.e., “scholars”, are marginalized, and people of a different stamp, i.e., “researchers”, take their place.



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Stanley Cohen


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Should we recast the language requirement?

About this: should we rethink the language requirement? Here is why I ask: the options, for action on the “adjunct crisis,” appear to be cutting the number of students allowed to finish graduate programs, so as to reduce the alleged overproduction of Ph.D.s, or making sure people who do the Ph.D. are also trained for nonacademic jobs (that still use the Ph.D.-based knowledge and skills). What about insisting that all jobs be tenure track, rather than continue to hire so many contingent people?

In my program we do not have adjuncts or T.A.s, so we are not as exploitative as some, but instructors with M.A.s outnumber research faculty with Ph.D.s two to one. Now we are asked to hire yet another of these instructors; I want an assistant professor, but it is said that our greatest need lies in service to the language requirement. What is right and wrong with this picture?

The student credit hours the language requirement produces for our department does fund the graduate program and apparently some other things, so we have an economic incentive to maintain it; it is also a state requirement for a liberal arts degree. But most students who fulfill this requirement do it with great resentment, and it is nearly impossible to get them to learn anything, and there are other problems with the language courses. One of the best ways to improve the quality of these courses would be to release from them those students who are simply sitting through them, finding ways to pass with a D.

If we redefined the requirement, such that students would still take it in our department but could fulfill it with some language courses but also culture and literature and even linguistics courses given largely in English, so long as they were all centered on the same language, we might be able to justify hiring more Ph.D.s and fewer M.A.s. Quality could rise, people might suffer less, and more Ph.D.s would get jobs.

What do you think: Spanish Professor, Pan, Clarissa, Bemsha Swing, others?




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