A backlash in November

It’s pretty hard to summarize the state of the U.S. in a single tweet, but damn, this has gotta be close:


Pandemic

Roche has won Food and Drug Administration approval for an antibody test with what it claims is a much lower false positive rate.[1]

Roche says its test has proven 100% accurate at detecting Covid-19 antibodies in the blood, and 99.8% accurate at ruling out the presence of those antibodies. In other words, only two in every 1,000 samples lacking the antibodies would produce a “false positive” result.[2]

It’s still not known how long any immunity such antibodies confer lasts.[3]

Gloria Jackson, as told to Eli Saslow, “‘I apologize to God for feeling this way,’” Washington Post, May 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/02/elderly-woman-coronavirus-lonely-expendable/

Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019


The neoliberal party

I think this might be the ultimate reason for never again supporting Bernie Sanders:

Bad judgment.


Academia

It just keeps getting worse.

Let’s jump back a few years, in fact, to 2001, the last year I was gainfully employed. I was laid off in April that year.

It was also the year I learned my father had died the year before. He had cut off contact with me—this seems to be quite the thing in my family—and I learned about his death only because his wife, who had been profoundly dependent upon him (she suffered from addiction and depression issues), had killed herself with an opiate (I presume heroin) overdose, and I was still listed as a beneficiary on my father’s employee stock ownership plan. He had disowned me in every other way.

As the story reaches me, my father had come home and had a “discussion” (I very strongly suspect this was an argument) with his wife. She went upstairs to bed (excessive sleep is a symptom of depression). He went downstairs to his car, closed all the doors, and turned on the engine. He died of asphyxiation. Suicide. His wife didn’t handle it well, likely leading to her own demise later that year, leading to his company’s payout dilemma.

My father had never been happy. Not while married to my mother, not while married to his second wife (whose ending I recount above), probably not ever in life. But to me, his suicide left his profoundly dependent wife in a terrible state. In that act, he repudiated the values of accountability and responsibility he had instilled in me.

It was also a point when I had been laid off in the dot-com crash and was keenly aware that tech companies especially were seeking cheaper labor overseas. I realized that “hard” skills would only be valuable until employers found workers who possessed those skills in cheaper markets.

So when, a couple years later, my father’s company offered me a buyout, I took the money and, among other things, returned to school. I ultimately chose to pursue a program my father would have derided as “basketweaving.” But I figured, if I failed—I considered this highly unlikely—to find work in the meantime, at least I could teach.

I finished my master’s degree just in time for the financial crisis, which devastated academia. I couldn’t even find an adjunct position. And I continued on, ultimately finishing my Ph.D. at the end of 2015, graduating early in 2016.

I still can’t find even an adjunct position or a job of any kind. And academia keeps taking the hits. Musa al-Gharbi’s article[4] covers an important part of the latter saga, a part I was clueless about when I returned to school in 2003 and utterly underestimated when I continued toward my Ph.D.

The 2020 cohort of Ph.D.s is facing a nearly nonexistent job market. But of course, even before the coronavirus pandemic, most graduating Ph.D.s faced bleak prospects. National Science Foundation data suggest that 40 percent of recent Ph.D. graduates had no employment commitments of any kind (not in the private sector, nor as postdocs, nor as contingent or tenure-track faculty). Of those who did get commitments in academe, tenure-track appointments were relatively rare. According to the American Association of University Professors, nearly three-fourths of all teaching jobs today are not tenure-eligible. As a new report by the American Federation of Teachers highlights, these non-tenure-track jobs tend to provide low wages, few benefits, and little job security — with contracts extended or retracted capriciously from semester to semester. Many contingent faculty members, even those working full time, have to rely on government assistance just to make ends meet. Many are also saddled by immense debt, incurred in the hope that a terminal degree would provide a pathway to a stable and well-compensated academic job.[5]

I do not, even for a second, regret my education. But my experience with the job market has been inexcusable.[6]

Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687


  1. [1]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  2. [2]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  3. [3]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  4. [4]Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687
  5. [5]Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687
  6. [6]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

Older than we thought: ‘The Crisis of the Humanities’

Inquiry

This is the sort of article that seems too easy to interpret to support one’s own prejudices. Indeed, the authors cite important examples of how Max Weber’s work was misinterpreted to support scholars’ own prejudices. But if I understand correctly, Weber sought to elevate inquiry itself as a calling.[1] Then again, it’s much too easy to misinterpret. I think I want the book anyway.

Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon, “Max Weber Invented the Crisis of the Humanities,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 6, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20200206-MaxWeber


Authoritarianism

George Monbiot’s use of the word fascism is neither entirely consistent nor entirely inconsistent with my own.

Monbiot is writing about authoritarianism—and this is the term he prefers—but considers it a root of fascism. In this work,[2] he does not recognize the cycle I consider essential to fascism, that being where violence, whether structural or physical, is deployed as a means of building popular support, even as I think the regimes he points to indeed do just that.[3] At the same time, in seeking to distinguish authoritarianism from fascism, he repeats the much-more-often-than-not seen error of failing to offer a definition for the latter.[4]

Still, his essay is important in documenting a pattern of right wing authoritarianism—I mean to distinguish this from authoritarian populism if only because I have not satisfied myself that this is indeed the same phenomenon—around the world.[5] My own work has concentrated on the United States but I have seen what looks a lot like authoritarian populism certainly in Britain, where I’ve argued it originated, with Brexit, and I have seen neoliberalism, the so-called “Washington Consensus,” as having been imposed throughout the world by way of institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. I need to at least begin considering how my seven tendencies of conservatism[6] may indeed have global applicability.

George Monbiot, “The Roots of Fascism,” February 11, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/02/11/the-roots-of-fascism/


  1. [1]Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon, “Max Weber Invented the Crisis of the Humanities,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 6, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20200206-MaxWeber
  2. [2]George Monbiot, “The Roots of Fascism,” February 11, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/02/11/the-roots-of-fascism/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, July 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/
  4. [4]George Monbiot, “The Roots of Fascism,” February 11, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/02/11/the-roots-of-fascism/
  5. [5]George Monbiot, “The Roots of Fascism,” February 11, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/02/11/the-roots-of-fascism/
  6. [6]David Benfell, “The seven tendencies of conservatism,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/the-seven-tendencies-of-conservatism/

Catalonia is occupied territory: Daily Bullshit, September 29-October 2, 2017

Updates

  1. Originally published October 1, 12:53 pm.
  2. A new blog entry, entitled “On the naked display of sovereignty,” is up.
  3. October 1, 8:30 pm:
    • Catalans who voted and whose votes weren’t seized by police supported the referendum calling for independence and the Catalonian government made noises indicating it “would set in motion a potential secession based on the results.”[1] (Catalonia)
  4. October 1, 11:39 pm:
    • The margin in support of independence for Catalonia was apparently 90 percent.[2]
  5. October 2, 10:53 pm:
    • “The Catalan parliament in Barcelona had been due to debate tomorrow whether it should leave Spain. Last night, however, it emerged that the parliament would not meet and would merely set a date for its next session.”[3] (Catalonia)
    • There is a new blog entry, entitled “What’s the end game?

Catalonia

Questions that shall not be asked are a critical theorist’s bread and butter. As promised earlier, there is a new blog entry, entitled “On the naked display of sovereignty.”

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters,” October 1, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-4146103

Guardian, “Catalan referendum: preliminary results show 90% in favour of independence,” October 1, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/01/dozens-injured-as-riot-police-storm-catalan-ref-polling-stations

Peter Geoghegan, “Catalonia votes amid violent clashes,” Deutschewelle, October 1, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/catalonia-votes-amid-violent-clashes/a-40770357

Jeannette Neumann, Jon Sindreu, and Pietro Lombardi, “Catalans Support Secession From Spain in Vote Boycotted by Opponents,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/voters-turn-out-in-catalonia-for-independence-referendum-1506838287

Jon Sindreu, Pietro Lombardi, and Marina Force, “Hundreds Hurt as Catalans, Spanish Police Clash Amid Independence Referendum,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/voters-turn-out-in-catalonia-for-independence-referendum-1506838287

Graham Keeley, “Catalans press pause on drive to declare full independence,” Times, October 3, 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/catalans-press-pause-on-drive-to-declare-full-independence-v5nvqqm7t


Hugh Hefner

Okay, children. Can you say “Cre-ee-e-p-y?”

Laurel Wamsley, “Hugh Hefner’s Final Resting Place? The Plot He Bought Next To Marilyn Monroe,” National Public Radio, September 29, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/29/554574570/hugh-hefner-s-final-resting-place-the-plot-he-bought-next-to-marilyn-monroe


Adjuncts

Alastair Gee, “Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars,” Guardian, September 28, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/28/adjunct-professors-homeless-sex-work-academia-poverty


  1. [1]Jeannette Neumann, Jon Sindreu, and Pietro Lombardi, “Catalans Support Secession From Spain in Vote Boycotted by Opponents,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/voters-turn-out-in-catalonia-for-independence-referendum-1506838287
  2. [2]Guardian, “Catalan referendum: preliminary results show 90% in favour of independence,” October 1, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/01/dozens-injured-as-riot-police-storm-catalan-ref-polling-stations
  3. [3]Graham Keeley, “Catalans press pause on drive to declare full independence,” Times, October 3, 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/catalans-press-pause-on-drive-to-declare-full-independence-v5nvqqm7t