Striking the Syrian dictatorship’s military facilities and degrading them makes no sense without a broader political agenda. The moral argument Obama and Kerry are using to defend limited armed intervention is understandable but too little too late and, much worse, senseless without a political framework. By avoiding any mention of a political framework, it leads us further away from difficult solutions that could be developed if we were willing to consider the real economic and defense interests of Iran, Turkey, Kurds, and Russia, to mention a few actors. All of this has become harder than ever, yet more needed precisely because it is harder and there is no good option. There would have been more possibilities if we had sat down with Russia and China two years ago and established some ground to negotiate the sharing of power in Southeast Asia, the Causasian area, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. And of course if we lowered our military posture regarding Russia by keeping NATO within narrow boundaries after the fall of the USSR. Or regarding China in the Pacific. Things might have been very different now if we had begun real negotiations with Iran instead of conducting war against it via sanctions and going nowhere. Now the administration is proposing to plunge again into a conflict that is all too easily framed religiously in the absence of other economic, social, legal frameworks. If we strike, we are on the side of Sunni rebel forces in Syria (some of them hostile to the US) and perceived to be with the Sunnis in control of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc., in a mounting conflict with the Shi’as of Iran, Irak, Lebanon (Hezbollah), and the Alawites of Syria. Read Juan Cole and especially today’s opinion by Alex de Waal and Bridget Conley-Zilkic on the need for a political roadmap and the absurdity of using military punishment alone.
Eden is that old-fashioned House
We dwell in every day
Without suspecting our abode
Until we drive away.
How fair on looking back, the Day
We sauntered from the Door—
Unconscious our returning,
But discover it no more.
The Stevenson apartments at UCSC were recently christoed:
Like hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, I was upset to hear that UCSC management decided to discontinue Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Too expensive and not self-sustainable. I was surprised by the decision itself, puzzled by the apparent lack or narrowness of the consultation, and stunned by the timing of its announcement, right before the end of the 2013 season. It is hard to think of UCSC ending a brilliant, well-known program for financial reasons. I didn’t say “strictly” financial reasons because I think other reasons may have played a role. I believe that the way one chases after dollars reveals political choices.
The main reason given for the decision is that the company has needed public financing to the tune of about 350,000 dollars a year since the 2009 season (or a bit more). The news clip says that it is 750,000 dollars short this year, with the cumulative debt calculated to be almost two million dollars. Hence the conclusion that there is no hope for the company of ever being “self-sustainable.”
Ticket receipts alone cannot pay for cultural events. No library, music, art programs can pay for themselves. The economic argument would have to take the long (fifty year?) view, and economics is not good at that. To learn about one’s humanity via live plays (not all from Shakespeare) is priceless. Its rate of return over generations in the way of more comprehension of oneself and each other can only be guessed at… Anyway, my back-of-an-envelope calculations of ticket revenues say that receipts for ten thousand tickets would bring 300,000 dollars. I couldn’t find information on the company’s budget and numbers. Long-term gifts are probably modest though the website lists many donors. So, yes indeed, public money—i.e. state support and students’ fees (in effect a tax)—has to match ticket revenues and more.
The UCSC administration decided that this is problematic and unsustainable. It would be about tough choices: instruction (more cash support for courses during the year) versus cultural luxuries. I don’t see how management can claim that the need to guarantee instruction is at odds with the support of Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Of course, given the way the UC budget is constructed, it can be made to look like that. The reality, however, is that the financing of buildings, equipment, and new programs (including a planned museum of arts and sciences, see below) is constantly pitted against instruction proper, and in a massive way. It is strange to claim that money allocated to support Shakespeare Santa Cruz is taken from the budget for instruction. Shakespeare SC is part of instruction, broadly conceived.
I wonder about the details of the expense column in the budget of Shakespeare SC. How much is charged for salaries, travel, lodging? How much for use of halls, facilities, equipment? What kind of recharges are being practiced, especially in the summer? How much overhead? Regarding some of those expenses, my closest adviser suggests: can’t they be brought under control by making the company part of the Theater Arts Department and teaching program, with credit for students, and non-rechargeable use of rooms and facilities? In other words, can’t expenses be reduced by re-examining budgetary practices?
In the capital projects listed in the 2012–13 bird’s eye view budget for UCSC, it is a big surprise to see 30 million dollars earmarked for a University Museum of the Arts and Sciences. One also wonders about the wisdom of spending 6 to 8 million dollars year in, year out, for University Relations and development. One question this type of spending brings up regards how much money will be needed to pay for on-going exhibits, curator personnel, etc. Where is it going to come from? Another question is about the politics of fund-raising. Has Shakespeare Santa Cruz been dropped from the University Relations’ agenda because it is in potential conflict with fund-raising needs for this future museum? I am afraid this decision and prioritizing are going to have a disastrous effect on potential donors. It looks to me like a PR disaster.
What kind of consultation was there on these matters? Although there is no reference to it in the postings I saw, I suppose the advice of the Academic Senate committees was sought, beginning with that of the Committee on Planning and Budget. It would be truly sad to learn these committees approved of terminating Shakespeare Santa Cruz.
35 ans au bon soldat Schweik/Manning pour avoir révélé des choses auxquelles des centaines sinon des milliers de soldats avaient accès, partiel ou non. Un peu comme Snowden. Ce qui crée une grande nervosité dans les agences de renseignement et les administrations capitalistes est l’impossibilité dans laquelle elles se mettent de contrôler l’acquisition et le traitement du renseignement. Des banques de données massives, c’est aussi des banques d’ordinateurs, des programmes spécialisés en changement constant, et un personnel technique nombreux. Pas facile de séparer la construction d’algorithmes du travail sur les données elles-mêmes, j’imagine. Pas facile non plus de séparer le renseignement militaire du renseignement commercial: l’axiome de la sécurité à tout prix mène à une analyse des tendances financières, technologiques, éducatives, religieuses qui peut être utile à d’autres que des agences gouvernementales. Manning ou Snowden menacent la prétention de la démocratie capitaliste à être ouverte au moment où elle se ferme de plus en plus. L’expression “démocratie capitaliste”, positive pour lui, est de T. Friedman qui l’emploie dans le NYT d’aujourd’hui et la voit comme le but idéal et maintenant inaccessible de l’Egypte. Si l’idée d’une punition exemplaire est de forcer à la fidélité, la question devient: fidélité à quoi? Quand les patrons de Manning ou Snowden passent du gouvernement, ou ce qui passe pour tel, au conseil ou à la gestion de l’industrie, des services, ou de la banque, à quoi sont-ils fidèles?
I just learned that R. Bellah died on July 31. His many writings are part of the classic literature of social science. For instance Habits of the heart and most recently his admirable Religion in human evolution (Harvard 2012), that I keep close at hand.
Tyndale House, Cambridge, is making public a website offering many ancient and modern versions of the Bible in many languages. The website is under active development and calls for volunteers. Some of its features are:
- Hebrew versions based on Aleppo and esp. Leningrad codices, with ref. to Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Biblia Hebraica Quinta;
- Greek versions (Rahlfs, without accents or breathings, and Greek orthodox version);
- Each verse number is a link to a floating window giving all the Hebrew or Greek vocabulary in that verse;
- Two-panel view an option, with synchronization of one version and another;
- Search capability, maps, etc.
Screen shot of site:
A few quick paragraphs in today’s NYT by David Brooks on Charles Taylor’s massive tome of 2007 on the secular age. Not surprisingly, Brooks manages to keep to his usual dualism and turn spirituality, whatever that is, into a marketable brand that might continue to deliver “fullness.” Taylor’s major question, according to Brooks: why would the default ideological position be belief in god(s) in the Middle Ages, but suspension of that belief in modern times? First off: one would have to make sure this question has a broader sphere of application than Europe and affines. Second: the two main notions in the phrase “Belief in God” have their own distinct meaning and evolution. Regarding the first: how do we know what the capacity to believe mean? Regarding the second: what is believed in, especially the putative reality pointed at by the word “god” or any other object, may have been vastly different at different periods of our history. The god of the middle ages was shaped by these beliefs as often as not, as the objects of modern beliefs are too. Perhaps a large number of people found it as easy in the Middle Ages as in our times not to bother too deeply about the “belief” part in God, even while singing or mumbling credo in unum deum. They were as adept at figuring their “belief” and “disbelief” in all kinds of ways when dealing with neighbors, patrons or lieges, princes and king, bishops and pope, as we are now when dealing with the transcendental ends and equilibrium-to-come of modern transportation, health, insurance, work, religious and media systems.
It strains belief to think there are now more unbelieving, confirmation-seeking Thomases. The point of the old Thomas story is that they have been around for a long time, and the nature of belief has always been at stake. Brooks at one point says of our own society: “Individuals don’t live embedded in tight social orders; they live in buffered worlds of private choices.” Nice regurgitation of the modern consumer’s catechism! Of course we live embedded in tight social orders. A good example is Brooks’ employer, the NYT: talk about embedding, including in wars “of choice” recently encouraged by this paper. Do we really choose our masters?
Taylor: “The yearning for eternity is not the trivial and childish thing it is painted as.” Brooks’ reading: We are now able to pursue fullness. And ancient or medieval period people were not? This is simply a paean to the present as being the only possible period one could live in. Duh. Brooks again: “People in search of fullness are able to harvest the intellectual, cultural and spiritual gains of the past 500 years.” The editorialist here is doing what is expected of him: treat matters heretofore left to another realm beyond calculation as harvestable, capitalizable, as gains that can usefully lead to some feeling of satiety. Exactly what people have problems with: looking for fullness and thinking that using a 100 ft yacht, drinking from a huge coke bottle, or skimming an 800-page tome on the richness of spiritual horizons get us that much closer to it.
I recommend Valentino’s ghost, a 93-minute film by Michael Singh released 13 May 2013 and that I chanced to see yesterday in Detroit on PBS/WCMU. It shows how media stereotyping of Arabs in the US media interacts with US foreign policy especially since the seventies. Since 2001, things have gotten worse and it has become socially, psychologically, and even legally okay in the US to stereotype Arabs and Islam. One of the surprises: to hear Walter Cronkite manage to say a sentence or two, when commenting on the terrorist attacks of the seventies, on the context.
Here is the summary provided by www.imdb.com:
The documentary exposes the ways in which America’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East drives the U.S. media’s portrayals of Arabs and Muslims. The film lays bare the truths behind taboo subjects that are conspicuously avoided, or merely treated as sound bites, by the mainstream American media: “Why do they hate us?” “Why do we hate them?” What were the events that led to the 9/11 attacks? What are the politics behind the U.S.-Israeli relationship? Why is there a robust debate about these subjects in Europe, the Arab World and in Israel itself, but not in the U.S.? Valentino’s Ghost provides a fresh inquiry which challenges the media’s daily barrage of rhetoric and misinformation about our complex and vital relationship with this part of the world.
Many of the people interviewed for the film are well known if not sufficiently heard: John Mearsheimer, Robert Fisk. Michael Singh. It is semi-favorably reviewed by the NYT.
Is Kundera right in writing that “what terrifies us about death is not the loss of the future but the loss of the past?” What is meant by loss here? Meaninglessness, rather than namelessness? That is, the idea that the best of ourselves, that which “obeyed,” trusted in, or was vectorized by something greater than oneself (Torah driven, etc.) would drift into nothingness if we abandoned that faith—with its leaps of trust—for signs and indications of a messianic future always to come and never to be realized.