Early indications are that there is a high turnout in favor of moderate-conservative candidate, Hassan Rohani (around whom most reform-liberal-minded Iranians have rallied in order to send a message of protest to the powers that be). There is rampant speculation that, just as four years ago, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will disregard the message and appoint his own candidate to the post.
I think this speculation is largely misplaced. It is entirely possible that Rohani will in fact be declared the winner, for the following reasons:
- The Guardian Council went out of its way this time around to approve candidates who would not pose any threats to the integrity of the system, and Rohani’s credentials in this regard are inarguable;
- Rohani is exactly the type of stabilizing figure the regime needs now. He will basically stay mute on all matters of social and political oppression while implementing the unified view of the ruling class without much objection. He is no Khatami or even Ahmadinejad in this regard. He is as subordinate as he is cautious; and
- Allowing Rohani to win will send a signal to the public that so long as they go on with the cosmetic alternatives set before them by the ruling class then there will be no ostentatious displays of violence and vote rigging.
What’s the sum result of all this? In the absence of no meaningful change (since problems are structural), the public is likely to quickly grow disenchanted with Rohani and grow ever more apathetic.
So the winner of this particular election is undoubtedly the ruling class. The ship has been steadied for a brief moment, but a storm is already gathering.
If, however, prudence fails the ruling class and one of the hardline conservatives is declared the winner, then a tsunami of epic proportions will have been unleashed.
You get good, honest-to-god liberals to argue the complexities and nuances of the case - regardless of what the overall offense to basic freedoms or common decency (not to mention basic intelligence) might be.
Exhibit A, this shrill piece of serious-sounding analysis which indicts The Guardian story on the grounds that it misses the overall point about the “efficiency” and “streamlining” aims of NSA’s PRISM program. The claim here is that PRISM merely allows the NSA to more efficiently mine data once a FISA warrant has been granted. The implication being that no possible abuses can take place since, you know, the government will probably have demonstrated sufficient cause once the warrant is issued. And just who are the sources for this ingenious work of investigative credulity? The Director of National Intelligence’s statement, the public statements of partner companies, and the rubber-stamp reporting of the story by WashPo and the Times.
So presumably these are the same FISA courts that have indicted so many in the War on Terror without sufficient evidence or probable cause since 2001? You know, those terrorist “masterminds” and “ringleaders” who, purportedly, in spite of all the evidence in the world against them are in legal limbo in Guantanamo Bay. And why might that be the case? Because the supposedly solid evidence against them is a mere jumble of patterns and inferences drawn from a streamlined set of data.
Now, I’m not arguing that one should forsake proper scrutiny of The Guardian’s story or Edward Snowden’s motivations - that’s not my point here. Rather, I’m arguing that we mustn’t dismiss the very important questions about the quite terrible legal and political justifications behind such surveillance programs simply because the Director of National Intelligence or the President (a) tell us there are privacy protections amidst what is clearly a most intrusive government operation; and (b) happen to be Democrats or serving Democrats.
If FISA courts have not previously been immune to willful errors and rampant secrecy, then of what possible comfort is it to know that near-infinite streams of online and analog data will be treated much differently? This is what is at issue here.
So, to all the smart-ass bloggers out there wishing to safeguard their illusory online utopias, please, for the sake of common sense, read a tract or two on the fragility of basic freedoms before you decide to drown your agency in the pool of “nuances” and “complexities” built upon and filled up by those wishing to either sell you products or treat you like a hapless child.
Predictably, there’s been a great deal of hyperbolic statements both in favor and against the NSA leaks that were facilitated by the Booz Allen Hamilton employee, Edward Snowden.
Rather than merely reproduce the outrage directed at the revelations (for whatever reasons) - which, to be honest, if one is even passingly familiar with some of the provisions in the Patriot Act, should be of no surprise - I’d like to point out the following:
- We clearly need a new legal paradigm to match the security super-structure that seems to have a set of shaky but nevertheless lawful justifications of its own. Surveillance of one’s private correspondence and online activities is a serious infringement of one’s rights without proper (legal) recognition of probable cause. Why the Patriot Act can still escape the Supreme Court’s scrutiny on this issue is really quite baffling;
- We need to stop glorifying/vilifying the whistleblower, when the principle in question requires sober legal and political analysis. I’m sure Snowden, like most of us mere mortals, has enough good and bad in his history to be framed and characterized every which way, depending on the stance one might take on his actions. But once we enter that domain, then we lose sight of the act and its legal/political standing in the face of quite significant public interest questions;
- National security leaks belong to a decidedly gray area. We just don’t know enough about the details of motivations and actions involved to confidently form an intelligent opinion. My natural sympathies are with whistleblowers in such cases, but why should we simply block out Snowden’s previous history with the NSA (why did he join an organization that clearly and intentionally operates in extra-judicial terrains?). He didn’t need to be exposed to the ins-and-outs of PRISM to know that his long-cherished ideals were already out the door once he became an employee. This is not to suggest that we should write-off people simply because they too might have their hands dirty - rather, my point is that we should not make heroes or villains out of them when we know so very little about them to begin with; and
- The President of the United States just happens to also be a constitutional lawyer. Surely he owes it to the American public to offer a sound and clear legal justification of such ostensibly intrusive and vast surveillance programs beyond empty assurances of “No one’s reading your e-mails! No one’s listening to your phone calls!” The fact of the matter is that people are worried about the potential for errors and criminal activities - he should know better than to simply invoke the scary image of terrorists at the gates!
Adam Lowther (Air) and Jan Kallberg (Texas):Nuclear Deterrence in a Second Obama Term. One world government and the war of tomorrow: In 1950, journalist Vincent Sheean argued that renouncing national sovereignty was the only way to prevent nuclear war. Ali Diskaya reviews Nuclear Weapons in the Information Age by Stephen J. Cimbala. Less is more: Elizabeth Pond on reducing American nuclear missile defense in Europe. On the tenth anniversary of America’s optional war, how ready would Americans be to nuke another country? New documents reveal how a 1980s nuclear war scare became a full-blown crisis. China, India and Pakistan have increased their nuclear weapons by about 10 warheads each in the past year, and other nuclear states appear set on maintaining their arsenals. Humanity imperiled: Noam Chomsky on nuclear weapons and the path to disaster.
The photographer and teacher’s ability to capture unique photos has made her an Instagram celebrity.
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Do scholars read less as they age?
Most do and some don’t.
Why do most read less? In my experience, they do so because they have to pay more attention to what they wish to say to the world.
This may seem problematic for a host of reasons, but no one should really care. It’s not a worrying trend and it doesn’t hurt the world one bit. Reading more is simply not a virtue.
Reading and contemplating well is really the ultimate measure, but how do you define what “well” means here? You really can’t.
But this doesn’t mean that any scholar is just as good as the next one. Important works of scholarship shake one’s view of things and shed light on what has hitherto been in darkness, hidden from general view. They lead one to discoveries of big and small and set in motion a series of shouts and murmurs.
Alas, many stars besides clear writing and solid evidence have to align for such work to appear (e.g. good networking), so after all the hard work one is still somewhat at the mercy of chance.
I for one love the challenge. I don’t care much about high citation counts or any discernible impact on any field or group of people - just the process itself. I like the feelings of joy and disappointment, of wonder and sheer uncertainty, of seemingly perpetual insecurity and envy - all in equal measure. Each of these feelings batter the ego day and night because in the end they only leave one with the possibility of defending what’s on the page: words, sentences, paragraphs. Marginal or mainstream, one’s work ultimately has to be judged in reference to the labor expended on it.
So, in a way, the basic question in any work of scholarship is: is/was it worth the labor?
“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” Mr. Obama said. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
Mr. Obama rejected the notion of an expansive war on terrorism and instead articulated a narrower understanding of the mission for the United States. “Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America,” he said.
What’s truly shocking is that he didn’t make a similar argument during his first term. I don’t understand why the surge in Afghanistan was necessary if he truly understands the struggle against terrorism to be defined by targeted efforts. Why now? He offered a flimsy response, but not at all a satisfying one.
This, in a nutshell, is the incoherent core of Obama’s foreign policy. He’s very eloquent and ethically realistic about the burden of responsibility on US leadership in this area, but his refusal to introduce robust legal and ethical standards for the conduct of military operations gives the impression that he’s merely offering a personal perspective, not an official one. He is the President of the United States - not just Barack Obama. We all know who the person is and what he wishes to do, but it’d be nice if he actually wielded the powers he’s been granted by the public to implement his agenda. He can do it in foreign affairs much more effectively than in domestic affairs, and my problem with him is that he needlessly seems hesitant.
I’m not a fan of her work or particular tone and style of criticism, but her takedown of the increasingly incoherent and jargon-ridden ways of gender/sex studies amounts to an instructive and timely intervention:
It is unclear whether the grave problems with these books stemmed from the authors’ wary job maneuvering in a depressed market or were imposed by an authoritarian academic apparatus of politically correct advisers and outside readers. But the result is a deplorable waste. What could and should have been enduring contributions to both scholarship and cultural criticism have been deeply damaged by the authors’ rote recitation of theoretical clichés.
I mean, you’ve just just about lost all normal mental functions as a human being if you find even an iota of meaning, let alone insight, in the following sentence mined by Paglia from one of the books under review:
“In Butler’s work, intelligibility provides a horizon of recognition for subjectivity itself, within which all subjects are either recognizable or unrecognizable as subjects.”