Thursday, September 11, 2008

Test for Embedding Video

hi - this is a demonstration that

Vue Iguazu depuis lado Brasil from Alex & Mila on Vimeo.

embedding video can be done from SOF.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Messing around to prepare AAGs

i don't know about Google Docs vs Zoho Creator

here's google doc's attempt

Friday, May 30, 2008

revelations course suggestions

i've been reading through a lot of the blogs and putting comments on some of them as well. i'm not going to be able to get to all 87 students before june 2.

this is additional reason to do what i've been suggesting all year - help each other.

also, please look at the suggestions i've made on other peoples' blogs - most people have the same weaknesses so its likely that the suggestions i would put on your paper i've already put on other peoples'. these suggestions can be seen down on the right hand margin of this blog, under cocomment.

you're trying to figure out an aspect of the world - and figure out one of the main ways we figure out the world. its a big deal.

i would also suggest that you each use subheadings in the main text of the big essay like, "Description, Compare & Contrast, Analysis, Deconstruction, Evaluation."

and that you try to weave the arguments so it is more compare and contrast and analysis and less a clunky sequence of summaries.

once you've got a good big essay pick 1-2 texts (excerpts from big esssay, RLP essay, etc) and really work it for possible inclusion in the book.

good luck.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Obama wins Iowa (which matters but not that much)

There are four issues that obama's win in iowa requires us to consider -

could he win?
i think he could.

his intelligence is obvious, he's a churchgoer, his rhetoric is inspiring to the media and some of the masses, he's raised surprising amounts of money from the ruling class, he's good-looking and radiates an uncommon emotional maturity. everyone understands that he's much more electable than rodham-clinton.

i don't think that the ruling class stands opposed to him - his rhetoric of a united america is exactly the feel-good nationalism the elite need to balance the brutality of the bush regime and perpetuate this suicidal system's appearance of legitimacy. some folks will oppose him - he is a liberal and some rightwingers will attempt to focus their fear weapons. but i think he wins in any head-to-head against any of the republicans, unless the media suddenly betrays him (like they did dean).

could his mixed-race heritage (i.e. for most voters being "black") be an important obstacle? at this point there is still a solid coalition for white supremacy in the u.s. (too many prisons, lots of black children in poverty, no reparations) but i think most folks congratulate themselves on their fair-mindedness in discounting an individual's skin-color. in fact, that's the framework that white supremacy has evolved - racism on an individual level is rude and unfair since each individual deserves a certain dignity - the dignity of each individual requires that we ignore collective inequality.

black face in a high place?
a black president would be a society-altering situation. peoples' sense of reality is increasingly dominated by media images - daily images of a very intelligent and charming black president would be strong influence against perceptions of black inferiority, among folks of all colors.

obviously obama would also be wildly popular in the rest of the world. a black president who plays basketball and has won a grammy award? they totally fell for clinton - they would plunge for obama. he would enable the scared/lazy/delusional folks all over the planet to pretend that the most powerful nation in the world isn't a juggernaut that they have the burdensome obligation of opposing.

substantial policy change?
i don't expect there would be any substantial political reform because of an obama presidency. if anyone would know what needs done, it would be a former poor-people's organizer. if he wrote the book i read (dreams from my father) i think he's very sharp and very aware.

but the strategy he's chosen (the uniter, the populist let's-all-get-along, at best the i too sing sing america), while very likely the only possible winning strategy available to him means that he won't be able to simply bulldoze right-wingers. and policies that are compromises with right-wingers will always be broken policies with self-destruct buttons built in.

a black militant, heck, anyone militant that isn't obviously just play-acting like edwards can't win the game as currently rigged. this is why kucinich - an actual social democrat - isn't allowed to play.

basically with obama we'd be looking at another clinton - at best the clinton of attempting and failing to get better health care - at worst the clinton of compromise with gingrich's contract on america.

general limitations on presidential power
the main issues facing our culture, as i see them are;
  • ecological unsustainability
  • meaninglessness, delusionality, & stupidity
  • class exploitation
  • imperialism
could any president significantly address these problems? not really - these issues are knotted tightly, are fundamental to the basic structure of our culture, and would be difficult to get at even without major opposition - and major opposition would certainly manifest against any real attempt to restructure this society.

real power (economic, military) is the main determinant of the shape of the political structure, policy, and the rest of the culture. this is a fairly crude notion, and its been a long time since marx argued it, but i think it is also largely true.

relatedly, the constitutional structure was explicitly intended to make dramatic political change basically impossible in the absence of (an impossible) consensus.

in basketball terms even michael jordan couldn't win a game if the opposing team was the nba all-stars, his supporting players were the worst JV football players from a small high school in alabama, and the refs, scorekeeper, and timekeeper were all paid by the opposing team.

but the game would keep people watching (possibly peeking through their fingers) and i think that's what the election game is intended to accomplish and would also be the primary function of an obama presidency.

what do you think?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Five Reasons For Public Schools To Defend Wikipedia

1. Many students who feel intimidated or excluded by the language, style, and location of other sources actually feel comfortable with Wikipedia. They feel they have an easily accessible, fairly comprehensive, and comprehensible introduction to many topics. Thus, an attack on Wikipedia is an attack on one of the few footholds that many students have into the overwhelming and complex realm of research. I think this could lead a student who might have explored a topic cursorily on Wikipedia (and maybe get interested by all the enticing hot links) to simply not do the assignment at all, or to skim an introduction on a non-engaging, non-hot-linked “authorized” site.

2. The primary charge against Wikipedia seems to be that “anyone” could edit the pages, which is alleged to makes it unreliable. Well, our students are “anyone” and so are we! If you disrespect the intellect and knowledge of the “anyone” you are also disrespecting our students. The claim that only PhDs and other “authorized scholars” can contribute to our collective knowledge is not only elitist it is also wrong. Did Benjamin Franklin have a PhD? Was Frederick Douglass allowed to? The students are sent the clear message that their words and ideas are not valued now, and will only be valued when they are PhDs or celebrities. This is profoundly disempowering to our students and, to my eyes, a direct continuation of the logic of corporate standardized tests and other assaults on the possibility of critical pedagogy.

3. The attack on Wikipedia has prompted the Wikipedia decision-makers to “tighten” Wikipedia by empowering a corps of monitors with the power to make arbitrary editing decisions. In at least several of the pages I regularly monitor the information content, the critical insight, and the language of the pages has deteriorated significantly. Wikipedia is only a half-open source at this point. Has anyone else noticed the parallels between the building of the walls in Palestine and New Mexico and the elite outrage at Wikipedia’s audacity in offering a non-authorized source of research? Julia Kristeva could have predicted all this.

4. The implication of the argument “Wikipedia is unreliable” is that other sources by “authorized scholars” ARE fundamentally reliable. Rather than make the simple, coherent, and correct argument that ALL sources contain bias, distortion, inconsistent citation, and other obstacles to a clear understanding of the world, by implication the “authorized” sources get an unearned certificate of credibility which (in my research experience) is misleading.

5. The “authorized sources” (usually) validate hegemonic views of the world. That is why they are authorized – one doesn’t require a PhD in Marxism to know that economic and political elites are able to shape the discourses of authorized academic knowledge to provide another bastion for their privilege. The attack on Wikipedia sends our students into the nets of the hegemonic sources AND attempts to convince them of the necessity of authorization by the (hegemonic) elite. I think I’m repeating many of the arguments of the Protestant revolution.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Global Warming Update

Game over on global warming?
Action would have to be radical -- but climate change can be slowed.
By Alan Zarembo, Times Staff Writer
February 5, 2007,0,1388116,full.story

Everybody in the United States could switch from cars to bicycles.

The Chinese could close all their factories.

Europe could give up electricity and return to the age of the lantern.

But all those steps together would not come close to stopping global warming.

A landmark report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released Friday, warns that there is so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that even if concentrations held at current levels, the effects of global warming would continue for centuries.

There is still hope. The report notes that a concerted world effort could stave off the direst consequences of global warming, such as widespread flooding, drought and extreme weather.

Ultimately eliminating the global warming threat, however, would require radical action.

To stabilize atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide — the primary contributor to global warming — CO2 emissions would have to drop 70% to 80%, said Richard Somerville, a theoretical meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

Such a reduction would bring emissions into equilibrium with the planet's ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The last time the planet was in balance was more than 150 years ago, before the widespread use of coal and steam engines.

What would it take to bring that kind of reduction?

"All truck, all trains, all airplanes, cars, motorcycles and boats in the United States — that's 7.3% of global emissions," said Gregg Marland, a fossil fuel pollution expert at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Closing all fossil-fuel-powered electricity plants worldwide and replacing them with windmills, solar panels and nuclear power plants would make a serious dent — a 39% reduction globally, Marland said.

His calculation doesn't include all the fossil fuels that would have to be burned to build the greener facilities, though.

Trees could be planted to absorb more carbon dioxide. But even if every available space in the United States were turned into woodland, Marland said, it would not come close to offsetting U.S. emissions.

"There is not enough land area," he said.

The United States accounts for nearly a quarter of the carbon dioxide released each year, according to government statistics. China, in second at about 15%, is gaining fast.

If the rest of the world returned to the Stone Age, carbon concentrations would still rise.

Carbon does not dissipate rapidly. Some is eventually absorbed by oceans and plants, but about half stays in the atmosphere. And there is no easy way to get it out.

Maintaining current levels would require reducing worldwide carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20 billion tons a year, federal statistics suggest.

For some perspective on that number, consider an icon of the green movement: a 2007 Toyota Prius. Driving it 12,000 miles releases 4,200 pounds of carbon dioxide.

If hybrid cars replaced all 245 million cars in the United States — more than a third of the cars in the world — the carbon savings would be less than 3% of the needed reduction.

Rapid industrial development in some of the most populous nations has compounded the problem. Their burgeoning emissions could swamp environmental gains in other countries.

In India, carbon dioxide emissions increased 39% between 1993 and 2004 — nearly double the global rate. The figure was 36% in Indonesia. China, which saw a 45% rise, now opens a coal-fired power plant every week to 10 days.

Given the scale of the problem, experts see no realistic way to lower the concentration of atmospheric carbon.

In fact, Robert Socolow, a carbon mitigation expert at Princeton University, said that even if the entire world stopped burning fossil fuels, carbon wouldn't approach pre-Industrial Revolution levels for several hundred years.

The only possibility now is to slow the buildup of carbon. If emissions can be reduced enough, the gradual process of warming can be stretched into centuries.

From this perspective, there is some hope. Though the savings from any one measure may look small, in combination, they could add up to something significant, experts said.

There is no shortage of ideas.

The Environmental Protection Agency's administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, said high-efficiency appliances and other products in the Energy Star program last year eliminated greenhouse gas emissions equal to the pollution from 23 million cars.

"As a citizen, each of us has an opportunity to make a difference," he said Friday after the release of the U.N. report.

He urged people to use compact fluorescent light bulbs, which provide the same light as a standard bulb on two-thirds of the energy.

Replacing one standard light bulb in every U.S. home would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.

Tips from TerraPass Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif., include going back to clotheslines.

The company, which promotes alternative energy, says eliminating a family's dryer could save electricity equivalent to 1,016 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Socolow said the ultimate solution might rely on technology.

He said his research suggested that by improving energy efficiency now and phasing out fossil fuels over the next 100 years, carbon concentrations could remain within safe levels.

The biggest polluter, he said, should lead the way: "The U.S. is going to have to decarbonize."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Racial Politics


I was perplexed by the article "Racial Politics of Speaking Well". Something about the tone struck me as false - I wasn't sure why but I thought it had to with the decision of who to quote for the various agreeable noises that the author managed to solicit.

Then when I read this line (directed at white folks), the largely unspoken function of class privilege in the piece became embarassingly obvious.

"With the ballooning size of the black middle and upper class, qualities in blacks like intelligence, eloquence — the mere ability to string sentences together with tenses intact — must at some point become as unremarkable to whites as they are to blacks."

Rather than respond to the general white supremacist disrespect implied by the use of the word "articulate" as applied toward black folks, Ms. Clemestson (at least as here edited) claimed a special exemption for herself and her balloonist pals. Could whoever handles this email remind her that, "Such a subtext is inherently offensive..."?

I am lucky to teach some working class and poor black folks at a Manhattan public school, and I can tell Ms. Clemetson that they're intelligent, articulate, and eloquent too. Heck, they'd even be quotable if journalists could get their high class noses out of the "Who's Who" guide. Middleclassness is not necessary for intelligence.

I have to confess that my emotional reaction to this elitism costumed as weary-equality-seeking is somewhat less refined than "amused dismay". We all have our disloyal moments, but please not while riding a moral high horse in front of millions of readers.