Why Adjuncts Need More Than Solidarity


Gordon Haber in HIPPO Reads:

I want to stop blogging about adjuncting because (a) there are more qualified people doing it and (b) it doesn’t earn me any money. And then something comes along that irritates me so much I feel compelled to respond.

A.W. Strouse recently wrote an op-ed for The Chronicle of Higher Education criticizing the “wild popularity of a new genre of academic writing: the graduate-student blog about the evils of graduate school.”

Let’s leave aside that nothing related to academia is “wild.” Strouse’s piece is irksome to me for its criticism of academic peons who are sick of living in penury (for more see “Death of an Adjunct” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the story of this homeless professor). What is most irksome—and inadvertently quite revealing—is that nowhere in the piece does Strouse directly address why graduate students and adjuncts are so upset:because they are starving.

Maybe we do need an “ethics of solidarity” between graduate students, adjuncts and tenured faculty, as Strouse suggests. But there is one overarching problem: graduate students and tenure-track faculty are too afraid to help adjuncts, and tenured faculty do not seem to care much about adjuncts.

More here.

Dr. Mads Gilbert: Solidarity with Gaza! If no siege, no tunnels! – If no occupation, no rockets!

My brother Tasnim Raza, who is a surgeon, volunteered to go and help the wounded in Gaza but was told he would not be allowed to enter.

Dr. Mads Gilbert from Tromsø, Norway, was working at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza during the last Israeli onslaught on Gaza. When he returned from Gaza to his home-town Tromsø on July 31, 2014, he went straight from the airport to give this spontaneous speech at a large solidarity demonstration for Gaza held at the same time.

When it comes to expertise, 10,000 hours of practice isn’t enough

Fiona Rutherford in New Statesman:

NatureWhat distinguishes a few exceptional talents from a mediocre majority? Is it hours upon hours of monotonous dedication to perfecting a skill? Or is it rather an innate gift, like a natural ability or talent? The nature versus nurture debate as applied to intelligence and expertise is not new. Since the mid-1800s scientists have been questioning whether experts are “born” or “made”. Sir Francis Galton, the 19th-century founder of the field of behavioral genetics, proposed that experts are born to be experts. He believed that ultimately our innate abilities limit the level of performance an individual can achieve, and practice is only necessary for reaching an expert level of performance. Yet later mid-20th century psychologists – like John Watson, one of the founders of behaviourism – denied innate abilities or the existence of talent, and instead proposed that practicing more intensively than others is probably the only reasonable explanation for success and accomplishment.

…However, a new study published in Psychological Science suggests otherwise. A team of sceptical psychologists has challenged the fashionable deliberate practice theory by testing whether it's supported by experimental evidence. The results make it clear that 10,000 hours of practice is not a guarantee of expertise in every field. The researchers from Princeton University, led by psychologist Brooke Macnamara, conducted a meta-analysis of the available scientific literature on deliberate practice in music, sports, educations, games and professions. A meta-analysis is a kind of “study of studies”, where scientists try to look at the big picture in a field and reconcile the findings of multiple studies from different teams around the world. While the implications of a single study on deliberate practice might be only mildly useful, when statistically analysed with similar research it can give results that are much more definitive. Meta-analyses have been vital in proving that there is no link between vaccines and autism, for example. The results showed that 26 per cent of the variance in individual performance for games could be explained by practice, dropping to 21 per cent for music and 18 per cent for sports. Interestingly, deliberate practice was shown to be far less important for education – a minuscule 4 per cent – and less than 1 per cent for professions.

More here.

Friday Poem

A Clarification

Judas did not mean to “betray” me—he never even knew such big words.
He was simply “a man of the market,” and all he did—when the buyers came—was sell me.

Was the price too low?
Not at all. Thirty silver coins are no small thing for a man made from dirt.

My dearest friends were all Judas, were all: men of the market.

by Najwari Darwish
from Anthologie Poetique
Al-Feel Publications, Jerusalem, 2012
translation Kareem Abu-Zeid

Cancer categories recast in largest-ever genomic study

From MedicalXpress:

CancerNew research partly led by UC San Francisco-affiliated scientists suggests that one in 10 cancer patients would be more accurately diagnosed if their tumors were defined by cellular and molecular criteria rather than by the tissues in which they originated, and that this information, in turn, could lead to more appropriate treatments. In the largest study of its kind to date, scientists analyzed molecular and genetic characteristics of more than 3,500 tumor samples of 12 different cancer types using multiple genomic technology platforms. Cancers traditionally have been categorized by their “tissue of origin”—such as breast, bladder, or . But tissues are composed of different types of cells, and the new work indicates that in many cases the type of cell affected by cancer may be a more useful guide to treatment than the tissue in which a tumor originates.

…Particularly striking results were seen in bladder and breast cancers. At least three different subtypes of were identified, one virtually indistinguishable from lung adenocarcinomas, and another most similar to squamous-cell cancers of the head and neck and of the lungs. (In the new study, these squamous-cell cancers appeared to form their own subtype, whether they originated in the lungs or in the head and neck.) The findings may help explain why patients with bladder cancer “often respond very differently when treated with the same systemic therapy for their seemingly identical cancer type,” said Benz.

More here.

What Would Krishna Do? Or Shiva? Or Vishnu?


Gary Gutting interviews Jonardon Ganeri in the NYT's The Stone (image from Wikimedia commons):

G.G.: What sort of ethical guidance does Hinduism provide?

J.G.: One of the most important texts in the religious life of many Hindus is the Bhagavadgita, the Song of the Lord. The Gita is deeply philosophical, addressing in poetic, inspirational language a fundamental conundrum of human existence: What to do when one is pulled in different directions by different sorts of obligation, how to make hard choices. The hard choice faced by the protagonist Arjuna is whether to go to war against members of his own family, in violation of a universal duty not to kill; or to abstain, letting a wrong go unrighted and breaking a duty that is uniquely his. Lord Krishna counsels Arjuna with the philosophical advice that the moral motivation for action should never consist in expected outcomes, that one should act but not base one’s path of action on one’s wants or needs.

G.G.: This sounds rather like the Kantian view that morality means doing what’s right regardless of the consequences.

J.G.: There are ongoing debates about what sort of moral philosophy Krishna is proposing — Amartya Sen has claimed that he’s a quasi-Kantian but others disagree. More important than this scholarly debate, though, is what the text tells us about how to live: that living is hard, and doing the right thing is difficult; that leading a moral life is at best an enigmatic and ambiguous project. No escape route from moral conflict by imitating the actions of a morally perfect individual is on offer here. Krishna, unlike Christ, the Buddha or Mohammed is not portrayed as morally perfect, and indeed the philosopher Bimal Matilal very aptly describes him as the “devious divinity.” We can but try our best in treacherous circumstances.

G.G.: How does the notion of “karma” fit into the picture?

J.G.: Let me be clear. The idea of karma is that every human action has consequences, but it is not at all the claim that every human action is itself a consequence. So the idea of karma does not imply a fatalistic outlook on life, according to which one’s past deeds predetermine all one’s actions. The essence of the theory is simply that one’s life will be better if one acts in ways that are ethical, and it will be worse if one acts in ways that are unethical.

More here.

Foucault’s Freedom


Richard Marshall interviews Johanna Oksala in 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: You’ve written about Foucault on freedom. Many people argue that Foucault’s position on subjectivity leads to a metaphysical determinism and that is often construed as eliminating human freedom. You disagree with this reading don’t you?

JO: My first book, Foucault on Freedom, engages with the question of how we should understand freedom today. You are right that the charges against Foucault’s philosophy in contemporary debates often focus on the question of the freedom of the subject. According to many of Foucault’s critics, the denial of an autonomous subject leads to the denial of any meaningful concept of freedom, which again leads to the impossibility of emancipatory politics. I argue that, rather than dismissing Foucault’s thought as politically dangerous and holding on to an autonomous and authentic subject for political reasons, it is more fruitful to take seriously the major impact Foucault’s thought has had on our ways of thinking about the subject, and also try to rethink freedom. I trace the different meanings of freedom in the different phases of Foucault’s thought and show how freedom emerges as a key theme in his thought. I emphasize Foucault’s idea that freedom lies in the ontological contingency of the present, in the unpredictability of our ways of thinking, acting and relating to other people.

3:AM: Your new book looks at Foucault and political violence. You disagree with Zizek andMouffe who say that violence is intrinsic to politics forever. Why is Mouffe’s position contradictory? How does your agonistic conception of politics help you dispute their claims?

JO: Yes, my book, Foucault, Politics, and Violence, questions the idea that violence is an ineliminable part of politics. I draw on Foucault to argue that theoretically we should approach violence as historically contingent practices and not as an expression of some primordial hostility. It is important for me to show this because such a philosophical approach opens up a way to political critiques of violence. For a critique of violence to make robust sense rather than merely to amount to wishful thinking, it must establish as a preliminary move that political violence is not necessary. Conversely, the acceptance of an ineliminable link between violence and politics would mark the end of all radical critiques of violence.

More here.

Crossing the Border of Fiction


Kaya Genç on Teju Cole's Open City and Every Day Is for the Thief in the LA Review of Books:

IF YOU DON'T enjoy the company of Teju Cole’s perpetually adrift narrators, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy Open City (2011) or this year’s book, Every Day Is for the Thief. (The author published another version in Nigeria in 2007.) The narrator of Open City is Julius, a young West African wandering the streets of New York City and Brussels; in Every Day, he is an unnamed traveler crisscrossing Lagos. The reader who enjoys a carefully constructed plot may also find these episodic structures devoid of purpose. Where is the narrative arc, such a reader may ask; what exactly is it that Julius searches for? What is he doing, besides remembering stuff, as he walks in New York and Brussels? And why does that other fellow spend so much time in Lagos if the city annoys him so much?

But, while his books may lack conventional plots, Cole’s characters are nevertheless driven by a chain of events, and his characters, if aimless, come fully equipped with histories. Julius, the narrator of Open City, is half-Nigerian, half-German while the narrator of Every Day isa Nigerian living in the United States. Both men are in their early thirties, with highbrow intellectual interests and a weakness for solitary excursions. Julius, who studied in the United States with full scholarship in his youth, is a psychiatrist completing a fellowship. The narrator in Every Day also enjoyed a privileged education in the United States and has aspirations to be an author.

These young men have the intellectual means to analyze their exilic, marginal, postcolonial selves as well as they do thanks to the critical toolboxes of their first-world institutions. (They are familiar with the works of Derrida, Said, and Badiou.) They enjoy discussing issues, like migration and identity, on a theoretical level. Open City’s Julius meets Farouq, a Moroccan guy working at an internet cafe in Brussels, who boasts about having wanted “to be the next Edward Said” in his youth. Julius and Farouq discuss, among other things, Benedict Anderson’s views about the Enlightenment, the significance of sharia law in the post-9/11 world, and Paul de Man’s writings on insight and blindness. Farouq’s thesis on Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space was rejected by his department, a decision he believes was anti-Muslim. (The committee members convened nine days after 9/11.)

Although Cole’s characters seem to feel at home with theoretics, one can’t help but suspect that they use theory as a means to avoid their own problems. Beneath the glossy facade of the highbrow, impressively articulate Julius lies a very different character, as the book’s shocking finale shows, and it seems probable not only that Farouq failed to put the necessary work into his thesis, but that he also used his knowledge of identity politics to shape a politically loaded excuse for his academic failure.

More here.

The Philosophy Medal

Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

6a00d83453bcda69e201a73dfc91c2970d-450wiI recall trembling with excitement that first day last February, as I ran down the icy sidewalk toward the General Secretary’s apartments. It’s hard to believe, this sudden turn of events. There I was, a few months ago, the author of a single monograph on the sources of Klopp’s doctoral dissertation on the concept of inertia. And now, here I am, the homeland's most renowned expert on Kloppism-Noginism, called by the GenSek himself to serve as his loyal tutor! After he was humiliated at the Security Council meeting when the ambassador from the United Provinces of C**** dropped that unscripted question about Klopp’s debt to Epicurus, the GenSek's councillors decided it was time for a crash-course in Kloppist-Noginist philosophy. As if that had anything to do with revolution and state-building!

You have to understand, the GenSek is a fine Kloppist-Noginist, but books just aren’t his forté: he was too busy making revolution back when others were preparing for their exams. His first exposure to Klopp was in prison, where he wound up in the aftermath of some low-level, hunger-driven chicken thievery. He never got his Klopp from a leather-bound volume in the collected works at the Philosophy Faculty. No, that was a luxury reserved to me, and others of my class. The GenSek got it from poverty, from life, from the dank prison air. Now it’s time for me to give him what I can from my world, so that I may thrive in his world. Because it is his world now.

More here.

When Protesting Israel Becomes Hating Jews

Jason Stanley in the Boston Review:

There has been a great deal of attention to anti-Semitic demonstrations in Europe. The demonstrations in Berlin have been particularly hard to watch for those of us who are children of German Jewish refugees, and are aghast at what is happening to the people of Gaza. It is clear from Israeli social media and other sources that the demonstrations are being used as evidence of the threat Israel faces, and as support for Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian lands and the subjugation of its people. It is worthwhile taking the time to explain why here, as so often elsewhere, the politics of hate play directly into the hands of those at whom it is directed. But first, some family history.

My father was raised in Berlin. His favorite park was Olivier Platz, in Charlottenburg; he liked the flowers, and he liked sitting on the benches. He liked watching the people go by the Kurfürstendamm from his grandparent’s balcony. Both of his parents grew up in Berlin, and loved that city dearly. They had picnics in Grunewald. My grandmother and grandfather met their friends at the Kempenski hotel. They were Germans.

Ultimately, of course, my father and his family lost everything. His grandfather, Magnus Davidsohn, was the cantor of the liberal synagogue on the Fasanenstrasse; my father watched it burn. He was beaten on the streets by thugs, beatings that gave him epilepsy. And because of a stroke of magical luck— the stroke that every survivor’s family has— in March of 1939, at the age of 6, he and my grandmother received a visa to the United States. In Germany, they were prosperous. But they arrived in New York City, in August of 1939, with nothing.

More here.

A ferocious biological struggle between mother and baby belies any sentimental ideas we might have about pregnancy

Suzanne Sadedin in Aeon:

ScreenHunter_737 Aug. 07 22.45What sight could be more moving than a mother nursing her baby? What better icon could one find for love, intimacy and boundless giving? There’s a reason why the Madonna and Child became one of the world’s great religious symbols.

To see this spirit of maternal generosity carried to its logical extreme, consider Diaea ergandros, a species of Australian spider. All summer long, the mother fattens herself on insects so that when winter comes her little ones may suckle the blood from her leg joints. As they drink, she weakens, until the babies swarm over her, inject her with venom and devour her like any other prey.

You might suppose such ruthlessness to be unheard-of among mammalian children. You would be wrong. It isn’t that our babies are less ruthless than Diaea ergandros, but that our mothers are less generous. The mammal mother works hard to stop her children from taking more than she is willing to give. The children fight back with manipulation, blackmail and violence. Their ferocity is nowhere more evident than in the womb.

This fact sits uncomfortably with some enduring cultural ideas about motherhood. Even today, it is common to hear doctors talking about the uterine lining as the ‘optimal environment’ for nurturing the embryo. But physiology has long cast doubt on this romantic view.

More here.

The Steven Salaita Affair: Denial of Job to Harsh Critic of Israel Divides Advocates of Academic Freedom

Salaita head shot

Peter Schmidt details the Steven Salaita controversy over at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Leading proponents of academic freedom are divided over a last-minute decision by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to revoke a job offer to a professor accused of incivility in his criticisms of Israel.

Phyllis M. Wise, the campus’s chancellor, and Christophe Pierre, the University of Illinois system’s vice president for academic affairs, informed the job candidate, Steven G. Salaita, on Friday that they were effectively revoking a written offer of a tenured professorship made to him last year by refusing to submit it to the system’s Board of Trustees next month for confirmation.

The two administrators’ letter to Mr. Salaita did not offer an explanation for their decision other than to say they believed the board’s approval of his appointment was unlikely. But they sent their letter just weeks after Mr. Salaita first came under fire on the popular conservative blog The Daily Caller for his incendiary criticisms of Israel, and many faculty members on the campus suspect the rare job-offer revocation was in response to that controversy.

Mr. Salaita did not return emails on Wednesday requesting comment. He had already resigned a position as an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech to take the new position as a tenured professor of American Indian studies at Urbana-Champaign, starting next week.

More here. Corey Robin has a post with links to pieces relating to the affair.

Genocide Watch: the Iraqi Communities Most Endangered by the Rise of ISIL


Bobby Ghosh in Quartz magazine:

Many Shi’ites can flee—some already have—southward, and find refuge among family and those of their own sect; many of my Shi’ite friends in Baghdad are currently sheltering northerners sent to them by religious organizations. Kurds, likewise, have been streaming into the Kurdish-dominated areas to the north and west of ISIL-controlled territory. Yet another minority, the Assyrians, most whom are Christians, have also fled south, and now await succor from the West, especially from groups of well-established Iraqi Christians in the US, who themselves fled previous spasms of persecution.

But other minorities, just as vulnerable to the wrath of ISIL, have neither international support nor nearby refuge. And ISIL seems to have identified them for special persecution.

The Yazidis: Numbering roughly 500,000, and concentrated around Sinjar, this group is ethnically Kurdish and adheres to a faith that has some aspects of ancient Zoroastrianism. Many Iraqi Muslims refer to Yazidis as “devil-worshipers,” because one of the faith’s foundational narratives of a fallen angel is similar to that ofshaitan (or Satan) in Islam. When I traveled to Sinjar in 2003, my Iraqi colleagues, Sunni and Shi’ite alike, used the term “devil-worshipers” as a joke, even a term of endearment. ISIL, however, is taking the false claim of satanism as deadly serious. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Yazidis have already been killed and tens of thousands have been driven into the mountains around Sinjar, where they are exposed to the elements as well as ISIL execution squads.
The Shabak: Also concentrated around Sinjar, the Shabak are about one-tenth as numerous as the Yazidis, and even more vulnerable. Their faith doesn’t lend itself to easy definitions, since it is comprised of several micro-sects with elements of several religions, including Islam, Christianity and the Yazidi faith. Some Shabak identify as Shi’ite; that makes them double-heretics for ISIL, which has taken to kidnapping Shabaks from their villages and neighborhoods in Mosul.

More here.

Ant colony ‘personalities’ shaped by environment

Jonathan Webb in BBC News:

AntColonies of several hundred ants show consistent differences in the way they behave, just like individual people do. Certain behaviours go together – for example, a colony that explores more widely for food also tends to respond more aggressively to an intruder. Such a colony has a more “risk-taking” personality and this was more common in the north, where the climate is colder. “I'm really interested in why personalities exist,” said Sarah Bengston, a PhD student at the University of Arizona who led the research. Her study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Ms Bengston explained that although we know most animals have personalities, we do not yet understand why these evolved. “Sometimes individuals behave differently from one another, and when they do that repeatedly through time, we say that they have a personality.”

As such, there is nothing to stop a colony of insects from having a personality – as Ms Bengston found when she tracked how colonies behaved up and down the western US, both in the wild and when she bundled them up and watched them in the lab. Once back in the lab, whole colonies of 200-600 ants could be filmed inside transparent containers, and the videos analysed to measure things like the level of physical activity and aggressive behaviour. But some measurements, such as how far the ants would go foraging for food, had to be done in the field.

More here.

The Green Vision of Saul Bellow

Andrew Furman in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

SaulHerzog, arguably Saul Bellow’s finest novel, turns 50 this year. I had this landmark birthday in mind when I assigned the book to my recent class on Jewish-American literature. I hadn’t taught it in a while, as its (by now) abstruse cultural references and dense philosophical musings have proved an almost insurmountable challenge to my undergraduates. But this time would be different. I planned various entry points for discussion: the book’s ruthless portraiture, the brio of its full-throated sentences, its multilingualism, its complicated gender and domestic politics, its depiction of 20th-century immigrant dreams and burdens, the laugh-out-loud humor of some of those letters composed (mostly internally) by its unhinged protagonist, Moses Herzog, and its privileging of the city and strange hostility toward nature’s green realm. Then I reread the novel. And I had to rethink that last bit. I had always believed that the novel—set largely in Chicago, New York, and the Berkshires, distinctively urban and rural environments that Herzog alternately flees to, and from—extols the urban environment and views the rural one with suspicion, fear, even derision. In short, the middle of the woods is no place for a Jew. I had found plenty of passages that encourage that interpretation. But the first thing I noticed on rereading the novel was Bellow’s sensitive evocations of place, particularly green places both within and without the city.

…Critics have generally paid short shrift to such moments of heightened perception, moments that don’t directly involve the people in Herzog’s life, or his big ideas. But now it seems wrong to separate Herzog’s receptivity to the external world from his insights about his impoverished upbringing, his failures as a father, husband, and son, and his scholarly views. It seems worthwhile, instead, to examine whether he finds, through nature, the exalted state of human perception envisioned by another Massachusetts resident, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

More here.

Voter impersonation: Study finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots


Justin Levitt in the Washington Post's Wonkblog (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis):

Requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens.

I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up.

To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix.

So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents below.

To put this in perspective, the 31 incidents below come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period.

Some of these 31 incidents have been thoroughly investigated (including some prosecutions). But many have not. Based on how other claims have turned out, I’d bet that some of the 31 will end up debunked: a problem with matching people from one big computer list to another, or a data entry error, or confusion between two different people with the same name, or someone signing in on the wrong line of a pollbook.

More here.

Slaves of Happiness Island

Molly Crabapple in Vice:

Construction-crewThough it is now only a sunbaked construction site, Saadiyat, a ten-square-mile atoll 500 yards off the coast of Abu Dhabi, will be home to branches of the Louvre, the Guggenheim, and New York University, alongside hotels, shopping, and luxurious homes. It will be a cultural paradise, conjured by the country’s vast oil wealth but built on the backs of men who are little more than indentured servants.

While there are no official statistics, there may be as many as 1 million migrant construction workers in the UAE today. Like Tariq, the men I talked to have had their passports confiscated and earn between $150 and $300 a month. They will have to spend years working off debts to recruiters who have gotten them their jobs.

Reports about the conditions of workers in the Gulf have been wide and probing. Articles contrast the glittering skyscrapers they build and the scant wages they receive. In May, the New York Times published a scathing exposé of labor abuses at NYU Abu Dhabi.

But what’s often lost in much of the reporting about foreign labor in the United Arab Emirates—and Abu Dhabi specifically—is the agency of the workers themselves. The men I met in the Gulf are brave and ambitious—heroes to their families back home. They dared to chase better prospects and were met with repression instead. In a country where the faintest whisper of dissent can get you deported, more than a hundred strikes have rocked the construction industry in the past three years. While workers may be lied to and forced to live and work in brutal conditions, they also—improbably—are fighting back…

The most simplistic accusation against Abu Dhabi is that by building branches of the Louvre or Guggenheim, the city is buying culture. This logic pretends that Cleopatra’s Needle ended up in Paris through the goodness of Egyptian hearts, or that Lord Elgin didn’t just pillage the marbles that bear his name.

Those accusations also perpetuate another myth: The UAE has no culture of its own.

Two generations ago, the Emiratis were Bedouins, nomadic desert people whose main economic activity was pearl diving. They built wind towers, trained falcons, and composed swashbuckling poetry. Emirati culture was rich, but Emiratis were poor. Now they are wealthy. From the lens of European dominance, Emiratis can seem like improper overlords.

Or perhaps Europeans are just jealous. The UAE’s oil money could have disappeared in the coffers of Western energy companies or corrupt leaders. Instead, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, built a munificent welfare state. Emirati citizens get free education, health care, and electricity, as well as generous wages subsidized by the government. They pay no taxes. But the foreigners who compose 90 percent of the population don’t share in this largesse…

Vijay works seven days a week. His company withholds salaries for months at a time, especially if workers visit home. He believes that his company is cheating workers on overtime, denying them access to the ledgers in which their hours are marked.

“I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. My body is on the verge of giving up, but I cannot leave my job because I am responsible for my sisters,” he told me.

Vijay dreams of getting married in India and returning to his family’s modest farm near Chennai. But first, he wants to get a license to drive a minibus. Drivers are paid better and can work out of the sun, sitting down.

They say Sheikh Zayed built Abu Dhabi, just like Louis XIV built the Louvre. But this is a myth. Vijay built Abu Dhabi more than Sheikh Zayed did. He built it growing deeper in debt each day, his feet sinking into the lunar sand.

Read the rest here.

Why isn’t anyone talking about the nightmare in northern Iraq?

Brendan O'Neill in Sp!ked:

Isis_sinjarFor a terrifying insight into the cluelessness of today’s Western foreign-policy debates, look no further than the virtual silence on ISIS’s military gains against the Kurds in northern Iraq. It is remarkable that more people, particularly politicians, are not talking about this. For what we have seen in northern Iraq over the past 48 hours is a dramatic turning point in the unravelling of the Middle East, a severe blow against a group, the Kurds, who, largely by default, were the last line of defence against the spread of the post-nationalist, cosmic extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). We have watched as one of the few remaining peoples who adhere to the ideals of state sovereignty and nationhood have been routed by a self-consciously border-defying Islamist outfit, taking the dismantling of the old order in the Middle East to a horrifying new level, and yet no one seems particularly perturbed.

There are reports of awful attacks and events in northern Iraq over the past two days. Having already conquered huge swathes of territory in eastern Syria and western Iraq, and declared the establishment of the Islamic State, ISIS has now made serious inroads into northern Iraqi regions that were being protected by Kurdish military forces, getting closer to the semi-autonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq. They have taken Kurdish-protected towns in the Dohuk province, the most significant being the ancient town of Sinjar. This is not only home to some Kurds but is also the ancestral home of the Yazidi religious group. ISIS denounced the Yazidi people as ‘apostates’ and ‘devil worshippers’, and according to the United Nations 200,000 Yazidi have fled their homes in 48 hours. (Question for the West’s anti-Israel obsessives currently refusing to talk about anything other than Gaza: why haven’t you commented on this act of what you might call ‘ethnic cleansing’?) Alongside conquering Sinjar, ISIS has taken other economically and strategically key towns that were being protected by Kurdish forces, including Zumar, which has some of Iraq’s most important oilfields, and Wana, a town close to the Mosul Dam that supplies electricity and water to Iraq. So ISIS is not only controlling greater amounts of Iraqi territory – it is close to controlling Iraq’s resources, too. Wana is 30 miles from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which ISIS captured in June and is already governing severely.

More here.

p-zombies are inconceivable

Massimo Pigliucci in Scientia Salon:

ScreenHunter_737 Aug. 06 14.00Philosophy of mind and the nature of consciousness are fascinating topics, which recur both here at Scientia Salon [1] and at my former writing outlet, Rationally Speaking [2]. And of course we can hardly talk about consciousness for long before running into one of the most famous (and, in my mind, pernicious) thought experiments in philosophy of mind: the philosophical zombie! [3] (Now you should hear ominously sounding music in the background…)

In this essay I propose to do the following: we are first going to take a look at Chalmers’ zombie argument (one of a number of instances of zombification in philosophy of mind) to see exactly what it says and why I find it utterly unconvincing. Next, we’ll use p-zombies to broaden the discussion to parse the differences among different types of possibilities, especially logical, metaphysical and physical/nomological (with a nod toward two other types: epistemic and temporal/historical/contingent). Finally, we’ll use whatever we think we have learned in the process to talk even more broadly about the very nature of philosophical inquiry — or at the least the sort of analytic-type [4] metaphysics that Chalmers and his supporters indulge in.

What, if anything, are p-zombies?

The first thing to be aware of when we talk about p-zombies is that the concept has a long history and has been used in different ways for different purposes. It can be traced back to Saul Kripke’s arguments in the 1970s against type-identity theory in philosophy of mind as presented in his Naming and Necessity [5]. Versions of it were elaborated upon during the same decade by both Thomas Nagel and Robert Kirk. But we won’t go into any of that, focusing instead on the more famous Chalmers’ version of 1996.

More here.