A former LAPD officer turned sociologist (Cooper 1991) observed that the overwhelming majority of those beaten by police turn out not to be guilty of any crime. “Cops don’t beat up burglars”, he observed. The reason, he explained, is simple: the one thing most guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to “define the situation.” If what I’ve been saying is true this is just what we’d expect. The police truncheon is precisely the point where the state’s bureaucratic imperative for imposing simple administrative schema, and its monopoly of coercive force, come together. It only makes sense then that bureaucratic violence should consist first and foremost of attacks on those who insist on alternative schemas or interpretations. At the same time, if one accepts Piaget’s famous definition of mature intelligence as the ability to coordinate between multiple perspectives (or possible perspectives) one can see, here, precisely how bureaucratic power, at the moment it turns to violence, becomes literally a form of infantile stupidity.
—  David Graeber, Dead Zones of the Imagination

Well, that was a waste of time: Over the span of nine months, a “phantom planter” in Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood has been planting flowers throughout the iconic metro station entrance on the north side of the circle. Days after the mysterious planter came forward—local garden artist Henry Docter—the WMATA system showed exactly how much it cared about the feat. Rather than letting the flowers bloom—creating a red, white, and blue flourish at the station—the metro system removed the flowers entirely last weekend, days after citing safety concerns. (The rogue planter said he would use his own equipment and wouldn’t sue if he got hurt.) “It never occurred to me that Metro would think it was more efficient to rip out the plants than to let someone water them,” Docter told The Washington Post.

axiummiuxa-deactivated20150305 asked:

Hi, i love your blog. I generally agree with all of your ideas and opinions and i was wondering if you were able to redo the entire government system how would you have it?

In all seriousness, I would return this place back to the way it was when the founders established it.  No more bureaucracy.  No more pages and pages of laws and regulations.  No more federal reserve.  No more income tax.  Just a small federal government that oversees national defense, foreign relations, trade, immigration, and interstate affairs.  You can read some of the my suggestions for the Republican platform here and parts of the federal government I’d cut here.

Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.

The player is challenged to confront a long and complicated series of bureaucratic hurdles resulting from a recent change of address. Mail isn’t being delivered, bank accounts are inaccessible, and nothing is as it should be. The game includes a measure of simulated blood pressure which rises when “frustrating” events happen and lowers after a period of no annoying events. Once a certain blood pressure level is reached, the player suffers an aneurysm and the game ends.

While undertaking the seemingly simple task of retrieving misdirected mail, the player encounters a number of bizarre characters, including an antisocial hacker, a paranoid weapons enthusiast, and a tribe of Zalagasan cannibals. At the same time, they must deal with impersonal corporations, counterintuitive airport logic, and a hungry llama.

The picture in my stolen [passport] wasn’t half bad, but in the new one I look like a penis with an old person’s face drawn on it… This was the new me, post-theft— all my youthful optimism gone, filched by some drug addict in Hawaii.
—  In this week’s issue, David Sedaris reflects on the time his passport was stolen while on vacation, and the bureaucratic troubles that ensued (subscription required): http://nyr.kr/ZfFFmb

anonymous asked:

Hi! I'm a premed student in my freshmen year and I'm really nervous about the path to becoming a doctor. It was my first choice for so long, but the fact that there's so much schooling and so much stress and so much more bureaucratic protocol than in the past makes it seem so daunting. And then the competition of just getting into med school is so overwhelming (esp. since my calc grade is low) I look to other professions, but the only other one I found that appeals to me is PA. Any advice?

All the things you are saying are true. Getting into med school is hard. It should be. Managing peoples’ health is a privilege and something we have to have a healthy fear and respect of, and thus it shouldn’t be done by just any wacko on the street (or tv).

Yeah, there’s tons of paperwork and red tape and bureaucracy. Of course there is. Money is involved. Show me a career that doesn’t have stress and politics involved. The point is not how hard it is or how much BS you have to wade through to get there.

The point is this: Do you want to practice medicine? Do you want to help make people healthier? Can you be happy doing anything else? You don’t do it because it’s easy or all happy smiles all the time. You do it because you love it despite all the crap. 

So you have one bad grade. So do many of the people applying to medical school. Don’t let one bad grade scare you into not trying to reach your goals.

Lastly, if being a PA sounds interesting to you, then pursue that. But realize that the paperwork and bureaucracy and stress and the competition will be essentially the same as it would be if you were pursuing med school. You will still be dealing with insurance companies and the government and protocols and flaming hoops to jump through. Med school is hard. So is PA school. There is just as much competition —and usually more prerequisites—for admission to PA school as there is for med school. And to some degree, being a PA is harder (especially in the beginning) because the training is shorter and you are sometimes thrown into the fire in your first job out of graduation. So don’t be a PA just because you think it might be an easier path.  

State appropriations reached a record inflation-adjusted high of $86.6 billion in 2009. They declined as a consequence of the Great Recession, but have since risen to $81 billion. And these totals do not include the enormous expansion of the federal Pell Grant program, which has grown, in today’s dollars, to $34.3 billion per year from $10.3 billion in 2000.

It is disingenuous to call a large increase in public spending a “cut,” as some university administrators do, because a huge programmatic expansion features somewhat lower per capita subsidies. Suppose that since 1990 the government had doubled the number of military bases, while spending slightly less per base. A claim that funding for military bases was down, even though in fact such funding had nearly doubled, would properly be met with derision.

Interestingly, increased spending has not been going into the pockets of the typical professor. Salaries of full-time faculty members are, on average, barely higher than they were in 1970. Moreover, while 45 years ago 78 percent of college and university professors were full time, today half of postsecondary faculty members are lower-paid part-time employees, meaning that the average salaries of the people who do the teaching in American higher education are actually quite a bit lower than they were in 1970.

By contrast, a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.

The rapid increase in college enrollment can be defended by intellectually respectable arguments. Even the explosion in administrative personnel is, at least in theory, defensible. On the other hand, there are no valid arguments to support the recent trend toward seven-figure salaries for high-ranking university administrators, unless one considers evidence-free assertions about “the market” to be intellectually rigorous.

What cannot be defended, however, is the claim that tuition has risen because public funding for higher education has been cut. Despite its ubiquity, this claim flies directly in the face of the facts.

If the State is oppressive, if democracy is a delusion, it is because the State is composed of three permanent bodies, recruited by co-option and distinct from the people, namely, the army, the police, and the bureaucracy. The interests of these three bodies are different from those of the population and consequently opposed to them. It follows that the “State machine” is oppressive by its very nature, its mechanism cannot function without crushing the citizens; the best will in the world cannot turn it into an instrument for the public good; the only way to stop it from being oppressive is to smash it.
—  Simone Weil, Fragments, 1933-1938