[I] We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and every where in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is every where a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things which nobody ever hears of.--Adam Smith (1776) Wealth of Nations.
[II] Servants, labourers and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.--Adam Smith (1776) Wealth of Nations.
you could do much worse than Graham Harman's blog (the American Press, as well as Al Jazeera, are pretty hopeless thus-far).
In addition to what's happening outside of his window, his posts today have links to the most important twitter feeds of people out and about in the protests. The twitter posts also have some really good links to long-form essays explaining what's been going on.
This is the most beautifully haunting song ever recorded.
The title is from an older gospel song that is about the day Jesus died. I'm also pretty sure that Ry Cooder studied it intensely while preparing the Paris, Texas soundtrack, musical accompaniment to another sad story.
I was talking a couple of months ago with a very close friend of mine who works in commercial information technology and we were comparing the ways that academia and industry differed. One of the ways surprised me a great deal.
In academia, when you get a job offer from another institution, you are expected to go to the administrators in your institution and see if they'll make a counter-offer. If the counter-offer is big enough, you might stay. I should note that in an era of flat pay, this is a perfectly rational thing for employees to do. But my friend has made me worry whether it is rational for administrators to make counteroffers. My friend said that a lot of managers in I.T. refuse to make counteroffers, for the following sorts of reasons:
My friend was really emphatic about the above and in fact tells his employees not to come to him for counteroffers, and whenever one of them gets a job offer says "that sounds like a very good opportunity, you should think carefully about it."
The thing is, everything he said makes sense to me as applied to the practice in academia. I should also say that in our case the counteroffer practice seems to have leaked down from the job hopping administrative class (the average tenure for a provost is under three years, at which point they take another job) and is one of the ways they inflate their salaries so much beyond market value.
I think in some ways academia is where bad management ideas come to die. Anyone who has been subject to "strategic planning" or "assessment" knows that any business that went in for such nonsense would get decimated by competition that didn't. I think that this business of counteroffers is something similar. When I've seen it happen the relevant administrators all too often act like bad movie imitations of business people.
Am I missing anything? This is I hope merely academic (in the pejorative sense) for me since one of my prayers is that I'll never be a chair.
By now, the protests in Brazil of the last week have been extensively discussed in the international and social media. This is a very special time, and the first time that substantive public protests take place in 21 years. (The last time was in 1992, to demand the impeachment of then-president Fernando Collor – who was indeed impeached but is now an elected senator…) While signaling massive discontent with the government, and in particular with the excessive investments in preparation for the World Cup and the Olympic Games in Rio at the expenses of the population’s basic needs (see here for an informative analysis), the level of repression and police brutality has been lower than in the sibling-protests in Turkey at the moment. But just yesterday, an estimate of a million people were on the streets, protesting in different cities; in some of them, Rio in particular, there were incidents and clashes with the police prompted by a small minority resorting to vandalism (see here).
Naturally, BMoF will join the protests today and feature two of the songs serving as 'soundtrack' for the protests, both by the same band, Titãs. (The very first 'adult' concert that I went to was one of their concerts, in 1987 I think -- great memories!) These are ‘Polícia’ (1986), which gives a clear idea of how much Brazilians are used to ‘trusting’ the police (not!) (check also the Sepultura cover of the song); and ‘Comida’ (1987) -- two ‘oldies’ from the time of my childhood, but still entirely topical. ‘Comida’ (check also this cover of the song by Marisa Monte, from her first album in 1989) is particularly appropriate in the current situation in Brazil: now that there has been a significant improvement with the worst of the poverty and misery through social programs such as Bolsa Familia, and most people finally have the bare minimum supply of food, it is time to say:
After burning part of my summer writing "assessment reports," it is a relief to find kindred spirits. In the middle of an epic rant about E. Gorden Gee, Paul Campos writes:
One thing that rarely gets asked in the context of all this getting and spending is: What exactly is that money supposed to be for? In theory, of course, it’s for “education.” In practice, a whole lot of it goes directly into the pockets of a metastasizing cadre of university administrators, whose jobs, as nearly as I’ve been able to determine after being on a research university’s faculty for nearly a quarter-century, consist of inventing justifications for their own existence, while harassing faculty to fill out evaluations of various kinds (in a particularly Kafkaesque twist, many of these evaluations are supposed to be of the administrators’ own job performance).
The thing I hated most about church camp when I was a kid was feeling pressured to partake in totalitarian pretend happiness. Everybody is singing an overwhelmingly hokey and in fact manifestly stupid song like "Rise and Shine" (I refuse to provide a link) while vying with themselves to exceed one another in amounts of phoney enthusiasm for Dear Leader.
As an adult I actually don't feel this way in church any more (the purpose of liturgical conservatism is to prevent the kind of thing manifest in the song to right). And I'm sure part of the reason I became an academic is because it's one of the few places where you might find yourself colleagues with an older Holden Caufield (and s/he's thriving, doing cool stuff and with an equally grumpy spouse). But my God these assessment meetings bring back unhappy memories. Too many otherwise intelligent people go to ridiculous links to demonstrate that they buy into the pretense that God Assessment could possibly intervene to improve the lot of their unit. It's submental.
Feh. Jesus was right, do that kind of stuff in private.
I've been reading Walter Cerf's wonderful preface to the Harris and Cerf edition of Hegel'sDifferenzschrift. The nicest thing about it is the long speech that Cerf imagines Schelling and Hegel making upon a visit to Kant, explaining to the snoozing man how critical philosophy leads to speculative philosophy. It's just a wonderful pulling together of so many important dialectical strands in German Idealism.
Another thing kind of weirded me out though. Cerf really interestingly notes how the conceptual divisions that Hegel attempted to overcome were not some kind of abstract game but in some sense constitutive anxieties of the age. The root distinction between particular and universal has all sorts of historical resonances such as issues concerning the relation between an autonomous, yet alienated, individual and the community that both nurtures and stifles him (and it is a "him" with Hegel). In order to be able to be intellectuals, the young Hegel and friends lived in a kind of painful monastic self-denial that exacerbated these tensions (cf. Kierkegaard), and they (unlike Soren) really did for a time at least hope that the French Revolution would somehow be the historical overcoming of them.
Of course existentialism turned necessity into a virtue, taking the very tensions that Hegel and friends analyzed to not be things that could be sublimated, but instead things just constitutive of the human condition. Some strains of Speculative Realism go this one better, and see these tensions as inscribed in the non-human universe itself. Tristan Garcia is to some extent a metaphysical (that is British, not American) Hegelian with no Aufhebung.Reading Garcia and Cerf together made me wonder if our current time has any constitutive tensions analogous to all of the particular/universal dichotomies that haunted Hegel. With Garcia, I think many of Hegel's are still with us. But to some extent we are used to many of them now. Again, the tension between liberal autonomism and communitarianism, and crap aspects of both, are just facts of life we all unsuccessfully navigate now in ways big and little. What interests me tonight is whether there is anything like this that future Walter Cerfs might describe as distinctive of our point in history? I realize that this is probably a silly game, but I'm interested if anyone has any suggestions.
Posted by Jon Cogburn on 04 June 2013 at 01:47 in "Austerity"? You mean class war, don't you?, #ows; Occupy Everything, Debts: student, national, and otherwise, Disasters, natural and otherwise, Economics, Environmental issues, Events as crystallizations, History of philosophy, Jon Cogburn | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
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THIS POST was quite welcome as I entered my second brain-numbing week of writing our annual "assessment reports" for the twelve general education classes we teach.*
I don't want to make too much of this. It could be worse. I could be gluing wet, leathery wallpaper onto crumbling cinderblocks in Brezhnev's Russia. . .
And there's this from a December Wall Street Journal's article:
Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example. The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says. It's part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.
The Economist's takeaway:
That is to say, students have faced rapidly rising tuition costs not due to large increases in the cost of instruction, but mostly due to the dramatic, rapid growth of the university bureaucratic class, which offers nothing of obvious worth to the education of their universities' increasingly cash-strapped and indebted students.
According to a 2010 study on administrative bloat from the libertarian Goldwater Institute, tuition tripled from 1993 to 2007 at my own school, the University of Houston. Over that period, instructional spending per student changed not at all, while administrative spending per pupil nearly doubled. This is fairly representative of the national pattern. This seems to me to suggest that state university systems might first seek savings in leaner management before outsourcing instruction to glorified versions of YouTube.
Obviously leaner management isn't going to happen anywhere in this country any time soon, but there's some consolation that even otherwise reliable neo-liberals realize that there might be some limit to how much of our time and wealth our overlords can hoover away from us.
*At some point I'll try to describe assessment processes in all of their surreality and also try to discern the effects on all of us that these various collective dishonesties this kind of bureaucratic makework requires, but right now the whole thing has made me too stupid to say anything intelligent about anything at all.]
Christ, it's depressing how smart one can be in one area while believing the most transparently idiotic things in others (especially when moral culpability is involved).
Read THIS COLUMN ("MOOC Professors Claim No Responsibility for How Courses Are Used") for yet more evidence concerning the correctness of John Calvin on innate depravity.
Even from a self-interested perspective it's risible. Just how short-termed can one's thinking be? If this continues much longer not enough of their own students are going to be able to get enough good jobs to keep the scam going.
Nice discussion HERE including a cool shout out to friend-of-the-blog L.A. Paul. Most horrifying part:
What percentage of graduate students end up with tenure? (About one in four.) How much more unhappy are graduate students than other people? (About fifty-four per cent of graduate studentsreport feeling so depressed they have “a hard time functioning,” as opposed to ten per cent of the general population.)
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
By now most folk will have heard about the paper by a group of UMASS-Amherst economists that showed that a famous paper with claims about the relationship of growth and debt, which (together with the book aimed at the public) played a non-trivial role in providing the academic justification for austerity policies, by famous economists Reinhart and Rogoff were based on mistakes in the treatment of data. (Here is a response by Reinhardt & Rogoff, which is remarkably lacking in generosity to their critics and also lacking in humility about the magnitude of their error. It reads as if it was written by lawyers rather than academics-in-search-of-truth.)
George Gale pointed me to this news-story, which recounts how a PhD student, Thomas Herndon, "first started looking into Reinhart and Rogoff's work as part of an assignment for an econometrics course that involved replicating the data work behind a well-known study." Beyond the significance that politics may be guided by flawed science, here is a part of the story that transcends partisan politics; economics (like many other sciences) has terrible practices in sharing and replicating data (here's a link to recent scholarship on this.) My economist friend, David Levy, has been publishing about these issues for at least two decades (here's a link to a paper in Social Epistemology), so I am not optimistic that we will see a change in ethos in the field any time soon.
Update: Recall this earlier story about Jeffrey Sachs.
I bet the academic anthropology job-market is no better than the one in academic philosophy. So, what can one conclude about the politics of that field in light of the fact that after a stint at Yale, a scholar applies to "the City University of New York Graduate Center, the New School, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago (all of these twice)...Hunter College, Emory, Duke, Columbia, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins—as well as the University of Toronto," and then fails to land a job?
One can conclude that it is not easy to land a job in academic anthropology, especially if you apply (ahum) rather narrowly (not to say, snobbishly)...but such a sober assessment would undermine, of course, the mythic narrative of "exile" attached to being..."From 2008 through this spring, Mr. Graeber was a lecturer and then a reader at Goldsmiths College and, just last month, he accepted a professorship at the London School of Economics and Political Science."
Ah, yes, London...that academic wasteland...must be very tough being David Graeber.
James argues that what is characteristic of assholes is that they systematically "act out of a deep-rooted sense of entitlement, a habitual and persistent belief that they deserve special treatment." He develops a typology of different kinds of assholes, and also theorizes about the rise of "asshole capitalism," which is where:
A movement called #Idle No More is sweeping across Canada and into the United States. First Nations from Haida Gwaii to Stephenville, Newfoundland, from Iqaluit to Windsor, Ontario – and Native Americans in New York, New Mexico, California, and many other states – have organized flash mobs in shopping malls and public squares to sing, drum, and perform traditional round dances. Some First Nations have blockaded highways and railways. Where did this movement come from, and where is it going?
This NYT article on Occupy Sandy (h/t to Mark on FB) is noteworthy for highlighting a pressing problem for more-or-less anarchist strains of thought as they cross political affect.
"Occupy Wall Street has managed through its storm-related efforts not only to renew the impromptu passions of Zuccotti, but also to tap into an unfulfilled desire among the residents of the city to assist in the recovery. This altruistic urge was initially unmet by larger, more established charity groups, which seemed slow to deliver aid and turned away potential volunteers in droves during the early days of the disaster."
The question is how to institutionalize for efficiency without losing the face-to-face that helps drive empathy and altruism. I tend to take a modest evolutionary psychology angle here -- there really is something about faces for human beings and that something is plausibly an evolved predisposition for emotional resonance. Of course, the big question here is the ontological status of "predisposition."
Catarina confronts the canard that we "philosophers don’t rely on intuitions."
From a recent review by one of our very best philosophers:
"In Part One ("Demoralizing Marriage"), Brake focuses on the ethical significance of marriage for the individuals involved. Chapter 1 discusses whether marriage involves a promise. First, she argues that the typical marriage vows -- "to love, honour, and cherish, until death us do part" -- cannot literally be taken as promises. It is not clear that we can promise love at all. If we could, it would follow, counter-intuitively, that divorce counts as promise-breaking. Then she considers what strikes me as a more plausible suggestion"--Ralph Wedgwood.
That's the whole argument. Now from the way Wedgwood phrases the matter, it's not clear to me (really) if he believes that "If we could, it would follow, counter-intuitively, that divorce counts as promise-breaking" or if he is just summarizing the book's view. (I first inclined to the former, but now hedging my bets.) It doesn't matter, because the appeal to intuition goes unremarked here. We philosophers are so used to doing this that we can't help ourselves saying "it is not clear that," etc. Now I am willing to believe that Wedgewood never formed an intuition on the matter--he clearly just means to convey that either he (or the reviewed book) finds a view silly/dumb (whatever--pick your favorite). But it is basically an argument from authority that hides behind bogus intuitions or the language of intuitons..
I am no party to the first order debate, by the way (except, ahum, that I got married this year).
There must be a natural language containing a word denoting bad people engineering reality so as to get otherwise sensible people to celebrate their own immiseration.
Tonight it occurs to me that if one were writing a dictionary for that langauage, then a picture of Teresa A. Sullivan would show up next to that word:
To the contrary, Sullivan embraced the principles of change demanded by the board that hired her. She oversaw years of no raises and a 2-percent raise pool distributed unevenly. She stonewalled hunger-striking students who wanted economic justice for the numerous on-campus employees of its vendors of outsourced services. She moved immediately upon arrival to implement a version of the responsibility-centered management championed over a decade earlier by her University of Michigan mentor James Duderstadt.
Often described as “every tub on its own bottom,” RCM financial models encourage resource-maximizing, perma-temping, and outsourcing, and strongly tend to over-reward and subsidize already-wealthy units and programs with access to external revenue in the form of grants, while under-acknowledging and poaching the revenue generated by undergraduate teaching.
In short, Sullivan has been a great president–for the Visitors. She is a largely conventional executive with a mostly conventional administrative vision. She was winning the battle that her board wanted waged on campus–and making the faculty like it too.
For the cool-headed among the Visitors, the smart play is easy: rehire Sullivan and calculate that the hoi polloi will retreat from the carnival celebration declaring victory–while continuing in their thralldom.
Full story from Marc Bousquet HERE. All I have to say is feh.
Horrifying story about Wells Fargo HERE. Just a sample:
The Rousseaus hired a lawyer. From the lawyer the Rousseaus learned that the loan they received was not the loan they were promised, including, “the 7.2% interest rate for the … loan was actually higher than the 2006 loan and greater than the 6.8% quoted,” had enormous fees, and the bank had increased the income the Rousseau had stated, from $76,000 to $136,800.
In other words, the lender had scammed them to get those fees, which was a widespread practice at the time.
This continues, with the bank scamming, lying, obfuscating, ignoring, contradicting, even producing signatures it claimed were the Rousseau’s but were not, every step of the way. And, of course, adding late fees to the amount it claimed was due.
In addition to all of this, Wells Fargo messed up their own paperwork and falsely determined that the Rousseau's had missed a payment, and through this mistake were able to successfully charge horrendous fees on the Rousseaus and foreclose on the house.
The first most horrifying thing is that this lead to Mr. Rousseau's suicide, and the third most horrifying thing is how widespread these practices were under the Bush economy. The second most horrifying thing is that there seems to be no chance that the rent-seeking companies who do these kinds of things will be held accountable in any way.
I don't know; I'm still hoping that the good guys will win. . . maybe that's naive.
If apropos anything, someone asks you what side you are on, it is always felicitous to respond, "truth and beauty."
In this respect, I highly recommend Tim Kreider's NY Times tribute to Ray Bradbury HERE (if you are blocked by the pay-wall, just reset your cookies or "Clear Recent History" in Firefox).
When I read Bradbury's books as a young child I had no idea that the stuff of his nightmares were actually coming to pass. Nor could I have realized the extent to which I would later organize my life around fleeing those very things.
Kreider's conclusion is perfect:
I think of Ray Bradbury’s work often these days. I remember “The Murderer” whenever I ask for directions or make a joke to someone who can’t hear me because of her ear buds, when I see two friends standing back-to-back in a crowd yelling “Where are you?” into their phones, or I’m forced to eavesdrop on somebody prattling on Bluetooth in that sanctum sanctorum, the library. I think of “Fahrenheit 451” every time I see a TV screen in an elevator or a taxi or a gas pump or over a urinal. When the entire hellish engine of the media seemed geared toward the concerted goal of forcing me to know, against my will, about a product called “Lady Gaga,” I thought: Denham’s Dentifrice.
It is thanks to Ray Bradbury that I understand this world I grew into for what it is: a dystopian future. And it is thanks to him that we know how to conduct ourselves in such a world: arm yourself with books. Assassinate your television. Go for walks, and talk with your neighbors. Cherish beauty; defend it with your life. Become a Martian.
Also check out the song at right. Bowie understood Ray Bradbury. For all the suffering it entails, it is still infinitely better to be Martian than caveman.
As Montreal police are beginning to increase the use of kettling in their crackdown on protest, it's a good time to remind ourselves of the dual use of that tactic: 1) the production of crowd "violence" providing pretext for further crackdowns, and 2) as a form of extra-judicial punishment (I am choosing that term carefully; I do not mean "extra-legal" but simply "outside the courts" [as opposed to the legislature]).
The best new crowd psychology shows that the police can produce violent reactions from their adversaries, just by treating them as adversaries (thereby producing a group identity of the crowd as "enclosed" and "threatened"), cutting off their path ("kettling"), hell, just showing up in riot gear. This effect is not unknown in the policing community (paywall protected article, unfortunately). You can of course investigate the self-constition of police group identity as the "thin blue line protecting society from violent mobs," etc. along these same lines.
Furthermore, as Laurie Penny points out here, kettling itself is a form of extra-judicial punishment: humiliating, anxiety-producing, etc. Just keeping you from urinating for hours has all sorts of subtle or not so subtle physiologico-psychological anxiety effects. It also puts the relief of your anxiety in the hands of the agents of the State.
One other extra-judicial punishment, beyond kettling -- or maybe a prolongation of kettling is better -- is to make the arrest procedure as long and degrading and difficult as possible. And then to decline to press charges. But the 24-36-48-even sometimes 72 hours in custody is in fact worse punishment than a judge is likely to pass down. So even if the police don't break your ribs with a billy club or pepper-spray you, they can still punish you, for just keeping you handcuffed, humiliated, for hours and hours on end is already punishment.
A perfect example here of the media's insatiable desire to annoint a leader of a mass movement. The linked BBC article not only looks to present GND (see, I'm falling into it myself, using the initials) as a "leader," it also uses "he said, she said" reporting to make sure the most reactionary creeps get air time to repeat the usual canards about the students as spoiled brats (and quite implicitly, but nonetheless there, unless I'm being hyper-sensitive, the Quebec Francophones as emotional and unruly compared to the sober and rational Anglos). Now I'm quite sure GND knows all this and has made a careful study of Camila Vallego's manipulation of and by the media. (Cf. as well David Graeber and OWS.)
What I'd like to ask for comments on is not so much that tactical level, as the philosophical question of what lies behind the mediatic creation of "leaders." What desire is at work here, what fear of the multitude is being assuaged? "Fascism" is terribly overused as an analytical category, but can that be remedied by making a distinction between micro- and macro-fascism? Is this an instance of micro-fascism, the desire to find a leader, so that all human relations are that of leader and led, crowding out the immanent self-organization of the multitude? I'm moving very fast here, from a combination of caffeine and time pressure from other tasks, but I hope some of this makes sense and is enought to elicit comments.
Someone thanked me the other day for posting on the Quebec situation. I said "there's no need for thanks, as we are all in this together, for Louisiana is set to decimate its universities via another round of budget cuts. Year after year, it's the same: http://theadvocate.com/news/2893882-123/college-leaders-blast-cuts. And of course it's completely artificial as in 2007 the Republicans pushed through huge tax cuts on the wealthy, which creates the revenue shortfall which is the pretext then for the expense cuts. The media let them off the hook by pretending there's a "budget crisis" when it's only a self-inflicted revenue shortfall. AFAICT, it's the same in Quebec, right?"
Now insofar as this is an Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science blog, here's a philosophical question: what's going on with the constitution of what I'm going to call here "serial identity," as in the title of the post? It's not quite "just" a relay of support, as in this great photo, but something more, or at least different.
It's not the assertion of collective identity either, as in this wonderful clip "We are Wisconsin":
My friend Barbara said the other day, “There are so many books I would like to have on my shelf. But no one has written them yet!” One of the books I would like to have on my shelf is about Frantz Fanon, activist models of decentralized political organization, and 4E cognitive science models of the brain as a distributed network. If you want to write this book, here are a few quotes from The Wretched of the Earth to get you started. If it’s already been written and I just haven’t found it yet, please post the title, and I will fill that spot on my shelf.
“The meeting of the local cell or the committee meeting is a liturgical act. It is a privileged opportunity for the individual to listen and speak. At every meeting the brain multiplies the association of ideas and the eye discovers a wider human panorama” (136).
“Let us reexamine the question of cerebral reality, the brain mass of humanity in its entirety whose affinities must be increased, whose connections must be diversified and whose communications must be humanized again” (237-8).
“No, it is not a question of back to nature. It is the very basic question of not dragging man in directions which mutilate him, of not imposing on his brain tempos that rapidly obliterate and unhinge it. The notion of catching up must not be used as a pretext to brutalize man, to tear him from himself and his inner consciousness, to break him, to kill him” (238).
Thoroughly depressing story at the Chronicle HERE. Some stats:
. . .the percentage of graduate-degree holders who receive food stamps or some other aid more than doubled between 2007 and 2010.
During that three-year period, the number of people with master's degrees who received food stamps and other aid climbed from 101,682 to 293,029, and the number of people with Ph.D.'s who received assistance rose from 9,776 to 33,655, according to tabulations of microdata done by Austin Nichols, a senior researcher with the Urban Institute. He drew on figures from the 2008 and 2011 Current Population Surveys done by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
Leaders of organizations that represent adjunct faculty members think that the number of people counted by the government does not represent the full picture of academics on welfare because many do not report their reliance on federal aid.
The story also notes that the number of non-tenure track faculty is now 70%.
Nice Slate story HERE on how excessive copyright enforcement killed a whole genre of art.
The rich sonic landscape of Paul's Boutique is produced by layering and repeating of over 300 unique samples. But in 1991 the outcome of Grand Upright Music v. Warner Bros. Records was that it became prohibitively expensive to do this, killing the artform. The Slate article concludes:
Even as hip-hop is more mainstream than ever, one of the key musical innovations has been pushed to the margins. That should serve as a reminder that the battles over intellectual property don’t merely pit the economic interests of creators against would-be freeloading consumers. The existing stock of recorded music is, potentially, a powerful tool in the hands of musicians looking to create new works. But it’s been largely cut off from them—for no good reason. Congress could enact a mandatory licensing scheme in which you pay a modest fixed fee to sample an existing recording for commercial purposes. Or it could create a legislative safe harbor, stipulating that samples under some set length automatically qualify as a fair use. But it won’t, because in the music and movie industries, the only kind of copyright laws Congress is willing to pass are ones that give more power to copyright holders, not less.
Unfortunately, every time the copyright on Mickey Mouse is about to expire, Congress responds by limiting fair use even further, and the Supreme Court sides with industry against good sense and the Constitution of the United States.
Per 36 USC § 115 (dating from 1958), today, May 1, is Loyalty Day in the United States of America, "a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom." The text also reads:
The President is requested to issue a proclamation—