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Archive for October, 2009

The Intersection of ‘Emergence’, ‘Philosophy of Knowledge’ & Government Responsibility

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

There has been quite the hullabaloo these days about implications of the financial troubles of newspapers  in the West. For some time, I feared that the newsroom cutbacks in all newspapers and the outright bankruptcy and closing of others, would have a profoundly negative impact on American society. I was convinced by the assertions of David Simon, Steve Coll and Bob Garfield. However, I recently came around on this issue and decided that I have no valid reason to mourn the death of newspapers in America. Instead, I found myself as angry at newspapers as ever.

Then I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, On the Media (you should give a listen to their weekly, one-hour meta-gab ) where the host, Bob Garfield, invited listeners to email him with a eulogy (he seemed to be looking for nostalgia) for the dead American newspaper industry.

Here is my response to Bob Garfield’s call for eulogies

Now read a compelling argument to the contrary that is probably more convincing (and certainly more well-written) than mine: David Simon’s testimony to the Senate Hearing on the Future of Journalism. You can also watch him deliver this speech in the Senate

During our next seminar, we will discuss:

  • Do the newspapers’ failures account for their insolvency? Or did modern technologies destroy the newspapers (or both)?
  • Do we need newspapers in their current incarnation?
  • Can we trust that a superior mechanism of digging up and delivering news will emerge in the place of newspapers?
  • Can we rely on ‘democratic’ or ‘citizen’ journalists? (think ‘Emergence’)
  • What should the role of the government be in saving newspapers (for instance, the French government bailed out Le Monde)?

Come to our next session with some well-reasoned, written responses to the above questions.

Radiolab: Memory and Forgetting

Monday, October 12th, 2009

What is a memory? Science writer Jonah Lehrer tells us is it’s a physical thing in the brain… not some ephemeral flash. It’s a concrete thing made of matter. And NYU neuroscientist Joe LeDoux, who studies fear memories in rats, tells us how with a one shock, one tone, and one drug injection, you can bust up this piece of matter, and prevent a rat from every making a memory. LeDoux’s research goes sci-fi, when he and his colleague Karim Nader start trying to erase memories. And Nader applies this research to humans suffering from PTSD.

According to the latest research, remembering is an unstable and profoundly unreliable process. It’s easy come, easy go as we learn how true memories can be obliterated and false ones added. And Oliver Sacks joins us to tell the story of an amnesiac whose love for his wife and music transcend his 7 second memory.

Listen to this piece from WNYC’s “Radiolab”

1st Amendment: The Supreme Court mauls the law banning animal-cruelty videos

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Witness the American deputy solicitor general in his natural habitat—the Supreme Court. As Neal Katyal roams softly across the cool marble chamber, he has no idea what awaits him. He is here to protect his tribe—the U.S. government—which, in 1999, passed a statute making it a crime to create, sell, or possess “any visual or auditory depiction” of “animal cruelty” if the act of cruelty is itself illegal under either federal law or the law of the state in which the depiction occurred.

Read on from Slate

The high court looks again at religious symbols on public lands

Monday, October 12th, 2009

There’s just one person at oral argument in Salazar v. Buono this morning who really wants to talk about whether a 5-foot cross on federal government land in the Mojave National Preserve violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. But Justice Antonin Scalia really, really wants to talk about it. He looks particularly queasy when Peter Eliasberg—the ACLU lawyer whose client objects to crosses on government land—suggests partway through the morning that perhaps a less controversial World War I memorial might consist of “a statue of a soldier which would honor all of the people who fought for America in World War I and not just the Christians.”

Read on from Slate

Video: The Presidency of LBJ

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Robert Caro writer, 1975 Pulitzer Prize

Jack Valenti former advisor to President Johnson

Anthony Lewis writer, 1955 Pulitzer Prize

Bruce J. Schulman historian, Boston University

Lizabeth Cohen professor, American studies, Harvard

Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of President Johnson delivers the keynote address in the Kennedy Library’s ongoing examination of 20th century presidents. He is joined by Jack Valenti, who served as Special Advisor to President Johnson; Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer Anthony Lewis; and Boston University historian Bruce Schulman to discuss President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s legacy. Harvard University historian Lizabeth Cohen moderates the discussion.

Watch it Here (90 minutes)

Video – Eric Foner: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Eric Foner professor, history, Columbia University

Eric Foner, contributor and editor of Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World, lectures about the sixteenth presidents of the United States.

In 1876 the abolitionist Frederick Douglass observed, ‘No man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln.’ Undeterred, the contributors to Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World believe it is possible even now, especially if the starting point is the interaction between the life and the times.

Several of these original essays focus on Lincoln’s leadership as president and commander in chief. James M. McPherson examines Lincoln’s deft navigation of the crosscurrents of politics and wartime strategy. Sean Wilentz assesses Lincoln’s evolving position in the context of party politics. On slavery and race, Eric Foner writes of Lincoln and the movement to colonize emancipated slaves outside the United States. James Oakes considers Lincoln’s views on race and citizenship. There are also essays on Lincoln’s literary style, religious beliefs, and family life. The Lincoln who emerges is a man of his time, yet able to transcend and transform it a reasonable measure of greatness.

Watch Foner here

Video–Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Kingmakers is the story of how the modern Middle East came to be, told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel’s godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq); some controversial (the CIA’s Miles Copeland and the Pentagon’s Paul Wolfowitz).

All helped enthrone rulers in a region whose very name is an Anglo-American invention. Co-authors Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac elaborate on these ideas and take questions on their book.

Watch it here (70 minutes)

Video–Looking for Lincoln: In His Time and Ours

Monday, October 12th, 2009

A panel moderated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies, discusses President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves, his ability to lead the Union during the Civil War, and his personal qualities.

Questions centered on Lincoln, ranging from his humility in leadership to his manipulation of others.

Watch it here

Video: Townhall with Howard Zinn

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Howard Zinn discusses his classic book A People’s History of the United States.  James R. Green, Professor of History at UMass, Boston, moderates.

Video: Chomsky on Emerging Framework of World Power

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Noam Chomsky discusses the war on terrorism, US involvement with Afghanistan, and the long-term implications of America’s military attacks abroad. Exploring the repercussions of the attacks on September 11, 2001, Chomsky talks about the war on terrorism, US involvement with Afghanistan, and the long-term implications of America’s military attacks abroad. His extensive knowledge of American foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia sheds light on the new contours of world power while posing important and troubling questions about our country’s role in international affairs.

Watch it Here