Category Archives: Academia

Militarizing academia, a list and an omission

We begin with the latest edition of Days of Revolt, the new weekly broadcast series from Chris Hedges produced by The Real News Network for  Telesur English:

Days of Revolt – Militarizing Education

Program notes:

In this episode of Days of Revolt, host Chris Hedges discusses the militarization of higher education institutions with journalist Alexa O’Brien. They uncover the trail of money and influence from the national security state to college programs. Hedges and O’Brien identify the ways in which this apparatus has long-been in effect, and what it could mean for the future.

While we generally agree with her critique of the military’s increasing grasp on the military, we find one peculiar omission from the list of the 100 most militarized universities she published in VICE News.

Not on the list is the University of California, now headed by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Lest we forget, it was UC Berkeley’s own Robert Oppenheimer who headed the immense World War II scientific research program responsible for developing the atomic bomb. Berkeley is still involved in running Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory, where new nuclear weapons are developed, and appoints three members to the board of Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. And it was UC Berkeley’s John Yoo who provided the guiding legal advice justifying torture in the wake of 9/11.

The University of California also provided nearly half of the scientists of the Jason group, the secret, self-selected cabal of academics who provide research and advice to the Pentagon.

Among the Jasons’ “gifts” to humankind are the border patrolling drone and border-installed remote sensing devices, developed for the Vietnam War under the rubric of the Air-Supported Anti-Infiltration Barrier [PDF].

A 2007 College Quarterly review of Ann Finkbeiner’s 2006 book The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite, noted:

She was able to contact a number of Jasons and succeeded in interviewing thirty-six (published estimates of the total roster range from forty to about one hundred). Some refused to be interviewed. Some agreed only on condition of anonymity. Her book reveals that the $850 a day now paid to Jasons, while worthwhile, seems to be among the least of the motives for joining. More important is the sense of self-importance to be had from playing the part of a confident Washington insider. More likely still are altruistic, if naïve, beliefs that the Jasons make positive contributions to society by, if nothing else, exposing strategic errors or technological flaws in government plans and, of course, also solving real scientific problems in the bargain. They certainly have the skills to do so. Nobel laureates and giants of the intellectual community including Dyson, Hans Bethe, Steven Weinberg and the legendary Murray Gell-Mann have been Jasons. Too often, however, Finkbeiner concludes that their bargain is ultimately Faustian.

Jason has applied its collective braininess to such projects as the “electronic infiltration barrier” that did not, as it happens, protect South Vietnam from North Vietnam’s flow of troops (they tunnelled underground). Jason also worked out puzzles in adaptive optics, allowing telescopes to correct for atmospheric interference – information kept under wraps for a decade until the military found a use for it in Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”). Today, they may be providing advice on the occupation of Iraq; but, we won’t get the details on that soon, if ever.

The Jasons have also served as a model for other nations, as noted in a 10 November 2009 report in Nature, the world’s leading scientific journal:

The British government has recruited a group of academics to tackle tricky scientific problems related to defence, Nature has learned.

The programme is similar to a group known as the JASONs, which the US government has consulted on technical issues since the 1960s. “You hear a lot about the JASONs and how much credibility they have in the United States,” says Mark Welland, the UK Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser. Britain needs a similarly “fast-moving, free-floating entity”, he says.

Scientific advice is frequently sought in Britain, but on security-related issues the advice usually comes from inside the government. Scientists at government labs such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston are consulted on sensitive topics, in part because academic researchers lack the necessary security clearances.

Though the Pentagon created the group in 1958, it was only in 1971 that their existence became known to the public, thanks to the leak of the Pentagon Papers.

While the group’s membership remains a secret, some names surfaced in 1972, thanks to the release of the in-depth report on the group, authored by UC Berkeley Professor Charlie Schwartz and colleagues.

According to one published estimate, fully half of the Jasons have come from the University of California, primarily Berkeley.

The Federation of American Scientists maintains a database of declassified Jason reports.

So any way you look at it, the University of California belongs on any list of the nation’s most militarized universities.

Headline of the day: Idiocy on the march

From the Guardian:

Dozens of ‘white student unions’ appear on social media amid racism protests

Groups claim to speak for students at Stanford, New York University, University of Missouri and elsewhere, but their origins are uncertain

UPDATE: Add UC Berkeley to the list, via the Oakland Tribune.

TV crime shows linked to sexual behaviors

A fascinating study reveals a link between the kinds of TV crime shows watched at attitudes obtaining and adhering to a prospective partner’s assent to sex.

What follows is an account of the article’s findings via Newswise, and it’s especially revealing, given that the subjects interviewed are belong to a group much linked to sexual assaults and protests of sexual conduct in recent months:

Previous research has identified that exposure to the crime drama genre lowers rape myth acceptance and increases sexual assault prevention behaviors such as bystander intervention. However, recent content analyses have revealed marked differences in the portrayal of sexual violence within the top three crime drama franchises. This study explores the influence of exposure to the three most popular crime drama franchises: Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS. Published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, the study Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS: The Association Between Exposure to Crime Drama Franchises, Rape Myth Acceptance, and Sexual Consent Negotiation Among College Students looks into the effects of exposure to crime dramas.

The study concluded that the different franchises had different effects on those surveyed. Exposure to Law & Order is associated with decreased rape myth acceptance and increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent, while CSI and NCIS are associated more negatively. Exposure to the CSI franchise is associated with decreased intentions to attain consent and decreased intentions to adhere to those expressions of sexual consent. Exposure to the NCIS franchise was associated with decreased intentions to refuse unwanted sexual activity.

The authors said of the intent of the study, “[It] aims to contribute to the existing literature in two important ways. First, this study accounts for the differences in content between crime drama franchises. Second, this study expands on research that has established that general crime drama viewing is associated with rape myth acceptance by also investigating whether exposure is associated with intentions related to sexual consent negotiation.”

We’d love to know more, but this is just one more instance of the predatory rapacity of modern academic publishing.

The Taylor & Francis Group, publishers of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, want $40 for a look at the article, an example of the unalloyed greed which does so much to keep information out of the hands of the people and confined to a select few — in short, the very antithesis of the notion of academic freedom.

Ayotzinapa students get another beatdown

On 26 September 2014, 43 male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa in Tixtla, Guerrero, Mexico, went missing after police and possibly soldiers opened fire after the students commandeered buses in nearby Iguala — an event which we covered in some depth.

The state teachers colleges produce poorly paid instructors for rural communities, instructors drawn from the regional poor, and at Ayotzinapa they live in cold, concrete-floored unfurnished rooms.

So if students want to go to events in nearby communities, they sometimes commandeered local buses, something that had gone without violent suppression until that night, which had the misfortune to coincide with a with an event of major importance to the mayor’s spouse.

Just what happened to the students remains a mystery, though one bone fragment has been identified as belonging to one of the 43.

Less than 14 months later, students again commandeered buses, along with a gas truck to keep them fueled. And police violence followed.

From the Los Angeles Times:

More than a dozen students were hospitalized in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero after they were detained and beaten by scores of state and federal police officers, according to human rights activists.

About 150 students from a rural teachers college were traveling in eight buses on the highway from the state capital of Chilpancingo toward the small rural town of Ayotzinapa just after 4 p.m. Wednesday when state police pickups began pursuing them, according to the Guerrero-based human rights group Tlachinollan and witnesses.

Cellphone video provided by one of the students purports to show a police pickup driving up to the back of one of the buses and breaking in the windows.

The students attend the Ayotzinapa teachers school; 43 of their were detained and subsequently disappeared in the nearby city of Iguala in September 2014. The students Wednesday were on their way back from raising money for their campaign on behalf of the missing, Tlachinollan said.

Here’s that video, via Anon Hispano, along with a Google translation of the Spanish text:

Federal police began assaulting students #Ayotzinapa 11/11/2015

Program notes:

Treacherous attack took place in the shed nearby Tixtla, Guerrero, by federal and state police to students of the Normal Rural ‘Isidro Burgos’ Ayotzinapa, under the pretext of the abduction of a pipe of Pemex, with a balance at least 20 injured and 10 arrested.

More context from Fox News Latino:

Wednesday’s confrontation outside the municipality of Tixtla occurred when the officers intercepted a tanker truck carrying 30,000 liters of gasoline that the students had commandeered in the state capital of Chilpancingo and were taking to Tixtla, where the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School is located.

The students, who were traveling in around 10 buses, tried to recover the tanker, leading to a clash in which the state police used batons and tear gas and the trainee teachers responded by hurling rocks and other objects at the officers.

An Ayotzinapa spokesperson told EFE that many of the students took refuge in nearby hills and that one of the 15 detainees was Ernesto Guerrero, a survivor of the deadly Sept. 26, 2014, events in the city of Iguala, Guerrero.

Al Jazeera’s AJ+ has more video from the scene:

Ayotzinapa Students Attacked By Mexican Police On Video

Program notes:

“The truth is these m*****f****** were chasing us, but this is how they chase criminals, isn’t it?” At least 8 Ayotzinapa students were hospitalized after they said they were attacked by Mexican police.

More in a video report from Telesur English:

Mexico: Police Attack on Ayotzinapa Students Repudiated

Program notes:

In the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, public opinion and social organizations are deeply concerned and angered over Wednesday’s police attack on Ayotzinapa students. The brutal attack, video of which was filmed by the students, left 8 students seriously injured and hospitalized. Critics say the attack is part of a strategy by the state government, now in the hands of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, to discredit the students and criminalize their protests. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

And a Telesur English website update has the latest on the conditions of the injured students:

In Mexico, eight students from the now-infamous teacher training school in Ayotzinapa from which 43 students were disappeared in 2014 remain hospitalized after they suffered police brutality Wednesday: four are in critical condition.

According to the students’ lawyer, Vidulfo Rosales, two people have fractured bones in their the arms, and another in the face. Juan Castro Rodriguez was left in the most serious condition, with a “grade one” head injury.

Rosales, a human rights attorney, demanded that the students be moved from the Raymundo Abarca Alarcon hospital to private facilities, paid for by the Guerrero state government, as he said a bed shortage meant the students were kept standing while waiting for medical attention and did not receive adequate care.

Along with the 20 injured students, 13 students were detained and 20 injured during the attacks by Guerrero state police Wednesday night.

And elsewhere in Mexico. . .

From Telesur English:

Hundreds of Afro-Mexicans in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero lived moments of terror when a group of men armed with AK-47s and AR-15s stormed their local celebrations and opened fire, killing at least 12 people, including two children and a women, according to local reports on Tuesday.

The attack was carried out Sunday night in the small, mostly Afro-descent community of Cuajinicuilapa, near the border with neighboring state of Oaxaca, the town mayor Constantino Garcia said.

Police officials also found shells that they say were fired by .38 caliber and 9 mm semi-automatic handguns.

Authorities have yet to reveal the possible motives of the attack, because as it stands now and based on the weapons used, federal security forces, including military, could be responsible, as well as organized crime.

Students protesters march across the country

The Million Student March erupted Thursday across the country, even here in Berkeley [which was never the Berzerkeley so beloved of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and their ilk.

We have two video reports. both with a Berkeley twist.

From up, via The Real News Network, an interview with a Berkeley student instrumental in the protests:

#MillionStudentMarch: Thousands Walkout Across The Country

From the transcript:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: The Million Student March. Thousands walked out of classes at over 100 campuses across the country on Thursday. Among their demands included addressing racial injustice, free tuition at college campuses and universities, cancellation of the country’s $1.2 trillion student debt, and a $15 wage for all university workers.

LAUREN BUTLER: Wall Street has infiltrated our education system. Education has been commodified, you know, and put on Wall Street to be gambled with.

NOOR: Tying racial justice and economic injustice is UC Berkeley student Lauren Butler. She helped organize the walkout on her campus.

BUTLER: People are disadvantaged in education because of their race. And the same system that oppresses us all as students, the same corporate system that benefits off of the creation of debt, you know, essentially the creation of poverty, right, these are the same people that like to exploit people of color, black people especially.

NOOR: Butler also cites the activism at the University of Missouri earlier this week that led to the toppling of two key university officials demonstrates the potential of students to achieve their demands when they are organized.

BUTLER: We’re really seeing a shift in the power dynamics, right. So what Missouri really taught us is that we have to speak their language to get a reaction out of them, right, and we did that. And the reactions of the students, you know, the reactions of the individual students, these disgusting hate crimes and acts of terror against the black students, it really is just reflective of this larger white supremacist power structure.

And from RT’s Ruptly TV, here’s some raw footage of the demonstrations here in Berkeley Thursday:

USA: Million Student March shuts down UC Berkley campus

Program notes:

Hundreds of students marched through the University of California’s Berkeley campus to demand free education, Thursday. The students who were joined by campaign group ‘Nurses for Bernie Sanders.’ Organisers are demanding tuition-free colleges, a cancellation of all student debt as well as a minimum $15 (€13.9) an hour wage for campus workers. The rally was one of many held on campuses across America under the name ‘Million Student March.’

Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to UCLA students

Three years before his assassination, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Came to the UCLA campus in Los Angeles to deliver a passionate speech on the state of black America.

And now, thanks to the digitizing of the archives of the university’s Communications Studies Department, you can hear his rousing oratory once again.

Note that several problems singled out then are back again, most notably the loss of low-end jobs to automation [to which must be added today’s exported jobs] and relentless efforts to disenfranchise blacks by way of prohibitive measures.

While legally mandated racial segregation has been outlawed, class-based segregation, a problem disproportionately afflicting African Americans now as then, remains as powerful now as then.

And listen closely to his ruthless debunking of the implicit basis of the arguments of the temporizers, those who argue that only time, not legislation, can redress the attitudes that have harmed America’s minorities.

When King refers to Proposition 14, he is citing the California ballot measure passed by voters the year before, nullifying the Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963, which had abolished racial segregation of housing in the Golden State.

Sponsored by the California Republican Assembly and the John Birch Society, the seedbed of today’s neoliberal movement [Fred Koch, father of the Koch brothers was a member until his death in 1967, and Charles Koch was a member at the time of King’s UCLA address], Proposition 14 would be overturned by the California Supreme Court in 1968.

Oh, and another supporter of Proposition 14 was one Ronald Wilson Reagan, elected governor the same year as the state supreme court ruling.

The temporizers are back again in full voice today, declaring that we are living in a “post-racial America,” a loathsome claim that finds endless resonance through Fox News and pundits of the radio airwaves.

From the UCLA Communications Studies Department:

Martin Luther King Jr. at UCLA 4/27/1965

Climate change good for the far north only

Russia, Canada, Mongolia, Scandanavia, Greenland, and the Baltic would benefit from global warming, while everyone else would be left out in the cold heat.

From Nature, via Stanford University [PDF], and click on the image to enlarge:


More from the UC Berkeley news service:

Unmitigated climate change is likely to reduce the income of an average person on Earth by roughly 23 percent in 2100, according to estimates contained in research published today in the journal Nature that is co-authored by two University of California, Berkeley professors.

The findings indicate climate change will widen global inequality, perhaps dramatically, because warming is good for cold countries, which tend to be richer, and more harmful for hot countries, which tend to be poorer. In the researchers’ benchmark estimate, climate change will reduce average income in the poorest 40 percent of countries by 75 percent in 2100, while the richest 20 percent may experience slight gains.

The Nature paper focuses on effects of climate change via temperature, and does not include impacts via other consequences of climate change such as hurricanes or sea level rise. Detailed results and figures for each country are available for download online.

UC Berkeley’s Solomon Hsiang, Chancellor’s Associate Professor of Public Policy, was a co-leader of the study with Marshall Burke, a 2014 Ph.D. graduate from Berkeley and an assistant professor in earth system science at Stanford University. Berkeley’s Edward Miguel, Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics, co-authored the results.

Co-author Michael Burke of Stanford explains:

Our paper, published online Oct 21st 2015 in the journal Nature, seeks to answer two main questions:

  1. In recent years, how has economic output around the world been affected by changes in temperature and precipitation?
  2. What do these historical responses imply about the potential future impacts of climate change?

To answer question 1, we analyzed changes in temperature and changes in economic output (as measured by per capita gross domestic product) for 166 countries for the years 1960-2010. To answer question 2, we combined these historical estimates with projections of future climate change from global climate models, and projections of how countries’ economies might develop absent climate change

Our findings demonstrate that changes in temperature have substantially shaped economic growth in both rich and poor countries over the last half century, and that future warming is likely to reduce global economic output, relative to a world without climate change.