A not-Syria Labor Day Open Thread

So while we wait for Congress to get back into town and decide things on Syria, there's still other stuff happening in this great, big, beautiful world of ours.


In Japan, the rubber-suited monsters that brought international fame and recognition to its film industry are gradually fading into oblivion.

Now, when Hollywood makes tokusatsu-inspired films — like this summer’s “Pacific Rim,” with its giant robots, or a coming Godzilla movie — it relies on flashy computer graphics.

“One day, we looked around and realized that almost no one is making tokusatsu anymore,” said Shinji Higuchi, one of a handful of Japanese directors who still have experience in the genre, having directed three movies in the 1990s featuring the giant fire-breathing turtle Gamera. “We don’t want this technique to just quietly disappear without at least recognizing how indebted we are to it.”

Meanwhile, General Wesley Clark (ret.) has apparently put in an appearance at Burning Man. Man, I wish this guy had done better in the 2004 primaries.


There's a chance, however small, that on a full transfer of power, Afghan security forces might not fall apart like wet tissue paper.

It was their first return to the Pech Valley — a rugged swath of eastern Afghanistan so violent they nicknamed it the Valley of Death — since the American military abruptly ended an offensive against the Taliban here in 2011 after taking heavy casualties.

But the Americans, from the First Battalion of the 327th Infantry, had not come back to fight. Instead, their visit this summer was a chance to witness something unthinkable two years ago: the Afghan forces they had left in charge of the valley then, and who nobody believed could hold the ground even for weeks, have not just stood — they have had an effect.

The main road leading in the Pech is now drivable, to a point, and rockets no longer rain down constantly on the base the Americans had left the Afghans. Local residents said they felt safer than they had in years.

Of course, all is not rainbows and sunshine and unicorns. Some of the reasons behind this outbreak of peace lead to larger questions of its sustainability:

What is less clear is how big a role deals worked out with the insurgents might play in pacifying the area.

While most Afghan officers were reluctant to talk about any such compromises in the Pech Valley, one general — Gen. Nasim Sangin, the executive officer of the Second Brigade of the Afghan Army’s 201st Corps — briefly discussed a larger example of restrained military ambition, in the nearby Korangal Valley. General Sangin said the army had decided not to mount operations there because it lacked the resources and the loss of life would hardly be worth it.

“The Korangal, it is a good place for the insurgents,” he said. “It is not a good place for us.”

So what have you folks got on this fine Labor Day weekend?

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Ok, I'm on the record as saying that we will....

Bernard Guerrero's picture

...at some point probably end up with a guaranteed income (ala Michael Lind.)  In a sense, you can see it happening already: there are loads of ZMP workers that can't provide anything anybody is willing to pay them for, while we see labor force participation under pressure at all age ranges below 45 and we've seen drastic increases in programs like food stamps.  Heck, you could argue that a fully automated world where required physical labor is completely banished from human existence is the Eschaton, though I can think of some less salubrious possibilities.


In the near term, though, I'm forced to ask why it is that so many of the "food insecure" manage to be so...large.






“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

Doesn't quite work, though.

Bernard Guerrero's picture

Certainly, eating crappier (i.e. higher fat, salt & sugar) foods is going to result in higher weight gain than eating a calorically comparable quantity of healthier fare, as well as leaving the consumer open to gaps in specific nutrients. 

However, you don't get fat on a calorically or volume restricted diet simply because it happens to be less nutrient-rich.  At the end of the day, weight gain still results from an imbalance of calories-in vs calories-out.  Therefore, if you don't have enough money to buy excessive calories in comparison with your metabolism, you should ultimately find yourself unable to gain weight.

I'll leave this here

TXG1112's picture

It seems that being poor makes one stupid, not the other way around.

In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night’s sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.



--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

I'd buy it if my wife and I...

Bernard Guerrero's picture

....hadn't been dirt poor when we got married.


Yes, I Saw That Study, Very Interesting...Dovetails Also With


...Catchy's nice article regarding markets and supposed virtue.


Best Wishes, Traveller

ok, mr. nutritionist.


don't bother to look at any of the well documented research on this..... i can see why arguing from vaguely understood principles of nutrition lets you make generalizations about fat and lazy poor people. and that's some good fun, right!





“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

Isn't it because processed high calorie (fructose-laden)

mmghosh's picture

food is cheaper, overall - production, storage, distribution - than fresh food?  We're having this discussion here too.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

And Sugar = Cheap High (it stimulates same areas as cocaine)

brutusettu's picture

plus it quickly saps your energy, making it less likely it will be worked off, plus most high-fructose stuff isn't that filling.


And since most poor people lack the money to do stuff that cost money, they're even more likely to go the cheap route and consume sugar instead of doing other stuff.

There is also the


minor issue that it often tastes better,  and generally costs the end consumer less money and effort to store, cook,  and eat.


Taking traditional raw materials (e.g. dried beans) and making it into a decent meal requires a number of things including access to a clean, functional kitchen,  ability to pay the gas and electric bills,  and most importantly, not being dead tired and already hungry when you get off work.  


I can't find it right now but many decades ago, long before the HFCS panic, Orwell had a long essay on why the poor eat "junk" food.


In any case,  the experiment should be easy,  maybe it's already been done:  Obviously, despite what nils says,  there has to be some level at which a person is simply not getting enough calories,  good type or bad, and their weight goes down.  Since we're seeing the opposite, the theory must be that we're on the part of the curve where there's money to buy enough calories, but not "good" calories.  US states differ considerably in how generous they are with food stamps or the local equivalent.  So if the theory is true, we should see that states with more generous benefits have thinner poor people.

Theory works nicely with fructose sweetness being an addiction

mmghosh's picture

all part of the exploitation story - not that anyone overtly planned it, just that that is what happens, organically as it were.


In related news, Finland and New Zealand hope to cut tobacco consumption by 95% by 2025.  Seeing as they also have some of the world's highest suicide rates and educational achievements, I wonder what that says about their societies.  


I get the occasional regrettable twinge that it might have occurred to some that it is better to be happy, addicted and poor.  It is also apparently true that the people in the most corruption ridden countries report the happiest people poll results.  



freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Except That. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .eating is one of the cheaper pleasures out there if one chooses to make it so (drinking can also be inexpensive if done in certain ways, which would increase the "bad calories" problem), so the impulse is likely to be "more cheap food" rather than "same or less food, but healthier." To be blunt, someone generally has to be motivated to eat healthier to do it, and the peer pressure that exists among better off people to do so doesn't really exist among the poor (at least in general--obviously individual circles of friends may vary).

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).



I agree, especially with the first part.   I was just responding to the claim (not explicitly made by anyone here) that people are obese primarily because they aren't given enough money to buy high quality food.  If that's true,  giving them more incrementally more money ought to result in incrementally less obesity. 

Quality Food is Available and Inexpensive...I Buy WIC Often


...Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, though of course not with food stamps. I buy them simply because they are good...and because I put Lima Beans and Peal Onions in everything...Good Stuff...lol


Be that as it may the real problem, as I have painfully come to discover, Making good food takes lots of time and hard work. That's the problem....fast food is easy.


When I was able to eat out every night, and I did for years...it was good food, I never had to go to the market, I had no kitchen time, I had not dishes to wash and put away.


Dinner takes me time time....breakfast is easy enough, fresh fruit, Oatmeal, a raisin and cinnamon muffin...(if I'm getting crazy fat, then I cut out the muffin or, like this morning, only have 1/2 of the muffin), but Dinner, cooking a trout, or ribs, or salmon, fresh vegetables, maybe shrimp...dinner is never less than a 2 to 3 hour exercise every day.


Best Wishes, Traveller


I'm sorry if


what I'm about to write seems judgmental.  I respect your freedom to decide for yourself what you put in your body.  But please consider that when you purchase lima beans for your supposedly private consumption,  you are contributing to the lima bean industry. It encourages the production of even more lima beans,  and increases the chances that children will be exposed to them.  Eventually it leads to horrors like the one at 0:51 in this video.



LOL...Food is Odd, I Have People Pick Lima Beans Out Of My


...fine eats, or simply refuse to eat whatever I am serving.


I seriously think it is an Army thing...back in the day a green tinned container of Lima Beans to me was...just excellent!


I would even trade on a jungle trail pound cake for Lima Beans.


Weird, I know, but they are terrifically good for you.


Carbs, 6gm, Dietary Fiber 5gm, sugar 2 gm, Protein 6gm


And only .99cents on WIC for 12 ounces....Yummmm....lol


Traveller (go Broncos!)





"we should see that states with more generous benefits have


thinner poor people."


Unless the variation between more and less generous benefits is small enough not to take poorer people off the part of the curve where there's money to buy enough calories but not "good" calories.


I disagree


If it is, in fact, a curve,  there should be an incremental improvement, unless the difference is so small to be buried in the noise.   More food stamps = ability to buy better quality food = less obesity.    If your argument is true,  there's no point in increasing public assistance at all unless it's a giant increase.


Anyway,  my theory for the inverse correlation between weight and wealth is different.  It's basically what TXG1112 is saying - being poor is depressing and stressful,  and depressed, stressed people are going to eat what makes them feel a little less miserable, rather than what's good for them. 

OK, I'll withdraw that particular point


I'm still worried about a small variation being overwhelmed by other factors. People are of course fatter in the South, but that the cultural food choices down there must be a factor in addition to poverty. 


I grew up eating unleavened bread (lefsa), Turkey, some vegetable casseroles, and oatmeal cookies on holidays. That was binge eating. In the south that would be health food.


But anyone who hasn't been stressed, poor and busy, and then started eating worse b/c of it, hasn't lived a life I can relate to.  

The Bus (Improbable Street Series-The Sinai)


How anyone lives in the Sinai remains a wonder to me.




Best Wishes, Traveller

Free markets and the myth of earned inequality


*rolls eyes*

M Scott Eiland's picture

Rather wordy way of pushing the "life's lottery" meme.* One wonders if Professor Rosenberg is familiar with a certain parable.

*--particularly since the twit has the gall to actually use more or less that exact phrase at one point.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Am I to believe that Business Administration colleges

brutusettu's picture

are filled with "life's lottery" meme believers?  maybe there's a super cluster of truth there.

Nice Link Catchy, If Something Causes Scott to Roll His Eyes...


...this automatically means I have to study the matter better....lol.


(I don't mean this badly, just interesting...)


I agree with the conclusions of the natural, inevitable corruption of the Free Market in real life...because it is a free market.


Hence my fondness for...sigh, (time for Scott to rightly roll his eyes)....the elite wonks to institute regulation where distortions are seen.


The problem is that the Elite Wonks have to be thrown out in creative self destruction from time to time, as must be the rapacious capitalists.





since taxation is used to pay for externalities and fund natural monopolies to the good of all it is more like buying a service than being enslaved. 


I suppose I could see an exception for people forced to work just to pay tax. For example a subsitence farmer who is forced to pay a property tax. 

Australian politicians are truly bizarre.

mmghosh's picture

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

The man who imprisoned three women for years,

Bird Dog's picture

ducked out of his own months-long imprisonment by killing himself. I would have preferred him alive and in a concrete box for the rest of his natural life.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I prefer...

Bernard Guerrero's picture

...that the state save the $28K per year or so that it would have taken to keep him incarcerated.  If only we could encourage more of the violent ones to do the same...

Optional Death Penalty


I don't know if it's my idea or not but I never heard anybody else propose it.


Upon a verdict or admission of guilt for a capital crime, a sentencing would take place where, instead of a mandatory death penalty, there would be an option to sentence to voluntary death or life in prison.


I realize a lot of people would be mad at the idea of a criminal getting a choice in his fate. But it sure would be practical, since some percentage would probably go that route, for any number of reasons. By definition, nobody would appeal a voluntary death sentence, so there would be no need to tie up so many legal resources. I see it as win-win all around, but I'm guessing it will anger both proponents and opponents of the death penalty at the same time, so not a political winner...

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

AP reports that NIN covered Johnny Cash's "Hurt"

brutusettu's picture

h/t Erik Loomis



one of the songs on the short list of favorite covers

--Placebo - Running Up That Hill



And right back to Reznor and covers

Hey Trav, were you in the 327th?


I was and I think I recall Ken White saying he was. Just wondering if you'll round it out to an even three for Forvumites to have belonged to the Army's only straight leg, glider, airborne and air assault infantry regiment.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

2/502 Strike Force (Airborne)




The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (502nd PIR) was established during World War II as a regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. The regiment saw substantial action in World War II and went on to deploy in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Since 1974, the regiment has been classified as air assault infantry; and at present, the regiment's two battalions are under the command of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.


The Unit is air assault infantry now. I visited them at Ft. Campbell, KY two years ago.


Interestingly, especially since I am only recently in frequent contact with the survivors of my company from 1966~67, they seem, to me, unhappily, still very connected to that time...to the army, to the war.


Me not so much. The VA treated me very badly in 1968 and I've never looked back. I have been repeatedly invited to VN by soldiers and by Vietnamese....not a chance.


My eyes are facing forward.


I do not mean this badly, but if one were of a subtle turn of mind they might note that I write so much about it, here, now, in this post...because at some level, even subconsciously,  the issues remain very alive in me, in my heart, still.


There are still very funny stories out there being told about me as a soldier...I don't know. They say I was the best....I see myself as a coward and a killer...that managed to keep all my people alive.


More or less.


There was X with a sucking chest wound, 2am ish, black night in a huge boldered creek trying to escape from Tiger Hill.  I ask people to leave and I would catch up...he died, I left his lifeless body behind on a rocky ledge.


I wonder what Captain Mac would say if I told him this next time he called me?


Lots of stuff remains private.


Traveller....Booah! Airborne! Tuck and Roll! Strike Force...baby


Edit: I tell this story to illustrate that, no matter how important the principal, real life sometimes intervenes...and, for whatever reason, I want people to take the correct lesson from this story. Stay alive.

Hey Trav, FWIW....


....make those reunions when you can.  I've been in the 327th and the 505th and have attended those regimental reunions or commemorative events.  I cant speak to whatever emotional costs you bear but I can tell you that the effect on those currently serving in those regiments is incalculable. 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Ooops, KW Would Kill Me. I Was TDY 1/327th for a Short While



...I really think that things were so much different then, much more fluid...like units would combine after a battle in WWI to be later reconstituted...or, The Roman Legions in Belgae, though not after the Teutoburg Forest....there were no Legions left to reconstitute.


This was a large argument between Mr. White and myself...better left unremembered.


Eyes forward, Trooper!


(not bad advice there)



The Afghan security forces are taking 100 casualties a month.

mmghosh's picture

So yes, unicorns and rainbows.




The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.


Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.


Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.


We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.


From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.


In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Why would....

Bernard Guerrero's picture

...100 casualties a month be so very unsustainable?  Assuming the money holds out, I don't see why they couldn't keep up that pace forever.

Without the ISAF umbrella?

mmghosh's picture

The problem seems to be that the Afghan New Model Army is being trained to be a modern technological Army.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

No, they really aren't, Mmghosh


First, a lot of these guys are tough, but too many are illiterate. This makes it difficult to do stuff that western armies were doing competently 150 years ago. Indirect fire for example needs an observer, a means to communicate to a firing platform, a firing platform and a common reference for what the observer needs to tell the platform what to shoot at. Any of that is missing and the howitzer et al becomes an oversized grenade launcher. We're in the realm of rudimentary warfare here, not advanced western technology.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I could see how illiteracy could stand in the way of a lot of


modern skills like programming missiles or ordering paper clips on whatever the army version of SAP is, but calling out a grid reference and correcting distances? With the right teaching methods wouldn't that be simple enough to teach? I say this from my experience of working with illiterates. Most would have had would have no problem memorising 10 sysmbols and using them to call out a grid reference.  


Reading a map is of course a skill all of its own. 

With the contempt for Afghans dripping through

mmghosh's picture

even enlightened Americans, there is little possibility of the majority of the Afghan supporting the presence of the US.


Even illiterates can be proud. 

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Hey man, you have to get off this 'contempt' kick.


There's no contempt in a straight forward assessment.  I mean c'mon here, your premise is 'Silly Americans, teaching old dogs new tricks.'  Talk about contempt.

You want sugar-coating because Afghan small unit leaders can't read a map, maintain a radio or understand the process for using indirect fire, so that they throw their soldiers into a kill zone rather than using several decades old techniques to kill an enemy at a distance?  Not me.  I'd prefer to point out the big ugly-a$$ed elephant in the room and say 'This needs to get fixed.'  If that's contempt then I hope we have a lot more of it.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

btw, the Taliban are back.

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Here's a chart



Keep in mind that in the general population Democrats outnumber third party members about 20 to 1,  but they couldn't even muster up the same number of protestors.  

Now There's A Shock

M Scott Eiland's picture

Apparently, at least half of Democratic opposition to the war was animated by the sacred principle "Because f*** Dubya."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Guys, this was supposed to be the non-Syria open thread


You just couldn't help yourselves, could ya. 


Well, I must protest a little because actually Democrats are more likely to oppose war in Syria than Republicans. Is that OK with everyone? Or do we have to exaggerate the unprincipled nature of Democratic voters some more?




Syria?  Who mentioned Syria?  Is something going on in Syria?  That's some other thread. This chart ended in late 2009.


But anyway, I thought the line that looks like a poorly drawn x-axis but turns out to be the Republican data didn't need any comment.  OTOH someone not looking closely might think that there was some residual Democrat component in the antiwar movement in 2009,  when in fact they were even rarer than supporters of Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney,  i.e. less than 1% of the population.



OK, but MScott elided protesting and merely disapproving of war


The polling on Syria shows the difference.


It's possible Democrats and the left generally had the life sucked out of them after their mass protests in the run-up to the Iraq war, which were not only ultimately politically ineffective, but were largely ignored by the media.


The American political establishment loves to beat down leftist populism and not give an inch. It works. I don't see any anti-war or Occupy protests these days. It's the same old story of the left being politically disenfranchised and not knowing what to do about it.

Thank goodness....

Bernard Guerrero's picture

+ Other stuff ranging from possible to extremely likely

brutusettu's picture

One would need to sift through the source of the 1st poll to see if people stopped calling themselves Democrats after the election but called themselves Democrats before the election.



Or that at protest, self-described Democratic voters were there in less numbers because they thought the job was basically a done deal when they voted for Obama, so the stopped going to the rallies during that time frame.

I agree with the second statement


but it seems obvious now that was a foolish thing for them to think.

You made it about Syria.


Y'know, I'm going to back up my fellow mod. Consider yourself chastised, I have a furrowed brow and am wagging my finger in an annoyed manner. No yellow card, but I'm watching you.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Darth there's a lot of things I could say to you and eeyn


Oops is one of em.

Or maybe


there was a really really bad war that was finally ended between 2008 and 2010.  Not all hatred is irrational.


What war was that?


War on poverty? War on drugs? Hmmm Afghanistan is on going, and Iraq didn't end until 2011, per the timeline set by the previous administration, so what war are you referring to?

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Hmm Iraq


lasted longer than I thought.  Obama must have really meant the 'careful getting out as we were reckless getting in' part.  Sure seemed like it was winding down during that period.  Maybe I'm representative of the marginally attentive Democrats during that period.  As contemptuously phrased as it was, I completely agree with his whole thing about being opposed to dumb wars.  Survey questions about generally supporting military action are simplistic and irrelevant.


As to Bush signing the SOFA, how convenient that he didn't have to deal with the pullout and aftermath until he was out of office.  Kind of like those expiring tax cuts.  You don't get to take credit for ending a war you started yourself anyway.


There was much higher Democratic support for invading Afganistan than Iraq to begin with.  Most criticisms of Bush re: Afganistan had to do with his ignoring the mission, not going to war in the first place.  There there was plenty of criticism of Obama's Afgan troop surge from the left too.


One last note: it's possible to be consistent while supporting one president and opposing another doing the same thing, if you can show why their relative competence in accomplishing the task is of critical importance.  This doesn't apply to many situations since the president is only one man.  On the other hand, look who actually avenged Sept. 11.



3:23am; Drunk with Dog, Bananas and Red Plastic Pail




Somewhere in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Best Wishes, Traveller

I see no bananas


unless they're in the red plastic pail.

lol...Center Top, Just to the Left of the Light....




Edit: "Drunk," because he was aggressive with me after this picture...and I am well known as a Obama-like Wuss.

You've been to Phnom Penh?


And you were wandering the streets at 3:23 picking fights with fruit vendors?  That doesn't sound wussy to me.


I have to complain.  There is an obvious box of mangoes or some other Cambodian fruit but you name the photo after an object that isn't within the traditional inner 2/3 of the frame.

Truly, I have a Strong Affection for Cambodia, The French...


...Colonial Architecture, the Khmer People....the women were, to me, more fleshy, less delicate than we generally think of South East Asian Women.


I more fully found Buddhism in Cambodia,  (for me, spiritually) but ever remembered to myself that these peaceable people were fairly murderous within my lifetime.


It was still, in 2008 a little out there, bleeding edge. It probably isn't any more...but there and Laos and on the Mekong, what a place for me to retire!



He only respects one man


I think you know who I'm talking about.

Aberforth Dumbledore? -nt-

M Scott Eiland's picture


. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Noam Chomsky Serves as X-Factor Judge


Pretty remarkable:


Not satisfied with attacking the acts, Professor Chomsky then turned his critique on The X Factor audience. ‘You are all complicit in a hegemonic construct designed primarily to keep you from questioning what is really going on in the world,’ he told them, ‘You must learn to think critically and reject the pernicious cult of celebrity.’ It was at this point that the audience went wild, whooping, cheering and chanting his name. ‘We love you Chomsky!’ they screamed at the 81 year-old professor ...

That's A Shame

M Scott Eiland's picture

I thought he'd found his true calling as a movie critic. :-P

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

I'm in Korea


So no Labor Day celebration.


But I do get a "Thanksgiving" Thursday and Friday off at the University where I work next week.


That may sound strange, but what's even stranger is the mathematical impossibility of this place. 


The tuition is $14k per student per year, the classes are capped at 25, I'm teaching a normal load of 2-3 courses per semester, and all the professors are on the same pay scale of ... starting salary nearly $70k.


As everyone in America knows, and as the bloated ranks of administrators make clear, this violates the laws of arithmetic. So being mathematically impossible is just another way in which Korea is kinda weird.

Clearly the ROK


hates freedom...


Im still trying to get a sense of the numbers


But it seems the biggest difference between this Korean University of which Im aware is that there are far fewer admin positions and those that are here are done mostly by professors on the service model. So like dept chairs in the US are rotating positions that a professor takes on for several more grand per year, thats what even high level dean positions are like. Someone told me they served as an associate dean for under 5k added to their normal teaching salary. The president of the University makes not quite as much as the most senior professors (tho someone told me he gets some unofficial sources of funding).

This is a private university so almost all the funding comes from the 14k tuition. The government kicks in a little for research but my understanding is that that basically funds the publication bonuses they give (I get 3k per article published).

Im not sure what other costs are lower-- perhaps they pay the janitors and cooks and construction workers very poor wage (they all have universal healthcare).
The buildings arent crappy and theyre expanding here so as near as can figure out bloated admin costs is a big difference.

I read that U Penn is paying its president 2 million this year. Thet could easily hire 25 -- 30 professors if they reduced the salary to a korean level

Now you've confused me.

mmghosh's picture

Is 70k starting salary too much or or too little?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

It's the highest salary


anyone out of my PhD program has earned by far in decades and higher than most starting humanities positions in any American university.  


If you throw in the fact that I have free housing it's not an exaggeration to say that this position in S. Korea is paying almost double and asking for about half the work as the average starting position in the States. 


It's been interesting to me to compare to the US, where tuition is rising while professorial pay has been stagnant or falling. I think this Korean University shows it doesn't have to be that way. 


My general hope is that some Universities and businesses might be pressured by Asian competitors to reduce the top-heavy managerial model that the US has pursued and spread some of the rewards around to the talented lower-level employees who actually do the work.


You gotta figure that some good schools somewhere are going to mostly reward teachers rather than Associate Vice Chancellors of Strategic Communications.

Just out of interest, after the McGinn saga

mmghosh's picture

how are women represented in your academic dept of philosophy?  Is the atmosphere as combative as in the US, or more cooperative?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

There's no women in my department


Just 6 guys.


The NYT philosophy blog is doing a follow-up by women philosophers in the aftermath of the McGinn scandal:




I might also recommend "Sh%t philosophers say" https://twitter.com/ShitPhilosophrs


Sample: "I wonder whether, if that's true, the metaphysics is going to wear a bit more of the pants than you suggested."

Catchy, how do you overcome the language barrier?


Do you speak Hangul, do your students speak English, or do you have a translator?

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Its an english speaking university


The language barrier outside the university is a little tricky given that I know two words of korean. Whats Hangul?

Well Wikipedia tells me that Hangul is the Korean alphabet


I had thought it was the language as well.  Funny thing is that I was stationed there and '99-2000 and the term when used by both Americans and Koreans was for the language.  I poked around a bit on the web and it seems pretty consistent that Hangul is the alphabet and the language is Korean so either a) I am right and all those other people are wrong or b) I was mistaken.  I'm taking a page out of my wife's playbook and going with A.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Close to A

brutusettu's picture

 "hangugeo" or "hangulmal"  would be better Darth.

Too bad that answer is never good enough for Mrs Cuddly


I'd be a kindler, gentler, saner person.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I srsly know hello and thank you


and thats it. So no, i cant read the symbols and its a bit of a problem, but smart phones solve the main navigation problems so moving ibternationally is way easier than it used to be. In the years you were stationed in the ROK I was living in prague basically without access to the internet. Just a whole different experience.

Hangul is super-easy to learn


and Korean grammar is also fairly straightforward, especially to someone trained in the Rigors of Philosophy. Seriously, you can learn the alphabet in a a couple of hours, and after that, the grammar and vocab follow pretty closely.

I haven't put in enough time to learn much

brutusettu's picture

But maybe I should put in some more, I get too much of a kick out of seeing Koreanized English words.


cake, keikeu (the 케이크 is a lie)

helicopter, helicopteu

cell phone is hand phone (hehndeu pwn)

t-shirt, tee-syeocheu


Dude, it's been 13 years, that's all I know too


Though I do distinctly remember that the way one says hello in person is different than how one says hello on the phone. I was there a year and was indoctrinated to 'The Land of the Morning Cough' and the 'The Land of the Not Quite Right'. Six months passed before I got proper guidance from a dude in the know.
Here's what I'll tell you. Stay away from soju. For it's capacity to turn Americans into A-holes.it makes.tequila look like tea.
Get thee from the beaten path. Some of the coolest stuff I saw in Korea was out of the way and often what West Virginians would call a 'holler' .
Make a Korean friend. He'll always have a cousin or some relation that can.hook you.up. If said cousin steers you wrong the friend will go to great lenghths to make things right.
If it's Russian, it's Russian mob. You done been told.
If it's Filipino, it's Russian mob. You done been told.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

That's some of the best advice I've received so far


I can handle Soju, though, it ain't no thang.

Hey, I liberally over-generalized....


....liberally.  You do have to watch out for some of the shady connections.  You get the same problems in the US but we're from this environment and we learn what to steer clear of. 

On the making a friend.  I was amazed at the informal networking.  Again, you can see the same thing in the US, but in Korea I just found it to be more prevalent and significant.

You're on your own with soju.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

It's good


US entry level academic positions in engineering or computer science are slightly above that,  due to competition from private industry,  and business schools have an racket  going accreditation requirement that requires them to pay high salaries.


However, for people in traditional academic disciplines,  including basic science,  70 would be considered a very nice salary at an average institution.


At the place I work we start engineering Asst Profs with a fresh PhD in the 70-75 range.    People in English or Philosophy are probably at 60+/- for an Assistant Professor,  but it's very hard to be an Asst Prof in those disciplines without spending years first as a Lecturer,  which is in the 40s for full time,  or even as a part timer paid $2K/course.


The idea of bonuses for publishing papers would be laughed at here.   That's considered part of the base job,  and someone who doesn't average at least one major publication per year (a long article in a respected journal that is cited by others)  is going to be getting negative performance reviews and will probably be out in 4-6 years.


The 25 enrollment cap wouldn't fly at most places,  either.  You get advanced classes that size,  but our philosophy entry level courses are usually set at 60.   Not only is that 140% more grading,  but for the average professor's brain,  40 or so is the borderline between knowing all your students by name and having them just be a crowd with ID numbers.


He's got it good,  at least until he finds out about the secret initiation rites Korean professors have to go through.

Wait a minute


3K per article.  If you're paid 70K that means you need to publish 23 or 24 articles a year to not get fired?


It seems kind of tough and harsh.  But that must be what you mean because if it's literally a bonus on top of a baseline 70K salary with no publications then you've lost the right to complain about anything ever again.


Why are there any Korean professors at all in the US?  Are they some kind of pariahs that have been banished or something?

3k per article?

mmghosh's picture

I missed that. And philosophical articles means you can write 'em during the vacation in Papeete.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I dont know that this compensation is widely enjoyed


Im at the most expensive private university in Korea (which at 14k is still less than many US public universities). Plus I get subsidized housing. But thats only given to foreigners so I didnt mention it as part of the general compensation.

So I dont want to generalize too much from my experience. Butd anyway its not happening because the American managerial class has already demonstrated to the satisfaction of everyone that professors simply cant enjoy decent entry pay. Sorry guys, maybe if you had taken accounting classes you could understand. Try getting a degree in business management next time

Very Good, Catch, Keep on Keeping us Informed, Thanks...nt



I was very surprised to learn that Labor Day in the USA

mmghosh's picture

doesn't coincide with May Day as it does in the ROW, especially considering that May Day celebrates a US event, even here.


But your conservatives are Red, too.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency