I know what it comes with, but that’s not what I want

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There’s nothing like running a theme into the ground, Has Orwell’s ‘1984’ Come 22 Years Later?. You’re only paranoid if your fears are unfounded, Big brother on campus: U.S. wants to track students’ every step

Does the federal government need to know whether you aced Aristotelian ethics but had to repeat introductory biology? Does it need to know your family’s financial profile, how much aid you received and whether you took off a semester to help out at home?

The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education thinks so. In its first draft report, released in late June, the commission called for creation of a tracking system to collect sensitive information about our nation’s college students. Its second draft, made public last week, softens the name of the plan, but the essence of the proposal remains unchanged.

Whether you call it a “national unit records database” (the first name) or a “consumer-friendly information database” (the second), it is in fact a mandatory federal registry of all American students throughout their collegiate careers — every course, every step, every misstep. Once established, it could easily be linked to existing K-12 and workforce databases to create unprecedented cradle-to-grave tracking of American citizens. All under the watchful eye of the federal government.

Even in 1921 someone saw the dangers of a perverse utopia where a combination of a society that lived in fear made a strange pact with those in power. Was or is the sacrifice worth it, In a perfect world

The One State described by Zamyatin does bear a close resemblance to these imagined social orders. “We” describes a rigid world of efficiency and perfection, one in which individuals (called “ciphers”) are issued numbers instead of names and are nurtured by Taylorist systems from childhood. The One State is ruled by a Benefactor, who is automatically voted in every year, and watched over by spying Guardians, who ensure that nothing unexpected ever happens; those ciphers who do fall out of step (literally) are whisked away to the Gas Bell Jar.

This state of “mathematically infallible happiness” (as the One State’s official newspaper describes it) is considered by its citizens to be a revolutionary improvement on the chaotic condition of freedom humankind once knew.

Like all those that write about an imagined future based on current trends Yevgeny Zamyatin’s imagined world doesn’t serve as the perfect analogy to the current state of affairs. In his dystopia wars have been banished, where now we are closer to Orwell’s perpetual war. War as religion, war as just an extension of the free market, and war as a shark attached to by sucker fish like the right-wing pundits and politicians riding and goading the killing machine. The only real problem with the killing machine according to the right is that we’ve become too squeamish about killing, if only we would wage genocide then we’d be getting someplace.

I’m pretty much had it with top ten lists. Nothing new I have been for years; still once and a while and usually because they’re so idiosyncratic I find one that is interesting. Andrew has an interesting list of his top ten movies at Obsidian Wings, And Now, For Something Completely Different

When Harry Meet Sally and The Cowboys would make my top 100, but not top ten. HMS resorted to easy to pull sentimental heartstrings once too often and The Cowboys was for the most part a sentimentalized Red River, the later a grittier and superior movie. Running Scared and The Princess Bride wouldn’t make any list of mine, but L.A. Confidential, Casablanca, and To Kill a Mockingbird are such superior choices I have to cut him some lack. It’s difficult for me to have a top ten, not because I don’t have favorites, but because they shift places in my top lets say 200 films according to my mood. I love a small budget film called Employee of the Month, but it is a very dark comedy in which every character is to some degree evil, but its not a movie I can watch frequently and I can understand why it didn’t get a wider distribution. Garden State was one of the most original films that I had seen in the last few years, but again there is a very dark side to it. So anyway you can see how a top ten movie list for me would involve too many caveats to be entertaining to write or read. I may as time permits mention a few films over the next week (some film-noir) that are worth a watch that may be a little off the beaten path.

Audit Finds U.S. Hid Cost of Iraq Projects

The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.

The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

The conservative argument against rising the minimum wage to the point where it is in the neighborhood of the cost of living is that business cannot afford it. Perhaps a good argument can be made that American tax payers cannot afford conservatives as America’s ruling party. Time to turn away from the martini and caviar crowd and get back to meat and potatoes government.

BOBBY
(looking at his menu)
I’ll have an omelette, no potatoes.
Give me tomatoes instead, and wheat
toast instead of rolls.

WAITRESS
No substitutions.

BOBBY
What does that mean? You don’t have
any tomatoes?

WAITRESS
(annoyed)
No. We have tomatoes.

BOBBY
But I can’t have any. Is that what
you mean?

WAITRESS
Only what’s on the menu…
(again, indicating with
her pencil)
A Number Two: Plain omelette. It
comes with cottage fries and rolls.

BOBBY
I know what it comes with, but
that’s not what I want.
from the screenplay Five Easy Pieces (1970)
by Carole Eastman.