horse's mouth

This year’s Research Review, an annual event at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, is titled “”Sensor Networks for Healthcare, the Environment and Homeland Defense.””

The Research Review promises to be a great and heady demonstration of what the graduate students here are capable of, as it is every year. However, the title for this event is interesting, emphasizing “”homeland defense.””

“”Homeland”” is a tricky word. Its use these days is attributable to President George W. Bush’s creation of a lofty rank within his administration, the “”Director of the Office of Homeland Security.”” “”Homeland”” and “”domestic”” are synonymous, but “”domestic”” is far more common, so it seems odd that Bush would choose the former.

There seems to be a certain fundamental arrogance behind “”homeland”” — implying the superiority of this particular nation-state’s domestic territory. If this seems far-fetched, let us remember that Nazis referred to Germany by the similar term “”fatherland.””

“”Homeland,”” as opposed to “”domestic,”” makes a point about the quality of the soil on which our nation rests, rather than the territorial bounds of the soil itself. In addition, there is an imperialistic nature about it. It implies that there is a great division between the numerous U.S. interests abroad in inferior countries and the security of the homeland — the true land of the American citizens working there.

So am I being unpatriotic by not declaring the United States the most superior nation on this planet? The morality, equality and freedom espoused by proponents of U.S. superiority are often clearly lacking. The psyche of the all-powerful, morally superior nation-state is a view more appropriate for a world of mercantilism, imperialism or world war.

That’s basically the sort of country we seem to advocate after Bush’s State of the Union address, with his promises for unilateral trade action, unilateral troop placement in foreign nations, and his description of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “”axis of evil.””

Twenty-first-century global democracy indeed. We might as well restore segregation while we’re at it.

We could have called the Research Review “”Sensor Networks for Domestic Defense.”” But that would mean admitting to our failings as a country and admitting to our fundamental moral equality with many other nation-states on this planet, wouldn’t it?

Amazingly enough, the A.S. Council passed a resolution relevant to UCSD students last week, informing the administration that students were unhappy about having photos on-line.

I tried to ascertain why exactly having photos of students that you hardly even bother to notice in lecture would be much help anyway. So I thought of an analogous educational situation in which one was easily recognized, and tried to unearth the benefits of being anonymous there.

High school.

So, if I could have gone four years at Riverside Poly High without a soul knowing my name upon sight, what would I have done?

After careful consideration, I figured that I would steal the campus enforcers’ golf cart and take it for periodic joy rides. There would be other benefits: I could get away with sleeping in class, have others take my tests and so on.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph Watson has always been a big fan of bringing rowdy college kids into line. (Look at his current attempt to squash Groundwork Books. I wonder if the shed construction at the Che Cafe is his idea too. If one forces the Che to worry about 30 square meters on its lot, it won’t make trouble elsewhere. I wonder how long this can be dragged out before the Che catches on.) The only benefit to having photos on-line is for discipline. My theory seems to have been confirmed: Two of my professors have used them solely for identity verification during exams.

I’m not a fan of having a police state at a public university, but if the professors can use it to shut people up in class, I’m all for it. Maybe if there were actually some consequences to people’s talking, like grade reduction, they’d keep quiet in lecture so the rest of us could hear.

The one week every quarter when Library Walk fills with the smell of kettle corn and the sounds of merchants blaring Dave Matthews Band and Johannes Brahms is a joy for the senses. In spite of what some people deride as capitalists and hippies invading campus grounds, it’s a nice opportunity to buy useless junk.

Now, if only someone had the sense to invite a low-cost computer parts dealer to campus, I’d be ecstatic.