Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Samhita on the culture of police brutality

Read this. (and comments)

And then read this.

Here's her finest moment, I think:

Last Tuesday's post on the man in Oakland that killed 4 police officers yielded heated responses and I wanted to follow up after everyone (especially me) had some time to mull things over. I want to draw from some of the themes that came up and to update the news that broke last Tuesday night that Lovelle Mixon was also linked to the rape of a 12 year old girl. This act, along with the murders of John Hege, Mark Dunakin, Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai, are reprehensible acts. I am stating this upfront so that it is not lost that this is a tragedy and there is no excuse for this kind of tragedy.

There seemed to be some concern that the way I approached my discussion of this topic made me sound like an apologist. Perhaps a matter of semantics but despite some folks understanding it was not my intention, there still seemed to be a need to accuse me of it. To clarify, there is a big difference between understanding what creates a condition/thought/action and then justifying that said action.

Thea Lim at Racialicious
gave a very thorough breakdown of the fall-out around my post last week and the idea of trying to hold two thoughts at once. She writes,

Now, Mixon actually was guilty. But Mixon's guilt doesn't neutralise the rottenness of the system. In other words, just because Mixon was actually a dangerous felon doesn't mean that we are absolved from the duty to question how justice and innocence is defined and meted out in our culture.

It is not only possible for us to hold these two facts at once, but it is imperative in understanding the consequences of Mixon's actions for the greater community in Oakland and also for understanding how the youth in Oakland are dealing with this atrocity. Perhaps the huge backlash against my piece was due to a desire to use Mixon as an excuse to voice their own racism, whether conscious or subconscious. As lefties it is our job to point out these subtle nuances, as the implications are deadly.

Feminist blogosphere ftw!


Alan Maass breakdown of The Nation's panel on socialism

The socialistworker.org breakdown can be read here.

The original Nation panel is here.


Staying in a hotel? Stay in a unionized hotel.

UNITE HERE has a search engine which finds unionized hotels that work with your travel plans.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Bernie Sanders introduces Single Payer senate bill

via Healthcare-Now!: Read it here.

Of course, its Bernie Sanders, and its unlikely that much will come of it. Still... it can't hurt to have a single-payer bill on the table in some sense. If nothing else it's a rallying-point.


Hey Paul Krugman, where the hell are ya, man?

Hat tip to Louis Proyect.


Struggling Colleges Accepting Wealthy Students First

The NY Times reports.

Facing fallen endowments and needier students, many colleges are looking more favorably on wealthier applicants as they make their admissions decisions this year.

Institutions that have pledged to admit students regardless of need are finding ways to increase the number of those who pay full fare in ways that allow the colleges to maintain the claim of being need-blind — taking more students from the transfer or waiting lists, for instance, or admitting more foreign students who pay full freight.

Colleges that acknowledge taking financial status into account say they are even more aware of that factor this year.

“If you are a student of means or ability, or both, there has never been a better year,” said Robert A. Sevier, an enrollment consultant to colleges.
Well, this bodes well for democracy and the American dream...


Capitalism is not the "free market"

I've seen a couple of recent treatments of "socialism" in somewhat mainstream outlets, from Bill Moyer's interview of Mike Davis to a recent NY public-radio interview with historian and Reconstuction-expert Eric Foner (who's parents were involved in the US Socialist Party of Debs and Thomas). Generalizing beyond these relatively thoughtful and intelligent treatments of the question of "socialism" today, I'm sure you can imagine millions of cases on Cable television and radio where some inept bantering moron has evoked "socialism" recently.

What many of these invocations of socialism share, particularly the demagogic-Right-wing permutations, is the idea that socialism is the opposite of a series of allegedly synonymous phrases: free-enterprise, a market economy, capitalism, free-market, etc. In other words, many of these treatments of "socialism" function by declaring what it is not, i.e. the "free market", etc.

But if we leave aside the difficult (but nonetheless answerable) question of what socialism is or ought to be for a moment, why should we assume that defining capitalism is so effortless? What is capitalism?

Well, it's certainly not the just the existence of a market. If we understand by 'market', some sort of exchange or trade between individuals on the basis of self-interest, then this would be a very unhelpful definition of capitalism indeed, for this sort of 'market' has existed for many centuries in many different places. Whatever capitalism is, it has got to have more to it than simply the presence of certain forms of exchange. Capitalism must have something to do with production: how production is organized in every relevant sense, what relationships the various actors involved in it stand with respect to each other, what relation the given mode of producing has to the State, how power and authority are diffused throughout this particular way of organizing production, etc.

But this isn't what you would hear if you asked a libertarian what capitalism is. They would tell you that capitalism is roughly synonymous with the "free market", the often-invoked ideal which prescribes the systematic application of the logic of neo-classical economic theory to all facets of life. The "free market", they will tell you, is the opposite of socialism since the former means minimal 'government intervention' and the latter means 'maximal government intervention' in the economy. This is how they get off saying that corporate welfare is 'socialist', or that any governmental regulation or economic policy is 'socialist' for wrongfully sticking its nose in the proper business of the 'free market'. But, if we want to understand what capitalism actually consists of, this business about 'more or less government intervention' isn't really very helpful. What is left over if the government recedes completely? Would we be left with a totally "free", self-regulating society in which all of the marvelous things free-marketeers promise us would be realized?

If the state were to completely recede, its unclear that there would be anything other than complete chaos. If there were no State to enforce and guarantee contract, to protect private property (because private property is not naturally-given, but only made possible by the existence of a certain set of institutions), to prevent unlawful coercion, etc. then there would be no capitalist society. Whatever capitalism is, it is not to be understood apart from a some form of State 'intervention' (enforcing contract and preventing theft are State interventions); some or other form of 'intervention' is essential to capitalism (another way to put this is to say that the libertarian's 'private/public' distinction is contingent on their being a State). So we should conclude here that the explanatory axis of 'more or less intervention' is untenable as a basis for understanding what capitalism is.

The "free market" is merely a name for a set of political prescriptions (deregulation, tax cuts, privatization, etc.), rather than an analytic category for understanding concrete states of affairs in the world. But still the question remains: what, then, is capitalism?

Returning to the thought that capitalism has to do with a certain way of organizing production, we can say that capitalism is a social system based on the private (rather than, say, democratic) ownership and operation of the major means of producing. The means of production are those factors necessary for production: they include capital, resources, relevant technology and machinery, labor and so on. Labor is "owned" here in the sense that the individuals (capitalists) who own firms purchase the labor of workers for a price (i.e. a wage), thus establishing a certain relationship between purchaser (capitalist) and seller (worker). Other things being equal, we should expect that the purchaser of wage labor would want the price to be as low as possible (just as with other raw materials and costs associated with running a for-profit business), just as we would expect that the seller would want as high a price as possible. (Incidentally, this fundamental divergence of basic interests is what Marx called a 'contradiction', and indeed this particular contradiction is partly constitutive of capitalism). This is why capitalists are fighting so hard against the EFCA: because it would mean workers could more easily unionize and thus gain more bargaining power in establishing (among other things) a higher price for their labor, that is, higher wages and more of other forms of compensation such as benefits. Employing workers is fundamentally a cost for the capitalist that is necessary for their business (and if it were unnecessary (i.e. if a robot could do it) they wouldn't employ people at all). So, other things being equal, we should expect employers to have no interest whatsoever in the welfare of the workers as human beings; purchasing the labor of workers is only a means to an end, that end being the accumulation of profit. Contrary to straw-man accounts of the socialist Left, the problem is not that capitalists are 'evil' as individuals... but rather that, in capitalist societies, their fundamental interests as a class are such that all concerns about human development and social solidarity are cast aside in favor of the primary goal of profit maximization.

Of course, in a capitalist society, everyone need not fall into either the class of capitalist or worker. On the contrary, many (if not most) people will fall somewhere in between or into other circumstances which require other means of classification (contractors, the self-employed, professionals, petty-bourgeois small-business owners who do wage-earning sorts of work in their own business because purchasing laborers would be too expensive, etc.). What makes capitalism distinctive from other forms of organizing society throughout history, however, is that the major decisions about what gets produced, how to produce it, where money will be invested, etc. are made by a relatively small (relative to the size of the population) class of business owners (rather than democratically, or as in older forms of society, by ecclesiastical bodies, monarchs etc.).

So if we generalize a bit, we could say that capitalism is a kind of social/economic system in which major productive activities are run by capitalists (in order that they can profit), and the major means of employment is wage-labor (or something similar), that is, most people are employed by capitalists who purchase their labor at a price and utilize this labor to run their business for a profit that directly enriches its ownership. Of course, we could say a lot more here (e.g. how the profit motive fits into the picture), but capitalism seems to require at least the generalized characteristics listed above.

What should be clear at this point is that the issue of 'more or less government intervention' has almost nothing to do with whether a particular society is capitalist. The mere fact of government 'intervention' does not itself render a society 'less capitalist'; in contrast, everything depends on what sort of intervention is in question and how it impacts social relations (i.e. classes) and the balance of power in an economy founded on capitalist-owned production. Action by the State to ensure the continued-existence of a capitalist enterprise seems pretty 'capitalist' to me, although libertarians would simply regurgitate their dogma here about the 'free market' and claim that the presence of the State is antithetical to capitalism. But as we've seen, the 'free market' and capitalism are not the same thing. Far from it. So we should not be surprised that the regulative ideal invoked by libertarians and others on the Right does not correspond to a historically-emergent form of society.

Now if capitalism has to do with certain ways of organizing production and the social relations that result from this mode of organization, then we can begin to sketch the location of disagreements between socialists on the one hand, and defenders of capitalism on the other.

Historically, socialists of various stripes have positioned themselves against both the day-to-day functioning (the organizing premises of) and effects (e.g. inequality, poverty, unmet human needs) of capitalism. Their political convictions have never derived primarily from concerns about "more (rather than less) government intervention" in itself; how a State should be involved in combating capitalism is a separate issue. The worries about 'whether to intervene' are products of libertarian ideology and therefore totally orthogonal to the sources of socialist conviction. Rather, socialist demands have derived from outrage over the way that production is organized (i.e. top-down and undemocratically, with capitalists commanding what workers must do), the exploitation of workers (poor conditions, low pay, unstable employment), indulgent extravagance at the top of society while others go without basic needs, the ruthless and morally indifferent logic of profit maximization, and so on. If socialism has any meaning today, it must be understood in terms of a certain critique of the actual society we live in, understood as positioning itself against the features of capitalism canvassed above.


The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)

"There is no way that the United States can police the world and keep us on our ass too... unless we cooperate."- Dan Freeman (the film's protagonist)
This 1973 low-budget film, despite selling out theatres in LA, New York, Chicago and Oakland for all of the three weeks it was showing, was subsequently pulled from circulation by United Artists (who put the film out). The film's producers contend it was due to FBI pressure on the UA, which would hardly be an unprecedented tactic for the Bureau in the days of its COINTELPRO program. Despite a shoe-string budget and technical drawbacks (cinematography as well as the screenplay and acting), the film is powerful and uncompromising. Perhaps that's why it was pulled from production.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door deals with black militancy and revolutionary struggle in the post-CRM America of the early 70s. The title of the film plays on the double meaning of "spook" (i.e. both as a racial slur, as well as slang for spy) and derives from the practice, quite common in the mid/late 60s, of hiring a token black person (in accordance with Civil Rights legislation) to keep close to the door so that white customers, etc. could marvel at the 'progressive' practices of the business in question.

It appears that UA thought they were getting a typical blaxploitation flick, but were caught off guard by the finished product and the amount of press the film was getting in the three weeks it was showing. Whether or not the FBI got involved, what's clear is that the business owners of UA didn't want to have anything to do with the continued circulation of The Spook or its powerful, uncompromising and controversial political edge.

From 1973 until its very recent re-release on DVD (which Netflix has, btw), apparently there were only bootlegs and an extremely sparse supply of copies around.

The Spook is soooo Seventies. From the orange shag-rugs, the clothes, and excellent Herbie Hancock soundtrack, the film is an interesting sort of snapshot of black culture in the early 70s. The slang and language are likewise extremely intriguing artifacts of the place and time the film emerged from. To be sure, there are some of the usual tropes and distortions characteristic of what had by then crystallized into the genre of "blaxpoitation". But there is still, I think, an important sense in which something outside the grips of commercial interests, something genuinely critical, left its mark on the film.

The plot begins with a scene in which a cynical White senator (seeking increased black support) undertakes half-hearted attempt to integrate the CIA (which was all-white at the time). The imperative to integrate isn't well received by the white higher-ups in the CIA: of the 10 potential black finalists for jobs in the agency, 9 are eliminated by white officers determined to find ways to ensure their failure. The only man to survive the vetting process is the unshakable, calmly confident Dan Freeman, the film's protagonist.

Despite the intense vetting process that Freeman is forced to endure, his job with the CIA consists in nothing more than menial desk tasks. After 5 years of being stuck running copy machines and giving tours of the facilities (i.e. "sitting by the door"), Freeman quits the CIA and moves back to his hometown Chicago to do social work. But after 5 years at the CIA, Freeman has acquired a host of skills and technical knowledge that he now plans to put into action. Although the CIA thinks they got the better end of the deal, it quickly becomes clear that Freeman had ulterior motives all along. Using his social-work as a cover, Freeman begins to transform, train and organize a street-gang in a rough neighborhood of South Side Chicago into a black liberation insurgency, in the style of the Black Panther Party (although, interestingly, the BPP is never explicitly mentioned in the entire film). The remainder of the film chronicles the formation and undertakings of these "Freedom Fighters" Freeman intends to lead in aggressively resisting black oppression.

Aside from a couple of iconic scenes filmed in Chicago on north-side El stops (some in Uptown (at the Wilson stop?) and in the Loop... woot!), most of the film was shot in Gary, Indiana because then-Mayor Richard J. Daley opposed the film's politics and resisted allowing the City of Chicago to have any part in its production.

In an excellent recent review, Cynthia Fuchs notes that:
Unlike the white vigilante movie heroes so popular at the time of this film's release (Dirty Harry, Buford Pusser, Death Wish's Paul Kersey), Freeman's (the film's protagonist) cause is not personal (or not completely personal, anyway). On leaving the CIA, he spends time in his Chicago neighborhood, observing childhood friends running numbers, pimping, and pushing drugs. Freeman sees a clear and present opponent: confronting one of these locals, Freeman demands that he see beyond his limited horizon. "White folks control your neighborhood through drugs," he grumbles, "And you dealing?"
Right. Because who among the ruling classes are afraid of an apolitical cynical loner like Dirty Harry coming to bring vigilante justice to the reigning racist-capitalist order? Its not due to the violence, illegality or militancy featured in this film that there were so many raised eyebrows and ruffled White feathers. It was frightening (for mainstream Whites) because the film dealt with confident, radical, politically conscious and organized black people joining together to aggressively resist oppression inflicted by White America. We also cannot forget that there were, at that time, on-the-ground social movements (despite their violent supression by the government and the murders of their leaders) trying to fight for black liberation. This was put out in the wake of assassinations of MLK, Malcom X and numerous BPP leaders. Somebody was scared of what black people seeing it might think.

Watching this left me totally unable to understand how a film with such an uncompromising and blunt portrayal of black revolutionary action could not only get made, but shown all across the country in major theaters (if only for a short period). It seems to me completely unfathomable that a film like this could be produced today. My arm-chair theory to explain how it got made, which has already been broached above, is that it piggy-backed on the "blaxploitation" genre which did often feature elements of Black Power and political uprisings against White oppression. But The Spook pushed the envelope in genre-defying ways, eschewing the pulp character and comedic quality that had come to define the genre by 1973. Instead of a comedy-driven, sexy action film (a la Shaft or Foxy Brown), The Spook was powerfully serious for a quasi-blaxploitation film. While there are light moments (mostly wry jabs at the hypocrisy of white-liberal attempts at 'integration'), the majority of the film is no joke. Apparently the capitalists (and possibly the FBI) involved in the distribution and circulation of the film didn't think so either.

(It appears that, for now, you can watch the whole thing here.)


Sunday, March 29, 2009

A note to the big feminist blogs

Please stop blogging so much about this conference. We aren't there. Your posts aren't that interesting.

I'm sure you're having a great time, but it's self-indulgent. Notice how no one comments on those posts? It's because I (we? who's with me here?) would rather see you blog about things we can all read and see, and that don't make us feel like we're missing out on the feminist-leadership summit or something.

< /bitchy rant>


Nepal under Maoism

Via The Economist.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

David Harvey: Is this really the end of neoliberalism?

read the article here.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Dream of Israel

From LRB's panel after Gaza:

Eliot Weinberger

1. Who remembers the original dream of Israel? A place where the observant could practice their religion in peace and the secular would be invisible as Jews – where being Jewish only mattered if you wanted it to matter. That dream was realised, not in Israel, but in New York City.

2. The second dream of Israel was of a place where socialist collectives could flourish in a secular nation with democratic freedoms. Who remembers that now?

3. ‘Never again’ should international Jews invoke the Holocaust as justification for Israeli acts of barbarism.

4. As in India-Pakistan, blaming the Brits is true enough, but useless.

5. A few days ago, to illustrate the Gaza invasion, the front page of the New York Times had a large pastoral photograph of handsome Israeli soldiers lounging on a hill above verdant fields. Unquestioning faith in the ‘milk and honey’ Utopia of Israel is the bedrock of American Judaism, and reality does not intrude on faith.

6. Any hope for some sort of peace will not come from the US, even without Bush. It must come from within an Israel where the same petrified leaders are elected time and again, where masses of the rational have emigrated to saner shores and have been replaced by Russians and the American cultists who become settlers. It is hard to believe that this will be anytime soon.

7. It is hard to believe that two states will ever be possible. So why not a new dream of Israel? A single nation, a single citizenry with equal rights, three languages– English as a neutral third– and three religions, separate from the state. Give it a new name– say, Semitia, land of the Semites.


I know this much is true: Spandau Ballet as the "sound of Thatcherism"

From the Guardian:

Thatcherism was about more than politics. It was, obviously, also a cultural phenomenon that transformed British society. So while one can list any number of cultural trends from the 70s or 90s without linking them irrevocably to Ted Heath, Harold Wilson, John Major and Tony Blair, that's far harder to do with the cultural products of the 80s. City wide-boys; chrome-and-black-leather furniture; mobile phones the size of bricks; me-first attitudes: those are among the fruits of Thatcherism.


I loathed Spandau Ballet first time round; I loathe them equally now. More than any other musical assembly with the possible exception of Stock Aitken and Waterman, they are Thatcherism on vinyl.
I think this speaks for itself.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Israel used boy as human shield"

UN report says Israeli Defense Forces forced an 11-year-old boy to walk in front of soldiers being fired on in Gaza conflict.

Absolutely horrifying.


Cornel West on Obama

Video here, from the primary season last year. West has some prescient things to say about why the Black community should be critical, suspicious and hold Obama to account. "Unadulterated mediocrity" is how West described the field of Democrats running for office in 2007. Have they proved him wrong so far?


NYTimes: Fucking unbelievable.

Check this bullshit out.

Most important, Mexico is a young democracy that eliminated an essentially one-party political system, controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, that lasted more than 70 years. And with all its defects, the domination of the party, known as the P.R.I., never even approached the same level of virtually absolute dictatorship as that of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, or even of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.
Say WHA? Unbelievable. Perhaps I'm naive to be surprised (given the NYTimes's ugly track record of taking a strict anti-democratic, right-wing line on Latin American politics). But "absolute dictator"? Comparing Chavez to Mugabe? What the FUCK!? Chavez has been elected by overwhelming majorities in elections with high turnout that have been certified by countless independent international bodies, including Jimmy Carter's organization. These Right-wing slanderers, we should take note, NEVER actually challenge the popular mandate Chavez has in Venezuela because they would have literally no grounds on which to challenge it. He has the staunch support of more than 60% of the electorate, which should come as little surprise since the majority of the country is quite poor and had been previously disempowered and disenfranchised for decades.

What the Right-wing slanderers DO say is that Chavez is stepping on "private enterprise", he's taking freedoms away from the minority (middle class and wealthy business elites) opposition, etc. "Absolute dictator" is completely ridiculous slander.

And this "young fledling democracy" bullshit that the author offers us about Mexico? Its about as credible as his claim that Chavez is an "absolute dictator". He says literally nothing about the 2006 Mexican presidential elections where Felipe Calderón of the right-wing PAN stole the election in a highly suspect and last-minute attempt to stop populist Left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador from winning. (Obrador had consistently led in all major polls for months leading up to the election and was backed by large social movements). When Calderón "won" the election in a haze of controversy and sabotage, George Bush was the first to step up and "recognize" his "victory" and attempt to give credibility to the contested result. Millions of people took to the streets to protest the result, but ultimately nothing came of it.

Venezuela, on the other hand, has a more robust democracy than most countries in the world. Turnout in Venezuelan elections routinely blows US elections out of the water. Morever, Chavez has diffused some forms of power through local councils ("Bolivarian circles") which involves the participation of hitherto ignored groups of Venezuelans at the local-level. But it should come as no surprise that the Right doesn't like Venezuelan democracy, since the electoral mechanism there has consistently (with the exception of Chavez's referendum loss last year) resulted in majorities of Venezuelan's emphatically opposing the neoliberal march of the Right. This is why the US-backed opposition/business elite attempted a coup to overthrow Chavez by force in 2002; because they knew that they couldn't stop the forward momentum of him or the movement behind him by challenging it at the ballot box.


Monday, March 23, 2009

GritTV: Brian Jones on the Crisis of Public Education

Socialistworker.org columnist Brian Jones asks: "why is it that when banks fail, they get billions of dollars in bailout money, but when schoools fail the get less money?"

See the video here.


Interview with Mahmood Mamdani on "Save Darfur"

Some excerpts from the interview (which appeared here in the Boston Globe):

"[The Save Darfur campaign has] various motives. One part of the group emerged out of solidarity with the struggle in south Sudan and believes that Darfur is another version of south Sudan. Most have no idea of the difference between the two situations. Another wing is what I understand to be neoconservatives who want to incorporate Darfur into the war on terror. Both groups reinforce the racialization of the conflict and the demonization of the Arabs."


"Mamdani: I'm struck by the contrast between the mobilization around Darfur and the lack of mobilization around Iraq. The explanation, I believe, lies in the fact that Save Darfur presented the conflict as a tragedy, stripped of politics and context. There were simply "African" victims and "Arab" perpetrators motivated by race-intoxicated hatred. Unlike Iraq, about which Americans felt guilty or impotent, Darfur presented an opportunity to feel good. It appealed to the philanthropic side of the American character."
It's also worth checking out his excellent piece that appeared in the LRB about a year ago on Darfur, which politically complicates the facile "good versus evil" (i.e. "african" vs. "arab") narrative offered by many "out of Iraq and into Darfur!" people. As always, (Mamdani's recent piece on Mugabe in the LRB is another example) his writings on African politics typically ignite intense controversy among large amounts of people who would rather not see such 'simple' conflicts between good and evil be complicated by global political and economic considerations.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Davis on the role of the American Left

MIKE DAVIS: Well, I mean, the role of the Left or the Left that needs to exist in this country is not to be to come up with a utopian blueprints and how we're going to run an entirely alternative society, much less to express nostalgia about authoritative bureaucratic societies, you know, like the Soviet Union or China. It's really to try and articulate the common sense of the labor movement and social struggles on the ground. So, for instance, you know, where you have the complete collapse of the financial system and where the remedies proposed are above all privileged the creditors and the very people responsible for that, it's a straightforward enough proposition to say, "Hey, you know, if we're going to own the banking system, why not make the decisions and make them in alliance with social policy that ensures that housing's affordable, that school loans are affordable, that small business gets credit?" You know, why not turn the banking system into a public utility? Now, that doesn't have to be in any sense an anti-capitalist demand. But it's a radical demand that asks fundamental question about the institution and who holds the economic power. You know, why isn't the federal government taking a more direct role in decision making?
Do you agree with him on what the Left should and should not be doing?

He's obviously trying to frame himself as the pragmatist, but isn't there a need for alternative visions to back up this pro-labor activism?


Mike Davis on Bill Moyers

Watch the video here.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG: Arrogance Incompetance Greed

From Al-Jazeera:

"Edward Liddy, the head of American International Group (AIG), a US insurance giant, told the US Congress that the "cold realities of competition" forced the company to pay out $165m in bonuses that have enraged the US public."


"the so-called "retention bonuses" include over $33m for 52 people who have left the company.

AIG has been kept afloat with more than $170bn of taxpayers money since September."
Read the entire Al-Jazeera article here.

From Socialistworker.org:
"In the last three months of 2008, AIG lost $61.7 billion, the largest quarterly loss of any company in the history of capitalism. Nevertheless, the company is paying out--and publicly defending--huge bonuses to managers, including 73 checks in the $1 million-plus range."
UPDATE: "A.I.G. Chief Asks Bonus Recipients to Give Back Half". How stupid does this moron think most people are? At first he defends the right to "compensate" executives with opulent bonuses... now he 'admits' that there is something amiss here and opts for the tepid non-solution of 'perhaps encouraging them to give half of it back'... is he begging to be refuted, or is this a serious attempt to stave off criticism? Fucking unreal.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Not invited to Obama's healthcare summit

From Socialistworker.org:

"As Obama's White House health care summit approached on March 5, advocates of a so-called "single-payer" system--under which the government would cover everyone, eliminating the role of private insurers--were stunned to learn they weren't invited. It was an insult to organizations that have been warning for years about the health care crisis-in-the-making and putting forward the single-payer alterative--Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the California Nurses Association (CNA) and Healthcare-NOW!

Rep. John Conyers, the sponsor of a bill, known by its official designation HR 676, that would establish single-payer, personally asked Obama for an invitation when the two met at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting. The answer was no.


At the summit, Obama stated: "In this effort, every voice must be heard. Every idea must be considered. Every option must be on the table. There will be no sacred cows in this discussion."

Apparently Healthcare-NOW! has organized protests outside the meetings of the summit. Watch video here.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

El Salvador elects leftist president

It looks like Funes is in.

The leftist party (FMLN) has the largest presence in the legislature, but no majority, however, so changes might come to El Salvador gradually (though I'm not convinced that's a bad thing).


How Cold War Propaganda Lives On

I've just returned from an all-too-short road trip in the southwest. One of our stops was Las Vegas. Though we were there only briefly, we were able to visit the Atomic Testing Museum near the campus of UNLV.

From the 1950s through the 80s, the heart of the Cold War, a site a few miles outside the city of Las Vegas was used for atmospheric nuclear weapons testing (meaning, above-ground, radiation could drift and kill you with the slightest shift of wind). Civilian spectators as nearby as 7 miles would watch the blasts and subsequent mushroom clouds and it became quite a tourist draw.

The history of the nuclear testing site has always been fascinating to me, especially because of the voyeuristic aspect of the story. Tourists watching with awe and amazement as weapons that they knew had caused unbelievable pain and destruction are detonated. I'd hoped for some perspective on that craziness and maybe the overall madness of the Cold War era and the arms race.

But as has happened at historical museums time and time again, I was struck by how very propagandistic the narrative at this museum was. One placard justified the arms race by stressing that this wasn't an aggressive thing the U.S. was doing by openly testing nuclear arms by the hundreds, that this was defensive posturing--after all, the Soviets were "set on forcing Totalitarian Communism on the entire world." The exhibit included a pretty positive take on McCarthyism. And in a video presentation with interviews from the dedicated workers who ran the test site, one gentleman told the audience with tears in his eyes that it was entirely upsetting to him that in the 1970s, when fears of radiation and an anti-war movement created vocal protestors at the site, "people didn't understand that my work at the site was done to protect the very rights they were using by protesting." In what way did nuclear weapons testing protect anyone's free speech?!

In another video on how important knowing the history of the testing is today, one scientist who had worked at the site mentioned that he would be afraid to live in a world where people weren't regularly reminded that the U.S. still has the power of a nuclear strike. "I think it's important that people see what nuclear weapons are capable of and remember that they have something to fear. It scares me that this history is being pushed aside in a world where we face so many threats." Are we still a nation that wants to use nuclear attacks as a threat?!

It isn't just that people who go to this museum are being subjected to Cold War-like propaganda, but that the style of thinking of the museum is so persistent in our contemporary war/peace dialogues. The unchallenged narratives of the Cold War have justified our wars in the middle east. That somehow pre-emptive violence or the threat of preemptive violence makes us safer instead of making us a target...That doing anything associated with formal "national security" is in the spirit of protecting Americans' freedoms. This thinking still persists all around us, in our museums, and unfortunately, in our text books and our public dialogues.

In better news, I was able to buy this awesome tin of "Commie Mints" at the museum's gift store. And in true Commie fashion, I made sure to distribute the mints fairly to my whole party :)


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The legacy of the "Chilean Miracle"

Under the murderous rule of right-wing military dictator Augusto Pinochet, Milton Friedman and his "Chicago Boys" setup shop in an attempt to implement their economic and political ideas in a country whose right-wing dictatorship liked what they had to say.

This, apparently, is one of the legacies of the "Chilean Miracle".

If you read the wikipedia entry on "Chilean Miracle" (what the 'Chicago Boys' morons called the outcome of their neoliberal bonanza) it says, totally neutrally and non-tendentiously of course, that Chile has a greater degree of "economic freedom" than other Latin American countries. I suppose that is what commodified water is for mining copanies, more 'economically free'. Meanwhile the villages people live in wither and dry up because they don't have the buying power to purchase the same kind of 'freedom' as big mining companies.

I feel like their are some good anti-capitalist metaphors here, although I'll leave it to others more eloquent than I to explicate and spin them out. There's something to the life-sustaining properties of water, and the image of business elites fighting over resources (while poluting them in the process) all while the majority of people see their lives drying up before their eyes.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Gender norms start in the womb.

I work with small children. Despite this fact, I regularly get pangs of baby-lust. I am well aware that said baby is many years in the future, but I still get excited. So I sometimes peruse blogs about motherhood, so that I can learn weird obscure facts about breastfeeding, baby slings, and look at pictures of cute little booties with funny sayings on them. So sue me.

But many white, upper middle class motherhood bloggers are obsessed with strict, traditional, pink/blue, princess/pirate, mars/venus, mommy/daddy gender roles. They really, really like them. And they'll never let them go. Ever. And it's kinda terrifying.

And so, I give you a potpourri of genderstrict ridiculousness. After which I will enter the phrase "radical feminist motherhood" into google and pray that something comes up.

These are all direct quotes, which link to the blogs from which they came:

We have crescent rolls on hand because J. bought them. That's what happens when men do the grocery shopping.

Well we just hosted Bear’s Third Birthday Party and it was all out PRINCESS. (actually it was Princess & Pirates – so her little boyfriends didn’t feel weird coming to a costume party).

Since I knew I was having a girl the first time around, everything I received was pink. Pink blankets, pink washcloths, pink burp cloths, pink bibs. So, if this baby is a boy, I need some blue stuff, or this little guy will be the best dressed “pink princess.” And I need new boy crib bedding too (of course!!).

And, just for good measure, some mom as cook/servant banter:

My son is a very picky eater (more about that later). I’m open to any innovative methods that might get my son to eat new food. My husband is just as picky as my son. I wonder if this will work on him, too.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Can a manifesto be written in 45 minutes? If so, this is my Transportation Manifesto.

Miriam's post On Transportation has generated a pretty interesting thread over at Feministing, and made me realize once again how strongly I feel about public transit. I don't want to misrepresent Miriam's reflections on public transit in Washington DC, nor do I want to deny the frustrating nature of her experience with DC. buses. Her post is thoughtful, and it's certainly not pro-car. But I was pretty disappointed in the main thrust of her argument.

To give a reductive summary, Miriam essentially said: "Man, it's tough to be poor, because then you can't afford a car, so you have to take public transportation. And sometimes public transportation really sucks and makes you late for work and makes your already tough life even harder."

Yep. Public transit advocacy foiled again -- on a progressive blog. Instead of uplifting public transit as a sustainable, social and affordable means of getting around, Miriam added her voice to the chorus of millions of car-dependent people who complain about the slow, inconvenient, terrible public transit in their cities.

The funny thing is, many of my fellow Chicagoans feel the same way about our transit system. Although I sing the praises of the Clark bus, taking me through my bustling neighborhood for errands, other people say the Clark bus "makes them suicidal." Although I safely take the Red Line to points far South and far North, many people avoid the Red Line's homeless solicitors and late-night riders. Although I commute car-free to the South Side, north suburbs, and everywhere in between, many people claim they could "never make it" without their car.

So that's the difference between Us and Them? Between the public transit lovers, and the haters? I'm starting to think it's a matter of principle. And some of the principles I hold most dear are below.

1. Basics. I believe that the "one person, one car" model of transportation is bullshit. It's environmentally disastrous, it's antisocial, and it's a waste of resources. We have a massive body of scientific evidence which supports this belief, and our city and state governments need to start responding. So do we.

2. The Rest Of The World. I also believe, and have seen from experience, that the "one person, one car" is a standard to which most of the world does not adhere. More specifically, it is largely an American construct. People all over the world -- in Africa, Asia, Europe -- manage to live happy, productive lives without getting whisked around in an upholstered, air-conditioned bubble which plays the music of their choice. They ride rickshaws and daladalas. They walk places. They take high-speed rail. They wait for the bus. These experiences do not traumatize them.* These experiences do not suck. These experiences do not ruin their day.

3. Road Rage Sucks. I believe that driving a car creates dangerous beliefs and attitudes in drivers: namely, that we are in control, that we have a right to proceed quickly and smoothly, and that other people (especially pedestrians and bikers) are obstacles in our path. These beliefs are symptomatic of a fast-moving, impatient culture in general, but they create a particularly dangerous environment on our roads. I believe that these aggressive attitudes have poisoned some segments of bike culture as well.

4. Patience, Sharing and Community Rock. Conversely, I believe that riding public transit can increase your patience, increase social contact with your community, and build willingness to relinquish some control over your own transportation. Drivers and bikers need to slow down. Transit riders need to take a breath and bring a book. These changes can bring increased tranquility to our daily lives, if we allow that to happen. I know this part sounds really Zen and silly, but I think it's true.

4. This Stuff Matters. I believe your selected mode of transportation says something about your values and priorities. Not only environmentally, but also financially: how do you want to spend your money? What is most important to you? And frankly, being able to get from place to place faster, blasting the environment with carbon each time I start my car, is not important to me. I would rather wait twenty goddamn minutes in the cold for that cursed bus you're complaining about so much.

Giant Caveat: Did I mention I'm privileged to live in a place with access to these options? I know, I know, I know. When you live in suburbia (et al), it's damn hard to think of anything you can do besides drive. I'm mostly talking about my fellow city-dwellers. But I think there are changes that can be made (more carpooling, more biking, more ride-sharing, fewer car trips, more activism in suburban planning) across our country, whether in urban, suburban, or rural communities.

* One commenter on Miriam's thread, a public school teacher, sounded convinced that her students were arriving to school grumpy, tired and anxious because they have to take the bus to school. Dude. In Boston public schools, do you really think these kids don't have bigger problems in their lives than waiting fifteen minutes for a bus? I respectfully refer this person to Item 2.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why feminists might be attracted to neoliberalism

From Nancy Fraser in this month's New Left Review:

Are we the victims of an unfortunate coincidence, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and so fell prey to that most opportunistic of seducers, a capitalism so indiscriminate that it would instrumentalize any perspective whatever, even one inherently foreign to it? Or is there, as I suggested earlier, some subterranean elective affinity between feminism and neoliberalism? If any such affinity does exist, it lies in the critique of traditional authority. [13] Such authority is a longstanding target of feminist activism, which has sought at least since Mary Wollstonecraft to emancipate women from personalized subjection to men, be they fathers, brothers, priests, elders or husbands. But traditional authority also appears in some periods as an obstacle to capitalist expansion, part of the surrounding social substance in which markets have historically been embedded and which has served to confine economic rationality within a limited sphere. [14] In the current moment, these two critiques of traditional authority, the one feminist, the other neoliberal, appear to converge.
There's so much more in this piece, and I'm not sure why I zeroed in on this in particular...but doesn't it make sense? Think of the defensiveness "successful" feminist writers in the blogosphere express when their social position is challenged. They always hit back with some explanation of their relative wealth that includes attributing this capitalist triumph to a triumph of womanhood as well. There's that same attraction to the notion that one is beating the big authority by making money, and avoiding apologizing for not engaging with critiques of capitalism seriously. Fraser thinks neoliberalism co-opted feminism's emancipatory goal and made feminism an accomplice in the embedding of late capitalism into our ideologies.


A few quick thoughts

1-I just don't see how anyone can think Obama is secretly not all about the free market. I mean, it's not like this one interview finally convinced me, but I just can't see how progressive can continue to kid themselves into thinking this guy shares their socioeconomic values.

President Obama: Just one thing I was thinking about as I was getting on the copter. It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question. I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn’t on my watch. And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement – the prescription drug plan without a source of funding. And so I think it’s important just to note when you start hearing folks throw these words around that we’ve actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word socialist around can’t say the same.
If the implication of this quote isn't that Obama likens himself as more of a free marketer than his hot shot predecessor, I must be speaking a different English language.

2-Yes, it is stupid for a publication like the New York Times to even humor (see interview above) the thought that Obama is secretly a socialist (it's fear mongering, and not at all based in reality). But can we see any actual engagement with the ideology Joan Walsh is so hell bent on dismissing as a dated wim of the past, or are we all just going to snigger at the thought of creating actual justice from here on out?

3-If you never watched Showtime's The L Word and you'd been meaning to because you'd heard so much about it, please save yourself hours and hours of anger and don't bother. Sunday's finale was the most frustrating series finale I've experienced since Seinfeld and one of the most frustrating series ever. Now, it may have taken me watching the entire series to come to this conclusion, which may indicate there's something of value there, despite the overall shitty writing and shitty assassination of previously likeable characters. Okay, there is definitely value there. But I still wouldn't let a friend get involved...


Monday, March 9, 2009

Fear-mongering bullshit

From a recent controversy over a book published in the UK, this an excerpt from a recent article in the Guardian:

"This is cannabis. It stops you, it rips out normal reactions, normal kindness, normal motivation. It draws a line and you stand patiently behind it. And this is why we have broken one of the most serious prohibitions facing any writer. You Do Not Write About Your Children...you do not ever lay out their genuine, raw problems on the page. You fictionalize them, you do not present it up-front and true...This is an emergency. True, the city is not aflame, plague is not afoot. But there are too many families whose home life has been shattered by a teenage son (it is nearly always boys) who is losing it as a result of cannabis. Maybe not as badly as ours has lost it, but nevertheless creating chaos and distress."
Not exactly. The blathering continues:
"Imagine if you could wave a wand and instantly all the spliffs and baggies were transformed into bottles of gin. You leave for work on Wednesday morning and suddenly you see kids on the way to school with a quarter of Gordon's sticking out their rucksack... and if you saw that daily, all around you, you would say there's a genuine problem. Except it's worse than that. Because skunk gets you as high as gin but has psychotropic effects to boot. Cannabis remains in the bloodstream for up to 10 days and, let me tell you, the mood swings continue for every one of those days. And that's not all. In your early 20s, the legacy returns in the form of schizophrenia. Professor Robin Murray at the Maudsley Hospital estimates that at least 10% of all people with schizophrenia in the UK would not have developed the illness if they had not smoked cannabis. That's 25,000 individuals at current figures. With stronger varieties being smoked at a younger age, this figure can only rise. So tell me, Daily Mail, why are you treating this story like "a bit of pot"?
Now I think that drugs are very serious business (and by the way: alcohol is most definitely a drug). But for precisely this reason, we should refrain from fear-mongering non-sense and hysteria when discussing drug use. I don't doubt for a moment that this couple's child was smoking unjustifiable amounts of pot, which contributed to his allegedly withdrawn, lifeless, callous, careless, directionless behavior. I don't doubt that it was an extremely difficult time for the family and I understand that in order for him to recover from his afflictions he needed to lay off smoking for the time being.

But none of the above has anything whatsoever to do with: 1. The actual effects of the drug on different individuals, 2. how the drug should be controlled (if at all) or regulated, 3. the alleged 'problems' with Tetra-Hydro-Canibinol as such. Yet spreading misinformation about 1-3 is the raison d'etre of this couple, this appears to be why they have written their book and began their foray into the public.

I find it very interesting that the author compares pot to gin. Now alcoholism is a serious matter. Moreover, alcohol is a potent drug which we all know is abused in multitude ways. As a society, we should be extremely weary of the ultra-commodification of alcohol such that its consumption is encouraged as though it had no consequences. From an early age, we must be educated about how to drink responsibly. Some people, given their tendencies,backgrounds and psychological state, probably shouldn't drink at all.

But these days nobody ever suggests that the way to deal with this problem is to make alcohol consumption a criminal offense. The suggestion isn't even worthy of assembling arguments against; its a non-starter. But why, then, do sensible people have to expend so much energy making the analgous (and extremely-plausible case) that cannabis should be dealt with in a similar fashion to alcohol? Well, one reason has to do with trash like the above-quoted article.

Let's consider more closely the bit in the article about Schizophrenia. Combine this with the pervasive "concerned parent" tone that targets other "naive on-the-fence parents" who simply might not be aware of the "horrifying truth" about pot. Now what's going on is that they are suggesting that we accept urban myths as scientific facts. THC is a mild hallucinogen; if you have a family history of schizophrenia or a predilection toward various kinds of mental illness, its true that taking hallucinogenic drugs can exacerbate what lurking problems you may have. (By the way, every prescription drug has an extensive list of risk-factors which suggest whether or not you should take it... were pot legalized presumably similar research could be conducted in order to head-off rare adverse reactions). But this is a far-cry from the non-sense claim that cannabis "makes you more likely to go nuts!". This is false. The author's personal history does nothing in the way of changing this medical fact.

I completely agree that the "its just pot" attitude must be more critically examined. People should figure out extensively what the hell they are putting into their bodies. Addictive behaviors should be dealt with, not tabled because "pot is no big deal" or "alcohol is no big deal". But this doesn't mean that we should discard the unreflective "its just alcohol" or "its just a few drinks" or "its just pot" with hysterical non-sense like "these are devilish substances that should be locked away and banned, lest our society turns into complete chaos!!". Moreover, the last thing we should do is stigmatize and criminalize (and incarcerate) people instead of creating ways that they can easily get access to help if they need it.

While we're at it, let's debunk a few other falsehoods in this article:
"Except it's worse than [gin]. Because skunk gets you as high as gin but has psychotropic effects to boot."
Alcohol and caffeine have psychotropic effects as well. True, neither are mild hallucinogens, but the effects the former has on mood, motivation and behavior are every bit as severe (if not worse) than cannabis. Pot is not simply "worse". Teenage alcoholism should be dealt with in the same way that pot over-consumption should be.
"It stops you, it rips out normal reactions, normal kindness, normal motivation. It draws a line and you stand patiently behind it."
Again this is false. It doesn't have these effects on everyone. In fact the nature of the drug (psychedelic) means that it's effects are extremely dependent on the psychology of the person taking it. The effects and first-personal experience can vary wildly, because people are wildly different. There are some people who will become extremely anxious and have terrifying panic attacks. Some will hardly feel as though the drug has any effects. I'm not saying that we can't make any generalizations about the effects (especially bodily effects)... but let's make sure that we're making scientifically sound generalizations. Moreover, let's be clear that we're making generalizations. Lipitor commercials, after all, do not say "this drug will have the following identical side effects on everyone".
"cannabis creates chaos and distress".
Hysterics. This is about as good of an argument as "homosexuality will undermine civilization and create social chaos".
"Cannabis remains in the bloodstream for up to 10 days"
Not precisely. Some metabolized form of THC probably does, but this does not necessarily mean that there are marked effects. Cannabis (i.e. the genus of psychoactive flowering-plants), however, should not ever literally float around in your bloodstream unless you've done something terribly wrong.
"With stronger varieties being smoked at a younger age, this figure [the number of teen smokers] can only rise."
This "stronger varieties" non-sense is a favorite talking-point of the anti-pot crowd. I cant remember how many times I've read Gordon Brown or some other high-ranking official blathering about how the "street-pot" is getting stronger every week. I wish they were right. Perhaps then smokers wouldn't have to ingest as much tar just to get blazed!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Guardian: Expose of British Lap-Dancing Industry

From The Guardian: An expose of the lap-dancing industry in the UK. Here's an excerpt:

"Lucy began lap dancing when she lost her job as an office temp. It was quite simple: she needed to pay her rent. "It felt like a desperate decision," she says. "It was a case of: I can't do anything else. But also I'd fallen for the myth that lap dancing is a good way of making a lot of money very quickly." She applied for, and got, a job as a dancer in a supposedly upmarket club. At the end of her first night's work, however, she went home having earned nothing at all. More alarmingly, she now owed the club some £80. Like the vast majority of lap dancers in the UK, Lucy was self-employed. Not only was she required to pay the club a dance fee every time she wanted to work, a sum that could vary from £10 to £80 (Friday nights were most expensive, because they were most popular with customers), but she also had to give the club commission on every dance performed (nude dances cost punters £20, of which she kept £17.50; on slow nights, she might perform only once or twice, or not at all).
Read the article in full here. Again, I must issue another "IOU" on commentary until a later date when I have more time to post.


"Reimagining Socialism"

From the most recent issue of The Nation:

Socialism's all the rage. "We Are All Socialists Now,"Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we're already living in the U.S.S.A. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about the global economic crisis? The following essay will, we hope, kick off a spirited dialogue, with four replies in this issue and more to come at TheNation.com. --The Editors
Read the essay, authored by By Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr., here.

I'll post on this when I have more time to read it carefully and respond.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Watch'em squerm.

From the Financial Times:

Pointing to Mr Obama’s tax hits, the US Chamber of Commerce on Friday ­described his budget as the “most redistributionist in modern American history”....Martin Regalia, chief economist at the CoC, said [of his organization's take on the Obama budget]:“I would prefer not to mention the views of our members, which contain too many expletives for a family newspaper.
I'm inclined to think that the amount of CoC expletives provoked by a piece of legislation is directly proportional to how socially-just the legislation is.


MORE Perry Anderson on Italian politics!

Haven't read yet, but plan to comment sometime thereafter.

Here it is.

I'm interested to see how the experience of the Italian Left in the 20th century can shed light on current electoral developments in our country. More on that soon.

While I'm posting about Perry Anderson, check out the following other goodies:

- This video-interview with him at UC, Berkeley.
- His article in NLR "On the Conjuncture" which appeared last Spring and dealt broadly with the world-political situation and prospects of the Left at that moment (what's amazing to me is how dated this piece has become in the short period of a year!).


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fox's Dollhouse... and Subjectivity

Well, my blogging has been light lately, and I wish I could blame it on extreme productivity in some realm of my life. But no, mostly I've been watching TV.

Among my new TV interests is Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. Yeah, it's a show on Fox. Yeah, it's some fairly trashy drama. But it's also really entertaining and well...thought provoking? To the extent that some cheap scifi drama can be thought provoking.

Here's the premise (trailer after the jump, for those who want to know more): A business for the super wealthy rents out human beings as play things. I guess it's a little more complicated than your run of the mill sex business. For one thing not all of the clients want sexual partners. And for another, the workers themselves aren't remotely conscious human beings with even the slightest amount of agency. They're what the employees of Dollhouse call "Actives," humans who have had their entire memories and personalities and consciousnesses(?) erased from them. They're blank slates. Then when a client needs a person for some task, the techs at Dollhouse download a pre-fab personality onto the Active to fullfill the client's needs.

So here's an observation about the show, related to some discussions we've been having here lately.* The experience as a viewer is really interesting, considering this is a show with characters who are also blank slates at times, in other words, characters who become non-characters. When we see these Actives, most of all our main Active called Echo (cute name for a hollow person ready to be told what to do/say, right?), in their Tabula Rasa state, it's hard to feel much for them. They're hardly human. They aren't subjects, and it's hard to relate to them, to humanize them, to care at all about them as characters.

But when they're activated, when they have a personality embedded, even though as a viewer we know this is a total fabrication/construction/artificial, we do care about their fate. That subject has to be created to evoke any care about the fate of the human body in question.

What adds more intrigue to this show is that the main active, Echo, seems to be gaining some independent consciousness or something. She's having flashbacks while in her activated state and hallucinating about herself before she had her mind wiped by the Dollhouse. Now obviously this fact adds some interesting twists to the overall plot, but I think it adds some other questions. CAN a personality be wiped? Can the "subject" be removed and replaced so willy nilly? From a narrative standpoint, can Echo only be our main protagonist because she is experiencing this ever-increasing consciousness? Would we fail to adequately sympathize with her if we didn't even have the hope that deep down in this "doll" was a static, anchored person?

I can't help but think about our conversations about subjectivity in this context. Do we need a constructed subject to be driven to create a just world in the first place (not just to fathom the idea of activism, as was discussed in previous posts, but to have any motivation to improve human conditions)?

...and more importantly, how many seasons will it take for Echo to become a full human? 'Cause I don't how many episodes I can handle of her in this limbo stage...so frustrating to see her on the brink of agency!

*Does this post seem like a stretch? It probably is. I'm probably guilty of grasping for any intellectual worth in pop culture just to justify the hours I spend consuming it. But hey, is that a crime? One must take extreme precaution to avoid crippling cognitive dissonance.


Fighting school-closings in Chicago

Article here.


ISO on the Obama Budget and Republican red-baiting tactics

From SocialistWorker.org (read the full editorial here):


The Obama budget represents a decisive break not only with the Reagan-Bush drive to cut government spending on social programs, but also with Bill Clinton's Republican Lite strategy of reducing spending--most notoriously, the abolition of the federal welfare system--and emphasizing so-called "micro-initiatives" over major reform.

According to David Leonhardt, the effect, if Obama's budget made it through Congress, would be "to reverse the rapid increase in economic inequality over the last 30 years."

And to the Republicans, that means one thing: Socialism.

The alleged evils of redistributing wealth and providing help for the most vulnerable have become--like during the election, when John McCain put his campaign in the capable hands of Joe the Plumber--the chief talking point for conservatives.

"Earlier this week, we heard the world's best salesman of socialism address the nation," said South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, referring to Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress.

Right-wing dingbat and former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee insisted that the Obama administration is in the process of establishing "socialist republics" in the U.S. "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff," Huckabee declared.


Re: DeMint, McConnell, Huckabee, et al: what a bunch of fucking morons. Need we even elaborate that thought further?


What do you do with used cooking oil?

Recycle it. Well, that is if your city has facilities where you can take your used cooking oil. LA and SF do, unsurprisingly, but I cannot find anything similar for Chicago.

Its something we rarely talk about, but its puzzling: what should one do with a large amount of cooking oil (particularly after deep-frying) after cooking? Pouring it down the drain is about the worst thing you can do... but why send it to a dump when it is (literally) full of potential energy upon combustion?

This is worth taking a look at.

Given the potential energy locked up in the chemical bonds of used cooking oil... why are large municipalities letting it go to waste? Use it to power buses!

Apparently in London McDonald's is already doing something like this. Chicago is VERY far behind other cities of comparable size and stature when it comes to recycling.