robertogreco + policy   1819

Oil and Gas Emissions Have Increased Under California's Cap and Trade Program
“ProPublica analyzed state data in a way the state doesn’t often report to the public, isolating how emissions have grown within the oil and gas industry. The analysis shows that carbon emissions from California’s oil and gas industry actually rose 3.5% since cap and trade began. Refineries, including one owned by Marathon Petroleum and two owned by Chevron, are consistently the largest polluters in the state. Emissions from vehicles, which burn the fuels processed in refineries, are also rising.

Critics attribute these increases, in part, to a bevy of concessions the state has made to the oil and gas industry to keep the program going. They say these compromises have blocked steps that would have mandated real emissions reductions and threaten the state’s ability to meet its ambitious goal of slashing its emissions 40% by 2030.

“There’s no question a well-designed regulation on oil and gas can have an effect,” said Danny Cullenward, a Stanford researcher and policy director at Near Zero, a climate policy think tank. “And that was traded away for a weak cap-and-trade program.”

Experts say cap and trade is rarely stringent enough when used alone; direct regulations on refineries and cars are crucial to reining in emissions. But oil representatives are engaged in a worldwide effort to make market-based solutions the primary or only way their emissions are regulated.

Officials with the state Air Resources Board, which oversees cap and trade, say those fears are exaggerated, that California’s program is doing what it needs to do and they can tweak it over time as needed. They point to the state’s overall drop in emissions since cap and trade began in 2013, even as its economy grew. They tout a host of other, more traditional climate regulations widely considered the best in the country.

But even with all those rules working together, California needs to more than double its yearly emissions cuts to be on track to meet the 2030 target. Meanwhile, the scope of the climate crisis and public pressure for strong regulations on fossil fuel companies have risen exponentially, even in the past year.

ProPublica delved into the mechanics of California’s cap-and-trade program, examining 13 years of political horse-trading, regulatory tinkering and industry lobbying to make sense of rising fears that it will not deliver the emissions reductions it is supposed to.

Five areas of concerns have emerged, some specific to the state’s program and some so fundamental that they raise questions about whether market solutions anywhere can do the work that is needed to take meaningful climate action while there is still time.

[1] Cap and Trade Isn’t Designed to Hold Any One Company Accountable

… [2] Market-Based Climate Change Solutions Are Being Set Up to Provide Loopholes and Giveaways

… [3] California’s Oil Industry has Blocked Efforts to Make Cap and Trade Tougher on Them

… [4] More Meaningful Regulations Are Being Sacrificed

[5] We’re Dependent on Fossil Fuels”

[See also:
https://www.propublica.org/article/cap-and-trade-is-supposed-to-solve-climate-change-but-oil-and-gas-company-emissions-are-up

“Cap and Trade Is Supposed to Solve Climate Change, but Oil and Gas Company Emissions Are Up

Countries have called California’s cap-and-trade program the answer to climate change. But it is just as vulnerable to lobbying as any other legislation. The result: The state’s biggest oil and gas companies have actually polluted more since it started.”]
capandtrade  emissions  climatechange  policy  lobbying  carbonemissions  2019  environment  fossilfuels  bigpetroleum  capitalism  regulation  accountability  loopholes  markets 
2 hours ago by robertogreco
Against Economics | by David Graeber | The New York Review of Books
“There is a growing feeling, among those who have the responsibility of managing large economies, that the discipline of economics is no longer fit for purpose. It is beginning to look like a science designed to solve problems that no longer exist.

A good example is the obsession with inflation. Economists still teach their students that the primary economic role of government—many would insist, its only really proper economic role—is to guarantee price stability. We must be constantly vigilant over the dangers of inflation. For governments to simply print money is therefore inherently sinful. If, however, inflation is kept at bay through the coordinated action of government and central bankers, the market should find its “natural rate of unemployment,” and investors, taking advantage of clear price signals, should be able to ensure healthy growth. These assumptions came with the monetarism of the 1980s, the idea that government should restrict itself to managing the money supply, and by the 1990s had come to be accepted as such elementary common sense that pretty much all political debate had to set out from a ritual acknowledgment of the perils of government spending. This continues to be the case, despite the fact that, since the 2008 recession, central banks have been printing money frantically in an attempt to create inflation and compel the rich to do something useful with their money, and have been largely unsuccessful in both endeavors.

We now live in a different economic universe than we did before the crash. Falling unemployment no longer drives up wages. Printing money does not cause inflation. Yet the language of public debate, and the wisdom conveyed in economic textbooks, remain almost entirely unchanged.

One expects a certain institutional lag. Mainstream economists nowadays might not be particularly good at predicting financial crashes, facilitating general prosperity, or coming up with models for preventing climate change, but when it comes to establishing themselves in positions of intellectual authority, unaffected by such failings, their success is unparalleled. One would have to look at the history of religions to find anything like it. To this day, economics continues to be taught not as a story of arguments—not, like any other social science, as a welter of often warring theoretical perspectives—but rather as something more like physics, the gradual realization of universal, unimpeachable mathematical truths. “Heterodox” theories of economics do, of course, exist (institutionalist, Marxist, feminist, “Austrian,” post-Keynesian…), but their exponents have been almost completely locked out of what are considered “serious” departments, and even outright rebellions by economics students (from the post-autistic economics movement in France to post-crash economics in Britain) have largely failed to force them into the core curriculum.

As a result, heterodox economists continue to be treated as just a step or two away from crackpots, despite the fact that they often have a much better record of predicting real-world economic events. What’s more, the basic psychological assumptions on which mainstream (neoclassical) economics is based—though they have long since been disproved by actual psychologists—have colonized the rest of the academy, and have had a profound impact on popular understandings of the world.”



“Economic theory as it exists increasingly resembles a shed full of broken tools. This is not to say there are no useful insights here, but fundamentally the existing discipline is designed to solve another century’s problems. The problem of how to determine the optimal distribution of work and resources to create high levels of economic growth is simply not the same problem we are now facing: i.e., how to deal with increasing technological productivity, decreasing real demand for labor, and the effective management of care work, without also destroying the Earth. This demands a different science. The “microfoundations” of current economics are precisely what is standing in the way of this. Any new, viable science will either have to draw on the accumulated knowledge of feminism, behavioral economics, psychology, and even anthropology to come up with theories based on how people actually behave, or once again embrace the notion of emergent levels of complexity—or, most likely, both.

Intellectually, this won’t be easy. Politically, it will be even more difficult. Breaking through neoclassical economics’ lock on major institutions, and its near-theological hold over the media—not to mention all the subtle ways it has come to define our conceptions of human motivations and the horizons of human possibility—is a daunting prospect. Presumably, some kind of shock would be required. What might it take? Another 2008-style collapse? Some radical political shift in a major world government? A global youth rebellion? However it will come about, books like this—and quite possibly this book—will play a crucial part.”
davidgraeber  2019  robertskidelsky  economics  economists  criticism  finances  policy  psychology  socialsciences  feminism  science  growth  productivity  change  theory  praxis  microfoundations  anthropology  behavior  humanism  complexity  simplicity  modeling  understanding  marxism  mainstream  politics  wisdom  knowledge  failure  government  governance  monetarypolicy  inflation 
2 hours ago by robertogreco
The National Cake: to Bake or to Share?: A Handbook on Challenges in Managing Public Resources and the Road Ahead for a Sustainable, Emerging and Democratic Cameroon United in Diversity, by Akwalefo Bernadette Djeudo - Google Books
"In this book the reader is told that the unjust gap between the rich and the poor leading to social injustice in Cameroon and the world results from elite globalization and the reliance on the concept of sharing the National cake. The idea of baking the cake collectively and sharing it in an equitable manner so that everyone has a fair share is not known by the political and administrative culture. Consequently, Cameroonians spend more time talking about their share of the national cake instead of how to make the cake. The underlying principle of governance in Cameroon is best captured in the clause national cake. Call it public resources. Should the cake owned by everybody be baked or shared? Many politicians and administrators get lost amidst the intricacies of power and the grandeur that comes with it and feel that the national cake is only to be shared. They forget that they had made promises prior to their appointments and regard the civil service as an end rather than a means to an end. Money to them is the defining value and the primary mediator of relationships among persons and institutions. Ideals of equity are out the window and at the national and local levels, governments and citizens alike have become economic beggars and a consumer-nation has been created. Beggars dont create jobs; they take from those who have. Nothing paralyses a nation like citizens who lack a sense of mission for their country. In my opinion, Cameroonians should spend less time on politicking and more on constructive endeavors. They should be challenged, activated, motivated and transformed into nation buildings or bakers of the national cake that will be equitably shared. They should be builders of a sustainable, emerging and democratic Cameroon united in diversity. An emerging and sustainable nation refers to a nation that is embarked on a holistic development that can continue indefinitely into the future by properly addressing human, political, social, cultural, economic, ecological and spiritual dimensions of development. This author envisions a better quality of life for all Cameroonians through the development of a just, moral, creative, spiritual, economically vibrant, caring, diverse yet cohesive society characterized by appropriate productivity, participatory and democratic processes, and living in harmony within the limits of the carrying capacity of nature and the integrity of creation. In Part one of this book therefore, this author describes the problems affecting the process of baking and sharing the national cake in Cameroon as reflected in neopatrimonialistic and clientelistic ties. In Part two, the author carries out an assessment of the material, capital and human resources of the country, including technical personnel, and investigate the possibilities of augmenting these resources if found to be deficient in relation to the nation's requirements. This part also indicate the factors which are tending to retard economic and sustainable development, and determine the conditions which, in view of the current social and political situation, should be established for the successful execution of President Biyas major ambitions and accomplishment programme. The discussion framework in this part follows the seven dimensions of development: spiritual, human, social, cultura, political, economic and ecological. In Part three of the book, a complementary Plan to the Cameroon Vision 2035 that will lead to the most effective and balanced utilisation of the country's resources in making the national cake is formulated and the nature of the machinery which will be necessary for securing the successful implementation and financing of the plan is determined."
bookscameroon  akwalefobernadettedjeudo  sharing  socialjustice  inequality  globalization  cake  politics  policy  socialism  finance  economics  2013  citizenship  mutualaid 
5 days ago by robertogreco
Why climate action needs to target the border industrial complex | Climate Change | Al Jazeera
"Climate change is displacing a growing number of people; governments are responding by privatising border policing."
border  climatechange  climateurbanism  policy  policing  governance  government  2019  privatization 
10 days ago by robertogreco
A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction
"Socialists aren’t the only ones who have been techno-utopian, of course. A far more prominent and more influential strand of techno-utopianism has come from the figures around the Bay Area counterculture associated with the Whole Earth Catalog, in particular Stewart Brand, who went on to play important intellectual and cultural roles in Silicon Valley.

They are not friends. They are not allies. I’m avoiding calling them enemies because I’m leaving open the possibility of their being able to learn or change, though I’m not optimistic. I think they occupy the position of the “god trick.” [Eds.: The “god trick” is an idea introduced by Haraway that refers to the traditional view of objectivity as a transcendent “gaze from nowhere.”] I think they are blissed out by their own privileged positions and have no idea what their own positionality in the world really is. And I think they cause a lot of harm, both ideologically and technically.

How so?

They get a lot of publicity. They take up a lot of the air in the room.

It’s not that I think they’re horrible people. There should be space for people pushing new technologies. But I don’t see nearly enough attention given to what kinds of technological innovation are really needed to produce viable local and regional energy systems that don’t depend on species-destroying solar farms and wind farms that require giant land grabs in the desert.

The kinds of conversations around technology that I think we need are those among folks who know how to write law and policy, folks who know how to do material science, folks who are interested in architecture and park design, and folks who are involved in land struggles and solidarity movements. I want to see us do much savvier scientific, technological, and political thinking with each other, and I want to see it get press. The Stewart Brand types are never going there.

Do you see clear limitations in their worldviews and their politics?

They remain remarkably humanist in their orientation, in their cognitive apparatus, and in their vision of the world. They also have an almost Peter Pan quality. They never quite grew up. They say, “If it’s broken, fix it.”

This comes from an incapacity to mourn and an incapacity to be finite. I mean that psychoanalytically: an incapacity to understand that there is no status quo ante, to understand that death and loss are real. Only within that understanding is it possible to open up to a kind of vitality that isn’t double death, that isn’t extermination, and which doesn’t yearn for transcendence, yearn for the fix.

There’s not much mourning with the Stewart Brand types. There’s not much felt loss of the already disappeared, the already dead — the disappeared of Argentina, the disappeared of the caravans, the disappeared of the species that will not come back. You can try to do as much resurrection biology as you want to. But any of the biologists who are actually involved in the work are very clear that there is no resurrection.

You have also been critical of the Anthropocene, as a proposed new geological epoch defined by human influence on the earth. Do you see the idea of the Anthropocene as having similar limitations?

I think the Anthropocene framework has been a fertile container for quite a lot, actually. The Anthropocene has turned out to be a rather capacious territory for incorporating people in struggle. There are a lot of interesting collaborations with artists and scientists and activists going on.

The main thing that’s too bad about the term is that it perpetuates the misunderstanding that what has happened is a human species act, as if human beings as a species necessarily exterminate every planet we dare to live on. As if we can’t stop our productive and reproductive excesses.

Extractivism and exterminationism are not human species acts. They come from a situated historical conjuncture of about five hundred years in duration that begins with the invention of the plantation and the subsequent modeling of industrial capitalism. It is a situated historical conjuncture that has had devastating effects even while it has created astonishing wealth.

To define this as a human species act affects the way a lot of scientists think about the Anthropocene. My scientist colleagues and friends really do continue to think of it as something human beings can’t stop doing, even while they understand my historical critique and agree with a lot of it.

It’s a little bit like the relativism versus objectivity problem. The old languages have a deep grip. The situated historical way of thinking is not instinctual for Western science, whose offspring are numerous.

Are there alternatives that you think could work better than the Anthropocene?

There are plenty of other ways of thinking. Take climate change. Now, climate change is a necessary and essential category. But if you go to the circumpolar North as a Southern scientist wanting to collaborate with Indigenous people on climate change — on questions of changes in the sea ice, for example, or changes in the hunting and subsistence base — the limitations of that category will be profound. That’s because it fails to engage with the Indigenous categories that are actually active on the ground.

There is an Inuktitut word, “sila.” In an Anglophone lexicon, “sila” will be translated as “weather.” But in fact, it’s much more complicated. In the circumpolar North, climate change is a concept that collects a lot of stuff that the Southern scientist won’t understand. So the Southern scientist who wants to collaborate on climate change finds it almost impossible to build a contact zone.

Anyway, there are plenty of other ways of thinking about shared contemporary problems. But they require building contact zones between cognitive apparatuses, out of which neither will leave the same as they were before. These are the kinds of encounters that need to be happening more.

A final question. Have you been following the revival of socialism, and socialist feminism, over the past few years?

Yes.

What do you make of it? I mean, socialist feminism is becoming so mainstream that even Harper’s Bazaar is running essays on “emotional labor.”

I’m really pleased! The old lady is happy. I like the resurgence of socialism. For all the horror of Trump, it has released us. A whole lot of things are now being seriously considered, including mass nonviolent social resistance. So I am not in a state of cynicism or despair."
donnaharaway  2019  californianideology  interviews  wholeearthcatalog  stewartbrand  technosolutionism  technology  climatechange  extinction  deminism  ontology  cynicism  resistance  siliconvalley  objectivity  ideology  science  politics  policy  loss  mourning  biology  resurrection  activism  humans  multispecies  morethanhuman  extractivism  exterminationism  plantations  capitalism  industrialism  history  indigenous  socialism 
10 days ago by robertogreco
Barack Obama thinks 'woke' kids want purity. They don't: they want progress | Malaika Jabali | Opinion | The Guardian
“On Tuesday, in Chicago, former president Barack Obama joined actress Yara Shahidi in a conversation with activists from his Obama Foundation program. Over the nearly 1.5-hour Obama Foundation summit event, the beloved political figure deployed his trademark charm and humor while discussing the challenges of movement politics.

Media attention has focused on a particular part of the conversation – Obama’s criticism of call-out culture and what he perceived as an excessively strident activist left. “We can’t completely remake society in a minute,” Obama said, “so we have to make some accommodations to the existing structures.”

He added, “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and share certain things with you.”

He then made a separate point about social media activism:

“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. ‘Man you see how woke I was, I called you out.’” But “that’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change.”

On its face, these are fair remarks. During the session, both Obama and Shahidi drew from examples of the nonviolent civil rights movement of the early 1960s, which required enormous faith, patience and compromise from its activists in the face of threats to their lives and livelihood. Today, as social justice activists’ material conditions have relatively improved, they will encounter people in positions of power with wealth and access, and they have to learn to work with them on some level, Obama implied. And no, tweeting about a verb probably won’t bring about change.

However, we can’t look at Obama’s remarks in a vacuum. From 2016 – as he prepared to exert his influence over who would be the next Democratic nominee – to the present, Obama has often aimed his political critiques at youth-led, black and progressive movements. While upholding the necessity of nuance, Obama himself seems to force these movements into a box, cherry-picking anecdotes for a strawman: that these movements expect purity and demand perfection.

In an early instance of this ideological pattern, at a 2016 youth town hall in London, Obama spoke generally of Black Lives Matter while referring to the handful of activists who confronted the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her role in criminalizing black youth:

“Once you’ve highlighted an issue and brought it to people’s attention … then you can’t just keep on yelling at them. And you can’t refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position. The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room.”

A few months later in a Howard commencement address, with Chicago protests of the police killing of Laquan McDonald not far in the distance, he told the audience of mostly black students about his criminal justice reform as a state senator:

“I can say this unequivocally: without at least the acceptance of the police organizations in Illinois, I could never have gotten those [criminal justice reform] bills passed … If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want.”

And earlier this year, Obama again raised the amorphous specter of purity politics as people have embraced a leftward policy shift:

“One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States … is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’ and then we start … a ‘circular firing squad’, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.”

Obama has offered these platitudes without much evidence that progressives, Black Lives Matter activists or young voters expect purity. Impatience with the status quo is not purity. A consistent political project is not purity. And being patient has its limits.

You can gather from the general direction of Obama’s career, from turning down a route in corporate law to his community organizing, that he has some commitment to social justice. However, his remarks indicate discomfort with more radical tactics in achieving it, reducing them to petulant zeal and not a legitimate strategy among the broad scope of tools needed to dismantle oppressive systems.

While discussing Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King as examples of patient progress, he freezes them in time. He failed to note either King’s or Parks’s evolutions. Over time King became more radicalized and questioned integration. When Parks was forced to Detroit to retreat from the backlash against her bus boycott activism, she became a proponent of the Panthers’ self-defense demands and identified Malcolm X as her personal hero.

Obama also failed to discuss how, despite King’s strategies negotiating with Lyndon Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congress waffled in passing further civil rights measures until the 1968 riots after King’s assassination, when Congress was forced to swiftly pass the Fair Housing Act.

Or go back further: despite the negotiations and patience of abolitionists in the 1800s, it was a steady stream of black uprisings, and an entire civil war, that gave abolition laws and the Emancipation Proclamation any teeth.

Obama’s fundamental problem is in confusing a strategy of pragmatism with the strategy. Pragmatic approaches can coexist with more radical politics. But Obama’s pattern of dismissing radical demands altogether shows a serious unwillingness to appreciate the times. Obama is committed to a notion of reaching across the aisle that may have seemed necessary in 2012, but not so much in 2019.

Americans in the throes of economic struggle and social oppression have been advised to hold their nose for so long that they’re suffocating. The labor movement is experiencing more worker strikes now than in the past 40 years. We’re in a 1968 moment, not 1963. But Obama has not accepted this evolution.

As people demand universal policies for basic needs of shelter, food, freedom from police terror, and economic security, and when wealth inequality is the worst in a century, Obama has to reckon with his own questions. How is his form of calling out – scolding black, young and progressive movements – bringing about change? Is he part of the solution or part of the problem?

For many Americans, the normalization of genuinely leftwing policies is providing the hope and change Obama campaigned on. This is the time for him to finally help achieve it.”
barackobama  elitism  democrats  2019  politics  us  purity  wokeness  call-outculture  dismissal  outoftouch  policy  malaikajabali  leftism  society  oppression  radicalism  radicalization  progressivism 
15 days ago by robertogreco
This wave of global protest is being led by the children of the financial crash | Jack Shenker | Opinion | The Guardian
““I’m 22 years old, and this is my last letter,” the young man begins. Most of his face is masked with black fabric; only his eyes, tired and steely, are visible below a messy fringe. “I’m worried that I will die and won’t see you any more,” he continues, his hands trembling. “But I can’t not take to the streets.”

The nameless demonstrator – one of many in Hong Kong who have been writing to their loved ones before heading out to confront rising police violence in the city – was filmed by the New York Times last week in an anonymous stairwell. But he could be almost anywhere, and not only because the walls behind him are white and characterless, left blank to protect his identity.

From east Asia to Latin America, northern Europe to the Middle East, there are young people gathering in stairwells, back alleys and basements whose faces display a similar blend of exhilaration and exhaustion. “The disaster of ‘chaos in Hong Kong’ has already hit the western world,” the former Chinese diplomat Wang Zhen declared in an official Communist party paper, following reports that protesters in Catalonia were being inspired by their counterparts in Hong Kong. “We can expect that other countries and cities may be struck by this deluge.”

Wang is right about the deluge. In the same week that those seeking independence from Spain occupied Barcelona airport and brought motorways to a standstill, Extinction Rebellion activists seized major bridges and squares across London, prompting nearly 2,000 arrests. Both mobilisations adopted tactics from Hong Kong, including fluid targets – inspired by Bruce Lee’s famous “be water“ mantra – and a repertoire of hand signals to outwit security forces.

Meanwhile Lebanon has been convulsed by its largest demonstrations in two decades, dozens have been killed during anti-government marches in Iraq, and in Egypt a blanket ban on dissent by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s brutal dictatorship failed to prevent sporadic anti-regime protests breaking out across the country late last month. In the Americas, where Wang once served as a Chinese government envoy, Ecuador, Chile and Haiti are all experiencing citizen uprisings that are virtually unprecedented in recent history, ushering vast numbers of people into the streets – as well as soldiers tasked with containing them.

Each of these upheavals has its own spark – a hike in transport fares in Santiago, or a proposed tax on users of messaging apps like WhatsApp in Beirut – and each involves different patterns of governance and resistance. The class composition of the indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador can’t be compared with most of those marching against the imprisonment of separatist leaders in Catalonia; nor is the state’s prohibition of protest in London on a par with the repression in Hong Kong, where officers shot live ammunition into a teenager’s chest.

And yet it’s clear that we are witnessing the biggest surge in global protest activity since the early 2010s, when a “movement of the squares” saw mass rallies in capital cities across the Arab world, followed by Occupy demonstrations in the global north. Historically speaking, the past decade has seen more protests than at any time since the 1960s. Despite their disparate grievances, some common threads do bind today’s rebellions together. Tracing them may help clarify the nature of our present political volatility.

One obvious link is also the most superficial: the role played by social media, which has been widely noted in the press. While it’s true that digital technologies have enabled more agile and horizontal forms of organising, the ubiquity of these tools in 2019 tells us almost nothing about what is driving people to take to the streets in the first place. Indeed, in many states, social media is now an instrument of state repression as much as it is a tool of revolt.

The most significant connection is generational. The majority of those protesting now are the children of the financial crisis – a generation that has come of age during the strange and febrile years after the collapse of a broken economic and political orthodoxy, and before its replacement has emerged.

One direct impact of the crash has been a rapid diminishment of opportunity for millions of young people in rich countries – who now regard precarious work and rising inequality as the norm. At the same time, the aftermath of the crash has cracked the entrenched structures that had evolved to detach citizens from active participation in politics – be that through authoritarian systems or via an institutional consensus on the inevitability of market logic and technocratic management. Amid widespread economic and social failure, it has become harder than ever for elites to justify power, even on their own terms.

All this has produced a generation charged with hopelessness and hope. Afflicted by what the anthropologist David Graeber calls “despair fatigue”, protesters are putting their bodies on the line because it feels as if they have no other choice – and because those who rule over them have rarely seemed more vulnerable. Most have spent their lives under the maxim “there is no alternative” – and now circumstances have forced them to widen their political imaginations in search of something new. As one poster proclaims in Chile: “It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.”

Facing them down are states determined to put citizens back in their box and reseal the borders of political participation. The problem for governments is that there is no longer an established centre ground to snap back to, and their opponents know it – which is why so many of those involved in the current mobilisations will not settle for token concessions from the authorities.

“We need a whole new system, from scratch,” declared one demonstrator in Lebanon. The crackdown on Catalan separatists by the Spanish government has brought back dark memories of the state’s dirty war in the Basque country in the 1980s and the Franco era that preceded it; troops are marching through city centres in Chile for the first time since Pinochet.

In China, Xi Jinping has claimed that any attempt to divide the nation will result in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder”. In many places, grassroots victory – and radical political transformation – feels to many like the only possible resolution, lending clashes an “all or nothing” antagonism and urgency that is hard to roll back.

What has intensified this urgency is the backdrop of looming ecological catastrophe. Even where protests are not explicitly about environmental concerns, the prospect of planetary catastrophe in our lifetimes raises the stakes for all political action. “The kids who are walking out of school have a hugely radical understanding of the way that politics works, and they recognise that our democratic processes and structures as they stand are designed to uphold the status quo,” Jake Woodier, one of the organisers behind the UK climate strike movement, told me this year. “They know that they will be worse off than their parents, know that they’ll never own a home, and know that on current trends they could live to see the end of humanity. So for them, for us, politics is not a game, it’s reality, and that’s reflected in the way we organise – relentlessly, radically, as if our lives depend on it.”

The Cambridge political scientist Helen Thompson once argued: “The post-2008 world is, in some fundamental sense, a world waiting for its reckoning.” That reckoning is beginning to unfold globally. They may come from different backgrounds and fight for different causes, but the kids being handcuffed, building barricades, and fighting their way through teargas in 2019 all entered adulthood after the end of the end of history. They know that we are living through one of what the American historian Robert Darnton has called “moments of suspended disbelief”: those rare, fragile conjunctures in which anything seems conceivable, and – far from being immutable – the old rules are ready to be rewritten. As long as it feels like their lives depend on winning, the deluge will continue.”
protest  protests  yout  greatrecession  crisis  economics  2008  2019  catastrophe  chile  china  catalonia  barcelona  hongkong  latinamerica  asia  spain  españa  lebanon  egypt  ecuador  haiti  london  extinctionrebellion  climatechange  policy  inequality  youth  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  repression  future  pinochet  franco  separatists  statusquo  elitism  uk  us  robertdarnton  jackshenker  government  governance  military  globalwarming  capitalism  socialism  democracy  technocracy  disenfranchisement  politics  democrats 
15 days ago by robertogreco
how I drew my mental map of politics – Snakes and Ladders
The Reagan years were for me an education in political cynicism. In the 1980s I came to believe what I still believe: That almost no elected politicians have principles that they’re willing to stake their careers on, and those who have such principles typically last a single term in office; that the rare politician who has integrity almost certainly lacks courage, while those who have courage lack integrity; that the extremely rare politician who has both courage and integrity will surely lack judgment; that the members of both major parties care primarily about getting and keeping power, secondarily about exerting that power over the powerless, and beyond that about nothing else whatsoever; that both parties are parties of death, differing only on their preferred targets (though they are equally fond, it seems, of military action in Asia); that the only meaningful criterion by which to judge who to vote for is encapsulated in the question Who will do less damage to our social fabric?

And because they’re all going to do damage, just of different kinds, for the last thirty years I have voted for third-party or write-in candidates. For much of that time I knew that I couldn’t vote for Democrats and debated whether I could vote for Republicans. The answer to that question was always No. But recently I have come to be absolutely certain that I can’t vote for Republicans, and have debated whether I can vote for Democrats. The answer to that question is, so far, also No, and I cannot envision that changing.

I oppose false equivalences as forcefully as anyone. But there are also true equivalences. And so I say, as I have said for three decades now: A plague on both their houses.
alanjacobs  politics  2019  democrats  republicans  thirdparties  us  elections  cynicism  history  ronaldreagan  jimmycarter  integrity  courage  policy  consistency  reliability  falseequivalences  death  destruction  war  harm  society 
21 days ago by robertogreco
Chile protests against President Pinera and deep inequality.
“But symbols get scrambled when they’re reused. If a spectacle resurfaces, its meaning rarely remains exactly the same. That’s happened with the Joker, and it’s happening with other old reference points too. Take the loud pot-beating protests that have been taking place all over Chile, called cacerolazos. People leaning out of windows or marching on the streets, loudly expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo and their support for the protests. (If you don’t know what that sounds like, here’s a video a relative sent me from Oct. 19, taken in the middle-class neighborhood of Ñuñoa.) If you were around and right-wing in 1971, the cacerolazos ringing out all across the country the past week—in rich neighborhoods and poor ones, in cities big and small—might remind you of the March of the Empty Pots, which many forget was actually undertaken by conservative Chilean women to register their opposition to Allende’s socialist government. Those protests were largely and functionally right-wing, but—like the cacerolazos against the government today, which have a very different politics—they also managed to transcend class differences.

Today, the cacerolazo seems to be transcending categories again. Because they seem to be coming from every sector, it’s not clear that Chile’s current situation is reducible to the usual right–left axes. On Friday night, the largest protest in the country’s history gathered, with approximately 1.2 million in Santiago and protests in solidarity all over the country. The sheer size also doesn’t lend itself easily to factionalist descriptions. That’s what sets this moment apart—and makes it seem just very faintly possible that a country that’s been rehashing the same triumphalist and traumatic stories about itself for decades might be able to pivot for a new chapter. While over 120 allegations of human rights violations are being investigated, including possible homicides by law enforcement and allegations of torture and sexual abuse—as well as hundreds of people injured by birdshot—the massive gatherings have not yet resulted in the kind of brutal military crackdown that happened in 1973.

I started here by referring, as for years one had to, to the country’s two protagonists: Pinochet and Allende. They were symbols of two very different Chiles. But when I said that these sights in Chile the past week would be traumatic if you were alive in 1973, I meant it. Many Chileans weren’t alive then. This contingent—young, buckling under increasing costs of living and enormous debt—seems tired of relitigating the past. They’re objecting, at least in part, to the long shadow Pinochet and Allende have cast: to the way Pinochet has been used endlessly as an excuse by the left while they preserved many or most aspects of his economic model; to the way Allende has remained a boogeyman for the right, used to scare children with stories of financial ruin and leftist terrorism. It even makes a certain horribly Freudian kind of sense that breaking the country out of these unproductive narrative recursions would require a strange and terribly dangerous semi-reenactment. With tanks on the streets. Lines in the stores. Fires. Fights.

I don’t want to downplay the intensity of what’s happened the past week. The chaos has many Chileans exhausted and on edge. What began with a student protest over a subway fare hike has exploded into nationwide marches against much more: an unsustainably high cost of living, poverty-level retirements, bad and expensive health care, poor education, and crushing debt, to name a few. President Sebastián Piñera called a state of emergency in the early hours of Oct. 19, deploying the military. Much of the country is now under curfew. As of this writing, 18 people have died. There is footage of soldiers beating civilians; one video captures Carabineros (militarized police) bludgeoning people as they walk by. A TV network aired live footage of soldiers shooting as they drove through a neighborhood in Recoleta. On Tuesday morning, an Argentine TV news team was broadcasting when a soldier lifted his rifle and shot at them with a rubber bullet. By Tuesday night, there was footage of soldiers shooting into a building in Las Condes. Chile’s infrastructure has been heavily damaged in the protests too: After Oct. 18, most of the subway system was severely damaged and temporarily shut down. Dozens of stations were burned. While some lines are partly operational, full function won’t be restored for months. Buses and police precincts and stores were set on fire. Hundreds of small and medium-size businesses throughout the country have had to close due to looting or other damage. Things are loud and frightening and wild.”



“On Friday, the Congress was evacuated due to protests outside, a peaceful (if loud) protest that by evening surpassed a million people in Plaza Baquedano alone. Though truckers have denied going on strike for fear of creating food shortages, they joined taxi drivers to bring the highways outside Santiago to gridlock, protesting against high road tolls. Efforts to create enough change are ongoing too: Evelyn Matthei, who served as Piñera’s former minister of labor during his first term, ran for president, and is currently mayor of Santiago’s Providencia district, said in an interview on Friday that the kind of profound change the country needed would require replacing “at least” eight of Piñera’s 24 ministers with people from the middle class with more diverse backgrounds that included (for example) public education experience. In the lower chamber of Congress, the House passed a proposed reduction in the work-week to 40 hours, and the opposition proposed a plebiscite for a new Constitution. To the extent that the demands are legible, the protests seem to be calling, first, for an end to the state of emergency and the military presence, and, more broadly, for a Constituent Assembly—for a new Constitution and a new social contract that sees people more as citizens than as a captive market for corporations seeking government concessions. Many are calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Chadwick, who spearheaded the initial escalation against the fare-dodgers. Others call for Piñera’s ouster. After the extraordinary, nation-wide outpouring Friday evening—Santiago’s protests were made up of almost 7 percent of the country’s population—Piñera tweeted, “The massive, joyous and peaceful protest today, where Chileans ask for a Chile with greater justice and solidarity, opens big roads to future and hope. We all have heard the message. We all have changed. With unity and help from God, we will travel this road to a better Chile for everyone.” Many of the chants had directly insulted him. On Saturday, he announced that he’d asked all his ministers to resign and said he would lift the state of emergency on Sunday if circumstances permitted. The curfew in Santiago is over. No one knows what will happen next.

***

I’ve noticed fewer Joker references over the last few days. And it feels like the potency of certain old spectacles—men in uniform confronting civilians, long grocery store lines—might be diminishing too. After a week of this state of emergency, things are not better in Chile. Things do not get easier when the “happy face” gets replaced by honest feeling. Tourism has plummeted, there are still fires, and people are anxious and angry and tired. But circumstances are not as bad as they could be. It could all go south at any time, but for now—for now—there is not desabastecimiento. The lines are not bread lines. (Yet.) Disturbing though the images of military attacking civilians are, things have not escalated to the familiar point of no return. I don’t know if that’s progress for a country both saturated by and sick of witnessed and inherited traumas. But it is something.

“Do you think Joker inspired any of this?” I asked my cousin Bernardita. “Of course,” she said, “or actually, the reverse: the social discontent inspired this interpretation of the Joker. Without a doubt.”

Whatever use the protesters have made of the Joker, there are obvious limits to his explanatory power. The protesters’ interpretation of the nihilistic clown has also taken some extratextual—and unifying—turns, such as the refusal of some politicians (and even a general) to adopt the rhetoric of war. The Joker snapped and turned on society. Chile is angry, and parts of it did snap. But by and large, the public still cares and has not devolved into nihilism. On Oct. 21, NO ESTAMOS EN GUERRA—WE ARE NOT AT WAR—was projected on the side of the Telefónica building near Plaza Italia, where huge crowds had gathered to reject the military’s enforcement of the curfew and test this version of Chile to see if it has changed. And if it can.”
lililoofbourow  chile  2019  protests  history  salvadorallende  pinochet  inequality  precarity  change  corruption  government  governance  democracy  neoliberlalism  chicagoboys  policy  politics  protest  sebastiánpiñera  michelebachelet  ricardolagos  dictatorship  symbols  symbolism  thejoker  batman  military  mobility  wellbeing  qualityoflife  labor  work  debt  violence  coup  trauma  injustice  justice  reform  constitution  eduardofrei  revolution  resistance  neoliberalism  capitalism  miltonfriedman  victorjara 
21 days ago by robertogreco
If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality | Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser | Opinion | The Guardian
“If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality

The president declared ‘Chile is at war’ but the crisis is, at heart, a message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract

As with the yellow vest movement in France, it was impossible to foresee that an increase in the price of the Santiago metro would trigger demonstrations throughout Chile. When you think about it, however, it is unsurprising. Inequality in Chile is scandalous and most middle-class Chileans live in precarity. Now Chile is roiled by mass protests and looting; the government has declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in many cities across the country.

The scale of the looting shows that the country has a structural problem with a clear name: inequality. The per capita income of the bottom quintile of Chileans is less than $140 a month. Half the population earns about $550. Tax evasion has cost the treasury approximately $1.5bn. Two-thirds of Chileans believe that it is unfair that those who can pay more have access to better health and education. They’re right.

The images of discontent and anger around the country are shocking to watch. Yet the current Chilean administration and much of the political class simply do not seem to understand the magnitude of the problem or what is at stake. On Friday night, as the situation spiraled out of control, the president, Sebastián Piñera, dined in Vitacura, the richest neighborhood in Santiago. A few days earlier, the minister of economy suggested that since the price of the Santiago metro is cheaper in the morning, people should get up early to save money. Attitudes like these only reinforce the existing malaise.

How have Chilean authorities responded so far? On the one hand, they have kept an inexplicable silence and their actions have been late and incompetent. On the other hand, the government has begun advancing an increasingly authoritarian message implying that the conflict must be solved with repression.

“Chile is at war,” Piñera declared on Sunday night. He argued that the country is facing a powerful and violent foe and that the government should respond in kind. Those who lived through the Pinochet dictatorship heard those words with dismay. While it is true that the looting is serious and security is needed, it is alarming that the government does not have the slightest interest in understanding the social discontent in Chilean society.

The Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously argued that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. When the president of Chile asserts that the country is at war and implies that the armed forces must solve the problem, he has effectively abdicated his job: to govern. (Luckily, Gen Javier Iturriaga, who is in charge of the emergency situation, later declared that he is not at war with anyone.) Piñera and his advisers do not seem to understand that the problem facing the country is not a military one but a political one. This crisis is, at heart, an urgent message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract.

The longer it takes the government to understand this, the harder it will be to get out of this catastrophe. Real political reforms will take time, but there are symbolic measures that the government could take as a first step, like firing the cabinet ministers who have shown themselves to be most out of touch with their own people.

It is also worth remembering that increasing economic inequality is not a Chilean phenomenon but a global phenomenon. Hopefully other governments see the lesson here: rampant economic inequality is dangerous to social stability.

If the Chilean government chooses a repressive path, it will not only generate more violence, but also give greater voice to radical and autocratic rightwing forces. Democracy itself is at stake. If Piñera wants to wage war, he should wage war on the real enemy: inequality. This war can be won only through politics and not by other means.”
chile  2019  sebastiánpiñera  protests  economics  protest  neoliberalism  inequality  capitalism  politics  policy  cristóbalrovirakaltwasser  autocracy  democracy  carlvonclausewitz  javieriturriaga  violence  precarity  elitism 
23 days ago by robertogreco
The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn’t from protesters. It’s from Piñera and the 1% | Oscar Guardiola-Rivera | Opinion | The Guardian
“The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn’t from protesters. It’s from Piñera and the 1%

Protest criminalised, direct action equated with terrorism: it’s starting to feel like the bad old days of Pinochet

“We’re at war against a powerful enemy,” declared President Sebastián Piñera live on Sunday night TV from the Chilean army headquarters. “Democracy not only has the right but the duty to defend itself using all instruments … and the rule of law to fight those who would destroy it.” You may be forgiven for thinking Chilean democracy is besieged by some terrifying force: a foreign army, or even an invader from outer space. Nothing could be further from the truth. Piñera’s statement is doublethink: a lie travelling the world while truth is still putting on its boots.

But who is the enemy Piñera has gone to war with? One of his government’s own making – namely, the poorer people of Chile. This is the country that is the ground-zero for the neoliberal economic model now in crisis all over the world. From Canada and the United States to Chile and Argentina, the fire this time in the Americas and elsewhere is being fanned by the few. They’ve benefited the most from an economic model that consists of squeezing the many. And now, having nothing else to lose but their bullshit jobs and half-lives, the dispossessed are rising up like an army.

The Chilean people have been robbed of everything. Health, education, water, transport, all basic services have been privatised. Hope has been privatised. What else is there to do? Protest peacefully? Done that.

I witnessed a dance-in a few years back in Santiago. Dressed up like zombies in a 1980s Michael Jackson video, the student movement demanded free public education. They’ve been doing so since 2006. The protests intensified in 2011, during the first Piñera administration: 70% of the population supported their demands, widely seen as part of a general desire to transform the economic and political model established by the military dictatorship that governed the country from 1973 to 1990, after the violent coup against democratic socialist Salvador Allende.

Consider Chile’s privatised education system. It emerged during the Pinochet years in the 1980s, resulting in the 1990 education constitutional framework, signed by the general himself. After the first wave of student mobilisations, Pinochet’s framework was replaced by the 2009 General Education Law, which introduced no significant changes.

Like the rest of Chile’s neoliberal model, it was set in constitutional stone so that its reform or repeal would be nearly impossible. Such provisions became part of a constitutional framework designed by Pinochet’s intellectual collaborators like Jaime Guzmán, who was responsible for drafting most of the constitution that still governs Chile.

Guzmán was inspired by Francoist falangism and Third Reich constitutionalism, revised for a late 20th-century landscape. According to this ethos, respect for the constitution and the rule of law only goes as far “as the situation permits”, as the junta members put it on 11 September 1973, the day of the coup. This qualification has been accepted by all post-dictatorship rulers of Chile, if not in principle at least in practice.

In the dictatorship, meaningful protest and direct action were forbidden. Engaging in such acts meant risking summary execution, torture or disappearance. In the democracy, nominal rights to protest exist but remain severely limited. Social protest is frequently criminalised and direct action often equated with terrorism.

Judging from the videos and testimonies circulated this week by concerned citizens and protesters, engaging in such acts still risks violent reprisals from the authorities.

The Pinochet regime offers us a lesson: a neoliberal model can only be established by a campaign of scapegoating and lies, underpinned by the promise to “take back control”, “restore order and the constitution” and deliver “the will of the people”, plus a modicum of force. It can only be maintained if such force is normalised, shielding the model from the protests of the left-behind, which are inevitable when the dispossessed realise the game was rigged from the very outset. These were the tactics of Chile’s military junta. Clearly, its actions have echoes in the present.

This time, the spark that blew the powder keg came on 13 October, when the transport ministry announced the Santiago underground fare would rise by 30 pesos. Thereafter, school students began organising fare-dodging acts of protest all over the city. Thirty pesos might not sound much. And if you squint, Chile’s economy isn’t doing that badly: it has a GDP of $15,902 (£14,155) per capita, one of the highest in Latin America.

But for the many, Chile’s workers and precariat, the average salary is low: only £350 per month. Commuters coming from the peripheries to work in the capital may have to spend between £50 to £70 a month on transport alone. Try to feed a family with what’s left in a country without universal healthcare or free education. It is the same across the continent – in Quito, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Rio. No wonder the hemisphere is exploding.

After the adults started joining students in fare-dodging protests, economics minister Juan Fontaine, very much of the free-market Chicago school, advised them to get up earlier to avoid the more expensive fares. His colleague, transport minister Gloria Hutt, later implied fare-dodgers were criminals. As protests raged across the city, a video of Piñera partying at an upscale restaurant during his grandson’s birthday went viral. People took to the streets.

Piñera then did what they all do – the Trumps, the Bolsonaros, the Johnsons of this world. He stamped his authority in the name of democracy, law, and the will of the people. In the country of Pinochet, Piñera resorted to the behaviour of a dictator.

The state is now behaving like security for the country’s privatised industries. The crackdown is not about protecting the people. It’s not about 30 pesos. It’s about 30 years of an economic model elevated to the level of constitutional principle for the benefit of those who got richer during the Pinochet years, and continue to get even richer during Piñera’s – while the many suffer. They’re not taking it any more.”
oscarguardiola-rivera  2019  chile  sebastiánpiñera  protest  protests  democracy  inequality  plutocracy  oligarchy  capitalism  neoliberalism  dictatorship  pinochet  precarity  economics  politics  policy  violence  society  jaimeguzmán  constitution 
23 days ago by robertogreco
From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues - The New York Times
"Pocketbook items have become the catalysts for popular fury across the globe in recent weeks."

"In Chile, the spark was an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, it was a tax on WhatsApp calls. The government of Saudi Arabia moved against hookah pipes. In India, it was about onions.

Small pocketbook items became the focus of popular fury across the globe in recent weeks, as frustrated citizens filled the streets for unexpected protests that tapped into a wellspring of bubbling frustration at a class of political elites seen as irredeemably corrupt or hopelessly unjust or both. They followed mass demonstrations in Bolivia, Spain, Iraq and Russia and before that the Czech Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Kazakhstan in what has been a steady drumbeat of unrest over the past few months.

At first glance, many of the demonstrations were linked by little more than tactics. Weeks of unremitting civil disobedience in Hong Kong set the template for a confrontational approach driven by vastly different economic or political demands.

Yet in many of the restive countries, experts discern a pattern: a louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by.

“It’s young people who have had enough,” said Ali H. Soufan, chief executive of The Soufan Group, a security intelligence consultancy. “This new generation are not buying into what they see as the corrupt order of the political and economic elite in their own countries. They want a change.”

Few were as surprised as the leaders of those countries.

On Thursday, the President Sebastián Piñera of Chile boasted that his country was an oasis of stability in Latin America. “We are ready to do everything to not fall into populism, into demagoguery,” he said in an interview published in The Financial Times.

The next day, protesters attacked factories, torched subway stations and looted supermarkets in Chile’s worst upheaval in decades, eventually forcing Mr. Piñera to deploy troops to the streets. By Wednesday, at least 15 people were dead, and a clearly rattled Mr. Piñera had spoken of “war against a powerful and implacable enemy.”

In Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri survived recent embarrassing revelations about a $16 million gift to a bikini model whom he met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles in 2013, a move that, for some critics, epitomized Lebanon’s ruling class. Then last week he announced the tax on WhatsApp calls, setting off a revolt.

Decades of discontent over inequality, stagnation and corruption erupted into the open, drawing as much as a quarter of the country into euphoric antigovernment demonstrations driven by chants of “Revolution!”

With one of the highest levels of public debt and intractably low employment, Lebanon seems incapable of providing basic public services like electricity, clean drinking water or reliable internet service. Austerity measures have hollowed out the middle class, while the richest 0.1 percent of the population — which includes many politicians — earns a tenth of the country’s national income, much of it, critics say, from plundering the country’s resources.

On Monday Mr. Hariri scrapped the planned tax, announcing a hasty reform package to rescue the country’s sclerotic economy and pledging to recover public trust.

Although the recent scattering of mass protests appears dramatic, scholars say it is a continuation of a rising trend. For decades, societies across the world have become far likelier to pursue sweeping political change by taking to the streets.

The rate of protest has accelerated sharply of late, as various factors have converged: a slowing global economy, dizzying gaps between rich and poor and a youth bulge that in many countries has produced a restive new generation fizzing with frustrated ambition. In addition, the expansion of democracy has stalled globally, leaving citizens with unresponsive governments frustrated and activists sure that street action is the only way to force change.

But as protest movements grow, their success rates are plunging. Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change achieved it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist.

In the mid-2000s, that trend reversed. Success rates now stand at 30 percent, the study said, a decline that Professor Chenoweth called staggering.

These two trends are closely linked. As protests become more frequent but likelier to flounder, they stretch on and on, becoming more contentious, more visible — and more apt to return to the streets when their demands go unmet. The result may be a world where popular uprisings lose their prominence, becoming simply part of the landscape.

“Something has really shifted,” Professor Chenoweth said in an interview.

“You could say these protests mirror what’s going on in the United States,” said Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar who recently stepped down as dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. In countries where elections are decisive, like the United States and Britain, skepticism about the old political order has produced populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant results at the polls.

“In other countries, where people don’t have a voice, you have massive protests erupting,” he said.

The disparate outbreaks of unrest have not gone unnoticed at the United Nations. Secretary General António Guterres raised them at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund this past weekend, his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Tuesday. Critics have accused the I.M.F. of exacerbating economic hardships in countries like Ecuador through austerity measures imposed to reduce debts.

“We are seeing demonstrations in different places, but there are some commonalities,” Mr. Dujarric said, citing “people feeling they are under extreme financial pressure, the issue of inequality, and a lot of other structural issues.”

Some experts say the rash of global protests is too diverse to neatly categorize or ascribe to a single theme. Michael Ignatieff, president of Central European University, was in Barcelona last week as more than 500,000 people thronged the streets after a court sentenced former separatist leaders to prison.

While the Barcelona protests bore some resemblance to mass demonstrations in other cities, Mr. Ignatieff said it would be a mistake to lump them together. “People are not being swept away by the madness of the crowds,” he said. “This is politics, with specific causes and specific issues. If you don’t acknowledge that, you make popular politics look like a series of crazy fashions, like the same trousers or headgear.”

Still, within some regions, the protests are often similar to each other.

In the Middle East, the tumult has drawn inevitable comparisons with the upheavals of the Arab Spring of 2011. But experts say these recent protests are driven by a new generation that cares less about the old sectarian or ideological divides.

Instead of calling for the head of a dictator as many Arabs did in 2011, the Lebanese have indicted an entire political class.

“They are stealing and pretending that they aren’t. Who’s responsible, if not them?” Dany Yacoub, 22, said on Monday, the fourth day she had spent protesting in central Beirut. She studied to be a music teacher, but said she cannot find a job because it takes political connections to get hired in a school. “We don’t believe them anymore,” she said.

Many Arabs have been wary of popular protest since the Arab Spring uprisings, heeding doom-tinged warnings from authoritarian leaders that any upheaval could tip their societies into the same violent chaos as Libya, Syria or Yemen.

But the recent wave of protests in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq — as well as revolts that toppled longstanding dictators in Algeria and Sudan this year — suggest that wall of fear is starting to crumble.

“Syria has been the boogeyman for a very long time,” said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “But Algeria and Sudan showed that chaos does not have to be the answer.”

Even in Saudi Arabia, where the threat of government repression makes public protests practically unthinkable, an unusual rebellion erupted on social media over a 100 percent tax on bills at restaurants with water pipes, or hookahs. The Arabic hashtag “tax on hookah restaurants” trended in the kingdom. Some Twitter commentators said the tax contradicted the ruling family’s desire to change Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative image.

If protests are quicker to stir and more widespread than in earlier decades, they are also more fragile. The painstaking mobilization that once was a feature of grass-roots movements was slow but durable. Protests that organize on social media can rise faster, but collapse just as quickly.

Authoritarian governments have also learned to co-opt social media, using it to disseminate propaganda, rally sympathizers or simply spread confusion, Professor Chenoweth said.

And even where there is a spasm of protest, it takes a lot more for it to snowball into a full opposition movement. The soaring price of onions in India caused farmers to block highways and mount short-lived protests. But frustration has yet to sharpen into mass demonstrations because there is nobody to channel it: India’s opposition is in disarray; divisions of caste and religion dominate politics; and the government of the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, constantly raises the threat of neighboring Pakistan to distract the public."
protest  protests  2019  chile  saudiarabia  lebanon  india  algeria  sudan  kazakhstan  czechrepublic  bolivia  spain  españa  iraq  russia  demonstrations  corruption  policy  economics  neoliberalism  inequality  poverty  stagnation  elitism  governance  government  revolution  qualityoflife  youth  ericchenoweth  valinasr  barcelona  santiago  middleeast  authoritarianism  precarity 
24 days ago by robertogreco
Chile: arenas movedizas en los cimientos del alumno ejemplar
"La violencia evidencia el agrietamiento del modelo de crecimiento económico más exitoso de la región.

Las estimaciones de crecimiento de la economía de Chile para 2019 realizadas el Ministerio de Hacienda de aquel país prevén un aumento del 2,6 por ciento del Producto Interno Bruto. El dato, sin ser fulgurante (la economía mundial crecería algo más del 3% en el mismo período), contrasta con el crecimiento anémico de la economía brasileña, la contracción argentina, con crisis de deuda, o la crisis presupuestaria que motivó a Ecuador a recurrir al Fondo Monetario Internacional, desatando una rebelión en las calles. La pobreza sigue descendiendo, y la medición que, según su propia canasta, alcanzaba a casi el 40% de la población al regreso de la democracia, hoy es menor al 8%. El salario mínimo es uno de los más altos de Sudamérica y el salario real se mantiene en alza.

Si los números parecieran dar la razón al presidente Piñera en aquello de que "Chile es una isla de estabilidad en una región convulsionada", ¿qué pasó entonces en Chile? ¿cómo es que estos números correlacionan con las protestas masivas y las imágenes de violencia urbana que llegan desde Santiago?

Como dirigente político, Piñera recuerda a Zelig, aquel personaje de Woody Allen capaz de mimetizarse completamente con su entorno. No fue extraño que, rodeado de gobernantes progresistas en toda la región, con Obama al frente de los Estados Unidos, su primera presidencia casi pudiera asimilarse a un quinto gobierno de la Concertación. Quizá, el que hubiera sido si la Democracia Cristiana no se hubiera debilitado tanto en la correlación de fuerzas interna de la coalición de centroizquierda que hegemonizó la primera etapa democrática. Entonces, no parecía extraño verlo pasear sonriente durante los festejos del bicentenario argentino, entre retratos del Salvador Allende y Ernesto Guevara, al lado de Lula, Cristina Fernández y Rafael Correa. Para su segundo gobierno, las cosas habían cambiado.

Del Chile exitoso, que había crecido, en promedio, al 5% anual desde 1990, aparecía otro que pasaba dificultades. El segundo gobierno de Michelle Bachelet pasaba sin pena ni gloria, con la foto de un crecimiento magro y una gestión deslucida, y una agenda de reformas que había descendido en ambición al chocar con los límites de la clase dirigente, política y empresaria, chilena, incluyendo a parte de su propio espacio. Reformas que, aún tímidas, despertaron en el empresariado nacional una reacción feroz en los niveles de inversión, cuyo carácter eminentemente político resalta aún más en la comparación con las empresas multinacionales, acostumbradas a pagar muchos más impuestos que los que exige el Estado chileno. En un contexto de baja de los precios de las materias primas, la combinación resultó irreversible.

Para Zelig, rodeado ahora de gobiernos de derecha y enfrentado a una centro izquierda debilitada y plagada de disconformes en ambos flancos, la promesa era el regreso a "tiempos mejores", que no serían otra cosa que la reversión del "populismo" de la administración anterior, que habría quitado al país de la senda del crecimiento. El regreso de Piñera trajo una contrarreforma tributaria, regresiva, que benefició sobre todo al sector empresario más concentrado, con la esperanza de un boom inversor. En lo discursivo, de las sonrisas intercambiadas con Lula Da Silva, pasó a intentar apadrinar a Jair Bolsonaro, desde el día de su llegada al gobierno.

El modelo chileno contiene tensiones evidentes. La excesiva mercantilización heredada de la dictadura, y solo revertida muy parcialmente por la democracia, de sectores esenciales como la salud, la educación y el sistema previsional dio como resultado un sistema enormemente estratificado, donde la correlación entre clases sociales y calidad de las prestaciones es enormemente elevada, acentuando, en vez de mitigar, las diferencias sociales. El vigoroso crecimiento económico y las urgencias post dictadura ocultaron estas carencias que afloraron nuevamente cuando las carencias cedieron. Las demandas de la población ya no se vinculan con salir de la pobreza, sino con la calidad de vida, el progreso y las expectativas a la altura de los discursos sobre un Chile que prevé, en pocos años más, alcanzar el ingreso por habitante de los países desarrollados más rezagados, como Portugal o Hungría, pero que carece de un Estado Benefactor como el de cualquiera de esos países.

El contrato social del Chile de la recuperación democrática suponía una sociedad civil amansada y una dirigencia política endogámica y estable, percibida como eficiente y honesta, encargada de aportar crecimiento y bienestar. El modelo nunca fue del todo cierto, y las tradiciones de acción directa de la izquierda chilena mantuvieron una presencia relativamente marginal pero notoria, con escenas de enfrentamientos épicos los días de conmemoración del golpe militar del 73.

Durante el primer gobierno de Michelle Bachelet, el esquema comenzó a colapsar. El primer gran conflicto de transporte, con la caótica puesta en marcha del Transantiago (un sistema parecido al Metrobús), dio paso a otros movimientos sociales, contra las Administradoras de Fondos Previsionales privadas, y las magras jubilaciones que percibe la mayoría de los chilenos y, el más significativo, la "rebelión de los pingüinos", el movimiento de estudiantes por la gratuidad educativa, contra el enorme peso de la deuda estudiantil, percibida como una verdadera hipoteca sobre la vida post universitaria.

La red de transporte subterráneo de Santiago es un logro del Estado chileno. Con 140 kilómetros de extensión y 136 estaciones, y una expansión exponencial en las últimas décadas, conecta toda la ciudad de forma rápida y eficiente. Las tarifas, sin embargo, son elevadas. Con un salario mínimo de alrededor de cuatrocientos veinte dólares, el costo del pasaje se ubicaba alrededor de un dólar y, con el aumento de la tarifa técnica, la medida buscaba un aumento de poco más del quince por ciento, en un país donde la inflación interanual se ubica por debajo del 2,5%.

Las protestas sorprendieron a los funcionarios gubernamentales, que reaccionaron con desdén y soberbia. El ministro de transporte sugirió que, para evitar el aumento, las personas salieran a sus trabajos a las siete de la mañana, cuando el costo del pasaje es menor, el Ministro del Interior limitó el problema a una cuestión de seguridad, mientras el presidente calificó a los manifestantes que eludían el pago del boleto como "hordas de delincuentes". La aproximación, entonces, fue puramente policial. Sólo el pésimo manejo político de una crisis que fue escalando a diario durante más de una semana explica las escenas luctuosas del viernes, cuando ardieron edificios y estaciones en Santiago, ante la inexplicable ausencia de los Carabineros, omnipresentes antes para golpear y detener a estudiantes secundarios que se colaban masivamente entre molinetes.

El tardío reconocimiento de la gravedad de la situación y la legitimidad de los reclamos por parte del presidente, con su marcha atrás y llamado al diálogo, contrastaron con medidas que devolvieron la memoria de los tiempos más oscuros de la historia del país. La declaración del Estado de Emergencia, la primera vez que sucede por una causa no natural desde el retorno de la Democracia, y el Toque de Queda en la Región Metropolitana, trajeron a la memoria a un Chile que vivió, en forma ininterrumpida, noches de calles vacías y despliegues militares entre el golpe de 1973 y enero de 1987.

Si los pasos en falso del gobierno de Piñera explican la dimensión coyuntural de la crisis, sus fundamentos más profundos amenazan la solidez del alumno aventajado de la región. Las últimas elecciones mostraron un agrietamiento del sistema político, con expresiones electorales potentes a la izquierda y a la derecha de los representantes tradicionales. Las candidaturas de Beatriz Sánchez, por el Frente Amplio, y el pinochetista José Antonio Kast evidenciaron el cuestionamiento de los consensos post dictatoriales. En las instituciones, escándalos de corrupción inéditos en las cúpulas militares y de carabineros mancharon la confianza de la ciudadanía, y los casos de evasión y perdones impositivos para los más ricos afectaron la confianza en la igualdad ante la ley. Una realidad que la reforma impositiva de Piñera podría agravar, acentuando una desigualdad alta, que venía cayendo en forma lenta pero sostenida.

El "milagro económico chileno", que permitió que el PBI per cápita pase de ser 35% menor al de Argentina a 25% mayor en 25 años, consistió en abrir mercados mientras el Estado mejoraba la infraestructura para favorecer la actividad económica y las exportaciones. Sin embargo, la canasta exportadora de Chile no cambió demasiado en los últimos cincuenta años. La economía sigue bailando al ritmo del precio del cobre y su amplia dotación de recursos naturales.

La buena administración de esos recursos permitió a Chile crecer por encima de una región a la que percibe que dejó atrás, un discurso repetido hasta el hartazgo por su dirigencia. Si se tomaran en serio el espejo en el que dicen mirarse, Chile sigue siendo un país pobre y desigual, y su modelo de crecimiento empieza a mostrar signos de fatiga, justo en el momento en que sus ciudadanos demandan desarrollo."
chile  2019  politics  protest  protests  economics  inequality  organizing  activism  history  neoliberalism  policy  martínschapiro  precarity 
24 days ago by robertogreco
A letter from Santiago – The Statesman
"When Chile erupted into civil unrest after the government increased rates for public transportation, Stony Brook associate history professor Eric Zolov — who is teaching at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile on a Fulbright Scholarship — found himself in the middle of political turmoil.

He sent an email to family, friends and Stony Brook faculty on Sunday morning, detailing his experiences and letting them know he was safe.

We’re living in a different country from that of last Thursday. No one saw this coming. The media, colleagues and friends — everyone is trying to come to terms with what happened, what it means and where the country goes from here.

In effect, there has been a slow accumulation of rising costs for public goods from transportation, water, electricity, food and housing, coupled with stagnant wages and a conservative government that has turned a blind eye for many years. When I first arrived with my family, we were struck by the number of shiny malls in Santiago as well as the beauty of its subway system. But we were also keenly aware of how expensive things like food and clothing were — even more expensive than prices in New York.

There are three aspects of the protesters that have stunned commentators here. First, the level of violence — whole subway stations burned, some 20 buses fire-bombed, the continued looting. Second, the absence of any clear political agenda or political organization leading the protests despite certain obvious levels of coordination; these protests erupted country-wide. And third, there is widespread support by the middle classes expressed as a general critique of the system even in our middle-class neighborhood. The sounds of banging on pots — a preeminent symbol of protest that dates back to the 1970s — can be heard all around us.

Having the military in the streets is also a shock, given what Chile suffered in the 1970s to 80s. After the military coup d’etat in 1973, the military was in charge for more than a decade; fierce repression led to torture, disappearances and exile. The civilian protestors are solidly in charge today and it is a different military than 40 years ago, but having the military on the streets is nonetheless a painful reminder of the past.

This is clearly at the forefront of everyone’s thinking and, in part, I believe has helped temper the military’s response thus far. On the first night, Saturday, Oct. 19, there were scenes of the military firing in the air and then retreating; however, in Valparaiso, the repression was fierce. Last night, Sunday, Oct. 20, was a different story, as protesters openly defied the second night of curfew.

Our children are a bit nervous, wanting to know if they’re safe and what it all means. Tonight we returned from some friends’ house after curfew; it was impossible to get an Uber or a taxi and we told them they’re living in historic times. Meanwhile, there are long lines for gas and school is canceled for Monday and possibly Tuesday. The vaunted metro system (really, a gem of the “new Chile”) was directly targeted by protesters and will likely be out of commission — at least the majority of the lines — for some time.

Of course, the Latin Americanist in me is fascinated by everything happening around us, but at the same time, it is all quite disconcerting. The big question now is in regards to what kind of political solution will come about. The current government is not very inclined to propose something broad and ambitious, and national elections are not slated still for some time.

Congress rescinded the recent increase in metro fares, but that will clearly not be enough to mollify protesters or impact public sentiment, which has shifted dramatically against the government overnight. Meanwhile, the image of a modern, democratic and prosperous Chile has been shattered for at least a decade. It is a different country than it was last week and will take some time to recover, although no one knows quite what this means for the country going forward."
ericzolov  chile  2019  sebastiánpiñera  protest  protests  policy  inequality  democracy  precarity 
25 days ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Chile Learns the Price of Economic Inequality - The New York Times
“Chile is often praised as a capitalist oasis, a prospering and stable nation on a continent where both prosperity and stability have been in short supply. But that prosperity has accumulated mostly in the hands of a lucky few. As a result, Chile has one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the developed world.

Now that inequality is threatening the country’s stability. Santiago, the capital and largest city, has been convulsed by protests that were sparked by an increase in subway fares but that have become an expression of broader grievances: against the poor quality of public health care and education; against low wages and the rising cost of living; against the meager pensions that Chileans receive in old age.

Sebastián Piñera, the billionaire elected president in 2017, initially responded with belligerence, declaring the Chilean government “at war” with the protesters, some of whom have burned buildings and subway stations and engaged in looting — behavior that is undoubtedly criminal and reprehensible.

But most of the protesters are engaged in the peaceful exercise of their democratic rights. And on Tuesday, a chastened Mr. Piñera acknowledge his administration and its predecessors had failed to address their legitimate grievances.

“I ask for forgiveness for this shortsightedness,” Mr. Piñera said. He proposed a slate of reforms, including an increase in the top income tax rate, an increase in retirement benefits, and a guaranteed minimum monthly income.

The protesters’ rage is born of the frustrations of everyday life.

Chileans live in a society of extraordinary economic disparities. The distribution of income before taxes is highly unequal throughout the developed world; by that measure, Chile sits roughly in the middle of the 36 developed democracies that constitute the membership of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What makes Chile an outlier among those 36 nations is that the government does less than nearly any other developed nation to reduce economic inequality through taxes and transfers. As a result, Chile has the highest level of post-tax income inequality among O.E.C.D. members.

Santiago’s prosperity is undeniable. Viewed from the top of the tallest building in South America, which stands in the middle of a financial district called “Sanhattan,” neighborhoods with luxury apartments, private hospitals and private schools stretch as far as the eye can see.

But Santiago’s poverty also is striking: crumbling public hospitals, overcrowded schools, shantytowns that sit on the outskirts of the metropolis.

And farther from Santiago are cities untouched by the recent boom.

“The people who govern the country seem to be living in a different world from the rest of us,” Enrique Araya, a 49-year-old lawyer, told a Times reporter on Friday as he and his family banged pots outside of a Santiago subway station — a traditional form of protest.

Chile is not suffering from a lack of resources but instead from an unsustainably narrow conception of its obligations to its citizens. The military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1973 to 1990 rewrote the nation’s laws and economic policies and reshaped its institutions to encourage free-market competition and to minimize the role of government. Its legacy endures. Even after increases in recent years, the Chilean government still spends a smaller share of total economic output than every other nation in the O.E.C.D.

The obvious path for Chile is for the government to spend more money improving the quality of life for a vast majority of Chileans, who are exposed to the vicissitudes of a market economy while being denied a sufficient share of the benefits. It is an extreme version of the challenge facing many developed nations, including the United States.

Some Chilean plutocrats appear to be awakening to the reality that Chile cannot sustain broad support for its economic system without a stronger safety net. Andrónico Luksic Craig, chairman of Quiñenco, a financial and industrial conglomerate, wrote on Saturday on Twitter that he was ready to pay higher taxes.

“There is no magic,” he wrote — no alternative to simply spreading the wealth more evenly.

Now that Mr. Piñera has acknowledged the need for change, he faces the challenge of showing that he can chart a new course.”
2019  chile  protests  sebastiánpiñera  history  dictatorship  chicagoboys  capitalism  inequality  policy  neoliberalism  santiago  protest  prosperity  precarity 
25 days ago by robertogreco
Eleanor Saitta on Twitter: "As technology is deployed at scale and becomes infrastructure, its governance ceases to be engineering or design and becomes (geo)politics." / Twitter
“As technology is deployed at scale and becomes infrastructure, its governance ceases to be engineering or design and becomes (geo)politics.

There are no large technology companies, only non-state actors currently only partially hostile to the goals of the population whose lives they have captured.

This is not a singular accident of the companies we have, but rather a necessary consequence of the programmability of infrastructure enabling scale to convert into social control and a doctrine of continual growth.

The scale of capital involved has bent the entire industry around it. Working at a small company may let you avoid contributing to the problem directly, but programmable infrastructure gains power and scale via interoperability.

As an engineer, a designer, a recruiter, a management coach, a consultant, the geopolitical goals of singular entities will define your work and its meaning.

When infrastructure metastisizes and becomes malignant toward the societies that host it, even maintenance work on functions critical for social continuity becomes in part capitulation and collaboration.

This problem will continue to accelerate until a new model for programmable infrastructure manages to constrain or fight off this current one, or society is unable to sustain programmability.

One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned over the past decade is the degree to which the political intent imbued into infrastrucutral systems maintains its meaning and function over time, even if added layers change the meaning of the conjoined system.

As a worker within these systems, your efforts at work must pay the maintenance penalty for the infrastructural system you sit within; this is balanced by the natural force multiplication of infrastructures of control. Outside work, you don’t have the same tools.

However, even if you work to resist the structural damage of the system you sit inside of, you’re still very likely to see the world from inside the same mental frame — of growth, of control, of “technology” as an end rather than a means.

Even if you can shift your thinking from the mindset of “technology at scale as power over” to “technology as formless servant of a community” — or whatever model you choose — you’ll be stuck with tools that want to create parasitic empires.

I don’t know what the mental model we want is. Some properties seem obvious, though — conviviality, power-to instead of power-over, an inherent orientation toward community, governance blended throughout the stack, a bias toward balance not growth, maintenance-centricity.

The challenges of reimagining our world, our professions, and our systems will consume the rest of our lives on earth; we sit at the culmination of generations of power grabs, and this is only the newest.

On the bright side, there is no larger challenge available, no more interesting and rewarding problem one could work on. This is a future as rich, complex, varied, and broad as any other one you’ve been offered.

And if it fails, well, there will always be another billionaire happy to pay you to help him more efficiently dismantle the society you used to call home.

There are other things we can do even without a new model, though — making the current model of exponential growth and metastic control nonviable is also useful. We need a new vision and a new world, but we also need resistance now.

Refuse to work on dangerous products. Unionize and fight for more control over your own work. Work for regulation that makes user data financially poisonous, that enshrines rights to privacy, self-determination, adversarial interoperability, and repair.

Over the next few decades, we will either learn to collectively manage global systems for the common good, learn to weaponize them for the good of a very small elite, or cease to have a globally-organized civilization.

There is only one fully-connected struggle here, and if we succeed, we will do so in the way we always have — piecemeal, half-assed, squeaking by, more bricolage than grand planning, but profoundly human.

Learn your history, and practice hope. History will teach you how little is novel about our position now, and training the muscle of hope will keep you going through all the dark nights we have to come.“
eleanorsaitta  technology  infrastructure  systems  systemsthinking  systemschange  conviviality  2019  society  power  civilization  governance  unions  organizing  labor  capital  utopia  history  vision  canon  interoperability  time  generations  maintenance  community  control  layering  layers  scale  growth  socialcontrol  deschooling  unschooling  capitulation  geopolitics  politics  policy  local  programmability 
28 days ago by robertogreco
'Global Trumpism': Bailouts, Brexit and battling climate change | CBC Radio
[Also here:
https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/global-trumpism-how-rogue-code-writers-became-the-authors-of-our-politics-1.5321199
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-23-ideas/clip/15741291-global-trumpism-bailouts-brexit-and-battling-climate-change ]

“How did the middle class end up in perpetual debt? Why is there ‘no money’ for infrastructure or social programs, but there is for waging war? And what does all this have to do with Donald Trump, or Brexit, or climate change?

If you’re mystified about any of the above, then author and Brown University professor Mark Blyth can clarify things for you. He says it’s helpful to use a computer metaphor to describe the economy.

In his lecture at McMaster University as part of their Socrates Project, Blyth compared capitalist economies to laptops: different makes, but similar in appearance. He argues these computers run just fine for a while — say, about 30 years . But all the while, there are bugs in the software that eventually causes the system to crash. Then you rebuild the hardware, fix the software, and reboot.

System breakdown
That’s what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when labour costs and inflation became a problem. The ‘system rebuild’ included less powerful unions, more global trade, and central bankers who were put in charge of setting interest rates.

But this new system generated bugs of its own, among them, a runaway culture of lending, and a lack of wage growth among the middle classes, who did a lot more borrowing than they could afford.

Mark Blyth says this borrowing wasn’t just driven by rampant consumerism.

“How do you get by when … everybody tells you there’s no inflation, yet the cost of everything that matters is actually going up? Education, health care, all that sort of stuff,” Blyth said in his lecture.

“And the only way you can fill in the gap is to borrow more money.”

Cue the 2008 financial crisis
However this time, Blyth says there was no rebuild. Instead, the United States Federal Reserve led a bailout of the big banks, domestically and internationally. The rich got much richer, the middle class got perpetual low interest rates to keep carrying their debts, and the poor had their social programs cut in the name of austerity.

Blyth contends this dynamic is what lit the fuse of global populism: the rise of leaders who appeal to public outrage, alienation, and lack of trust toward career politicians and traditional political parties.

“Your debts are too high…you can’t pay them off, but you can roll them over. They’re not going to be eaten away by inflation, and the people who brought you here have zero credibility,” said Blyth.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGuaoARJYU0 ]

Blyth compares populist leaders to ‘rogue code-writers’, hacking into the software of a system that was never properly rebuilt after the crisis of 2008. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it strengthens democracies.

“[Populism] is now part of the furniture … It’s already changed, so just get used to it. And let’s remember historically that 100 years ago, the people who were the populists then, the people that everyone was afraid of, became the established parties in many cases,” Blyth told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed.

“So every now and again you have to have a little revolution, and that’s what’s happening now.”

Populism is springing up on the right and the left, said Blyth. The difficult choices that need to be made about climate change could come from a left-wing populist movement, not unlike the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ proposed by younger American Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Looking at how things may unfold in the not-too-distant future, Blyth speculates “right populism wins round one.”

“But ultimately, left populism wins round two, because left populism is the only one that takes climate change seriously,” he concludes.”
2019  markblyth  economics  inequality  brexit  donaldtrump  trumpism  fragility  greatrecession  2007  2008  policy  democracy  personaldebt  debt  taxes  wealth  income  climatechange  bailouts  finance  recessions  recession  oligarchy  popularism  berniesanders  banking  global  financialcrisis  inflation  productivity  consumerism  stockmarket  ipos  wages  middleclass  capitalism  us  uk  canada  caymanislands  delaware  arizona  isleofman  austerity  nahlahayed  latecapitalism  federalreserve  priorities  centralbanks  monetarypolicy  politics  alangreenspan  economists  loans  creditcards  spending 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
From Bureaucracy to Profession: Remaking the Educational Sector for the Twenty-First Century
"In this essay, Jal Mehta examines the challenges faced by American schooling and the reasons for persistent failure of American school reforms to achieve successful educational outcomes at scale. He concludes that many of the problems faced by American schools are artifacts of the bureaucratic form in which the education sector as a whole was cast: “We are trying to solve a problem that requires professional skill and expertise by using bureaucratic levers of requirements and regulations.” Building on research from a variety of fields and disciplines, Mehta advances a “sectoral” perspective on education reform, exploring how this shift in thinking could help education stakeholders produce quality practice across the nation."

[full article in .pdf: https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/33063300/Mehta_--_From_Bureaucracy_to_Profession_--_HER_2013.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y ]
jalmehta  us  schools  schooling  scale  bureaucracy  skill  edreform  education  publicschools  professions  policy  institutions  cynicism  johntaylorgatto  pisa  assessment  singapore  finland  korea  southkorea  canada  lindadarling-hammond  expertise  professionalization  teachers  teaching  howweteach  pedagogy  management  teachertraining  responsibility  standards 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Why Equity Has Been a Conservative Force in American Education—And How That Could Change - Next Gen Learning in Action - Education Week
"By Jal Mehta, an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the co-director of the Deeper Learning Dozen

Over the past 15 years, at least since the passage of No Child Left Behind, equity has been more of a conservative than a liberating force in American education.

It started with good intentions. The idea was that some students, particularly students of color and poor students, historically had been ill-served by our school system. When Ted Kennedy and George Miller joined their Republican colleagues in supporting No Child Left Behind, they did so out of a belief that it was a continuation of the civil rights movement—a way to use federal power to support an equity agenda.

But that's not how it played out. The consequence of holding everyone accountable to low level tests in reading and math, without building any of the supporting structures, climate, or culture that would enable those results, is that schools serving disadvantaged students narrowed the curriculum and focused disproportionately on test prep, whereas more advantaged public schools and private schools had flexibility to continue offering a richer and more holistic educational approach.

Even as the legal requirements for NCLB have ended, the mindset has persisted. Urban schools and districts continue to be run in more authoritarian ways than their suburban counterparts, and students in disadvantaged schools continue to be more subject to test-driven pressures. When we run institutes at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on "deeper learning," we tend to attract folks from more privileged public schools and private schools here and abroad. In contrast, when we offer institutes on data-driven instruction or school turnarounds, we tend to attract people serving students of color in high-poverty public schools.

The consequence is that equity has become, more often than not, a conservative force in American public education. The effort to close achievement gaps has in practice doubled down on the century-old industrial model of schooling, leaving in place all of the essential elements of its grammar: teaching as transmission, batch processing of students, conventional assessments, tracking and leveling, and all of the rest. Anything that moves away from those assumptions—like project-based learning, problem-based learning, interdisciplinary learning, authentic assessment, or constructivist pedagogy—is seen as "risky;" something that is "OK for the privileged kids" but somehow distracts from the real work of closing achievement gaps on state-sponsored tests.

I've come to think that the reality is close to the opposite. The existing system, for all of its warts, works well enough for the privileged kids. They know how to play the "game of school," and thus they learn what they need to learn to get the grades and credentials they need to head to college and beyond. It is the kids who are disaffected from school who are most in need of a new approach. For them, finding a way to make school more relevant, more student-centered, more connected to their purposes and passions, is not a luxury but a requirement. Ironically, the more we double down on closing achievement gaps within the existing grammar of schooling, the more difficult we make it for ourselves to transform schooling into a more purposeful, relevant, and engaging institution.

There is an alternative, well-developed in some circles, but just recently entering broader reform discussions.

Equity as liberation.

This approach has entered the mainstream education space over the past five years from places like the National Equity Project and equityXdesign. The roots of it are old, drawing on Paulo Freire's ideas of "problem-posing" education and education as a force for liberation, and they run through the writings of folks like Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Pedro Noguera, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Theresa Perry, and many others. The idea here is that equity is a lens, a way of seeing how power is distributed, whose voices are being heard, which ideas are being represented, and whose interests are being served. It relies more heavily on what Shane Safir calls "street data" (the lived experiences of students in schools) than "satellite data" (test scores). It sees diversity as an asset—where our different lived experiences and funds of knowledge create rich opportunities for mutual learning—which is a profoundly different stance from the deficit approaches that have become standard in these discussions. It takes seriously the idea that education should liberate, meaning create ways for students to take agency to transform their lives and the world around them.

Taking this stance also implies a different way of working. Fundamentally, many gap-closing approaches take a fundamentally old-style command and control orientation for granted. What is to be known is determined by the district or the state. Students don't know this knowledge when they start. Teachers don't know how to deliver this knowledge. The solution is tighter implementation chains—from districts into the heads of teachers and then into the heads of students. This prescription is compounded by urgency; we are told that students have no time to lose so vertical hierarchies are the most efficient way to get things done.

A better approach would start with a different set of assumptions. There is lots of knowledge in the system, held by both teachers and students. This knowledge is also more heterogeneous than what is known by the district: Older teachers may have wisdom about teaching practice, younger teachers may have learned non-Western history in college, and students may know things about their neighborhoods and communities that are invisible to teachers and administrators. Good leadership would tap into these centers of knowledge and connect and build upon them in ways that are likely to lead to mutual learning for everyone.

It also would imply a different approach to change. Much of the traditional literature assumes that the leader is the hero, the members of the organization are the resistance, and the central challenge is to achieve "buy-in" via "change management." A liberatory design approach, by contrast, assumes that teachers and students would like to develop engaging, meaningful learning experiences, and that the problem is not them but the institutional structures and culture of schools that constrains them. Such an approach would foreground the lived experiences of students and teachers and invite them to help redesign schools in ways that are more purposeful and humane. Rather than act on students, teachers, and communities, we would work with them.

Liberatory design would also create an attractive symmetry between adult learning and student learning. If we want classrooms where students are seen as capable meaning-makers and teachers are facilitators of that learning, then districts need to treat teachers as capable meaning-makers and themselves as facilitators of teacher learning. Taking this point seriously would require districts to rethink many of their assumptions, large and small, spurring a shift from a bureaucratic to a professional mode of social organization.

Engaging with the lived experiences of students would also force us to think harder about whether students' full selves are welcomed into schools. This is relevant for all students, but particularly for students of color. One of my favorite ethnographies of schooling is Angela Valenzuela's Subtractive Schooling, which shows in excruciating detail the ways in which the mostly Mexican-American students in her research have to forego critical parts of themselves to show up in school. Ta-Nehisi Coates' memoir similarly recounts how his inquisitive stance was not welcome in Baltimore schools that repressed questions and rewarded compliance.

We could create schools that reverse this cycle; many in the sector already have. They start from what should be an uncontroversial idea—that students learn best when they feel affirmed, recognized, and welcomed into the spaces in which they are learning. Diversifying the curriculum does not mean lessening the rigor of that curriculum; rather, it potentially enables more students to do rigorous work by creating subjects worth investing in. And when we do that, ironically, we have a much better chance of closing conventional achievement gaps, because we have created welcoming, inclusive spaces where students can do their best work.

Equity can be either a conservative or a liberating force. Which one is it in your school?"
equity  achievementgap  education  policy  jalmehta  via:derek  2019  liberation  conservatism  curriculum  nclb  rttt  intentions  civilrights  testing  standardizedtesting  reading  math  schools  schoolclimate  testprep  inequality  authoritarianism  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  publicschools  privateschools  data  poverty  us  transmission  interdisciplinary  constructivism  pedagogy  credentials  paulofreire  pedronoguera  jeffduncan-andrade  glorialadson-billings  theresaperry  power  shanesharif  experience  diversity  discussion  agency  horizontality  leadership  communities  change  management  institutions  culture  schoolculture  liberatorydesign  ta-nehisicoates  baltimore  compliance  curiosity  inquiry  rigor 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
These 3 Policy Failures Are Killing the American Dream
"In sum: The “middle-class crunch” is a choice. The American Dream isn’t dying of natural causes. We know what must be done to revive it. The problem is simply that a lot of powerful people would rather pull the plug than pay for the cure."
policy  inequality  economics  taxes  history  us  ericlevitz  2019  middleclass  wages  work  wealth  wealthinequality  income  housing  healthcare  highered  highereducation  socialwelfare  socialsafetynet 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Empire, Militarization, and Popular Revolt in Africa - YouTube
“In what ways does militarization/militarism in the African context enable, extend and depend upon economic, military/’security’ relations with imperialist actors, most importantly the US and Israel?

What are the new/old justifications and mechanisms of imperialist intervention, war, and policing across the continent (e.g. AFRICOM, drone strikes, outsourcing of regional interventions, joint military trainings and ‘cooperation’ etc.)? How do they criminalize dissent and shape the contexts in which popular mobilization take place? What are the socio-economic, (geo)political structures and dynamics, historical legacies and past forms of mobilization that inform current revolts in Algeria and Sudan? What do they share in common and how do they differ from one another and past mobilizations? What kinds of connections can be made with current anti-colonial/anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist struggles currently underway in Puerto Rico and Haiti, as well as with struggles against racial capitalism and the police/carceral state in the US? What is the role of the US and its allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE) as counter-revolutionary actors? How can we build on past and existing forms of internationalism and contribute to reviving an anti-imperialist left in order to better support popular struggles across the African continent and beyond?”

[https://peoplesforum.org/event/empire-militarization-and-popular-revolt-in-africa/

“Empire, Militarization, and Popular Revolt in Africa
August 31 @ 2:00 pm - 5:15 pm

This event explores the themes of imperialism, militarization, police/carceral state, and resistance across the African continent with the aim of making broader regional and transnational connections with struggles elsewhere in order to build cross-regional solidarity.

2:00-3:30pm
‘Imperialist Interventions and Militarization across Africa and beyond’
Yasmina Price
Samar Al-Bulushi
Corinna Mullin
Kambale Musavuli
Khury Petersen-Smith

–BREAK—

3:45-5:15pm
“African Revolts”
Nisrin Elamin
Brahim Rouabah
Suzanne Adely”

Each panel will consist of short presentations to ensure time for meaningful discussion and the opportunity to share/ learn from our diverse experiences working on these themes in different contexts. Some of the questions that will be addressed include:

In what ways does militarization/militarism in the African context enable, extend and depend upon economic, military/’security’ relations with imperialist actors, most importantly the US and Israel? What are the new/old justifications and mechanisms of imperialist intervention, war, and policing across the continent (e.g. AFRICOM, drone strikes, outsourcing of regional interventions, joint military trainings and ‘cooperation’ etc.)? How do they criminalize dissent and shape the contexts in which popular mobilization take place? What are the socio-economic, (geo)political structures and dynamics, historical legacies and past forms of mobilization that inform current revolts in Algeria and Sudan? What do they share in common and how do they differ from one another and past mobilizations? What kinds of connections can be made with current anti-colonial/anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist struggles currently underway in Puerto Rico and Haiti, as well as with struggles against racial capitalism and the police/carceral state in the US? What is the role of the US and its allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE) as counter-revolutionary actors? How can we build on past and existing forms of internationalism and contribute to reviving an anti-imperialist left in order to better support popular struggles across the African continent and beyond?

Participant BIOS

Suzanne Adely is a long time Arab-American community organizer, with a background in global labor and human rights advocacy. She is a member of the Bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, National Lawyers Guild board member and co-chair of the NLG international committee and MENA subcommittee. She currently works for the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a bi-national alliance of worker based organizations in the food economy. She is a member of Al-Awda-NY, US Palestine Community Network and a newly launched Arab Workers Resource Center.

Samar Al-Bulushi is an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at University of California, Irvine. Her research is broadly concerned with militarism, policing, and the ‘War on Terror’ in East Africa. Previously, she worked with various human rights organizations and co-produced AfrobeatRadio and Global Movements, Urban Struggles on Pacifica’s WBAI in New York City.

Nisrin Elamin is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Columbia University Society of Fellows and a lecturer in the Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies Department. Her work explores the relationship between land, belonging, migration and geopolitics in post-secession Sudan. Her current project examines the ways landless and landholding communities are negotiating and contesting changes in land ownership prompted by a recent wave of Gulf Arab corporate investments in Sudanese land. She is affiliated with Girifna, a movement fighting for democracy and a transition to full civilian rule in Sudan.

Corinna Mullin is an adjunct professor at John Jay College and the New School. Her research examines the historical legacies of colonialism and contemporary imperialist interventions in shaping Global South security states in a way that facilitates labor exploitation, natural resource extraction and other forms of Global South value drain, with a focus on Tunisia.

Kambale Musavuli, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and one of the leading political and cultural Congolese voices, is a human rights advocate, Student Coordinator and National Spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo.

Khury Petersen-Smith is an activist and geographer who interrogates US empire. He is the Middle East Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a founding member of Black For Palestine.

Yasmina Price is a Black anti-imperialist Marxist committed to the liberation of colonised peoples and the abolishment of police, prisons and all oppressive structures. She has organized locally and led trainings within a socialist group, also participating in panels organized by Verso Books and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung focusing on global mechanisms of injustice. She is currently a PhD student in Black Cinema at Yale.

Brahim Rouabah is an Algerian activist and academic. He is the co-founder of the UK based Algerian Solidarity Campaign. He is currently working on his PhD in Political Science at the CUNY Grad Center. His research focuses on issues related to knowledge production, colonialism and the origins of capitalist property relations.

Co-sponsor by The Polis Project and Warscapes.
The Polis Project is a hybrid research and journalism organization producing knowledge about some of the most important issues affecting us, and amplifying diverse perspectives from those indigenous to the conflicts and crises affecting our world today. We aim to democratize scholarship, produce in-depth, critical journalism and knowledge for and by communities in resistance. We look to make sense of the world with its infinite injustices, inequality and violence, with the courage to reveal how existing systems, ideas, ideologies and laws have failed us. We unpack complexity by understanding that knowledge is power, and like all power, it shouldn’t be owned by a few people or corporations. And we pursue this by adapting our storytelling, analysis and research to the newest, most innovative ways of spreading work to engaged audiences everywhere.

Warscapes is an independent online magazine that provides a lens into current conflicts across the world. Established in 2011, Warscapes publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, interviews, book and film reviews, photo-essays and retrospectives of war literature from the past fifty years, and hosts public conversations, art shows, and film screenings in the United States, Europe and across Africa. Warscapes is motivated by a need to move past a void within mainstream culture in the depiction of people and places experiencing staggering violence, and the literature they produce. Apart from showcasing great writing from war-torn areas, the magazine is a tool for understanding complex political crises in various regions and serves as an alternative to compromised representations of those issues.]
africa  kenya  uganda  niger  tunisia  somalia  ghana  us  occupation  imperialism  africom  activism  migration  blacklivesmatter  israel  colonization  2019  solidarity  saudiarabia  unitedarabemirates  refugees  dehumanization  race  racism  policy  internationalism  capitalism  donaldtrump  military  militarization  islamophobia  egypt  history  mali  humanitarianism  funding  violence  sudan  algeria  libya  criminalization  specificity  drones  economics  china  burkinafaso  militarism  people’sforum  leftism  socialism  yasminaprice  samaral-bulushi  corinnamullin  kambalemusavuli  khurypetersen-smith  nisrinelamin  brahimrouabah  suzanneadely  class  liberalism  neoliberalism  cynicism  optimism  anticapitalism  antiimperialism  tuareg 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Is College Merely Helping Those Who Need Help Least? - The New York Times
“I am — to capitulate fully to the nomenclature — a “first gen,” meaning a first-generation college graduate. For me, as for many first gens, a college degree was transformative. If you’d met me when I was 10 — pulling copper from radiators in my father’s junkyard — you would have thought my trajectory was set. I certainly did. The shape of my life stretched out in front of me like a shadow, its terminal point determined absolutely by where I was standing at that moment. There would be marriage at 17 or 18. Children soon after. If I worked, it would be as a cashier at the local grocery store.

When I was 17 I enrolled in college and everything changed. History, philosophy, geography: A decade at the world’s best universities will lift you to new ground. The life I live now is not the life I was born to. I was propelled up to it, and the motor that powered my ascent was a university education.

This is our ideal of higher education: as an engine of opportunity. And data show that, when it works, higher education is exactly that. So why is it that The Chronicle of Higher Education recently called our system an “engine of inequality”? Has a college degree lost its transformative power, its capacity for lift?

Put simply, no, it hasn’t. We live in a knowledge economy, and human capital has never been more valuable. The problem is distribution. As higher education has increased in value, that value has increasingly become captured by those at the top, so that today, whether you graduate from college is largely determined by your parents’ income. In the United States, 77 percent of children born into the top income quartile will earn a degree by age 24, but for the bottom quartile that number is a mere 9 percent. The implications are clear: The education system isn’t transforming the lives of those who need it most; it is dispensing ever more opportunity to those who need it least.

How it is that inequality has come to define higher education is the subject of Paul Tough’s new book, “The Years That Matter Most.” Tough has spent much of his career as a journalist documenting the injustices of our K-12 system. Here he turns his attention to the years after high school, to our colleges and universities, where we might hope those injustices are addressed. The news is not good. In chapter after chapter, Tough shows how higher education does not ameliorate the inequities of K-12. It magnifies them.

Tough rests his case on research, but it’s the people in his drama who will stay with you. We meet Ned Johnson, a $400-an-hour tutor in Washington, D.C., and Ariel, one of Ned’s teenage clients. We watch as Ned helps Ariel raise her score on the ACT test from a 26 (the product of work she’s done with three previous tutors) to a 32, out of 36. We then see Ned do the same with Ben, a low-income Haitian-American student brought to Ned by a wealthy benefactor.

We meet Clara, whose father takes a list of the 100 most selective universities in the country, draws a line under the top 30 and tells Clara she is only allowed to apply to schools above the line. (This becomes possible after Ned helps raise Clara’s score from a 27 to a near-perfect 35.) We meet Kim, a low-income student living in Appalachia, whose father, a Marine, abandoned her family when she was 7. Kim dreams of attending Cornell, and her test scores (sans tutor) could get her there, except her mother, who did not go to college and is dubious of its value, doesn’t want her to go.

We then witness the great sorting of America’s youth: The wealthy congregate at the most elite universities; the middle class raid retirement accounts and bury themselves in student loans in order to attend increasingly budget-strapped state schools; and the poor — if they go to college at all — are exploited by a cadre of aggressively marketed for-profit institutions.

Two types of stratification are happening here. The most obvious is the concentration of wealthy students at a few top schools. Tough rightly calls out the Ivy League and its ilk for capitalizing on positive press while offering little in the way of actual change. It remains the case that in most of the Ivy League, at least two-thirds of every class come from the top income quintile, while those from the bottom quintile account for less than 4 percent. In some cases the imbalance is extreme. Several Ivies admit more students from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the bottom 60 percent combined.

Tough also identifies another type of stratification that is less conspicuous but perhaps more consequential: not the inequities between the students, but rather the growing inequities between the institutions themselves. Until recently, the funding gap between our state colleges and our elite schools was fairly modest. But since 1990, that gap has exploded, so that elite colleges now have an endowment-dollars-per-student ratio of more than $1 million, compared with less than $35,000 per student at a typical college.

Tough proposes two explanations for this widening gap: politicians and donors. Since 2008, state legislatures have cut approximately $14 billion in funding from public universities, or approximately 20 percent. These schools make up the difference with tuition hikes, which forces them to compete with one another for the small slice of wealthy out-of-state students who can pay double or triple fare. This is higher education reduced to free-market principles, a world in which universities behave more like businesses than schools, pursuing customers rather than students.

Meanwhile, philanthropic giving to the most selective schools has skyrocketed. As Tough points out, wealthy universities have wealthy alumni, who, after benefiting from an elite education, are even better positioned to donate large sums of money. This is the final cog in the inequality machine, an intense cycle of wealth concentration that Tough calls “unsustainable — and yet, at the same time, unstoppable.”

Some of the imbalances Tough describes are simply breathtaking. In 2009, President Obama asked Congress for $12 billion to revitalize the country’s community-college system. He didn’t get it. But between 2013 and 2018, a lone American university — already the richest in the world — raised $9.6 billion in a single fund-raising campaign. And so the machine turns.

The apparent weakness of this book is its forgettable title; the content, however, is indelible and extraordinary, a powerful reckoning with just how far we’ve allowed reality to drift from our ideals. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of higher education to the present moment. As a country we are divided economically and politically, and education sits conspicuously at the center of both divides. Whether you have a college degree turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of both your political preferences and your income.

Reading Tough’s book, you cannot fail to notice that these three factors are related — that we have allowed the inequities of our economic system to be reproduced in our education system, and that the result is poisoning our politics. We then ask ourselves why so many Americans no longer believe in college or degrees. Or facts. Or science. Why they perceive education as not for them but rather as a good distributed by the elites to elites.

On the other hand, there is not much motivation among people of means to reform education — to give less money to Princeton and more to Penn State, or to send both their taxes and their children to public colleges. But for those wondering why the American people have lost faith in higher learning, the answer is straightforward: If we want others to believe in public education, we first have to believe in it ourselves.”
highered  highereducation  inequality  elitism  funding  education  us  policy  paultough  tarawestover  ivyleague  privateschools  colleges  universities  privilegehoarding  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charity  corporatization  neoliberalism 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Clarence Thomas’s Radical Vision of Race | The New Yorker
"In making sincerity the litmus test of American racism, Thomas took a strand of the black nationalism that influenced his early development and wove it into an entire philosophy of race. In the nineteen-twenties, at an especially acute moment of racist reaction in the United States, Marcus Garvey also found comfort in the promise of candor. “They are better friends to my race for telling us what they are, and what they mean, than all the hypocrites put together,” Garvey said, of the Ku Klux Klan. “I like honesty and fair play.”

For Thomas, dishonesty was not only about race; it was also about class. However well intentioned white liberals were about remedying racial inequality, their élitism was steadfast. At Yale, some of Thomas’s classmates would query the absence of class rankings and grades. “You do not separate cream from cream,” a professor responded. “It is your fate as a Yale Law School student to become one of the leaders in the legal profession. It will happen, not because of you personally, but because you are here. That is what happens to Yale Law School students.” But Yale’s black students were separated from the cream; indeed, the absence of rankings was used to effect that separation. As he approached graduation, Thomas tried to secure a position at an élite law firm in Atlanta, which had no black associates. One of the marks against him was that he had no grades. Even if he came from Yale, how could his prospective employers know how good he was?

Thomas came to believe that, for the white liberal, offering help to black people was a way to express the combined privileges of race and class. This is a running theme of Wright’s “Native Son,” in which Bigger Thomas, a poor black man from the slums of Chicago, is given an opportunity to rise when a wealthy white family hires him as a chauffeur. The idea that black people can advance only with the help of whites is anathema to Clarence Thomas, who has identified with Wright’s protagonist throughout his life. For him, white benevolence denies black people the pride of achievement. By contrast, if one is black and overcomes the barriers of Jim Crow, one can be assured that the accomplishment is real. Thomas often invokes the example of his grandparents, who, despite segregation, managed to acquire property and support their family. Though they “had to work twice as hard to get half as far,” they knew, however far they got, that the distance was theirs. When black people succeed in the shadow of white benefactors, that certainty is lost.

This is the loss that Thomas has suffered since his youth: not of the color line but of its clarity. It’s a loss that he associates with liberalism, the North, and, above all, integration. “I never worshiped at the altar” of integration, he declared, five years after joining the Court. As he told Juan Williams, who wrote a profile of Thomas in The Atlantic, “The whole push to assimilate simply does not make sense to me.” It is a loss that Thomas has set out—from his early years as a young black nationalist on the left to his tenure as a conservative on the Court—to reverse.

Thomas’s rightward drift, which began in the seventies, was inflected by the very ethos that once put him on the left: namely, disaffection with black liberalism and the mainstream civil-rights movement. In his memoir, Thomas notes that part of the appeal of black nationalism was tied to his sense, in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, that “no one was going to take care of me or any other black person in America.” Eventually, this notion extended to the left. “I marched. I protested. I asked the government to help black people,” Thomas told the Washington Post, in 1980. “I did all those things. But it hasn’t worked.” The whole repertoire of black politics—from mainstream activism to Black Power radicalism and beyond—now seemed pointless. By the eighties, Thomas, a member of the Reagan Administration, believed that state action could do nothing for African-Americans. Problems of racial inequality “cannot be solved by the law—even civil-rights laws,” he told an audience at Clark College, a historically black school in Atlanta, in the nineteen-eighties.

And yet it was on the bench that Thomas began to pursue his own particular vision of racial justice. In his first decade on the Court, Thomas often met with high-achieving black students from Washington’s poorer neighborhoods. One meeting—with a high-school student named Cedric Jennings—was immortalized in a 1998 Esquire piece. After several hours of warm conversation, Thomas asked Jennings what his plans were for college. “I’m off to Brown,” Jennings replied. Thomas frowned. Finally, he said, “Well, that’s fine, but I’m not sure I would have selected an Ivy League school. You’re going to be up there with lots of very smart white kids, and if you’re not sure about who you are, you could get eaten alive. . . . It can happen at any of the good colleges where a young black man who hasn’t spent much time with whites suddenly finds himself among almost all whites.”

This concern runs throughout Thomas’s jurisprudence. “Some people think that the solution to all the problems of black people is integration,” he said, in 1997. By his own admission, he is not one of them. In a lengthy 1982 research article (published with an acknowledgment to “the invaluable assistance of Anita F. Hill”), Thomas notes pointedly that “it must be decided . . . whether integration per se should be a primary goal.” At Thomas’s confirmation hearings, the Republican senator Arlen Specter pressed him on that claim, asking, “If you end segregation, doesn’t it necessarily mean that you are requiring school integration?”

At the time, Thomas dodged the question, but he has since given his answer on the Court. In the 1995 case Missouri v. Jenkins, the Court’s conservative majority held that federal courts could not force Missouri to adopt policies designed to entice suburban white students to predominantly black urban schools. Thomas joined the majority. In the Court’s private deliberations about the case, he argued, in the paraphrase of a profile of Thomas in The New Yorker, “I am the only one at this table who attended a segregated school. And the problem with segregation was not that we didn’t have white people in our class. The problem was that we didn’t have equal facilities. We didn’t have heating, we didn’t have books, and we had rickety chairs. . . . All my classmates and I wanted was the choice to attend a mostly black or a mostly white school, and to have the same resources in whatever school we chose.”

This private sentiment made its way into Thomas’s public statement about the case. His concurrence in Missouri v. Jenkins was “the only opinion,” legal scholar Mark Graber argues, “that questioned whether desegregation was a constitutional value.” If anything, Thomas believes that the state should—where it can, within the law—support the separation of the races. Looking back on his education, in an all-black environment, Thomas has admitted to wanting to “turn back the clock” to a time “when we had our own schools.” Much of his jurisprudence is devoted to undoing the “grand experiment” of which he believes himself to be a victim. As he made clear in 1986, “I have been the guinea pig for many social experiments on social minorities. To all who would continue these experiments, I say please ‘no more.’ ”

Perhaps the most insidious of those experiments, for Thomas, is affirmative action, which he has long opposed. His critics call him a hypocrite. “He had all the advantages of affirmative action and went against it,” Rosa Parks said of Thomas, in 1996. His defenders believe that Thomas is advancing a common conservative line—that affirmative action is a form of reverse racism, which imposes illegitimate burdens on whites. In fact, Thomas’s arguments are considerably more unorthodox than that. According to Thomas, affirmative action is the most recent attempt by white people to brand and belittle black people as inferior. Affirmative action does not formally mirror the tools of white supremacy; for Thomas, it is the literal continuation of white supremacy.

His argument is rooted in two beliefs, each informed by his time spent on the left. The first is that affirmative action reinforces the stigma that shadows African-Americans. Among many whites, blackness signals a deficit of intellect, talent, and skill. Even Supreme Court Justices, Thomas wrote in one opinion, “assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.” When the state and social institutions identify African-Americans as beings in need of help, they reinforce that stigma. It doesn’t matter if some African-Americans succeed without affirmative action. In the same way that enslavement marked all black people, free or slave, as inferior, affirmative action—here Thomas borrows directly from the language of Plessy v. Ferguson—stamps all African-Americans with “a badge of inferiority.”

The second way affirmative action continues white supremacy is by elevating whites to the status of benefactors, doling out scarce privileges to those black people they deem worthy. The most remarkable element of Thomas’s affirmative-action jurisprudence, and what makes it unlike that of any other Justice on the Supreme Court, is how much attention he devotes to whites, not as victims but as perpetrators, the lead actors in a racial drama of their own imagination. Put simply, Thomas believes that affirmative action is a white program for white people.

We see this argument in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 affirmative-action case concerning the University of Michigan Law School. In the early nineteen-nineties, the school adopted an affirmative-action policy in order to create a more diverse student body. … [more]
clarencethomas  affirmitiveaction  elitism  admissions  colleges  universities  politics  polarization  law  conservativism  blacknationalism  race  racism  segregation  integration  inequality  prejudice  discrimination  rankings  grades  grading  richardwright  whitesaviorism  assimilation  supremecourt  liberalism  civilrights  coreyrobin  blakpanthers  blackpantherparty  meritocracy  hbus  solidarity  self-help  angeladavis  kathleencleaver  erickahuggins  bobbyseale  us  policy  activism  radicalism  cedricjennings  schools  busing  charleshamilton  blackpower  stokelycarmichael 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake - The New York Times
"It rhymes with ‘schneo-liberalism.’ It was an economic disaster and a political dead end."

...

"In 2009, Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.

Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party’s economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.

If he’d been in the mood to press the case, Obama might have found widespread public appetite for the sort of aggressive, interventionist restructuring of the American economy that Franklin D. Roosevelt conjured with the New Deal. One of the inspiring new president’s advisers even hinted that was the plan.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said days after the 2008 election.

And then Obama took office. And rather than try for a Rooseveltian home run, he bunted: Instead of pushing for an aggressive stimulus to rapidly expand employment and long-term structural reforms in how the economy worked, Obama and his team responded to the recession with a set of smaller emergency measures designed to fix the immediate collapse of financial markets. They succeeded: The recession didn’t turn into a depression, markets were stabilized, and the United States began a period of long, slow growth.

But they could have done so much more. By the time Obama took office, job losses had accelerated so quickly that his advisers calculated the country would need $1.7 trillion in additional spending to get back to full employment. A handful of advisers favored a very large government stimulus of $1.2 trillion; some outside economists — Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith — also favored going to a trillion.

But Obama’s closest advisers declined to push Congress for anything more than $800 billion, which they projected would reduce unemployment to below 8 percent by the 2010 midterms. They were wrong; the stimulus did reduce job losses, but it was far too small to hit the stated goal — unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010.

Obama’s advisers also rejected ideas for large infrastructure projects. They offered a plan to prevent just 1.5 million foreclosures — when, ultimately, 10 million Americans lost their homes. And they declined to push for new leadership on Wall Street, let alone much punishment for the recklessness that led to the crisis.

“He chose an economic recovery plan that benefited educated, well-off people much more than the middle class,” writes Reed Hundt, a Democrat who is a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in his recent history of Obama’s first two years, “A Crisis Wasted.”

A lot of this might be excusable; it was an emergency, and Obama and his team did what they could. But Obama’s longer record on the economy is also coming under fire from the left. The Obama people — many of whom came to the White House from Wall Street and left it for Silicon Valley — seemed entirely too comfortable with the ongoing corporatization of America.

In the Obama years, the government let corporations get bigger and economic power grow more concentrated. Obama’s regulators declined to push antimonopoly measures against Google and Facebook, against airlines and against big food and agriculture companies.

It is true that Obama succeeded in passing a groundbreaking universal health care law. It’s also true that over the course of his presidency, inequality grew, and Obama did little to stop it. While much of the rest of the country struggled to get by, the wealthy got wealthier and multimillionaires and billionaires achieved greater political and cultural power.

What’s the point of returning to this history now, a decade later? Think of it as a cautionary tale — a story that ought to rank at the top of mind for a Democratic electorate that is now choosing between Obama’s vice president and progressives like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who had pushed Obama, during the recovery, to adopt policies with more egalitarian economic effects.

From this distance, the history favors Warren’s approach. As Hundt notes, not only did Obama’s policy ideas produce lackluster economic results (at least in that they failed to hit their stated goals), they failed politically, too. The sluggish recovery in Obama’s first years led to a huge loss for Democrats in the 2010 midterms. Obama was re-elected, but during his time in office, Democrats saw declining national support — and in 2016, of course, they lost the White House to Donald Trump, an outcome that Warren has tied directly to Obama’s early economic decisions.

Why had Obama chosen this elitist path? Another new book, “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy,” by the antimonopoly scholar Matt Stoller, provides a deeply researched answer. It boils down to this: Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, was the product of a Democratic Party that had forgotten its history and legacy. For much of the 20th century, Democrats’ fundamental politics involved fighting against concentrations of economic power in favor of the rights and liberties of ordinary people. “The fight has always been about whether monopolists run our world, or about whether we the people do,” Stoller writes.

But in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, as Stoller explains, Democrats altered their economic vision. They abandoned New Deal and Great Society liberalism in favor of a new dogma that came to be known as neoliberalism — a view of society in which markets and financial instruments, rather than government policy and direct intervention, are seen as the best way to achieve social ends.

Obama’s biggest ideas were neoliberal: The Affordable Care Act, his greatest domestic policy achievement, improved access to health care by altering private health-insurance markets. Obama aimed to address the climate crisis by setting up a market for carbon, and his plan for improving education focused on technocratic, standards-based reform. Even Obama’s historical icons were neoliberal — the neoliberals’ patron saint being Alexander Hamilton, the elitist, banker-friendly founding father who would be transformed, in Obama’s neoliberal Camelot, into a beloved immigrant striver with very good flow.

It is tricky to criticize Obama from the left in the Trump era. There’s still widespread nostalgia and good feeling for Obama as a political figure — and, considering the disaster of the current administration, it feels almost churlish to re-examine his years in office. There are also a range of good defenses for Obama’s policies. “I have no doubt that when historians look back on the Obama years, he will and should be given credit for preventing a second Great Depression,” Christina Romer, one of the advisers who had pushed for much greater stimulus, told me.

Obama’s policies were also perfectly in line with prevailing orthodoxy — it’s likely that Hillary Clinton would have pursued similar measures if she’d won the 2008 primary. It is also worth noting that, ahem, parts of the punditocracy shared his market-fetishizing philosophy: I wrote skeptically of antitrust prosecution against Google in 2009, 2010, and 2015.

But that’s exactly why I found Stoller’s book so insightful. The long history of Democratic populism is unknown to most liberals today. Only now, in the age of Sanders and Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are we beginning to relearn the lessons of the past. For at least three decades, neoliberalism has brought the left economic half-measures and political despair. It’s time to demand more."
farhadmanjoo  2008  2009  politics  barackobama  democrats  greatrecession  neoliberalism  economics  missedopportunities  toldyaso  obamacare  unemployment  finance  inequality  banking  elitism  billclinton  policy  2015  antitrust  google  hillaryclinton  2016  donaldtrump  markets  capitalism  liberalism  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  alexandriaocasio-cortez  mattstoller  monopolies  alexanderhamilton  healthcare  newdeal  power  corporations  corporatization  reedhundt  middleclass  crisis  josephstiglitz  jamesgalbraith  paulkrugman  2010  2019 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Why Greta Thunberg Makes Adults Uncomfortable - The Atlantic
"Though perhaps she is moderate in speech, she can be radical in action. Thunberg’s chosen form of protest—a school strike—is uncommon in the United States, though more popular in Europe. Americans think of school as something that chiefly benefits students, not society; comparing it to a job, where a labor stoppage is a recognized form of protest, is outside our ken. But if you come to see school as part of an intergenerational exchange of welfare—students go to school now, so that in 30 years they can get jobs and pay Social Security taxes—then it aligns well with Thunberg’s overall point, which is that older generations have betrayed young people today by failing to address climate change. This almost economic argument has the virtue of being accurate."

...

"Perhaps that is why adults find her so unnerving. “This child—and she is a child—has been scared and her parents are letting her be controlled by that fear,” writes the right-wing commentator Erick Erickson, who blames her parents for “depriving her of a sound education so she can lecture grownups.” Jonathan Tobin, at The Federalist, worries that the shoe is on the other foot: Thunberg has “forced her parents to adopt a vegan diet” and “bullied her mother to give up her career because it involved air travel.”

These may seem like exaggerated concerns, but Erickson and Tobin are really just engaging in a great American tradition: In this country, even before we greet you, we ask whether you’re being parented wrong.

Other arguments against Thunberg’s rhetoric can and should be made; if she wants to participate as an adult citizen, she should be criticized like one. But in The New York Times, the journalist Christopher Caldwell takes maybe the oddest line of all, claiming that Thunberg’s message is antidemocratic. “Democracy often calls for waiting and seeing. Patience may be democracy’s cardinal virtue,” he wrote. “Climate change is a serious issue. But to say, ‘We can’t wait,’ is to invite a problem just as grave.”

I want to thank Caldwell, because he reminded me of my own childhood. About 20 years ago, I was at a restaurant with my parents, reading a kid’s science magazine below the table. In a small box at the bottom of the page, it mentioned something called the greenhouse effect, caused by cars and factories. The effect could eventually screw up the entire planet’s environment.

My head jolted up. I interrupted my parents’ conversation, which was about something boring, like real-estate prices or which highway to take home.

“Is this real?” I asked, pointing at the magazine.

Oh yeah, definitely, one of them said.

“Is it getting fixed?” I said.

No, no, people don’t really know how to fix it.

And then I remember feeling something constrict in my chest. It was like the adult feeling of learning that a loved one is in danger, of seeing the comfortable world teeter on its axis. There was a problem with the entire planet, and everyone was just allowing it to go on?

In 1999, Caldwell was older than I am now, and the United States had virtually no national climate policy. Since then, I have gone to middle school and high school, graduated from college, moved across the country twice, spent years as a technology reporter, and covered climate change for four years. Since then, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has soared from 364 to 415 parts per million. But since then, the United States still has passed virtually no new national climate policy.

Caldwell is right that patience is a democratic virtue. But sloth is a cardinal sin. Perhaps only the young can tell the difference."
grertathunberg  2019  robinsonmeyer  parenting  school  labor  strikes  organizing  autism  christophercaldwell  democracy  protest  activism  youth  teens  adolescence  patience  sloth  climatechange  policy  us  time  age  ageism  erickerickson  jonathantobin 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Episode 87: Nate Silver and the Crisis of Pundit Brain by Citations Needed Podcast
"Nate Silver tell us Joe Biden’s inconsistent political beliefs are, in fact, a benefit. They’re “his calling card” and evidence he “reads the room pretty well”. Venality, we are told, is “a normal and often successful [mode] for a politician.” Insurgent progressive groups like Justice Democrats shouldn’t call Biden out of touch with the base because, Silver tell us, “only 26 of the 79 candidates it endorsed last year won their primaries, and only 7 of those went on to win the general election.”

On Twitter and his in columns, high-status pundit Nate Silver, has made a career reporting on the polls and insisting he’s just a dispassionate, non-ideological conduit of Cold Hard Facts, just channeling the holy word of data. Empirical journalism, he calls it. But this schtick, however, is very ideological - a reactionary worldview that prioritizes describing the world, rather than changing it. For Silver - and data-fetishists like him - politics is a sport to be gamed, rather than a mechanism for improving people’s lives.

We are joined by Current Affairs editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson."
natesilver  statistics  elections  politics  2008  2012  2016  2020  2019  polling  data  punditry  538  cynicism  snark  smartpeople  joebiden  nathanrobinson  citationsneeded  racism  mattyglesias  justicedemocrats  progressive  elizabethwarren  barackobama  hillaryclinton  berniesanders  change  meaning  purpose  belief  capitalism  statusquo  ideology  morality  ethics  debates  priorities  quantification  policy  horseraces  gamification  horseracepolitics  electibility  ideas  gaming  chicktodd  media  nytimes  abcnews  espn  donaldtrump  datafetishism  progressivism  values  betting  observationeffect  voting  us  analysis  trolling  entertainment  probability  apathy  apolitical 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Financialization of Life | naked capitalism
“I will present to you some ideas that I have dealt with in my new book, Profiting without Producing, which has just come out, which discuss finance and the rise of finance. I can’t tell you very much about Baltimore because I don’t know about it, but I will tell you quite a few things about what I call the financialization of capitalism, which impacts on Baltimore and on many other places.

So, getting on with it, and very quickly because time is short, I think it’s fair to say and all of us would agree that finance has an extraordinary presence in contemporary mature economies. It’s very clear in the case of the U.S., but equally clear in the case of the United Kingdom, where I live, Japan, about which I know quite a bit, Germany, and so on. There’s no question at all about it. Finance is a sector of the economy in mature countries which has grown enormously in terms of size relative to the rest of the economy, in terms of penetration into everyday lives of ordinary people, but also small and medium businesses and just about everybody. And in terms of policy influence, finance clearly influences economic policy on a national level in country after country. The interests of finance are paramount in forming economic policy. So that is clear. Finance has become extraordinarily powerful. And that, in a sense, is the first immediate way in which we can understand financialization. Something has happened there, and modern mature capitalism appears to have financialized.

Now, what is this financialization? The best I can do right now is to give you the gist of this argument of mine in my book. And I will come clean immediately and tell you that I think financialization is basically a profound historical transformation of modern capitalism. This is the way I understand it. It’s a profound historical transformation that really began in the 1970s, and it’s now been running for about four decades.

How to understand, then, the profound historical transformation, how to go about it, what concepts do we need? I think we need first of all to look at some economic processes, some economic change that is taking place, fundamental economic change, and then we need to look at some changes in politics and institutions and combine the two in order to grasp the historical change.

So let me start with economic changes, the economic foundations of this transformation. I think there are three key root changes here.

The first, funnily enough, doesn’t relate to finance itself, but it relates to industry and commerce. In other words, it relates to nonfinancial economic activity. One must start there to understand the historical transformation. So what has happened to big business in particular? Well, what’s happened to big business is very interesting. Two things have happened to it. First, big business has become increasingly capable of financing investment out of retained earnings. It retains its profits, and on a net basis it finances investment pretty much out of that. Of course, it still uses banks, but it doesn’t rely on banks on a net basis to finance investment. That gives it independence, a certain degree of independence from banks.

In addition to that, big business has made so much in retained profits–currently U.S. big business is sitting on piles of cash. It has made so much in retained profits that it can use those funds to play financial games, to engage in financial transactions and financial activities on its own account. So big business has financialized. The key element that we’ve got to understand first is the financialization of big business. Large enterprises have acquired some of the character of financial institutions, have become bank-like, and they engage in these transactions, and they change the structure of their own organization as they do that. So that’s the first thing.

Second economic change, and very, very important, too, relates to banks. If big businesses is doing that, banks must do something else to make profit. Banks are profit-making institutions. So if big business becomes increasingly independent of banks, banks must do something else. What have banks done? It’s very clear what they’ve done. They lend less to businesses for investment and so on, and they play more games in the financial markets. They become transactors in financial assets, and they make profits increasingly not from lending but from fees, commissions, and trading. They become traders in financial assets.

At the same time, banks have also turn households. Households have become a very profitable activity of banks, a new activity. This is a new phenomenon in the development of capitalism. So that much about banks.

The third change has to do with households, workers, ordinary people. And what we see there in the last three to four decades is that ordinary people have been qdrawn into the former financial system like never before. Households have become financialized. Finance has become a fundamental part of household life–like I say, like never before.

Why is that? Partly because wages have been stagnant. And therefore–I mean, nowhere more stagnant than in this country. I mean, real wages have been absolutely flat in this country for decades. So partly because of that, people have turned to debt. But also people have got assets, financial assets.

So the financialization of everyday life, of households, is a bit of a complex story. What is actually happening there, I think, is not simply that you borrow in order to consume. That also happens. It’s a more complex story than that. What is actually happening is people need access to health, education, housing, and a variety of other needs. Every country has systems of provision for these things. Each country differs from the next country, but pretty much there are similarities. These modes of provision have historically, traditionally, incorporated public provision, some methods of public provision, for everything–for housing, for health, for education, and so on. What we’ve witnessed the last three to four decades is a retreat of public provision. Public provision has retreated. Private provision has taken its place. As this is happened, finance has emerged as the facilitator of that. So we turn to private provision to solve our housing needs, our health needs, our education needs, and finance makes profits out of that, basically, without having any skills in doing these things. So this to me is the financialization of households, the third major trend.

So non-financials have financialized, banks have changed, and households have been drawn into the financial system. These changes together have basically transformed the economy, transformed the foundations of the economy. This is a new type of capitalism.

At the same time, we’ve had changes in institutions and in ideology. These you would have heard about and you would be familiar with. The changes in institutions are very clear. We’ve had wave after wave of deregulation. Labor market has become more deregulated, and financial markets have become more deregulated.

And in addition to deregulation what we’ve had is the rise of the ideology of neoliberalism. Deregulation goes hand in hand with neoliberalism, the idea that the market is good, the state is bad. In this country, this is a very powerfully held idea, more powerfully here than anywhere else. Actually, it’s extraordinary how powerful this perception is and how a lot of social issues are understood in this way.

The point I want to make you is that neoliberalism is very, very powerful and sustains financialization, but neoliberalism is not really about asserting the merits of the market over the state. Actually, it’s more complex than that and it’s more crafty than that, because neoliberals are not the enemies of the state. Neoliberals want to take over the state. The actual content of neoliberal ideology is to take over the state and to use the state to protect the market, to make the market bigger, to effect market-favoring, market-conducive changes. So this has also been going on the last three to four decades. And that to me is the core of financialization.

So what have we got after four decades of this? These changes, seen very clearly in the United States, have created, firstly, a deeply unequal country, a deeply unequal society. Financialization is fundamentally about inequality. We see this inequality in terms of income, where the top 10 percent and the top 1 percent draw an extraordinary proportion of income annually. But we see it in terms of the functional distribution, the distribution of income between capital and labor, where labor has lost–and lost dramatically–during the last three to four decades in this country and in just about every other mature capitalist country that has financialized.

So this is a deeply unequal system. It generates inequality. Finance has acted as a key lever in increasing it inequality. Finance is a vital mechanism in increasing inequality. You can see it in terms of the profits it creates. Financial profit has become a huge part of total profit through these activities that I’ve just discussed by markets, households, and so on–a huge part of total profit. And the rich in this country and elsewhere typically become rich through financial methods; the way in which you acquire great wealth and you cream off the surplus is basically through financial methods, through access to financial assets, privileged ways of trading financial assets, and privileged position in of the financial system that allows you to extract vast returns, which appear as salaries and wages, in other words, remuneration for labor. Come on. What kind of remuneration for labor is this allows someone to draw tens of millions of dollars annually? For what kind of labor? This isn’t labor. This is a kind of rent, this is a kind of surplus accruing because of power and position in the financial system or access to finance. And that is typical of financialization in this country and elsewhere… [more]
finance  financialization  neoliberalism  liberalism  economics  labor  inequality  governance  power  2014  costaslapavitzas  capital  markets  policy  wages  us  banking  banks 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
the conscious kid
“The Conscious Kid is an education, research and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth. We partner with organizations, children’s museums, schools, and families across the country to promote access to children’s books centering underrepresented and oppressed groups.”

[See also:
https://www.instagram.com/theconsciouskid/
https://twitter.com/consciouskidlib
https://medium.com/@katieishizukastephens ]
diversity  parenting  teaching  books  children  identity  policy  curriculum 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Meritocracy Harms Everyone - The Atlantic
“Escaping the meritocracy trap will not be easy. Elites naturally resist policies that threaten to undermine their advantages. But it is simply not possible to get rich off your own human capital without exploiting yourself and impoverishing your inner life, and meritocrats who hope to have their cake and eat it too deceive themselves. Building a society in which a good education and good jobs are available to a broader swath of people—so that reaching the very highest rungs of the ladder is simply less important—is the only way to ease the strains that now drive the elite to cling to their status.

How can that be done? For one thing, education—whose benefits are concentrated in the extravagantly trained children of rich parents—must become open and inclusive. Private schools and universities should lose their tax-exempt status unless at least half of their students come from families in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution. And public subsidies should encourage schools to meet this requirement by expanding enrollment.

A parallel policy agenda must reform work, by favoring goods and services produced by workers who do not have elaborate training or fancy degrees. For example, the health-care system should emphasize public health, preventive care, and other measures that can be overseen primarily by nurse practitioners, rather than high-tech treatments that require specialist doctors. The legal system should deploy “legal technicians”—not all of whom would need to have a J.D.—to manage routine matters, such as real-estate transactions, simple wills, and even uncontested divorces. In finance, regulations that limit exotic financial engineering and favor small local and regional banks can shift jobs to mid-skilled workers. And management should embrace practices that distribute control beyond the C-suite, to empower everyone else in the firm.

The main obstacle to overcoming meritocratic inequality is not technical but political. Today’s conditions induce discontent and widespread pessimism, verging on despair. In his book Oligarchy, the political scientist Jeffrey A. Winters surveys eras in human history from the classical period to the 20th century, and documents what becomes of societies that concentrate income and wealth in a narrow elite. In almost every instance, the dismantling of such inequality has been accompanied by societal collapse, such as military defeat (as in the Roman empire) or revolution (as in France and Russia).

Nevertheless, there are grounds for hope. History does present one clear-cut case of an orderly recovery from concentrated inequality: In the 1920s and ’30s, the U.S. answered the Great Depression by adopting the New Deal framework that would eventually build the mid-century middle class. Crucially, government redistribution was not the primary engine of this process. The broadly shared prosperity that this regime established came, mostly, from an economy and a labor market that promoted economic equality over hierarchy—by dramatically expanding access to education, as under the GI Bill, and then placing mid-skilled, middle-class workers at the center of production.

An updated version of these arrangements remains available today; a renewed expansion of education and a renewed emphasis on middle-class jobs can reinforce each other. The elite can reclaim its leisure in exchange for a reduction of income and status that it can easily afford. At the same time, the middle class can regain its income and status and reclaim the center of American life.

Rebuilding a democratic economic order will be difficult. But the benefits that economic democracy brings—to everyone—justify the effort. And the violent collapse that will likely follow from doing nothing leaves us with no good alternative but to try.“
meritocracy  danielmarkovits  neoliberalism  capitalism  society  2019  competition  policy  privateschools  taxexemption  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  inequality  redistribution  governance  taxation  hierarchy  oligarchy  parenting  anxiety 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
Say No to the “Cashless Future” — and to Cashless Stores | American Civil Liberties Union
"It is great to see this pushback against the supposed cashless future because this is a trend that should very much be nipped in the bud. There are several reasons why cashless stores, and a cashless society more broadly, are a bad idea. Such stores are:

Bad for privacy. When you pay cash, there is no middleman; you pay, you receive goods or services — end of story. When a middleman becomes part of the transaction, that middleman often gets to learn about the transaction — and under our weak privacy laws, has a lot of leeway to use that information as it sees fit. (Cash transactions of more than $10,000 must be reported to the government, however.) More on privacy and payment systems in a follow-up post.

Bad for low-income communities. Participation in a cashless society presumes a level of financial stability and enmeshment in bureaucratic financial systems that many people simply do not possess. Opening a bank account requires an ID, which many poor and elderly people lack, as well as other documents such as a utility bill or other proof of address, which the homeless lack, and which generally create bureaucratic barriers to participating in electronic payment networks. Banks also charge fees that can be significant for people living on the economic margins. According to government data from 2017, about one in 15 U.S. households (6.5%) were “unbanked” (had no checking or savings account), while almost one in five (18.7%) were “underbanked” (had a bank account but resorted to using money orders, check cashing, or payday loans). Finally, because merchants usually pass along the cost of credit card fees to all their customers through their prices, the current credit card system effectively serves to transfer money from poor households to high-income households, according to a study by the Federal Reserve.

Bad for people of color. The burden of lack of access to banking services such as credit cards does not fall equally. While 84% of white people in 2017 were what the Federal Reserve calls “fully banked,” only 52% of Black and 63% of Hispanic people were.
Bad for the undocumented. Facing a lack of official identity documents, not to mention all the other obstacles mentioned above, undocumented immigrants can have an even harder time accessing banking services.

Bad for many merchants. Merchants pay roughly 2-3% of every transaction to the credit card companies, which can be a significant “tax,” especially on low-margin businesses. With the credit card sector dominated by an oligopoly of 2-3 companies, there is not enough competition to keep these “swipe fees” low. Big companies have the leverage to negotiate lower fees, but small merchants are out of luck, and the amount that they pay to the credit card companies is often greater than their profit. If cashless stores are allowed to become widespread, that will harm the many merchants who either discourage or flat-out refuse to accept credit cards due to these fees.

Less resilient. The nationwide outage of electronic cash registers at Target stores several weeks ago left customers unable to make purchases — except those who had cash. That’s a reminder that electronic payments systems can mean centralized points of failure — not just technical failures like Target’s, but also security failures. A cashless society would also leave people more susceptible to economic failure on an individual basis: if a hacker, bureaucratic error, or natural disaster shuts a consumer out of their account, the lack of a cash option would leave them few alternatives.

The issue goes beyond restaurants and retail stores; other services that are built around electronic payments should also offer cash options (or cash-like anonymous stored value cards). Those include ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, bike and scooter share systems, and transit systems. In San Francisco, for example, the city’s bike-share program is providing an option to pay with cash. In DC, where I live, the Metro requires a smart card to use — but riders have the option to either register their card so that they can cancel it if it’s lost or stolen, or buy it with cash and not register it to keep it more private."

...

"What to do

So what should you do if you walk into a store and are told: “your cash is no good here”?

Register your objection. Say to the staff, “I know this isn’t your policy personally, but I think it’s a bad one, and I hope you’ll pass that along to your management. Not accepting cash is bad for privacy, bad for poor people, and bad for the undocumented.”

Refuse to provide a credit card. If you haven’t been given very clear advance notice that cash is not accepted, tell them you don’t have a credit card with you and see what they propose. There’s no law that a person has to possess a credit card or furnish one on demand. This may tie up their line, require the calling of a manger, create abandoned food that has already been prepared, and generally create inefficiencies that, if repeated among enough customers, will start to erode the advantages of going cashless for merchants.

Walk out. If you can do without, leave the establishment without buying anything after registering your objection to a staff person so they are aware they’ve lost your business over it.

Understand why some stores charge fees for credit card use. If you visit a store or restaurant that charges a higher price for credit card purchases, understand that this is a socially beneficial policy and be supportive. Merchants are explicitly permitted to pass swipe fees (also known as “interchange fees”) along to customers, which among other things is fairer to low-income customers who don’t have credit cards and shouldn’t have to absorb the costs of those cards. If you are a business, consider passing along those fees to increase fairness as well as customer awareness of how the current system works.

Contact your elected representatives. We have already seen some cities and states ban cashless stores. Your state or city can do so as well.

The bottom line is that the technocratic “dream” of a cashless society is a vision in which we discard what is left of the anonymity that has characterized urban life since the dawn of modernity, and our freedom from the power of centralized companies like banks. Doing without cash may be convenient at times, but if we lose cash as an option we’re going to regret it later."
money  privacy  technology  privilege  cashless  currency  2019  aclu  inequality  resilience  bias  business  economics  policy  siliconvalley  creditcards  cash  technocracy  technosolutionism 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Beware the ethical car - macwright.org
"On Tuesday, Lyft released a dataset for self-driving car development, along with a blog post. Here’s a snippet:
Avoidable collisions, single-occupant commuters, and vehicle emissions are choking our cities, while infrastructure strains under rapid urban growth.

And that translates to an efficient ecosystem of connected transit, bikes, scooters, and shared rides from drivers as well as self-driving cars. Solving the autonomous vehicle challenge is not just an option — it’s a necessity.

And then the CEO’s quote:
Not only can self-driving tech save two lives every single minute, it is essential to combat climate change by allowing people to ditch their cars for shared electric transportation. Lyft is committed to leading this transportation revolution.

Here’s what’s they’re doing: by co-opting the language of climate change, companies are going to try and make cars ethical.

Evidence so far

We should be wary. First, because ridesharing has already claimed to reduce emissions and traffic congestion, and has done the opposite.

See, Lyft claimed in 2015 that their service harmonized with public transit, rather than competed with it. That didn’t work out. Not only have they stolen trips from public transit, they’ve reduced support for transit and replaced walking & biking trips, too. They’ve increased traffic deaths by 2-3%, while increasing the number of cars on the streets.

Improved cars are a suspiciously convenient change agenda

California, eager to top its subsidy of mansions as blindingly regressive policy, decided to subsidize electric cars to the tune of $7,500 each, in the form of a tax credit. Tax credits, of course, are wealth transfer from some taxpayers to others: and in this case, we’re transferring our money to the deserving buyers of $90,000 sports cars.

That isn’t enough: we also allowed electric cars to drive in HOV lanes for years, until too many did so, traffic built up again, and the perk was removed.

While we subsidize the rich, we subsidize public transit less than almost everywhere else and make a grisly show of cracking down on fare evasion.

Space and selfishness

Lyft links to two articles in their blog post - one to a Washington Post ‘brand studio’ (sponsored, ghostwritten) article, and the other to The Atlantic. The Washington Post article is there to substantiate the climate change claim and here’s the crux of its argument:
Fulton’s analysis found little societal or environmental benefit from driverless vehicles unless they are both electric and shared.

Which brings us to the question of self-driving technology: will it be used for shared, communal transit like public transit works today, or will it be a way for rich people to have private luxury rooms?

All current signs point to the worse scenario. Here’s the carpooling, from the Washington Post article:
Carpooling peaked during the 1970s energy crisis, then dropped to 9 percent in 2014 from 20 percent in 1980.

Here’s what Elon Musk thinks of public transit.
“It’s a pain in the ass,” he continued. “That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”

Would Musk encourage people to carpool in their self-driving Teslas? Do serial killers own Teslas? This hasn’t been an issue so far, because Tesla owners can drive by themselves in carpool lanes.

Or consider how people reacted to increasing vehicle efficiency, and were given the choice: save the environment, or bigger cars?
The global S.U.V. boom is a roadblock in the march toward cleaner cars that has been aided by advances in fuel-saving technology and hybrid or electric vehicles. Compared to smaller cars, S.U.V.s are less efficient, generally by about 30 percent.

*******

Cars are a broken format. We shouldn’t give them a lifeline, or a new coat of paint, and society shouldn’t find a way to assuage the guilt that surrounds them.

Sure, cars should be electric. There are a lot of places in the world where transportation infrastructure isn’t sufficient and cars are the native transportation medium. Maybe they should be self-driving too, if the technology is safer than human drivers. Right now, it isn’t.

But to a large extent this is a zero-sum problem. Ridesharing already has substantially hurt public transit. The blue sky dream of self-driving cars is spawning galaxy-brain reckons like replacing the subway with underground highways, or replacing the subway with tunnels. These dreams are built around selfishness: they always offer private pods flying through space. Hyperloop promotional material portrays it as an alternative to being on the surface, with all those other people.

Avoiding climate catastrophe is obviously necessary, and we should consider all the options. But it’s hard to believe in car-centric solutions that don’t come with a vision of social and cultural change."
cars  carpooling  carsharing  lyft  uber  elonmusk  electriccars  transportation  transit  publictransit  climatechange  technology  technosolutionism  space  selfishness  society  globalwarming  ethics  ridesharing  california  subsidies  policy  highspeedrail  trains  hovlanes  suvs  emissions  hyperloop  tommacwright 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Capitalism and the Urban Struggle | Boston Review
“One of the things that interests me is the simultaneity of what goes on in the urban network. Occupy Wall Street was about Wall Street, but Occupy movements sprung up in a hundred odd cities in the United States, and you can find Occupy movements in Europe and around the world. So the urban network is actually a very powerful set of political possibilities. Part of my argument is that we should be thinking about how to use the urban network and how to use the political power that lies with closing cities down or intervening in cities as part of what political struggle is all about.”



“DJ: Mainstream liberals who talk about urbanism focus a lot on environmentalism and culture. Cities promise greener forms of living, since they offer greater density and more efficient energy use. And these liberals obsess over green architecture, high-speed rail, and so on, as well as about cities as centers of “creative culture.” Would you say they’re guilty of a certain fetishism over green living and culture?

DH: Very much so. As I try to point out in the book, the culture industries are very much caught up in the search for monopoly rent. It’s interesting that they’re called “industries” these days, which means that there’s a commodification of culture and an attempt to commodify the cultural commons and even commodify history, which is an astonishing process.

A lot of the green stuff is about planting trees and making things look greener. But I’ve yet to see a really radical reconfiguration of urbanization that would really confront the questions of global warming. So the liberal view does that, but what it doesn’t pay attention to is the tremendous social inequalities that exist. In New York, the social inequalities are dramatic, and we have huge concentrations of what we call precarious and insecure, employed people in these cities. In a way it’s an urban proletariat that is engaging in the production and the reproduction of urban life, and I don’t see the liberals taking any notice of that as being a problem. I mean, the levels of social inequality in New York City are far, far greater now than they were 30 years ago, and I would not be at all surprised to see an urban insurrection going on over those levels of inequality.”



“DJ: There you argue that Murray Bookchin had a more reasonable answer to the problem of how to organize for large-scale reform, given the limits of horizontal, anti-hierarchical political structures.

DH: One of the things I criticize the left for is what I call “fetishism of organizational form,” and it’s not only anarchists. The communist parties of yore used to have a democratic centralist model from which they would never depart, and it had certain strengths and it had certain weaknesses. Now there are certain elements within the anarchist movement that now believe totally in this horizontality idea and will not contemplate anything that is hierarchical. So I say, “Well, look, you’re disempowering yourself by sticking to that as the only organizational form which is viable.”

Again, there are certain anarchists who think that it’s reasonable to negotiate with the state or to try to reform the state and certain anarchists who say they want nothing whatsoever with anything that looks like state power. I have problems with that. My concern would be to say, “Let’s try to think of an organizational form that can confront the nature of the problems that we face,” which include, by the way, the one that you talked about earlier about the global nature of the struggle. You cannot imagine that we could simply have socialism in New York City and nowhere else. We’ve got to start thinking about all of the international relations and international divisions of labor and the like. So I’m more concerned with finding a practical form of organization, which can confront the nature of the problems we face, and I find that these rather dogmatic assertions by the communists, on one hand, and some of the anarchists, on the other, that “This is the only form of organization which is acceptable” get in the way of a fluid discussion over what would be a good form of organization for political mobilization right now.

DJ: Do you think that we’ve come to any sort of promising conclusions about organizational form, or is this a debate that needs to take place over the course of many years?

DH: Oh, I think it’s a debate that’s unfolding, but it can unfold very rapidly. I mean, there are places in the world where people seem to have found ways to pin together both the horizontal and the hierarchical. I mention the case of El Alto in Bolivia, where that seems to have happened. There are other cases; I’ve been very impressed by the example of the Chilean student movement, which is very democratic and horizontal but at the same time accepts that there is a need for decisive leadership. As more and more models of that sort come to our attention, I think that more and more people will start to converge on a practical organizational form. At least that’s my hope. And I think what I was trying to do in the book was to contribute to that process by both critiquing fetishism and then talking about examples where it seems some mixture of organizational forms has been very successful.

DJ: Now that we’re in Spring, people in the Occupy movement are wondering, “Where do we go from here?” Can there be an Occupy movement without occupation—without actually occupying public spaces? It seems as though occupying public spaces is a very powerful form of protest that has succeeded in Egypt and elsewhere. So why not just continuing occupying?

DH: Well, I think there are intermediate forms of it. One example that I was talking about with some people the other day is the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina who, instead of occupying all the time, turned up once a week to a particular space to demonstrate over the question of what had happened to their disappeared children and grandchildren. Of course, they suffered a great deal of police harassment and in some cases violence, but they just kept coming there every week. We could do something like that: we could go to Zuccotti Park once a week and say, “Look, we are still here!” It could be a visible thing. Some weeks, there’d be 500 people there; maybe occasionally there’d be 5,000 people there. But if it became a tradition, that once a week we all went there to reassert the significance of our political movement, then this would be a very good step.

I think that one of the problems we have in New York City is that we have a vast amount of public space in which the public is not allowed to do what it wants. We have to liberate public spaces for these sorts of common political actions, and this is one of the arenas of struggle.

DJ: In terms of changing our politics, are there any steps that you think are promising? For example, some critics, such as Lawrence Lessig, point to money in politics as a central problem. There are others who talk about how we need more participatory democracy in place. Is there a political step that you think will make progress?

DH: There’s a political step that I think that we should take and be very clear about. This is what was so impressive about the Chilean student movement. They recognized very clearly that the situation they’re in was defined by what happened under Pinochet. Now Pinochet is dead, but they’re still living with the legacy of Pinochet. What they are struggling with is what you might call “Pinochetism.” In this country Reagan is long gone, but Reaganism has been doubled down on by the Republican Party in particular, but also accepted by large chunks of the Democratic Party. So we’ve got to go after Reaganism. In Britain, Thatcher is long gone, but we’ve got Thatcherism. In Egypt, Mubarak is gone, but Mubarakism is still there. So we’ve got to go after the systems of power and the systems of appropriation of wealth that have become pretty universalized right now, and we’ve got to see this as a real serious point of confrontation. As Warren Buffett says when asked if there’s class struggle, “Sure, there’s class struggle. It’s my class, the rich, who have been waging it, and we’ve been winning.” Our task, I think, is to turn it around and say, “His class shall not win.” And in order to do that, we’ve got to get rid of the whole neoliberal way of organizing contemporary capitalism.“
davidharvey  2012  capitalism  urban  urbanism  economics  democracy  cities  davidjohnson  henrilefebvre  righttothecity  anticapitalism  neoliberalism  politics  policy  liberalism  class  classstruggle  pinochet  warrenbuffett  chile  inequality  thatcherism  margaretthatcher  activism  murraybookchin  argentina  bolivia  ows  occupywallstreet  culture  society  green  greenliving  progress 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Eco-Apartheid Is Real | The Nation
“Eco-apartheid, which I define as a regime of greening affluence for the few at the expense of the many, is the path of business as usual.

And yet there was something frustratingly superficial about all this coverage, even when it focused on inequality.

In the era of the Green New Deal, journalists and activists still struggle to convey just how profoundly the climate emergency, our political economy, and social inequalities are connected. As a result, they’re still missing how much egalitarian green investment—like a Green New Deal for Housing—could address social, economic, and environmental crises at the same time. And while this policy idea is specific to the US context, an intersectional analysis here could enrich global debates about what effective and equitable green investment could look like around the world.”



“Yes, installing more efficient and comfortable systems in the United States will take money, both for retrofits and new construction. But targeted investments in racialized, working-class communities to decarbonize and increase resiliency is the core idea of the Green New Deal. The climate crisis and the cost-of-living crises are converging in American homes. And so are potential solutions.

A Green New Deal for Housing would retrofit public, subsidized, and low-income homes. It could use the power of public purchase and procurement to get low-carbon appliances into the homes that need them. Public investment and regulation would also lower the costs of the most efficient appliance technologies for everyone.

All this would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the building trades. It could revitalize appliance manufacture in the United States. And the focus on efficient appliances and energy systems would spare us the individualized green moralizing that doesn’t make a difference anyway.

The key is to fuse the demands—and the social movements—for climate and housing progress. And while climate activists have gotten the attention lately, the housing movement’s growing confidence and power are just as impressive. Both the real estate and fossil fuel industries are finally under siege from powerful insurgencies.

Progressive movements and think tanks have been issuing detailed reports calling for national rent control and massive federal investment in new public housing construction, with groups like People’s Action calling for a Homes Guarantee. The Democratic presidential candidates are following suit.

The housing movement just won huge legislative battles in Oregon and New York State. And in New York, days after the tenants’ victory, the state’s climate justice movement won passage of an ambitious bill that would cut emissions to net zero by 2050—while ensuring that over a third of clean-energy spending benefits low-income and racialized communities.

Through no-carbon public housing construction and the kinds of building upgrades described above, a Green New Deal for Housing would be a perfect vehicle for such targeted investments. (All told, US homes are currently responsible for nearly one-sixth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.)

And such a framework could unite climate, housing, and racial justice movements—and architects and designers. The New York Times reports that long-range cost concerns already have made affordable housing a leader in extremely low-energy building construction methods. In Norwich, England, the town’s housing authority built 100 lovely, award-winning three-story units of social housing to an extremely efficient passive house standard; green affordable housing can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes to fit their communities.

New and rehabilitated public housing complexes would also make ideal resiliency centers, providing physical and social infrastructure. Every public housing complex could double as a community cooling center during heat waves. And with solar rooftops, microgrids, and batteries, they could be refuges during storms when the power goes off.

All told, a Green New Deal for Housing would drive down carbon emissions, increase resiliency, and attack economic and racial inequalities. Contra the complaints of centrists, an ambitious and intersectional climate policy isn’t a gratuitous and expensive add-on. The massive green investment would, in fact, be the logical result of connecting the dots between all our environmental, economic, and social crises—and between the growing movements that are fighting for transformative change.”
eco-apartheid  apartheid  environment  climatechange  2019  politics  economics  intersectionality  housing  policy  climate  publichousing  race  greennewdeal  danielaldanacohen  climateurbanism 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Cybergothic Acid Communism Now • Commune
"To the barricades, through the looking glass.

Once upon a time, way back in 2010, having just read his brilliant book Capitalist Realism, I went to see Mark Fisher speak. I walked in late and he was in the midst of denouncing the one-day strike as a pantomime, a meaningless echo of uprising. (He was right, as he was about so many things.) He moved through the financial crisis, to the soulless thing that neoliberalism had made of the university, to a demand to repoliticize mental health. I sat enthralled, too nervous to go say hello afterward. I wish I had.

Fisher died in 2017, leaving anyone who had read him bereft. I find myself, while reading and rereading, wondering what he would have thought of The Favourite or the new Robyn album; longing for his caustic words on the meltdown of the Theresa May government; wishing he had been here to tear “hopepunk” to shreds; wondering too what he would have made of AOC.

The new k-punk collection, all 824 pages of it, is out now from Repeater Books, gathering a decade and a half of Fisher’s writings on pop culture, politics, and theory. It contains everything from blog comment policies to the unfinished introduction to what would have been his next book. Even a quick skim will remind you that Fisher was a much more audacious, nuanced, and flat-out weird writer and thinker than almost anyone the left can claim these days.

Trying to do justice to a now-gone writer who regularly blew your mind is an impossible task, and yet someone who so regularly took aim at sacred cows — starting a piece with “Orwell is wrong about everything, but especially 1984” — should not become one himself. It’s hard to imagine him having any patience with such treatment, anyway. The combination of humility and raw confidence with which he wrote would prevent, I hope, any enjoyment of sainthood.

The only way to treat him right is to read him with the same eye for ruthless critique that he always brought. The same vitality that makes it impossible to imagine him gone courses through this book, whether he’s writing about the calcification of Glastonbury, the bloodless corpse of New Labour, or the privatization of stress. His long posts often come to abrupt ends; there is no wind-down, everything is full-tilt and then crashes to a halt, winded and satisfied with itself (but never smug, no, Fisher always had the bone-deep understanding that smugness is counterrevolutionary).

Fisher is closest in style to Ellen Willis. Like her, he is a brilliant pop-culture critic as well as political observer and actor whose politics were mostly knife-sharp, but capable like all of us of an odd conservative turn. His insistence on popular media as a terrain of struggle is too rare within a new left struggling for direction; Fisher more than anyone understood that the material conditions that drained the vitality from pop music and art and even TV were the same ones that had sucked the life out of the working class. Instead of the innovation that neoliberalism promised us, we’ve just gotten recycled versions of things we’ve seen a million times before, and all of it under the pretense of anti-elitism, of “giving the people what they want.”

Fisher had no patience for this kind of faux-populist tailing. He had a faith in the creativity of the working class that demanded better for and from it. Change — revolution — would not come from pandering but from the masses understanding their own power in all senses. “[T]here’s nothing ‘elitist’ about assuming intelligence on the part of an audience,” he insisted, returning over and over to a defense of a kind of leftist paternalism. (Paternalism, he knew, was the wrong word, but he didn’t quite land on a better one). “It is about having a wager that there is maybe a desire for the strange in people,” he wrote. “People don’t already know what they want and . . . the things which they really end up most valuing may be things which surprise them.”

Whatever we might call such a position, it’s one Fisher performed well. His love for a song or a film that sparks a feeling is contagious. Within a few pages of beginning the music section in the collection I was pulling up bands I’d forgotten or never known to soundtrack my reading. His hatreds — for Alan Moore, say — are not based in some High Culture snobbery but in a frustration with the mistaking of grimness, perhaps, or some other half-evoked emotion, for depth.

In goth, Fisher saw a subculture that could “teach us that egalitarianism is not hostile to, but relies upon, a will-to-greatness, an unconditional demand for the excellent.” The weirdness of Siouxsie Sioux and other such “painted birds” became, in Fisher’s hands, a feminist desire for bursting the confines of biological reproduction, to speed the destruction of a banal, boring world. It was no accident, he pointed out, that Marx himself was drawn to gothic metaphors for capital: “the living flesh it converts into dead labour is ours, and the zombies it makes are us.”

Derrida’s “hauntology” threads through his work, a curious recapturing of a concept developed as part of an extended critique of Marx. In Fisher’s hands it bears the idea of a lost future, of a mourning for a thing that could have been. It’s fitting in a way for his readers now to be haunted by the things he’ll never write. His blog posts still have an immediacy to them, a tang that we’ve largely lost with the rise of the clickbait-fueled “thinkpiece.” Far be it from me of all people to argue that unpaid blogging led to better writing — this is the opposite of what Fisher himself said, insisting that having some security would allow us to produce better — but the shittiness of most of the hot-take era’s writing feels stark when reading a k-punk post on the page. It makes me long for a world where writing could be a form of play. Instead, the lazy bourgeois art that Fisher so despised has only spread; it deserves the tactical nuke he wanted to send down on Glastonbury.

Capitalist Realism exists as a tight little bomb of a book that no one really has any excuse not to read. But in case anyone hasn’t, the concept threads through the k-punk collection; the idea that we live under the shadow of “there is no alternative,” unable to imagine a better way to organize society, let alone to struggle for one. Such “realism,” Fisher explained, was deeply unreal, particularly as we all live in the shadow of climate catastrophe; the tsk-tsking of the centrist ruling class is death drive posing as maturity, and the power of capitalist realism an expression of class decomposition, the fading of class consciousness. Peering through this gloom, Fisher nonetheless glimpsed some endings. After 2008, he wrote, “Neoliberalism is finished as a project, even if it lurches on, thrashing around like a decorticated terminator.”

We might now be able to imagine the death of capitalism, yet one problem of capitalist realism remains: our inability to imagine what comes next. Instead, the left too often gropes for the past, a trend Fisher despised. He insisted that “we must have the courage not to be nostalgic for this lost Fordist world of boring factory work and a labour movement dominated by male industrial workers.” Even communist nostalgia was impossible: “our desire is for the future.” Following Stuart Hall, he pointed out that the left and the labor movement had been too slow to grasp workers’ desire for something better than forty years of forty-hour weeks on the assembly line. The Thatcherites and their ilk had seized the moment to paint their reorganization of the economy as liberation while too many leftists sung (and still sing) paeans to the factory floor. The urgent need now is for a working-class politics that doesn’t love work.

This is where, I suppose, the Vampire’s Castle comes in. Like everything Fisher wrote, his oft-cited “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle” goes hard, but unlike most of what he wrote, the slippage it makes between the nastiness of Twitter pile-ons and the problems of liberal identity politics does his criticism of either issue no favors. Everyone, as Fisher himself pointed out, “has chauvinistic potentials of one kind or another,” yet in the Vampire’s Castle — his name for the social media war of position often conducted via hyperbolic outrage and exhausting, disingenuous engagement — he assumes that only “identitarians” turn social media into traps constructed from the mutual fear of attack, an assumption immediately disproved with a few clicks on rose-emoji Twitter these days. There is just as much of a hipster’s desire to be part of the in-crowd among today’s new socialists, even if they throw the word “class” around more often.

But even when Fisher is infuriating, he is never dull, which is what makes attempts to claim him for normie social democracy so utterly repellent — said reactionary turn in socialist “thought” these days is above all else boring. Though Fisher wrote of the “the luxury of feeling bored” and its potential for sparking new ideas, he insisted upon respect for the intellectual capacities of the working class, insisted that “anti-intellectualism is a ruling-class reflex.” Yet those who see in the Vampire’s Castle a club to whack so-called “identitarians,” or simply anyone to their left, often wind up claiming precisely the opposite: that working-class people are too stupid to be challenged or to challenge our ideas of race, gender, and the fundamental orderings of the world.

We can find a more generous solution for the slash-and-burn tendencies of the would-be left in Fisher’s writings on mental health — particularly on depression, his own and everyone else’s — and his insistence that the left make political demands around it. The “realism” of depression, which “presents itself as necessary and interminable,” with its “glacial surfaces [that] extend… [more]
markfisher  2019  sarahjaffe  communism  marxism  neoliberalism  counterculture  labor  work  organizing  unions  mentalhealth  socialism  socialdemocracy  democracy  identitarians  socialmedia  politics  policy  culture  society  k-punk  liberation  economics  uk  us  fordism  class  realism  future  imagination  glastonbury  writing  howwewrite  subculture  alanmoore  music  criticism 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Amtrak Facing Rural Backlash Over Proposal to Cut Long-Distance Routes
"Amtrak’s proposals for altering or eliminating some of its long-distance train routes, in favor of more frequent service where the population is growing, is facing opposition among those who fear rural America would suffer. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports."
amtrak  trains  us  policy  acela  rural  2019  funding 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Search Results for “ Toxic Philanthropy” – Wrench in the Gears
[from “A Skeptical Parent’s Thoughts on Digital Curriculum” (via comments here: https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2019/07/08/goodbye-altschool-hello-altitude-learning/ )

“Toxic Philanthropy Part Three: The Silicon Valley Community Foundation”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/01/04/toxic-philanthropy-part-three-the-silicon-valley-community-foundation/

“Toxic Philanthropy Part 2: Hewlett Packard Re-Engineers the Social Sector”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2018/11/25/toxic-philanthropy-part-2-hewlett-packard-re-engineers-the-social-sector/

“Toxic Philanthropy Part 1: Surveillance”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2018/11/18/toxic-philanthropy-part-1-surveillance/

“Philanthropy’s lesser known weapons: PRIs, MRIs and DAFs”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/01/04/philanthropys-lesser-known-weapons-pris-mris-and-dafs/

“Hewlett Packard And The Pitfalls Of “Deeper Learning” In An Internet Of Things World”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/07/07/hewlett-packard-and-the-pitfalls-of-deeper-learning-in-an-internet-of-things-world/

“Pay for Success Finance Preys Upon The Poor: Presentation at Left Forum 6/29/19”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/06/26/pay-for-success-finance-preys-upon-the-poor-presentation-at-left-forum-6-29-19/

“Alice & Automated Poverty Management”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/06/19/alice-automated-poverty-management/

“What About Alice? The United Way, Collective Impact & Libertarian “Charity””
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/06/09/what-about-alice-the-united-way-collective-impact-libertarian-charity/

“Home Visit Legislation: A Sales Pitch For Family Surveillance?”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/02/17/home-visit-legislation-a-sales-pitch-for-family-surveillance/

“Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/01/26/stanley-druckenmiller-and-paul-tudor-jones-the-billionaire-networks-behind-harlems-human-capital-lab/

“Charter, Public Health, and Catholic Charity Interests Help Launch “Disruptive” Pay for Success Program”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/01/04/charter-public-health-and-catholic-charity-interests-help-launch-disruptive-pay-for-success-program/

“When “Community Foundations” Go Global (Or Coastal)”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/01/04/when-community-foundations-go-global-or-coastal/

“To Serve Man: It’s A Cookbook!”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/01/04/to-serve-man-its-a-cookbook/

“Silicon Valley’s Social Impact Deal Maker”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2019/01/04/silicon-valleys-social-impact-deal-maker/

“New Governors Pritzker and Newsom Set Up For Their ReadyNation Gold Rush”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2018/11/11/readynation-pritzker-and-newsom-get-ready-for-the-next-gold-rush/

“Too big to map, but I tried.”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2018/03/18/too-big-to-map-but-i-tried/

“Who Is Pulling The Muppet Strings?”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2018/01/14/who-is-pulling-the-muppet-strings/

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2017/09/20/when-someone-shows-you-who-they-are-believe-them-the-first-time/

“Smart Cities & Social Impact Bonds: Public Education’s Hostile Takeover Part II”
https://wrenchinthegears.com/2017/07/13/smart-cities-social-impact-bonds-public-educations-hostile-takeover-part-ii/ ]
education  edtech  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charterschools  charity  siliconvalley  californianideology  surveillance  schools  hewlettpackard  internetofthings  data  privacy  children  poverty  policy  unitedway  libertarianism  stanleydruckenmiller  paultudorjones  disruption  socialimpact  gavinnewsom  governance  government  readynation  smartcities  privatization  schooling  publicschools  inequality  charitableindustrialcomplex  dianeravitch 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Car Crashes Aren't Always Unavoidable - The Atlantic
"The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives."

...

"Further entrenching automobile supremacy are laws that require landowners who build housing and office space to build housing for cars as well. In large part because of parking quotas, parking lots now cover more than a third of the land area of some U.S. cities; Houston is estimated to have 30 parking spaces for every resident. As the UCLA urban-planning professor Donald Shoup has written, this mismatch flows from legal mandates rather than market demand. Every employee who brings a car to the office essentially doubles the amount of space he takes up at work, and in urban areas his employer may be required by law to build him a $50,000 garage parking space.

For those who didn’t get the message from the sprawling landscape that zoning has created, the tax code sharpened it by lavishing rewards on those who drive and punishing those who don’t. On its own terms, the mortgage-interest tax deduction is neutral as to the type of home financed, but—given the twin constraints of zoning and mortgage lending—the deduction primarily subsidizes large houses in car-centric areas. Those who walk or bike to work receive no commuter tax benefit, while those who drive receive tax-deductible parking. Another provision of the tax code gives car buyers a tax rebate of up to $7,500 when their new vehicles are electric or hybrid; buyers of brand-new Audis, BMWs, and Jaguars can claim the full $7,500 from the American taxpayer. Environmentally, these vehicles offer an improvement over gas-powered cars (but not public or active transit). Even so, 85 to 90 percent of toxic vehicle emissions in traffic come from tire wear and other non-tailpipe sources, which electric and hybrid cars still produce. They also still contribute to traffic, and can still kill or maim the people they hit. Why are we taxing bus riders to pay rich people to buy McMansions and luxury electric SUVs?"

...

"
Tort law is supposed to allow victims to recover for harms caused by others. Yet the standard of liability that applies to car crashes—ordinary negligence—establishes low expectations of how safe a driver must be. Courts have held that a higher standard—strict liability, which forces more careful risk taking—does not apply to driving. Strict liability is reserved for activities that are both “ultrahazardous” and “uncommon”; driving, while ultrahazardous, is among the most common activities in American life. In other words, the very fact that car crashes cause so much social damage makes it hard for those who are injured or killed by reckless drivers to receive justice.

In a similar spirit, criminal law has carved out a lesser category uniquely for vehicular manslaughter. Deep down, all of us who drive are afraid of accidentally killing someone and going to jail; this lesser charge was originally envisioned to persuade juries to convict reckless drivers. Yet this accommodation reflects a pattern. Even when a motorist kills someone and is found to have been violating the law while doing so (for example, by running a red light), criminal charges are rarely brought and judges go light. So often do police officers in New York fail to enforce road-safety rules—and illegally park their own vehicles on sidewalks and bike facilities—that specific Twitter accounts are dedicated to each type of misbehavior. Given New York’s lax enforcement record, the Freakonomics podcast described running over pedestrians there as “the perfect crime.”"

...

"All of these laws can be reversed directly by the legislative bodies responsible for passing them in the first place. However, a growing body of academic research suggests that, even when most people favor less restrictive zoning, local officials will side with wealthy homeowners who favor the status quo. In these cases, state legislators can be called upon to help. Reformers have succeeded in doing so in Oregon and have shown promise in California. Far less attention has been paid, however, at the federal level. Recently, several Democratic candidates for president have released federal plans to prod states and cities to relax their zoning.

Congress could condition a small share (say, 5 percent) of federal funds on the adoption by states of housing-production goals or Vision Zero design standards calibrated for safety. Conditional appropriations, which are how Congress goaded states into raising the drinking age, are already in use for numerous transportation programs.

Litigation for dangerous street design is another promising way to hold public entities accountable. So far, plaintiffs have mostly sought money damages, but they can also seek design changes through injunctive relief, including by class action. This has the potential to move not only laws and budgets but the entire discourse around street safety.

Finally, reformers could seek recognition of the freedom to walk. The federal Americans With Disabilities Act and state and local counterparts, as well as case law recognizing a constitutional right to movement, suggest such a right to mobility.

Americans customarily describe motor-vehicle crashes as accidents. But the harms that come to so many of our loved ones are the predictable output of a broken system of laws. No struggle for justice in America has been successful without changing the law. The struggle against automobile supremacy is no different."
2019  cars  law  zoning  accidents  insurance  policy  government  taxes  publictransit  pedestrians  parking  cities  urban  urbanism  transportation  transit  speedlimits  california  us  design  safety  health  risks  tortlaw  negligence  oregon  housing  litigation  gregoryshill 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Shit's Totally FUCKED! What Can We Do?: A Mutual Aid Explainer - YouTube
"Freaked out by police? Pissed about ICE? Outraged at gentrification? What should we do? People are overwhelmed, pissed, and scared right now. This video is about how mutual aid projects are a way to plug into helping people and mobilizing for change. Check out the mutual aid toolkit at BigDoorBrigade.com for more inspiration and information about starting mutual aid projects where you live!"
mutualaid  deanspade  activism  2019  explainer  prisonabolition  government  lawenforcement  policy  politics  police  participatory  organizing  organization  democracy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  philanthropy 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Verso: Empire of Borders The Expansion of the US Border around the World, by Todd Miller
"The United States is outsourcing its border patrol abroad—and essentially expanding its borders in the process

The twenty-first century has witnessed the rapid hardening of international borders. Security, surveillance, and militarization are widening the chasm between those who travel where they please and those whose movements are restricted. But that is only part of the story. As journalist Todd Miller reveals in Empire of Borders, the nature of US borders has changed. These boundaries have effectively expanded thousands of miles outside of US territory to encircle not simply American land but Washington’s interests. Resources, training, and agents from the United States infiltrate the Caribbean and Central America; they reach across the Canadian border; and they go even farther afield, enforcing the division between Global South and North.

The highly publicized focus on a wall between the United States and Mexico misses the bigger picture of strengthening border enforcement around the world.

Empire of Borders is a tremendous work of narrative investigative journalism that traces the rise of this border regime. It delves into the practices of “extreme vetting,” which raise the possibility of “ideological” tests and cyber-policing for migrants and visitors, a level of scrutiny that threatens fundamental freedoms and allows, once again, for America’s security concerns to infringe upon the sovereign rights of other nations.

In Syria, Guatemala, Kenya, Palestine, Mexico, the Philippines, and elsewhere, Miller finds that borders aren’t making the world safe—they are the frontline in a global war against the poor.

Reviews
“Empire of Borders reveals how the United States has effectively extended its borders throughout the globe, giving rise to a worldwide enforcement network that is highly militarized and profoundly dehumanizing. At a time when more people than ever before find their lives thrust against violent lines of separation, Todd Miller helps us understand the omnipresence of borders as an imminent threat to our shared humanity—a collective sickness that must be reckoned with before it forever reshapes our world.”

– Fransisco Cantu, author of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

“Joining meticulous documentation and vivid on-the-ground research in multiple border hot spots around the planet, Todd Miller pulls the veil off the layers of borders and their policing that shape our world, revealing a stunning and terrifying reality. The artificiality of borders, and the commitment of the world’s wealthy and powerful to preserve their wealth and power through them, have never been so clearly laid out.”

– Aviva Chomsky, author of Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

“Todd Miller’s Empire of Borders is an indispensable guide to our bunkered, barb-wired world. For more than a decade, well before Donald Trump landed in the White House, Miller’s reporting has revealed the conceits of globalization, documenting the slow, steady garrisoning of US politics behind ever more brutal border policies. Now, with Empire of Borders, he looks outward, to a world overrun with so many border walls it looks more like a maze than a shared planet. If there’s a way out, Miller will find it.”

– Greg Grandin, author of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

“Todd Miller takes the reader on a global journey following the ever expanding and violent border enforcement regime. Empire of Borders is an erudite and engaging exposé of the global war against the poor that is increasingly carried out through restrictions on the right to move. Highly recommended.”

– Reece Jones, author of Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move"
toddmiller  borders  books  toread  freedom  geopolitics  refugees  mobility  liberation  globalization  walls  us  surveillance  security  military  militarization  caribbean  centralamerica  canada  globalsouth  syria  guatemala  kenya  palestine  mexico  philippines  imperialism  politics  policy 
july 2019 by robertogreco
This map shows how LA politicians have created a city for the rich
“Our politicians have handed over staggering amounts of public money and land for luxury development. In doing so, they’ve effectively worked overtime to make this city as hostile as possible to the working class.”



“Ultimately, the elites have been wildly successful: LA is the most desired location for global real estate investors in North America, and Mayor Garcetti can cheer that we’ve “been named the most economically vibrant city in the world.” On the flip side, the county’s Black population has declined by 150,00 since 1990, 650,000 children are hungry, and LA is one of the most unaffordable places on earth. These are the contradictions of a booming city under 21st Century capitalism; ones that our politicians have enthusiastically embraced at every step of the way.”
losangeles  development  2019  maps  mapping  jacobwoocher  politics  policy  gentrification  dtla  funding  capitalism  inequality  incarceration  criminalization 
june 2019 by robertogreco
No Dare Call It Austerity
"Trump’s 2020 budget proposal reflects another significant increase in military spending along with corresponding cuts in spending by Federal agencies tasked with the responsibility for providing critical services and income support policies for working class and poor people. Trump’s call for budget cuts by Federal agencies is mirrored by the statutorily imposed austerity policies in most states and many municipalities. Those cuts represent the continuing imposition of neoliberal policies in the U.S. even though the “A” word for austerity is almost never used to describe those policies.

Yet, austerity has been a central component of state policy at every level of government in the U.S. and in Europe for the last four decades. In Europe, as the consequences of neoliberal policies imposed on workers began to be felt and understood, the result was intense opposition. However, in the U.S. the unevenness of how austerity policies were being applied, in particular the elimination or reduction in social services that were perceived to be primarily directed at racialized workers, political opposition was slow to materialize.

Today, however, relatively privileged workers who were silent as the neoliberal “Washington consensus” was imposed on the laboring classes in the global South — through draconian structural adjustment policies that result in severe cutbacks in state expenditures for education, healthcare, state employment and other vital needs — have now come to understand that the neoliberal program of labor discipline and intensified extraction of value from workers, did not spare them.

The deregulation of capital, privatization of state functions — from road construction to prisons, the dramatic reduction in state spending that results in cuts in state supported social services and goods like housing and access to reproductive services for the poor — represent the politics of austerity and the role of the neoliberal state.

This materialist analysis is vitally important for understanding the dialectical relationship between the general plight of workers in the U.S. and the bipartisan collaboration to raid the Federal budget and to reduce social spending in order to increase spending on the military. This perspective is also important for understanding the imposition of those policies as a violation of the fundamental human rights of workers, the poor and the oppressed.

For the neoliberal state, the concept of human rights does not exist.

As I have called to attention before, a monumental rip-off is about to take place once again. Both the Democrats and Republicans are united in their commitment to continue to feed the U.S. war machine with dollars extracted — to the turn of 750 billion dollars — from the working class and transferred to the pockets of the military/industrial complex.

The only point of debate is now whether or not the Pentagon will get the full 750 billion or around 733 billion. But whether it is 750 billion or 733 billion, the one sector that is not part of this debate is the public. The attention of the public has been adroitly diverted by the absurd reality show that is Russiagate. But this week, even though the budget debate has been disappeared by corporate media, Congress is set to begin debate on aspects of the budget and specifically on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Raising the alarm on this issue is especially critical at this moment. As tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf, the corporate media is once again abdicating its public responsibility to bring unbiased, objective information to the public and instead is helping to generate support for war with Iran.

The Democrats, who have led the way with anti-Iran policies over the last few decades, will be under enormous pressure not to appear to be against enhancing military preparedness and are likely to find a way to give Trump and the Pentagon everything they want.

Support for Human Rights and Support for Empire is an Irreconcilable Contradiction

The assumption of post-war capitalist order was that the state would be an instrument to blunt the more contradictory aspects of capitalism. It would regulate the private sector, provide social welfare support to the most marginal elements of working class, and create conditions for full employment. This was the Keynesian logic and approach that informed liberal state policies beginning in the 1930s.

The idea of reforming human rights fits neatly into that paradigm.

A seen, a state’s legitimacy was based on the extent to which it recognized, protected and fulfilled the human rights of all its citizens and residents. Those rights included not only the right to information, assembly, speech and to participation in the national political life of the nation but also the right to food, water, healthcare, education, employment, substantial social security throughout life, and not just as a senior citizen.

The counterrevolutionary program of the late 60s and 70s, especially the turn to neoliberalism which began in the 70s, would reject this paradigm and redefine the role of the state. The obligation of the state to recognize, protect and fulfill human rights was eliminated from the role of the state under neoliberalism.

Today the consequences of four decades of neoliberalism in the global South and now in the cosmopolitan North have created a crisis of legitimacy that has made state policies more dependent on force and militarism than in any other time, including the civil war and the turmoil of the 1930s.

The ideological glue provided by the ability of capitalism to deliver the goods to enough of the population which guaranteed loyalty and support has been severely weakened by four decades of stagnant wages, increasing debt, a shrinking middle-class, obscene economic inequality and never-ending wars that have been disproportionately shouldered by the working class.

Today, contrary to the claims of capitalism to guarantee the human right to a living wage ensuring “an existence worthy of human dignity,” the average worker is making, adjusted for inflation, less than in 1973, i.e., some 46 years-ago. 140 million are either poor or have low-income; 80% living paycheck to paycheck; 34 million are still without health insurance; 40 million live in “official poverty;” and more in unofficial poverty as measured by alternative supplemental poverty (SPM). And more than half of those over 55 years-old have no retirement funds other than Social Security.

In a report, Philp Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, points out that: the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan combined.

However, that choice is public expenditures must be seen in comparison to the other factors he lays out:
+ US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.

+ Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the US and its peer countries continues to grow.

+ US inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries

+ In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.

+ The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.


For African Americans in particular, neoliberalism has meant, jobs lost, hollowed out communities as industries relocated first to the South and then to Mexico and China, the disappearance of affordable housing, schools and hospital closings, infant and maternal mortality at global South levels, and mass incarceration as the unskilled, low-wage Black labor has become economically redundant.

This is the backdrop and context for the budget “debate” and Trump’s call to cut spendings to Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even the State Department.

The U.S. could find 6 trillion dollars for war since 2003 and 16 trillion to bail out the banks after the financial sector crashed the economy, but it can’t find money to secure the human rights of the people.

This is the one-sided class war that we find ourselves in; a war with real deaths and slower, systematic structural violence. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can be depended on to secure our rights or protect the world from the U.S. atrocities. That responsibility falls on the people who reside at the center of the Empire to not only struggle for ourselves but to put a brake on the Empire’s ability to spread death and destruction across the planet."
austerity  2019  us  policy  ajamubaraka  military  militaryindustrialcomplex  class  government  poverty  inequality  race  racism  neoliberalism  war  health  humanrights  imperialism  privatization 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Should California Get Rid of Single-Family Zoning? - The New York Times
“When I recently asked Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles about his stance on S.B. 50, the legislation that would have allowed more apartment construction near transit, he said it wouldn’t be a good fit for the city.

S.B. 50, he told me, would threaten the character of existing neighborhoods. And L.A., the state’s largest city, already builds more than its fair share of new housing compared with other cities in the county, he said.

This week, though, Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui, my colleagues at The Upshot, reported that apartments and townhomes — anything other than detached, single-family houses — are banned from 75 percent of L.A.’s residential land.

All of which raises the question: When you’re dealing with a housing crisis, should a city even have single-family zoning? As Emily and Quoctrung reported, that’s a question cities across the nation are grappling with.

I asked Emily to dive a little deeper into what they learned about California. In L.A., at least, things weren’t always this way, she wrote:

In 1960, about 2.5 million people lived in the city of Los Angeles, but 10 million theoretically could. The city had the zoning capacity for that many residents — developers could legally build enough apartments to house them, neighborhoods were planned to accommodate that much growth.

Then L.A. began to reimagine itself in ways that constrain the city today.

L.A. and many California communities began the steady process of “downzoning”: converting land that allowed courtyard apartments to just fourplexes, fourplexes to duplexes, large-lot single-family homes to even-larger-lot single-family homes.

“It was death by a thousand cuts,” said Greg Morrow, executive director of the Real Estate Development and Design program at Berkeley, who has studied the development history of Los Angeles. “You’re just taking a little bit out each time.”

Within 20 years, according to Mr. Morrow’s research, the city’s zoning capacity had been cut to just under 4 million people. And that number has barely kept pace since with actual population growth.

Today, many families are doubling up or paying far more than they can afford for a place to live.

This history — and the current zoning map that The Times has reproduced — portrays a clearer picture of the housing shortage in California. It’s not just that the state hasn’t built enough housing over the years; California communities have made it illegal to build much of the housing that was once possible.

S.B. 50 would have significantly changed that. But the proposal, from State Senator Scott Wiener, is just one of several from officials across the country who are starting to rethink single-family zoning entirely.

“If you look back at early attempts to downzone,” Mr. Morrow said, “they really were almost driven by this naïve belief that if you just downzoned, you could stop population growth.”

In L.A., that clearly did not happen.”
california  zoning  losangeles  housing  2019  cities  urban  urbanism  policy  sb50  scottwiener  ericgarcetti  emilybadger  quoctrungbui  jillcowan  downzoning 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Ayn Rand Is a Dick – Mike Monteiro – Medium
"Silicon Valley has exhibited total comfort with destroying the social fabric of humanity to make a profit.

I got mine. Fuck you."
venturecapital  siliconvalley  aynrand  technology  mikemonteiro  uber  2019  libertarianism  californianideology  economics  politics  policy  via:lukeneff  objectivism 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Better Public Schools Won’t Fix Income Inequality - The Atlantic
"Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first."

...


"Long ago, i was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

For all the genuine flaws of the American education system, the nation still has many high-achieving public-school districts. Nearly all of them are united by a thriving community of economically secure middle-class families with sufficient political power to demand great schools, the time and resources to participate in those schools, and the tax money to amply fund them. In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.

By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem."

...

"However justifiable their focus on curricula and innovation and institutional reform, people who see education as a cure-all have largely ignored the metric most predictive of a child’s educational success: household income.

The scientific literature on this subject is robust, and the consensus overwhelming. The lower your parents’ income, the lower your likely level of educational attainment. Period. But instead of focusing on ways to increase household income, educationists in both political parties talk about extending ladders of opportunity to poor children, most recently in the form of charter schools. For many children, though—especially those raised in the racially segregated poverty endemic to much of the United States—the opportunity to attend a good public school isn’t nearly enough to overcome the effects of limited family income.

As Lawrence Mishel, an economist at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, notes, poverty creates obstacles that would trip up even the most naturally gifted student. He points to the plight of “children who frequently change schools due to poor housing; have little help with homework; have few role models of success; have more exposure to lead and asbestos; have untreated vision, ear, dental, or other health problems; … and live in a chaotic and frequently unsafe environment.”

Indeed, multiple studies have found that only about 20 percent of student outcomes can be attributed to schooling, whereas about 60 percent are explained by family circumstances—most significantly, income. Now consider that, nationwide, just over half of today’s public-school students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, up from 38 percent in 2000. Surely if American students are lagging in the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills our modern economy demands, household income deserves most of the blame—not teachers or their unions.

If we really want to give every American child an honest and equal opportunity to succeed, we must do much more than extend a ladder of opportunity—we must also narrow the distance between the ladder’s rungs. We must invest not only in our children, but in their families and their communities. We must provide high-quality public education, sure, but also high-quality housing, health care, child care, and all the other prerequisites of a secure middle-class life. And most important, if we want to build the sort of prosperous middle-class communities in which great public schools have always thrived, we must pay all our workers, not just software engineers and financiers, a dignified middle-class wage.

Today, after wealthy elites gobble up our outsize share of national income, the median American family is left with $76,000 a year. Had hourly compensation grown with productivity since 1973—as it did over the preceding quarter century, according to the Economic Policy Institute—that family would now be earning more than $105,000 a year. Just imagine, education reforms aside, how much larger and stronger and better educated our middle class would be if the median American family enjoyed a $29,000-a-year raise.

In fact, the most direct way to address rising economic inequality is to simply pay ordinary workers more, by increasing the minimum wage and the salary threshold for overtime exemption; by restoring bargaining power for labor; and by instating higher taxes—much higher taxes—on rich people like me and on our estates.

Educationism appeals to the wealthy and powerful because it tells us what we want to hear: that we can help restore shared prosperity without sharing our wealth or power. As Anand Giridharadas explains in his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, narratives like this one let the wealthy feel good about ourselves. By distracting from the true causes of economic inequality, they also defend America’s grossly unequal status quo.

We have confused a symptom—educational inequality—with the underlying disease: economic inequality. Schooling may boost the prospects of individual workers, but it doesn’t change the core problem, which is that the bottom 90 percent is divvying up a shrinking share of the national wealth. Fixing that problem will require wealthy people to not merely give more, but take less."
economics  education  inequality  2019  labor  work  policy  poverty  history  nickhanauer  educationism  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  trickledowneconomics  ronaldreagan  billclinton  canon  edusolutionism  us  unemployment  billgates  gatesfoundation  democracy  wages  alicewalton  paulallen  anandgiridharadas  middleclass  class  housing  healthcare  publicschools  publiceducation  schools  learning  howwelearn  opportunity  lawrencemishel  curriculum  innovation 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Schools Are Deploying Massive Digital Surveillance Systems. The Results Are Alarming - Education Week
"Sometimes students with a concern simply email themselves, with the expectation that algorithms will flag the message for adults, said Jessica Mays, an instructional technology specialist for Texas’s Temple Independent School District, another Gaggle client.

One student “opened a Google Doc, wrote down concerns about a boy in class acting strange, then typed every bad word they could think of,” Mays said. At the end of the note, the student apologized for the foul language, but wrote that they wanted to make sure the message tripped alarms.

For proponents, it’s evidence that students appreciate having new ways of seeking help.

But for Levinson-Waldman, the lawyer for the Brennan Center for Justice, it raises a bigger question.

“Are we training children from a young age to accept constant surveillance?” she asked."
privacy  surveillance  schools  2019  algorithms  policy  data  information  technology  edtech 
june 2019 by robertogreco
'It’s a miracle': Helsinki's radical solution to homelessness | Cities | The Guardian
"Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally"
homelessness  housing  finland  policy  2019  homeless 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The Dig: Un laboratorio del socialismo en Chile. Entrevista con Daniel Jadue.
"*This episode of The Dig is a special Dig in Spanish. Visit Jacobin for a transcript in English. Este episodio de The Dig es un Dig especial en español. Entra a Jacobin para una transcripción en inglés.* [https://jacobinmag.com/2019/04/communist-party-chile-left-governance-recoleta ]

Cuando se piensa en Chile desde el extranjero, generalmente surge la imagen de su pasado reciente marcado por la dictadura cívico–militar. Y esto con toda razón. El legado del régimen genocida de Pinochet todavía está presente en todas partes—en la memoria personal y colectiva, en las leyes y en una constitución profundamente neoliberal que sigue condenando al sistema político a un bipartidismo e impide las transformaciones deseadas por la soberanía popular. Daniel Jadue, el alcalde de la comuna de Recoleta, ubicada en la Región Metropolitana del Gran Santiago, se ha entregado a la empresa de construir en su territorio un laboratorio del comunismo del presente y del futuro. Junto a su equipo ha abierto una farmacia popular, una óptica popular y una linda librería popular. Todos estos servicios de primera necesidad venden sus productos a precios bajos y justos desafiando con ello a un mercado supuestamente autoregulado que en Chile sólo ha demostrado funcionar más bien estimulando prácticas de monopolio—un capitalismo salvaje."
chile  recoleta  communism  politics  2019  sanieljadue  policy  economics  socialism  capitalism  cities 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Dig: Real Estate Capitalism And Gentrification With Samuel Stein Jacobin Radio podcast
"What is gentrification? It isn't just about what was once known as the hipster and is still known as the artist, the telltale warning signs of impending demographic change. It's part of an entire political-economic order that has made real estate global capitalism's most prized asset for storing wealth—one that has helped bend place-based urban governments to the will of mobile, and thus more powerful, capital. Dan interviews Samuel Stein on his book, Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State."
realestate  samuelstein  2019  gentrification  capitalism  neoliberalism  finance  realestatefinancialcomplex  money  wealth  cities  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  inequality  shelter  labor  policy  newdeal  urbanrenewal 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Green New Deal: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) - YouTube
"With the Green New Deal sparking a national conversation about all the ways to combat climate change, John Oliver looks at a few potential solutions."
greennedeal  2019  policy  climatechange  globalwarming  carbontax  emissions  billnye  humor  politics  us  canada  uk 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Why The US Has No High-Speed Rail - YouTube
"China has the world’s fastest and largest high-speed rail network — more than 19,000 miles, the vast majority of which was built in the past decade.

Japan’s bullet trains can reach nearly 200 miles per hour and date to the 1960s. They have moved more than 9 billion people without a single passenger causality. casualty

France began service of the high-speed TGV train in 1981 and the rest of Europe quickly followed.

But the U.S. has no true high-speed trains, aside from sections of Amtrak’s Acela line in the Northeast Corridor. The Acela can reach 150 mph for only 34 miles of its 457-mile span. Its average speed between New York and Boston is about 65 mph.

California’s high-speed rail system is under construction, but whether it will ever get completed as intended is uncertain.

Watch the video to see why the U.S. continues to fail with high-speed trains, and some companies that are trying to fix that."
rails  trains  us  history  transportation  highspeedrail  2019  cars  lobbying  aviation  politics  policy  airlines  ideology  infrastructure  highspeed  rail 
may 2019 by robertogreco
San Francisco Had an Ambitious Plan to Tackle School Segregation. It Made It Worse. - The New York Times
"Since the district uses neighborhood test scores to determine admissions preferences, some students from low-income and working-class families in San Francisco, like Cinthya, do not get an advantage, while a handful of wealthier students, whose parents happen to live in areas with historically lower test scores, do.

The system benefits gentrifiers, in a city where public housing can be tucked beneath hills studded with multimillion-dollar Victorians.

Anne Zimmerman, a stay-at-home parent and writer, had what others call, sometimes derisively, the “golden ticket.” She and her husband, who works in advertising, moved into their two-bedroom rental in the Potrero Hill neighborhood a decade ago, without realizing their address granted them priority in the school lottery.

This year, their daughter, Vera, was offered admission to their first-choice kindergarten, one of the most requested in the city. The school is 37 percent white and 21 percent low-income. Districtwide, 15 percent of students are white and 55 percent are low-income.

“I feel so very conflicted” about getting an advantage, Ms. Zimmerman said. Both she and her husband are white. “The system was developed to equalize the playing field, and I don’t think it really has done it.”

Those who defend the current system point out that 79 percent of black parents, 79 percent of Filipino parents and 61 percent of Hispanic parents received their first-choice kindergarten for next fall, compared with 48 percent of white parents.

Rionda Batiste is a member of the district’s African-American Parent Advisory Council and a resident of the Bayview, a neighborhood with test-score priority in the lottery. She has been thrilled with the system, which allowed her to enroll two of her children in a school of her choice outside the neighborhood.

“Until our schools are being made to have the same resources and quality as the other schools in the other areas, I’m not going to disadvantage her,” Ms. Batiste said of her daughter, Victoria.

But the voices of parents who feel hurt by the lottery hold powerful political sway here. One family of two doctors whose child — like 12 percent of kindergarten applicants — was not admitted to any of the 15 schools they listed, said they would not send their child to the school they were ultimately assigned, which is across the city from their home. The school has struggled with underenrollment and low test scores, and is predominantly black and low-income.

The parents, who are Hispanic and asked not to be named, ended up putting down a deposit for a private school.

About a quarter of the city’s children are enrolled in private school, a higher percentage than in some other major cities, like New York, where it is around 20 percent. The lottery system is thought to be a major reason wealthy parents here opt out of public schools, further worsening segregation.

At the request of the Board of Education, the district is considering how expanded busing could help integrate schools. It is also looking at models in Berkeley, Calif., and Boston, where parents can rank choices from a small group of schools determined by address. San Francisco has already limited choices at the middle-school level, with some success."
sanfrancisco  policy  schools  publicschools  segregation  integration  2019  inequality  race  gentrification 
april 2019 by robertogreco
‘People are finally talking about class’: Astra Taylor on US democracy, socialism and revolution | Film | The Guardian
"Astra Taylor hasn’t always been interested in democracy. “There was this vagueness about the word that just seemed to be not just corruptible but almost inherently corrupt,” says the writer, film-maker and activist. “I was attracted to words like liberation, emancipation, equality, revolution, socialism. Any other word would get my pulse going more than democracy.” For her, democracy was a word imperial America used to sell free markets and push its agenda.

Yet Taylor, a lifelong activist, says that she also always felt there was “a contradiction” inherent in democracy that puzzled her. For all the cynicism the word attracted, she could see there was power in an idea meant to strengthen the people, a power that she explores in her new documentary, What Is Democracy?, and her upcoming book, Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.

In the US, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 sundered the body politic, while that same year, the Brexit referendum split the UK. Trump has used his office to undermine the media, the legal system, the electoral process itself and anyone who questions his will – all while praising dictators and suggesting the US may one day have “a president for life”.

Russia has shown how foreign powers can use technology to hack democracy, the economic success of China’s one-party capitalism has demonstrated a different model, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the 1% has laid bare how big money skews the system.

The D word really started to grip Taylor while she was writing her previous book, The People’s Platform, a critique of Silicon Valley’s self-interested “utopianism”, published in 2014. “I wanted to look at what a ‘democratic internet’ would look like,” she says. “Not an empty, Silicon Valley-type democracy, but a real one.”

Then there was her work with Occupy. In 2011, New York’s Zuccotti Park, a grim sunken square near Wall Street, became the focal point of a leaderless movement calling for change. Exactly what it wanted or how it would get it never really seemed clear, but the movement swept the US and the world. Occupy protests spread to 951 cities in 82 countries.

Critics were, and still are, cynical about Occupy. History may be kinder. “We are the 99%,” shouted the activists. The 1% had taken the reins of power. That idea has stuck and can be seen in most progressive political campaigns today, down to the eschewing of corporate cash for the small donations that are funding US politicians including Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren.

Taylor also co-founded the Debt Collective, which grew out of Occupy; this buys student and medical debt on the debt markets and forgives it. It has wiped out $1bn (£770m) of debts so far and helped put student debt on the political agenda.

Occupy was “a shitshow – that’s a technical term,” says Taylor. Zuccotti Park was as divided by its constantly percussive drum circle as it was by its politics. “I love democracy more than I hate the drum circle,” read one sign in the park. Many Occupy activists were reluctant to engage with the existing system or even agree to properly define what changes they wanted, she says. There was a failure to translate protest into action. Democracy can’t be a place where “everyone has a voice but no one has any responsibility,” she says.

Taylor’s experience did get her thinking more about democracy. “There was this call for ‘real democracy’. So when you say that then you obviously believe there is ‘fake democracy’.”

In her new film and book, Taylor traces democracy back to its origins in Athens (a patriarchal slave state – we should have seen trouble coming) and then quizzes a diverse group of people, from the academic Cornel West to Syrian refugees and Trump-supporting Florida teens, asking what they now think of the word. The result? It’s not clear what any of us think democracy is or should be, or even if true democracy has ever existed (Taylor thinks not, although she thinks of democracy as a dynamic evolving concept that has yet to be achieved, and is more interested in exploring what the idea means to others than giving her own tight definition). That is Taylor’s aim: to make us think, to ask new questions and hopefully come up with new answers.

She is excited by some of the recent political shifts in the US. “For the first time in my life people are talking about class,” she says. “It’s just ridiculous that this was an unspeakable concept for so long – that is why we are in the predicament we are in.”

She is heartened to see a new generation of politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, talking about “democratic socialism”. The S word was a no-no in US politics for generations, one that had “this sort of dated ring”, Taylor says. Now it is “something new, something that’s never been tried. Something in the future.”

While there has been plenty of bad news for democracy in recent years, there is no doubt that politics is changing. More women, more people of colour, teachers, LGBTQ candidates and people from low-income backgrounds are running for office, and winning. A new generation of activists are interested in union organising and strikes.

“People are thinking about power and how to take it, whereas the previous generation was more ambivalent about it, more anarchistic. Occupy was in that mould. There was a refusal to make demands – to do so was to legitimise the state,” she says.

And now? “You have millennials who are cheering on labour struggles. That’s amazing.”

While Taylor is hopeful change will come, she is wary of the powerful forces ranged against it and the left’s ability to mess it up. Nor does she think a “democratic socialist” future – if it’s even possible – would provide all the answers.

“We don’t live in an infinite world,” she says. Even a more equitable system would have to deal with inequality, not least in a world facing apocalyptic climate change. “To me, democratic socialism would just mean more interesting democratic dilemmas. We would no longer be arguing over whether billionaires should exist or be abolished – they should be abolished – but there are still so many questions,” she says.

Taylor is ready to ask those questions. Hip and lanky, she is the nice cool kid, the one in the band whose books and records you wanted to borrow, and who would let you. On top of her other work, Taylor is a musician who has played with her partner Jeff Mangum’s band, Neutral Milk Hotel. She’s a vegan who lives in Brooklyn (if this wasn’t obvious), and one of those interviewees who asks as many questions as she answers.

Her enquiring nature comes from her childhood. Born in Canada and raised in the other Athens, in the US state of Georgia, Taylor was “unschooled” – meaning she was allowed to learn, or not, when and how she liked and was never forced to go to school. The freedom inspired her. At 16, she enrolled at the University of Georgia, then quit for Brown, the elite Rhode Island university that counts John D Rockefeller Jr, the New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger and the actor Emma Watson among its alumni. She quit Brown too, deciding unschooling was a lifelong commitment.

The idea of unschooling is “built on a quite romantic notion of human nature”, she says. “That human beings are intrinsically good and curious and ambitious. Very Rousseau.”

She doesn’t think this is a good model for everyone. Some people need more structure, more guidance. “It’s almost rebellious of me that so much of my work as an adult activist is focused on public education, free public education,” she laughs.

But she believes in the ideas at the heart of unschooling – continual learning, encouraging curiosity, taking education outside the classroom and the school year and embracing trust. They are models we need now, she says, as we question a concept that many of us take for granted even as we worry about its future.

“For many, many students now education is anti-democratic,” she says. “It’s just a curriculum geared at essentially encouraging them to accept their lot in life.”

The decline in liberal arts and the rise of “practical” degrees in subjects such as pharmacology, nursing and construction management, she says, suggest a society that is tailoring people to the workplace rather than encouraging them to think about the big issues, while saddling them with major debts.

There is a structural reason for this, says Taylor. “I feel pretty pulled when young people ask me what to study, because I think they should study Plato and Rousseau. But not if it’s going to lead them to a lifetime of debt servitude. You can’t help but think of your education as something that needs a return on investment when it’s costing you $35,000 a year.”

Her book and film are an argument for the case that “of all academic disciplines, the one that demands to be democratised is political philosophy, which is basically the asking of the questions: how do we want to live? How should we live? What kind of people should we be? How should we govern ourselves? This is something that increasingly only the elites get to carve out time to think about. That is really a tragedy.”"
astrataylor  class  socialism  capitalism  democracy  2019  corruption  ows  occupywallstreet  activism  studentdebt  film  filmmaking  documentary  unschooling  publiceducation  education  curiosity  freedom  rousseau  plato  philosophy  debt  debtservitude  politics  policy  learning  howwelearn  donaldtrump  organizing  ancientgreece  athens  cornelwest 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Greta Thunberg has done her science homework - Faktabaari
"On 21st February 2019 the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, delivered a strong speech [1] at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. Thunberg teamed up with IPCC [2] science and scientists and encouraged politicians to take urgent action to combat climate change.

Thunberg said that politicians should listen to scientists and ”follow the Paris agreement and the IPCC reports”. The speech was considered a success by eyewitnesses [3] and media [4].

We checked the science references in Thunberg’s speech for pedagogical use with top scientists from Finland.

First three of the four science-related claims below were found accurate. The fourth claim about ”a minimum of 80 % CO2 reduction by 2030” would have required more explanation. Overall, the combination of IPCC climate science and an empowered youth raising concerns about the future is powerful. Strong political messages cannot always be evaluated by fact-checking.

That said, Thunberg’s activism can be claimed to be evidence-based and backed by a number of world-class scientists, well worth a nomination for Nobel Peace Prize [5]. As Thunberg claims, she has done her homework. However, defining exact reduction targets is difficult for scientists but important for politicians.

Greta science-based claims 21.2.2019 (full text here [1])

1. ”…by the year 2020 we need to have bended the emissions curve steep downward.”

2. ”According to the IPCC report we are about 11 years away from being in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control.”

3. ”To avoid that unprecedented changes in all aspects of society\, [actions] need to have taken place within this coming decade\, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50 % by the year 2030. And please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity\, which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale\, nor do they include tipping points or feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas released from the thawing Arctic permafrost. They do\, however\, include negative emission techniques on a huge planetary scale that is yet to be invented\, and that many scientists fear will never be ready in time and will anyway be impossible to deliver at the scale assumed.”

4. ”We have been told that the EU intends to improve its emission reduction targets. In the new target\, the EU is proposing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 45 % below 1990’s level by 2030 [6]. Some people say that is good or that is ambitious. But this new target is still not enough to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This target is not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today. If the EU is to make its fair contribution to staying within the carbon budget for the two-degree limit\, then it means a minimum of 80 % reduction by 2030 and that includes aviation and shipping. So [it is] around twice as ambitious as the current proposal.”

The two independent scientists involved with IPCC were asked to review Greta’s public speech for science-based claims. They are:

Christian Breyer, [7] Professor of Solar Economy, LUT University

“I can clearly approve her Brussels speech from a scientific point of view, every single sentence.

Specifically about the fourth claim on 80 % reduction target: this is part of interpretation, but let me explain.
The remaining GHG emission budget is rather ’large’, in case we would like to reach the target with a 50 % probability. For a 66 % probability of target reaching the remaining GHG emissions are much lower (more than linear reduction), but to be on the safe side one should go for a 90 % probability to reach the target. The latter implies a very fast and very deep GHG emission reduction, even more drastic than mentioned by Greta.

Now the relevant comparison: the Boeing 737 Max 8 is on ground after two strange crashes, but for all passengers in all flights in all of these planes the security had been higher than 99.9 %. This is a very high level of security.

Honestly, for surviving on our planet, we should have the same drastic measures, if not more drastic.

In other words, to really achieve the 1.5 C target in a very high probability the targets should be even more drastic, i.e. deeper and faster defossilisation than claimed by Greta. Thus the claim is more than fine.”

Markku Ollikainen, [8] Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics, University of Helsinki & Chair of Finnish Climate Panel

“I agree on the general approach and arguments 1 - 3, but based on the climate research and data given by Greta statement I cannot fully confirm nor reject claim 4 on minimum 80% EU reduction target by 2030, as the fairness principle behind the calculation is not explicated.”

This factcheck was published for the use of Faktabaari (FactBar) medialiteracy project. Read more www.faktabaari.fi/edu."
gretathunberg  science  climatechange  activism  globalwarming  sustainability  2019  research  factchecking  data  emissions  policy  politics 
april 2019 by robertogreco
'You did not act in time': Greta Thunberg's full speech to MPs | Environment | The Guardian
"My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations.

I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.

Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?

In the year 2030 I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told. When you have all of your life ahead of you. But I am not so sure it will be that great for us.

I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to. I could live wherever I wanted to. People like me had everything we needed and more. Things our grandparents could not even dream of. We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing.

Now we probably don’t even have a future any more.

Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once.

You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.

Is my microphone on? Can you hear me?

Around the year 2030, 10 years 252 days and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it. That is unless in that time, permanent and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society have taken place, including a reduction of CO2 emissions by at least 50%.

And please note that these calculations are depending on inventions that have not yet been invented at scale, inventions that are supposed to clear the atmosphere of astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide.

Furthermore, these calculations do not include unforeseen tipping points and feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas escaping from rapidly thawing arctic permafrost.

Nor do these scientific calculations include already locked-in warming hidden by toxic air pollution. Nor the aspect of equity – or climate justice – clearly stated throughout the Paris agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale.

We must also bear in mind that these are just calculations. Estimations. That means that these “points of no return” may occur a bit sooner or later than 2030. No one can know for sure. We can, however, be certain that they will occur approximately in these timeframes, because these calculations are not opinions or wild guesses.

These projections are backed up by scientific facts, concluded by all nations through the IPCC. Nearly every single major national scientific body around the world unreservedly supports the work and findings of the IPCC.

Did you hear what I just said? Is my English OK? Is the microphone on? Because I’m beginning to wonder.

During the last six months I have travelled around Europe for hundreds of hours in trains, electric cars and buses, repeating these life-changing words over and over again. But no one seems to be talking about it, and nothing has changed. In fact, the emissions are still rising.

When I have been travelling around to speak in different countries, I am always offered help to write about the specific climate policies in specific countries. But that is not really necessary. Because the basic problem is the same everywhere. And the basic problem is that basically nothing is being done to halt – or even slow – climate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises.

The UK is, however, very special. Not only for its mind-blowing historical carbon debt, but also for its current, very creative, carbon accounting.

Since 1990 the UK has achieved a 37% reduction of its territorial CO2 emissions, according to the Global Carbon Project. And that does sound very impressive. But these numbers do not include emissions from aviation, shipping and those associated with imports and exports. If these numbers are included the reduction is around 10% since 1990 – or an an average of 0.4% a year, according to Tyndall Manchester.

And the main reason for this reduction is not a consequence of climate policies, but rather a 2001 EU directive on air quality that essentially forced the UK to close down its very old and extremely dirty coal power plants and replace them with less dirty gas power stations. And switching from one disastrous energy source to a slightly less disastrous one will of course result in a lowering of emissions.

But perhaps the most dangerous misconception about the climate crisis is that we have to “lower” our emissions. Because that is far from enough. Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below 1.5-2C of warming. The “lowering of emissions” is of course necessary but it is only the beginning of a fast process that must lead to a stop within a couple of decades, or less. And by “stop” I mean net zero – and then quickly on to negative figures. That rules out most of today’s politics.

The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual. The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels – for example, the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports as well as the planning permission for a brand new coal mine – is beyond absurd.

This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.

People always tell me and the other millions of school strikers that we should be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished. But the only thing that we need to look at is the emission curve. And I’m sorry, but it’s still rising. That curve is the only thing we should look at.

Every time we make a decision we should ask ourselves; how will this decision affect that curve? We should no longer measure our wealth and success in the graph that shows economic growth, but in the curve that shows the emissions of greenhouse gases. We should no longer only ask: “Have we got enough money to go through with this?” but also: “Have we got enough of the carbon budget to spare to go through with this?” That should and must become the centre of our new currency.

Many people say that we don’t have any solutions to the climate crisis. And they are right. Because how could we? How do you “solve” the greatest crisis that humanity has ever faced? How do you “solve” a war? How do you “solve” going to the moon for the first time? How do you “solve” inventing new inventions?

The climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced. The easiest because we know what we must do. We must stop the emissions of greenhouse gases. The hardest because our current economics are still totally dependent on burning fossil fuels, and thereby destroying ecosystems in order to create everlasting economic growth.

“So, exactly how do we solve that?” you ask us – the schoolchildren striking for the climate.

And we say: “No one knows for sure. But we have to stop burning fossil fuels and restore nature and many other things that we may not have quite figured out yet.”

Then you say: “That’s not an answer!”

So we say: “We have to start treating the crisis like a crisis – and act even if we don’t have all the solutions.”

“That’s still not an answer,” you say.

Then we start talking about circular economy and rewilding nature and the need for a just transition. Then you don’t understand what we are talking about.

We say that all those solutions needed are not known to anyone and therefore we must unite behind the science and find them together along the way. But you do not listen to that. Because those answers are for solving a crisis that most of you don’t even fully understand. Or don’t want to understand.

You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. Like now. And those answers don’t exist any more. Because you did not act in time.

Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.

Sometimes we just simply have to find a way. The moment we decide to fulfil something, we can do anything. And I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.

We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider is politically possible in the society that you have created. We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.

We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.

I hope my microphone was on. I hope you could all hear me… [more]
gretathunberg  2019  sustainability  environment  climate  children  activism  futureyouuth  climatechange  globalwarming  science  policy  politics  action  inaction  avoidance 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The Rebel Alliance: Extinction Rebellion and a Green New Deal - YouTube
"Extinction Rebellion and AOC’s Green New Deal have made global headlines. Can their aims be aligned to prevent climate catastrophe?

Guest host Aaron Bastani will be joined by journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot and economist Ann Pettifor."
extinctionrebellion  georgemonbiot  gdp  economics  capitalism  growth  worldbank  2019  greennewdeal  humanwelfare  fossilfuels  aaronbastani  climate  climatechange  globalwarming  mainstreammedia  media  action  bbc  critique  politics  policy  currentaffairs  comedy  environment  environmentalism  journalism  change  systemschange  left  right  thinktanks  power  influence  libertarianism  taxation  taxes  ideology  gretathunberg  protest  davidattenborough  statusquo  consumerism  consumption  wants  needs  autonomy  education  health  donaldtrump  nancypelosi  us  southafrica  sovietunion  democrats  centrism  republicans  money  narrative  corruption  diannefeinstein  opposition  oppositionism  emissions  socialdemocracy  greatrecession  elitism  debt  financialcrisis  collapse  annpettifor  socialism  globalization  agriculture  local  production  nationalism  self-sufficiency  inertia  despair  doom  optimism  inequality  exploitation  imperialism  colonialism  history  costarica  uk  nihilism  china  apathy  inaction 
april 2019 by robertogreco
How To Build the Zero-Carbon Economy
"The Green New Deal sets an ambitious goal. Here’s how to get there."



"THE ANISHINAABE PEOPLE HAVE A PROPHECY that a time will come when we have to choose between two paths: one scorched, one green. For those who choose the green path, a more peaceful era will follow—known as the Eighth Fire—in which the Anishinaabeg will return to our teaching of Mino Bimaatisiiwin, the Good Life. Mino Bimaatisiiwin is based on reciprocity, affirmation and reverence for the laws of Nature—quite a different value system from that of the Gross National Product.

How to ensure we make the right choice is the art of now. As Dakota philosopher and poet John Trudell often says, first you have to “keep the beast out of the garden.” I refer to the beast that’s destroying our collective garden as Wiindigo (cannibal) economics—the practice of extracting every last bit of oil just because you’ve got the technology to do it, ecosystems be damned.

Killing Wiindigo economics is doable, but it will be a big job. We must work with the determination of people who actually intend to survive, and we must find the Achilles’ heels of the current system. For inspiration, look to the roughly $8 trillion moving out of the fossil fuel industry thanks to global divestment campaigns. Look to the social movements emerging as water protectors block “Black Snakes”—that is, oil pipelines. Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline is another year behind schedule while renewable energy moves ahead.

So, what’s next?

We need a Green New Deal—or as I prefer to call it, a Sitting Bull Plan. As Sitting Bull once said, “Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children.” That’s what’s we need—to put our minds together.

The plan proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) offers the beginning of a new green path. In the pages that follow, writers from the movement put their minds together to chart that path.

In “How To Bury the Fossil Fuel Industry” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-public-control-of-coal-fossil-fuel-industry.html ], journalist Kate Aronoff tells us how to kill the Black Snakes. Currently, the energy sector makes up around 6 percent of U.S. GDP. Enbridge’s Line 3 is just one $2.9 billion hemorrhage, all for a Canadian corporation to get some filthy tar sands oil to bake the planet. Time to get some control over that sector—being an oil addict is a drag.

In “Electric Companies Won't Go Green Unless the Public Takes Control” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-solar-power-local-control.html ], Johanna Bozuwa and Gar Alperovitz tell us to get local on energy. A study in New Jersey suggests that each megawatt of community solar installed generates around $1.8 million of total economic impact during construction, operation and maintenance. Community solar projects allow families, tribal governments and municipalities to combine their efforts to go solar, which allows people who may not have suitable rooftops, or who face financial or regulatory barriers, to access renewable energy. That’s real energy security.


In “We Produce Too Much Food. The Green New Deal Can Stop This.” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-food-production.html ], Eric Holt-Giménez of Food First reminds us that we have a food overproduction problem. How baffling is it that we waste roughly 40 percent of our food in the United States? A study once found that Chicagoans’ fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table; we also slather them with fossil fuel-based chemicals, from everything ending with -cide to the plastic packaging. In the meantime, Indigenous nations worldwide are adapting to the times. Through the agroecological techniques Holt-Giménez proposes, we could grow less food, nearer to home, and grow it better. Organic agriculture sequesters carbon and rebuilds top soil—might want to stick with ancient, time-tested wisdom. The carbon needs to be in the soil, not the air.

In “Making the Green New Deal Work for Workers” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-worker-transition-jobs-plan.html ], Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability points out that cleaning up this mess will mean jobs. Lots of them. America has a D+ in infrastructure. For every $1 million invested in energy efficiency alone, anywhere from 12 to 20 jobs are created. Restorative economies are full of employment, and a Green New Deal can require fossil fuel companies to invest in them. It’s about making the spoiled children known as American corporations clean up their own messes before they go bankrupt.

In “The Green New Deal Must Have a Zero Waste Policy” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-zero-waste-policy.html ], Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson says it’s time to tame your inner Wiindigo. So much of the stuff we produce ends up in a landfill. No time like the present to change that. We need to move from a production chain to a production cycle based on reuse, and start banning plastic straws, bags and all that stuff. And then we figure out how to do this all, better. No way should we be trying to fill our gullets with so much excess; what we need is to be efficient and elegant.

Finally, in “How Trade Agreements Stand in the Way of an International Green New Deal” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-trade-deals-emissions.html ], Basav Sen of the Institute for Policy Studies shows we need to look beyond the invisible borders created by colonial powers. I think of this land as Akiing, the land to which the people belong. Those borders make no sense to a storm, a flood or the wind. Climate change is international. We must be, too.

The Anishinaabeg are instructed that in each deliberation, we must consider the impact upon the seventh generation from now. This teaching can guide a life, a social movement and ultimately an economy.

The essential elements of intergenerational equity involve renegotiating and restoring a relationship to ecological systems, to Mother Earth. It’s not just making sure that you can buy a solar cellphone charger from Amazon. It means a restorative and regenerative economy. It also means justice—from a just transition for workers, to an interspecies, intergenerational and international justice.

The time you kill a Wiindigo is in the summer. When the warmth of the sun returns to the north country. There’s a proverb, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” It’s time to plant the seeds."



"WINONA LADUKE is Anishinaabe, a writer, an economist and a hemp farmer, working on a book about the Eighth Fire and the Green New Deal. She is ready for the Green Path, and would prefer not to spend her golden years cleaning up the messes of entitled white men.

LaDuke lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, where she founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project. She is program director of Honor the Earth and a two-time vice presidential candidate with Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket."
zero-carbon  economics  climate  climatechange  globalwarming  greennewdeal  2019  winonaladuke  legacy  inheritance  ancestry  indigeneity  indigenous  politics  policy  sittingbullplan  alexandriaocasio-cortez  edmarkey  katearonoff  johannabozywa  garalperovitz  ericholt-giménez  jeremybrecher  kaliakuno  cooperation  cooperationjackson  basavsen  waste 
april 2019 by robertogreco
A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - YouTube
"What if we actually pulled off a Green New Deal? What would the future look like? The Intercept presents a film narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and illustrated by Molly Crabapple.

Set a couple of decades from now, the film is a flat-out rejection of the idea that a dystopian future is a forgone conclusion. Instead, it offers a thought experiment: What if we decided not to drive off the climate cliff? What if we chose to radically change course and save both our habitat and ourselves?

We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed. That’s the message we’ve been hearing from the “serious” center for four months straight: that it’s too big, too ambitious, that our Twitter-addled brains are incapable of it, and that we are destined to just watch walruses fall to their deaths on Netflix until it’s too late.

This film flips the script. It’s about how, in the nick of time, a critical mass of humanity in the largest economy on earth came to believe that we were actually worth saving. Because, as Ocasio-Cortez says in the film, our future has not been written yet and “we can be whatever we have the courage to see.”"

[See also:
https://theintercept.com/2019/04/17/green-new-deal-short-film-alexandria-ocasio-cortez/

"The question was: How do we tell the story of something that hasn’t happened yet?

We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed. That’s the message we’ve been hearing from the “serious” center for four months straight: that it’s too big, too ambitious, that our Twitter-addled brains are incapable of it, and that we are destined to just watch walruses fall to their deaths on Netflix until it’s too late.

This skepticism is understandable. The idea that societies could collectively decide to embrace rapid foundational changes to transportation, housing, energy, agriculture, forestry, and more — precisely what is needed to avert climate breakdown — is not something for which most of us have any living reference. We have grown up bombarded with the message that there is no alternative to the crappy system that is destabilizing the planet and hoarding vast wealth at the top. From most economists, we hear that we are fundamentally selfish, gratification-seeking units. From historians, we learn that social change has always been the work of singular great men.

Science fiction hasn’t been much help either. Almost every vision of the future that we get from best-selling novels and big-budget Hollywood films takes some kind of ecological and social apocalypse for granted. It’s almost as if we have collectively stopped believing that the future is going to happen, let alone that it could be better, in many ways, than the present.

The media debates that paint the Green New Deal as either impossibly impractical or a recipe for tyranny just reinforce the sense of futility. But here’s the good news: The old New Deal faced almost precisely the same kinds of opposition — and it didn’t stop it for a minute."]
alexandriaocasio-cortez  2019  mollycrabapple  greennewdeal  speculativefiction  politics  policy  future  climatechange  globalwarming  1988  us  oil  petroleum  fossilfuels  environment  sustainability  puertorico  crisis  change  food  transportation  economics  capitalism  inequality  medicareforall  livingwages  labor  work  infrastructure  trains  masstransit  publictransit  americorps  unions  indigenous  indigeneity  childcare  care  caring  teaching  domesticwork  universalrights  healthcare  humanism  humanity  avilewis  naomiklein  skepticism  imagination  newdeal  fdr  wpa  greatdepression  moonshots  art  artists  collectivism  society 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Andrew Yang is the most radical 2020 candidate
"Going all the way back to the Roman republic, the owners of wealth have repeatedly sought to maximize their share of the common weal at the expense of those who work for them, leading to periodic crises as the plebes rise up and demand a fairer share. We may be in another such moment. Sanders's theory of political change revolves around a political revolution — a citizenry mobilized by a champion of conviction who wins a sweeping majority to enact his transformative agenda. Warren's theory of political change is less clearly articulated, but her solutions aim to build lasting support by giving a vast array of workers and small businesspeople a stake in a more competitive and less oligopolistic economy. But both imagine a world still anchored by work, and getting workers a fair share.

If that world is passing away, then we ought to be facing the happy problem Marx described, where "society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind." But the rub has always been who that "society" actually is. If a productive interdependency is going to be replaced by an outright dependency, then even if that dependency is as benevolently administered as Yang hopes it might be, we face the prospects of a more profound social revolution than he has bargained for."
politics  californianIdeology  technopoly  andrewyang  technosolutionism  elections  policy  2019  2020  society  wealth  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  karlmarx  interdependency  dependency  universalbasicincome  revolution  radicalism  via:ayjay 
april 2019 by robertogreco
‘Liz Was a Diehard Conservative’ - POLITICO Magazine
"Warren herself says that in her early academic work she was merely following the dominant theory of the time, which emphasized the efficiency of free markets and unrestrained businesses, rather than holding strong conservative beliefs herself. Still, she acknowledged in our interview that she underwent a profound change in how she viewed public policy early in her academic career, describing the experience as “worse than disillusionment” and “like being shocked at a deep-down level.”

Her conversion was ideological before it turned partisan. The first shift came in the mid-’80s, as she traveled to bankruptcy courts across the country to review thousands of individual cases—a departure from the more theoretical academic approach—and saw that Americans filing for bankruptcy more closely resembled her own family, who struggled financially, rather than the irresponsible deadbeats she had expected.

It wasn’t until Warren was recruited onto a federal commission to help reform the bankruptcy code in the mid-1990s—and then fought for those reforms and lost that battle in 2005—that she became the unapologetic partisan brawler she was in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, serving in the Senate and, now, stumping on the 2020 campaign trail. “I realize nonpartisan just isn’t working,” she recalls of that second conversion moment. “By then it’s clear: The only allies I have are in the Democratic Party, and it’s not even the majority of Democrats.”

Some friends and colleagues say Warren became radicalized, equating her change to a religious experience, to being born again. “She really did have a ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion when she saw the bankrupt consumers really were suffering—forced into bankruptcy by illness, firing or divorce—and not predators,” Johnson says. Other friends argue Warren’s shift has been more gradual, and that she is not the extremist her opponents have sought to portray her as. “It drives me crazy when she’s described as a radical left-winger. She moved from being moderately conservative to being moderately liberal,” says Warren’s co-author and longtime collaborator Jay Westbrook. “When you look at consumer debt and what happens to consumers in America, you begin to think the capitalist machine is out of line.”"



"What Warren’s Republican history means for her presidential prospects remains unclear. There’s a version of this story in which her politically mixed background makes her the ideal candidate to capture not just the the American left but also the center—a pugilistic populist vowing to take on corporations, a policy-savvy reformer who believes that markets are essential to the economy.

But that’s not the political landscape of 2019. Warren’s tough stance during the financial crisis got her tagged by Republicans and many Democrats as more Harvard liberal than an up-by-the-bootstraps working mom from Oklahoma. And her work on the CFPB alienated much of the financial services industry. Meanwhile, much of the left wing of the Democratic Party, for which she was the banner-carrier after the financial crisis, has found a new champion in the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. And members of the growing Democratic Socialists of America and the hosts of the popular leftist podcast Chapo Trap House have criticized Warren for her adherence to capitalism. As of this writing, she is generally polling fifth in the Democratic field, and her 2020 fundraising has fallen short of several other rivals’.

With some in the Democratic Party demanding purity, perhaps Warren thinks going back through her Republican history could hurt her. When I suggested near the end of our interview that she might consider talking more about that part of her biography, and her conversion, she was politely noncommittal.

“Sure, sure,” she said, before quickly pivoting back to another question."

[See also: https://twitter.com/siddhmi/status/1120023080477298693

"A very good read. Warren's story is such a profound American story, and a very deep story about how ideology works, and what it takes to get free.

This is how you get free: You do the work, and embrace the learning.
Warren’s academic career soon took a turn that made her far less comfortable with unfettered free markets. Prompted in part by a surge in personal bankruptcy filings following the passage of new bankruptcy laws in 1978, Warren, Sullivan and Westbrook in 1982 decided to study bankruptcy in a way that was then considered novel in academia: by digging into the anecdotal evidence of individual filings and traveling to bankruptcy courts across the country, often rolling a small copy machine through airports along the way.

Whatever their take on "capitalism" or "socialism," I'm here for leaders who understand how American capitalism in its current form (since the late 1970s; "neoliberalism") has completely failed—both morally and technically.

In the presidential field, there are exactly two.

The intellectual damage of the 1980s is intense. It's immensely to Warren's credit that, as a young woman untenured professor then, she realized—through fieldwork—that she could not in conscience enforce the ideology.

And everyone who went to elite colleges in the US in the 1980s needs to be scrutinized. I remember intro economics in 1985-86. Martin Feldstein preaching the catechism to 1,000 young minds in Sanders Theatre. Midterms where you "proved" why rent control was bad. Deadweight loss!

Three years later those young minds were lining up for "recruiting" as Goldman, Morgan, McKinsey et al swarmed the campus to usher them into the golden cage. This shit happened quickly, people. It's a wonder anyone escaped.

People shaped in the 1990s, with the neoliberal foundation cushioned by Clintonite anesthesia, post-Cold War complacency, and the mystical arrival of the internet, are no better. Probably need even more deprogramming. That's why the arrival of the AOC generation is SUCH A RELIEF."

https://twitter.com/NYCJulieNYC/status/1120080930658557952
"Not everyone. A lot of college students in the 1980s were committed activists, from those involved in Divestment from Apartheid South Africa to ACT UP to activism against US policy in Central America."

https://twitter.com/siddhmi/status/1120081603403898886
"Indeed. I was one of them! But that doesn't mean we didn't get coated in the zeitgeist. We all need periodic cleansing."]
elizabethwarren  mindchanging  politics  research  listening  2019  berniesanders  siddharthamitter  billclinton  1990s  1980s  ronaldreagan  economics  martinfeldstein  neoliberalism  2000s  us  policy  bankruptcy  academia  jaywestbrook  highered  highereducation  ideology  fieldwork  rentcontrol  regulation  consumerprotection  democrats  republicans  finance  cfpb  banking  markets 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Capitalism in crisis: U.S. billionaires worry about the survival of the system that made them rich - The Washington Post
"Sanders wasn’t a perfect match for Khanna. Sanders didn’t really understand the tech industry — though he wasn’t calling for the breakup of big tech companies like Warren and some other candidates. Warren’s proposal, if executed, would hurt companies in Khanna’s district and alienate some of his wealthiest backers.

Khanna wished Sanders would talk more about the greatness of the American economy and the power of the tech industry, when properly taxed and regulated, to lift people out of poverty. But on that score Khanna believed he could help Sanders.

“We can quibble over his plans to solve this issue or that issue,” Khanna said. “But I have no doubt that if Bernie Sanders was in the White House, he’d wake up every day thinking, ‘How do I solve structural inequality in America?’ ’’

The 77-year-old socialist’s speech had passed the one-hour mark and the crowd was still laughing, cheering, hooting and shouting.

“We’re probably not going to get a lot of support from the one percent and the large profitable corporations,” Sanders said.

A voice in the crowd screamed an expletive.

“That’s okay,” Sanders continued, “I don’t need, and we don’t want, their support.”

The congressman in the gray suit gazed out at the crowd, which stretched to the back of the park. Khanna saw Sanders’s revolution as an imperfect solution to a near-impossible problem. For now, though, it was the best he could find."
capitalism  economics  policy  2019  siliconvalley  rokhanna  society  berniesanders 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Noam Chomsky takes ten minutes to explain everything you need to know about the Republican Party in 2019 / Boing Boing
"Amy Goodman from Democracy Now interviewed linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky and asked him to explain Donald Trump; in a mere 10 minutes, Chomsky explains where Trump came from, what he says about the GOP, and what the best response to Russiagate is.

Chomsky lays out the history of the GOP from Nixon's Southern Strategy, when the party figured out that the way to large numbers of working people to vote for policies that made a tiny minority of rich people richer was to quietly support racism, which would fuse together a coalition of racists and the super-rich. By Reagan's time, the coalition was beefed up with throngs of religious fanatics, brought in by adopting brutal anti-abortion policies. Then the GOP recruited paranoid musketfuckers by adopting doctrinal opposition to any form of gun control. Constituency by constituency, the GOP became a big tent for deranged, paranoid, bigoted and misogynist elements, all reliably showing up to vote for policies that would send billions into the pockets of a tiny rump of wealthy people who represented the party's establishment.

That's why every time the GOP base fields a candidate, it's some self-parodying character out of a SNL sketch: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, etc. Every time, the GOP establishment had to sabotage the campaigns of the base's pick, until they couldn't -- Trump is just the candidate-from-the-base that the establishment couldn't suppress.

You can think of the Republican Party as a machine that does two things: enacting patriarchy and white supremacy (Trump) while delivering billions to oligarchs (McConnell, Paul Ryan, etc).

Then Chomsky moves onto Russiagate: Russian interference may have shifted the election outcome by a few critical points to get Trump elected, but it will be impossible to quantify the full extent and nature of interference and the issue will always be controversial, with room for doubt. But campaign contributions from the super-rich? They are undeniable and have a massive effect on US elections, vastly more than Russian interference ever will (as do election interventions of US allies: think of when Netanyahu went to Congress to attack Obama policies before a joint Congressional session right before a key election): "The real issues are different things. They’re things like climate change, like global warming, like the Nuclear Posture Review, deregulation. These are real issues. But the Democrats aren’t going after those."
Well, why did that happen? It happened because the Republicans face a difficult problem. They have a primary constituency, a real constituency: extreme wealth and corporate power. That’s who they have to serve. That’s their constituency. You can’t get votes that way, so you have to do something else to get votes. What do you do to get votes? This was begun by Richard Nixon with the Southern strategy: try to pick up racists in the South. The mid-1970s, Paul Weyrich, one of the Republican strategists, hit on a brilliant idea. Northern Catholics voted Democratic, tended to vote Democratic, a lot of them working-class. The Republicans could pick up that vote by pretending—crucially, “pretending”—to be opposed to abortion. By the same pretense, they could pick up the evangelical vote. Those are big votes—evangelicals, northern Catholics. Notice the word “pretense.” It’s crucial. You go back to the 1960s, every leading Republican figure was strongly, what we call now, pro-choice. The Republican Party position was—that’s Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, all the leadership—their position was: Abortion is not the government’s business; it’s private business—government has nothing to say about it. They turned almost on a dime in order to try to pick up a voting base on what are called cultural issues. Same with gun rights. Gun rights become a matter of holy writ because you can pick up part of the population that way. In fact, what they’ve done is put together a coalition of voters based on issues that are basically, you know, tolerable to the establishment, but they don’t like it. OK? And they’ve got to hold that, those two constituencies, together. The real constituency of wealth and corporate power, they’re taken care of by the actual legislation.

So, if you look at the legislation under Trump, it’s just lavish gifts to the wealth and the corporate sector—the tax bill, the deregulation, you know, every case in point. That’s kind of the job of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, those guys. They serve the real constituency. Meanwhile, Trump has to maintain the voting constituency, with one outrageous position after another that appeals to some sector of the voting base. And he’s doing it very skillfully. As just as a political manipulation, it’s skillful. Work for the rich and the powerful, shaft everybody else, but get their votes—that’s not an easy trick. And he’s carrying it off."

[Full interview: https://truthout.org/video/chomsky-on-the-perils-of-depending-on-mueller-report-to-defeat-trump/
https://www.democracynow.org/2019/4/18/chomsky_by_focusing_on_russia_democrats
https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2019/4/18?autostart=true

"NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Trump is—you know, I think there are a number of illusions about Trump. If you take a look at the Trump phenomenon, it’s not very surprising. Think back for the last 10 or 15 years over Republican Party primaries, and remember what happened during the primaries. Each primary, when some candidate rose from the base, they were so outlandish that the Republican establishment tried to crush them and succeeded in doing it—Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum. Anyone who was coming out of the base was totally unacceptable to the establishment. The change in 2016 is they couldn’t crush him.

But the interesting question is: Why was this happening? Why, in election after election, was the voting base producing a candidate utterly intolerable to the establishment? And the answer to that is—if you think about that, the answer is not very hard to discover. During the—since the 1970s, during this neoliberal period, both of the political parties have shifted to the right. The Democrats, by the 1970s, had pretty much abandoned the working class. I mean, the last gasp of more or less progressive Democratic Party legislative proposals was the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act in 1978, which Carter watered down so that it had no teeth, just became voluntary. But the Democrats had pretty much abandoned the working class. They became pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republicans shifted so far to the right that they went completely off the spectrum. Two of the leading political analysts of the American Enterprise Institute, Thomas Mann, Norman Ornstein, about five or 10 years ago, described the Republican Party as what they called a “radical insurgency” that has abandoned parliamentary politics.

Well, why did that happen? It happened because the Republicans face a difficult problem. They have a primary constituency, a real constituency: extreme wealth and corporate power. That’s who they have to serve. That’s their constituency. You can’t get votes that way, so you have to do something else to get votes. What do you do to get votes? This was begun by Richard Nixon with the Southern strategy: try to pick up racists in the South. The mid-1970s, Paul Weyrich, one of the Republican strategists, hit on a brilliant idea. Northern Catholics voted Democratic, tended to vote Democratic, a lot of them working-class. The Republicans could pick up that vote by pretending—crucially, “pretending”—to be opposed to abortion. By the same pretense, they could pick up the evangelical vote. Those are big votes—evangelicals, northern Catholics. Notice the word “pretense.” It’s crucial. You go back to the 1960s, every leading Republican figure was strongly, what we call now, pro-choice. The Republican Party position was—that’s Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, all the leadership—their position was: Abortion is not the government’s business; it’s private business—government has nothing to say about it. They turned almost on a dime in order to try to pick up a voting base on what are called cultural issues. Same with gun rights. Gun rights become a matter of holy writ because you can pick up part of the population that way. In fact, what they’ve done is put together a coalition of voters based on issues that are basically, you know, tolerable to the establishment, but they don’t like it. OK? And they’ve got to hold that, those two constituencies, together. The real constituency of wealth and corporate power, they’re taken care of by the actual legislation.

So, if you look at the legislation under Trump, it’s just lavish gifts to the wealth and the corporate sector—the tax bill, the deregulation, you know, every case in point. That’s kind of the job of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, those guys. They serve the real constituency. Meanwhile, Trump has to maintain the voting constituency, with one outrageous position after another that appeals to some sector of the voting base. And he’s doing it very skillfully. As just as a political manipulation, it’s skillful. Work for the rich and the powerful, shaft everybody else, but get their votes—that’s not an easy trick. And he’s carrying it off.

And, I should say, the Democrats are helping him. They are. Take the focus on Russiagate. What’s that all about? I mean, it was pretty obvious at the beginning that you’re not going to find anything very serious about Russian interference in elections. I mean, for one thing, it’s undetectable. I mean, in the 2016 election, the Senate and the House went the same way as the executive, but nobody claims there was Russian interference there. In fact, you know, Russian interference in the election, if it existed, was very slight, much less, say, than interference by, say, Israel. Israel… [more]
amygoodman  noamchomsky  corydoctorow  donaldtrump  republicans  us  politics  extremism  billionaires  inequality  campaignfinance  money  power  policy  mitchmcconnell  paulryan  abortion  nra  guns  evangelicals  richardnixon  ronaldreagan  georgehwbush  govenment  corporatism  corruption  russiagate  legislation  wealth  oligarchy  plutocracy  paulweyrich  southernstrategy  racism  race  gop  guncontrol  bigotry  misogyny  establishment  michelebachman  hermancain  ricksantoram  patriarchy  whitesupremacy  netanyahu  barackobama  congress  climatechange  canon  democrats  democracy  insurgency  radicalism  right  labor  corporations  catholics  2019  israel  elections  influence 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Mike Gravel on Twitter: "Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class."
"Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class.

Professional Democrats and elite journalists are largely in thrall to the cult of meritocracy, which is the solidification and beautification of inequality. It is inequality based on socially-defined merit—but inequality nonetheless. It is “talent” made god.

And because the new elite ostensibly owes its position to merit, rather than inherited privilege, it feels no sense of noblesse oblige that older aristocracies felt; as Christopher Lasch pointed out, there is no valor or chivalry in the new system, just Darwinian triumph.

Ultimately, as Lasch said, “meritocracy is a parody of democracy.” Meritocracy is an idea that allows the ruling class to hold on to power through the illusion that they deserve it because of merit (read Genovese). It tells the underclass—don’t worry, all is just in the world.

The popularity of true leftism seems to augur the return of old class-based politics, when Democrats were populists who fought for equality, not inequality under the veil of meritocracy. Buttigieg is the archetypal meritocrat—he is the perfect one to save the system.

It is the dream and hope of the meritocrats in journalism and politics that Buttigieg’s shininess distracts from the ravaged country that the current system, the one he clearly wants to perpetuate, has created.

The rule of the meritocrats, the “best and brightest,” has given us a country riven by rampant inequality, drug addiction, and endless wars abroad. Whether their name is Wolfowitz or Summers or Rubin, they’ve been in charge for decades—and look how far we’ve come!

To paraphrase Bakunin: “When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the Meritocratic Stick.’”

It’s time to return to a politics cognizant of class, one that is not obsessed with helping the best and brightest rise to the top, with making our unequal system more diverse, but instead concerned with leveling the system entirely. The promise of a good life for all."
mikegravel  meritocracy  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  inequality  noblesseoblige  society  socialdarwinism  journalism  journalists  education  petemuttigieg  capitalism  liberalism  neoliberalism  class  classism  rankings  success  justification  talent  christopherlasch  chivalry  power  control  self-importance  canon  politics  policy  mikhailbakunin  paulwolfowitz  larrysummers  robertrubin 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The Notre Dame Fire and the Invisible Tragedy of the Everyday
"Executive director of the World Peace Foundation Alex de Waal says that almost all the famines that occur today are political decisions, a “matter of system” as Kinsella puts it. In the modern world, hunger, homelessness, lack of proper healthcare, and lack of access to education are all political decisions as well. The simple truth is that we can take care of everyone on Earth, but we choose not to."

[See also:
"The Nazis Used It, We Use It: Alex de Waal on the return of famine as a weapon of war"
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n12/alex-de-waal/the-nazis-used-it-we-use-it

"Reaction of the rich to the Notre Dame fire teaches us a lot about the world we live in"
https://www.joe.ie/life-style/notre-dame-feature-665670

"Billionaires raced to pledge money to rebuild Notre Dame. Then came the backlash."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/billionaires-raced-to-pledge-money-to-rebuild-notre-dame-then-came-the-backlash/2019/04/18/7133f9a2-617c-11e9-bf24-db4b9fb62aa2_story.html ]
health  suffering  humanity  politics  alexdewaal  hunger  healthcare  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  choices  capitalism  policy  education  2019  notredame  society  via:lukeneff  inequality  shame  famine  tragedy  2017 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind - The New York Times
"“I get where you’re coming from,” she said. “But how about this: Instead of asking whether anyone should be locked up or go free, why don’t we think about why we solve problems by repeating the kind of behavior that brought us the problem in the first place?” She was asking them to consider why, as a society, we would choose to model cruelty and vengeance.

As she spoke, she felt the kids icing her out, as if she were a new teacher who had come to proffer some bogus argument and tell them it was for their own good. But Gilmore pressed on, determined. She told them that in Spain, where it’s really quite rare for one person to kill another, the average time you might serve for murdering someone is seven years.

“What? Seven years!” The kids were in such disbelief about a seven-year sentence for murder that they relaxed a little bit. They could be outraged about that, instead of about Gilmore’s ideas.

Gilmore told them that in the unusual event that someone in Spain thinks he is going to solve a problem by killing another person, the response is that the person loses seven years of his life to think about what he has done, and to figure out how to live when released. “What this policy tells me,” she said, “is that where life is precious, life is precious.” Which is to say, she went on, in Spain people have decided that life has enough value that they are not going to behave in a punitive and violent and life-annihilating way toward people who hurt people. “And what this demonstrates is that for people trying to solve their everyday problems, behaving in a violent and life-annihilating way is not a solution.”

The children showed Gilmore no emotion except guarded doubt, expressed in side eye. She kept talking. She believed her own arguments and had given them many years of thought as an activist and a scholar, but the kids were a tough sell. They told Gilmore that they would think about what she said and dismissed her. As she left the room, she felt totally defeated.

At the end of the day, the kids made a presentation to the broader conference, announcing, to Gilmore’s surprise, that in their workshop they had come to the conclusion that there were three environmental hazards that affected their lives most pressingly as children growing up in the Central Valley. Those hazards were pesticides, the police and prisons.

“Sitting there listening to the kids stopped my heart,” Gilmore told me. “Why? Abolition is deliberately everything-ist; it’s about the entirety of human-environmental relations. So, when I gave the kids an example from a different place, I worried they might conclude that some people elsewhere were just better or kinder than people in the South San Joaquin Valley — in other words, they’d decide what happened elsewhere was irrelevant to their lives. But judging from their presentation, the kids lifted up the larger point of what I’d tried to share: Where life is precious, life is precious. They asked themselves, ‘Why do we feel every day that life here is not precious?’ In trying to answer, they identified what makes them vulnerable.”"



"The National Employment Law Project estimates that about 70 million people have a record of arrest or conviction, which often makes employment difficult. Many end up in the informal economy, which has been absorbing a huge share of labor over the last 20 years. “Gardener, home health care, sweatshops, you name it,” Gilmore told me. “These people have a place in the economy, but they have no control over that place.” She continued: “The key point here, about half of the work force, is to think not only about the enormity of the problem, but the enormity of the possibilities! That so many people could benefit from being organized into solid formations, could make certain kinds of demands, on the people who pay their wages, on the communities where they live. On the schools their children go to. This is part of what abolitionist thinking should lead us to.”

“Abolition,” as a word, is an intentional echo of the movement to abolish slavery. “This work will take generations, and I’m not going to be alive to see the changes,” the activist Mariame Kaba told me. “Similarly I know that our ancestors, who were slaves, could not have imagined my life.” And as Kaba and Davis and Richie and Gilmore all told me, unsolicited and in almost identical phrasing, it is not serendipity that the movement of prison abolition is being led by black women. Davis and Richie each used the term “abolition feminism.” “Historically, black feminists have had visions to change the structure of society in ways that would benefit not just black women but everyone,” Davis said. She also talked about Du Bois and the lessons drawn from his conception of what was needed: not merely a lack of slavery but a new society, utterly transformed. “I think the fact that so many people now do call themselves prison abolitionists,” Michelle Alexander told me, “is a testament to the fact that an enormous amount of work has been done, in academic circles and in grass-root circles. Still, if you just say ‘prison abolition’ on CNN, you’re going to have a lot of people shaking their heads. But Ruthie has always been very clear that prison abolition is not just about closing prisons. It’s a theory of change.”

When Gilmore encounters an audience that is hostile to prison abolition, an audience that supposes she’s naïvely suggesting that those in prison are there for smoking weed, and wants to tell her who’s really locked up, what terrible things they’ve done, she tells them she’s had a loved one murdered and isn’t there to talk about people who smoke weed. But as she acknowledged to me, “Part of the whole story that can’t be denied is that people are tired of harm, they are tired of grief and they are tired of anxiety.” She described to me conversations she’d had with people who are glad their abusive husband or father has been removed from their home, and would not want it any other way. Of her own encounter with murder, she’s more philosophical, even if the loss still seems raw.

“I had this heart-to-heart with my aunt, the mother of my murdered cousin, John. On the surface, we were talking about something else, but we were really talking about him. I said, ‘Forgive and forget.’ And she replied, ‘Forgive, but never forget.’ She was right: The conditions under which the atrocity occurred must change, so that they can’t occur again.”

For Gilmore, to “never forget” means you don’t solve a problem with state violence or with personal violence. Instead, you change the conditions under which violence prevailed. Among liberals, a kind of quasi-Christian idea about empathy circulates, the idea that we have to find a way to care about the people who’ve done bad. To Gilmore this is unconvincing. When she encountered the kids in Fresno who hassled her about prison abolition, she did not ask them to empathize with the people who might hurt them, or had. She instead asked them why, as individuals, and as a society, we believe that the way to solve a problem is by “killing it.” She was asking if punishment is logical, and if it works. She let the kids find their own way to answer."
prison  incarceration  prisons  2019  mariamekaba  ruthwilsongilmore  geography  policy  justice  prisonabolition  abolitionists  restorativejustice  socialjustice  transformativejustice  activism  punishment  vengeance  angeladavis  mikedavis  cedricobinson  barbarasmith  prisonindustrialcomplex  neilsmith  carceralgeography  bethrichie  society  rachelkushner 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The ‘Chicago Boys’ in Chile: Economic Freedom’s Awful Toll | The Nation
"Repression for the majorities and “economic freedom” for small privileged groups are two sides of the same coin."



"A Rationale for Power

The economic policies of the Chilean junta and its re­sults have to be placed in the context of a wide counter­revolutionary process that aims to restore to a small minority the economic, social and political control it gradually lost over the last thirty years, and particularly in the years of the Popular Unity Government.

Until September 11, 1973, the date of the coup, Chilean society had been characterized by the increasing participation of the working class and its political parties in economic and social decision making. Since about 1900, employing the mechanisms of representative democ­racy, workers had steadily gained new economic, social and political power. The election of Salvador Allende as President of Chile was the culmination of this process. For the first time in history a society attempted to build socialism by peaceful means. During Allende’s time in office, there was a marked improvement in the conditions of employment, health, housing, land tenure and education of the masses. And as this occurred, the privileged do­mestic groups and the dominant foreign interests perceived themselves to be seriously threatened.

Despite strong financial and political pressure from abroad and efforts to manipulate the attitudes of the middle class by propaganda, popular support for the Allende government increased significantly between 1970 and 1973. In March 1973, only five months before the military coup, there were Congressional elections in Chile. The political parties of the Popular Unity increased their share of the votes by more than 7 percentage points over their totals in the Presidential election of 1970. This was the first time in Chilean history that the political parties supporting the administration in power gained votes dur­ing a midterm election. The trend convinced the national bourgeoisie and its foreign supporters that they would be unable to recoup their privileges through the democratic process. That is why they resolved to destroy the demo­cratic system and the institutions of the state, and, through an alliance with the military; to seize power by force.

In such a context, concentration of wealth is no acci­dent, but a rule; it is not the marginal outcome of a difficult situation—as they would like the world to believe—but the base for a social project; it is not an economic liability but a temporary political success. Their real failure is not their apparent inability to redistribute wealth or to generate a more even path of development (these are not their priorities) but their inability to convince the majority of Chileans that their policies are reasonable and necessary. In short, they have failed to destroy the consciousness of the Chilean people. The economic plan has had to be enforced, and in the Chilean context that could be done only by the killing of thousands, the estab­lishment of concentration camps all over the country, the jailing of more than 100,000 persons in three years, the closing of trade unions and neighborhood organizations, and the prohibition of all political activities and all forms of free expression.

While the “Chicago boys” have provided an appearance of technical respectability to the laissez-faire dreams and political greed of the old landowning oligarchy and upper bourgeoisie of monopolists and financial speculators, the military has applied the brutal force required to achieve those goals. Repression for the majorities and “economic freedom” for small privileged groups are in Chile two sides of the same coin.

There is, therefore, an inner harmony between the two central priorities announced by the junta after the coup in 1973: the “destruction of the Marxist cancer” (which has come to mean not only the repression of the political parties of the Left but also the destruction of all labor organizations democratically elected and all opposition, including Christian-Democrats and church organizations), the establishment of a free “private economy” and the control of inflation à la Friedman.

It is nonsensical, consequently, that those who inspire, support or finance that economic policy should try to present their advocacy as restricted to “technical consid­erations,” while pretending to reject the system of terror it requires to succeed.

* * *

This note on “Allende’s Economic Record” was published next to the piece.

There is a widespread notion—reported by the Amer­ican press, often without substantiation—that the Allende government made a “shambles” of the Chilean economy. It is hardly acceptable to judge an ongoing sociopolitical process only by traditional economic indi­cators which describe aggregate economic features and not the general condition of society. However, when those indicators are applied to Chile, the Popular Unity Government fares very well.

In 1971, the first year of the Allende government, the GNP increased 8.9 percent; industrial production rose by 11 percent; agricultural output went up by 6 percent; unemployment, which at the end of the Frei government was above 8 percent, fell to 3.8 percent. Inflation, which in the previous year had been nearly 35 percent, was reduced to an annual rate of 22.1 percent.

During 1972 the external pressures applied on the government and the backlash of the domestic opposition began to be felt. On the one hand, lines of credit and financing coming from multinational lending institutions and from the private banks and the government of the United States were severed (the exception being aid to the military). On the other hand, the Chilean Congress, controlled by the opposi­tion, approved measures which escalated government expenditure without producing the necessary revenues (through an increase of taxes); this added momentum to the inflationary process. At the same time, factions of the traditional right wing began to foment violence aimed at overthrowing the government. Despite all this and the fact that the price of copper, which represented almost 80 percent of Chile’s export earnings, fell to its lowest level in thirty years, the Chilean economy continued to improve throughout 1972.

By the end of that year, the growing participation of the workers and peasants in the decision-making process, which accompanied the economic progress of the preceding two years, began to threaten seriously the privileges of traditional ruling groups and pro­voked in them more violent resistance. By 1973, Chile was experiencing the full effects of the most destructive and sophisticated conspiracy in Latin American history. Reactionary forces, supported feverishly by their friends abroad, developed a broad and systematic campaign of sabotage and terror, which was intensified when the government gained in the March Congressional elections. This included the illegal hoarding of goods by the rich; creation of a vast black market; blowing up industrial plants, electrical installations and pipe lines; paralysis of the transportation system and, in general, attempts to disrupt the entire economy in such a way as to create the conditions needed to justify the military coup. It was this deliberate disruption, and not the Popular Unity, which created any chaos during the final days of the Allende government.

Between 1970 and 1973, the working classes had access to food and clothing, to health care, housing and education to an extent unknown before. These achievements were never threatened or diminished, even during the most difficult and dramatic moments of the government’s last year in power. The priorities which the Popular Unity had established in its program of social transformations were largely reached."
orlandoletelier  2016  chicagoboys  chile  history  economics  policy  politics  freedom  capitalism  miltonfriedman  socialism  1973  pinochet  salvadorallende  class  work  labor  solidarity  democracy  coup  marxism  neoiliberalism 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Episode 906:The Chicago Boys, Part II : Planet Money : NPR
[This two-parter is, overall, super light-handed on the coup and doesn't investigate enough how Allende's policies were sabotaged by the US and thus the state of the Chilean economy in 1973 was not an indication of their effectiveness, but leaving it here for future reference.]

"This is the second part in our series on Marxism and capitalism in Chile. You can find the first episode here. [https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/10/711918772/episode-905-the-chicago-boys-part-i ]

In the early seventies, Chile, under Marxist President Salvador Allende, was plagued by inflation, shortages, and a crushing deficit. After a violent coup in 1973, the economy became the military's problem.

Led by Augusto Pinochet, the military assigned a group of economists to help turn around Chile's economy. They had trained at the University of Chicago. They came to be known as the Chicago Boys.

Today's show is about the economic "shock treatment" they launched. It eventually set Chile on a path to prosperity, but it did so at an incredible human cost. One that Chileans are still grappling with today."

["#905: The Chicago Boys, Part I" description:

"Chile is one of the wealthiest, most stable economies in South America. But to understand how Chile got here--how it became the envy of neighboring countries --you have to know the story of a group of Chilean students who came to study economics at the University of Chicago. A group that came to be known as the Chicago Boys.

In the 1960s, their country was embracing socialism. But the Chicago Boys would take the economic ideas they had learned at Chicago and turn them into policies in Chile. They ended up on the front lines of a bloody battle between Marxism and capitalism, democracy and dictatorship."]

[via: "Detainees would be electrocuted, water boarded, had their heads forced into buckets of urine and excrement, suffocated with bags, hanged by their feet or hands and beaten. Many women were raped and for some detainees, punishment was death." https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/1118167201846968320

who also points to the source of that quote: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2013/09/life-under-pinochet-they-were-taking-turns-electrocute-us-one-after-other/ ]
chile  chicagoboys  economics  policy  politics  2019  history  pinochet  salvadorallende  miltonfriedman  dictatorship  coup  democracy  capitalism  socialism  authoritarianism  noelking  jasminegarsd  cia  us  intervention  propaganda  marxism  cuba  fidelcastro  cubanrevolution  neoliberalism  freemarketcapitalism  cuotas  finance  financialization  wealth 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Thinking about how to abolish prisons with Mariame Kaba: podcast & transcript
"Does anybody go to their local prison and say, "Tell me how many people have left here and are okay and aren't doing things in the community." Nothing. You don't ask the cops for results. We don't ask anybody for results. They're not responsible for coming with an evaluation plan to show how they've used the money. They get unlimited money every single year, more and more and more money, no questions asked. How come that system gets to operate with impunity in that kind of way? And you're asking nonprofit groups on the ground who sometimes are not even nonprofits, just community groups in their neighborhoods, moms sitting on chairs... When they are trying to get a $10,000 grant, to show that they're going to end all violence within five years.

So the whole entire system is set up to actually be just unbalanced in terms of where the energy should be put, in terms of telling that system that is doing the wrong thing, rather than advancing the alternative.

CHRIS HAYES: And it's also not doing... People are victims and perpetrators of —

MARIAME KABA: Both.

CHRIS HAYES: Violence —

MARIAME KABA: All the time.

CHRIS HAYES: It's extremely important for us, in the stories we tell about violence and crime, to basically have cops and robbers.

MARIAME KABA: Good people.

CHRIS HAYES: There's a category over here... And the fact is all people —

MARIAME KABA: We're all both.

CHRIS HAYES: Are all both.

MARIAME KABA: That's very uncomfortable to talk about loudly.

CHRIS HAYES: Are perpetrators and —

MARIAME KABA: That we all harm people and we've all been harmed. Now the degrees are different, our accountability is different. But we're all both. Danielle Sered has a new book out right now, who runs Common Justice here in Brooklyn. And Common Justice is the only program I know of that works with adults to divert adults from prison to the community for violent crimes. So they're doing it. The thing, "I can't wrap my brain around..." Well, they're doing it. Okay? Are they getting $172 billion to do this? No.

What Danielle says in her new book is that no one enters violence for the first time having committed it. Meaning that something happened to you that led to that other form of violence of you either lashing out, using violence, because that's how you learned how to be whatever. No one enters violence for the first time having committed it.

And just that very important thing should condition all of our responses to everything. And it's not. It doesn't. It's the binary. You did something wrong. You're a bad person. You did something ... We all do bad things. We all do bad things. Whether it's out in the open and we acknowledge those things, or we're keeping it to ourselves because we know it's bad and we don't want to be ostracized or disposed of things like that. So we all do that. And I just think that's what transformative and restorative justice allow. They allow for people to be both.

CHRIS HAYES: But there's also... Just to push back slightly —

MARIAME KABA: Of course.

CHRIS HAYES: There's a hierarchy of harm, you know what I mean?

MARIAME KABA: There is. We talked about that. We have different levels of bad things, degrees of bad things, but let me just tell you also, the people who are least likely to cause the same harm again are people who've killed somebody. I know nobody wants to hear that, but it's because it's very hard to kill people. Contrary to what television tells you about serial killers, those images of crime, those crime shows that have literally polluted so many people's brains in this country.

Contrary to that, if you kill somebody, it is such a massively traumatic thing to have done to another person. Unless you are somebody who is evil without any sort of conscience, you are holding that the rest of your life. Go to any prison. And I've been to many, and I've actually taught in prisons, particularly a young people in juvenile facilities. When somebody killed somebody else, the level of remorse for that is something that is inexplicable to somebody who hasn't experienced it and done that.

So this notion that people are just "sociopaths," which I don't like to use that term either because it's very complicated and not directly linked in terms of mental health and violence. The ideas that people offer out there in the general public often take away that idea, the idea of that harm being so traumatic to the person who harmed you, too.

CHRIS HAYES: I mean the literature of army training, this is this sort of thing that happens. There's this famous study and I think it happens in World War II, in which they find out that a huge amount of soldiers are never firing their guns.

MARIAME KABA: Because it's so hard to kill somebody.

CHRIS HAYES: And they're like, "Oh my God, what's going on?" And the answer is, it's actually very hard—

MARIAME KABA: To kill somebody.

CHRIS HAYES: To overcome. And the training in the United States Armed Services uses that to get around that natural moral resistance that we have.

MARIAME KABA: As human beings, it is hard for us to kill other people. That sounds like an anathema.

CHRIS HAYES: It does. Because the whole idea of the model is thin blue line. That basically we're always on the edge of chaos, anarchy, and violence. And that the cops and the system are the thing that ... that’s literally what they say.

MARIAME KABA: Are the thing that stops it from happening. They're the line between us and savagery and anarchy. And that is a lie, because we know that by talking to people who've harmed other people very seriously, who often are desperate for an attempt to try to be accountable for that. They want a chance to talk to the families of the people they harmed because they want to talk to those people, because accountability is a form of healing. To say you did something and it was terrible, and now you're serving 50 years in prison with no chance of getting out. You want to be able to go to sleep at night.

CHRIS HAYES: I 1,000 percent agree with you that the storytelling and the policy rationale of the actual system is built out from the most extreme examples outward, right? So the pop cultural representations, the way we think about it like monsters, sociopaths, these immoral remorseless killers.

MARIAME KABA: But the question is, what about the remorseless?

CHRIS HAYES: That's where I'm going.

MARIAME KABA: And my thing is, I'm going to tell you right now that the remorseless killer who is caught is probably currently locked up for life. Right? Because that's where they're going to end up. My thing is within the new paradigm of a world that I envision, because so many things will have been different, because people will have had their needs met from the time they're a kid.

CHRIS HAYES: How did that remorseless killer get built?

MARIAME KABA: How did they get built? And so my thing is, I think we're going to shift the paradigm in the end so that we have less "remorseless" people. And so we're going to find a different way to handle those people who cannot in good conscience be within our regular society. But it doesn't have to be a prison. It doesn't have to be the prison as we've created it.

So that's the answer for me to that, which is we're going to figure it out. We're going to figure it out. But for now, most people who are locked up are not those people. For now, most people who are...

CHRIS HAYES: That is — I want to just be clear on the record — I 1,000 percent agree with that.

MARIAME KABA: So let's let all those people out tomorrow and then let's argue over the rest, while we're changing the other things that happen. And I'm going to say one last thing about this, which is the reason I can't get behind the right's criminal punishment reform models is not because they're on the right. It's because they refuse to fund and address all the things on the front end that would make the back end not possible. Because what they're doing is saying, "We need shorter sentences for some people, not everybody. We need a better re-entry system by which people get training for jobs that don't exist based on not having been educated from the time they were in the fourth grade in the first place."

So we just fundamentally have an ideological completely different view of how the world operates. In that way, I don't want Newt Gingrich out there doing criminal punishment reform. That is very antithetical to most of the reformers you're seeing out there right now. Who value the "bipartisan" stupid policy.

No. I want them to fund our schools, to allow us to have a planet. I want them to be able to give universal health care to people, because I believe that all those things, will make all the other stuff that were "working on" in criminal punishment reform less likely to occur."
mariamekaba  chrishayes  prisons  incarceration  police  lawenforcement  2019  prisonabolition  abolition  law  legal  restorativejustice  punishment  elizabethwarren  donaldtrump  wrath  accountability  justice  socialjustice  transformativejustice  crime  prisonindustrialcomplex  violence  paulmanafort  politics  policy  anger  remorse  hierarchy  systemsthinking  inequality  race  racism  nyc  education  mindchanging  domesticviolence  patriarchy  feminism 
april 2019 by robertogreco
How Harvard and Other Colleges Manage Their Endowments - YouTube
"College is expensive, but there is one place in higher education where there's no shortage of money – endowments. There's more than $616 billion worth of endowments assets in the U.S. Lawmakers are starting to questions why tuition is still rising if some schools have billions of dollars."
colleges  universities  ivyleague  endowments  2019  money  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  inequality  finance  highereducation  highered  power  wealth  universityoftexas  hedgefunds  yale  charity  hoarding  taxes  investment  stanford  divestment  economics  policy  politics  princeton 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Evaluating scholarship, or why I won’t be teaching Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism | Blayne Haggart's Orangespace
"In his review, which is a wonder of careful thinking and contextualization, Morozov performs a couple of useful services. First, he highlights the extent to which Zuboff’s argument about how surveillance capitalism works rests on a tautology – “surveillance capitalists engage in surveillance capitalism because this is what the imperatives of surveillance capitalism demand” – that leaves they why of the matter unexamined. Second, he places her squarely within an intellectual tradition of “managerial capitalism” and a wider functionalist tradition in sociology associated with Talcott Parsons. Morozov argues that partly as a result of this (unacknowledged) mindset, Zuboff fails to understand the extent to which her critique of surveillance capitalism is actually a critique of capitalism, full stop. This inability to see anything outside the mindset of capitalism accounts for the way the book just kind of finishes without suggesting any real possible paths forward other than, we need a new social movement, and surveillance capitalism must be destroyed and replaced with a better form of (digital?) capitalism.

I hadn’t made those exact connections, and Morozov’s review does a great job in concisely summing up these intellectual frameworks. And if you didn’t know anything about managerial capitalism and Alfred Chandler, or the Italian Autonomists, you could also be forgiven for not making those connections either. I knew very little about managerial capitalism, nothing of Alfred Chandler. I am familiar with Parsons and my only exposure to the Italian Autonomists was by reading Hardt and Negri’s Empire during my PhD, which was enough to convince me that I wanted nothing to do with them.

Morozov’s final conclusion is both persuasive and damning from an academic perspective. The book, he says, could be politically powerful because it is a sharp broadside against two companies – Google and Facebook – that represent a clear and present danger to society. However, it “is a step backward in our understanding of the dynamics of the digital economy.”

I think that’s about right.

I am also pretty sure that, despite the acclaim it’s getting in non-Baffler circles, I’m not going to be teaching The Age of Surveillance Capitalism in my Global Political Economy of Knowledge course, but not because I disagree with Zuboff’s argument or feel threatened by her analysis. To the contrary, she’s pretty much telling me exactly what I want to hear. Or more to the point, what I want to believe.

I’m not going to be teaching it because as an academic work, it falls far short of the standards to which we should hold ourselves. It may be a politically effective polemic, but as scholarship that advances our understanding of the world, it is sorely lacking."



"Four tells of poor academic scholarship

1. Exaggerated claims to novelty"



"2. Absence of relevant literatures"



"So. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a study of the messy interactions between economic and social imperatives. (Actually, I’d argue it’s really two linked business case studies of Facebook and Google that wants to be a study of a larger system, but that’s another matter entirely.) This means that it is a study of political economy. Which means it has to engage with the political economy literature on surveillance (a specialized literature, but it does exist) and capitalism (its entire raison d’être). I expect it to engage with particular sources, like Srnicek, like Shawn Powers and Michael Jablonski’s The Real Cyber War. With, in other words, the books that can provide context and support for, and pushback against, its argument.

And if you’re talking about big trends in capitalism and society from a critical perspective, Hannah Arendt is not your go-to. You also need to go beyond the social-science founders – Durkheim, Marx, Weber. You need to engage with the likes of Susan Strange. Or Robert Cox. Or Michael Mann, people who are interested in exactly the same issues that you are dealing with. Karl Polanyi is great, and Zuboff grabs just the right concepts from him. But He. Is. Not. Enough.

(Polanyi was also much more than an “historian,” as Zuboff identifies him. As his Wikipedia entry makes clear, he was an “economic historian, economic anthropologist, economic sociologist, political economist, historical sociologist and social philosopher. Then again, the phrase “political economy” appears only four times in this book, and exclusively in the titles of cited books and articles in the endnotes.)

Finally, if one is talking about the dangers involved in a form of power that “knows and shapes human behaviour toward others’ ends” (page 8) and Antonio Gramsci’s conception of hegemony doesn’t rate a mention, I don’t even know. Especially if it’s presented as a completely new idea (in this case “instrumentarian power” – see: Exaggerated claims of novelty). The Gramscian concept of hegemony is all about how the powerful can get other groups to buy into ideologies that may not be in their best interests.

Much of the book is about how surveillance capitalists are working to change human nature so that human thinking more closely resembles that of machine learning. Absolutely correct, but not only is this not the first time that the powers that be have worked to reshape what we think of as human nature, it’s also kind of what it means to rule a society, any society. That’s what the whole concept of hegemony is all about, as any student of Gramscian thought could tell you. Or what someone like Susan Strange or Robert Cox (the two thinkers I’m using in my own work on these very subjects) would note. Knowing that this type of activity is simply how power works in human society puts a different spin on what Zuboff is arguing. It’s not so much that surveillance capitalists are rewiring human nature, but that their ideology is antithetical to a particular type of human nature, namely one in the liberal-democratic vein. Actually engaging with the voluminous work on hegemony and the social construction of knowledge, however, would have challenged Zuboff’s argument that the knowing and shaping of “human behavior toward others’ ends” is unique to surveillance capitalism.

(Maybe the problem is with capitalism itself? As Morozov noted in a follow-up tweet, “My critique of Zuboff’s new book boils down to a paraphrase of Horkheimer: ‘If you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you’d better keep quiet about surveillance capitalism’.”)

And it’s just a bit odd that Michel Foucault doesn’t get so much as a mention beyond a reference in a footnoted title about neoliberalism. In a book that’s all about the relationship between power and knowledge."



"3. Unclear framework"



"4. Use of hyperbole: These go to eleven"



"The final verdict: No go

To be honest, before reading Morozov’s critique, watching the glowing reviews come in, I started questioning my judgment. Sure, there were flaws in the book, some of which I would have called out immediately if committed by an undergraduate, but how much did they really matter?

Part of me, I’m embarrassed to say, was swayed by the identity of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’s author. A professor emerita. From Harvard. Who had done important previous work in the field. Even though I know better, I got inside my own head, internalizing the academic class system that places certain schools and scholars above others. The “important voices” whose work is guaranteed a respectful hearing merely by virtue of their pedigree or institution.

The saddest thing is, my receptiveness to this argument from authority says as much about where I see myself in the academic food chain as it does about a Harvard professor. Even though I have witnessed the most idiotic arguments and proposals made by scholars from top-ranked universities, endured recycled banalities from leading lights with nothing to say, and read the most embarrassing articles by celebrated Ivy-league academics. Even though I will put my Canadian Carleton University education up against anyone’s from Oxford or Yale or Harvard. I know this.

And yet, there was that part of me, whispering, But look at who she is. She’s an Authority. Look at all the praise she’s getting, the panels she’s on. Maybe you’re just being judgmental. Maybe you’re being too critical. Maybe you’re wrong.

Well, maybe I am wrong, but a failure to produce an honest critique because of our respective places in the academic food chain is the absolutely worst reason not to make the critique. One of my proudest moments as a teacher was when I heard that a second-year student had written a fantastic, well-researched and impeccably argued paper about how I’d been wrong about something I’d claimed in my Introduction to International Relations class. (And she was right.) We should expect all academics to live up to the same standards we set for our students.

So, no. After spending an entire work week reading this book, after taking over 100 pages of notes and thinking about it constantly for far too long afterwards, I do not believe that The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a good piece of scholarship. It is not careful in its presentation of evidence. It chooses hyperbole over accuracy. It fails to engage with the relevant literatures and critical voices that would challenge what ends up being a one-sided, almost existentially bleak argument.

Its lack of engagement with the relevant literatures makes possible the blind spots, trenchantly catalogued by Morozov, regarding surveillance capitalism’s relationship to capitalism, as well as those regarding the role of the state as something more than a bit player in this epic story. These impair the book’s value in terms of its analysis and, as Morozov’s comments about Zuboff’s failure to consider the “capitalism” part of “surveillance capitalism” suggest, its prescriptions. Why the book … [more]
blaynehaggart  shoshanazuboff  evgneymorozov  criticsm  surveillancecapitalism  mnagerialism  harvard  pedigree  academia  hierarchy  criticism  robertcox  highered  highereducation  michelfoucault  hannaharendt  hyperbole  2019  hegemony  technology  economics  politics  policy  scholarship  authority  elitism 
march 2019 by robertogreco
San Francisco; or, How to Destroy a City | Public Books
"As New York City and Greater Washington, DC, prepared for the arrival of Amazon’s new secondary headquarters, Torontonians opened a section of their waterfront to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, which plans to prototype a new neighborhood “from the internet up.” Fervent resistance arose in all three locations, particularly as citizens and even some elected officials discovered that many of the terms of these public-private partnerships were hashed out in closed-door deals, secreted by nondisclosure agreements. Critics raised questions about the generous tax incentives and other subsidies granted to these multibillion-dollar corporations, their plans for data privacy and digital governance, what kind of jobs they’d create and housing they’d provide, and how their arrival could impact local infrastructures, economies, and cultures. While such questioning led Amazon to cancel their plans for Long Island City in mid-February, other initiatives press forward. What does it mean when Silicon Valley—a geographic region that’s become shorthand for an integrated ideology and management style usually equated with libertarian techno-utopianism—serves as landlord, utility provider, urban developer, (unelected) city official, and employer, all rolled into one?1

We can look to Alphabet’s and Amazon’s home cities for clues. Both the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle have been dramatically remade by their local tech powerhouses: Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle; and Google, Facebook, and Apple (along with countless other firms) around the Bay. As Jennifer Light, Louise Mozingo, Margaret O’Mara, and Fred Turner have demonstrated, technology companies have been reprogramming urban and suburban landscapes for decades.2 And “company towns” have long sprung up around mills, mines, and factories.3 But over the past few years, as development has boomed and income inequality has dramatically increased in the Bay Area, we’ve witnessed the arrival of several new books reflecting on the region’s transformation.

These titles, while focusing on the Bay, offer lessons to New York, DC, Toronto, and the countless other cities around the globe hoping to spur growth and economic development by hosting and ingesting tech—by fostering the growth of technology companies, boosting STEM education, and integrating new sensors and screens into their streetscapes and city halls. For years, other municipalities, fashioning themselves as “the Silicon Valley of [elsewhere],” have sought to reverse-engineer the Bay’s blueprint for success. As we’ll see, that blueprint, drafted to optimize the habits and habitats of a privileged few, commonly elides the material needs of marginalized populations and fragile ecosystems. It prioritizes efficiency and growth over the maintenance of community and the messiness of public life. Yet perhaps we can still redraw those plans, modeling cities that aren’t only made by powerbrokers, and that thrive when they prioritize the stewardship of civic resources over the relentless pursuit of innovation and growth."



"We must also recognize the ferment and diversity inherent in Bay Area urban historiography, even in the chronicles of its large-scale development projects. Isenberg reminds us that even within the institutions and companies responsible for redevelopment, which are often vilified for exacerbating urban ills, we find pockets of heterogeneity and progressivism. Isenberg seeks to supplement the dominant East Coast narratives, which tend to frame urban renewal as a battle between development and preservation.

In surveying a variety of Bay Area projects, from Ghirardelli Square to The Sea Ranch to the Transamerica Pyramid, Isenberg shifts our attention from star architects and planners to less prominent, but no less important, contributors in allied design fields: architectural illustration, model-making, publicity, journalism, property management, retail planning, the arts, and activism. “People who are elsewhere peripheral and invisible in the history of urban design are,” in her book, “networked through the center”; they play critical roles in shaping not only the urban landscape, but also the discourses and processes through which that landscape takes shape.

For instance, debates over public art in Ghirardelli Square—particularly Ruth Asawa’s mermaid sculpture, which featured breastfeeding lesbian mermaids—“provoked debates about gender, sexuality, and the role of urban open space in San Francisco.” Property manager Caree Rose, who worked alongside her husband, Stuart, coordinated with designers to master-plan the Square, acknowledging that retail, restaurants, and parking are also vital ingredients of successful public space. Publicist Marion Conrad and graphic designer Bobbie Stauffacher were key members of many San Francisco design teams, including that for The Sea Ranch community, in Sonoma County. Illustrators and model-makers, many of them women, created objects that mediated design concepts for clients and typically sat at the center of public debates.

These creative collaborators “had the capacity to swing urban design decisions, structure competition for land, and generally set in motion the fate of neighborhoods.” We see the rhetorical power of diverse visualization strategies reflected across these four books, too: Solnit’s offers dozens of photographs, by Susan Schwartzenberg—of renovations, construction sites, protests, dot-com workplaces, SRO hotels, artists’ studios—while Walker’s dense text is supplemented with charts, graphs, and clinical maps. McClelland’s book, with its relatively large typeface and extra-wide leading, makes space for his interviewees’ words to resonate, while Isenberg generously illustrates her pages with archival photos, plans, and design renderings, many reproduced in evocative technicolor.

By decentering the star designer and master planner, Isenberg reframes urban (re)development as a collaborative enterprise involving participants with diverse identities, skills, and values. And in elevating the work of “allied” practitioners, Isenberg also aims to shift the focus from design to land: public awareness of land ownership and commitment to responsible public land stewardship. She introduces us to several mid-century alternative publications—weekly newspapers, Black periodicals, activists’ manuals, and books that never made it to the best-seller list … or never even made it to press—that advocated for a focus on land ownership and politics. Yet the discursive power of Jacobs and Caro, which framed the debate in terms of urban development vs. preservation, pushed these other texts off the shelf—and, along with them, the “moral questions of land stewardship” they highlighted.

These alternative tales and supporting casts serve as reminders that the modern city need not succumb to Haussmannization or Moses-ification or, now, Googlization. Mid-century urban development wasn’t necessarily the monolithic, patriarchal, hegemonic force we imagined it to be—a realization that should steel us to expect more and better of our contemporary city-building projects. Today, New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto—and other cities around the world—are being reshaped not only by architects, planners, and municipal administrators, but also by technologists, programmers, data scientists, “user experience” experts and logistics engineers. These are urbanism’s new “allied” professions, and their work deals not only with land and buildings, but also, increasingly, with data and algorithms.

Some critics have argued that the real reason behind Amazon’s nationwide HQ2 search was to gather data from hundreds of cities—both quantitative and qualitative data that “could guide it in its expansion of the physical footprint, in the kinds of services it rolls out next, and in future negotiations and lobbying with states and municipalities.”5 This “trove of information” could ultimately be much more valuable than all those tax incentives and grants. If this is the future of urban development, our city officials and citizens must attend to the ownership and stewardship not only of their public land, but also of their public data. The mismanagement of either could—to paraphrase our four books’ titles—elongate the dark shadows cast by growing inequality, abet the siege of exploitation and displacement, “hollow out” our already homogenizing neighborhoods, and expedite the departure of an already “gone” city.

As Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muses in his “Pictures of the Gone World 11,” which inspired Walker’s title: “The world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don’t mind some people dying / all the time / or maybe only starving / some of the time / which isn’t half so bad / if it isn’t you.” This is precisely the sort of solipsism and stratification that tech-libertarianism and capitalist development promotes—and that responsible planning, design, and public stewardship must prevent."
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march 2019 by robertogreco