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Gender: Female
Hometown: Wisconsin
Current location: Tejas
Member since: Thu Jan 17, 2008, 12:44 PM
Number of posts: 31,861

About Me

The most violent element in society is ignorance. Emma Goldman

Journal Archives

Scientist of the People

Levins, always affable and upbeat, reminded me that science is the shared legacy of all of humanity, and our ability to do science rests on the labor and surplus value produced by everyone before us. He told me it was our obligation as scientists to make sure we fight the good fight and ensure the fruits of science are not monopolized by the powerful and the elite.

The People’s Scientist

Richard Levins was a profound thinker who devoted his life to an emancipatory vision of science.
by Pankaj Mehta ~ 1/22/16

Richard Levins, the great radical and scientist, passed away on January 19. Levins was a profound thinker who made foundational contributions to scientific and intellectual fields ranging from community ecology and evolutionary theory to mathematical biology, public health, and the philosophy of science.

His extraordinary scientific legacy is matched by his legacy as a radical and activist. Blacklisted in 1950s for his activism, Levins subsequently moved to Puerto Rico with Rosario Morales, his wife and lifelong partner, and became an important member of the Puerto Rican independence and antiwar movements.

Levins was also a leading intellectual figure in the fight against biological determinism and remained an activist to the end of his life, often lecturing on his favorite topic: the use of dialectics to understand complexity and change in both the natural and social sciences...

More here:

Lessons of Flint

No one can doubt that a similar public health crisis would never have been allowed to happen in Grosse Pointe, Forest Hills, West Bloomfield or other more affluent Michigan communities. A poisoned water supply and public officials who refuse to lift a finger to do anything about it are part of the price Flint residents pay for being poor and black.

The Baltimore Sun Editorial Page

The lessons of Flint 1-23-16 (sic - either mistyped date or they are printing this on Saturday but already posted online)

It's been nearly two years since residents of Flint, Mich., began noticing that the water from their taps was brown and carried a foul odor. People got rashes and sores from drinking it. Some people's hair fell out, others threw up after swallowing it. Worst of all, doctors noticed an alarming rise of lead levels in the blood of city youngsters — enough to cause irreversible brain damage and other serious health and behavioral problems.

Yet it wasn't until last month that state officials in Michigan, who had taken over managing the community's water supply after the city fell into receivership in 2011, finally stopped insisting that the people of Flint — a majority black city where 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line — were all crazy and that their water was perfectly safe. Until then, their advice had been, more or less, "Drink up, and stop complaining!"

Now, with the release last week of hundreds of emails detailing state officials' responses to citizens' complaints about the situation, it turns out that the water in Flint was anything but safe. In fact, not only was it safe, but it contained enough toxic chemicals to melt the lead solder out of the city's ancient water pipes and poison the drinking water in a city of 100,000 residents. Worst of all, state officials appear to have known about the problem all along, yet they did nothing. Given the state's indifference to the alarms that had been raised over the safety of Flint's water supply, it took some gall on the part of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to ask President Barack Obama on Wednesday to declare the city a federal disaster area ...

More here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-flint-water-20160123-story.html

Tiny Houses

Viewing the enthusiasm for tiny living through the lens of individual space and ownership calls up much older ideas than Kahn’s shelter or Susanka’s not-so-big spaces; the tiny house fantasy rests on visions of property and expansion embedded in the American consciousness for more than a century.

Tiny homes aren’t a solution. Small living is another superficial fix, brandishing clever design and appeals to nostalgia while ignoring the underlying social relations which cause homelessness, housing insecurity, and environmental degradation.

The Tiny House Fantasy
The tiny house movement embraces individualistic visions of property while ignoring the real causes of housing insecurity.
by Arielle Milkman 1-19-2016

Last year was the year of the tiny house — a moment in which living small, once a niche design trend for isolationists and weirdos, moved to the mainstream, filling a respectable slot in the American conception of home ownership.

TV shows (Tiny House Nation), movies (TINY: A Story About Living Small), and even politicians (who proposed building tiny home communities) all touted radically downsizing, whether to fight consumerism or save the environment or ameliorate other social ills.

The object of their affection was indeed less capacious than the 2,600-square-foot dwelling the average new American home measured in 2014. According to one site partial to the lifestyle, a tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet ...


Brother Martin

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis:

Slaying Trumpism

The elision of capital as an agent of workers’ oppression allowed for a second omission: unions. Aside from a brief mention of collective bargaining, unions were completely absent from Obama’s speech, despite being one of the most important bulwarks against inequality.

While it is true that the TPP would enhance American hegemony, it would be a disaster for American workers. A continuation of the trade regime that’s existed since NAFTA’s passage in the early 1990s, the TPP would lead to further assaults on the position of American workers, exacerbating the inequality Obama purportedly deplores.

Why Obama Can’t Slay Trumpism
by Paul Heideman 1-13-16

Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address exhibited many of the qualities that have endeared him to progressive Americans over the last eight years. Intelligent and expansive, it laid out a path for the country’s future based on a rational recognition of the nation’s problems — from economic inequality to climate change — and embracing values like fairness and tolerance.

Largely avoiding detailed policy discussions, it instead worked to rekindle liberal enthusiasm and confidence, which have suffered in recent months amid a recrudescence of reaction triggered by the Republican presidential primary.

Though he went unmentioned, the specter of Donald Trump was felt throughout the speech, much of which was concerned with both rebuking Trumpism and outlining a means of getting beyond it. But while liberals will undoubtedly applaud this aspect of the speech, it is here that Obama failed — for the actual course he recommended will only reinforce the trends that have produced Trumpism ...

More here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/obama-state-union-2016-final-donald-trump-unions-workers/

This is the dilemma of anti-Trumpism in official politics. While liberals and many conservatives are united in opposition to what Trump represents, they are equally united in their commitment to the social order that has given his campaign life.

Chelsea Clinton attacking Bernie -

"Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle ObamaCare,” Clinton said Tuesday in New Hampshire, according to NBC News, at her first stop along the campaign trail. The daughter of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton referred to a bill Sanders has introduced three times that would replace Affordable Care Act programs with a new national American Health Security Trust Fund, which would allow states to run their own single-payer systems with federal money. Chelsea Clinton said Sanders would also “dismantle Medicare and dismantle private insurance,” as well as strip away benefits from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was created under her father’s presidency.

Dismantling a give away program to the insurance and pharma companies is not a bad thing - particularly when the idea is to cover MORE people with a comprehensive single payer system. Social Security and Health Security would be paid for with public monies - tax dollars. Why would a democrat fight such a plan?

Sanders is not Trump

Does it matter that Sanders and Corbyn are lifelong leftists who’ve won multiple popular mandates from various constituencies while Trump is an openly bigoted, cartoon plutocrat who’s never been elected by anyone? To the various liberal and centrist pundits penning such comparisons, it evidently does not.

In the burgeoning genre of think pieces linking the rises of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Stephen Marche’s vapid Guardian essay over the weekend is perhaps the definitive contribution.

Over the past several months, the two have been variously equated on the basis of their policy positions, hostility to party establishments, and allegiance to political “extremism” — in other words, as somehow equivalent political phenomena.

Both Trump and Sanders, we are ceaselessly told, are essentially vehicles for outrage, addressing discontent through demagogy, and are therefore similar. As David Brooks wrote last September: These sudden stars [Sanders, Trump, Ben Carson, and Jeremy Corbyn] are not really about governing. They are tools for their supporters’ self-expression. They allow supporters to make a statement, demand respect or express anger or resentment. Sarah Palin was a pioneer in seeing politics not as a path to governance but as an expression of her followers’ id.

All “populists” are created equal, you see ...

More here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/bernie-sanders-trump-populism-marche-corbyn-politics/

Anti-Government Movement

(TBF commentary: It is interesting that over the decades as they broke our unions, deported us, and most recently labeled our leftist political groups "terrorist" - Freedom Road for example - they completely turned a blind eye to serious right wing anti-government activity)

Citing data from a 2013 report produced by the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, Mr. Ellison said, “Right-wing extremists have launched an average of 330 attacks a year and killed about 250 people between 2002 and 2011. These are dangerous people.”

“We believe that they were emboldened by their ability to run federal officials off at the point of a gun,” Ms. Beirich said. “Now, a year and half later, there have been no prosecutions whatsoever. Pointing a gun at a federal officer is a crime.”

Homeland Security Looked Past Anti-Government Movement, Ex-Analyst Says
By RON NIXON - JAN. 8, 2016

Daryl Johnson once worked in the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that studied the threats posed by antigovernment groups. His former office was shut down more than five years ago.

< snip >

In 2009, the former analyst wrote a report that warned of a growing antigovernment movement and the possible recruitment of returning military veterans that could “lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists.”

His words drew fierce criticism from Republican lawmakers and conservative news media, labeling the report an unfair assessment of legitimate criticisms of the government. The document was retracted after Janet Napolitano, who was then the Homeland Security secretary, apologized to veterans, and the Extremism and Radicalization Branch was quietly dismantled ...

Much more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/09/us/politics/homeland-security-looked-past-militia-movement-ex-analyst-says.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Debating Clinton

“If people want to tell me that Hillary would be a less horrid option than whatever profound ghastliness the Republicans throw up, I’ll listen to them respectfully. If they try to tell me there’s something inspiring or transformative about her, I’ll have to wonder what planet they’re on.”

Debating Clinton
Doug Henwood responds to a critical review of his new book on Hillary Clinton.
by Doug Henwood 1/8/16

Katha Pollitt reviews My Turn in the January 25 issue of the Nation. I suppose it’s undignified for an author to take issue with a reviewer, but I’m confident that I can transcend such petty concerns.

< snip >

But as is also typical of the genre, Pollitt makes no serious political case for Clinton’s candidacy. Nor does she really try to rebut my critique of her forty-year record. As someone — I wish I could remember who, sorry — pointed out on Twitter, Hillary’s fans always tout her experience but don’t welcome any scrutiny of her record.

Here it is in a sentence: she represented corporate Arkansas in Little Rock (often in cases involving the state of which her husband was governor), screwed up health care reform as first lady, was a mediocre senator, ran a terrible presidential campaign in 2008, and was an unmemorable but bellicose secretary of state. There’s plenty of detail on all this in the book, as well as on her penchant for secrecy and duplicity. It’d be a pleasant surprise if some of her defenders would engage with this history ...

More here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/hillary-bill-clinton-president-my-turn-review-henwood-pollitt/

Envisioning Utopias

Wright’s project is best understood as a form of neo-Tocquevillian Marxism. The basic elements of his critique of capitalism derive from Marx. But his image of socialism, as well as his political vision, is much more indebted to Tocqueville or Durkheim (although he discusses neither of these authors explicitly). This is clear both in his view of socialism as “social empowerment” rather than a mode of production, and in his preferred political strategy — which relies not on class struggle, but on broad social cooperation.

We need to engage with and extend the revolutionary Marxist tradition — not reject it. In this connection, it’s worth noting that “How to Be an Anticapitalist Today” distorts one of the central messages of this line of thought.

An Anticapitalism That Can Win
We should engage with and update the revolutionary Marxist tradition — not reject it.
Dylan Riley 1-7-16

Today’s left boasts many brilliant students of capitalism, the state, culture, and geopolitics. But its strategic thinking is woefully underdeveloped. There are two obvious explanations for this: the chasm between the injustices of global capitalism and the sorts of social agents that could potentially transform it, and skepticism about the project of a scientifically informed radical politics.

Whatever the reason, the Left still awaits a figure who could plausibly claim the mantle of Gramsci, the early Kautsky, Lenin, Luxemburg, or Trotsky. Erik Olin Wright’s “How to Be an Anticapitalist Today,” which is a pithy summation of the main political message of his 2010 book Envisioning Real Utopias, focuses precisely on the questions of socialist strategy that were at the core of the revolutionary Marxist tradition. If only for this reason, his courageous and clearly stated position deserves close attention.

The specific problem of Envisioning and “How to be an Anticapitalist Today” is how to develop a radical politics in a context where”no existing social theory is sufficiently powerful to even begin to construct . . . a comprehensive representation of possible social destinations, possible futures.” This theoretical failing creates a “gap between the time-horizons of scientific theory and the time-horizons of transformative struggles.” ...

Much more here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/olin-wright-real-utopias-socialism-capitalism-gramsci-lenin-luxemburg/

And the back-up article written by Erik Olin Wright: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/12/erik-olin-wright-real-utopias-anticapitalism-democracy/

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