Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Just who does she think she’s fooling? – Dana Frank on Hillary Clinton’s role in the destruction of Honduran democracy and lives

“Look, you, maybe you've got everyone around here fooled with this saint act you have going, but do not ever speak to me again like we don't know what really happened, you got me?” – Tess McGill in Working Girl

By the way, I wrote at the time in 2009 (and linked to more) contesting the mendacity of Clinton pet and Honduran-oligarchy mouthpiece Lanny Davis.

Quote of the day – “Why is this disconnect not more obvious to… everyone?”

“People of progressive (and ‘feminist’) mindsets have always been quick to assure me (and others who’ve been sexually assaulted) that we can’t be blamed for what happened to us, regardless of how we were dressed, how much we drank, or the places we put ourselves in. No, they declare that showing our bodies, refusing to disguise our breasts, walking down dark streets, or trusting men in our lives to not take advantage of our intoxicated states… these are no justification for what happened to us. And, they stand on ready to rise up in outrage toward anyone who might disagree.

Yet, often those very same people have been equally quick to blame the distress I experienced as a result of that abuse on a ‘mental illness’ caused (they said) by a chemical imbalance or other biological problem in my head. And, I want to be very clear about something at this point. Blaming the distress that resulted from the physical, emotional and sexual trauma I experienced on a brain illness effectively gives those who directly hurt me a pass.

Blaming me for the results of the act of rape bears no real difference from blaming me for the act itself – except that people tend to understand one within the framework of ‘sexism’ (systemic oppression) and the other within the framework of ‘mental illness’ (biological disease).

Yes, by calling ‘mental illness,’ these folks blamed me – the ‘victim’ – for the impact of the violence that I suffered. This is the very thing they tried so vehemently to counter when in a ‘sexism’ frame of mind. Why is this disconnect not more obvious to… everyone?”
– Sera Davidow, “Dear Self-proclaimed Progressives, Liberals and Humanitarians: You’ve Really Messed This One Up”

“An important precedent for both solidarity with Palestine and for union democracy”

New York University’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee votes to join BDS.

(For shame, UAW and New York state legislators.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Interlude – Orchestre Debout

Recommended: Sherpa

Tremendous documentary, now on the Discovery Channel. (One aspect I emphatically do not recommend are the subtitles. Why anyone would place small white subtitles with no box behind them over a snowy, icy landscape is beyond me.)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Interlude – “Flat-Foot Floogie”

Interlude – “Life by the Drop”

Quotes of the day – Kipling and Sartre – different paths

“The centrepiece of Kipling’s life was a refusal to look within, an aggressive ‘anti-intraception’ which forced him to avoid all deep conflicts, and prevented him from separating human problems from ethnic stereotypes. Remarkably extraversive, his work stressed all forms of collectivity, and saw the bonds of race and blood as more important than person-to-person relationships. As if their author, he hoped that the restlessness and occasional depression that had dogged him since the Southsea days could be driven off-scent by the extraversive search for cultural roots, through the service he was rendering to the imperial authority. He lived and died fighting his other self – a softer, more creative and happier self – and the uncertainty and self-hatred associated with it.” – Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, pp. 69-70
“That Sartre had a real influence on a generation of young people, largely but far from exclusively students, who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, not only in France but throughout the world, seems impossible to deny. M.-A. Burnier, who was deeply influenced by Sartre before repudiating him, recalled the end of Sartre’s story ‘L’Enfance d’un chef’,* where Lucien, having found that anti-Semitism had given him a meaning in life, decided to grow a moustache. He asked: ‘Is it an exaggeration to claim that Sartre has prevented a good many Lucien Fleuriers from letting their moustaches grow?’ If even that were true, it would be no mean achievement.” – Ian H. Birchall, Sartre against Stalinism, p. 222
*I’ve discussed this work here.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Interlude – “La Maza”

Quotes of the day – Nuit debout

Various committees have sprung up to debate a new constitution, society, work, and how to occupy the square with more permanent wooden structures on a nightly basis. Whiteboards list the evening’s discussions and activities – from debates on economics to media training for the demonstrators. “No hatred, no arms, no violence,” was the credo described by the “action committee”.

“This must be a perfect mini-society,” a member of the gardening committee told the crowd. A poetry committee has been set up to document and create the movement’s slogans. “Every movement needs its artistic and literary element,” said the poet who proposed it.

Demonstrators regularly help other protest movements, such as a bank picket over revelations in the Panama Papers or a demonstration against migrant evictions in the north of Paris.
Eloïse est professeure de physique-chimie dans un collège. Elle arpente la place de la République avec un panneau annonçant « Sciences debout : posez-moi vos questions ». Pourquoi cette démarche ? « Parce que la science est à tout le monde », sourit-elle. Avec ce vaste espoir de réappropriation (de l’espace, de la parole et du pouvoir) qu’incarne la Nuit debout, Eloïse ne voit pas pourquoi sa discipline resterait « cantonnée dans un laboratoire », victime d’une image élitiste.

The Invitation

Truly tense and suspenseful. Fascinating premise. Psychologically and culturally rich.

(I had a choice between two bad trailers – one that gives too much away and one that leaves you with almost no sense of what the movie’s about. I went with the latter.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

HIGHLY recommended: Empire of Capital (2003)

“‘[A]nti-capitalist’ movements [targeting corporations and transnational institutions like the IMF and World Bank] have been effective in bringing to light the devastating effects of ‘globalization’, especially in capturing the attention of the advanced [sic] capitalist world, which has long ignored the consequences of global capitalism. They have raised the consciousness of many people throughout the world, and they have offered the promise of new oppositional forces. But it may be that it some respects they are based on faulty premises. The conviction that global corporations are the ultimate source of globalization’s evils, and that the power of global capital is politically represented above all in supranational institutions like the WTO, may be based on the assumption that global capitalism behaves the way it does because it is global, rather than (or more than) because it is capitalist. The principle task for oppositional forces, it seems, is to target the instruments of capital’s global reach rather than to challenge the capitalist system itself.

In fact, many participants in movements of this kind are not so much anti-capitalist as anti-‘globalization’, or perhaps anti-neoliberal, or even just opposed to particularly malignant corporations. They assume that the detrimental effects of the capitalist system can be eliminated by taming global corporations or by making them more ‘ethical’, ‘responsible’, and socially conscious.

But even those who are more inclined to oppose the capitalist system itself may assume that the more global the capitalist economy becomes, the more global the political organization of capital will be. So, if globalization has made the national state increasingly irrelevant, anti-capitalist struggles must move immediately beyond the nation state, to the global institutions where the power of global capital truly lies.

We need to examine these assumptions critically, but not because anti-capitalist movements are wrong in their conviction that transnational corporations are doing great damage and need to be challenged, or that the WTO and the IMF are doing the work of global capital – which is certainly true. Nor are these movements wrong in their internationalism or their insistence on solidarity among oppositional forces throughout the world.* We need to scrutinize the relation between global capital and national states because even the effectiveness of international solidarity depends on an accurate assessment of the forces available to capital and those accessible to opposition.” – Ellen Meiksins Wood, Empire of Capital, pp. 137-139
There are so many insightful articles, books, and films about corporate misdeeds, the destructiveness of transnational agencies, the culture and psychology of colonialism, and the history of US overt and covert foreign intervention. But too often they lack a firm appreciation of the economic forces at work (some otherwise useful books don’t even list capitalism in the index).** Meanwhile, good, readable general books on capitalist imperialism are hard to find.

Understanding capitalism’s tendencies and imperatives and how they shape political culture, domestic and foreign policy, and global power relations is indispensable for addressing every issue today. As the quote above suggests, it’s also essential for anyone fighting for a better, radically different world.

Ellen Meiksins Wood’s Empire of Capital - written as the Bush administration prepared the US invasion of Iraq - is the rare work that can help people develop such an understanding. If I were teaching these days, I would assign it. Refreshingly minimalist (I don’t know if it contains a single extraneous sentence), beautifully organized, and free of jargon, it makes its case clearly and thoughtfully. A book like this doesn’t, of course, replace more targeted studies, but it crucially contextualizes them.

* The insistence on solidarity seems to have been decreasing in recent years, leaving some struggles against, for example, trade policy open to exploitation or cooptation by nationalist and imperialist forces.

** This isn’t to argue that the authors themselves lack this appreciation, although this is sometimes the case. What’s important is that the arguments aren’t adequately situated within the capitalist context.

Interlude – Good morning!

Interlude – “Evening in the Village”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Quotes and photo of the day - monster

“‘Although this animal is huge I was not that surprised it existed’, Mr Lightsey said. ‘We have come across lots over the last 20 years that have been only a little smaller. But what really drew our attention to this animal was the fact that it seems to have been feasting on the cattle on my farm, because mutilated body parts were found in the water. It was a monster which needed to be removed’.” [Source]
“‘A big alligator nonetheless, but they are not going to have an official measurement because it's not going to beat the record’, Tony Young, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a phone interview.” [Source]
And here’s an alligator at the Merritt Island Wildlife “Refuge,”* presumably thinking, “No, I’m not a rock, you idiot leaning over the water and extending your appendages. Go get your glasses.”

* I don’t think any of us would consider a place where people can suddenly hunt us for sport to be a refuge.

Monday, April 4, 2016