Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive
Friday, January 27, 2012 4:55 PM
To the power brokers of America’s right, climate change poses a dire threat to business as usual. Environmentalism, in fact, is seen by many of them as a stalking horse for an even more sinister force: socialism. Progressive thinker Naomi Klein expertly dissects this dynamic in her Nation article “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” explaining why the average modern conservative is terrified silly by the prospect of confronting human-caused climate change:
Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as “people” under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative. …
Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. There is simply no way to square a belief system that vilifies collective action and venerates total market freedom with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that created and are deepening the crisis.
Klein’s essay is well worth reading for anyone with an environmental consciousness who’s trying to understand why saving the planet sounds so damn scary to some people. I would say it undermines everything they believe in, but as Klein makes abundantly clear, they don’t believe in much of anything except preserving their own privileged, comfortable lifestyles.
After reading Klein’s piece, I didn’t have to go far to find someone willing to buttress her argument from the other side of the spectrum. James Delingpole, the London Telegraph reporter who set off the whole ridiculous “Climategate” imbroglio that allegedly exposed the climate hoax—but in fact did nothing of the sort—is now trotting out a book, Watermelons, apparently meant to capitalize on his hero status to climate-change deniers. He tells the libertarian magazine Reason, apparently without a trace of irony:
I call the book Watermelons because they’re green on the outside but red on the inside. After the Berlin Wall came down, the communist movement, the global leftist movement, was left in a bit of a quandary. They pretty much lost the economic argument. They needed somewhere else to go, and global warming has become the great proxy issue. It enables them to achieve many of the same aims as before but under a cloak of green righteousness. This book, although it is about global warming, is about something in fact much, much bigger than that. It is about a global takeover by fascism, communism, call it what you will; their aims are much the same. It is about control.
So, let’s review. If you’re concerned about the future of humanity and the natural world, and you accept the scientific experts’ consensus that we’re rapidly degrading the planet, and you believe we need to take immediate corrective steps, you’re basically a control freak trying to resurrect communism. Wow. I’m going to go for a walk in the woods and try to wrap my head around this one. Care to join me, comrade?
Sources: The Nation, Reason
, licensed under
Thursday, December 15, 2011 4:10 PM
By Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich
This post originally appeared at TomDispatch/The Nation.
“Class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.”
-- E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class
The “other men” (and of course women) in the current American class alignment are those in the top 1% of the wealth distribution -- the bankers, hedge-fund managers, and CEOs targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement. They have been around for a long time in one form or another, but they only began to emerge as a distinct and visible group, informally called the “super-rich,” in recent years.
Extravagant levels of consumption helped draw attention to them: private jets, multiple 50,000 square-foot mansions, $25,000 chocolate desserts embellished with gold dust. But as long as the middle class could still muster the credit for college tuition and occasional home improvements, it seemed churlish to complain. Then came the financial crash of 2007-2008, followed by the Great Recession, and the 1% to whom we had entrusted our pensions, our economy, and our political system stood revealed as a band of feckless, greedy narcissists, and possibly sociopaths.
Still, until a few months ago, the 99% was hardly a group capable of (as Thompson says) articulating “the identity of their interests.” It contained, and still contains, most “ordinary” rich people, along with middle-class professionals, factory workers, truck drivers, and miners, as well as the much poorer people who clean the houses, manicure the fingernails, and maintain the lawns of the affluent.
It was divided not only by these class differences, but most visibly by race and ethnicity -- a division that has actually deepened since 2008. African-Americans and Latinos of all income levels disproportionately lost their homes to foreclosure in 2007 and 2008, and then disproportionately lost their jobs in the wave of layoffs that followed. On the eve of the Occupy movement, the black middle class had been devastated. In fact, the only political movements to have come out of the 99% before Occupy emerged were the Tea Party movement and, on the other side of the political spectrum, the resistance to restrictions on collective bargaining in Wisconsin.
But Occupy could not have happened if large swaths of the 99% had not begun to discover some common interests, or at least to put aside some of the divisions among themselves. For decades, the most stridently promoted division within the 99% was the one between what the right calls the “liberal elite” -- composed of academics, journalists, media figures, etc. -- and pretty much everyone else.
As Harper’s Magazine columnist Tom Frank has brilliantly explained, the right earned its spurious claim to populism by targeting that “liberal elite,” which supposedly favors reckless government spending that requires oppressive levels of taxes, supports “redistributive” social policies and programs that reduce opportunity for the white middle class, creates ever more regulations (to, for instance, protect the environment) that reduce jobs for the working class, and promotes kinky countercultural innovations like gay marriage. The liberal elite, insisted conservative intellectuals, looked down on “ordinary” middle- and working-class Americans, finding them tasteless and politically incorrect. The “elite” was the enemy, while the super-rich were just like everyone else, only more “focused” and perhaps a bit better connected.
Of course, the “liberal elite” never made any sociological sense. Not all academics or media figures are liberal (Newt Gingrich, George Will, Rupert Murdoch). Many well-educated middle managers and highly trained engineers may favor latte over Red Bull, but they were never targets of the right. And how could trial lawyers be members of the nefarious elite, while their spouses in corporate law firms were not?
A Greased Chute, Not a Safety Net
“Liberal elite” was always a political category masquerading as a sociological one. What gave the idea of a liberal elite some traction, though, at least for a while, was that the great majority of us have never knowingly encountered a member of the actual elite, the 1% who are, for the most part, sealed off in their own bubble of private planes, gated communities, and walled estates.
The authority figures most people are likely to encounter in their daily lives are teachers, doctors, social workers, and professors. These groups (along with middle managers and other white-collar corporate employees) occupy a much lower position in the class hierarchy. They made up what we described in a 1976 essay as the “professional managerial class.” As we wrote at the time, on the basis of our experience of the radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s, there have been real, longstanding resentments between the working-class and middle-class professionals. These resentments, which the populist right cleverly deflected toward “liberals,” contributed significantly to that previous era of rebellion’s failure to build a lasting progressive movement.
As it happened, the idea of the “liberal elite” could not survive the depredations of the 1% in the late 2000s. For one thing, it was summarily eclipsed by the discovery of the actual Wall Street-based elite and their crimes. Compared to them, professionals and managers, no matter how annoying, were pikers. The doctor or school principal might be overbearing, the professor and the social worker might be condescending, but only the 1% took your house away.
There was, as well, another inescapable problem embedded in the right-wing populist strategy: even by 2000, and certainly by 2010, the class of people who might qualify as part of the “liberal elite” was in increasingly bad repair. Public-sector budget cuts and corporate-inspired reorganizations were decimating the ranks of decently paid academics, who were being replaced by adjunct professors working on bare subsistence incomes. Media firms were shrinking their newsrooms and editorial budgets. Law firms had started outsourcing their more routine tasks to India. Hospitals beamed X-rays to cheap foreign radiologists. Funding had dried up for nonprofit ventures in the arts and public service. Hence the iconic figure of the Occupy movement: the college graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debts and a job paying about $10 a hour, or no job at all.
These trends were in place even before the financial crash hit, but it took the crash and its grim economic aftermath to awaken the 99% to a widespread awareness of shared danger. In 2008, “Joe the Plumber’s” intention to earn a quarter-million dollars a year still had some faint sense of plausibility. A couple of years into the recession, however, sudden downward mobility had become the mainstream American experience, and even some of the most reliably neoliberal media pundits were beginning to announce that something had gone awry with the American dream.
Once-affluent people lost their nest eggs as housing prices dropped off cliffs. Laid-off middle-aged managers and professionals were staggered to find that their age made them repulsive to potential employers. Medical debts plunged middle-class households into bankruptcy. The old conservative dictum -- that it was unwise to criticize (or tax) the rich because you might yourself be one of them someday -- gave way to a new realization that the class you were most likely to migrate into wasn’t the rich, but the poor.
And here was another thing many in the middle class were discovering: the downward plunge into poverty could occur with dizzying speed. One reason the concept of an economic 99% first took root in America rather than, say, Ireland or Spain is that Americans are particularly vulnerable to economic dislocation. We have little in the way of a welfare state to stop a family or an individual in free-fall. Unemployment benefits do not last more than six months or a year, though in a recession they are sometimes extended by Congress. At present, even with such an extension, they reach only about half the jobless. Welfare was all but abolished 15 years ago, and health insurance has traditionally been linked to employment.
In fact, once an American starts to slip downward, a variety of forces kick in to help accelerate the slide. An estimated 60% of American firms now check applicants' credit ratings, and discrimination against the unemployed is widespread enough to have begun to warrant Congressional concern. Even bankruptcy is a prohibitively expensive, often crushingly difficult status to achieve. Failure to pay government-imposed fines or fees can even lead, through a concatenation of unlucky breaks, to an arrest warrant or a criminal record. Where other once-wealthy nations have a safety net, America offers a greased chute, leading down to destitution with alarming speed.
Making Sense of the 99%
The Occupation encampments that enlivened approximately 1,400 cities this fall provided a vivid template for the 99%’s growing sense of unity. Here were thousands of people -- we may never know the exact numbers -- from all walks of life, living outdoors in the streets and parks, very much as the poorest of the poor have always lived: without electricity, heat, water, or toilets. In the process, they managed to create self-governing communities.
General assembly meetings brought together an unprecedented mix of recent college graduates, young professionals, elderly people, laid-off blue-collar workers, and plenty of the chronically homeless for what were, for the most part, constructive and civil exchanges. What started as a diffuse protest against economic injustice became a vast experiment in class building. The 99%, which might have seemed to be a purely aspirational category just a few months ago, began to will itself into existence.
Can the unity cultivated in the encampments survive as the Occupy movement evolves into a more decentralized phase? All sorts of class, racial, and cultural divisions persist within that 99%, including distrust between members of the former “liberal elite” and those less privileged. It would be surprising if they didn’t. The life experience of a young lawyer or a social worker is very different from that of a blue-collar worker whose work may rarely allow for biological necessities like meal or bathroom breaks. Drum circles, consensus decision-making, and masks remain exotic to at least the 90%. “Middle class” prejudice against the homeless, fanned by decades of right-wing demonization of the poor, retains much of its grip.
Sometimes these differences led to conflict in Occupy encampments -- for example, over the role of the chronically homeless in Portland or the use of marijuana in Los Angeles -- but amazingly, despite all the official warnings about health and safety threats, there was no “Altamont moment”: no major fires and hardly any violence. In fact, the encampments engendered almost unthinkable convergences: people from comfortable backgrounds learning about street survival from the homeless, a distinguished professor of political science discussing horizontal versus vertical decision-making with a postal worker, military men in dress uniforms showing up to defend the occupiers from the police.
Class happens, as Thompson said, but it happens most decisively when people are prepared to nourish and build it. If the “99%” is to become more than a stylish meme, if it’s to become a force to change the world, eventually we will undoubtedly have to confront some of the class and racial divisions that lie within it. But we need to do so patiently, respectfully, and always with an eye to the next big action -- the next march, or building occupation, or foreclosure fight, as the situation demands.
Barbara Ehrenreich, TomDispatch regular
, is the author of
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
(now in a 10th anniversary edition with a
John Ehrenreich is p
rofessor of psychology at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury. He wrote
The Humanitarian Companion: A Guide for International Aid, Development, and Human Rights Workers
This is a joint TomDispatch/Nation article and appears in print at the Nation magazine.
Copyright 2011 Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 12:21 PM
Some of the best stuff from the Twitter feeds we follow...
The Nation (@
Robert Reich eviscerates the Supercommittee's skewed priorities, draws a cartoon.
See more at The Nation
Mother Jones (@
Chart of the Day: How Not to Create Jobs mojo.ly/vy6C5e
Chuck Marr of CBPP notes that the CBO recently studied a laundry list of job creation proposals and concluded that higher unemployment benefits had the biggest bang for the buck. "That’s not surprising," he says, "given that jobless people are severely cash constrained and would quickly spend most of any incremental increase in cash and that, in turn, would lead to higher demand and job creation."
But which proposal came in last?
See Kevin Drum’s Chart of the Day at MoJo
The American Prospect (@
Despite what you've heard from many pundits, Mitt Romney isn't the kid who gets picked last in gym class. ampro.me/u6m2We
Mitt Romney is just as popular as Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, his problem—in part—is that he has too many competitors, and Republican voters are indulging the extent to which they have a fair amount of choice. When the field begins to winnow in January, odds are very good that Romney will pick up a lot more support from Republican voters.
Read more about a Gallup poll about the Republican presidential candidates at The American Prospect
In These Times (@
Library in the slammer, roughed up. Librarians surveying the damage. bit.ly/sxUK22 @melissagira livetweeting from the garage.
OWS librarians attempted to reclaim their collection and found it decimated, according to the Maddow Blog. The librarians told Maddow that they only found 25 boxes of books in storage, many of which were damaged or desroyed. Laptop computers were recovered, damanged beyond repair.
Read more at In These Times
Bill McKibben (@billmckibben)
If you want to see someone looking nervous on Colbert, tonite is your big chance
Oxford American (@
Musician Chris Isaak likes Oxford American
“I was reading the ‘Oxford American,’ a great, great music magazine,” he said. “It’s like getting four years of ‘Rolling Stone’ all in the same magazine.”
Read the rest of the article about Chris Isaak in The Kansas City Star
Tuesday, November 08, 2011 4:03 PM
America has become a cruel country. There are clear examples of this, which Jonathan Schell points to in an article for The Nation. Cheering for execution numbers, as happened in a recent Republican presidential campaign debate; celebrations in the streets following the killing of Osama bin Laden; the Bush administration’s torture, followed by the “brazenness” of both Bush and Cheney, who “publicly embraced their wrongdoing” on recent tours for their memoirs; Obama’s unwillingness to impose legal accountability on any in the Bush administration; and our country’s criminal justice system, including its use of the death penalty and solitary confinement. And though cruelty cannot be legislated, it “can be manifested in legislation,” Schell argues, pointing to a number of cuts “on the right-wing agenda.” Of that long list he writes, “It appears that no one is so unfortunate that he or she is exempt from spending cuts, while at the same time no one is so fortunate as to be ineligible for a tax cut.”
“Cruelty is a close cousin to injustice, yet it is different,” Schell writes:
Injustice and its opposite, justice—perhaps the most commonly used standards for judging the health of the body politic—are political criteria par excellence, and apply above all to systems and their institutions. Cruelty and its opposites, kindness, compassion and decency, are more personal. They are apolitical qualities that nevertheless have political consequences. A country’s sense of decency stands outside and above its politics, checking and setting limits on abuses. An unjust society must reform its laws and institutions. A cruel society must reform itself.
Schell’s piece taken along side a post at utne.com today from Tom Engelhardt on the sad reality of what’s become of George W. Bush’s American Dream, paint a picture of a country that has lost its way. And while both pieces find cause for hope—the protesting of Troy Davis’ killing in the former and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the latter—it’s hard to see past the similar descriptions in both of a country so enamored with its own brute strength that it’s created a monster out of it. “Bush’s American Dream,” Engelhardt writes, “was a kind of apotheosis of this country’s global power as well as its crowning catastrophe, thanks to a crew of mad visionaries who mistook military might for global strength and acted accordingly.” While Shell describes the U.S. as “a country that seems to know of no remedy for social ills but punishment.”
Source: The Nation, TomDispatch
Image by Robert Couse-Baker, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 4:29 PM
In an essay published by The Nation magazine on September 19, journalist and pacifist Colman McCarthy reports that in 1970 only one American college offered a degree in peace studies, but that now, according to the Peace and Justice Studies Association, there are more than 500 undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs available on U.S. campuses. “Nationally, the peace education movement is growing—some say surging—because of the continued failure of military solutions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the belief that alternatives to violence do exist,” McCarthy reports.
A regular columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, McCarthy co-founded the Washington D.C.-based Center for Teaching Peace with his wife in 1985 and, by his own estimation, has taught more than 8,000 students to examine their choices regarding violent reaction versus nonviolent response. “Instead of asking questions, be bolder and question the answers,” he writes. “What answers? . . . Those that say that if we kill enough people, drop enough bombs, jail enough dissenters, torture enough prisoners, keep fighting fire with fire and not with water, we’ll have peace forever.”
While the good news regarding the growth of diplomatic scholarship is both welcome and encouraging, what makes “Teaching Peace” especially compelling is McCarthy’s ongoing struggle to make the subject not just a collegiate elective, but part of the core curriculum in secondary education; a move too many public school boards still view as somehow subversive and private schools dismiss as academically insubstantial (read: unnecessary in the pursuit of Ivy).
“I’ve been accused of teaching a one-sided course,” McCarthy writes. “Perhaps, except that my course is the other side, the one that students aren’t getting in conventional history or political science courses, which present violent, militaristic solutions as rational and necessary.”
As partisan activists have proved again and again over the past 20 years, lasting political movements begin and end on the local level. McCarthy’s tale is a reminder that citizens who wish for a more peaceful future should take the fight to their neighborhood’s next school board meeting.
Source: The Nation
Image by crazebabe21, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, September 22, 2011 11:03 AM
Troy Davis—the man about whose case former FBI director William S. Sessions has written “What quickly will become apparent is that serious questions about Davis’ guilt, highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion and a lack of relevant physical evidence, continue to plague his conviction”—was executed by the state of Georgia last night at 11:08pm.
Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing a police officer. There’s not much I can add to the discussion around this case. If you’re looking for insightful writing on it, there’s Mother Jones’coverage, this from The Nation editors, an impassioned plea at In These Times, and of course Amnesty International, which has used Davis’ visage in their campaign to abolish the death penalty. There, too, is the video below of Democracy Now’sAmy Goodman reporting from Georgia last night.
As many others have stated, this execution is not only about Troy Davis. It is, and especially now should be, a time to reflect on this country’s use of the death penalty. To add to that conversation, here are some articles from our November-December 2010 issue about capital punishment in the U.S.
interviews legendary capital punishment opponent Sister Helen Prejean:
According to Amnesty International, 93 percent of the world’s executions take place in five countries: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and the United States. Why is our government on such a list?
The death penalty is a natural outgrowth of our long history of using violence to achieve our ends. We’re a very young country, and violence has worked for us in the past. It began with the settling of this continent and the genocide against Native Americans, then continued when we brought slaves over.
Continue reading >>
The Texas Observer’s Robert Leleux takes a very hard look at executions in the Lone Star State:
One of the things about the death penalty is that, because convicted killers (for a whole variety of reasons) aren’t typically white, middle-class honor students, with reputations for being kindly, wholesome people, it’s very easy for middle-class people like me to presume that folks on death row are people from “over there.” Folks from another, meaner America—that hard, irredeemable underbelly of the nation’s poverty and crime. You know, the kind of place you see on Cops.
Of course, there are so many things wrong with this presumption that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Continue reading >>
And finally, as an online extra to those two articles, here is a blog post with a number of resources from around the web about executions in the U.S.
Source: Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, In These Times, Amnesty International, The Sun, The Nation, The Texas Observer
Image by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 02, 2011 12:11 PM
On September 11, 1973 a coup against the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende began with planes bombing the presidential palace in Santiago. Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean-American writer, was in that city on that fateful Tuesday. “By the end of the day,” Dorfman writes, “Allende was dead and the land where we had sought a peaceful revolution had been turned into a slaughterhouse.”
Twenty-eight years later, on another Tuesday, September 11, another city Dorfman had called home was “attacked from on high.”
In a moving essay at The Nation Dorfman explores the reaction of the countries affected by these two tragic events. Ultimately Chile’s nonviolent response—which echoed “unawares another September 11, back in 1906 in Johannesburg, when Mohandas Gandhi persuaded several thousand of his fellow Indians in the Empire Theatre to vow nonviolent resistance to an unjust and discriminatory pre-apartheid ordinance”—is the response Dorfman praises. As for the response of Dorfman’s other home country, he writes, “If 9/11 can be understood as a test, it seems to me, alas, that the United States failed it.”
UPDATED 9/8/11: Watch Ariel Dorfman discuss his essay on Democracy Now!
Source: The Nation, Democracy Now!
Image by Patricio Mecklenburg, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 12:51 PM
Who would have thought that one of the greatest labor victories this year would come from professional sports players? While attacks on organized labor continue in places like Wisconsin and Ohio, the National Football League players’ union has reached an agreement with owners that actually can be counted as a win for workers—in this case, NFL players—by improving health and safety standards.
Some of the statistics on player health are shocking. In a new documentary, Not Just A Game, Utne Visionary, radio host, and Nation contributor Dave Zirin highlights some of the scarier ones, including this: football players die an average of twenty years earlier than the general population. Even more shocking may be the NFL’s attempt, until very recently, to deny links between the extremely violent sport and head injuries. In the clip below, Zirin tells a story about a congressperson comparing an NFL doctor who denied this connection to doctors who previously denied the fact that cigarettes had anything to do with lung cancer. To any logical person, both seem impossible to deny.
Zirin also discusses the NBA lockout and the victory for the Japanese women’s soccer team in the World Cup.
Related: In addition to being named an
Utne Reader Visionary
, Zirin also recently wrote a piece for us about
patriotism and the militarization of American sports
Source: The Nation, Democracy Now!
Monday, July 11, 2011 5:22 PM
In his latest column for The Nation author Dave Zirin takes Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to task for his refusal to move this year’s All-Star Game out of Arizona in response to that state’s “darkly punitive racial profiling law SB 1070.” MLB, Zirin points out, is, more than any other major professional sport in the U.S., reliant on Latino American players, including some of the game’s biggest names. Zirin believes that Selig is more interested in grandstanding about past civil-rights victories in the sport than going to bat for current ones:
Major League Baseball has prided itself—and marketed itself—on historically being more than just a game. Bud Selig, in particular, is a man, who publicly venerates the game's civil rights tradition. Jackie Robinson's number is retired and visible in every park and the great Roberto Clemente in death has become a true baseball saint. But Selig's inaction makes his tributes to the past look as hollow as Sammy Sosa's old bat….
Yes, Bud Selig would undoubtedly have received an avalanche of criticism if he had moved the game. That’s what it means to actually sacrifice something for the sake of the civil rights he claims to hold so dear. Instead, his legacy will bear another blot, joining the steroid boom, the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, and the gouging of state economies with tax-payer funded stadiums.
UPDATED: Read Zirin's article, "Balls and Stripes: The late Pat Tillman, patriotism, and the militarization of American sports," in the current issue of Utne Reader.
Source: The Nation
Image by Ken Lund, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, July 07, 2011 9:29 AM
As we near the end of the first week of the Minnesota* government shutdown and talks on the national stage continue in a countdown to August 2, a trend—both local and national—is bubbling to the surface. While one party continues to give concession after concession, the other party clings to a single economic factor that is rarely, outside of the party, touted as the most important among a myriad of economic factors. Taxes. While Democrats have gone against the wishes of many of the party’s far-left constituents and agreed to cuts in the name of balancing budgets, the Republican party refuses to thwart the extremists among them to reach anything that might actually be called a compromise.
In a scathing article in the New York TimesDavid Brooks takes on a Republican party that he sees as abnormal in its inability to seize an opportunity to “take advantage of this amazing moment” where “it is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.”
He goes on:
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative….
[T]o members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.
Writing for The Nation, Allison Kilkenny sees this as “the era of the one-sided compromise, where millionaires are taxed at rock bottom rates while the working poor have their pensions stolen from them.” “The national calls for ‘shared sacrifice’ during these times of austerity,” Kilkenny begins, “presuppose that giant corporations like Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil share the same amount of privilege and power as, say, your grandmother.” Yet, a somewhat insignificant tax increase among the wealthy (from 35 to 39 percent) is not, argues Kilkenny, in the same ballpark as “significantly gutting the social safety net for the poor majority.” Focusing on Governor Christie of New Jersey, Kilkenny writes of the “one-sided compromise”:
The state Democrats laid down during this vicious attack on the working poor in the spirit of bipartisanship, naturally. Sharing the sacrifice, and what not. Of course, then the Democrats were simply shocked—shocked!—that a Republican governor, who they had just sold out their own party in order to support, would then turn around and stab them in the back.
In another article, Kilkenny concludes, “it seems like state governments operate in one of two modes: paralysis or aggressive punishment of the poor.” Currently the Minnesota state government is operating within the former mode. Here, too, we find the one-sided compromise at play. As Doug Grow writes in MinnPost, “The depth of the problem Gov. Mark Dayton faces grows more evident each day: He cares about governing; the Republican majority he is trying to deal with cares only about winning.” (See “psychological protest” above.) In a side-by-side comparison of the Dayton and Republican-controlled legislature’s budgets from Minnesota Public Radio reporter Catherine Richert, we see mostly cuts and reductions in the “Common Ground” category, including the following: “Cut education department funding by 5%”; “Eliminate scholarships for high achieving, low-income students”; “Reduce grants for child protection and mental health services”; and “Cuts to job training funding.” (Emphasis added.) When we get to the Taxes row, the “Common Ground” column is left blank.
Despite the widely-reported notion that these government stalemates are a product of the people electing officials that fall into one of two camps—no-new-tax-Republicans or tax-and-spend-Democrats—it seems to me that that’s not the case at all. While Democratic leaders continue to disappoint the far-left among them (and not just on economic issues; see, too, the Afghan and Iraq wars, health care, Bradley Manning, et al.), Republican leaders refuse to put aside for a moment a few core beliefs in the interest of anything resembling an actual compromise. As Brooks writes, “The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary. This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.” But since they need to remain steadfast for the most die hard among them, they won’t even entertain that much. And still, some see the exact opposite. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, in the days leading up to the Minnesota government shut down, wrote,
Rather than work out differences and sign off on large portions of the budget on which agreement is within reach, Dayton has as of this writing refused to get deals done and preserve operations in those parts of government. This is not compromise. This is hostage taking.
I’m not sure how you debate, much less compromise, in such an atmosphere. But it seems that if most economists say a balanced budget must come from a combination of spending cuts and new revenue, including increased taxes, then a party that simply says “no” to one of those two is not compromising, while the party that agrees to at least some from both avenues is closer to achieving what that word—compromise—actually means.
Of course, the fact that I can only write about this in terms of two parties is probably really at the heart of all of our state and national problems.
*Utne Reader is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Source: The New York Times, The Nation, MinnPost, Minnesota Public Radio, St. Paul Pioneer Press
Image by GovernorDayton, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, July 01, 2011 3:59 PM
When the Toronto Star (May 21, 2011) reported that a Canadian couple is keeping their baby’s gender private in the name of freedom and choice, the story went viral. People around the world read about four-month-old Storm Witterick, whose gender is unknown even to the baby’s grandparents. Only the midwives who birthed Storm are in the know, along with one family friend and brothers Jazz and Kio.
At first blush, it seems pretty wacky. Crazy. Attention-seeking. Progressive beyond the point of rationale. Potentially damaging to baby Storm. Who wants to be the kid whose nutty parents turned a simple fact—I’m female or I’m male—into a media-fueled social experiment?
Amid the cacophony of criticism aimed at Storm’s parents, Columbia professor Patricia J. Williams shares her thoughtful response in The Nation (June 20, 2011). Williams reminds us about the powerful gender stereotypes assigned to boys and girls—specifically, her own two-year-old son and his nursery school pal Jessie, who both loved to help out by carrying their playmates’ lunches to the fridge every morning. Their teacher unconsciously divided their identical behavior along gender lines: “Your son is such a sturdy little security guard! And Jessie, she’s our mini-hostess with the mostest!”
Boys are strong and protective; girls are sweet and nurturing. That’s the gender profile, anyway. Boys get camouflage pjs and puppy dogs, girls pink tutus and kitty-cats. With a gender-neutral household an unattainable dream for many parents, Storm’s parents came up with a creative way to circumvent it all.
The media outlash compelled Storm’s mother, Kathy Witterick, self-described as “shy and idealistic,” to respond in a heartfelt open letter in the Ottawa Citizen (May 28, 2011). It’s a hugely likeable letter. She writes about their five-year-old son Jazz, whose clothing choices—including pink dresses and long braids—don’t fit the world’s notion of boy’s clothes. Keeping Storm genderless was born out of a simple discussion of the impending onslaught of pink or blue clothing.
In her letter, Kathy doesn’t seem wacky. Or crazy. Certainly not attention-seeking. More progressive than the average mom, but with reasonable limits. Baby Storm will certainly grow up differently than other kids, but that’s not by definition a damaging thing. In fact, in some ways, Kathy seems downright brilliant:
The strong, lighting-fast, vitriolic response was a shock.... [T]o protect our children from the media frenzy that we did not anticipate, we have declined over 100 requests for interviews from all over the world, including offers to fly to New York all expenses paid and to appear on almost every American morning show. We have learning to do, parks to visit and butterflies to care for.
(free registration required), Ottawa Citizen
Image by sarahemcc,
licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011 1:52 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best political coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
The American Conservative
was founded in 2002 as a counterweight to the neocon fervor of the George W. Bush presidency, espousing what it calls “traditional conservatism.” Opening it is like a trip to a parallel universe where right-leaning thinkers can be against war, imperialism, and civil liberties abuses, even while espousing many tenets of social and fiscal conservatism.
The American Prospect
reports on the day’s most essential issues, from immigration to workers’ rights, privacy to prison reform. By combining thorough reportage with deep analysis, it provides progressives with the intellectual and inspirational tools to engage in transformative politics and policy.
A dark horse among its peers, Dissentsubverts politics-as-usual with a cogent blend of rigorous intellectualism and snarky radicalism. Eschewing partisan ideologies, this insightful quarterly never fails to “dissent from the bleak atmosphere of conformism that pervades the political and intellectual life in the United States.”
Bureaucratic crooks and market-wrangling fat cats, beware. You’re under surveillance by the unblinking (and unsympathetic) eye of In These Times. A tireless champion of the oppressed, forgotten, and ignored, the progressive magazine combines meticulous reporting, fierce cultural criticism, rock star writers, and staunch independence.
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle.
A vital progressive voice for nearly 150 years, The Nationweighs in weekly on politics, arts, and culture via vivid features, incisive reviews, and convention-busting commentary. By bucking the trend toward the slick and the glossy, The Nation helps to keep politics real.
The influential, debate-fueling biweekly The New Republic chooses tough critical thinking over easy dogma, encouraging its writers (and readers) to be critical not just of their right-wing foes but also of their fellow liberals. In a political landscape full of bluster, TNR’s cool rigor holds sway.
is more than 100 years old, but this bastion of the liberal press is full of fresh energy and up-to-the-minute currency. Publishing analysis and reporting from leading thinkers, it never loses sight of the people behind the issues it covers.
our complete list of 2011 nominees
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 1:34 PM
As the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf approaches we look to some of our most trusted sources to get us up to date on all things BP and the Gulf. Below are some of the nominees for this year’s Utne Independent Press Awards in the environmental and political categories with their most recent coverage of the oil spill, one year later.
Let’s start at Audubon Magazine for a little history on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, by way of an excerpt from A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout by Carl Safina (who also appears in the latest issue of Utne Reader). Even though we know how it all ends, Safina’s build up to the blowout is tense and makes you anxious while reading:
A churning drill bit sent from a world of light and warmth and living beings. More than three miles under the sea surface, more than two miles under the seafloor. Eternal darkness. Unimaginable pressure. The drill bit has met a gas pocket. That tiny pinprick. That pressure. Mere bubbles, a mild fizz from deep within. A sudden influx of gas into the well. Rushing up the pipe. Gas expanding like crazy. Through the open gates on the seafloor. One more mile to the sea surface.
The always feisty Mother Jones doesn’t beat around the bush with their latest blog post about the spill: “10 Reasons to Still Be Pissed Off About the BP Oil Disaster.” The all-too-clear-but-all-too-easily-forgotten reasons include, “BP is gunning to get back to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico” even though “People are sick” and “Fish and other sea life in the Gulf are still struggling after the disaster.” Meanwhile, “GOP House members want more drilling off all our coasts with less environmental review” and “Congress hasn’t changed a single law on oil and gas drilling in the past year.” As promised, the list of 10 will piss you off. (Also, if you missed Mother Jones’ September/October 2010 issue with the cover story “The BP Cover-Up” it’s worth revisiting now.)
And if that’s not enough to piss you off, add this to the mix from The Nation: “BP’s Oil Spill Tax Credit Matches EPA’s Entire Annual Budget.” While the oil giant’s tax credit claim may be old news, The Nation highlights the protests of US Uncut, a group focused on corporate tax breaks and attacks on the public service sector:
Thousands of young voters rallied at the White House this Tax Day to demand President Obama stand up to Big Polluters and make them pay their fair share. During the day of action, a flash mob, led by US Uncut’s Carl Gibson, successfully shut down a BP gas station in response to the company’s $9.9 billion tax credit from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which nearly matches the EPA’s entire annual operating budget.
Conveniently, OnEarth has all of its coverage of the Gulf oil spill in one spot—Disaster in the Gulf—including the most recent post from Ian Somerhalder (the actor most known for his role as ‘Boone’ on Lost).
A year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history, dozens of dead baby dolphins are washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico; oyster populations are devastated, crippling a multi-billion dollar industry and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it; and Gulf residents continue to complain of lingering health problems that they believe were caused by the BP oil spill. Despite what you may read in the mainstream media, the oil has not gone away.
Finally, In These Timessums up the situation clearly and succinctly. Simply put, one year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history the “government and media may be moving on from [the] aftermath of the Deepwater disaster, but the scars left behind by the spill are still raw and festering.”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention here the story “Fish with the King” that we recently reprinted from the excellent online magazine of politics and arts, Guernica, about the devastation the oil spill has had on the fishing communities in the Gulf.
Source: Audubon Magazine, Mother Jones, The Nation, OnEarth, In These Times, Guernica
Image by lagohsep, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, February 21, 2011 1:01 PM
As demonstrators continue to protest Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed cuts to the state budget, questions arise as to just what exactly the fight is about. Is Walker trying to bust unions or simply balance the budget? Do public workers make more than their private counterparts? Who is and who is not paying their fair share? Sometimes it’s hard to get a grasp with all the conflicting voices, so we turn to some of the trusted sources in our library and elsewhere to point us in the right direction. Here’s what some of those sources are saying about Wisconsin.
Andy Kroll at Mother Jones is on the ground in Madison and is providing updates via his Twitter feed. Kroll also has a primer of sorts on the Mother Jones website, addressing the basic questions of who exactly Scott Walker is, what is being proposed, and how the protests in Wisconsin might spread to other states, such as Ohio, where similar bills are being proposed.
Meanwhile, Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson at The Nation call the Republican governor’s actions a betrayal of public workers, writing, “Let’s remember that the recession was caused by Wall Street hyper-speculation, not the pay scales of elementary school teachers or public hospital nurses.”
Sarah van Gelder writing for Yes! asks if the Wisconsin protests are the first stop on an American uprising, looking to a group out of England called UK Uncut. That group protests tax breaks for corporations, claiming that if those tax breaks were taken off the table cutbacks for other government services would be unnecessary. An American version called US Uncut has formed and is planning events to highlight corporate tax breaks in this country. (The issue of class warfare brought up in van Gelder’s article is one the Utne Reader focuses on in our March-April issue. See the cover stories here and here.) Van Gelder writes:
The tide may now be turning. Inspired by people-power movements around the world, people in the United States are beginning [to] push back. The poor and middle class, those who didn’t cause the collapse but have felt the most pain from the poor economy, are now being asked to sacrifice again.
Ezra Klein may put it most simply, though. In a column for the Washington Post titled simply “Unions Aren’t to Blame for Wisconsin’s Budget,” Klein, in reference to the “economic crisis unions didn’t cause, and a budget reversal that Walker himself helped create,” writes,
That’s how you keep a crisis from going to waste: You take a complicated problem that requires the apparent need for bold action and use it to achieve a longtime ideological objective. In this case, permanently weakening public-employee unions, a group much-loathed by Republicans in general and by the Republican legislators who have to battle them in elections in particular. And note that not all public-employee unions are covered by Walker’s proposal: the more conservative public-safety unions—notably police and firefighters, many of whom endorsed Walker—are exempt.
The fact that those public-safety unions are exempt from the proposals doesn’t mean that they’re sitting idly by, as Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association, told Democracy Now! viewers and listeners this morning. Mitchell called the exemption a “favor” his union didn’t ask for and told Amy Goodman, “An assault on one is an assault on all. As firefighters and police officers, we do not sit idly by. We make things happen.”
Sources: Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, The Nation, Washington Post, Yes!
, licensed under
Thursday, February 17, 2011 3:49 PM
From The Nation:
Bill McKibben, author and founder of the international environmental organization 350.org, says that without a global campaign to curb climate change, the ecological devastation of our warming climate will make our planet uninhabitable. His appeal to citizens and policy-makers, the seventh video in the series "Peak Oil and a Changing Climate" from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, is a call to action as much as it is a sobering account of the damage we're already doing to our environment.
Bill McKibben was named a 2010 Utne Reader Visionary. You can read an interview with McKibben by Utne senior editor Keith Goetzman here.
Source: The Nation
Friday, December 17, 2010 12:37 PM
, New Jersey, where Walt Whitman is buried, is the poorest and most dangerous city in the United States. Chris Hedges has a dispatch in The Nation that paints an almost unbelievably dystopic portrait of a place that few Americans would recognize or ever visit. It’s a tough read, and you’d be hard pressed to find in Hedges’ story a single kernel of any version of the American dream. Joe Sacco’s accompanying illustrations would not look out of place in his graphic novels set in Palestine or Bosnia.
Once a booming city of 120,000 and industrial power that employed 36,000 in its shipyards, today Camden’s population has shrunk to 70,390. The high school dropout rate is 70 percent, Hedges reports, and unemployment is somewhere in the range of 30-40 percent. Hundreds of the homeless live in elaborate encampments, and open air drug markets represent one of the city’s few viable businesses. Despite such grim facts, Hedges writes, “The city is planning $28 million in draconian budget cuts, with officials talking about cutting 25 percent from every department, including layoffs of nearly half the police force. The proposed slashing of the public library budget by almost two-thirds has left the viability of the library system in doubt.”
Not surprisingly, Camden and its residents are mining the ruins to get by:
The city is busily cannibalizing itself in a desperate bid to generate revenue. Giant scrap piles rise in hulks along the banks of the Delaware. The piles, filled with discarded appliances, rusted filing cabinets, twisted pipes, old turbines and corrugated sheet metal, are as high as a three- or four-story house, and at their base are large pools of brackish water. A crane, outfitted with a large magnet, sways over the pile and swings scrap over to a shredding machine. A pickup and a U-Haul filled with old refrigerators, gates, screen doors and pipes are unloading in front of a small booth when we arrive. There are about twenty scrap merchants in the city, and they have created a market for the metal guts of apartments and houses. As soon as a house is empty—even if only for a few days between renters or because it is being painted—the hustlers break in and strip every pipe, radiator, screen door and window. Over the past three or four decades thousands of owners, faced with the destruction, have walked away from their properties. Camden produces a million tons of scrap a year. Its huge shredding machines in the port can chop up automobiles and stoves into chunks the size of a baseball. Ships from Turkey, China and India pull into the port and take the scrap back to smelters in their countries.
For a little perspective, the Fall 2010 issue of Global Journalist has a slideshow of a community of 2,000 residents that has sprung up in the middle of a cemetery in Manila, and the photographs and commentary of James Chance make what might otherwise seem like an unspeakably sad story look positively hopeful when considered alongside Hedges’ bleak portrait of Camden.
Source: The Nation, Global Journalist
Wednesday, December 01, 2010 5:30 PM
Writing for Guernica, anti-war activist Norman Solomon had this to say about the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks this week:
No government wants to face documentation of actual policies, goals and priorities that directly contradict its public claims of virtue. In societies with democratic freedoms, the governments that have the most to fear from such disclosures are the ones that have been doing the most lying to their own people.
That above statement—as well as the rest of the essay by Solomon, and others, like this one by Arianna Huffington and this one by Tom Hayden in The Nation—is exactly why Tim Heffernan at Esquiremisses the point on what WikiLeaks is doing. These leaked documents may not be all that surprising when one thinks about what governments do and how armies act in times of war. Any lack of surprise, however, comes from previous speculation (by you, me, anyone paying attention) for which there is now proof in the form of these released documents. While they may confirm more than inform, what led us to become informed has been much guess work and the stuff of Tom Clancy novels—not necessarily the proof of actual government documents. The dismissal, then, of these documents as unimportant is the wrong response. Indeed, confirming speculation is of great importance, otherwise the deceit continues unabated and jabs of “conspiracy theory” are more easily thrown (see video below).
Another point where the debate goes awry is in discussing the prosecution of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is the vehicle by which these cables—and the previous war logs—are released. The only people who should be held accountable by any U.S. court would be those providing the information to the messenger, as was pointed out this morning on Democracy Now! by Scott Horton, a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine:
I think, here, the U.S. government does have a basis to bring criminal claims against persons who disclose this information. It’s the individuals who owe the duty to the United States to preserve the confidentiality or secrecy of the information and who disclosed it. So whoever did that—and, of course, Bradley Manning is a focus—would naturally be the subject of a criminal investigation and prosecution.
While the claim that WikiLeaks should be prosecuted is troubling, The Washington Times’ claims that WikiLeaks should be responsible for any sort of “verification” or “corroboration” of the leaked documents may be more so. The paper itself admits that “The WikiLeaks database may be a starting point for analysis of events in the Iraq war, but it renders only a superficial look at any given topic.” Why then should an organization whose stated purpose is “to publish original source material” be expected to also fulfill the job of the journalists who come to the “starting point” to create their stories? It is the responsibility of The New York Times, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and, yes, even The Washington Times—though they apparently have the desire to shirk that responsibility—et al. to craft the stories that appear as news to the public. As with the Pentagon Papers, the lot of the information is there, but it may take news organizations or political theorists to wade through what it all means. That’s the journalists’ responsibility, not that of the vehicle delivering the information.
And while the expectation of The Washington Times is misbegotten, it is another suggestion in the same article that is downright scary:
The government also should be waging war on the Wikileaks Web presence. There are a variety of means whereby technicians could render inoperable the sites distributing the classified information. Wikileaks could respond by using alternate sites, but those could be targeted as soon as they came online. Wikileaks has a small staff and limited resources. Relentless attacks on the servers and sites dispensing this classified information would have a debilitating effect on the leakers' morale and help widen the fissures that already have appeared in the group. This battle could offer some practical experience to American cyberwarriors who one day will face even greater threats from state-sponsored Web war.
The fact that anyone in the world can view Pentagon classified documents at will sends a signal of American impotence and inspires future cyberfoes. If Wikileaks wants to play this game, the very least our government can do is suit up and get out on the field.
That’s the true American spirit! Get caught lying and use the whistleblower as target practice for a future war. Norman Solomon long ago concluded that the “nation’s military and diplomacy are moving parts of the same vast war machinery.” With calls to action like that from The Washington Times we might as well add the nation’s media to the list.
Source: Guernica, Esquire, Democracy Now!, The Washington Times, The Huffington Post, The Nation
licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010 12:15 PM
Here is a great, long essay on book reviewing—focused, in a surprisingly refreshing way, on the web-versus-print debate that everyone is always already sick of—from the pages of The Nation. The article doesn’t necessarily bowl you over with amazing insights sent down from I-wish-I-said-that Land. Rather, John Palatella articulates ideas that have been popping up in myriad places, but not usually expressed with the force and focus used here. Still, if you care about books, about writing on the web, about print coverage of the written word, you should read this essay (maybe even buy a copy of the magazine it appears in?). In the meantime, the following are some of Palatella’s best points, lightly contextualized for your reading pleasure.
On web versus print:
In some ways, Grafton points out, "the world of writing has not so much been transformed" by the web as restored to a ghostly, hyperactive version of the newspaper world of the early twentieth century.
On why book review sections have been disappearing from newspapers:
Yet of all the sections that fail to turn a profit on their own, it's the books section that is most often killed or pinched. Claims that books sections are eliminated or downsized because they can't earn their keep are bogus. It is indisputable that newspapers have been weakened by hard times and a major technological shift in the dissemination of news; it is not indisputable that newspaper books coverage has suffered for the same reasons. The book beat has been gutted primarily by cultural forces, not economic ones, and the most implacable of those forces lies within rather than outside the newsroom. It is not iPads or the Internet but the anti-intellectual ethos of newspapers themselves.
I use the word "anti-intellectual" to describe a suspicion of ideas not gleaned from reporting and a lack of interest in ideas that are not utterly topical.
After describing the narrowness and intellectual un-seriousness of online book reviewing:
One exception is the Barnes & Noble Review, a web-only venture that generally avoids gossip and trade talk. It is better edited than any newspaper books section, but it also happens to be owned by the country's largest corporate chain bookstore. Neither the quality of its reviews nor the generosity of its writers' fees can expunge from its pages its innate commercialism.
A sorrowing catchphrase for all those writers who struggle to be paid for work everyone expects to read for free online:
On the web, we are all interns now.
The uplifting conclusion, with a little fancy syntax thrown in, for your reading pleasure:
Despite the turmoil and doubts, I think there's no better time than the present to be covering books. The herd instinct is nearly extinct: newspapers inadvertently killed it when they scaled back on books coverage en masse; and the web, for all its crowds and their supposed wisdom, is a zone of unfederated cantons. The field is wide open. If you can't take chances now, if in such a climate you can't risk seeking an air legitimate and rare, when can you?
You should really read the whole shebang, if only so you can use, as I have, the word shebang when passing it along to your book-loving buddies.
(Thanks, The Second Pass.)
Source: The Nation
Image by gadl, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, June 04, 2010 3:01 PM
Take a gander at mainstream media and one could be forgiven for having the impression that, despite the military nature of former president Manuel Zelaya’s removal, the Honduras question is largely resolved, with free and fair elections replacing a president on the verge of becoming a second Hugo Chavez.
“The Washington Post called the election ‘mostly peaceful,’ ” according to muckraker NACLA Report on the Americas. “[Porfirio] Lobo was ‘elected president in a peaceful vote’ . . . reported Bloomberg News, [and] The New York Times said in an editorial that there was ‘wide agreement’ the election was ‘clean and fair.’ ”
Alternative publications and organizations, including NACLA, Briarpatch, and The Nation, have pushed back forcefully, claiming that Lobo’s election was intended to gloss over a military coup led by corporate oligarchs and military generals. Through the alt-press lens, we can glimpse the ongoing human rights abuses, flaws in the argument that Zelaya was on the verge of becoming a dictator, and the passionate public opposition to the new government.
Let’s begin with the scene on the ground last November. As mentioned above, Lobo’s election was widely portrayed as a peaceful end to the strife that followed Zelaya’s removal by the Honduran Congress and military, who claimed his attempt to include a non-binding referendum—calling for a constitutional convention—on the ballot would have paved the road to him becoming “President for Life.”
The elections themselves, however, were heavily protested; The Nation reports that street protests ranged from 400,000 and 600,000 people, and leading progressive candidates withdrew from the November election in protest of the coup. Between June and December of 2009, the Committee for Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras documented 708 human rights violations and 54 murders.
Briarpatch questions the motives behind Zelaya’s removal, blaming the oligarchs who run Honduras’ multinational corporations for supporting the forcible replacement of a progressive president with one friendly to business. In 2009, Zelaya raised the minimum wage 84 percent to $289/month, lowered interest rates on home loans, and otherwise moved to protect working-class Hondurans. The day after the coup, in contrast, interim president Roberto Micheletti, “promised to make Honduras an even more attractive destination for foreign direct investment,” and replaced those in the Ministry of Labour who “possessed knowledge of the issues” with people who were friendly to industry.
Six months later, sweatshop workers found that their working conditions had deteriorated, and that their protests to the Ministry went unanswered, Maria Luisa Regalado, the director of the Honduran Women’s Collective, told Briarpatch.
Making matters more complicated, NACLA points out that the Honduran constitutional convention—had it happened—would probably not have begun until well after the seven months Zelaya had left in his one term, and any resulting changes almost certainly wouldn’t have gone into effect until years afterward. Thus it is far more likely, in a what-if scenario where the constitutional convention abolished term limits, that Zelaya’s successor, not him, would have had the chance to become “President for Life.”
Nor have things settled down since the election; since many Hondurans refused to accept the results, the government has moved to silence dissent. According to Reporters Without Borders, Honduras has become “the world’s deadliest country for the media since the start of this year [emphasis added],” particularly for those who oppose Lobo. Seven journalists were killed in the six-week period between March 3 and April 21.
In addition, opposition radio stations have been threatened with censure and closure, and neither threats nor killings have been seriously investigated by the police; Reporters Without Borders notes that no one has yet been punished for any of the attacks. Honduran journalists are being silenced—making the U.S. mainstream media’s silence all the more disappointing.
Sources: Briarpatch, Committee for the Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras, NACLA Report on the Americas, Reporters Without Borders, The Nation
Monday, May 24, 2010 5:07 PM
Economist and author Juliet Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College, is out to “plant a stake in the heart of the Business-as-Usual economy and its bankrupt politics.” Dig into a taste of Schor’s compelling thinking, adapted from her recently published book Plenitude, in this week’s issue of The Nation.
Source: The Nation
Thursday, May 13, 2010 1:24 PM
Christine Smallwood's interview with historian Tony Judt in The Nation ended with a much-too-brief exchange about religion and the left. Here it is:
Smallwood: I come from a very religious background, and it seems to me that people on the left are so embarrassed about the language of morality that they've ceded the ground to the right.
Judt: I totally agree. I think it's a catastrophe for both sides. What it means for the left is that it's got no ethical vocabulary. What it means for the right is that it smugly supposes that it's got a monopoly on values. Both sides are completely wrong. There used to be a tradition of left-wing ethics, Orwellian if you like, or pre-Orwell. I'd like to say parenthetically that I come out of a sort of secular dissenting Jewish background, but one with some of the same thoughts of the old dissenting churches—Christian, Jewish—of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in which there was a natural correspondence of social values and ethical criteria. And the divorce between them has been one of the disastrous results of the last half-century. I'd love to contribute to re-forming that link.
More! I want more!
Source: The Nation
Thursday, April 22, 2010 3:20 PM
On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I’m glad to see mainstream media attention turning to the 800-pound gorilla in the environmental movement: corporate influence. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post published Earth Day stories that explore big business’s buy-in to green groups and green marketing, and question whether commerce has co-opted the movement.
According to the Times,
So strong was the antibusiness sentiment for the first Earth Day in 1970 that organizers took no money from corporations and held teach-ins “to challenge corporate and government leaders.”
Forty years later, the day has turned into a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services, like office products, Greek yogurt and eco-dentistry.
The Washington Post points out that we the consumers are also to blame, having been convinced by many companies that buying their green product is the best way to save the planet. Reports the Post:
This year, a poll conducted by professors at George Mason, Yale and American universities showed that respondents who were most alarmed about climate change were more than eight times more likely to express their concern through shopping for “green” products than by contacting an elected official multiple times about it.
From the anti-consumer bent of the first Earth Day, “we’ve gone to the opposite extreme. We’re too respectful of business,” said Adam Rome, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies environmental history. He said that Americans have continued to buy more goods and use more energy in the past four decades—and that, in many ways, American pollution was outsourced, as manufacturing moved overseas.
Of course, there’s always been griping by “pure” environmentalists that business has a suspect agenda—but the debate has gone beyond whether business should be a partner in change to whether it is actively pulling the strings in major environmental groups. Last month, The Nation set off a kerfuffle in environmental circles with an article, “The Wrong Kind of Green,” that called out groups like Conservation International and the Sierra Club for being tainted by corporate ties. (A fiery exchange ensued.) And last year Christine MacDonald’s book Green Inc., which I reviewed in Utne Reader, made a similar case at greater—and quite convincing—length.
It’s a vital discussion, and I for one am glad that it’s finally being had. It seems no great coincidence that on this Earth Day, President Obama took a stern line with our nation’s largest financiers over their irresponsible behavior. Talk about unsustainable: The titans of Wall Street can’t even keep their corporations sustainable in the short term, let alone for the long haul on a planet with dwindling resources. Are they our partners in creating a healthy, safe, and beautiful world? Or our enemies?
Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation, Green Inc.
Image by mandiberg, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, April 19, 2010 2:54 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25, at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C., and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of political coverage.
The American Prospect reports on the day’s most essential issues, from immigration to workers’ rights, privacy to prison reform. By combining thorough reportage with deep analysis, it provides progressives with the intellectual and inspirational tools to engage in transformative politics and policy. www.prospect.org
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending the day’s political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle. www.motherjones.com
Ms. has been at the forefront of feminist politics since 1972. In 2009 the editors shone light on a host of pressing issues, including the Obama administration’s abortion policies and the need for domestic workers’ rights. Featuring journalism that provokes action, this quarterly loves a righteous fight. www.msmagazine.com
The Nation has been a vital progressive voice for nearly 150 years, weighing in weekly on politics, arts, and culture via vivid features, incisive reviews, and convention-busting commentary. By bucking the trend against the slick and the glossy, The Nation helps to keep politics real. www.thenation.com
The influential, debate-fueling biweekly The New Republic chooses tough critical thinking over easy dogma, encouraging its writers (and readers) to be critical not just of their right-wing foes but also their fellow liberals. In a political landscape full of bluster, TNR’s cool rigor holds sway. www.tnr.com
The Progressive turned 100 last year, but this bastion of the liberal press is full of fresh energy and up-to-the-minute currency. Publishing analysis and reporting from leading thinkers, it never loses sight of the people behind the issues it covers. www.progressive.org
With hard-hitting reports on immigration, life on the border, education, prisons, and social justice issues, The Texas Observer has carved out a niche worth celebrating. Its unmatched reportage and analysis kneecaps those who traffic in malfeasance, corruption, and injustice. www.texasobserver.org
Washington Monthly forged ahead of the mainstream on many issues this year, from textbook revisionism in Texas to the subprime student loan racket, making it a must-read beyond the Beltway. Its reporting is unimpeachable, its analysis sound, and its reputation for sagacity well earned. www.washingtonmonthly.com
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Monday, March 22, 2010 8:25 AM
From Jonathan Chait at the New Republic:
Let me offer a ludicrously premature opinion: Barack Obama has sealed his reputation as a president of great historical import. We don’t know what will follow in his presidency, and it’s quite possible that some future event—a war, a scandal—will define his presidency. But we do know that he has put his imprint on the structure of American government in a way that no Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson has.
From Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic:
Yes, in the end, he got all the primary delegates House votes he needed. Yes, he worked our last nerve to get there. But, yes, too, this is an important victory—the first true bloodied, grueling revelation that his persistence, another critical Obama quality, finally paid off in the presidency. He could have given up weeks ago, as the punditry advised (because they seem to have no grasp of substance and mere addiction to hour-to-hour political plays). But he refused. That took courage. And relentlessness.
From John Nichols in The Nation:
The rancorous debate over President Obama’s reform proposal was portrayed by much of our historically-disinclined media as an ugly degeneration of the body politic. In fact, the fight over health care reform has been no more difficult or disturbing than past fights for needed federal interventions.
Consider the battle of the mid-1930s over Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Social Security Act, which created what is now one of the most popular federal programs.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, recalled during Sunday evening’s debate that critics of Social Security denounced the reform as “the lash of the dictator.”
“Those slurs were false in 1935. They were false in 1965. And they are false in 2010,” declared Hoyer, as he argued that the similar slurs against Obama’s health care plan will be proven equally false.
Chris Hedges at Truthdig is not moved:
This bill is not about fiscal responsibility or the common good. The bill is about increasing corporate profit at taxpayer expense. It is the health care industry’s version of the Wall Street bailout. It lavishes hundreds of billions in government subsidies on insurance and drug companies. The some 3,000 health care lobbyists in Washington, whose dirty little hands are all over the bill, have once more betrayed the American people for money. The bill is another example of why change will never come from within the Democratic Party. The party is owned and managed by corporations.
Finally, Paul Waldman at The American Prospect:
Over the course of this debate, progressives have gotten used to beginning their comments on the various reform plans by saying, “It's not everything that I'd want, but…” And of course the bill that finally passed isn't perfect, which is why we should continue working to improve it in the coming months and years. But it is something extraordinary nevertheless, The passage of health-care reform is a huge benefit to lower- and middle-class Americans; finally, there is something resembling health security for all of us. Some of the most despicable misdeeds of the insurance companies have been put to an end, and a raft of programs have been put in place to help rein in costs. And that's just a few of the legislation's achievements. Millions upon millions of American lives will be improved by what Congress and the White House just did.
Sources: New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, Truthdig, The American Prospect
Friday, February 26, 2010 4:52 PM
Cleveland is playing host to an exciting experiment in employee-owned business, The Nation reports. The city’s Evergreen network debuted last fall with the LEED-certified Evergreen Cooperative Laundry in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, where, The Nation notes, residents’ median income is around $18,000. “After a six-month initial ‘probationary’ period, employees begin to buy into the company through payroll deductions of 50 cents an hour over three years (for a total of $3,000),” The Nation explains. “Employee-owners are likely to build up a $65,000 equity stake in the business over eight to nine years—a substantial amount of money in one of the hardest-hit urban neighborhoods in the nation.”
Evergreen is also operating a solar-panel installation enterprise, Ohio Cooperative Solar, and hopes to open at least two more cooperatives in the near future: Green City Growers, a massive urban-food operation to be housed in a 230,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse, and the Neighborhood Voice, a community newspaper. All in all, The Nation reports, Evergreen hopes to launch 10 integrated companies, and create about 500 jobs, in the next five years.
The overall strategy is not only to go green but to design and position all the worker-owned co-ops as the greenest firms within their sectors. This is important in itself, but even more crucial is that the new green companies are aiming for a competitive advantage in getting the business of hospitals and other anchor institutions trying to shrink their carbon footprint. Far fewer green-collar jobs have been identified nationwide than had been hoped; and there is a danger that people are being trained and certified for work that doesn't exist. The Evergreen strategy represents another approach—first build the green business and jobs and then recruit and train the workforce for these new positions (and give them an ownership stake to boot).
Community-development specialists in Baltimore, Detroit, and other cities are discussing the possibilities of adopting “the Cleveland model” elsewhere, and the story’s authors—Gar Alperovitz, Ted Howard, and Thad Williamson—dedicate some serious column space to imagining what that might look like.
Source: The Nation
Image by Wayne National Forest, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, January 04, 2010 11:25 AM
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are effectively making immigrants disappear. ICE is “confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices,” The Nation reports, “many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants--nary a sign, a marked car or even a US flag.” The author, Jacqueline Stevens, uncovered a partial list of the sites, including one near the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport and another near the Chelsea piers in Manhattan. The sites have no often have no beds, no showers, and are free of any transparency and accountability of the regular justice system. A description of one of these sites, the Los Angeles subfield office called B-18, by director of Immigrant Rights for the ACLU by Ahilan Arulanantham, seems more fitting for a Latin American military junta than a US immigration detention center:
"You actually walk down the sidewalk and into an underground parking lot. Then you turn right, open a big door and voilà, you're in a detention center," Arulanantham explained. Without knowing where you were going, he said, "it's not clear to me how anyone would find it. What this breeds, not surprisingly, is a whole host of problems concerning access to phones, relatives and counsel."
Source: The Nation
Friday, November 06, 2009 3:43 PM
The nation’s unemployment topped 10 percent in last month, but for young people, that number is much higher. The unemployment rate for 16-to-24-year-olds is almost double the national average, according to The Nation, up near 18.1 percent for September. Since December of 2007, those young people have lost some 2.5 million jobs, the most of any age group. And even though the stock market seems to be looking up, the employment picture for young people still looks bleak.
“I hope people are really clear that this is not an equal-opportunity recession, that it's hurting the weakest," Dedrick Muhammad of the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality and the Common Good told The Nation. Low-income and people of color have been the hardest hit, according to Muhammad’s research. For unemployment white people in their early 20s is less than half (13.1 percent) of African Americans (27.1 percent). At the same time, college tuition and health care costs have been steadily rising.
The bright spot midst the crisis is the political engagement that young people continually display. According to The Nation, “many young people have already begun coming together, in protest and coalition-style advocacy.” They’re fighting for better health care, education, jobs, and to make sure this kind of recession doesn’t happen again.
Source: The Nation
Update: For more on the charge to keep young people politically engaged and create more opportunities for the millennial generation, read about Maya Enista, one of Utne Reader’s visionaries who are changing your world.
Friday, October 02, 2009 1:30 PM
Since film director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland last weekend, well-respected celebrities have come out in droves—et tu, Whoopi Goldberg?—to defend him or suggest that it's time to move on. So it’s an overwhelming relief to read Katha Pollitt’s searing piece for The Nation, in which she calls out Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Tilda Swinton, and the other “international culture stars” who have stepped forward to support a man who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. Pollitt writes:
The widespread support for Polanski shows the liberal cultural elite at its preening, fatuous worst. They may make great movies, write great books, and design beautiful things, they may have lots of noble humanitarian ideas and care, in the abstract, about all the right principles: equality under the law, for example. But in this case, they're just the white culture-class counterpart of hip-hop fans who stood by R. Kelly and Chris Brown and of sports fans who automatically support their favorite athletes when they're accused of beating their wives and raping hotel workers. No wonder Middle America hates them.
Chris Rock is one “culture star” who isn’t falling in line; he was on The Jay Leno Show Thursday night expressing his own disbelief over the controversy in appropriately simple terms: “Rape! It’s rape!”
He went on: “People are defending Roman Polanski because he made some good movies? Are you kidding me? He made good movies 30 years ago, Jay! Even Johnnie Cochran don’t have the nerve to go, 'Well, did you see O.J. play against New England?'”
Watch Chris Rock's entire one-minute Polanski rant at Jezebel.
Source: The Nation, Jezebel
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 5:22 PM
The pedestrian reclamation of Times Square in New York City is a good start for the sake of public art, according to Benjamin R. Barber in the Nation. But it’s not enough. To transform the once traffic clogged area into something that can truly be considered “public,” the city must enlist artists, and secure adequate funding. He writes:
Public space is not merely the passive residue of a decision to ban cars or a tacit invitation to the public to step into the street. It must be actively created and self-consciously sustained against the grain of an architecture built as much for machines as people, more for commercial than common use.
Barber points to Chicago’s Millennium Park and Barcelona’s Las Ramblas (with all of its grit) as places that got public art right. New York has the same potential with Times Square, but it’s not there yet.
, licensed under
Friday, July 24, 2009 10:04 AM
For millions of Americans, the housing crisis began well before last year’s front-page collapse. Bigotry and criminalization by an unjust system of policing and incarceration, combined with economic privation, have kept even the meager privilege of a subprime mortgage or slumlord lease out of reach for many. As the crisis unfolds, the number of homeless will grow.
That stark bit of analysis is courtesy of The Nation, whose recent monthly dispatch of “Ten Things” features crucial tips and guidelines from Picture the Homeless, a grassroots social justice organization in New York that was founded by two homeless men in 1999. Should crisis hit your own backyard, the group has assembled “Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets,” which covers everything from negotiating public bathrooms to learning police patterns to adopting successful panhandling techniques. Here’s hoping you never need to use it.
Source: The Nation
Wednesday, July 08, 2009 4:59 PM
Beautiful young women with fashionable clothing and loose headscarves dominated much of the imagery that emerged from the recent Iranian protests. Writing for Women News Network, Latoya Peterson writes that the focus on fashion and beauty may distract people from the real issues at play in Iran.
“Often times, Western feminists become infatuated with the symbolic nature of veiling,” according to Peterson, “and fail to listen to women discussing what they are actually fighting for.” The photographs of women in modern, Western-style clothing with hair cascading out of their veils fit nicely into people’s preconceived notions of modern pro-democracy forces rebelling against the oppressive regime.
In fact, the disastrous economic conditions in Iran are likely what motivated the protests, rather than the politics of beauty and clothing. Emphasizing beautiful protesters could distract people and oversimplify the message of the protests.
The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, on the other hand, may have appreciated some of the problematic attention, Alexander Cockburn wrote for the Nation. According to Cockburn, “Unlike those attractive Iranians, Tamils tend to be small and dark and not beautiful in the contour of poor Neda, who got out of her car at the wrong time in the wrong place, died in view of a cellphone and is now reborn on CNN as the Angel of Iran.” Peterson admits, “Sex sells but so does Iranian beauty, compelling even those who are disinterested in politics and current events to pay attention.”
Women News Network
Image by Hamed Saber, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009 1:17 PM
Millions of tweets sounded off in support of Iranian protesters in Tehran last month, but nary a Washington-borne tweet has sung out from the recent healthcare hearings in Congress, or in political protest of Obama’s actions in Afghanistan, writes Alexander Cockburn for The Nation. Nor did the Twitter phenomenon (aka: “Twittergasms”) come to the aid of the estimated 20,000 killed and hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamil people of Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Could it be because Iranians are better looking, asks Cockburn? He writes:
I don't recall too many tweets in Washington or across this nation about a methodical exercise in carnage. But then, unlike those attractive Iranians, Tamils tend to be small and dark and not beautiful in the contour of poor Neda, who got out of her car at the wrong time in the wrong place, died in view of a cellphone and is now reborn on CNN as the Angel of Iran.
Source: The Nation
Thursday, June 18, 2009 11:27 AM
Immigration hearings in the United States are federally mandated to be open to the public, with very few exceptions. When the Nation’s Jacqueline Stevens tried to attend two hearings, however, she was repeatedly denied entry, and not because of the exceptions. Stevens, an associate professor in the Law and Society Program at the University of California, reports “The immigration courts at Florence [Arizona] are either closed to the entire public or are screening for ICE critics. Both actions are illegal.”
Experts interviewed by Stevens agree that barring observers from the courts increases the chance of exploitation and could prevent people from getting a fair hearing. Mary Naftzger, a member of the Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition who frequently attends immigration hearings, told Stevens, “We have feedback from lawyers who say the judges are more respectful when court watchers are there.”
Source: The Nation
Friday, June 12, 2009 1:26 PM
“Can we please stop talking about feminism as if it is mothers and daughters fighting about clothes?” Katha Pollitt writes in The Nation. “Second wave: you’re going out in that? Third wave: just drink your herbal tea and leave me alone!”
The wave structure tossed around in the media “looks historical,” Pollitt writes, when in reality it’s anything but. Second wavers (like Adrienne Rich and Gloria Steinem) are in their golden years; third wavers (known for staking a renewed claim on “girl culture” and their passion for the intersection of race, class, and gender) are approaching 40.
Yet third wave “continues to be used to describe each latest crop of feminists—loosely defined as any female with more political awareness than a Bratz doll—and to portray them in terms of their rejection of second wavers, who are supposedly starchy and censorious. Like moms. Somebody’s mom, anyway,” Pollitt writes.
Aside from being inaccurate, this wave narrative reduces feminism into a tired battle between sexual freedom and repression. “Why not acknowledge that there will never be a bright line between pleasure and danger, personal choice and social responsibility, open-minded and judgment?” Pollitt writes. “The fine points of sexual freedom will all be there waiting for us—after we get childcare, equal pay, retirement security, universal access to birth control and abortion, healthcare for all and men who do their share at home, after we achieve equal representation in government, are safe from sexual violence, and raise a generation of girls who don’t hate their bodies.”
Source: The Nation
Wednesday, May 06, 2009 2:09 PM
A tense French social climate has The Nation asking if the far-left side will erupt and seize power. Tough economic times may be pushing emerging French anti-capitalists groups over the brink of civility—but the president brushes it off. “Sarkozy is playing for time and is betting that people will get tired of the social protests, just like Maggie Thatcher did in the 1980s,” says Isabelle Sommier, a sociology professor at the Sorbonne. “But this is a very risky strategy, because we are sitting on a volcano.”
Workers have been getting very creative clamoring to get their voices heard, for example:
One way to negotiate is to hold your boss hostage. Boss-nappings reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s, in which, frustrated workers force the boss to stay in the factory or an office until they can work out their differences seems to be a reemerging tactic. “It’s a way to oblige the employers to actually face their employees, to look them in the eyes. There is no escape.” Different about today’s scheme though is that some of these bosses work for multi-national companies and have little authority over lay-offs and pay cuts.
Professors are hosting “classes” for subway passengers, protesting the marketization of academia. In front of Paris City Hall, academics, students and sympathizers have literally been walking in circles nonstop since March 24—to represent the ‘infinite circle of the obstinate.’
Other activists, sponsored by the New Anticapitalist party (NPA) are hosting “wild picnics” in supermarkets to protest high food prices. The plan is: go in, set up a table and eat anything in sight until you get kicked out. The NPA is a quickly growing political faction in France, and just in time for European Parliamentary elections in June.
Source: The Nation
Image by Ptit@l licensed under Creative Commons
Wednesday, April 29, 2009 11:30 AM
A grassroots uprising against the environmentally-disastrous Hawaii Superferry has triumphed—for now. In March, The Nation reported that a coalition of Native Hawaiians, locals of Japanese and Filipino descent, and white settlers joined forces to protest the Superferry’s maiden voyage from Honolulu to Kaui, culminating in a standoff between the mammoth vessel and dozens of surfers and swimmers reminiscent of Tiananmen Square.
The inter-island ferry had plummeted in popularity when locals realized its full toll: it used 12,000 gallons of fuel per round trip; it raced through the habitats of humpback whales, dolphins, and sea turtles; it had the potential to transport invasive species; and, it brought cars to islands already crowded with motorists. Republican Governor Linda Lingle ignored demands for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from environmentalists as well as the state Supreme Court, resulting in the dramatic protest.
Now the Hawaiian State Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the Superferry has no legal authority to continue its operations in the state. But, don’t count Lingle out. She continues to battle on behalf of the project as well as her own political ambitions. Like the dark lord Sauron in Lord of the Rings, she’s not fading away any time soon.
Image by Ed Yourdon, licensed under Creative Commons
Source: The Nation
Monday, March 09, 2009 1:29 PM
The Nation worked with ACORN to develop a handy list of ten things you can do to avoid foreclosure. The list, which is this month's installment of The Nation's cool new "Ten Things" feature, includes advice for those who may think it's too late—#3: "If you are being foreclosed, call the ACORN foreclosure hot line immediately, at (347) 410-5894"—as well as general, longer-term tips, such as information about renters' rights, organizations that can assist families with foreclosures, and a link to a list of foreclosure scams.
Source: The Nation
Image by respres, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, February 13, 2009 10:03 AM
Utne Reader librarian Danielle Maestretti shares the highlights (and occasional lowlights) of what’s landing in our library each week in 'Shelf Life.'
Utne’s library is abuzz with a steady flow of 1,300 magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, zines, and other lively dispatches from the cultural front that are rarely found at big-box bookstores, or newsstands.
Featured in this week's episode:
- The "Jobless in America" feature in the February 23 issue of The Nation
- Dollars &Sense on "The New Political Economy of Immigration"
- The Texas Observer on Janet Napolitano and the border fence
- "Entertaining in the Recession" from Houston's My Table (not available online)
-Alpacas. That's right, Alpacas. From Radish
Sources: The Nation, Dollars & Sense, The Texas Observer, My Table, Radish
Friday, September 05, 2008 5:07 PM
After lavishing praise on John McCain for his military service, Republicans took the opportunity to ridicule Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer on day three of the GOP convention.
Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Sarah Palin all took turns kicking dirt on Obama’s early days on Chicago’s South Side. Pataki said, “What in God’s name is a community organizer? I don’t even know if that’s a job.” Giuliani chimed in, “He worked as a community organizer. What? Maybe this is the first problem on the resume.” And Palin drove home the point, “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, expect that you have actual responsibilities.”
These were sharp jabs at Obama meant to stoke doubt about his readiness to be president. But the comments left any details about what Obama actually did as an organizer to the imagination. So what in God’s name did Obama do on the South Side and does it matter?
Writing for the New Republic, John B. Judis argues that the important thing to understand about Obama’s time as an organizer is not what he did, but why he quit. Judis describes Obama as “a disillusioned activist who fashioned his political identity not as an extension of community organizing but as a wholesale rejection of it.” His essay details how Obama’s organizing work led him to believe politics, not organizing, was his best opportunity to produce broad-based change. An article published last year by the Nation and another at the New Republic also take stabs at fleshing out Obama’s organizing days.
In response to the convention speeches, the Nation quotes Obama as saying, “I would argue that doing work in the community to try and create jobs, to bring people together, to rejuvenate communities that have fallen on hard times, to set up job-training programs in areas that have been hard hit when the steel plants closed, that that's relevant only in understanding where I'm coming from, who I believe in, who I'm fighting for and why I'm in this race.”
Weigh in: How is Obama's community organizing experience relevant in this election?
Image by Ari Levinson, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.
Friday, April 04, 2008 2:52 PM
With the tired call for “compassionate conservatism” still leaking out of the right, perhaps some liberals are attempting to separate themselves from the progressive ethos they once espoused. Perhaps empathy and compassion no longer hold the value they once did on the left. This seems to be the case with a Nation cover story earlier this year, in which Sarah Blustain examined Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)—the mental anguish and suffering that can follow an abortion—in men. Not only does Blustain point out that the antichoice movement has begun using these men as poster boys for its agenda—which should come as no surprise, given the nature of politics—she questions the validity of the condition itself, while implicitly accusing the men of wanting to be used.
The conclusion drawn is that “PAS is a political strategy masquerading as a psychological crisis.” PAS is not a valid condition, Blustain argues, because a) there is little clinical evidence it exists, and b) it is being used as a political tool by the prolife movement. This sounds frighteningly similar to the reasoning behind the dismissal of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in soldiers coming back from the Vietnam War. The government perceived that acknowledging the disorder would be politically damaging, and it mysteriously went undiagnosed. This famous case of political-medical denial, of course, does not prove the existence of PAS. Yet it does show that just because science hasn’t rubber-stamped a condition, doesn’t mean people aren’t truly suffering. Nor does the political perversion of an issue invalidate the issue itself. All claims, whether they suit one’s political inclinations or not, should be taken with a healthy helping of skepticism.
Which leaves the men themselves. The thought, unspoken but still present, in Blustain’s article is that their suffering and its use by the prolife movement is deserved, or at least self-inflicted. It’s ironic that Blustain holds these men responsible for their predicament and its usurpation by the right, when the other half of the prolife movement—the non-God half—bases their anti-abortion stance on a similar call for personal responsibility: Those attempting to overturn standing abortion laws often proclaim that adult women who willingly engage in sex that results in an unwanted pregnancy should be held accountable for their actions. Blustain applies a similar brand of reasoning in a novel way: She points out that many of these men wanted their partners to have abortions, and all of them willingly engaged in the sex that resulted in the pregnancy. Hence, it’s their fault and they should learn to deal with the emotional fallout.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that, under all the political garbage piled on by interested parties, there is a human element to every issue. And it is possible to acknowledge this element while dismissing its manipulation by those with a vested interest in its political interpretation. The heart of liberalism is empathy, and the core of empathy is a sensitivity for feelings one has never felt. It would be a shame if those of us who call ourselves liberals began dictating who may and may not suffer, thereby allowing our most noble trait to be appropriated for political gain.
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