Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

As it looks like the fall of Gaddafi might be soon:

Ahdaf Soueif’s Notes from the Egyptian Revolution (hour-long video)

WikiLeaks Statement on Daniel Domscheit-Berg and OpenLeaks:

In order to provide an environment which would encourage Mr. Domscheit-Berg to return what he has stolen and not to use it for malicious purposes, we have made no further statements until today. This diplomatic silence has been difficult for us, and, is perhaps a warning lesson about secret diplomacy. While we have been silent in order to maximize the chances of regaining the material that was entrusted to us, Mr. Domscheit-Berg has issued dozens of legally harmful falsehoods including during our ongoing legal conflict with the Pentagon, during the imprisonment and investigation of two alleged sources, Bradley Manning and Rudolf Elmer and during the imprisonment and extradition hearings of our founder Julian Assange…

Mr. Domscheit-Berg has acted dishonestly, he has admitted to stealing WikiLeaks property, and has admitted to the deliberate sabotage of Wikileaks’ operations, impeding it from carrying out the will of its sources. He has lied, constantly, and flagrantly, to the public, to us, to our lawyers, and to the mediator, Andy Müller-Maguhn. We are making this public statement in a final attempt to make Mr. Domscheit-Berg return the data he has stolen, before he destroys it. This material was entrusted to WikiLeaks specifically by our sources, who often go to significant risks to bring us materials under the basis that we will bring their revelations to the public and defend them from censorship. Every day that passes compromises the will of these sources and the efforts they have undertaken.

Spiegel is saying he’s already deleted the material. (rough translation)


DDT is good for me!

Cathy Davidson:

We’ve been trained to assume that working hard means focusing on a single task to completion, then doing it again. But, says Davidson, “the new workplace requires different forms of attention than the workplace we were trained for.” The result is that we feel anxious and guilty, convinced we’re not getting enough done, not achieving an honest day’s work, failing to live up to the iconic model of our hard-working, brick-and-mortar grandparents. As Davidson puts it,  “We’ve inherited a sense of efficiency modeled on attention that is never pulled off track. ”

On the link or non-link between social media and rioting:

This summer Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has wrestled with one of his biggest challenges since taking office five years ago. Worried that flash mob violence would overrun city streets as it had elsewhere, the Cleveland City Council unanimously passed legislation that would criminalize the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media for assembling unruly crowds or encouraging people to commit a crime.

But Jackson, after consulting with advisers, defied the council and vetoed the ordinance — his first use of that power as mayor. “It’s very difficult to enforce something that’s unconstitutional,” Jackson said in an interview with CNN. “To make a criminal activity of just having a conversation, whether some acts of criminal activity are associated with it or not, it goes beyond reason.”

Corey Robin, “one less bell”:

In the neoliberal utopia, all of us are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping track of each and every facet of our economic lives. That, in fact, is the openly declared goal: once we are made more cognizant of our money, where it comes from and where it goes, neoliberals believe we’ll be more responsible in spending and investing it. Of course, rich people have accountants, lawyers, personal assistants, and others to do this for them, so the argument doesn’t apply to them, but that’s another story for another day.

The dream is that we’d all have our gazillion individual accounts—one for retirement, one for sickness, one for unemployment, one for the kids, and so on, each connected to our employment, so that we understand that everything good in life depends upon our boss (and not the government)—and every day we’d check in to see how they’re doing, what needs attending to, what can be better invested elsewhere. It’s as if, in the neoliberal dream, we’re all retirees in Boca, with nothing better to do than to check in with our broker, except of course that we’re not. Indeed, if Republicans (and some Democrats) had their way, we’d never retire at all.

In real (or at least our preferred) life, we do have other, better things to do.  We have books to read, children to raise, friends to meet, loved ones to care for, amusements to enjoy, drinks to drink, walks to take, webs to surf, couches to lie on, games to play, movies to see, protests to make, movements to build, marches to march, and more. Most days, we don’t have time to do any of that. We’re working way too many hours for too little pay, and in the remaining few hours (minutes) we have, after the kids are asleep, the dishes are washed, and the laundry is done, we have to haggle with insurance companies about doctor’s bills, deal with school officials needing forms signed, and more…

That’s not what the left wants.  We want to give people the chance to do something else with their lives, something besides merely tending to it, without having to take a 30-year detour on Wall Street to get there. The way to do that is not to immerse people even more in the ways and means of the market, but to give them time and space to get out of it. That’s what a good welfare state, real social democracy, does: rather than being consumed by life, it allows you to make your life. Freely. One less bell to answer, not one more.

And on cue, a NYT article on “decision fatigue”:

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time.

When felons were human:

[O]ur general failure to recognize certain prison abuses as human rights abuses is largely a consequence of the exceptional and degraded legal and moral status of convicted offenders. If we understand human rights as inalienable rights that flow from the mere fact of being human, it is hard to escape the conclusion that here in the United States prisoners and convicted offenders more generally do not count, at least in the eyes of the law and a vocal minority of opinion-shapers, as fully human…

From its inception, the early republican penitentiary and successor, the state prison, were subject to considerable public suspicion as institutions that potentially violated natural law, common law, and the law of God. Strict Calvinists condemned the newly renovated Walnut Street penitentiary in the 1790s as a blasphemy before God and man, because it presumed to perform a “surgery on men’s souls”—an authority reserved strictly to the Lord. Other citizens protested that the social contract authorized neither the incarceration of freeborn people nor the tax revenue that the legislature would have to raise in order to pay for its newfangled institution. (In the 1750s, the English parliament rejected the construction of a penitentiary—at least on English soil—on the grounds that it might serve as a beachhead of tyranny). Meanwhile, America’s first generation of convict-inmates carried a range of customary laboring rights into the penitentiary, including that of Blue Monday; control over the length and rhythm of their workday; the right to sing, dance, drink, and have sex (with women visitors); and immunity to the slavish lash.4 Inmates even acquired new customary rights, such as pardons, which became so commonplace that whenever a Governor failed to free every other inmate each “pardoning season,” inmates rioted for days—until the Governor bowed to custom…

The transformation of civil death after 1820—both the seepage of its exclusionary logic into the legal category of convict and the de jure and de facto abridgement of many of the prisoner’s common and natural rights—coincided with the forging of a new kind of prison order, based on forced, congregate labor for a private contractor by day and cellular isolation by night. The strict labor regimen was backed up by routine corporal punishment.14 First developed at New York’s state prison at Auburn, prison labor contracting soon  became the basic model of prison management in almost all other Northern, and a handful of Southern, states. Private manufacturers brought machinery and materials into the prison, paid a fixed, daily rate for the labor of prisoners (or, sometimes, a piece rate), and distributed, sold, and profited from the products of their labor.15 Civil death law facilitated the emergence of this large-scale profit-based system of servitude, giving it legal expression and new moral weight. Wherever contractual penal servitude flourished, conceptions of the typical offender as a temporarily wayward soul who could be reclaimed to the community gave way to an exclusionary, alienating conception. Unlike in Europe, observed Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835, the lawbreaker in America was an “enemy of the human race,” and “every human being is against him.”

Some of my favorite links not only stolen from Gerry Canavan, but with his contextualizing words stolen as well:

Nice work, Ohio:

Kasich, elected in 2010 with just 49 percent of the vote, pushed through an attack on public workers similar to the one Wisconsin’s Scott Walker championed. Senate Bill 5 (SB5) was passed and signed into law in March, and eliminated most collective bargaining for state workers, as well as increased the amount of money they had to pay for their pensions and made it harder for unions to collect dues.

It spawned mass protests that might have been overshadowed in the public imagination by the sheer size of the Madison resistance. But progressives sat up and took notice when Ohio activists, led by the coalition group We Are Ohio, collected 1.3 million signatures on a petition to allow Ohioans to vote on the bill themselves, putting it on the ballot in November’s election. Ohio’s “Citizen Veto”is an unusual law; it gave activists 90 days to collect a minimum of 231,149 signatures to stop the bill going into effect until the voters have a chance to decide. The results were so outstanding—more than five times the required number of signatures–that the group and 6,000 supporters held a parade through the city of Columbus to deliver the signatures to the secretary of state’s office.

30 years of music industry media change:

I am shocked, shocked:

Remember those assurances given in Georgia, Arizona and Alabama, that new laws only allowed police to check the immigration status of people suspected of crimes? That civil-liberties concerns were overblown, and suggestions that racial profiling would take place were just so much liberaltarian whining? If anyone believed lawmakers then, they should not now. People were placed in deportation proceedings after being pulled over after police noticed broken lights over licence plates or, in Minnesota, having frost on the windshield. And those were among the more legitimate stops: at least in those cases the drivers were unlicenced. In Texas police demanded identification from a man leaving a convenience store; when he couldn’t produce any he was taken to a sheriff’s office, charged with no crime and handed over to immigration authorities. Police detained a passenger in a car being driven by a licenced driver for having no identification on him; he too was handed over to immigration authorities, and departed the country voluntary (presumably in advance of, and to avoid, deportation proceedings). A woman in California was handed over to immigration authorities after police told her, “You fucking Mexicans are all alike.” Another woman was pulled over for making an illegal right turn; before she said anything, an officer said, “I know you’re illegal.”

Also shocking, college football a mass of sex and money scandalry.

“DON’T Give the Miami Hurricanes the Death Penalty: Give it to the NCAA”:

What this scandal should produce, instead of the isolation and destruction of one program, is a serious reflection on the gutter economy that is college athletics. Players cannot be paid openly and legally so instead we get the amoral wampum of “amateur sports.” Reading the Yahoo Sports story, it’s difficult to not be chilled by the casual misogyny detailed as strippers, “escorts” and hookers were purchased and handed to players like party favors. You wonder why over 80% of NFL players get divorced after retirement. It’s because as teenagers, they are mentored by parasites like Nevin Shapiro who show them that women are the exchange value for their lucrative labor. This kind of gutter economy also has an ugly echo in old slave plantations, as the prized sports specimens in the antebellum South were handed women by the masters in return for their athletic prowess. Or as David Steele wrote earlier this week, ”Of course, America’s tender little feelings will be bruised if this is equated to slavery, or a plantation economy, or a plantation mentality. Fine. Maybe it can live with a metaphor like sharecropping. You do all the work, we take all the profits, we compensate you with the bare necessities of life, and tough break if you don’t like it.”
The metaphor works because once you wave away the smoke and hot air, this is about jock sniffing criminals and corrupted college Presidents taking advantage of primarily poor African Americans from the South, who see everyone getting paid but them. One anonymous University of Miami player told Yahoo Sports about University running back Tyrone Moss, who took $1,000 from Shapiro. “The guy had a kid while he was in college, a little Tyrone Jr.,” the player said. “He comes in poor as [expletive] from Pompano and he’s got a little kid to feed. I could barely feed myself. I can’t imagine having to feed a kid, too. Of course he’s going to take it when someone offers him $1,000. Who wouldn’t in that situation?”
The solution lies in paying the players but it also lies in driving a stake through the heart of the NCAA as an instrument of enforcement. Having the NCAA shut down the program only reinforces the illusion that they are the motor of morality, compliance and justice, when in fact they are the corrupters of these concepts. Already, NCAA President Mark Emmert, he of the seven figure salary, has been across the national media, preaching about protecting, “The integrity of intercollegiate athletics.” Emmert and his 14 assistants, each who make at least $400,000 a year, will stand on their soapbox and quarantine the bad boys of Miami just in time to save the Golden Goose: the billion dollar television contracts, and the $135 million from the Bowl Championship Series used to crown a fake national champion.

The Real Vacation Outrage: The U.S. Is The Only Developed Country Where Citizens Aren’t Guaranteed Paid Vacation

Astronaut suicides:

 Against the term “Arab Spring”:

Every time I run into a Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Syrian, Bahraini or Yemeni, I ask them how they refer to their own political actions. Their answer is an almost universal, “Revolution” (or thawra, in Arabic). And when they refer to the collective activities of Arabs across the region, they often use the plural “revolutions” (or thawrat).They also use descriptor collective-nouns such as the Arab “uprising” (intifada), the Arab “awakening” (sahwa), or the Arab renaissance (nahda), the latter mirroring the initial Arab Awakening against Ottoman and European domination in the early years of the 20th century. I personally like the term “Arab citizen revolt,” which captures the common demand among all Arab demonstrators to enjoy full citizenship rights with appropriate constitutional guarantees.

The terms Arabs use to describe themselves are far stronger and more substantive than “Arab Spring.” Inherent in the term “spring,” for sure, is the idea of an awakening after the winter slumber. However, it also denotes a brief or limited transitional moment that soon gives way to the next season of summer. It mirrors Czechoslovakia’s brief “Prague Spring” liberalism of 1968, which the Russians quickly halted, and also the European revolutions of 1848 a century earlier. Tellingly, the “spring” metaphor was not applied to the revolutions that swept the Soviet Empire in the 1980s and early 1990s. When real change happens, the world tends to describe this as a revolution, not a spring – except, it seems, in the Arab world.

which reminded me of Ranajit Guha:

Historiography has been content to deal with the peasant rebel merely as an empirical person or member of a class, but not as an entity whose will and reason constituted the praxis called rebellion. The omission is indeed dyed into most narratives by metaphors assimilating peasant revolts to natural phenomena: they break out like thunder storms, heave like earthquakes, spread like wildfires, infect like epidemics. In other words, when the proverbial clod of earth turns, this is a matter to be explained in terms of natural history. Even when this historiography is pushed to the point of producing an explanation in rather more human terms it will do so by assuming an identity of nature and culture, a hall-mark, presumably of a very low state of civilization and exemplified in ‘those periodical outbursts of crime and lawlessness to which all wild tribes are subject’, as the first historian of the Chuar rebellion put it. Alternatively, an explanation will be sought in an enumeration of causes – of, say, factors of economic and political deprivation which do not relate to the peasant’s consciousness or do so negatively – triggering off rebellion as a sort of reflex action, that is, as an instinctive and almost mindless response to physical suffering of one kind or another (e.g. hunger, torture, forced labour, etc.) or as a passive reaction to some initiative of his superordinate enemy. Either way insurgency is regarded as external to the peasant’s consciousness and Cause is made to stand in as a phantom surrogate for Reason, the logic of that consciousness

Paul Gilroy:

We’ve been talking about poverty, and one of the worst forms of poverty that’s shaped our situation is poverty of the imagination. And what happens in this country, and this is something that many of us in our communities share with [Conservative Prime Minister] David Cameron, whether we like it or not. When we feel the impact of our poverty of the imagination, we reach for what we think is the future, and that’s always the United States of America…

If we go down that road, we’re headed toward a society that’s run on the basis of mass imprisonment. And that’s not just about making the prisons bigger and fuller, making them engines for making money for private corporations, but it’s also about turning your schools into prisons, and turning your streets into prisons, and turning your community into something that’s much more like a prison. And we do not want that society based on mass imprisonment. That’s not our future. We are notAmericans, we are not Americans.

“Who has defended the Los Angeles rioters in the terms they deserve?”