Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

Sunday morning updated London riot links: Primitive Accumulation; Or, A Virtual Read-In on the London Riots“Who has defended the Los Angeles rioters in the terms they deserve?”English Riots – The Stupidity of Right Wing Reason – A Note On LiberalismSomething has snapped, and it has been a long time coming Riot, Try It: A Pragmatics of Urban Disruption in a Planet of SlumsAusterity and Runaway Inequality Lead to Violence And Instability

Progressives Have to Start by Giving Keynesian Economic Lessons:

We have a president who, although technically a Democrat, acts more like a 1970s moderate conservative. On Capitol Hill, the House is run by a Speaker who embraces archaic and inefficient freshwater economics and who is constantly being pushed harder to the right by a group of Tea Partiers. Too many Democrats have lost the will to stand up for the hard-won victories of FDR, Truman, and LBJ.

But having politicians who are up to this task requires more than hitting the pavement and the hard work of stuffing envelopes and working phone banks. Something more is required — a concerted effort to educate the public, pundits, and most of all the candidates in the basics of Keynesian economics.

Science proves the rich really are different. (via)

“We have now done 12 separate studies measuring empathy in every way imaginable, social behavior in every way, and some work on compassion and it’s the same story,” he said. “Lower class people just show more empathy, more prosocial behavior, more compassion, no matter how you look at it.”

I don’t want a job at Pret a Manger.

How does any company encourage teamwork? At Pret a Manger, executives say, the answer is to hire, pay and promote based on — believe it or not — qualities like cheerfulness.

There is a certain “Survivor” element to all of this. New hires are sent to a Pret a Manger shop for a six-hour day, and then the employees there vote whether to keep them or not. Ninety percent of prospects get a thumbs-up. Those who are voted out are sent home with £35 ($57), no hard feelings. The crucial factor is gaining support from existing employees. Those workers have skin in the game: bonuses are awarded based on the performance of an entire team, not individuals. Pret workers know that a bad hire could cost them money.

Israeli school textbooks:

“People don’t really know what their children are reading in textbooks,” she said. “One question that bothers many people is how do you explain the cruel behaviour of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, an indifference to human suffering, the inflicting of suffering. People ask how can these nice Jewish boys and girls become monsters once they put on a uniform. I think the major reason for that is education. So I wanted to see how school books represent Palestinians.”

In “hundreds and hundreds” of books, she claims she did not find one photograph that depicted an Arab as a “normal person”. The most important finding in the books she studied – all authorised by the ministry of education – concerned the historical narrative of events in 1948, the year in which Israel fought a war to establish itself as an independent state, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the ensuing conflict. The killing of Palestinians is depicted as something that was necessary for the survival of the nascent Jewish state, she claims.”

Cynicism as a form of ideology, just because:

The cynical subject is quite aware of the distance between the ideological mask and the social reality, but he none the less still insists upon the mask. The formula, as proposed by Sloterdijk, would then be: “they know very well what they are doing, but still, they are doing it”. Cynical reason is no longer naïve, but is a paradox of an enlightened false consciousness: one knows the falsehood very well, one is well aware of a particular interest hidden behind an ideological universality, but still one does not renounce it.

We must distinguish this cynical position strictly from what Sloterdijk calls kynicism. Kynicism represents the popular, plebeian rejection of the official culture by means of irony and sarcasm: the classical kynical procedure is to confront the pathetic phrases of the ruling official ideology — its solemn, grave tonality — with everyday banality and to hold them up to ridicule, thus exposing behind the sublime noblesse of the ideological phrases the egotistical interests, the violence, the brutal claims to power. This procedure, then, is more pragmatic than argumentative: it subverts the official proposition by confronting it with the situation of its enunciation; it proceeds ad hominem (for example when a politician preaches the duty of patriotic sacrifice, kynicism exposes the personal gain he is making from the sacrifice of others).

Cynicism is the answer of the ruling culture to this kynical subversion: it recognizes, it takes into account, the particular interest behind the ideological universality, the distance between the ideological mask and the reality, but it still finds reasons to retain the mask. This cynicism is not a direct position of immorality, it is more like morality itself put in the service of immorality — the model of cynical wisdom is to conceive probity, integrity, as a supreme form of dishonesty, and morals as a supreme form of profligacy, the truth as the most effective form of a lie.

How ALEC has changed prison labor:

At the Union Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”

Although a wide variety of goods have long been produced by state and federal prisoners for the US government—license plates are the classic example, with more recent contracts including everything from guided missile parts to the solar panels powering government buildings—prison labor for the private sector was legally barred for years, to avoid unfair competition with private companies. But this has changed thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its Prison Industries Act, and a little-known federal program known as PIE (the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program).

The Supermax:

One of the most humiliating aspects of life for inmates are the frequent strip searches – forced to be naked, ordered to bend over by guards and spread the buttocks apart to have the anus inspected for contraband while coughing. Strip searches are the old normal. The photos of nude prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq shocked the world, but to be stripped naked for hours or even days is standard operating procedure in supermaxes.

Nelson explained: “Every time you leave your cell you’re strip searched … They do this to degrade and shock you…Sometimes the guards would make ‘homosexual’ comments like: ‘Hey baby, spread your cheeks’. Darrell Cannon, a survivor of a nine-year stretch in Tamms, described the strip search: ‘They tell you to open your mouth, raise your tongue, hold your hands up, they go through your fingers and toes and tell you to turn around and spread your cheeks up against the chuckhole … It’s degrading to have two other human beings looking at you like you’re some kind of specimen. It is extremely degrading.”

Who is watching the guards?

How is it possible for an inmate to move large caches of prison weapons around, right under the noses of the guards, without their knowledge? Even more disconcerting, where are all the drugs coming from that can be found on any given day, in any given prison? When these and other questions are thoroughly vetted, an entirely different picture will definitely materialize as to what is really going on behind the scenes.

Guards, for the most part, do have incentives to see prisons in a constant state of disorder and lockdown. For one, the more violent the prisons are, the more the guards reap extra hazard pay and overtime. If and when injury occurs, they are remunerated for the time spent in hospitals and courts and for any travel expenses.

I believe that, aside from these economic issues, there is an additional overwhelming need to keep the prison system as a morbid pitch of confusion. In creating this confusion by administering their illogical, perverted perspective, prison officials can dictate the overall balance in the prisons.

If prisoners weren’t fighting each other, who would get the brunt of their anger, frustration and wrath: The guards, without a doubt. Thus, it’s to their advantage to keep the madness going amongst the prisoners. They orchestrate riots, beatings, stabbings, drug flow, racial tension and their entire gamut of prison politics.

Prison food:

What started as the dubious drug bust of a beloved, elderly Mill Valley merchant — a case that rattled many in this bucolic burb — is morphing into a clash about vegetarian rights. Dave McDonald, 70, of Mill Valley, has been a vegetarian for 42 years. But when he was jailed recently for 99 days on drug-related charges (most of which were later dropped), Mr. McDonald was denied vegetarian meals.

He refused to eat anything that he did not know was animal-free, and as a result, his weight plummeted nearly 50 pounds to 155. “I don’t want animal corpses on my plate,” said Mr. McDonald, who is now free on bail. “My belief in not hurting animals is more powerful than any religious belief.”

Had Mr. McDonald said he was a vegetarian for religious reasons, or because of a medical condition, the county would have been legally required to comply. But Marin County officials said that simply believing in the sanctity of animal life was not enough.

“Faith Based Slavery in a Louisiana Prison”:

Angola is lauded as a revolution in corrections, its story told many times: Angola was once the “bloodiest prison in America,” where inmates slept with magazine catalogs strapped to their chests to protect themselves from stabbings. Things began to turn around in the 1970s, when a federal judge ordered a major overhaul. But most of the credit has gone to Warden Cain for imposing order through a new model of incarceration.

Like all of Angola’s wardens, Cain has continued the tradition of hard labor: most inmates work in the fields eight hours a day, five days a week, harvesting hundreds of acres of soybeans, wheat, corn, and cotton—picked by hand and sold by Prison Enterprises, the business arm of the Louisiana Department of Corrections. But unlike his predecessors, Cain, an evangelical Christian, has also made it his mission to bring God to Angola. Inmate ministers tell new prisoners that they can either work on their “moral rehabilitation” or remain a “predator”—“the choice is yours.” The radio station plays gospel music. On the walls leading to the execution chamber are two murals: Elijah ascending to Heaven and Daniel facing the lion. One of Cain’s favorite anecdotes is the execution of Antonio James, a born-again Christian whose hand he held just before giving the go-ahead to end his life. As James lay on the gurney waiting for lethal drugs to enter his veins, Cain said, “Antonio, the chariot is here…you are about to see Jesus.”

The Thirteenth Amendment, section one: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”