Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

Some updated Sunday links:


As Katie Kitamura put it, “Strategy backfired. Police brutality has turned #occupywallstreet into a huge story.”

For example, knee to the throat:

Thrown down and arrested for talking:

Thrown to the ground for failing to move:

Peaceful protesters penned and maced:

The slowed down version of that last one:

  1. Julian Assange’s statement on his “Unauthorized Autobiography”
  2. Julian Assange’s publisher’s statement on his “Unauthorized Autobiography”

OK, Elizabeth Warren is kind of awesome:

Rick Perry’s Texas re-districting plan purposefully discriminated against minorities:

The Justice Department said late Friday that based on their preliminary investigation, a congressional redistricting map signed into law by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry appears to have been “adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to Congress.”

In a piece that is really about Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place, a shot at the Caine Prize:

[L]iterary prizes are donor-funded and, yes, they have an agenda. Take the Caine Prize; the winning stories not about Africa’s porn are countable. In Monica Arac de Nyeko, the 2007 winner, Africans can be same sex loving, and in Binyavanga’s Discovering Home he travels to a happy family gathering.

The rest, Africans are butchering each other in Rwanda (Yvonne Odhiambo); in a refugee camp they wait to exhale in a donor T-shirts (E.C Osondu), then fighting with sticks in Sierra Leone (Olufemi Terry) and this year from Paradise we hit leafy Budapest, an imaginary Harare/Bulawayo suburb to scavenge guavas (NoViolet Bulawayo).

From The Economist:

AT MIDNIGHT the Palestinian vigil against the predations of nearby Jewish settlers begins. Five students, armed with a pocket-torch, stand guard at the hilltop entrance of the small Palestinian village of Kfar Qusra. Farmers and their wives pitch camp in their fields, watching their flocks.

It is not an even fight. Jewish settlers wield M-16 rifles. Villagers have mobile phones and stones. But after religious zealots from the nearby Esh Kodesh (“Holy Light”) outpost scrawled “Muhammad is a pig” in Hebrew on the walls of the village mosque and rolled burning tyres inside its prayer hall, the villagers decided that the moral high ground was no longer enough. “The age of sumud (stubborn steadfastness) has passed,” says a local businessman. “We must defend ourselves. The whole town is prepared.” At an evening planning meeting, an 85-year-old landowner encourages his sons to abduct the next settler who chops down trees in his olive groves or slaughters one of his sheep.

So far the new, more robust tactics of the villagers have worked. On September 16th, a week after the attack on the mosque, a Qusra farmer, Fathallah Abu Rayda, spied a band of settlers near his local well, seemingly intent on destroying or poisoning it, and notified the village network. Within minutes the mosque’s loudspeakers had sounded the alarm, and hundreds had gathered to shoo the intruders away. One fled, said villagers, in his underpants. In the panic Mr Abu Rayda was shot in the leg, but they have yet to return.

Higher Ed cuts disproportionately affect community colleges:

“‘Budget cuts might mean larger classes, fewer full-time faculty, shorter hours in the library, or it might be less frequent cutting of the grass,’ he says. ‘But community colleges are pretty bare bones. The vast majority of money they receive goes to academics,’ not to prettifying the grounds, sports teams, or other extracurriculars.”

A police officer arrested a disabled woman who was sitting in a chair in front of her home waiting for an ice cream truck:

Walker said an Atlanta police officer approached her and told her to move. “He came right here and said we had to move, and I said ‘What reason do he have to move?’ ” Walker said. She said the officer told her, “Because I said so.” Walker claims she stood and told the officer she was going to call his supervisor. “That’s when he grabbed me. My ice cream fell and my phone fell,” she said. Walker said that’s when the officer put her on the ground. Walker has photos of the incident. Walker said the officer sprained her shoulder in the process, and she had to be taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.

The charge was disorderly conduct.

Jadaliyya roundtable discussing the relevance of occupation law to the Palestinian-Israel conflict:

Senior Administrators Now Officially Outnumber Faculty at the UC

Some links from Chris Newfield:

To distract yourself from the California meltdown, read UK Universities Minister David Willetts take to the Guardian defend the multi-year elimination of nearly all direct public funding, among his other measures.  See Willetts sophistically claim that government investment has not been cut because student loans are really the same as grants.
This weekend the New York Times magazine had several good pieces on education.  See in particular What if the Secret to Success Is Failure, which is about the role of education in building personalities that can sustain effort, insight, creativity, and success — all depending on the kind of individualizing environment that budget cuts are wrecking at the public college level.

Louis CK on Louie1, 2, 3, 4. Via Gerry.

You don’t want to work in an warehouse:

During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn’t quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.

The supply of temporary workers keeps Amazon’s warehouse fully staffed without the expense of a permanent workforce that expects raises and good benefits. Using temporary employees in general also helps reduce the prospect that employees will organize a union that pushes for better treatment because the employees are in constant flux, labor experts say. And Amazon limits its liability for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance because most of the workers don’t work for Amazon, they work for the temp agency.

“I’ve never worked for an employer that had paramedics waiting outside for people to drop because of the extreme heat.”

On June 2, a warehouse employee contacted OSHA to report the heat index hit 102 degrees in the warehouse and 15 workers collapsed. The employee also complained that workers who had to go home due to heat symptoms received disciplinary points…

On June 10, an OSHA worker heard the following message on the agency’s complaint hotline from an emergency room doctor at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest: “I’d like to report an unsafe environment with a[n] Amazon facility in Fogelsville … Several patients have come in the last couple days with heat-related injuries.”

Troy Davis, RIP.

Socialism and/or Barbarism points out, for the record:

May 2008. The parole board in the state of Georgia spared a convicted killer from execution hours before he was due to die by lethal injection on Thursday and commuted his sentence to life in prison. At Thursday’s hearing, his lawyers presented a dossier of evidence attesting to his remorse and good behavior in jail, according to local media reports. The lawyers also said he was suffering from withdrawal symptoms from a cocaine addiction at the time of the crime.

This in a case in which there was no doubt about the evidence and the man in question pleaded guilt. The man in question, for the record, was white.

Paul Campos:

“The law’s absurd formalism was part of its strength as ideology.” Precisely. This insight applies to many more aspects of the legal system than the revolting spectacle of our contemporary system of capital punishment, which in a case such as Davis’s — which is not in this respect was not unusual — psychologically tortures the defendant, the defendant’s family, the victim’s family, and others connected to the case for literally decades before producing what the system then has the temerity to call “justice.” (The climax of this spectacle last night involved Davis being strapped to a gurney with a needle in his arm for nearly four hours, waiting for various legal personages to respond to the question of whether, all things considered, it was finally time to stop his heart with state-administered poison).

That we tolerate this kind of thing so readily helps explain, in its own way, why it sometimes seems impossible to do much of anything about the absurdities and dysfunctions of the system of legal education that legitimates it in the first instance. Or perhaps it’s the other way around: perhaps we tolerate the absurdity of something like the 22-year “process” that resulted in the horror of Davis’s final hours because we ‘re socialized from the beginning of our careers in this system to accept all kinds of absurdity and injustice as natural, inevitable, and therefore legitimate.

Muslim Students Convicted of Being Mean to Israeli Ambassador”:

Today 10 members of the so-called “Irvine 11” (charges against one of the original eleven students were dropped) were convicted on misdemeanor charges of disrupting a meeting and conspiracy to disrupt a meeting in a Santa Ana, Calif., court. Here’s what they did, which is a crime:

In February 2010, as Oren began to speak about the U.S.-Israeli relationship at a campus speech, the students rose one-by-one to object to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. One shouted, “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” As the offender was removed from the audience, a designated compatriot shouted, “You, sir, are an accomplice to genocide!” And so on. According to an attorney for one of the students, the longest of the interruptions lasted roughly 8 seconds, and the total amount of time taken up by their outbursts—combined—was roughly one minute.

Meanwhile, UC Irvine holds a mock protest, complete with a SWAT team deployment:

“I am on campus today and I am currently witnessing a protest simulation complete with UC Irvine SWAT teams, police, fake protesters, and the fire department. It looks like a really strange farce. They are ‘protesting’ outside of Gateway in a closed off area around the library. The protesters are simulating what ‘protesters’ act like, confronting officers, yelling, and running around the building with picket signs and megaphones. There are also photographers and camera men ‘capturing’ the event . . . . There were a lot of SWAT on campus and I thought they had a real emergency going on. It seems it has been going on for over an hour. The protesters even have fake ‘speeches’ and chants.”

Anti-Prostitution Posters, WWII

 Friday Photo: Prostitutes protest in Seoul

Pablo K thinks that “The critical praise heaped on Tomas Alfredson’s version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy reflects more than the hunger of intelligent audiences for post-Inception thrillers.”

Via the global sociology blog 

How student debt is ruining the economy and punishing a generation:

Tarah Toney worked two full-time jobs to put herself through college, at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, and still has $75,000 in debt. She graduated in six years with a Bachelor’s in English and wanted to go on to teach high school.

“Right about the time I graduated, Texas severely cut funding to our education system—thanks, Perry–and school districts across the state stopped hiring and started firing. It became abundantly clear that there was no job for me in the Texas public school system,” she told me. “After two months of job searching I got a temporary position in a real estate office.”

She continued, “In August my post-graduation grace period was up and all of the payments on my student loans amount to $500/month. Adding that expense to my monthly bills puts me at $2,100 per month. If I don’t make my payments they will revoke my real estate license, which I need in order to do my job.”

To which, Mike Konczal adds:

[N]otice how the debt works here. For those that can successfully graduate from college and transition into higher paying work – often people with the most resources behind them – the debt is less of a burden, but for those who don’t finish college – those who often have fewer resources – the debt is a gigantic burden. It’s like rolling dice, with the consequences being how much the debt impacts your life.

A nice comparison is to late 19th century Western and Great Plains farmers with mortgage debt along with sharecropping in the South. Success of their enterprises were a dice roll, but either way the debt had to get paid. As J.D. Fields, a leader in the Texas Alliance (which would later evolve into the People’s, or Populist, Party), put it, farmers’ two alternatives were “success and freedom, or failure and servitude.” How well does that describe out educational debt system now?

Judging Inner Beauty: Models and Emotional Labor

Bare Escentuals, a cosmetics company specializing in mineral makeup, has a new ad campaign that hinges upon how it found “the world’s most beautiful women…without ever seeing their faces.” Models and actresses showed up at the casting call and filled out questionnaires about themselves, which were given to Bare Escentuals. The company then cast the campaign solely on the basis of the questionnaires, choosing models not for their looks but for their “inner beauty,”…

On its face this seems a logical, even praise-worthy, response to the constant barrage of unrealistic messages hurled at women every day about what appearance they should aspire to. But in so doing, the campaign commodifies women’s inner lives in addition to their beauty. Viewers are asked to reward the company for putting the models’ personalities on display; we’re expected to judge the models, albeit positively, for going above and beyond the model call of duty — she’s a volunteer firefigher! she has a sword collection! she blogs!By parading the inner (and formerly private) lives of the models for profit, the company appears to be showing us “real” women instead of the professional beauties that they are.

The customer takeaway is supposed to be that Bare Escentuals, more than other companies, recognizes that beauty comes from within. But the net effect is that we are shown how “being oneself” is now subject to standards of beauty. The same labor that has always gone into looking attractive — the labor that models have professionalized and monetized (smiling, appearing natural in front of the camera, speaking the company line) — is now applied to “being yourself,” which has been turned into a field of commodified emotional labor.

Chloe Shama reviews Pricing Beauty:

What is surprising, and what Mears does an excellent job underlining, are the truly baffling elements of the industry. For one, modeling, for the vast majority, is not a lucrative career; it is barely a sustainable one. This is in part because of the explosion of the industry over the past two decades—an increase in supply without a real increase in demand. The internet has allowed scouts to multiply and coordinate their efforts internationally; there are now more models than ever scouted abroad and brought to the United States and Europe. To accommodate the number of non-American models, a House bill proposed a special visa, so that models would not have to compete with other specialty workers like engineers. Fashion-oriented reality television has advertised the industry, promoting an anyone-can-enter and anyone-can-win ethos. (As long as you’re as fierce as Tyra Banks tells you to be.)

The greater supply of models has prompted a contraction in rates—even for high-end work—to shockingly low levels. The average magazine shoot, for example, pays about $100 a day. For appearing on the cover of Vogue a model gets an additional $300. “Many magazines,” writes Mears, “pay nothing at all, though lunch and snacks are often provided.” (I’m guessing that most models don’t gain real compensation through snacking.) Payment for walking in a Fashion Week show in London (where rates, admittedly, are lower than in other cities) is $500. The median income across America in 2009 for a model was $27,330—income that includes no benefits.

Owing to this dynamic, in which desired work is poorly paid, “successful” models are often the most impoverished. Models can actually go into debt through working if their agency fronts the cost of start-up expenses, like photos and transportation. In the less prestigious world of catalog or showroom work, models actually make a living—and keep their agencies afloat. At the New York agency that represented Mears, “the highest consecutive earner, year after year,” she writes, “is a showroom model who has the precise size 8 body needed to fit clothing for a major American retailer.” The model charged $500 per hour; she was, at the time of Mears’s research, 52 years old. Though such “money girls” supply the bulk of an agency’s income, they are considered a drag—workhorses who don’t do much to burnish an agency’s prestige. The golden ring for both models and agencies is a high-end campaign—for a fragrance (which pays, on average, about $100,000) or some other luxury good. This type of job makes money and preserves stature.

The trailer for Sara Ziff’s documentary, Picture Me: the truth about modeling, from a few years ago.