Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

Richard Sennett on cities:

In thoroughly-mixed communities people have to engage constantly with fluid differences of all sorts – different kinds of activities and different kinds of people. Difference is a source of stimulation. This stimulation may not make citizens happier but it does make them more alert. My argument to you is that alertness and attentiveness to the unfamiliar, the strange, and the uncertain is an adult strength, a form of human development which urban designers and planners like ourselves can foster by taking down the internal, isolating walls of the city.”

White meat turkey has no taste:

Its slabs of dry, fibrous material are more like cardboard conveyances, useful only for transporting flavorsome food like stuffing and gravy from plate to mouth. It’s less a foodstuff than a turkey app, simulated meat, a hyperlink to real food.

Queering the Congo.

Twilight’s complicated gender politics:.

There’s a reason teenage girls are obsessed with this story, after all, and it’s not because they’re shallow consumers of pop trash: over the course of four books and five movies, Bella’s needs, wants and impulses are by the strongest power manifested–stronger than the vampires and werewolves combined. Her inmost wishes are the steady heartbeat that propels the action forward to an absurd degree…

But as for the substance of her wants, therein lies the perversely haunting twist. I’d argue that Bella’s desires are direct responses to the patriarchy we actually live in. In fact, Meyer has created for her heroine an inverted version of our unjust society.  In this invented, inverted world, Bella is allowed to want sex, and vocalize it, and initiate it, while her partner is the gatekeeper who makes sure she is safe and married before she gets “hurt.” In her world, the men around her urge her to abort her fetus for her own safety, but she gets to “choose” to deliver it even though it kills her. In her world, her boyfriend can urge her to attend college and better herself while she can push for an early marriage–and be right! In her world, she can reject her body and trade it in for a new one that is agile, strong, lithe. Her choices are consistently to fall into the arms of the patriarchy and trust that it will catch her, and her faith is validated: she gets a perfect husband, angelic child, new body.

On transparency and Oakland:

When some bureaucrat responds to a request for public records by writing how much she is committed to transparency, you know you are in trouble. That’s certainly the case in Oakland, where Mayor Jean Quan’s failures to be transparent stink like the rotting hay that Occupy protesters spread all over Frank H. Ogawa Plaza for a month.

“Dear Mr. Peele, (the) city of Oakland is highly committed to transparency” began a pound-sand email I received from Arlette Flores-Medina, the “open government coordinator” in the City Attorney’s Office. Flores-Medina was responding to my notice that public records requests I had filed nearly a month ago covering four departments in Oakland government — Quan’s office and the police, fire and public works departments — were, for various reasons, being handled improperly.

As I noted, that was Nov. 8. I am writing this Nov. 22, two weeks later, and none of the requests — all related to Occupy Oakland — have been properly fulfilled.

Income inequality chartporn:

Journalist Mona Eltahawy describes her assault in Egypt:

“What Endless War Looks Like”:

“I’m sure we can all agree that we must endure years more of civil liberties assaults, endless war, bulging military budgets, suffocating government secrecy, a sprawling surveillance regime, and the slaughter of countless more Muslim children in order to save ourselves from this existential Lone Wolf threat. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that endless war, drone attacks, occupying countries, and engineering regime change is precisely what in the first place. Indeed, NYPD’s Police Commission Raymond Kelly claimed that “Pimentel’s talk did not ‘turn to action’ until recently” when he “clearly ‘jacked up his speed after the elimination’ of the Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by an American drone strike in September.” In other words, what little Terrorism does exist is caused directly by our own actions — the very actions justified in the name of stopping Terrorism.”

“It’s getting harder and harder to grow any food at all”

Heavy rain is stymieing crop production of vegetables and wheat, drought is causing pumpkin prices to skyrocket, heat waves are killing turkeys (over 4,000 this past summer), cold spring weather in California forced wine grape production down, and Hurricane Irene ravaged the vegetable harvest in parts of the Northeast.

Jack Shenker on Tahrir square:

Seven straight days of deadly violence can quickly reshape political realities, and Washington is not the only place where support for Scaf appears to be rapidly deteriorating. In the early afternoon, two officers appeared on a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square and led chants against Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Scaf’s leader and their own commander-in-chief. They joined a small but expanding group of mid-ranking officers who have effectively defected in recent days and allied themselves with the protesters.

“I want the people to know there are army officers who are with them,” Major Tamer Samir Badr told the Guardian. “My feelings came to a head last week when I saw people dying, and the army gave the orders for us to just stand and watch. I’m supposed to die for these people, not them die for me. Now I’m ready to die in the square, and I’m not afraid of anything.”

Speaking next to an open window that looked out on to Tahrir and which Badr insisted was left open so that he could hear the crowds, the 37-year-old claimed that many other officers had been attending the protests secretly in civilian clothes. “Scaf is composed of 19 generals and they are the ones who have power in this country. But those 19 are nothing compared to the thousands of people in the forces. I demand that the field marshal hand over power to a civilian government immediately, and that he just leave,” he said.

“Of course this puts me in danger, but I am on the right side. I’m with the people. If I die, I will die with a clean conscience. Either I will get killed in the square, or get sent to a military court then prison.”

Feminism, Finance and the Future of #Occupy – An interview with Silvia Federici

This movement appears spontaneous but its spontaneity is quite organized, as it can be seen from the languages and practices it has adopted and the maturity it has shown in response to the brutal attacks by the authorities and the police. It reflects a new way of doing politics that has grown out of the crisis of the anti-globalization and antiwar movements of the last decade, one that emerges from the confluence between the feminist movement and the movement for the commons. By “movement for the commons” I refer to the struggles to create and defend anti-capitalist spaces and communities of solidarity and autonomy. For years now people have expressed the need for a politics that is not just antagonistic, and does not separate the personal from the political, but instead places the creation of more cooperative and egalitarian forms of reproducing human, social and economic relationships at the center of political work.
In New York, for instance, a broad discussion has been taking place for some years now among people in the movement on the need to create “communities of care” and, more generally, collective forms of reproduction whereby we can address issues that “flow from our everyday life (as Craig Hughes and Kevin Van Meter of the Team Colors Collective have put it [1]). We have begun to recognize that for our movements to work and thrive, we need to be able to socialize our experiences of grief, illness, pain, death, things that now are often relegated to the margins or the outside of our political work. We agree that movements that do not place on their agendas the reproduction of both their members and the broader community are movements that cannot survive, they are not “self-reproducing,” especially in these times when so many people are daily confronting crises in their lives.
Great sources of inspiration here have been the response of Act Up to the AIDS crisis, the anarchist tradition of ‘mutual aid,’ and, above all, the experience of the feminist movement which realized that “the revolution begins at home” in the restructuring of our reproductive activities and the social relations that sustain them. In recent years, this merging of feminism and political ‘commoning’ has generated a great number of local initiatives – community gardens, solidarity economies, time banks, as well as attempts to create ‘accountability structures’ at the grassroots level to deal with abuses within the movement without resorting to the police. Often these initiatives seemed to remain confined at the local level and lack the power to link up to confront the status quo. The Occupy movements show us that this need not be the case.

New Eden, Old Devils:

“Hubris—the notion that Occupy has somehow organically undone racial disparity, patriarchy and class divisions after six weeks of camp-outs—is a greater danger than anything external to Occupy. Most people came to this drive with a lifetime of white privilege taught to all races, and even the greatest general assembly ever isn’t going to break down those lessons overnight.”

Joshua Holland on the history of how corporations became “people,” via LGM:

During the 19th century, however, the robber barons, aided by a few corrupt jurists deep in their pockets, took the concept to a whole new level in the United States. According to legal textbooks, the idea that corporations enjoy the same constitutional rights as you or I was codified in the 1886 decision Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. But historian Thom Hartmann dug into the original case documents and found that this crucially important legal doctrine actually originated with what may be the most significant act of corruption in history.

It occurred during a seemingly routine tax case: Santa Clara sued the Southern Pacific Railroad to pay property taxes on the land it held in the county, and the railroad claimed that because states had different rates, allowing them to tax its holdings would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The railroads had made the claim in previous cases, but the courts had never bought the argument.

In a 2005 interview, Hartmann described his surprise when he went to a Vermont courthouse to read an original copy of the verdict and found that the judges had made no mention of corporate personhood. “In fact,” he told the interviewer, “the decision says, at its end, that because they could find a California state law that covered the case ‘it is not necessary to consider any other questions’ such as the constitutionality of the railroad’s claim to personhood.”

Hartmann then explained how it was that corporations actually became “people”:

In the headnote to the case—a commentary written by the clerk, which is not legally binding, it’s just a commentary to help out law students and whatnot, summarizing the case—the Court’s clerk wrote: “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The discovery “that we’d been operating for over 100 years on an incorrect headnote” led Hartmann to look into the past of the clerk who’d written it, J. C. Bancroft Davis. He discovered that Davis had been a corrupt official who had himself previously served as the president of a railroad. Digging deeper, Hartmann then discovered that Davis had been working “in collusion with another corrupt Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Field.” The railroad companies, according to Hartmann, had promised Field that they’d sponsor his run for the White House if he assisted them in their effort to gain constitutional rights.