BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A
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Things You Might Have Missed

June 20, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Spiderman with a BonerIf you read nothing else on this list, read The Forgotten Fight Against Fascism. This is the pre-WWII history that people want to skip over so they can retain their hero stories.

More history overlooked because it doesn’t fit in with the preferred narrative is covered in this guy’s book on how guns made the civil rights movement possible.

And before anybody replies to that with stats on US gun violence, please take a look at this Guardian chart on gun ownership and gun homicides around the world. Turns out, the correlation between gun ownership and gun violence is not as clear-cut as you might think.

That said, gun ownership does increase the risk of suicide. And we have a serious problem with suicide deaths, including in prisons. Our society is sick.

Propublica is doing a series on the use of restraints on mostly kids with disabilities 267,000 cases in one school year. Disgusting.

Also on the subject of schools, an Idaho school district is implementing a strict social media policy for their teachers. How much control should your work have over your private life?

If you have any extra cash, they are raising money for a documentary about the California prison hunger strikers.

In happier news, Zingerman’s is about to become a worker co-op. They have always been more democratic than most businesses, but this is cool. The benefits are so obvious.

And just for kicks, Spider-Man Statue Removed From South Korean Playground Because It Has A Gigantic Boner. @PaprikaPink said that “it seems he made that statue expressly to inspire bad puns.” After reading that article, I find it hard to disagree.

Religion Doesn’t Exist

June 19, 2014 By: Mel Category: Religion

Church of the Virgin of Guadalupe Mexico City Years and years ago, I asked one of my Indian coworkers if he was religious. He looked at me like I had just grown an extra limb. He told me that he had no idea what people meant when they asked him that. Then he described a couple rituals that he performed every day and asked if that is what I meant by religious. They were things that we would probably describe as religious, but didn’t seem to be done with much more time or thought than I put into making my morning coffee.

I took my friend to mean that religion and culture were so bound up into one that he couldn’t separate them. But I was wrong. It was more than that. Kwame Anthony Appiah is right. The idea of religion is European. There is no such thing as religion.

Things You Might Have Missed

June 13, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Limelight Club New YorkI work in the anti-poverty wing of the nonprofit industrial complex. So naturally everyone is World Cup crazy. Number of times I have heard someone mention protests? Zero. For those of you who might want to know how a lot of Brazilians are feeling about this, Black Agenda Report has a comprehensive piece on Race, Class, and the World Cup in Brazil.

Enjoy the World Cup while it lasts. Looks like nobody wants to host it in the future.

Maya Angelou was the kind of person who would go to a remote, youth correctional facility “dressed to the nines” and attached to an oxygen tank so that some of society’s throw away kids might walk a little taller.

Baltimore is trying to make sure we throw away as many kids as possible. Kids who violate curfew will go to “connection centers.” Parents will have to pay fines. You know, like that woman who just died in jail because she couldn’t afford to pay the fines related to her kid’s truancy.

Los Angeles joins the dozens of other heartless cities with bans on feeding the homeless. Of course, the homeless are also being pushed out of downtown just as fast as the gentrifiers can manage it.

Chicago is trying to make more people homeless, evictions using police with guns instead of sheriffs with social services.

Rational guest post about gun violence and mass shootings on Balko’s blog.

Is there really anyone who has to ask if feminism has a class problem? You know what else feminism has a problem with? “Radical” men who make a big show in public, but don’t deal with their shit in private.

When you question homogeneity as the baseline, you discover that homogeneity results in artificial consensus, group think, and inaccurate information.

Apparently, the US has some of the worst labor rights in the world. Maybe part of the problem is the state of our unions? By which I mean that the unions are mostly married to party politics and hierarchies. We should send everyone a few copies of Colin Ward on a Self Employed Society.

UnderSea asked about NDAA a couple weeks ago. @icymirss kindly sent me a feed on NDAA and one on indefinite detention. Thanks for that.

And finally, the man who brought us ecstasy has died. That made me nostalgic for early 90s New York, hence the Limelight pic. Maybe he found out that they turned the Limelight into upscale boutiques. Sheesh. New York, you are almost dead to me.

 

Am I The Only One Who Wants to Slap Michael Pollan?

June 04, 2014 By: Mel Category: Inequality

string beansApparently, Michael Pollan has another book out and this time he is preaching about home cooking.

My mother did the vast majority of the cooking when I was growing up. Shopping and cooking seemed to take up the bulk of her week. And she got little pleasure from it. It was an obligation and a chore. So when Michael Pollan says that “we have dropped the amount of time we spend on cooking by about a half an hour since 1965,” I want to know whose hours those were. And who do you need to be for a half hour to seem like nothing?

I used to work with a woman who had a full-time job, full-time school, and two children. The only moments she had to herself were the ones she stole to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom of her apartment, usually with two little boys knocking on the door. But Pollan says “it’s important to look at what you’re doing with that half-hour and whether it’s more valuable to you.” Because clearly anyone who is not cooking for their kids is just flitting away their time on nonsense.

A couple hours after reading that Pollan interview I read a piece in the Post about how people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Sadly, it doesn’t break down the study by single/coupled and parent/childfree. But it does make clear that women are much more stressed at home than men are. Because the expectation is that you come home from work and then need to worry about cleaning, cooking, carpooling, planning…

I know how much time my mother spent shopping and cooking every week. And I know how many weeks have gone by where I have spent zero time shopping and cooking. So I think Pollan’s 30 minutes per day stat is horseshit. But lets say for a moment that I buy into that. Here is a small sample of things I would rather do than cook.

  • eat
  • drink
  • read
  • write
  • sleep
  • have sex
  • paint
  • sail
  • travel
  • volunteer
  • research
  • raise hell

Not necessarily in that order.

Does Pollan know about the people who live on a few hours sleep per night because they cannot squeeze work, laundry, and child rearing into a day? Has he never known a new mother who hasn’t taken a shower in 3 days because there was no opportunity? Does he know the guilt bombs that are lobbed at women who dare to take a moment for themselves?

Pollan is just adding to that little voice that tells people, especially mothers, that they are selfish shits if every moment isn’t dedicated to being a Stepford wife.  He is that person who makes a woman feel bad for hitting the McDonalds drive through and taking a 30 minute bath – the only time she will have to herself that day. But really, what are the chances that the Berkeley-educated, white boy, son of a financial consultant and a writer , who was born in the 50′s would have any clue what life would be like for a Haitian immigrant woman with three housekeeping jobs and a gaggle of kids to take care of?

I know that the food system is fucked up. I know that the majority of the working poor work in food services. I know that the processed foods we eat are deadly. I actually do agree with the general goals of Pollan’s work. But you cannot talk about cooking without any mention of how gendered a task it has been. And you cannot talk about taking time to cook without any understanding of how little extra time some people have.

He deserves to have a dozen poor, overworked mothers take one of his books and smack him over the head with it. Luckily for him, they don’t have the time.

Unincorporate the Worst Company in the World

June 02, 2014 By: Mel Category: Change, Politics

Adbusters has a new thing. They are asking us to vote on the worst company in the world. The idea is to have a campaign to revoke their corporate status. They are calling it the birth of the corporate charter movement.

I think this is a good idea.

People need reminding that corporations are created and sanctioned by the state. They need reminding that incorporation is, by definition, government protection. Why should anyone get limited liability? If there is any time when that is appropriate, when should it be?

I don’t have any hope that we will be able to take down Goldman Sachs. But I think this is a really important public conversation to have.

Things You Might Have Missed

May 30, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Antigua, GuatemalaIf you read anything about Elliot Rodger, please read this. It is the only thing I have seen that gives real thought to the murders, the culprit, and what it says about our society. Simplistic crap about how “misogyny kills” or calls for gun control are just not going to cut it.

Despite having no violence or other problems that could possibly justify it, PG County is putting more cops in schools. Guess they haven’t criminalized enough youth in Maryland. Not to worry. It isn’t like kids are tried in kangaroo courts without attorneys.

In better Maryland news, the Ban the Box bill has passed. That is the legislation that prevents employers from asking about felony records on the employment application. DC is close, but with some problems.

Philadelphia has a major problem with police violence and they are paying for it – in the millions. These cases made me want to vomit.

The US House of Representatives approved some bullshit sanctions against Venezuela that (surprise!) will in no way shape or form affect the decades of lucrative exploitation business Halliburton does there.

Very interesting research on how evangelicals only coalesced politically around abortion later. Originally, it was objections to desegregation of schools that got the evangelical movement going.

Forbes is stoked that the insurance company windfall from Obamacare is finally coming through. Even nonprofit insurers are holding onto mountains of cash. Too bad about those Sodexo workers who are being reclassified as part time and losing their coverage. Meanwhile, medicare is being overbilled by billions – with a b.

A report has found that “U.S. government Fusion Centers, which operate as ill-defined ‘counter-terrorism’ intelligence gathering and sharing centers, conducted spy operations against Occupy protesters involving police, the Pentagon, the FBI, military employees, and business people.” And they say a society based on cooperation is impossible. Pishaw.

In related news. Why do Dominators Hate Direct Democracy?

Keep an eyeball on Guatemala everyone. Shit is heating up again.

You might remember those SOA Watch posters I put up a couple weeks ago. Well, a bunch of SOA people got arrested for putting them up in DC.

I am having a very hard time scrubbing my vocabulary of words like “crazy.” I need to read this a few more times.

Things You Might Have Missed

May 16, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Poster4

Cool SOA Watch posters can be procured here.

If any of you read Italian, one of my blog posts is in A-Rivista Anarchica.

A small victory for us. The PG County police did not live tweet a prostitution sting. In fact, there was no sting.

Short and fascinating interview with Jessica Gordon on her new book about the history of black cooperatives.

If skipping school had been an imprisonable offense when I was a kid, I’d still be in prison.

Of course, they’ll lock you up for going to school to.

Victoria Law’s newest on women getting strip searched and filmed by male guards in prison just made my skin crawl.

Also creepy as shit, Violet Blue on our future of total surveillance. But don’t worry says the government. Future us won’t have read 1984.

“You have no idea. People in this state are scared that the little things they do have, they’re afraid they’ll be taken from them,” he says. “You know how people talk about the Confederacy? This still is the Confederacy. Besides fast-food, Alabama’s main industry is prisons.” – says the fast food worker on strike who was later arrested.

Everyone is talking about those girls in Nigeria. Lots of people are calling for military action without having any idea of he history there. Please read Glen Ford’s article before you start beating a war drum.

Interesting interview with Peggy McIntosh, the woman who really kicked off the “privilege” conversation.

Rural hospitals are getting screwed by their local anti-Obamacare governments and by the Obama administration.

Depressed after reading all of these? Don’t worry. Total societal collapse is only a couple decades away.

Commencement Controversies

May 13, 2014 By: Mel Category: Inequality

Johns HopkinsIt is commencement protest season again. Almost 3,000 people have signed on to a petition to get Chris Christie off the schedule at Rowan University. IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, has cancelled her commencement speech at Smith College after student protests. Condoleezza Rice will no longer be giving the commencement speech at Rutgers after protests there. Last year it was Robert Zoellick and Ben Carson.

Everyone who talks about these controversies in terms of free speech or academic freedom – just stop.

Everyone who pretends like they can both climb the hierarchies and not be morally compromised – just stop.

A commencement speech is not a conversation. It isn’t a debate. It isn’t an open platform. There is nothing free about it. A commencement speech is where an institution selects an elite to tell the fresh crop of social climbers coming up behind them how they can be better than everyone else. Selecting a commencement speaker is about confirming the social status of the speaker. When you select someone to speak, you are saying that they are someone worth emulating. It isn’t the same as having someone speak on a panel where their views and status can be questioned.

That said.

If you are in the university system, you are there to receive the credentials to continue being one of the privileged few. If that credentialing is truly important to you, then you are completely invested in the system that creates Robert Zoellick and Condoleezza Rice. If your goal is to gain a position of power over anybody – even in a liberal social work warm fuzzy sort of way – you are not morally superior to the people you are protesting against.

Anyone who thinks they go to a university that is somehow different from all the other institutions conferring power and privilege, please feel free to make your case. But remember how many universities are doing research for the military. Rutgers, for instance, makes military armor. And remember where university funding comes from. If you go to Johns Hopkins, I really hope you like Mayor Bloomberg, cause that is who is funding your studies.

Maybe people should stop protesting commencement speeches and start protesting institutions that perpetuate privilege and power. Or at least select someone to speak who might have something important to say. I bet the people who clean up after the students on campus would have a lot of insight.

The Compartmentalization of Injustice

May 09, 2014 By: Mel Category: Criminal Injustice System

Cecily McMillanIt is all over the news that 9 out of 10 jurors who voted to send Cecily McMillan to prison have written the judge asking for a lenient sentence

The letter follows initial reactions of shock and regret from some who served on the jury—which was not informed of the verdict’s severe sentencing guidelines during the trial—once they learned McMillan could be incarcerated for years. One juror expressed “remorse” to theGuardian on Tuesday, stating, “Most just wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service. But now what I’m hearing is seven years in jail? That’s ludicrous. Even a year in jail is ridiculous.” Martin Stolar, criminal defense attorney affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild and co-counsel for McMillan’s case, said two other jurors had contacted him with similar expressions of regret, according to the Huffington Post.

During McMillan’s trial, the jury was not informed of the severe sentencing guidelines for the verdict, as is the standard in the United States, except for death penalty cases.

When I was on grand jury duty we were told again and again that we were not to think about the consequences. When people asked what the possible punishment could be – because they clearly did not think the person should go to prison – the prosecutors would refuse to answer. When people had questions about the legality of searches, the prosecutors would tell us that the defense attorney would worry about that. When people asked questions about the flimsy evidence, the prosecutors told them that those matters would get settled at trial – knowing full well the case would never go to trial.

I tried to muster up some sympathy for the other jurors. I reminded myself that they had not spent the last decade learning about the torture in our prisons. But try as I might I could not find it in me to let go of the rage. It isn’t just that I was in a room full of people who remained willfully ignorant about a system that affects tens of thousands of their neighbors in this city. It was that there has never been a time in my entire life when someone would have told me not to think about what might happen at the end of the line and I would have just saluted and gone along.

What kind of person does that?

Clearly the cop in the room does it. He was the most vocal about us needing to follow the law. He was the one who reminded people that they weren’t supposed to think. He was the poster child for the banality of evil. It was someone just like him who stamped the transport papers for train rides to Auschwitz. But what about the rest? So much obedience ending in so much disaster. What creates that? More importantly, what uncreates it?

On my better days I tried to focus on just how hard the system works to keep us compartmentalized. Without compartmentalization, the whole system would fail. As obedient as the people in that grand jury room were, had they had the opportunity to determine the actual consequences, I believe many of them would have refused to send people to prison. And I say that knowing that they were almost completely unaware of what happens in those places.

Our lives are entirely compartmentalized. We are pressured to limit our thinking all the time. We study in silos of academic disciplines. We work in factories or offices where we have little idea where our tasks fit into the whole. We draw lines through our work and personal lives so that the filth we do to earn a living might not dirty the rest of our lives. We allow ourselves to be cogs in oppression machines.

We have to stop compartmentalizing. We have to stop taking the easy road of choosing to follow orders because resisting is hard. It isn’t o.k. to just go along.

Things You Might Have Missed

May 05, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Orozco painting in the Museo de Arte Carillo GilEver wonder why the whole world celebrates labor day on May 1st? Did you know that May 1 in this country is “loyalty day?” The Nation explains.

In case you have ever thought about a volunteer vacation, read this on how growing Western demand for altruistic vacations is feeding the white-savior industrial complex.

Speaking of the white-savior industrial complex. There is a very good article on Reason about how early “white slavery” scares justified our current surveillance state.

It is so important for people to understand how children of color are targeted and harassed by cops. The stop and frisk stats just don’t bring it home as clearly as this.

In Phoenix, if you offend the delicate sensibilities of the state, you will have your choice of prison or church. In PG County, the police will just live tweet your arrest.

Wisconsin is now the first and only state to require that police shootings not be investigated by the police. I’ll be curious to see if it helps any.

Which women get thrown in solitary confinement? The ones who report sexual abuse by guards, or have a mental illness…You can read more here.

A new study shows that a conservative estimate of false convictions of those sentenced to death is 4.1%. Radley Balko has been asking his readers how many innocent people put to death would be acceptable to them.

What about for other cases? How many innocent people in prison is acceptable? And when someone is innocent, is it acceptable that they lose days, months, or years of their lives with no compensation?

You know what, I don’t actually want to read about the longevity revolution on the same week I read about how the life expectancy of poor women is actually decreasing.

Good post by Sikivu Hutchinson on Unpacking White Jewish Racism.

And finally Questlove on How Hip Hop Failed Black America.