Tuesday, June 19, 2018

‘INFEST’ — The Ugly Nazi History of Trump’s Chosen Verb About Immigrants

From The Forward:  https://forward.com/culture/403526/infest-the-ugly-nazi-history-of-trumps-chosen-verb-about-immigrants/

Aviya Kushner
June 19, 2018


When President Trump characterized immigrants as “animals,” some people waved it away, claiming he was only referring to gang members. But today’s use of “infest” in connection to human beings is impossible to ignore. The President’s tweet that immigrants will “infest our Country” includes an alarming verb choice for anyone with knowledge of history.

Characterizing people as vermin has historically been a precursor to murder and genocide. The Nazis built on centuries-old hatred of Jews as carriers of disease in a film titled “Der Ewige Jude,” or “The Eternal Jew.” As the U.S. Holocaust Museum notes on its website, in a section helpfully titled “Defining the Enemy”:

One of the film’s most notorious sequences compares Jews to rats that carry contagion, flood the continent, and devour precious resources.

What is happening now is “defining the enemy. Substitute “continent” for “Country,” capitalized, and you get the picture. The roots of the particular word “infest” are also telling. The English word comes from the French infester or Latin infestare ‘assail’, from infestus ‘hostile’. So yes, it’s a word rooted in hostility.
 
         “Infest” also appears in Late Middle English, meaning “torment, harass.”

Many dictionaries confirm what we all know: that infest is used to indicate in contemporary American conversation to mean insects or animals taking over a space.

The use of the word “infest” by an American President was immediately noticed by reporters.
The Washington Post’s White House correspondent, Seung Min Kim, was quick to point out “infest” in a tweet. Maggie Haberman, the White House correspondent for The New York Times, tweeted some additional context:
“Also — insects infest. This public language about immigrants from a US president after, say, 1970, is remarkable.”
For anyone familiar with Nazi history — the exhibit of “Degenerate Art,” the film “The Eternal Jew” and the persistent campaign to paint Jews as vermin or animals, and certainly not human—the word “infest” is not only remarkable, but terrifying.

Scholars of Jewish literature and history have been sounding alarms over what is happening at the border and the language surrounding immigration. Ilan Stavans, the linguist, translator, Amherst College professor, and publisher of Restless Books, was born into a Jewish family in Mexico, and is the author of “Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language as well as Resurrecting Hebrew.” Earlier this week, Stavans tweeted:
The Trump Administration’s policy of separating children of their asylum-seeking Hispanic parents is spiteful. It is reminiscent of the Nazi strategy to divide Jewish families. Racism at its clearest. For how long will we remain silent? Are some families more sacred than others?
The last two questions posed by Stavans are especially important now; the verb “infest” is, indeed, to borrow a bit from Stavans, language at its clearest.

https://forward.com/culture/403526/infest-the-ugly-nazi-history-of-trumps-chosen-verb-about-immigrants/

Fall of the American Empire

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/opinion/immigration-trump-children-american-empire.html

By Paul Krugman
June 18, 2018


The U.S. government is, as a matter of policy, literally ripping children from the arms of their parents and putting them in fenced enclosures (which officials insist aren’t cages, oh no). The U.S. president is demanding that law enforcement stop investigating his associates and go after his political enemies instead. He has been insulting democratic allies while praising murderous dictators. And a global trade war seems increasingly likely.

What do these stories have in common? Obviously they’re all tied to the character of the man occupying the White House, surely the worst human being ever to hold his position. But there’s also a larger context, and it’s not just about Donald Trump. What we’re witnessing is a systematic rejection of longstanding American values — the values that actually made America great.

America has long been a powerful nation. In particular, we emerged from World War II with a level of both economic and military dominance not seen since the heyday of ancient Rome. But our role in the world was always about more than money and guns. It was also about ideals: America stood for something larger than itself — for freedom, human rights and the rule of law as universal principles.

Of course, we often fell short of those ideals. But the ideals were real, and mattered. Many nations have pursued racist policies; but when the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote his 1944 book about our “Negro problem,” he called it “An American Dilemma,” because he viewed us as a nation whose civilization had a “flavor of enlightenment” and whose citizens were aware at some level that our treatment of blacks was at odds with our principles.

And his belief that there was a core of decency — maybe even goodness — to America was eventually vindicated by the rise and success, incomplete as it was, of the civil rights movement.
But what does American goodness — all too often honored in the breach, but still real — have to do with American power, let alone world trade? The answer is that for 70 years, American goodness and American greatness went hand in hand. Our ideals, and the fact that other countries knew we held those ideals, made us a different kind of great power, one that inspired trust.

Think about it. By the end of World War II, we and our British allies had in effect conquered a large part of the world. We could have become permanent occupiers, and/or installed subservient puppet governments, the way the Soviet Union did in Eastern Europe. And yes, we did do that in some developing countries; our history with, say, Iran is not at all pretty.

But what we mainly did instead was help defeated enemies get back on their feet, establishing democratic regimes that shared our core values and became allies in protecting those values.
The Pax Americana was a sort of empire; certainly America was for a long time very much first among equals. But it was by historical standards a remarkably benign empire, held together by soft power and respect rather than force. (There are actually some parallels with the ancient Pax Romana, but that’s another story.)

And while you might be tempted to view international trade deals, which Trump says have turned us into a “piggy bank that everyone else is robbing,” as a completely separate story, they are anything but. Trade agreements were meant to (and did) make America richer, but they were also, from the beginning, about more than dollars and cents.

In fact, the modern world trading system was largely the brainchild not of economists or business interests, but of Cordell Hull, F.D.R.’s long-serving secretary of state, who believed that “prosperous trade among nations” was an essential element in building an “enduring peace.” So you want to think of the postwar creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as part of the same strategy that more or less simultaneously gave rise to the Marshall Plan and the creation of NATO.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/opinion/immigration-trump-children-american-empire.html

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

'The Gig Economy' Is the New Term for Serfdom

From Truth Dig:  https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-gig-economy-is-the-new-term-for-serfdom/

Chris Hedges
Mar 25, 2018


A 65-year-old New York City cab driver from Queens, Nicanor Ochisor, hanged himself in his garage March 16, saying in a note he left behind that the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft had made it impossible for him to make a living. It was the fourth suicide by a cab driver in New York in the last four months, including one Feb. 5 in which livery driver Douglas Schifter, 61, killed himself with a shotgun outside City Hall.

“Due to the huge numbers of cars available with desperate drivers trying to feed their families,” wrote Schifter, “they squeeze rates to below operating costs and force professionals like me out of business. They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.” He said he had been working 100 to 120 hours a week for the past 14 years.

Schifter and Ochisor were two of the millions of victims of the new economy. Corporate capitalism is establishing a neofeudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations. Desperate and impoverished workers, forced to endure 16-hour days, are viciously pitted against each other. Uber drivers make about $13.25 an hour. In cities like Detroit this falls to $8.77. Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber and one of the founders, has a net worth of $4.8 billion. Logan Green, the CEO of Lyft, has a net worth of $300 million.

The corporate elites, which have seized control of ruling institutions including the government and destroyed labor unions, are re-establishing the inhumane labor conditions that characterized the 19th and early 20th centuries. When workers at General Motors carried out a 44-day sit-down strike in 1936, many were living in shacks that lacked heating and indoor plumbing; they could be laid off for weeks without compensation, had no medical or retirement benefits and often were fired without explanation. When they turned 40 their employment could be terminated. The average wage was about $900 a year at a time when the government determined that a family of four needed a minimum of $1,600 to live above the poverty line.

The managers at General Motors relentlessly persecuted union organizers. The company spent $839,000 on detective work in 1934 to spy on union organizers and infiltrate union meetings. GM employed the white terrorist group the Black Legion—the police chief of Detroit was suspected of being a member—to threaten and physically assault labor activists and assassinate union leaders including George Marchuk and John Bielak, both shot to death.

The reign of the all-powerful capitalist class has returned with a vengeance. The job conditions of working men and women, thrust backward, will not improve until they regain the militancy and rebuild the popular organizations that seized power from the capitalists. There are some 13,000 licensed cabs in New York City and 40,000 livery or town cars. The drivers should, as farmers did in 2015 with tractors in Paris, shut down the center of the city. And drivers in other cities should do the same. This is the only language our corporate masters understand.

The ruling capitalists will be as vicious as they were in the past. Nothing enrages the rich more than having to part with a fraction of their obscene wealth. Consumed by greed, rendered numb to human suffering by a life of hedonism and extravagance, devoid of empathy, incapable of self-criticism or self-sacrifice, surrounded by sycophants and leeches who cater to their wishes, appetites and demands, able to use their wealth to ignore the law and destroy critics and opponents, they are among the most repugnant of the human species. Don’t be fooled by the elites’ skillful public relations campaigns—we are watching Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is $64.1 billion, mount a massive propaganda effort against charges that he and Facebook are focused on exploiting and selling our personal information—or by the fawning news celebrities on corporate media who act as courtiers and apologists for the oligarchs. These people are the enemy.

Ochisor, a Romanian immigrant, owned a New York City taxi medallion. (Medallions were once coveted by cab drivers because having them allowed the drivers to own their own cabs or lease the cabs to other drivers.) Ochisor drove the night shift, lasting 10 to 12 hours. His wife drove the day shift. But after Uber and Lyft flooded the city with cars and underpaid drivers about three years ago, the couple could barely meet expenses. Ochisor’s home was about to go into foreclosure. His medallion, once worth $1.1 million, had plummeted in value to $180,000. The dramatic drop in the value of the medallion, which he had hoped to lease for $3,000 a month or sell to finance his retirement, wiped out his economic security. He faced financial ruin and poverty. And he was not alone.

Continue reading at:  https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-gig-economy-is-the-new-term-for-serfdom/

Monday, April 30, 2018

Michelle Wolf performs stand-up routine at White House Correspondent's dinner

All I have to say to Trump supporting  Republican special petal flower snowflakes is:  "Suck it up Buttercups, fuck your feelings."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Paul Ehrlich: 'Collapse of civilisation is a near certainty within decades'

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/mar/22/collapse-civilisation-near-certain-decades-population-bomb-paul-ehrlich

Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge

Damian Carrington Thu 22 Mar 2018

A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.

Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.

The Population Bomb, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich in 1968, predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture.

Many details and timings of events were wrong, Paul Ehrlich acknowledges today, but he says the book was correct overall.

“Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”

Ehrlich has been at Stanford University since 1959 and is also president of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, which works “to reduce the threat of a shattering collapse of civilisation”.

“It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems,” he says. “As I’ve said many times, ‘perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell’.”

It is the combination of high population and high consumption by the rich that is destroying the natural world, he says. Research published by Ehrlich and colleagues in 2017 concluded that this is driving a sixth mass extinction of biodiversity, upon which civilisation depends for clean air, water and food.

The solutions are tough, he says. “To start, make modern contraception and back-up abortion available to all and give women full equal rights, pay and opportunities with men.

“I hope that would lead to a low enough total fertility rate that the needed shrinkage of population would follow. [But] it will take a very long time to humanely reduce total population to a size that is sustainable.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/mar/22/collapse-civilisation-near-certain-decades-population-bomb-paul-ehrlich

Saturday, March 31, 2018

How Researchers Learned to Use Facebook ‘Likes’ to Sway Your Thinking

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/technology/facebook-cambridge-behavior-model.html

By and hGabriel J.X. Dance March 20, 2018

Perhaps at some point in the past few years you’ve told Facebook that you like, say, Kim Kardashian West. When you hit the thumbs-up button on her page, you probably did it because you wanted to see the reality TV star’s posts in your news feed. Maybe you realized that marketers could target advertisements to you based on your interest in her.

What you probably missed is that researchers had figured out how to tie your interest in Ms. Kardashian West to certain personality traits, such as how extroverted you are (very), how conscientious (more than most) and how open-minded (only somewhat). And when your fondness for Ms. Kardashian West is combined with other interests you’ve indicated on Facebook, researchers believe their algorithms can predict the nuances of your political views with better accuracy than your loved ones.

As The New York Times reported on Saturday, that is what motivated the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to collect data from more than 50 million Facebook users, without their consent, to build its own behavioral models to target potential voters in various political campaigns. The company has worked for a political action committee started by John R. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration, as well as for President Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. “We find your voters and move them to action,” the firm boasts on its website.

Cambridge Analytica now says it has destroyed the user data it collected on Facebook. Raw data reviewed by The Times suggests the information, or copies of it, may still exist. In either case, specific user information was merely a means to an end, a building block in a far more ambitious construction: a behavioral model powerful enough to manipulate people’s activity and, potentially, sway elections.

The firm adapted its approach to personality modeling from studies conducted by researchers at Stanford University and the Psychometrics Center at the University of Cambridge. The studies relied on data collected by a Facebook app called myPersonality, a 100-question quiz developed by the Psychometrics Center that assessed a person’s openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, traits commonly referred to in the academic community by the acronym Ocean.

Many respondents who took the quiz through the myPersonality app authorized it to gain access to their Facebook profile data, and information about their friend network — access that was allowed by the social network at the time. That allowed researchers to cross-reference the results of the quiz — numeric Ocean scores — with the users’ Facebook “likes,” and build a model from the correlations they found between the two. With that model, the researchers could often make precise guesses about subsequent users’ personalities using only a list of their likes, no 100-question quiz necessary.

One of the studies the Psychometrics Center produced, published in 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was built on the “likes” and Ocean scores of more than 70,000 respondents who took the myPersonality quiz on Facebook. It found that a person who liked the movie “Fight Club,” for example, was far more likely to be open to new experiences than a person who liked “American Idol,” according to a review of data provided to The Times by Michal Kosinski, an author of the 2015 study and a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/technology/facebook-cambridge-behavior-model.html

Thursday, March 22, 2018

His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/technology/his-2020-campaign-message-the-robots-are-coming.html

Climate change is a disaster foretold, just like the first world war

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/12/climate-change-is-a-disaster-foretold-just-like-the-first-world-war

The warnings about an unfolding climate catastrophe are getting more desperate, yet the march to destruction continues

Jeff_Sparrow Sun 11 Mar 2018

“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

The mournful remark supposedly made by foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey at dusk on 3 August 1914 referred to Britain’s imminent entry into the first world war. But the sentiment captures something of our own moment, in the midst of an intensifying campaign against nature.

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s 2016 Living Planet Report, over the last four decades the international animal population was reduced by nearly 60%. More than a billion fewer birds inhabit North America today compared to 40 years ago. In Britain, certain iconic species (grey partridges, tree sparrows, etc) have fallen by 90%. In Germany, flying insects have declined by 76% over the past 27 years. Almost half of Borneo’s orangutans died or were removed between 1999 and 2015. Elephant numbers have dropped by 62% in a decade, with on average one adult killed by poachers every 15 minutes.

We inherited a planet of beauty and wonders – and we’re saying goodbye to all that.
The cultural historian Paul Fussell once identified the catastrophe of the first world war with the distinctive sensibility of modernity, noting how 20th century history had “domesticate[d] the fantastic and normalize[d] the unspeakable.”

Consider, then, the work of climate change.

In February, for instance, scientists recorded temperatures 35 degrees above the historical average in Siberia, a phenomenon that apparently corresponded with the unprecedented cold snap across Europe.

As concentrated CO2 intensifies extreme events, a new and diabolical weather will, we’re told, become the norm for a generation already accustomising itself to such everyday atrocities as about eight million tons of plastics are washed into the ocean each year.
It may seem impossible to imagine, that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we’re now in the process of doing.”
This passage from the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert concluded a piece on global warming, which was published way back in 2005. Over the 13 years since, the warnings from scientists have grown both more specific and desperate – and yet the march to destruction has only redoubled its pace.
The extraordinary – almost absurd – contrast between what we should be doing and what’s actually taking place fosters low-level climate denialism. Coral experts might publicise, again and again and again, the dire state of the Great Barrier Reef but the ongoing political inaction inevitably blunts their message.

It can’t be so bad, we think: if a natural wonder were truly under threat, our politicians wouldn’t simply stand aside and watch.

The first world war killed 20 million people and maimed 21 million others. It shattered the economy of Europe, displaced entire populations, and set in train events that culminated, scarcely two decades later, with another, even more apocalyptic slaughter

And it, too, was a disaster foretold, a widely-anticipated cataclysm that proceeded more-on-less schedule despite regular warnings about what was to come.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/12/climate-change-is-a-disaster-foretold-just-like-the-first-world-war

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Kate Manne: The Shock Collar That Is Misogyny

From Guernica:  https://www.guernicamag.com/kate-manne-why-misogyny-isnt-really-about-hating-women/

A philosopher rethinks what’s keeping women down.

By Regan Penaluna February 7, 2018

What Elliot Rodger did on the evening of Friday, May 23, 2014, isn’t contested, but the reason he did it is. That night Rodger knocked on the door of a sorority house near the University of California, Santa Barbara, and when the women inside didn’t let him in, he left and shot three women who were on the sidewalk, and then continued the rampage, ultimately killing six people and injuring fourteen. He then shot and killed himself.

Before the attacks, Rodger posted a video of himself online, declaring that he intended to punish women for not giving him the attention he felt he deserved—and the men whom he perceived as receiving that attention and therefore envied. In light of the evidence, a number of feminist commentators called the killing spree an act of misogyny, part of a pattern of gender-based rampages. 

But others in the media and the academy argued differently. They claimed the cause was mental illness.

It was then that Kate Manne, an assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University, started to write. What was missing from the debate, Manne thought, was a clear account of the nature of misogyny, and so she set out to develop one. The result is her new book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, a carefully argued work aimed at a broad audience, which proposes that misogyny is the act of correcting women who fail to give men what men believe they’re due. 

Manne tosses out the common thinking that misogyny is equivalent to despising all women, and instead offers that it’s a way to keep women in their place. Misogyny, she writes, is “the system that operates within a patriarchal social order to police and enforce women’s subordination and to uphold male dominance.” Like a shock collar used to keep dogs behind an invisible fence, misogyny, she argues, aims to keep women—those who are well trained as well as those who are unruly—in line. 

The power of Manne’s definition comes from its ability to bring together various behaviors and events under one umbrella. If misogyny is anything that enforces women’s subordination, then it turns out that lots of phenomena fit the profile.

I spoke with Manne over the phone in an attempt to shed some light on this past year, during which so many brave women have come forward to share their experiences of sexual trauma and have actually been taken seriously. The moment is ripe for a reckoning, and Manne offers the language and theory I’ve found myself grasping for. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, she combines the hyper-articulateness of a philosopher and the energy and humor of a down-to-earth millennial, which is electrifying; I imagine she’s a popular professor. At one point during our call, her corgi happily barked in the background, and she pointed out that her dog “couldn’t be silenced” by the patriarchy.
More than anything, I could feel an urgency on the line. Manne is restlessly driven by a sense that things are not right, a sense that this world is a very unjust place for women. She doesn’t think she can fix it. “I’m much more a clarity person than a solutions person,” she says. But she does believe that philosophy can help us understand what’s at stake in the broader fight to overcome patriarchy. 

“It’s so far from cessation,” she says, “but I’m not despairing.”

Regan Penaluna for Guernica

Guernica: Why did you write a book about misogyny?

Kate Manne: “Misogyny” wasn’t on my radar until October 2012, when the prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, used it in a speech before parliament to call out Tony Abbott, the then opposition party leader, for his sexist and misogynist behavior. Although Gillard’s speech went viral, the occasion for her anger was lost on many people. Abbott had originally demanded Gillard call for the resignation of one of her ministers, who had sent text messages leaked to the media likening women’s genitals to mussels—shucked, he specified—and calling a female colleague an “ignorant botch,” thanks to the Freudian intervention of auto-correct. But Gillard did not want to have to call on Slipper [the minister] to resign; to her mind, he was still a serviceable minister. And she was not sanguine about being “lectured,” as she put it, by Abbott on fitting conduct with regards to gender.

Continue reading at:  https://www.guernicamag.com/kate-manne-why-misogyny-isnt-really-about-hating-women/

Democrats Finally Begin Denouncing Louis Farrakhan for His Anti-Semitic Rants

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/democrats-finally-begin-denouncing-louis-farrakhan-his-anti-semitic-rants

The Nation of Islam leader was previously praised by one of the organizers of the Women's March.


By Cody Fenwick March 8, 2018

Democratic lawmakers are denouncing Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam who has a long history of hateful rhetoric and recently came under fire after he made anti-Semitic remarks at a speech attended by one of the organizers of the Women's March.

At the end of February, Farrakhan said so-called "power Jews" are his enemy, according to a CNN report.  

Farrakhan continued: "White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God's grace, has pulled the cover off of that satanic Jew and I'm here to say your time is up, your world is through."

This is far from the first time Farrakhan has made bigoted comments. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented his history of anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT rhetoric, including his claim that "the Jews got a stranglehold on the Congress."

During the 2016 election, Farrakhan praised candidate Donald Trump for not accepting money from the "Jewish community."

Now, Democrats who have previously met with or had ties to Farrakhan have begun denouncing him. While some, such as Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), directly criticized Farrakhan, others, including Reps. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Andre Carson (D-IN), stuck to denouncing bigotry or hate speech more broadly. 

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), however, seemed irritated to be asked about the issue, saying his constituents care only about the issues.

Tamika Mallory, one of the founders of the Women's March, has been under criticism for her ties to Farrakhan. She attended his February speech and once posted a picture with him on Instagram that referenced the religious figure as a "GOAT" (greatest of all time). In a column for News One, she continued to refuse to denounce him, instead saying: "It is impossible for me to agree with every statement or share every viewpoint of the many people who I have worked with or will work with in the future."

Bigotry isn't an issue with room for equivocation. The Democratic Party would help prove its worth to the country by taking a united stand against individuals like Farrakhan who espouse dangerous bigotry.

Missing Shulamith and The Dialectic of #MeToo

Shulmith Firestone passed away a few years back, alone and mostly forgotten, after battling years of mental health issues.  But I remember her writings from nearly fifty years ago and the white hot heat of Second Wave Feminism, how much strength it provided me with when I was coming out.
From Tikkun Magazine:  https://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/missing-shulamith-and-the-dialectic-of-metoo

by Martha Sonnenberg February 14, 2018

I was 24 years old in 1970, when I read Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex, a year younger than she was when she wrote the book. The book catapulted me from the limitations of the Left organization of which I was a member into the world of Women’s Liberation.  There was no going back once I saw and felt the chauvinism of the Left, how women’s issues were  seen as tangential to the more important priorities of  “real” radical politics, rather than seeing feminism as “central and directly radical in itself.” Women in my organization typically played a supportive role to the men, the theorists, the writers, the speakers—we made coffee, mimeographed pamphlets, passed out the pamphlets, sometimes we spoke at meetings, and even had a women’s caucus within the organization, but, as Firestone told us, we were still “in need of male approval, in this case anti-establishment male approval, to legitimate (ourselves) politically”.

When Shulamith Firestone died, at the age of 67, in 2013, ravaged by mental illness and forgotten by many, her sister, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone said in her eulogy, “She influenced thousands of women to have new thoughts, to lead new lives.  I am who I am, and a lot of women are who they are, because of Shulie.”  I was one of those women.

Recently, I took my dog eared copy of The Dialectic of Sex down from my bookshelf as the #MeToo movement evolved, and was once again astounded by the incendiary brilliance of the book, now nearly 50 years old.  Shulamith Firestone was the first, and maybe the only, to probe the depths to which a misogynistic patriarchy permeated our society, developing a concept of a “sexual class system” which ran deeper than economic, racial, or social divisions.  With prescient analytical perspective, she placed the traditional family structure at the core of women’s oppression.  She wrote, “Unless revolution uproots the basic social organization, the biologic family—the vinculum through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled—the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated.”  While the establishment press characterized her ideas as preposterous, many of her notions of how patriarchal social organization would be “uprooted” have come to realization—in vitro fertilization, how children are socialized, children’s rights,  gay rights and the legalization of  gay marriage, the whole LGBTQ movement, ending traditional marriage roles,  the freeing of gender identity from biologic destiny.  And it is within the context of these historical developments, upending the socio-economic buttress of traditional gender roles and identities that #MeToo has emerged. These factors have given #MeToo  a power and force that previous “waves” of women’s liberation lacked, not because previous issues or efforts were any less important, but because they were unable to reach women in all levels of society, transcending class, race, profession, and age. #MeToo , with its revelations of the ubiquity of abuse and violence against women,has reached all these women.  Importantly, too, it  is a movement that began not with “leaders”, but from grass roots in communities all across the country, and, in fact, all across the world.

The history of #MeToo has been obscured by the media frenzy that concurrently emerged.  Tarana Burke, an African American woman, created a non-profit organization called Me Too in 2006, to help women of color who had been sexually abused or assaulted. This was not about naming perpetrators or holding them accountable; it was only to give the affected women a voice. This, the media ignored.
But in 2017 two things happened which did get media attention:  The New York Times published revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse of Hollywood women, and following that, an actress, Alyssa Milano, who became aware of Tarana Burke’s work, wrote in social media, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me Too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”  What followed was the flooding of social media with stories of abuse and harassment, and a way for women to tell their experience and stand in solidarity with other abuse survivors. In the first 24 hours of Milano’s post, more than 12 million “MeToo” posts appeared.   All these aspects of #MeToo, its mass base and its revelation of the pervasive and perverse alignment of misogyny and power, make it dangerous to the established power structure.  Not surprisingly, that power structure has responded quickly in its attack on #MeToo.

Power and patriarchy defends itself

Efforts to maintain current power structures and cultures take multiple forms.  One of the most insidious forms of preserving the current power relationships lies with the established media.  While the “media” is not an autonomous entity, the individuals who contribute to it, the writers, the pundits, the “newsmakers”, promote in various ways the dominant culture of institutionalized sexism, and the undermining of #MeToo.  It does so in the following ways:

Continue reading at:  https://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/missing-shulamith-and-the-dialectic-of-metoo

Feminists have slowly shifted power. There’s no going back

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/08/feminists-power-metoo-timesup-rebecca-solnit?CMP=fb_us

The #TimesUp and #MeToo movements are a revolution that could not have taken place without decades of quiet, painstaking groundwork

Thu 8 Mar 2018 

This International Women’s Day comes five months after the revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s long campaign of misogynist punishments of women first broke, and with them more things broke. Excuses broke. Silence was broken. The respectable appearance of a lot of institutions broke. You could say a dam broke, and a wall of women’s stories came spilling forth – which has happened before, but never the way that this round has. This time around, women didn’t just tell the stories of being attacked and abused; they named names, and abusers and attackers lost jobs and reputations and businesses and careers. They named names, and it mattered; people listened; their testimony had consequences. Because there’s a big difference between being able to say something and having it heard and respected. Consequences are often the difference.

Something had shifted. What’s often overlooked is that it had shifted beforehand so that this could happen. Something invisible had made it possible for these highly visible upheavals and transformations. People often position revolution and incrementalism as opposites, but if a revolution is something that changes things suddenly, incrementalism often lays the groundwork that makes it possible. Something happens suddenly, and that’s mistaken for something happening out of the blue. But out of the blue usually means out of the things that most people were not paying attention to, out of the slow work done by somebody or many somebodies out of the limelight for months or years or decades.

Same-sex marriage arrived suddenly in the US when the supreme court legalised it nationwide, except that many states had already legalised it, and that came about as the result of the valiant work of countless non-straight people and their allies, making visible that not everyone is straight, making it important that everyone get rights, making queer people themselves believe they deserved and could win those rights. And it happened because the test case in California went before what appeared to be a conservative judge – federal judge Vaughn Walker, appointed by George Herbert Walker Bush – who had been in the closet himself at the time of his appointment, but was gay, and whose own attitudes toward his orientation must have evolved as the culture around him evolved. He found in favour of marriage equality and set up the case to be clear and thorough when it reached the supreme court. When judges rule on what seems self-evident common sense – be it Brown versus Board of Education or marriage equality – it often seems that way because of slow incremental changes in societal norms and beliefs. The judge gets the public finale, but the shift comes from the cumulative effect of tiny gestures and shifts.

This #TimesUp/#MeToo moment is no different; it is a revolt for which we have been preparing for decades, or perhaps it’s the point at which a long, slow, mostly quiet process suddenly became fast and loud. Part of the work was done over the past five years, more of it over the past 50. We have had a tremendous upheaval over the past few years – at the end of 2014, I wrote in these pages: “I have been waiting all my life for what this year has brought.” What this wave brought is recognition that each act of gender violence is part of an epidemic. It’s brought a (partial) end to treating these acts as isolated incidents, as the victim’s fault, as the result of mental illness or other aberrations. It’s meant a more widespread willingness to recognise that such violence is extraordinarily common and has an enormous impact, and arises from values, privileges and attitudes built into the culture.

It’s a shift that’s often happened before, for other rights issues, as something long tolerated is finally recognised as intolerable, which means that the people for whom it was not a problem finally recognise the suffering of those for whom it was. This shift from tolerated to intolerable is often the result of a power shift in who decides, or a shift in what stories dominate, or in whose story gets told, or believed. It’s a subtle shift in who matters that precedes dramatic change.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/08/feminists-power-metoo-timesup-rebecca-solnit?CMP=fb_us

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The anti-Semite who’s haunting the left

From The Washington Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2018/03/07/louis-farrakhan-is-haunting-the-left/


March 7, 2018

 
President Trump is a friend to anti-Semites. As it turns out, so are his enemies.

The latest round of left-infighting has focused on a man who some might be surprised to discover is still declaiming: Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Hatred for the “satanic Jew” has long been a theme of Farrakhan’s rhetoric, and since his popularity peaked with 1995’s Million Man March he has drifted toward the edges of the public consciousness. Now, though, he’s back — because organizers of the Women’s March movement brought him there.

Farrakhan gave a speech on the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day in Chicago last week saying that “the powerful Jews are my enemy” and announcing to them “your time is up, your world is through.” This would have been just another day, had Farrakhan not shouted out the Women’s March’s Tamika Mallory, who attended the event. And had Mallory not initially refused to denounce his anti-Semitism when the Web took notice, responding instead that “If your leader does not have the same enemies as Jesus, they may not be THE leader!” And had other Women’s March bigwigs such as Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez not defended Farrakhan in the past.

On Tuesday, after days of silence, the Women’s March finally released a statement acknowledging that Farrakhan’s views were “not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles, which were created by women of color leaders and are grounded in Kingian nonviolence” — but not outright denouncing him, and not apologizing for promoting him. The same day, a Jewish GOP group called for the resignation of seven Democratic representatives from Congress because of their ostensible ties to Farrakhan.

This has set off a string of back-and-forths between those furious at some left-wingers’ hesitance to condemn Farrakhan and anyone who associates with him, and those frustrated at conservatives, centrists and even other liberals for focusing on a fringe figure when there’s a white nationalist-lite in the Oval Office.

It’s true that the Farrakhan frenzy looks overblown compared to the collective reaction to the rise of the alt-right. Sure, Trump’s praise for the “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally riled people up, and sure, they pay attention again every time a publication prints a profile of a neo-Nazi. But few conservatives have disavowed the Trump administration for its part in priming the pump of prejudice, or fought to expunge that hatred from GOP politics. Indeed, Republicans seem far more exercised about tariffs than about white supremacy. And considering the president’s position of power, the alt-right resurgence poses a greater on-the-ground threat to Jews (not to mention other minorities) than the rantings of a marginalized religious leader.

But just because the right has failed to confront anti-Semitism within its ranks doesn’t mean the left should fail, too. The Women’s March organizers should understand this better than anyone. It’s a poor look for those who call themselves activists, and who say they’re concerned with inclusivity and intersectionality, to defend someone who has crusaded against both of those ideas. Some may see Farrkhan as a truth-teller when it comes to race relations, but his record reaches beyond that. He’s an anti-Semite, he’s a homophobe and he’s a misogynist. Spearheading a movement that’s about building a better world for women of all colors and creeds means opposing advocacy that attacks women of any color or creed.

The far right hates vaginas. Why doesn’t this anger the left more?

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/08/vaginas-far-right-progressives-identity-politics?CMP=fb_gu

Identity politics ought to unite the left, not divide us. No progressive should be at ease while macho misogyny thrives

Thu 8 Mar 2018

From Donald Trump’s “locker-room banter” about grabbing women by the pussy, to the instructions of the Philippines president to shoot female guerrilla fighters in the genitals, a clear target of contemporary fascistic and “alt-right” politics seems to be vaginas. This isn’t a case of hidden patriarchal structures supporting gender inequality. It’s explicit and unashamed references that identify women either as the enemy or the subhuman other, subordinate to the pleasure of macho men. And it’s a trend that’s spanning the globe.

In Britain, the victim of this emerging culture was the MP Jo Cox. Some will argue that Thomas Mair, her murderer, was an isolated case, a disturbed Nazi sympathiser from whom we cannot generalise. But before we dismiss his crime as a one-off we should remember that gender identity, specifically masculine identity, is at the centre of fascistic discourse. Crime – against women or ethnic minorities – is often a resource for those who feel their masculinity is threatened. It is a way to be “male” again.

In Russia, the bare-chested Putin is endlessly pictured plunging into icy lakes or riding horses. It’s all designed to promote a particular type of masculinity but also a particular type of political ideal: of macho, authoritarian leadership, strong and ruthless towards its enemies. The enemies in question are often women who question the patriarchal status quo (Pussy Riot being a prime example). But other religious or ethnic groups are feminised too.

As the professor and activist Cynthia Enloe has argued, it is high time to rethink this relationship between leaders’ macho posturing and the type of politics they are likely to advocate. The personal is political because men in leadership positions with misogynistic attitudes are probably going to promote policies reinforcing intolerance. There can be no truly progressive politics while such misogyny is allowed to continue. Similarly, when an industry tolerates harassment and violence against women, that says a lot about the type of product it creates. The Harvey Weinstein scandal comes to mind here: how progressive can his movies be when he treats women as objects?
And to push it even further: how progressive can a country be if it permits this industry to go on unreformed? The micro paves the way for the macro.

Too often on the left these calls have fallen upon the deaf ears of a movement that is unable to recognise any struggle as important if it isn’t centred around class. Identity politics have been wilfully misinterpreted by parts of the left as an explanation for the advance of the far right – it’s political correctness driving them to it. This is done in the hope of promoting class politics, but it demonstrates that the left is sometimes stuck in an orthodox past, before the big “identity” movements, from the suffragettes to civil rights, took place. Across the world, it is the left that is struggling to articulate something meaningful while the far right is advancing.

Eric Hobsbawm, writing in 1996, contrasted the narrowness of identity politics with the universality of the working-class movement, which demands equality and justice for everyone.

Complete article at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/08/vaginas-far-right-progressives-identity-politics?CMP=fb_gu

How to Counter the Circus of Pseudoscience

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/opinion/doctors-naturopaths-health-science.html

Jan. 5, 2018

Maybe one day, once I have decades of experience as a doctor and further training in my area of specialization, I will be able to speak about health matters with the tone of authority of the average naturopath.

That was the thought that crossed my mind recently while I waded through the online world of alternative-health practitioners, wellness bloggers, whole-food chefs and Gwyneth Paltrow.

I did not seek it out at first; it came to me through a social-media algorithm. Facebook offered up a video advertisement from a “female hormonal health specialist” with her own “practice.” Not an endocrinologist but a naturopath. She lectured with confidence on thyroid testing, though much of what she said was wrong. And down the internet rabbit hole I went.

One traditional view of the medical profession is that doctors are commanding and authoritarian, even arrogant. Though some individuals fit that description, in fact, the profession is built on doubt.

Most doctors, especially the good ones, are acutely aware of the limits of their knowledge. I have learned from those much more experienced and qualified than me that humility is something to be cultivated over time, not lost.

Our field is built around trying to prove ourselves wrong. In hospitals we hold morbidity and mortality meetings trying to show where we have failed, what we need to change, how we can do better. Our hospital work is audited to identify where we fell short of our ideals. Through scientific research we try to disprove the effectiveness of treatments. Our failings are exposed from the inside.

The nature of evidence-based health care is that practices change as new evidence emerges.

That is also the case for other health professionals whose practice is based on science, like qualified dietitians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists. Guidelines are revised, advice is reversed — on blood pressure, diet, hormone replacement, opioid prescribing. This can be immensely frustrating for patients, even though it is what we must do to provide the best possible treatment.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/opinion/doctors-naturopaths-health-science.html