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Harvard’s Progress Is Not Our Progress
"any of us have come together tonight, some no doubt interested to see how this idea of “class warfare” suits Harvard. Since we announced this event, I have heard and seen people remarking with surprise and irony that Harvard should be the site of anything to do with a class war. But I assure you, Harvard has always played a key role in the class war.

Perhaps you have read an article from one of our panelists, Meagan Day. “Defend Your Class,” which ran in Jacobin last April, is named for the slogan that Harvard deployed to inspire its students to leave the classroom in 1912 and take up arms with the National Guard to break the Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” textile workers’ strike.

What was the threat from which Harvard elites needed defense? It was a movement of the working class, men, women, and children, of thirty countries of origin, speaking forty-five languages, demanding freedom from the daily threats to their lives posed by underpaid and dangerous jobs — and, even more radically, the freedom to exist beyond the value assigned to their labor by the capitalist bosses.

What was the value of those three words, “Defend your class,” to the Harvard undergraduate militiamen? Perhaps you know that hundreds of strikers were beaten and thrown in jail by the strikebreakers, and two were murdered. For demonstrating their allegiance to their class, the Harvard students received course credit.

The Harvard brand has expanded fabulously in its prestige and in its power since that strike. And above all, it has expanded its capacity to defend its class. About a mile from where we are gathered here, a new engineering school complex is being built, described by our President Lawrence Bacow as “a jewel of a building.” To Bacow, Allston has long been “just an idea, a vision of the future,” but with the construction of the engineering school, a billion-dollar project, “that future is rapidly coming into focus.” It’s a bleak “future” for one of the last affordable neighborhoods in Boston, while hundreds of our neighbors sleep on the streets every night and a minimum-wage worker must work 210 hours to make rent on a one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge.

President Bacow’s praise for the new Allston campus is just pretty talk for a class war. Harvard’s progress is not our progress.

Has anyone, watching our teaching fellows and course assistants strike for fair pay and decent health care, taken comfort in the fact that sixty-two of the world’s current billionaires are Harvard men and women? Who among us reads that the Harvard endowment has reached $40 billion in fiscal year 2019 and celebrates, knowing that those dollars rebound from investments in private prisons and the global destruction of fossil fuels?

We do not, because Harvard’s progress is not our progress. This institution stands shoulder to shoulder with the National Guard of 1912, the Henry Kissingers of 1969, and the war-mongering presidents of the 2000s, Republican and Democrat. In these 384 years, it has not missed a single step.

My task is not to build up a pile of evidence against Harvard out of hatred or spite. I want to illustrate that the war-making, strike-breaking impulses of this institution are not random; they are not unrelated. Harvard is a case study in the unified power of the elite in pursuit of the almighty profit motive, the power of the next dollar and the dollar after that.

That is what we all are worth to it. But every single one of you is worth the world to me. And I hope that you feel that way about one another, because our shared future depends upon it. We can comfort, rally, mourn, and transform the face of the earth with this knowledge.

At the heart of that approach to each other is the indispensable ethic of solidarity. In the words of St Augustine, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” When our homeless brothers and sisters walk into an apartment and call it home, we will say: this is justice, and not charity. When working-class children enroll in free college instead of the army in order to build a better life, we will say: this is justice, not charity. When we realize and honor Fred Hampton’s vision for a rainbow coalition against a racist police and incarceration system, against the starvation of children, and against the commodification of health care, we will say: this is not charity, this is not generosity, this is justice.

Behind the idea of charity is the sense that we do not deserve the things we need for our own survival. In our time, in which class warfare is reaching a great crescendo, something tells me that the powerful institutions of this world will continue to become ever less charitable. Let us take the matter of our survival out of their hands and into our own. Let us have justice, a justice made possible by solidarity. There is no substitute on earth for that.

I am a literature student, so I am thinking of a verse written by W. B. Yeats in praise of a friend “bred to a harder thing than Triumph.” As a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign, I have knocked hundreds of doors in Iowa and in New Hampshire. I will not forget the Iowans that I met shortly before the New Year. I spoke to a woman who was on leave from her low-wage job because a physical disability made the work too painful. But what decided her vote was the idea of a world in which she could afford mental health care.

She told me about the struggle she faces every day to get out of her bed, and then told me that on February 3, she would get out of bed, get into her car, and drive to a caucus site to caucus for Bernie Sanders. She planned to do all of these things in the name of a harder thing than triumph.

Here in Massachusetts, the great antiwar activist Al Johnson canvassed among us in Nashua every weekend. Al passed away on January 1, 2020. From his deathbed on December 31, 2019, Johnson made two hundred phone calls for Bernie Sanders. Born to a Kentucky coal miner, raised in Massachusetts public housing, he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector of the Vietnam War. He spent a year in that military prison for loving peace. So great was Johnson’s love for peace that it led him not only to work alongside the Black Panthers and the Poor People’s Movement, but ultimately to join Bernie Sanders’s movement for an end to war and poverty across the globe.

Al Johnson was bred to a harder thing than triumph. Al Johnson was bred to solidarity his entire life.

Let us be bred to a harder thing than triumph: the thing that makes triumph possible. Let it be solidarity. For then our work can never come to nothing.

In the last day of his life, Al Johnson placed two hundred calls in the name of a world he would not live to see. What great certainty he had in those final hours — not a certainty in victory, but a certainty in the value of your life and mine. Let us be so certain in our shared purpose and certain in our shared way forward.

With every undocumented family, with every climate refugee, with every community devastated by the “war on drugs,” with every unionized worker, we are more certain that the world must change, because we belong in it. The day will come when the working class lives in the housing it has built and benefits from the labor it has exerted. We must work for that day together in solidarity, and we must accept no substitute. We must vote for solidarity in 2020 — but this is only the beginning."
labor  work  class  elitism  harvard  piperwinkler  exploitation  workingclass  2020  endowment  progress  charity  philanthropy  staugustine  fredhampton  survival  wbyeats  justice  society  socialjustice  berniesanders  socialism  solidarity  organizing  aljohnson 
6 days ago by robertogreco
Class Carpetbagger | Corey Pein
“When he speaks about education and opportunity, Pete reminds me of my high school guidance counselor. That guy was a jerk.”



“But my comrades on the “housekeeping” crew did not need more paperwork, or whatever else Pete is selling. They needed free health care, housing subsidies, and a labor union.”



“Like so many bourgeois strivers, Pete takes up space wherever he goes.”



“The most delicious thing about Pete’s campaign is that, possibly for the first time in his life, his privileged class position is a liability, not an asset.”



“can someone explain to me why rich kids feel so gratuitously entitled to tell the working class how to live? Go ahead. I’ll wait. I really want to hear this explanation, especially from Pete, but any rich kid will do.”



“Clinton’s ability to speak authentically about his underclass upbringing is part of why his charisma clicked with so many Americans. And yet “the boy from Hope” was, in the end, a class traitor. I’d like to think Bill might have turned out better without the Rhodes.”



“Pete is no Bill. He has no story to tell; he has studiously collected anecdotes. He is an unapologetic conservative in that he doesn’t think class matters at all, except to the extent that he can exploit it.”



“His pitch is based on a phony heartland appeal. Nobody’s falling for it, except people who are even more out of touch than he is with working-class struggle.”



“When I look at Pete, I see the face of America’s rotten sham meritocracy, and I know I am not alone.”
petebuttigieg  2020  us  capitalism  equality  politics  coreypein  elections  meritocracy  billclinton  class  poverty  entitlement  bourgeoisie  education  elitism  ambition 
11 days ago by robertogreco
Ep. 20: The Half Baked Politics of Half Measures (feat. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor) by RUMBLE with MICHAEL MOORE • A podcast on Anchor
[also here:
https://player.fm/series/rumble-with-michael-moore/ep-20-the-half-baked-politics-of-half-measures-feat-keeanga-yamahtta-taylor
https://open.spotify.com/episode/6YcwDWPeMrcZ9DfBN3cMFX ]

“The failures of liberal half measures, compromise and “third way” politics has opened the door for right-wing demagogues to take power. It has also re-awakened a militant and energized left to combat both the wackadoodle right and the tepid center. We’re seeing this play out in American politics and the 2020 Democratic primary. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is a scholar, author and activist. Her writing and speaking has incisively and ferociously exposed the failures of capitalism and the necessity of a fierce struggle to overcome it. She joins Michael to discuss how the hell we got here and how we liberate ourselves.

**********

“Five Years Later, Do Black Lives Matter?” https://jacobinmag.com/2019/09/black-lives-matter-laquan-mcdonald-mike-brown-eric-garner

“How Real Estate Segregated America” https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/how-real-estate-segregated-america-fair-housing-act-race

Read about and order Keeanga’s books here: http://www.keeangataylor.com/books.html

Follow Keeanga on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/KeeangaYamahtta
keeanga-yamahttataylor  politics  us  berniesanders  2020  statusquo  power  organizing  barackobama  notmeus  hope  change  revolution  socialmovements  interdependence  interconnectedness  michaelmoore  elections  thirdway  blacklivesmatter  housing  healthcare  medicareforall  capitalism  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  socialism  flint  michigan  segregation  democrats  congress  corruption  centrism  moderates  moreofthesame  struggle  policy  inequality  joebiden  donaldtrump  hillaryclinton  cynicism  troydavis  poverty  elitism  rulingclass 
28 days ago by robertogreco
Barbara Smith: Why I Left the Mainstream Queer Rights Movement - The New York Times
"A black feminist describes her disillusionment, saying many people are still marginalized, even in progressive circles.

I have not been active in the organized L.G.B.T.Q. movement for a long time.

I enthusiastically participated in the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. About 100,000 of us were there from around the country, a good turnout but much smaller than subsequent marches — when being out and proud was less dangerous.

At the second national march, in 1987, I was invited to be one of eight major speakers. It was exhilarating to speak before a crowd of nearly one million people.

At the same time, it was devastating to see the vast AIDS quilt on display in one place for the first time, symbolizing so much human loss.

I felt ambivalent about the 1993 march. For me it was overly focused on gays in the military and in presenting our community as an affluent consumer group to win favor from the corporate mainstream. This supposed affluence was not even real except for a privileged sector of largely white gay men.

In 1999 the tight circle of organizers of the Millennium March in Washington reflected how narrow and hierarchical the movement had become.

A group of us established the multiracial Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process. Ted Beck, Mandy Carter, Chandra L. Ford, Kara Keeling and I wrote an open letter to the march organizers titled “Will People of Color Pay the Price?”

Our efforts at opening up the organizational process were not successful. I did not attend the 1999 march or any subsequent ones. For me the Millennium March was the last straw.

I prefer to put my energy into multi-issue organizing. In the 1970s and 1980s, I co-founded the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist group, and Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press to give women of color, lesbians of color and even gay men of color a voice.

Three decades later, despite some genuine efforts to increase diversity, especially in progressive movement circles, exclusivity and elitism still divide us. We have won rights and achieved recognition that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago, but many of us continue to be marginalized, both in the larger society and within the movement itself.

One in four people in the L.G.B.T.Q. community experienced food insecurity in 2017. Twenty-four percent of lesbians and bisexual women earn less than the federal poverty line. L.G.B.T.Q. youth have a 120 percent higher risk of experiencing homelessness than heterosexual, cisgender youth.

Black men who have sex with men have the highest rates of new H.I.V. diagnoses. People who are transgender, particularly transgender women of color, experience appalling levels of violence, and this violence is exacerbated by poverty and racism.

These statistics show it is not possible to achieve justice in a vacuum. Marriage equality and celebrity culture will not solve it. Neither will political agendas focused on unquestioned assimilation. Gaining rights for some while ignoring the violation and suffering of others does not lead to justice. At best it results in privilege.

Unless we eradicate the systemic oppressions that undermine the lives of the majority of L.G.B.T.Q. people, we will never achieve queer liberation."
2019  barbarasmith  progressives  activism  oppression  inclusivity  elitism  liberation  combaheerivercollective  collectivism  gayrights  lgbtq  queer  feminism  queerrights  disillusionment  marriage  hierarchy  tedbeck  mandycarter  chandraford  karakeeling  race  poc  blackness  rights  society  us  politics  policy  homelessness  homeless  violence  marriageequality  celebrityculture  justice  socialjustice 
28 days ago by robertogreco
Too anxious to press play
"At first, I thought my brain was broken.

Every time I had a spare evening, I would sit down in front of my TV, open Netflix, and be presented with an array of brilliant film and TV. After 20 or 30 minutes of hemming and hawing, I'd watch something I'd already seen before.

Up until recently, I assumed I had so damaged my attention span with social media, games, and screens in general, that I had lost the capacity to engage with anything remotely smart or interesting. And maybe that's true. But last week, I tweeted about my affliction, asking if anyone else had ever felt this strange aversion to starting a new movie or show — and the response was overwhelming. Even with my modest follower count, more than 100 people chimed in with similar experiences. It was fascinating. And just as interesting were the variety of reasons people cited for their aversion to pressing play: stress, anxiety, the content of most modern entertainment, a fear of missing out, or a fear of wasting time — it was a long list.

Here we are at a moment in history where we are spoiled for choice when it comes to entertainment, and this is stressing some people out. What's going on?

My Netflix dilemma is hard to explain. The feeling I get when confronted with a decision about what to watch is almost like revulsion, as if I've been assigned a task I hate and am loath to start it. I should just pick what I want to watch and be happy with my choice. But we've become familiar with how the digital world has changed things. Now, we have the paradox of the "tyranny of choice," a concept from psychologist Barry Schwarz, which suggests abundant choice makes people miserable because it paralyzes them with too many options.

That makes an intuitive kind of sense. Not only do we now have Netflix, but also Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, regular cable TV, traditional movies, not to mention the entirety of the internet, including the seemingly limitless content on YouTube.

With such an array of content, our day-to-day choices have become loaded. Instead of there being one thing everyone you know is talking about, the fragmentation of shared culture means that in order to participate in some fashion, you have to pick one stream or another. Even now, cultural discourse is lit up with talk of Succession, Watchmen, The Mandalorian, Marriage Story, The Irishman, not to mention the films nominated now that we've reached award season. You can't watch all of them — who has the time? — so maybe it's just easier to give up.

Many people who responded to my tweet said that delving into challenging material was particularly difficult, especially given the problems on display and ever present in our various social media feeds. When it feels like fascism is on the rise or that climate change will kill us all, who wants to slog through an awkward or difficult film, when you could instead just watch reruns of The Great British Baking Show?

The tension between entertainment that is comforting and that which is challenging is centuries old. In Western literature, everyone from Sir Philip Sydney to Alexander Pope to Immanuel Kant made the argument that good work required effort to understand — that it needed critics to tease out its meaning.

That dynamic turned into its own sort of culture war: Are you going to engage with something hard and artistic, or are you going to wallow in mainstream pablum? That kind of elitism has, for a variety of reasons, fallen out of favor. But perhaps it's not just that postmodernism has reconfigured how we create hierarchies of art, but more simply that when there is too much stuff, things that are easy suddenly feel more valuable.

We tend to think art is a mirror held up to society. But in times of great change or distress, it's important to remember German playwright Bertold Brecht's rejection of that notion. He said "art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it." You would think that in these difficult times, we would want art to challenge the status quo, that we would gravitate toward film and TV that speaks to how we might react to dark forces rising. But is it possible that the rise of digital technology is changing the social function of entertainment, more sharply cleaving a line between the sort that is meant for pleasure and the kind that is meant to edify, or connect you with, the human?

That is perhaps too large a question for now. But it seems there is something about modern life that is changing how we relate to the things we previously used as distraction tools. With the infiltration of work into daily life, to-do lists pinging on our phones, and a set of digital tools designed to keep us hooked and never at rest, is it any wonder that YouTube is preferable to a hard film about a failing marriage? Maybe my brain is broken. But maybe, as 2019 draws to a close, it isn't the only thing that is."
navneetalang  2019  netflix  streaming  choice  barryschwartz  paradoxofchoice  indecision  time  amazonprime  primevideo  hulu  disneyplus  apple  tv  television  video  culture  elitism  postmodernism  highbrow  lowbrow  youtube  distraction  attention 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ep. 9: Please Let Me Rob You, I'm Woke (feat. Anand Giridharadas) from RUMBLE with MICHAEL MOORE on RadioPublic
[also available here:

https://anchor.fm/rumble-with-michael-moore/episodes/Ep–9-Please-Let-Me-Rob-You–Im-Woke-feat–Anand-Giridharadas-e9s5iu/a-a182c6l
https://open.spotify.com/episode/3j3jewq1yxOQ5eQpE5GdtJ
https://overcast.fm/+V18Uxlflk ]

“While the majority of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and one emergency away from financial peril, a new study shows that the 500 richest people in the world gained a combined $1.2 trillion in wealth in 2019. In the U.S., the richest 0.1% now control a bigger share of the pie than at any time since the beginning of the Great Depression.

But what happens when the very people hoarding this wealth at the expense of democracy, the environment and an equitable society, re-brand themselves as the people who will fix society’s problems? What happens when the arsonists pose as the firefighters?

Anand Giridharadas has been studying these questions and he joins Michael Moore to name names and discuss what to do about it.

Rumble Reads:

Anand’s book, “Winners Take All” is here:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/539747/winners-take-all-by-anand-giridharadas/9780451493248

Follow Anand here:

https://twitter.com/AnandWrites

The Jamie Dimon “60 Minutes” episode that Michael and Anand ridicule is here:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/jamie-dimon-jp-morgan-chase-ceo-the-60-minutes-interview-2019-11-10/

The new survey about the wealthiest people in the world is here :

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-27/world-s-richest-gain-1-2-trillion-as-kylie-baby-sharks-prosper
anandgiridharadas  michaelmoore  inequality  winnerstakeall  winwin  2019  us  wealth  power  economics  society  war  polarization  internet  work  labor  democracy  capitalism  abuse  proximity  barackobama  lloydblankfein  democrats  markzuckerberg  jeffbezos  billgates  politics  policy  wapo  washingtonpost  class  republicans  corporations  taxes  profits  mikepence  elections  corruption  finance  financialization  profiteering  banks  banking  investment  stockmarket  michaelbloomberg  liberals  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  oligarchy  plutocracy  kleptocracy  healthcare  cities  problemsolving  culture  elitism  climatechange  reputationlaundering  reputation  business  neoliberalism  wokemanickypercapitalism  latecapitalism  poverty  walmart  healthinsurance  pharmaceuticals  wendellpotter  change  profiteers  berniesanders  2020  fun  debt  education  highered  highereducation 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Joe Biden’s Frantic Defense of the Status Quo | The New Republic
"There is a third, less discussed possibility. Yes, Joe Biden may well know better than to expect change from the Republican Party. Moreover, he may indeed see political advantages in implying he does in spite of this. But Biden may also have a larger goal in mind: He wants to preserve the American people’s belief in the Republican Party because he wants the American people to retain their faith in the American political system. If the Republican Party is beyond redemption, that system—having evolved into a duopoly whose norms and institutions depend on the responsible stewardship of each party—is no longer workable. And if the people most disadvantaged by the state of the system come to realize that it’s no longer workable, they are bound to start making demands as radically disruptive as the system is radically out of whack—demands not only for political reforms, such as the abolition of the Electoral College or packing the Supreme Court, but for a new class of leaders, or perhaps no class at all. The entire political infrastructure built around the status quo—the foundations and think tanks, the strategists and consultants, the respected donors and esteemed thought leaders—would then begin to collapse. Figures like Biden and Obama would find themselves helpless and irrelevant."
joebiden  2019  politics  democrats  republicans  elections  2020  statusquo  duopoly  barackoabama  electoralcollege  supremecourt  elitism  ositanwanevu 
november 2019 by robertogreco
The progressive case against Obama | Salon.com
"So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama. Some feel he's a good president with a bad Congress. Some feel he's a good man, trying to do the right thing, but not bold enough. Others think it's just the system, that anyone would do what he did. I will get to each of these sentiments, and pragmatic questions around the election, but I think it's important to be grounded in policy outcomes. Not, what did Obama try to do, in his heart of hearts? But what kind of America has he actually delivered? And the chart below answers the question. This chart reflects the progressive case against Obama.

The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings -- home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did. Also notice that this is unprecedented in postwar history. Home equity levels and corporate profits have simply never diverged in this way; what was good for GM had always, until recently, been good, if not for America, for the balance sheet of homeowners. Obama's policies severed this link, completely.

This split represents more than money. It represents a new kind of politics, one where Obama, and yes, he did this, officially enshrined rights for the elite in our constitutional order and removed rights from everyone else (see "The Housing Crash and the End of American Citizenship" in the Fordham Urban Law Journal for a more complete discussion of the problem). The bailouts and the associated Federal Reserve actions were not primarily shifts of funds to bankers; they were a guarantee that property rights for a certain class of creditors were immune from challenge or market forces. The foreclosure crisis, with its rampant criminality, predatory lending, and document forgeries, represents the flip side. Property rights for debtors simply increasingly exist solely at the pleasure of the powerful. The lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives, the ability of banks to borrow at 0 percent from the Federal Reserve while most of us face credit card rates of 15-30 percent, and the bailouts are all part of the re-creation of the American system of law around Obama's oligarchy.

The policy continuity with Bush is a stark contrast to what Obama offered as a candidate. Look at the broken promises from the 2008 Democratic platform: a higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpus, and labor protections in the FAA bill. Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents. So Obama promised them to distinguish himself from Bush, and then went back on his word because these promises didn't fit with the larger policy arc of shifting American society toward his vision. For sure, Obama believes he is doing the right thing, that his policies are what's best for society. He is a conservative technocrat, running a policy architecture to ensure that conservative technocrats like him run the complex machinery of the state and reap private rewards from doing so. Radical political and economic inequality is the result. None of these policy shifts, with the exception of TARP, is that important in and of themselves, but together they add up to declining living standards.

While life has never been fair, the chart above shows that, since World War II, this level of official legal, political and economic inequity for the broad mass of the public is new (though obviously for subgroups, like African-Americans, it was not new). It is as if America's traditional racial segregationist tendencies have been reorganized, and the tools and tactics of that system have been repurposed for a multicultural elite colonizing a multicultural population. The data bears this out: Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar. That's right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush. And if you look at the chart above, most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress. And it's not strictly a result of the financial crisis; after all, corporate profits did crash, like housing values did, but they also recovered, while housing values have not.

This is the shape of the system Obama has designed. It is intentional, it is the modern American order, and it has a certain equilibrium, the kind we identify in Middle Eastern resource extraction based economies. We are even seeing, as I showed in an earlier post, a transition of the American economic order toward a petro-state. By some accounts, America will be the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world, bigger than Saudi Arabia. This is just not an America that any of us should want to live in. It is a country whose economic basis is oligarchy, whose political system is authoritarianism, and whose political culture is murderous toward the rest of the world and suicidal in our aggressive lack of attention to climate change.

Many will claim that Obama was stymied by a Republican Congress. But the primary policy framework Obama put in place - the bailouts, took place during the transition and the immediate months after the election, when Obama had enormous leverage over the Bush administration and then a dominant Democratic Party in Congress. In fact, during the transition itself, Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson offered a deal to Barney Frank, to force banks to write down mortgages and stem foreclosures if Barney would speed up the release of TARP money. Paulson demanded, as a condition of the deal, that Obama sign off on it. Barney said fine, but to his surprise, the incoming president vetoed the deal. Yup, you heard that right -- the Bush administration was willing to write down mortgages in response to Democratic pressure, but it was Obama who said no, we want a foreclosure crisis. And with Neil Barofsky's book "Bailout," we see why. Tim Geithner said, in private meetings, that the foreclosure mitigation programs were not meant to mitigate foreclosures, but to spread out pain for the banks, the famous "foam the runway" comment. This central lie is key to the entire Obama economic strategy. It is not that Obama was stymied by Congress, or was up against a system, or faced a massive crisis, which led to the shape of the economy we see today. Rather, Obama had a handshake deal to help the middle class offered to him by Paulson, and Obama said no. He was not constrained by anything but his own policy instincts. And the reflation of corporate profits and financial assets and death of the middle class were the predictable results.

The rest of Obama's policy framework looks very different when you wake up from the dream state pushed by cable news. Obama's history of personal use of illegal narcotics, combined with his escalation of the war on medical marijuana (despite declining support for the drug war in the Democratic caucus), shows both a personal hypocrisy and destructive cynicism that we should decry in anyone, let alone an important policymaker who helps keep a half a million people in jail for participating in a legitimate economy outlawed by the drug warrior industry. But it makes sense once you realize that his policy architecture coheres with a Romney-like philosophy that there is one set of rules for the little people, and another for the important people. It's why the administration quietly pushed Chinese investment in American infrastructure, seeks to privatize public education, removed labor protections from the FAA authorization bill, and inserted a provision into the stimulus bill ensuring AIG bonuses would be paid, and then lied about it to avoid blame. Wall Street speculator who rigged markets are simply smart and savvy businessmen, as Obama called Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon, whereas the millions who fell prey to their predatory lending schemes are irresponsible borrowers. And it's why Obama is explicitly targeting entitlements, insurance programs for which Americans paid. Obama wants to preserve these programs for the "most vulnerable," but that's still a taking. Did not every American pay into Social Security and Medicare? They did, but as with the foreclosure crisis, property rights (which are essential legal rights) of the rest of us are irrelevant. While Romney is explicit about 47 percent of the country being worthless, Obama just acts as if they are charity cases. In neither case does either candidate treat the mass of the public as fellow citizens."
2012  mattstoller  barackobama  policiy  inequality  economics  elitism  larrysummers  mittromney  flagunisheth  governance  democrats  corporatism  wealth  financialcrisis  finance  greatrecession  equity  inequity  rights  housingbubble  housingcrash  bailouts  oligarchy  georgewbush  nafta  labor  work  us  politics  barneyfrank  hankpaulson  middleclass  hypocrisy  socialsecurity  medicare  propertyrights 
november 2019 by robertogreco
Barack Obama thinks 'woke' kids want purity. They don't: they want progress | Malaika Jabali | Opinion | The Guardian
“On Tuesday, in Chicago, former president Barack Obama joined actress Yara Shahidi in a conversation with activists from his Obama Foundation program. Over the nearly 1.5-hour Obama Foundation summit event, the beloved political figure deployed his trademark charm and humor while discussing the challenges of movement politics.

Media attention has focused on a particular part of the conversation – Obama’s criticism of call-out culture and what he perceived as an excessively strident activist left. “We can’t completely remake society in a minute,” Obama said, “so we have to make some accommodations to the existing structures.”

He added, “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and share certain things with you.”

He then made a separate point about social media activism:

“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. ‘Man you see how woke I was, I called you out.’” But “that’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change.”

On its face, these are fair remarks. During the session, both Obama and Shahidi drew from examples of the nonviolent civil rights movement of the early 1960s, which required enormous faith, patience and compromise from its activists in the face of threats to their lives and livelihood. Today, as social justice activists’ material conditions have relatively improved, they will encounter people in positions of power with wealth and access, and they have to learn to work with them on some level, Obama implied. And no, tweeting about a verb probably won’t bring about change.

However, we can’t look at Obama’s remarks in a vacuum. From 2016 – as he prepared to exert his influence over who would be the next Democratic nominee – to the present, Obama has often aimed his political critiques at youth-led, black and progressive movements. While upholding the necessity of nuance, Obama himself seems to force these movements into a box, cherry-picking anecdotes for a strawman: that these movements expect purity and demand perfection.

In an early instance of this ideological pattern, at a 2016 youth town hall in London, Obama spoke generally of Black Lives Matter while referring to the handful of activists who confronted the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her role in criminalizing black youth:

“Once you’ve highlighted an issue and brought it to people’s attention … then you can’t just keep on yelling at them. And you can’t refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position. The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room.”

A few months later in a Howard commencement address, with Chicago protests of the police killing of Laquan McDonald not far in the distance, he told the audience of mostly black students about his criminal justice reform as a state senator:

“I can say this unequivocally: without at least the acceptance of the police organizations in Illinois, I could never have gotten those [criminal justice reform] bills passed … If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want.”

And earlier this year, Obama again raised the amorphous specter of purity politics as people have embraced a leftward policy shift:

“One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States … is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’ and then we start … a ‘circular firing squad’, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.”

Obama has offered these platitudes without much evidence that progressives, Black Lives Matter activists or young voters expect purity. Impatience with the status quo is not purity. A consistent political project is not purity. And being patient has its limits.

You can gather from the general direction of Obama’s career, from turning down a route in corporate law to his community organizing, that he has some commitment to social justice. However, his remarks indicate discomfort with more radical tactics in achieving it, reducing them to petulant zeal and not a legitimate strategy among the broad scope of tools needed to dismantle oppressive systems.

While discussing Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King as examples of patient progress, he freezes them in time. He failed to note either King’s or Parks’s evolutions. Over time King became more radicalized and questioned integration. When Parks was forced to Detroit to retreat from the backlash against her bus boycott activism, she became a proponent of the Panthers’ self-defense demands and identified Malcolm X as her personal hero.

Obama also failed to discuss how, despite King’s strategies negotiating with Lyndon Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congress waffled in passing further civil rights measures until the 1968 riots after King’s assassination, when Congress was forced to swiftly pass the Fair Housing Act.

Or go back further: despite the negotiations and patience of abolitionists in the 1800s, it was a steady stream of black uprisings, and an entire civil war, that gave abolition laws and the Emancipation Proclamation any teeth.

Obama’s fundamental problem is in confusing a strategy of pragmatism with the strategy. Pragmatic approaches can coexist with more radical politics. But Obama’s pattern of dismissing radical demands altogether shows a serious unwillingness to appreciate the times. Obama is committed to a notion of reaching across the aisle that may have seemed necessary in 2012, but not so much in 2019.

Americans in the throes of economic struggle and social oppression have been advised to hold their nose for so long that they’re suffocating. The labor movement is experiencing more worker strikes now than in the past 40 years. We’re in a 1968 moment, not 1963. But Obama has not accepted this evolution.

As people demand universal policies for basic needs of shelter, food, freedom from police terror, and economic security, and when wealth inequality is the worst in a century, Obama has to reckon with his own questions. How is his form of calling out – scolding black, young and progressive movements – bringing about change? Is he part of the solution or part of the problem?

For many Americans, the normalization of genuinely leftwing policies is providing the hope and change Obama campaigned on. This is the time for him to finally help achieve it.”
barackobama  elitism  democrats  2019  politics  us  purity  wokeness  call-outculture  dismissal  outoftouch  policy  malaikajabali  leftism  society  oppression  radicalism  radicalization  progressivism 
november 2019 by robertogreco
This wave of global protest is being led by the children of the financial crash | Jack Shenker | Opinion | The Guardian
““I’m 22 years old, and this is my last letter,” the young man begins. Most of his face is masked with black fabric; only his eyes, tired and steely, are visible below a messy fringe. “I’m worried that I will die and won’t see you any more,” he continues, his hands trembling. “But I can’t not take to the streets.”

The nameless demonstrator – one of many in Hong Kong who have been writing to their loved ones before heading out to confront rising police violence in the city – was filmed by the New York Times last week in an anonymous stairwell. But he could be almost anywhere, and not only because the walls behind him are white and characterless, left blank to protect his identity.

From east Asia to Latin America, northern Europe to the Middle East, there are young people gathering in stairwells, back alleys and basements whose faces display a similar blend of exhilaration and exhaustion. “The disaster of ‘chaos in Hong Kong’ has already hit the western world,” the former Chinese diplomat Wang Zhen declared in an official Communist party paper, following reports that protesters in Catalonia were being inspired by their counterparts in Hong Kong. “We can expect that other countries and cities may be struck by this deluge.”

Wang is right about the deluge. In the same week that those seeking independence from Spain occupied Barcelona airport and brought motorways to a standstill, Extinction Rebellion activists seized major bridges and squares across London, prompting nearly 2,000 arrests. Both mobilisations adopted tactics from Hong Kong, including fluid targets – inspired by Bruce Lee’s famous “be water“ mantra – and a repertoire of hand signals to outwit security forces.

Meanwhile Lebanon has been convulsed by its largest demonstrations in two decades, dozens have been killed during anti-government marches in Iraq, and in Egypt a blanket ban on dissent by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s brutal dictatorship failed to prevent sporadic anti-regime protests breaking out across the country late last month. In the Americas, where Wang once served as a Chinese government envoy, Ecuador, Chile and Haiti are all experiencing citizen uprisings that are virtually unprecedented in recent history, ushering vast numbers of people into the streets – as well as soldiers tasked with containing them.

Each of these upheavals has its own spark – a hike in transport fares in Santiago, or a proposed tax on users of messaging apps like WhatsApp in Beirut – and each involves different patterns of governance and resistance. The class composition of the indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador can’t be compared with most of those marching against the imprisonment of separatist leaders in Catalonia; nor is the state’s prohibition of protest in London on a par with the repression in Hong Kong, where officers shot live ammunition into a teenager’s chest.

And yet it’s clear that we are witnessing the biggest surge in global protest activity since the early 2010s, when a “movement of the squares” saw mass rallies in capital cities across the Arab world, followed by Occupy demonstrations in the global north. Historically speaking, the past decade has seen more protests than at any time since the 1960s. Despite their disparate grievances, some common threads do bind today’s rebellions together. Tracing them may help clarify the nature of our present political volatility.

One obvious link is also the most superficial: the role played by social media, which has been widely noted in the press. While it’s true that digital technologies have enabled more agile and horizontal forms of organising, the ubiquity of these tools in 2019 tells us almost nothing about what is driving people to take to the streets in the first place. Indeed, in many states, social media is now an instrument of state repression as much as it is a tool of revolt.

The most significant connection is generational. The majority of those protesting now are the children of the financial crisis – a generation that has come of age during the strange and febrile years after the collapse of a broken economic and political orthodoxy, and before its replacement has emerged.

One direct impact of the crash has been a rapid diminishment of opportunity for millions of young people in rich countries – who now regard precarious work and rising inequality as the norm. At the same time, the aftermath of the crash has cracked the entrenched structures that had evolved to detach citizens from active participation in politics – be that through authoritarian systems or via an institutional consensus on the inevitability of market logic and technocratic management. Amid widespread economic and social failure, it has become harder than ever for elites to justify power, even on their own terms.

All this has produced a generation charged with hopelessness and hope. Afflicted by what the anthropologist David Graeber calls “despair fatigue”, protesters are putting their bodies on the line because it feels as if they have no other choice – and because those who rule over them have rarely seemed more vulnerable. Most have spent their lives under the maxim “there is no alternative” – and now circumstances have forced them to widen their political imaginations in search of something new. As one poster proclaims in Chile: “It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.”

Facing them down are states determined to put citizens back in their box and reseal the borders of political participation. The problem for governments is that there is no longer an established centre ground to snap back to, and their opponents know it – which is why so many of those involved in the current mobilisations will not settle for token concessions from the authorities.

“We need a whole new system, from scratch,” declared one demonstrator in Lebanon. The crackdown on Catalan separatists by the Spanish government has brought back dark memories of the state’s dirty war in the Basque country in the 1980s and the Franco era that preceded it; troops are marching through city centres in Chile for the first time since Pinochet.

In China, Xi Jinping has claimed that any attempt to divide the nation will result in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder”. In many places, grassroots victory – and radical political transformation – feels to many like the only possible resolution, lending clashes an “all or nothing” antagonism and urgency that is hard to roll back.

What has intensified this urgency is the backdrop of looming ecological catastrophe. Even where protests are not explicitly about environmental concerns, the prospect of planetary catastrophe in our lifetimes raises the stakes for all political action. “The kids who are walking out of school have a hugely radical understanding of the way that politics works, and they recognise that our democratic processes and structures as they stand are designed to uphold the status quo,” Jake Woodier, one of the organisers behind the UK climate strike movement, told me this year. “They know that they will be worse off than their parents, know that they’ll never own a home, and know that on current trends they could live to see the end of humanity. So for them, for us, politics is not a game, it’s reality, and that’s reflected in the way we organise – relentlessly, radically, as if our lives depend on it.”

The Cambridge political scientist Helen Thompson once argued: “The post-2008 world is, in some fundamental sense, a world waiting for its reckoning.” That reckoning is beginning to unfold globally. They may come from different backgrounds and fight for different causes, but the kids being handcuffed, building barricades, and fighting their way through teargas in 2019 all entered adulthood after the end of the end of history. They know that we are living through one of what the American historian Robert Darnton has called “moments of suspended disbelief”: those rare, fragile conjunctures in which anything seems conceivable, and – far from being immutable – the old rules are ready to be rewritten. As long as it feels like their lives depend on winning, the deluge will continue.”
protest  protests  yout  greatrecession  crisis  economics  2008  2019  catastrophe  chile  china  catalonia  barcelona  hongkong  latinamerica  asia  spain  españa  lebanon  egypt  ecuador  haiti  london  extinctionrebellion  climatechange  policy  inequality  youth  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  repression  future  pinochet  franco  separatists  statusquo  elitism  uk  us  robertdarnton  jackshenker  government  governance  military  globalwarming  capitalism  socialism  democracy  technocracy  disenfranchisement  politics  democrats 
november 2019 by robertogreco
If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality | Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser | Opinion | The Guardian
“If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality

The president declared ‘Chile is at war’ but the crisis is, at heart, a message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract

As with the yellow vest movement in France, it was impossible to foresee that an increase in the price of the Santiago metro would trigger demonstrations throughout Chile. When you think about it, however, it is unsurprising. Inequality in Chile is scandalous and most middle-class Chileans live in precarity. Now Chile is roiled by mass protests and looting; the government has declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in many cities across the country.

The scale of the looting shows that the country has a structural problem with a clear name: inequality. The per capita income of the bottom quintile of Chileans is less than $140 a month. Half the population earns about $550. Tax evasion has cost the treasury approximately $1.5bn. Two-thirds of Chileans believe that it is unfair that those who can pay more have access to better health and education. They’re right.

The images of discontent and anger around the country are shocking to watch. Yet the current Chilean administration and much of the political class simply do not seem to understand the magnitude of the problem or what is at stake. On Friday night, as the situation spiraled out of control, the president, Sebastián Piñera, dined in Vitacura, the richest neighborhood in Santiago. A few days earlier, the minister of economy suggested that since the price of the Santiago metro is cheaper in the morning, people should get up early to save money. Attitudes like these only reinforce the existing malaise.

How have Chilean authorities responded so far? On the one hand, they have kept an inexplicable silence and their actions have been late and incompetent. On the other hand, the government has begun advancing an increasingly authoritarian message implying that the conflict must be solved with repression.

“Chile is at war,” Piñera declared on Sunday night. He argued that the country is facing a powerful and violent foe and that the government should respond in kind. Those who lived through the Pinochet dictatorship heard those words with dismay. While it is true that the looting is serious and security is needed, it is alarming that the government does not have the slightest interest in understanding the social discontent in Chilean society.

The Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously argued that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. When the president of Chile asserts that the country is at war and implies that the armed forces must solve the problem, he has effectively abdicated his job: to govern. (Luckily, Gen Javier Iturriaga, who is in charge of the emergency situation, later declared that he is not at war with anyone.) Piñera and his advisers do not seem to understand that the problem facing the country is not a military one but a political one. This crisis is, at heart, an urgent message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract.

The longer it takes the government to understand this, the harder it will be to get out of this catastrophe. Real political reforms will take time, but there are symbolic measures that the government could take as a first step, like firing the cabinet ministers who have shown themselves to be most out of touch with their own people.

It is also worth remembering that increasing economic inequality is not a Chilean phenomenon but a global phenomenon. Hopefully other governments see the lesson here: rampant economic inequality is dangerous to social stability.

If the Chilean government chooses a repressive path, it will not only generate more violence, but also give greater voice to radical and autocratic rightwing forces. Democracy itself is at stake. If Piñera wants to wage war, he should wage war on the real enemy: inequality. This war can be won only through politics and not by other means.”
chile  2019  sebastiánpiñera  protests  economics  protest  neoliberalism  inequality  capitalism  politics  policy  cristóbalrovirakaltwasser  autocracy  democracy  carlvonclausewitz  javieriturriaga  violence  precarity  elitism 
october 2019 by robertogreco
From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues - The New York Times
"Pocketbook items have become the catalysts for popular fury across the globe in recent weeks."

"In Chile, the spark was an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, it was a tax on WhatsApp calls. The government of Saudi Arabia moved against hookah pipes. In India, it was about onions.

Small pocketbook items became the focus of popular fury across the globe in recent weeks, as frustrated citizens filled the streets for unexpected protests that tapped into a wellspring of bubbling frustration at a class of political elites seen as irredeemably corrupt or hopelessly unjust or both. They followed mass demonstrations in Bolivia, Spain, Iraq and Russia and before that the Czech Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Kazakhstan in what has been a steady drumbeat of unrest over the past few months.

At first glance, many of the demonstrations were linked by little more than tactics. Weeks of unremitting civil disobedience in Hong Kong set the template for a confrontational approach driven by vastly different economic or political demands.

Yet in many of the restive countries, experts discern a pattern: a louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by.

“It’s young people who have had enough,” said Ali H. Soufan, chief executive of The Soufan Group, a security intelligence consultancy. “This new generation are not buying into what they see as the corrupt order of the political and economic elite in their own countries. They want a change.”

Few were as surprised as the leaders of those countries.

On Thursday, the President Sebastián Piñera of Chile boasted that his country was an oasis of stability in Latin America. “We are ready to do everything to not fall into populism, into demagoguery,” he said in an interview published in The Financial Times.

The next day, protesters attacked factories, torched subway stations and looted supermarkets in Chile’s worst upheaval in decades, eventually forcing Mr. Piñera to deploy troops to the streets. By Wednesday, at least 15 people were dead, and a clearly rattled Mr. Piñera had spoken of “war against a powerful and implacable enemy.”

In Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri survived recent embarrassing revelations about a $16 million gift to a bikini model whom he met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles in 2013, a move that, for some critics, epitomized Lebanon’s ruling class. Then last week he announced the tax on WhatsApp calls, setting off a revolt.

Decades of discontent over inequality, stagnation and corruption erupted into the open, drawing as much as a quarter of the country into euphoric antigovernment demonstrations driven by chants of “Revolution!”

With one of the highest levels of public debt and intractably low employment, Lebanon seems incapable of providing basic public services like electricity, clean drinking water or reliable internet service. Austerity measures have hollowed out the middle class, while the richest 0.1 percent of the population — which includes many politicians — earns a tenth of the country’s national income, much of it, critics say, from plundering the country’s resources.

On Monday Mr. Hariri scrapped the planned tax, announcing a hasty reform package to rescue the country’s sclerotic economy and pledging to recover public trust.

Although the recent scattering of mass protests appears dramatic, scholars say it is a continuation of a rising trend. For decades, societies across the world have become far likelier to pursue sweeping political change by taking to the streets.

The rate of protest has accelerated sharply of late, as various factors have converged: a slowing global economy, dizzying gaps between rich and poor and a youth bulge that in many countries has produced a restive new generation fizzing with frustrated ambition. In addition, the expansion of democracy has stalled globally, leaving citizens with unresponsive governments frustrated and activists sure that street action is the only way to force change.

But as protest movements grow, their success rates are plunging. Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change achieved it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist.

In the mid-2000s, that trend reversed. Success rates now stand at 30 percent, the study said, a decline that Professor Chenoweth called staggering.

These two trends are closely linked. As protests become more frequent but likelier to flounder, they stretch on and on, becoming more contentious, more visible — and more apt to return to the streets when their demands go unmet. The result may be a world where popular uprisings lose their prominence, becoming simply part of the landscape.

“Something has really shifted,” Professor Chenoweth said in an interview.

“You could say these protests mirror what’s going on in the United States,” said Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar who recently stepped down as dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. In countries where elections are decisive, like the United States and Britain, skepticism about the old political order has produced populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant results at the polls.

“In other countries, where people don’t have a voice, you have massive protests erupting,” he said.

The disparate outbreaks of unrest have not gone unnoticed at the United Nations. Secretary General António Guterres raised them at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund this past weekend, his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Tuesday. Critics have accused the I.M.F. of exacerbating economic hardships in countries like Ecuador through austerity measures imposed to reduce debts.

“We are seeing demonstrations in different places, but there are some commonalities,” Mr. Dujarric said, citing “people feeling they are under extreme financial pressure, the issue of inequality, and a lot of other structural issues.”

Some experts say the rash of global protests is too diverse to neatly categorize or ascribe to a single theme. Michael Ignatieff, president of Central European University, was in Barcelona last week as more than 500,000 people thronged the streets after a court sentenced former separatist leaders to prison.

While the Barcelona protests bore some resemblance to mass demonstrations in other cities, Mr. Ignatieff said it would be a mistake to lump them together. “People are not being swept away by the madness of the crowds,” he said. “This is politics, with specific causes and specific issues. If you don’t acknowledge that, you make popular politics look like a series of crazy fashions, like the same trousers or headgear.”

Still, within some regions, the protests are often similar to each other.

In the Middle East, the tumult has drawn inevitable comparisons with the upheavals of the Arab Spring of 2011. But experts say these recent protests are driven by a new generation that cares less about the old sectarian or ideological divides.

Instead of calling for the head of a dictator as many Arabs did in 2011, the Lebanese have indicted an entire political class.

“They are stealing and pretending that they aren’t. Who’s responsible, if not them?” Dany Yacoub, 22, said on Monday, the fourth day she had spent protesting in central Beirut. She studied to be a music teacher, but said she cannot find a job because it takes political connections to get hired in a school. “We don’t believe them anymore,” she said.

Many Arabs have been wary of popular protest since the Arab Spring uprisings, heeding doom-tinged warnings from authoritarian leaders that any upheaval could tip their societies into the same violent chaos as Libya, Syria or Yemen.

But the recent wave of protests in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq — as well as revolts that toppled longstanding dictators in Algeria and Sudan this year — suggest that wall of fear is starting to crumble.

“Syria has been the boogeyman for a very long time,” said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “But Algeria and Sudan showed that chaos does not have to be the answer.”

Even in Saudi Arabia, where the threat of government repression makes public protests practically unthinkable, an unusual rebellion erupted on social media over a 100 percent tax on bills at restaurants with water pipes, or hookahs. The Arabic hashtag “tax on hookah restaurants” trended in the kingdom. Some Twitter commentators said the tax contradicted the ruling family’s desire to change Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative image.

If protests are quicker to stir and more widespread than in earlier decades, they are also more fragile. The painstaking mobilization that once was a feature of grass-roots movements was slow but durable. Protests that organize on social media can rise faster, but collapse just as quickly.

Authoritarian governments have also learned to co-opt social media, using it to disseminate propaganda, rally sympathizers or simply spread confusion, Professor Chenoweth said.

And even where there is a spasm of protest, it takes a lot more for it to snowball into a full opposition movement. The soaring price of onions in India caused farmers to block highways and mount short-lived protests. But frustration has yet to sharpen into mass demonstrations because there is nobody to channel it: India’s opposition is in disarray; divisions of caste and religion dominate politics; and the government of the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, constantly raises the threat of neighboring Pakistan to distract the public."
protest  protests  2019  chile  saudiarabia  lebanon  india  algeria  sudan  kazakhstan  czechrepublic  bolivia  spain  españa  iraq  russia  demonstrations  corruption  policy  economics  neoliberalism  inequality  poverty  stagnation  elitism  governance  government  revolution  qualityoflife  youth  ericchenoweth  valinasr  barcelona  santiago  middleeast  authoritarianism  precarity 
october 2019 by robertogreco
The Smartest People in the Room? What Silicon Valley’s Supposed Obsession with Tech-Free Private Schools Really Tells Us - Los Angeles Review of Books
“As a case in point, many techies’ conviction that they must monitor and cultivate — with concerted effort — their children’s technology habits is firmly and prosaically rooted in the values and worldviews shared by many non-techie middle-class parents. Private schools almost by definition have to craft stories that appeal to privileged strivers anxious about their children’s futures. Some of these stories recount how their graduates’ creative brilliance was spawned in their school’s tech-free environment. Related ones ply anti-contamination themes, and fetishize the purity of childhood. Techie parents are as susceptible as anyone else. Moreover, the ways in which technology fits into these narratives — or is actively excluded from them — has far more to do with parents’ age-old fears about social change and new media than with any special knowledge vouchsafed to tech workers. Indeed, such stories are similar to widely held beliefs in 18th-century England that novels corrupted the soul. In the latter half of the 20th century, first television and then video games became the sources of this alleged corruption, joined by the internet at the dawn of this century.”



“The more important point here is that believing techie parents have secret insider knowledge about the harmful effects of children’s technology usage reinforces the dangerous myth that techies are always the smartest people in the room…”



“Beliefs in techie superiority are, unfortunately, buttressed by the fact that money confers credibility…”



“As a society, we must see the technology world for what it is: an industry as insular as it is influential, and in desperate need of many more kinds of expertise.”
privateschools  education  siliconvalley  2019  waldorf  vaccinations  elitism  intelligence  society  technology  edtech  media  smartness  credibility  belief  superiority  insularity 
october 2019 by robertogreco
‘Parasite’ and South Korea’s Income Gap: Call It Dirt Spoon Cinema - The New York Times
"Bong Joon Ho’s latest film joins a growing list of movies criticizing South Korean inequality — a problem so pervasive it has given birth to its own slang."

...

"While such inequality afflicts the United States and many other countries, South Korea’s income distribution is remarkably lopsided. In 2015, the top 10 percent of South Koreans held 66 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the poorer half of the population held only 2 percent, according to figures cited by Kyung Hyun Kim, a professor of East Asian studies at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of several books on Korean cinema. In addition, large numbers of South Korea’s elite inherited their wealth.

That inequity, combined with scandals involving corruption among the privileged, have bred so much bitterness and frustration among Koreans that new slang phrases have emerged in recent years, like “gold spoons” and “dirt spoons.”

“People who are born with a gold spoon are the ones who have made it,” the professor said. “The have-nots are dirt spoons. They will always be given a dirt spoon, and it will always be a struggle.”

The lack of social mobility for dirt spoons is at the heart of “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon Ho. The Kims are each smart and talented in their own ways. Yet they are so poor — they crouch next to a toilet just to steal a neighbor’s Wi-Fi — that there is no clear path for them to succeed.

Though economically disadvantaged Americans face a similar plight, in South Korea, job prospects can be tied to family background, as when employers ask about applicants’ parents, a practice that could favor the privileged, Kim, the professor, said. Furthermore, investigations have uncovered nepotistic practices, like private schools’ preference for installing family members in teaching positions.

So why not fake it till you make it? In “Parasite,” the Kims’ son, Ki-woo, fluent in English, uses a referral from a privileged friend and counterfeit college credentials to trick the Parks into giving him a job as a language tutor for their teenage daughter. Ki-woo’s sister, Ki-jung, pretends to be an art therapist and gets hired to work with the Parks’ disturbed little boy. Dad and Mom soon join the subterfuge by posing as a professional driver and a housemaid for the Parks, who are as gullible as they are neurotic about cleanliness."
bongjoon-ho  parasite  film  inequality  koreas  southkorea  2019  class  nepotism  elitism  capitalism  education  society  socialmobility  precarity 
october 2019 by robertogreco
The Obamanauts | Dissent Magazine
“What is the defining achievement of Barack Obama? For a time, it seemed it would be his foreign policy: the Paris Agreement, diplomatic relations with Cuba, and getting Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. When Trump got elected and those deals got undone, it seemed it would be the Affordable Care Act. But after plummeting for several years, the uninsured rate among adults has begun to creep back up. Obama did avert a second Great Depression, but history is not kind to averters: with time, what didn’t happen tends to get eclipsed by what did. And what did happen under Obama is a recovery that was slow and weak. Black homeownership rates, which took a major hit during the financial crisis, are the lowest they’ve ever been.

Maybe, then, Obama will be remembered for the fact of his election (though he and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett claim that getting a black man elected was nothing compared to getting the healthcare bill passed) and creating a brand of neoliberal multiculturalism for party elites to use and enjoy in years to come. Yet the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the failure of Kamala Harris to dominate the 2020 campaign threaten that inheritance. So perhaps Obama’s most important legacy will be one of productive disappointment: energizing a multiracial coalition of young voters whose subsequent disaffections with Obamaism and inclinations toward socialism are today remaking the left.

Since the 2016 election, many members of the Obama administration have written their memoirs in the hope of defining that legacy. In addition, more than a hundred men and women who worked in and around the White House have given their reminiscences to Brian Abrams, who has composed a remarkably fluid oral history of the Obama years. We’ve not yet heard from the man himself. While it’s not unprecedented for the president’s men and women to get the first word, the effect of his silence and their volubility is to decenter a presidency that, more than most, was centered on one man and his words. Obama had an uncanny ability to make sense of his place in history, to narrate what it was that he was doing. His politics had its limits, but they were often, and often knowingly, self-imposed. No matter how circumscribed the view, Obama managed to conjure a sense of what lay beyond it. With one exception, none of his people has that sense of time or place. They’re bound by a perimeter that is not of their making and that lies beyond their ken.

At the same time, not only do the Obamanauts wish to salvage Obama’s legacy from Donald Trump; they also believe Obama’s legacy can save us from Donald Trump. “My hope in writing this book,” says Dan Pfeiffer, who ran communications in the White House, is that “if we learn the right lessons” from Obama, “we can ensure that Donald Trump is an aberration.” That puts Obama’s legacy at a double disadvantage: defended by some of its least persuasive advocates and defined by what it is not. Burdened by a future he had a hand in making but no intention of creating, Obama gets reimagined in these memoirs and reminiscenses in light of everything he sought to avoid: the destructiveness of the president who came after him, and the irresponsibility of the Republicans who came before him and dogged him throughout his time in office. Instead of a clear outline of the man, we get the shadow of his enemies. That’s not fair to Obama, but as he’s the one who chose these people to speak for him while he was in office, they are the ones who’ve chosen to speak for him when he’s out. So it will remain, until he writes his memoirs.

The Obamanauts have an argument that they think can be used to defeat the Republicans. It is an argument that sets out what liberals and Democrats should be saying, and how they should be saying it, in the next election and beyond. It is part sense—about economic policy, foreign policy, and so on—and part sensibility: about norms, the presidency, and how our public life should be conducted. Because the sense is so thin in these memoirs, the sensibility winds up mattering more. Which is probably for the best. For it’s that sensibility that gives us the clearest view of what Obamaism, beneath and beyond Obama, was all about. It’s the style of leading sectors in the Democratic Party, currently embattled against the left, though we hear little mention of that battle here. But most of all, it’s that style that answers the question: What is Obama’s legacy? For better or worse, and at least for now, it’s the Obamanauts themselves.

Leftists often dismiss liberals and Democrats as bloodless technocrats and pallid wonks. But that’s not true of the Obamanauts. Theirs is a libidinal attachment. Not to science, reason, or Harvard but to an incongruous sense of history—dopey and epochal, encyclopedic yet uninformed. Obamanauts think of themselves as a “storied band of brothers.” They grill five-year-olds on the facts of presidential history. They speak of history lying in “our hands.” Yet many of them know little of consequence about the past. Pfeiffer thinks the demand for politicians to be authentic is a “new rule,” but Nixon was dogged by the charge of inauthenticity all the time. Virtually all of the Obamanauts are dumbfounded by the Republicans’ hatred of the Affordable Care Act, even though opposition to universal healthcare has been a rallying cry of conservatives since Harry Truman first proposed it in 1945. But Obamanauts do know that, with the exception of Harold Stassen, Obama was the first presidential candidate to campaign outside the United States and that John Kerry’s three-week trip to Vienna was “the longest any secretary of state had ever remained in any single city outside the United States in the history of the country.”

Obamanauts have a passion for office and state, a calling for power distilled of all impurities. Pfeiffer may have wanted to help Obama “achieve his place in history,” but his ultimate intention in the White House was to serve “not just my president but the presidency itself.” Even so, theirs is an agile sense of service that bends to more self-serving claims. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says that after 9/11 he was so compelled by patriotism—and repelled by the New York left’s “preemptive protests against American military intervention” and “reflexive distrust of Bush”—that he made the trek uptown to talk to an Army recruiter under the Queensboro Bridge. After giving the matter some thought, he decided that army life wasn’t for him; he could better serve his country by joining a think tank in DC.

Obamanauts have a range of references to demonstrate their devotion. Hogwarts and St. Elmo’s Fire loom large. The West Wing is clearly the touchstone, however. Gautam Raghavan, who began working for Obama during the 2008 campaign, writes, “Working in Barack Obama’s White House was like watching Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing brought to life. It had all the necessary elements: the brilliant, articulate professor in chief with an unapologetically progressive vision of America; a narrative arc rooted in ongoing themes of idealism and public service; but most importantly, a cast of patriotic Americans who labored every day, as members of the President’s staff, to serve the country they loved.” One collection of testimonials, edited by Raghavan, is called West Wingers; another memoir is called West Winging It.

The Obamanauts live in that sweet spot where Hollywood is history and history is Hollywood, where celebrities are the secret sauce of social policy and producers are aides-de-camp to politicians. A staffer careens, in the very same sentence, from memories of a “world-famous reporter” telling tales of Tiananmen Square to a recollected vision of Anna Wintour sweeping past her desk. Election night in Grant Park is made more magical by the presence of Oprah and Brad Pitt. There’s nothing new about mixing politics and the culture industry. But where Reagan summoned Hollywood to recall the glamor of an older age, the main effect of having these Obamanauts float among the stars is to bring them down to earth. When Rhodes lets slip that UN Ambassador Samantha Power listened to Eminem just before announcing a global treaty on landmines, when Mastromonaco sets out her typical day in the White House, with one hour blocked off for conversations with Pfeiffer about Girls “(seriously),” what they’re telling us is that for all the windy and wince-inducing high-mindedness, Obamanauts really don’t take themselves seriously. They’re just like you and me.”
coreyrobin  2019  barackobama  legacy  obamanauts  elitism  revisionism  progressives  healthcare  affordablecareact  authenticity  inauthenticity  technocrats  us  politics  government  missedopportunities  lefitsm  socialism  democrats 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Is College Merely Helping Those Who Need Help Least? - The New York Times
“I am — to capitulate fully to the nomenclature — a “first gen,” meaning a first-generation college graduate. For me, as for many first gens, a college degree was transformative. If you’d met me when I was 10 — pulling copper from radiators in my father’s junkyard — you would have thought my trajectory was set. I certainly did. The shape of my life stretched out in front of me like a shadow, its terminal point determined absolutely by where I was standing at that moment. There would be marriage at 17 or 18. Children soon after. If I worked, it would be as a cashier at the local grocery store.

When I was 17 I enrolled in college and everything changed. History, philosophy, geography: A decade at the world’s best universities will lift you to new ground. The life I live now is not the life I was born to. I was propelled up to it, and the motor that powered my ascent was a university education.

This is our ideal of higher education: as an engine of opportunity. And data show that, when it works, higher education is exactly that. So why is it that The Chronicle of Higher Education recently called our system an “engine of inequality”? Has a college degree lost its transformative power, its capacity for lift?

Put simply, no, it hasn’t. We live in a knowledge economy, and human capital has never been more valuable. The problem is distribution. As higher education has increased in value, that value has increasingly become captured by those at the top, so that today, whether you graduate from college is largely determined by your parents’ income. In the United States, 77 percent of children born into the top income quartile will earn a degree by age 24, but for the bottom quartile that number is a mere 9 percent. The implications are clear: The education system isn’t transforming the lives of those who need it most; it is dispensing ever more opportunity to those who need it least.

How it is that inequality has come to define higher education is the subject of Paul Tough’s new book, “The Years That Matter Most.” Tough has spent much of his career as a journalist documenting the injustices of our K-12 system. Here he turns his attention to the years after high school, to our colleges and universities, where we might hope those injustices are addressed. The news is not good. In chapter after chapter, Tough shows how higher education does not ameliorate the inequities of K-12. It magnifies them.

Tough rests his case on research, but it’s the people in his drama who will stay with you. We meet Ned Johnson, a $400-an-hour tutor in Washington, D.C., and Ariel, one of Ned’s teenage clients. We watch as Ned helps Ariel raise her score on the ACT test from a 26 (the product of work she’s done with three previous tutors) to a 32, out of 36. We then see Ned do the same with Ben, a low-income Haitian-American student brought to Ned by a wealthy benefactor.

We meet Clara, whose father takes a list of the 100 most selective universities in the country, draws a line under the top 30 and tells Clara she is only allowed to apply to schools above the line. (This becomes possible after Ned helps raise Clara’s score from a 27 to a near-perfect 35.) We meet Kim, a low-income student living in Appalachia, whose father, a Marine, abandoned her family when she was 7. Kim dreams of attending Cornell, and her test scores (sans tutor) could get her there, except her mother, who did not go to college and is dubious of its value, doesn’t want her to go.

We then witness the great sorting of America’s youth: The wealthy congregate at the most elite universities; the middle class raid retirement accounts and bury themselves in student loans in order to attend increasingly budget-strapped state schools; and the poor — if they go to college at all — are exploited by a cadre of aggressively marketed for-profit institutions.

Two types of stratification are happening here. The most obvious is the concentration of wealthy students at a few top schools. Tough rightly calls out the Ivy League and its ilk for capitalizing on positive press while offering little in the way of actual change. It remains the case that in most of the Ivy League, at least two-thirds of every class come from the top income quintile, while those from the bottom quintile account for less than 4 percent. In some cases the imbalance is extreme. Several Ivies admit more students from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the bottom 60 percent combined.

Tough also identifies another type of stratification that is less conspicuous but perhaps more consequential: not the inequities between the students, but rather the growing inequities between the institutions themselves. Until recently, the funding gap between our state colleges and our elite schools was fairly modest. But since 1990, that gap has exploded, so that elite colleges now have an endowment-dollars-per-student ratio of more than $1 million, compared with less than $35,000 per student at a typical college.

Tough proposes two explanations for this widening gap: politicians and donors. Since 2008, state legislatures have cut approximately $14 billion in funding from public universities, or approximately 20 percent. These schools make up the difference with tuition hikes, which forces them to compete with one another for the small slice of wealthy out-of-state students who can pay double or triple fare. This is higher education reduced to free-market principles, a world in which universities behave more like businesses than schools, pursuing customers rather than students.

Meanwhile, philanthropic giving to the most selective schools has skyrocketed. As Tough points out, wealthy universities have wealthy alumni, who, after benefiting from an elite education, are even better positioned to donate large sums of money. This is the final cog in the inequality machine, an intense cycle of wealth concentration that Tough calls “unsustainable — and yet, at the same time, unstoppable.”

Some of the imbalances Tough describes are simply breathtaking. In 2009, President Obama asked Congress for $12 billion to revitalize the country’s community-college system. He didn’t get it. But between 2013 and 2018, a lone American university — already the richest in the world — raised $9.6 billion in a single fund-raising campaign. And so the machine turns.

The apparent weakness of this book is its forgettable title; the content, however, is indelible and extraordinary, a powerful reckoning with just how far we’ve allowed reality to drift from our ideals. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of higher education to the present moment. As a country we are divided economically and politically, and education sits conspicuously at the center of both divides. Whether you have a college degree turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of both your political preferences and your income.

Reading Tough’s book, you cannot fail to notice that these three factors are related — that we have allowed the inequities of our economic system to be reproduced in our education system, and that the result is poisoning our politics. We then ask ourselves why so many Americans no longer believe in college or degrees. Or facts. Or science. Why they perceive education as not for them but rather as a good distributed by the elites to elites.

On the other hand, there is not much motivation among people of means to reform education — to give less money to Princeton and more to Penn State, or to send both their taxes and their children to public colleges. But for those wondering why the American people have lost faith in higher learning, the answer is straightforward: If we want others to believe in public education, we first have to believe in it ourselves.”
highered  highereducation  inequality  elitism  funding  education  us  policy  paultough  tarawestover  ivyleague  privateschools  colleges  universities  privilegehoarding  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charity  corporatization  neoliberalism 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Clarence Thomas’s Radical Vision of Race | The New Yorker
"In making sincerity the litmus test of American racism, Thomas took a strand of the black nationalism that influenced his early development and wove it into an entire philosophy of race. In the nineteen-twenties, at an especially acute moment of racist reaction in the United States, Marcus Garvey also found comfort in the promise of candor. “They are better friends to my race for telling us what they are, and what they mean, than all the hypocrites put together,” Garvey said, of the Ku Klux Klan. “I like honesty and fair play.”

For Thomas, dishonesty was not only about race; it was also about class. However well intentioned white liberals were about remedying racial inequality, their élitism was steadfast. At Yale, some of Thomas’s classmates would query the absence of class rankings and grades. “You do not separate cream from cream,” a professor responded. “It is your fate as a Yale Law School student to become one of the leaders in the legal profession. It will happen, not because of you personally, but because you are here. That is what happens to Yale Law School students.” But Yale’s black students were separated from the cream; indeed, the absence of rankings was used to effect that separation. As he approached graduation, Thomas tried to secure a position at an élite law firm in Atlanta, which had no black associates. One of the marks against him was that he had no grades. Even if he came from Yale, how could his prospective employers know how good he was?

Thomas came to believe that, for the white liberal, offering help to black people was a way to express the combined privileges of race and class. This is a running theme of Wright’s “Native Son,” in which Bigger Thomas, a poor black man from the slums of Chicago, is given an opportunity to rise when a wealthy white family hires him as a chauffeur. The idea that black people can advance only with the help of whites is anathema to Clarence Thomas, who has identified with Wright’s protagonist throughout his life. For him, white benevolence denies black people the pride of achievement. By contrast, if one is black and overcomes the barriers of Jim Crow, one can be assured that the accomplishment is real. Thomas often invokes the example of his grandparents, who, despite segregation, managed to acquire property and support their family. Though they “had to work twice as hard to get half as far,” they knew, however far they got, that the distance was theirs. When black people succeed in the shadow of white benefactors, that certainty is lost.

This is the loss that Thomas has suffered since his youth: not of the color line but of its clarity. It’s a loss that he associates with liberalism, the North, and, above all, integration. “I never worshiped at the altar” of integration, he declared, five years after joining the Court. As he told Juan Williams, who wrote a profile of Thomas in The Atlantic, “The whole push to assimilate simply does not make sense to me.” It is a loss that Thomas has set out—from his early years as a young black nationalist on the left to his tenure as a conservative on the Court—to reverse.

Thomas’s rightward drift, which began in the seventies, was inflected by the very ethos that once put him on the left: namely, disaffection with black liberalism and the mainstream civil-rights movement. In his memoir, Thomas notes that part of the appeal of black nationalism was tied to his sense, in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, that “no one was going to take care of me or any other black person in America.” Eventually, this notion extended to the left. “I marched. I protested. I asked the government to help black people,” Thomas told the Washington Post, in 1980. “I did all those things. But it hasn’t worked.” The whole repertoire of black politics—from mainstream activism to Black Power radicalism and beyond—now seemed pointless. By the eighties, Thomas, a member of the Reagan Administration, believed that state action could do nothing for African-Americans. Problems of racial inequality “cannot be solved by the law—even civil-rights laws,” he told an audience at Clark College, a historically black school in Atlanta, in the nineteen-eighties.

And yet it was on the bench that Thomas began to pursue his own particular vision of racial justice. In his first decade on the Court, Thomas often met with high-achieving black students from Washington’s poorer neighborhoods. One meeting—with a high-school student named Cedric Jennings—was immortalized in a 1998 Esquire piece. After several hours of warm conversation, Thomas asked Jennings what his plans were for college. “I’m off to Brown,” Jennings replied. Thomas frowned. Finally, he said, “Well, that’s fine, but I’m not sure I would have selected an Ivy League school. You’re going to be up there with lots of very smart white kids, and if you’re not sure about who you are, you could get eaten alive. . . . It can happen at any of the good colleges where a young black man who hasn’t spent much time with whites suddenly finds himself among almost all whites.”

This concern runs throughout Thomas’s jurisprudence. “Some people think that the solution to all the problems of black people is integration,” he said, in 1997. By his own admission, he is not one of them. In a lengthy 1982 research article (published with an acknowledgment to “the invaluable assistance of Anita F. Hill”), Thomas notes pointedly that “it must be decided . . . whether integration per se should be a primary goal.” At Thomas’s confirmation hearings, the Republican senator Arlen Specter pressed him on that claim, asking, “If you end segregation, doesn’t it necessarily mean that you are requiring school integration?”

At the time, Thomas dodged the question, but he has since given his answer on the Court. In the 1995 case Missouri v. Jenkins, the Court’s conservative majority held that federal courts could not force Missouri to adopt policies designed to entice suburban white students to predominantly black urban schools. Thomas joined the majority. In the Court’s private deliberations about the case, he argued, in the paraphrase of a profile of Thomas in The New Yorker, “I am the only one at this table who attended a segregated school. And the problem with segregation was not that we didn’t have white people in our class. The problem was that we didn’t have equal facilities. We didn’t have heating, we didn’t have books, and we had rickety chairs. . . . All my classmates and I wanted was the choice to attend a mostly black or a mostly white school, and to have the same resources in whatever school we chose.”

This private sentiment made its way into Thomas’s public statement about the case. His concurrence in Missouri v. Jenkins was “the only opinion,” legal scholar Mark Graber argues, “that questioned whether desegregation was a constitutional value.” If anything, Thomas believes that the state should—where it can, within the law—support the separation of the races. Looking back on his education, in an all-black environment, Thomas has admitted to wanting to “turn back the clock” to a time “when we had our own schools.” Much of his jurisprudence is devoted to undoing the “grand experiment” of which he believes himself to be a victim. As he made clear in 1986, “I have been the guinea pig for many social experiments on social minorities. To all who would continue these experiments, I say please ‘no more.’ ”

Perhaps the most insidious of those experiments, for Thomas, is affirmative action, which he has long opposed. His critics call him a hypocrite. “He had all the advantages of affirmative action and went against it,” Rosa Parks said of Thomas, in 1996. His defenders believe that Thomas is advancing a common conservative line—that affirmative action is a form of reverse racism, which imposes illegitimate burdens on whites. In fact, Thomas’s arguments are considerably more unorthodox than that. According to Thomas, affirmative action is the most recent attempt by white people to brand and belittle black people as inferior. Affirmative action does not formally mirror the tools of white supremacy; for Thomas, it is the literal continuation of white supremacy.

His argument is rooted in two beliefs, each informed by his time spent on the left. The first is that affirmative action reinforces the stigma that shadows African-Americans. Among many whites, blackness signals a deficit of intellect, talent, and skill. Even Supreme Court Justices, Thomas wrote in one opinion, “assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.” When the state and social institutions identify African-Americans as beings in need of help, they reinforce that stigma. It doesn’t matter if some African-Americans succeed without affirmative action. In the same way that enslavement marked all black people, free or slave, as inferior, affirmative action—here Thomas borrows directly from the language of Plessy v. Ferguson—stamps all African-Americans with “a badge of inferiority.”

The second way affirmative action continues white supremacy is by elevating whites to the status of benefactors, doling out scarce privileges to those black people they deem worthy. The most remarkable element of Thomas’s affirmative-action jurisprudence, and what makes it unlike that of any other Justice on the Supreme Court, is how much attention he devotes to whites, not as victims but as perpetrators, the lead actors in a racial drama of their own imagination. Put simply, Thomas believes that affirmative action is a white program for white people.

We see this argument in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 affirmative-action case concerning the University of Michigan Law School. In the early nineteen-nineties, the school adopted an affirmative-action policy in order to create a more diverse student body. Barbara Grutter, a white … [more]
clarencethomas  affirmitiveaction  elitism  admissions  colleges  universities  politics  polarization  law  conservatism  blacknationalism  race  racism  segregation  integration  inequality  prejudice  discrimination  rankings  grades  grading  richardwright  whitesaviorism  assimilation  supremecourt  liberalism  civilrights  coreyrobin  blackpanthers  blackpantherparty  meritocracy  hbus  solidarity  self-help  angeladavis  kathleencleaver  erickahuggins  bobbyseale  us  policy  activism  radicalism  cedricjennings  schools  busing  charleshamilton  blackpower  stokelycarmichael 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake - The New York Times
"It rhymes with ‘schneo-liberalism.’ It was an economic disaster and a political dead end."

...

"In 2009, Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.

Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party’s economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.

If he’d been in the mood to press the case, Obama might have found widespread public appetite for the sort of aggressive, interventionist restructuring of the American economy that Franklin D. Roosevelt conjured with the New Deal. One of the inspiring new president’s advisers even hinted that was the plan.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said days after the 2008 election.

And then Obama took office. And rather than try for a Rooseveltian home run, he bunted: Instead of pushing for an aggressive stimulus to rapidly expand employment and long-term structural reforms in how the economy worked, Obama and his team responded to the recession with a set of smaller emergency measures designed to fix the immediate collapse of financial markets. They succeeded: The recession didn’t turn into a depression, markets were stabilized, and the United States began a period of long, slow growth.

But they could have done so much more. By the time Obama took office, job losses had accelerated so quickly that his advisers calculated the country would need $1.7 trillion in additional spending to get back to full employment. A handful of advisers favored a very large government stimulus of $1.2 trillion; some outside economists — Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith — also favored going to a trillion.

But Obama’s closest advisers declined to push Congress for anything more than $800 billion, which they projected would reduce unemployment to below 8 percent by the 2010 midterms. They were wrong; the stimulus did reduce job losses, but it was far too small to hit the stated goal — unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010.

Obama’s advisers also rejected ideas for large infrastructure projects. They offered a plan to prevent just 1.5 million foreclosures — when, ultimately, 10 million Americans lost their homes. And they declined to push for new leadership on Wall Street, let alone much punishment for the recklessness that led to the crisis.

“He chose an economic recovery plan that benefited educated, well-off people much more than the middle class,” writes Reed Hundt, a Democrat who is a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in his recent history of Obama’s first two years, “A Crisis Wasted.”

A lot of this might be excusable; it was an emergency, and Obama and his team did what they could. But Obama’s longer record on the economy is also coming under fire from the left. The Obama people — many of whom came to the White House from Wall Street and left it for Silicon Valley — seemed entirely too comfortable with the ongoing corporatization of America.

In the Obama years, the government let corporations get bigger and economic power grow more concentrated. Obama’s regulators declined to push antimonopoly measures against Google and Facebook, against airlines and against big food and agriculture companies.

It is true that Obama succeeded in passing a groundbreaking universal health care law. It’s also true that over the course of his presidency, inequality grew, and Obama did little to stop it. While much of the rest of the country struggled to get by, the wealthy got wealthier and multimillionaires and billionaires achieved greater political and cultural power.

What’s the point of returning to this history now, a decade later? Think of it as a cautionary tale — a story that ought to rank at the top of mind for a Democratic electorate that is now choosing between Obama’s vice president and progressives like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who had pushed Obama, during the recovery, to adopt policies with more egalitarian economic effects.

From this distance, the history favors Warren’s approach. As Hundt notes, not only did Obama’s policy ideas produce lackluster economic results (at least in that they failed to hit their stated goals), they failed politically, too. The sluggish recovery in Obama’s first years led to a huge loss for Democrats in the 2010 midterms. Obama was re-elected, but during his time in office, Democrats saw declining national support — and in 2016, of course, they lost the White House to Donald Trump, an outcome that Warren has tied directly to Obama’s early economic decisions.

Why had Obama chosen this elitist path? Another new book, “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy,” by the antimonopoly scholar Matt Stoller, provides a deeply researched answer. It boils down to this: Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, was the product of a Democratic Party that had forgotten its history and legacy. For much of the 20th century, Democrats’ fundamental politics involved fighting against concentrations of economic power in favor of the rights and liberties of ordinary people. “The fight has always been about whether monopolists run our world, or about whether we the people do,” Stoller writes.

But in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, as Stoller explains, Democrats altered their economic vision. They abandoned New Deal and Great Society liberalism in favor of a new dogma that came to be known as neoliberalism — a view of society in which markets and financial instruments, rather than government policy and direct intervention, are seen as the best way to achieve social ends.

Obama’s biggest ideas were neoliberal: The Affordable Care Act, his greatest domestic policy achievement, improved access to health care by altering private health-insurance markets. Obama aimed to address the climate crisis by setting up a market for carbon, and his plan for improving education focused on technocratic, standards-based reform. Even Obama’s historical icons were neoliberal — the neoliberals’ patron saint being Alexander Hamilton, the elitist, banker-friendly founding father who would be transformed, in Obama’s neoliberal Camelot, into a beloved immigrant striver with very good flow.

It is tricky to criticize Obama from the left in the Trump era. There’s still widespread nostalgia and good feeling for Obama as a political figure — and, considering the disaster of the current administration, it feels almost churlish to re-examine his years in office. There are also a range of good defenses for Obama’s policies. “I have no doubt that when historians look back on the Obama years, he will and should be given credit for preventing a second Great Depression,” Christina Romer, one of the advisers who had pushed for much greater stimulus, told me.

Obama’s policies were also perfectly in line with prevailing orthodoxy — it’s likely that Hillary Clinton would have pursued similar measures if she’d won the 2008 primary. It is also worth noting that, ahem, parts of the punditocracy shared his market-fetishizing philosophy: I wrote skeptically of antitrust prosecution against Google in 2009, 2010, and 2015.

But that’s exactly why I found Stoller’s book so insightful. The long history of Democratic populism is unknown to most liberals today. Only now, in the age of Sanders and Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are we beginning to relearn the lessons of the past. For at least three decades, neoliberalism has brought the left economic half-measures and political despair. It’s time to demand more."
farhadmanjoo  2008  2009  politics  barackobama  democrats  greatrecession  neoliberalism  economics  missedopportunities  toldyaso  obamacare  unemployment  finance  inequality  banking  elitism  billclinton  policy  2015  antitrust  google  hillaryclinton  2016  donaldtrump  markets  capitalism  liberalism  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  alexandriaocasio-cortez  mattstoller  monopolies  alexanderhamilton  healthcare  newdeal  power  corporations  corporatization  reedhundt  middleclass  crisis  josephstiglitz  jamesgalbraith  paulkrugman  2010  2019 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Different by Design | Rachel Hawley
"Beyond the realm of electoral politics, design plays an important role in spreading leftist messages and catching the attention of the potentially persuadable. Leftist media, still emerging from the cocoon of the subcultural, is now faced with the challenge of synthesizing their messaging with visual interest—without reverting to the all style, no substance aesthetics of liberalism. Since 2011, Jacobin’s covers and spreads have worked to reclaim the minimalist, kinetic style that big tech has spent the better part of a decade laying claim to, while Current Affairs (as well as this magazine) meets Jacobin’s minimalist elegance with its own brassy opulence and lush illustration. Over on the cesspit that is YouTube, Natalie Wynn of the sometimes controversial ContraPoints channel delivers anti-right-wing diatribes while performing camp extravagance, with high production-value costume, set, and lighting design in the mix.

The challenge for leftist design is to chart a visual course distinct from both the garishness of the right and the empty sleekness of the center.

Some of the more grassroots-level innovations in leftist political design can be found in the orbit of the Democratic Socialists of America, whose membership has grown exponentially since 2015. The DSA embraces its socialist legacy with a black, white, and red color palette. Its iconography—the quintessential red rose, hands clasped in unity or raised in a fist, bread and/or grain (a reference to the iconic 1912 Bread and Roses Strike, during which textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, fought for better wages and overtime pay)—is presented across myriad DIY pamphlets, posters, and booklets, in just as many styles, freeing it from the fuss endemic to a design system like Pete Buttigieg’s.

“It turns branding on its head,” says Pressman. “Whereas usually branding is about a consistency of application and approach, this is about a consistency of intent and spirit.”

But the most revolutionary aspect of the DSA’s design is not so much what appears on the page or poster or screen, but how it came to be there. With the visual assets made widely available across the organization, the brand attributes limited in number and easy to build off of, and the pressure for perfection or strict consistency absent, the realm of design is open to a wider range of perspectives while remaining rooted in the goal of facilitating political action. “People talk about democratizing design tools, and usually they mean making it so that anybody can make a pamphlet or a poster, and that’s great,” says Pressman, “but I think the more interesting part of democratizing design is that participants in political action are themselves designing the stuff that’s being used by those actions and those people.”

Today, many of America’s young leftists are working to bring about a more radical continuation of the New Deal ethos. Should that history serve as any indication, the proliferation of art and design will play a crucial role in the years to come, as we find our footing and grow our ranks. For it is bread we fight for, as the song goes—but we fight for roses, too."
design  elections  dsa  control  graphicdesign  socialism  leftists  jacobin  liberalism  illustration  logos  2020  rachelhawley  elitism  centrism  grassroots  democraticsocialistsofamerica  alexandriaocasio-cortez  organizing  unions  labor  petebuttigieg  2026  hillaryclinton  berniesanders 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Prospect of an Elizabeth Warren Nomination Should Be Very Worrying | Current Affairs
"“Means-testing” is a critical part of the difference between the two, because in it we see the serious differences between what Sanders and Warren each think the world ought to be like. Sanders believes in a “de-commodified” provision of public goods, where they’re free and you get to use them because you’re a person. Warren believes much more strongly in giving them only to people who satisfy a set of eligibility criteria. Now, defenders of means-testing will argue that it is “progressive”—this is why they say things like “you don’t want to give free college to Donald Trump’s kids.” But you should give free college to them, for the same reason that we give Donald Trump’s kids the same access to free public high schools and free roads and free fire services and free libraries and free parks. They are people, so they get given the basics the same as anyone else. Means-testing introduces a dark new quality to public benefits: You have to qualify, meaning that there will be paperwork, and there will be scrutiny of your finances, and you can’t just have the thing, you have to go through a bureaucratic process. We on the left are fighting for a world in which people do not have to prove that they are poor enough to get to go to the public high school or the public college. They just get to go.

These are going to seem like small things, but they are not. “I dream of a world where student debts are forgiven” and “I dream of a world with substantial debt cancellation dependent on income threshold with a multi-tiered phase-out system” are quite different political rallying cries. One of them is inspiring. One of them sounds like it will involve a nightmarish pile of paperwork. On Warren’s website, I see promises about things like: “Elizabeth’s plan to use market forces to speed the transition to clean energy—without spending a dime of taxpayer money.” My alarm bells go off here. Taxpayer money needs to be spent. Market forces are killing the planet. This is a classic example of using right-wing premises to make a left-wing case, and I do not want another president in love with the market. (Warren is absolutely in love with the market, and says she left the Republican party because it wasn’t committed enough to markets. Not because of, you know, all the racism.) Likewise, when Warren talks about “corruption” as the root of Washington’s problems, I see a huge red flag: Free market libertarians like talking about corruption, because “corruption” means “the wealthy powerful people have too much influence in the government.” Leftists think the problem is not just that the wealthy powerful people have too much influence, but that disproportionate wealth and power exists in the first place. Talk of “corruption” says to rich people: I’ll curb your influence in Washington, but you don’t really need to worry about your fortune or your status.

But one of my biggest fears about Elizabeth Warren is this: I do not know whether she can actually win. I have always thought that Bernie Sanders would be the perfect opponent for Donald Trump, because he neutralizes much of Trump’s appeal. It is difficult for Trump to engage in his usual sleazy attacks against someone who is as relentlessly on-message as Bernie is, and who draws people’s attention over and over back to a series of very simple plans: Medicare for all, Free College, Green New Deal. (Note that while Elizabeth Warren’s plans are abundant, they are often very unfocused. Her website overflows with plans, but she seems reluctant to push the phrase Green New Deal, and it’s not clear which of her endless plans she finds most important.)

I fear running Warren against Trump, because I think Trump will relish running against her. For one thing, she does have a scandal: She spent a very long time fabricating an important detail of her identity, falsely claiming to be Native American. In doing so, she allowed Harvard to pretend it had more faculty of color than it actually did. She tried to defend herself by saying that she was, in fact, Native American, citing a DNA test. This was not just offensive to Native people, but it makes Warren seem untrustworthy: Does she still think she’s Native American? What did she think the DNA test proved? Does she think it was wrong to suggest that both she and her husband were Cherokees and to contribute recipes to a Native cookbook? This may seem trivial, but character matters, and this does not speak well of Warren’s truthfulness. Trump will exploit it endlessly. She will be asked about it again and again, and I have never heard her deal with it well.

I also think Elizabeth Warren’s “wonkish Harvard professor” persona will be easy for Trump to run against. Harvard is a bad brand. People hate it, not unjustly. It will be very easy to make Warren seem like a snob, and Warren’s professorial demeanor will not help. Trump’s whole shtick is anti-elitism, and while Elizabeth Warren may be a strong critic of Wall Street, a Harvard professor is a perfect target for Trump’s pseudo-populism. I do not have confidence that she will counter this effectively. I would be worried about Warren in a race against Trump, and my instinct is that Sanders, Kamala Harris, or Cory Booker would actually do better at appearing “relatable.” How well will Elizabeth Warren do in Michigan and Florida, rather than New York City? This is the question, and I’ve generally been very encouraged by the effectiveness with which Bernie makes his pitches to right-wing audiences at Liberty University and FOX News.

So much prediction at this point is just gut feeling, but there is something that I think we should all find very troubling about a Warren nomination. I have the same feeling I had when Tom Perez was running against Keith Ellison for DNC chair, and we on the left were told that there was “no difference” between the two, because both were Progressives. (Turned out there was indeed a difference.) It was difficult to prove them wrong, but it felt like they were wrong. Now, I’m being told that there is no difference between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. This, too, feels wrong, and I think we will see just how wrong it is if Elizabeth Warren actually wins the nomination and then the presidency. Bernie Sanders poses a threat. (The journalists are rallying behind Warren. The New York Times celebrated Warren meeting the million-donation threshold as a “milestone” but didn’t run a story when Sanders met the same threshold months earlier. Expect endless profiles of Warren as the great Unifier.)

Of course, it isn’t just gut feeling: I think there are things Elizabeth Warren has done that are incredibly troubling, such as her strange comment that Israel is under threat from “demographic realities, births.” (If this isn’t just racist code for “too many Arab babies” then I’m not sure what it means.) In These Times examined Warren’s record on military issues and concluded that “once Warren’s foreign policy record is scrutinized, her status as a progressive champion starts to wither” and even “judged according to the spectrum of today’s Democratic Party, which is skewed so far to the right on war and militarism it does not take much to distinguish oneself, Warren gets an unsatisfactory grade.” Since foreign policy is so much of what a president does, and historically where presidents have had an almost unimpeded power to shape policy, this means: In one of the main realms of presidential power, there is absolutely no reason why a leftist should support Elizabeth Warren.

“Why vote for Sanders when you can have Elizabeth Warren instead?” is the question a Guardian columnist asked in February. I think the left had better have a very good answer to that prepared, and that often times we can sound like we’re splitting hairs when we do dig our heels in for Sanders. But we must dig our heels in. Will Elizabeth Warren try to overthrow Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and remake the Democratic Party entirely? I do not think she will. Will she fight until her very last breath for single-payer healthcare and a Green New Deal? I do not think she will. Will she travel the country as president helping organize labor unions? I do not think she will. Will she shun corporate money and tell the ruling class to go screw itself? Since half the ruling class have been in her law school classroom, and since she has already wavered on taking corporate money, I do not think she will. Will she learn the critical lesson from the Obama years: You don’t open a negotiation with your final offer, but with something ambitious? She has already showed us the answer, by declining to support national rent control. Does she have a lifelong track record of protest and activism? No. Can she be relied upon never to sell us out? I have no idea, but I don’t want to take the risk.

I love watching Elizabeth Warren grill people in the Senate. I love the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She’s quite clearly one of the best people in the government, and I am impressed with many of her plans and much of what she’s accomplished already. But there are many signs that she will prove to be disappointing in the same way Barack Obama was, and will not build the kind of powerful left movement that we so urgently need if we are to begin to actually transform the political and economic system."
nathanrobinson  2019  elizabethwarren  berniesanders  elections  2020  progressive  organizing  barackobama  centrism  neoliberalism  trust  elitism  labor  matthewyglesias  politics  us  socialism  capitalism  compromise  dnc  congress  law  policy  petebuttigieg  kamalaharis  medicareforall  studentdebt 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Meritocrat Who Wants to Unwind the Meritocracy - The New York Times
"In “The Meritocracy Trap,” Daniel Markovits delivers a fierce indictment of a system he says is undermining democracy and making everyone miserable."
meritocracy  danielmarkovits  inequality  democracy  society  misery  capitalism  elitism  2019 
september 2019 by robertogreco
America Without Family, God, or Patriotism - The Atlantic
“The nuclear family, God, and national pride are a holy trinity of the American identity. What would happen if a generation gave up on all three?”



“One interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about the erosion of traditional Western faith. People under 30 in the U.S. account for more than one-third of this nation’s worshippers in only three major religions: Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This reflects both the increase in non-European immigration since the 1970s and the decline of larger Christian denominations in the latter half of the 20th century. It also reflects the sheer increase in atheism: Millennials are nearly three times more likely than Boomers to say they don’t believe in God—6 percent versus 16 percent. If you think that Judeo-Christian values are an irreplaceable keystone in the moral arc of Western society, these facts will disturb you; if you don’t, they won’t.

A second interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about politics. Youthful disinterest in patriotism, babies, and God might be a mere proxy for young people’s distaste for traditional conservatism. For decades, the Republican Party sat high on the three-legged stool of Reaganism, which called for “traditional” family values (combining religiosity with the primacy of the nuclear family), military might (with all its conspicuous patriotism), and limited government.

Millennials and Gen Zers have turned hard against all these values; arguably, their intermittently monogamous, free-spending Republican president has, too. Young voters are far to the left of not only today’s older Americans, but also past generations of younger Americans. Based on their votes since 2012, they have the lowest support for the GOP of any group in at least half a century. So it’s possible that Millennials are simply throwing babies out with the Republican bathwater.

But it looks like something bigger is going on. Millennials and Gen Z are not only unlikely to call themselves Protestants and patriots, but also less likely to call themselves Democrats or Republicans. They seem most comfortable with unaffiliation, even anti-affiliation. They are less likely than preceding generations to identify as “environmentalists,” less likely to be loyal to specific brands, and less likely to trust authorities, or companies, or institutions. Less than one-third of them say they have “a lot of confidence” in unions, or Silicon Valley, or the federal government, or the news, or the justice system. And don’t even get them started on the banks.

This blanket distrust of institutions of authority—especially those dominated by the upper class—is reasonable, even rational, considering the economic fortunes of these groups were pinched in the Great Recession and further squeezed in the Not-So-Great Recovery. Pundits may dismiss their anxiety and rage as the by-products of college-campus coddling, but it flows from a realistic appraisal of their economic impotency. Young people today commit crimes at historically low rates and have attended college at historically high rates. They have done everything right, sprinting at full speed while staying between the white lines, and their reward for historic conscientiousness is this: less ownership, more debt, and an age of existential catastrophe. The typical Millennial awakens many mornings to discover that some new pillar of the world order, or the literal world, has crumbled overnight. And while she is afforded little power to do anything about it, society has outfitted her with a digital megaphone to amplify her mordant frustrations. Why in the name of family, God, or country would such a person lust for ancient affiliations? As the kids say, #BurnItAllDown.

But this new American skepticism doesn’t only affect the relatively young, and it isn’t confined to the overeducated yet underemployed, either.”



“he older working-class men in the paper desperately want meaning in their lives, but they lack the social structures that have historically been the surest vehicles for meaning-making. They want to be fathers without nuclear families. They want spirituality without organized religion. They want psychic empowerment from work in an economy that has reduced their economic power. They want freedom from pain and misery at a time when the pharmaceutical solutions to those maladies are addictive and deadly. They want the same pride and esteem and belonging that people have always wanted.

The ends of Millennials and Gen Z are similarly traditional. The WSJ/NBC poll found that, for all their institutional skepticism, this group was more likely than Gen Xers to value “community involvement” and more likely than all older groups to prize “tolerance for others.” This is not the picture of a generation that has fallen into hopelessness, but rather a group that is focused on building solidarity with other victims of economic and social injustice. Younger generations have been the force behind equality movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, #AbolishICE, and Medicare for All, not only because they’re liberal, and not only because they have the technological savvy to organize online, but also because their experience in this economy makes them exquisitely sensitive to institutional abuses of power, and doubly eager to correct it. What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride as the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.

The authors of the paper on working-class men note that, even as their subjects have suffered a shock, and even as they’re nostalgic for the lives of their fathers and grandfathers—the stable wages, the dependable pensions—there is a thin silver lining in the freedom to move beyond failed traditions. Those old manufacturing jobs were routine drudgery, those old churches failed their congregants, and traditional marriages subjugated the female half of the arrangement. “These men are showing signs of moving beyond such strictures,” the authors write. “Many will likely falter. Yet they are laying claim to a measure of autonomy and generativity in these spheres that were less often available in prior generations. We must consider both the unmaking and remaking aspects of their stories.”

And there is the brutal truth: Many will likely falter. They already are. Rising anxiety, suicide, and deaths of despair speak to a profound national disorder. But eventually, this stage of history may be recalled as a purgatory, a holding station between two eras: one of ostensibly strong, and quietly vulnerable, traditions that ultimately failed us, and something else, between the unmaking and the remaking.”
derekthompson  us  culture  society  economics  generations  change  religion  patriotism  families  2019  suicide  middleage  purpose  meaning  community  anxiety  malaise  collapse  vulnerability  traditions  marriage  parenting  millennials  geny  genx  generationy  generationx  generationz  gender  work  labor  unemployment  hope  hopelessness  activism  skepticism  power  elitism  democrats  republicans  politics  education  highered  highereducation  ronaldreagan  reaganism  belief  diversity  voting  unions  siliconvalley  socialjustice  justice  impotency  underemployment  spirituality  capitalism  neoliberalism  genz 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Matthew Paskins on Twitter: "When I tell colleagues I don’t fly, quite a lot of them, especially senior ones, respond—“oh, I should fly less.” I respect this response, but /1" / Twitter
[via: https://twitter.com/justinpickard/status/1163199568332447744 ]

“When I tell colleagues I don’t fly, quite a lot of them, especially senior ones, respond—“oh, I should fly less.” I respect this response, but /1

I suspect it’s very unlikely that you will start to fly less if your professional persona and way of being depends on it. People just don’t actually give it up, you know? /2

Some do, some reduce, some have great aspirations; some use the security of professorial status or tenure to reduce their transport load. But in general flying is too central to a way of being and a kind of thriving to give up. /3

(I think. I’d love to be wrong). /4

The reason I don’t fly isn’t straightforwardly instrumental—it isn’t that I think I’m grounding enough planes to make a big difference. It’s that I can’t bear a model of scholarship which is as dependent on the sociotechnical system of aviation and border control as ours is. /5

And I would like to have contributed in whatever small way I can to the anticipatory labour of making a less unjust academy. That is obviously complicated and obviously fraught with inequities. /6

And senior people are going to continue to behave with the combination of grace and ruthlessness which got them where they are. That means, most of the time, accepting the immense subsidy for elite networking which universities pay out. /7

What those people can meaningfully do—what you can do if you’re one of those people—is support colleagues whose mobility is limited: whether that’s through refusal to fly, the operation of tyrannous Visa systems, or because they have caring responsibilities. /8

I don’t mean me—or just the performative act of attempting to refuse to reproduce institutional injustice: a lot of the people who feel they can afford to do that are already fortunate, or very stubborn can or both /9

But limited access to transport is an injustice that reaches far beyond that group. /10

I would love for the conversation to go: “I don’t fly.” “Oh that’s interesting, I’ve just written a letter this week to a colleague who can’t travel about how we could work together.” Or “Cool, I’ve been making sure people are reading stuff by [so-and-so]”. /11

Etc. These are tiny wishes but they are achievable in a way that individual flight-reduction may not be. THE END. /12"
flight  flying  academia  highered  highereducation  opportunity  matthewpaskins  aviation  status  security  inequality  inequity  elitism  networking  conferences  borders  visas  travel  injustice  socialjustice  climatechange  sustainability  flightshame  flyingshame  flygskam  carbonemissions  emissions  airlines  climate  airplanes  carbonfootprint 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Who is the we in “We are causing climate change”?
"People writing on climate change really like to use the word we. “We could have prevented global warming in the ’80s.” “We are emitting more carbon dioxide than ever.” “We need to ramp up solutions to the climate crisis.”

That verbal tic was in full effect on Monday, after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its special report on the differences between 1.5 degree and 2 degree Celsius global warming. The IPCC stated in no uncertain terms that climate change will threaten the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the next decades unless greenhouse-gas emissions halve in 10 years and cease entirely in 30. In response, one prominent climate journalist wrote on Twitter, “We had plenty of time & warning to avoid this fate, without undue disruption, but now we can only avoid it with EXTREME disruption. Given how badly we’ve botched it so far, odds are we’ll continue to go too slow.”

Given that climate change is a global problem, the temptation to use we makes sense. But there’s a real problem with it: The guilty collective it invokes simply doesn’t exist. The we responsible for climate change is a fictional construct, one that’s distorting and dangerous. By hiding who’s really responsible for our current, terrifying predicament, we provides political cover for the people who are happy to let hundreds of millions of other people die for their own profit and pleasure.

I mean, think about it. Who is this we? Does it include the 735 million who, according to the World Bank, live on less than $2 a day? Does it include the approximately 5.5 billion people who, according to Oxfam, live on between $2 and $10 a day? Does it include the millions of people, all over the world (400,000 alone in the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City) doing whatever they can to lower their own emissions and counter the fossil-fuel industry? Does it include Bill McKibben, the elder statesman of the climate movement who wrote his first book about climate change in 1989? How about Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old girl currently sitting outside the Swedish Parliament on a school strike demanding that her government implement policies that actually end fossil-fuel production, distribution, and consumption? Does it include the indigenous peoples who lived in harmony with their ecosystems for generations upon generations? Does it include our children?

Look, I understand that the we seems real. The fossil-fuel economy, for the moment, provides the structure for what people do on this planet. In its inclusions and exclusions, its laying out the conditions of possibility for human action, it seems totalizing, especially from a middle-class American vantage point. But it’s not totalizing. And it’s certainly not eternal. It requires active reproduction at every moment in time: through subsidies, through construction and repair of its infrastructure, through court cases that uphold its laws, through protection of its “assets” by the military, through Instagram photos that pretend its benefits will bring you joy, and on and on.

Instead of thinking of climate change as something we are doing, always remember that there are millions, possibly billions, of people on this planet who would rather preserve civilization than destroy it with climate change, who would rather have the fossil-fuel economy end than continue. Those people are not all mobilized, by any means, but they are there. Most people are good.

But remember, too, that there are others, some of them running the world, who seem to be willing to destroy civilization and let millions of people die in order that the fossil-fuel economy to continue now. We know who those people are. We are not those people.

Remember as well that there are degrees of complicity. Without structural changes paid for collectively, most of us have no alternative but to use fossil fuels to some degree. As individuals, we must do the very best we can. But constrained choices are not akin to the unthinking complicity of the 10 percent who produce 50 percent of global emissions every year by taking multiple long-haul flights for pleasure travel, heating their homes instead of putting on a sweater, and driving swollen SUVs that they replace every few years. Nor are constrained choices akin to the deep and shameful complicity of the many in the print and television news media who refuse to mention climate change even in the stories about climate change effects they’re already reporting.

Complicit people and institutions must be called out and encouraged to change. And the fossil-fuel industry must be fought, and the governments that support the fossil-fuel economy must be replaced. But none of us will be effective in this if we think of climate change as something we are doing. To think of climate change as something that we are doing, instead of something we are being prevented from undoing, perpetuates the very ideology of the fossil-fuel economy we’re trying to transform.

Climate change may well inspire a reckoning for you about what it means to be human and what your morals are. Fine. But always remember: This is a battle against the forces of destruction to save something of this achingly beautiful, utterly miraculous world for your children. The fossil-fuel industry and the governments that support it are literally colluding to stop you from creating a world that runs on safe energy. They are trying to maintain the fossil-fuel economy. As for me, and for the millions of people who want to undo climate change, I say: We are against them, and we are going to fight for dear life."
climatechange  genevieveguenther  2018  elitism  journalism  inequality  privilege  complicity 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Will the Renovated MoMA Let Folk Art Back In? - The New York Times
"Architectural historians argued against destruction, but protest was not universal. The Williams-Tsien building had problems. Conceived on the scale of a compact townhouse, it was only 40 feet wide. Its narrowness created a cramped interior, with corridor-like galleries inhospitable to art viewing. In addition, some people found its façade — composed of more than 60 plates of a copper-bronze alloy textured to look handworked — uninviting, even forbidding. It was hard to tell at a glance what was housed behind them, what the building was about.

At the same time, nobody denied that the design was distinctive, an interruption in a sea of midtown blandness to which MoMA’s facade contributes. Indeed, the Folk Art Museum looked about as un-MoMA as could be imagined: a small, dark, recessive sculpture set against the mega-museum’s stretch of glass and steel. Anyway, it went. A shame. If a work of architecture, loved or hated, has the weight and personality of an aesthetic object, which the Williams-Tsien building did, it should be considered “museum-worthy” and preserved.

There was another factor that made its loss regrettable. The work it housed — by folk artists, self-taught artists, and so-called outsider artists — was not only deeply charismatic, but filled out the story of Modernism in a way that MoMA itself, in recent years, has largely neglected to do.

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This wasn’t always true at MoMA, whose early leaders regarded folk or self-taught artists as foundational figures in Modern art. In 1938, when the museum was operating out of temporary quarters on West 49th Street, it organized a large exhibition called “Masters of Popular Painting,” described as a survey of “Modern Primitives of Europe and America.” Among its 22 artists were Henri Rousseau and Séraphine Louis, known simply as Séraphine, from France, and the Americans John Kane and Horace Pippin. Pictures by all four soon entered the permanent collection, as would work by the Pennsylvania landscapist Joseph Pickett and the Polish-born New Yorker Morris Hirshfield."



"The presence of the Folk Art Museum on 53rd Street picked up the slack. I even tended to think of the smaller museum as a kind of antechamber to the larger one — an entry point, the place you go to first for historical grounding. The museum still offers this, in its 2 Lincoln Square location on the Upper West Side and its “Self-Taught Genius Gallery” in Long Island City, Queens. But in midtown, MoMA is now again on its own with the tradition of self-taught art. And what, if anything, will it do with it?

The full answer remains, of course, to be seen in October and beyond. All we can do at this point is hope for the best, and give some advice. When, in 2014, the fate of the 53rd Street building was announced, MoMA’s director, Glenn D. Lowry, framed the decision in terms of the larger museum’s need for more space, which, he said, would permit the presentation of “transformative” acquisitions “by such artists as Marcel Broodthaers, Lygia Clark, Steve McQueen, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Mira Schendel, Richard Serra, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Cy Twombly, among many others.”

I would suggest that we, and MoMA, don’t need any more Rauschenbergs, or Richters, or Serras, or Twomblys. What we do need is “many others.” And some of those Others were, for 13 years, to be found in the Folk Art Museum next door. Maybe MoMA can now be persuaded to acknowledge its spirit, and their genius, in its expanded home."
folkart  architects  design  moma  2019  art  democracy  elitism  hollandcotter  folkartmuseum  culture  museums  nyc 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Zombie Neoliberalism | Dissent Magazine
"For someone who demands that Democrats return to the questions of class that once supposedly drove the party, Frank has a fraught relationship with the radical left. Perhaps it’s to be expected of someone who cut his political teeth in the decades when the idea of socialism was all but dead. His books are peppered with denigrations of communists past that feel particularly dated in a post–Cold War era where many of today’s Bernie Sanders supporters and new Democratic Socialists of America members scarcely remember the USSR. He often draws equivalencies between left and right, positioning himself, like any good New Dealer, as the compromise keeping the commies at bay—the only reasonable position between two wildly irrational poles. This leads, at times, to a curiously apolitical reading of politics, one that strikes an above-the-fray pose that ignores the realities of struggle.

Frank is sharper when he examines the Democratic establishment. Listen, Liberal is a biting diagnosis of the cult of smartness that has become liberalism’s fatal flaw. Given his own weakness for pretending to float above partisan conflict, the book is a self-critique as much as anything. In previous books he glanced at the failures of liberalism, only to return to pointing out how very bad the right is. When he notes today that “Nothing is more characteristic of the liberal class than its members’ sense of their own elevated goodness,” this is an unsubtle rebuke to his own earlier assumptions.

Criticizing the fetish for smartness within the liberal class (the term that he uses for what others have called the “professional-managerial class”) puts Frank in familiar territory. His skewering of tech-fetishists from the first dot-com era turns into a skillful reading of Obama’s turn toward Silicon Valley (and the fact that so many former Obama staffers have wound up there). The failure of the “knowledge economy” has been a subject of Frank’s since way back. There is, he notes, a difference of degree, not kind, between the Republican obsession with entrepreneurs and business and the “friendly and caring Democratic one, which promises to patch us up with job training and student loans.”

Since Trump’s win, Democratic strategists have doubled down on the idea that victory lies with Frank’s “well-graduated” professional class, the “Panera Breads” or the suburban voters of Chuck Schumer and Ed Rendell’s famed predictions that Democrats would make up any losses with blue-collar voters who defected to Trump by gaining ground in affluent suburbs. The most obvious problem with this strategy is that it does not approach a majority: only a third of the country has a bachelor’s degree, and only 12 percent an advanced degree beyond that. The other, and more significant, problem is that this assumption encourages a belief in meritocracy that is fundamentally anti-egalitarian, fostering contempt for those who haven’t pulled themselves up by their bootstraps—and Republicans already give us far too much of that.

Liberalism’s romance with meritocracy has also fostered an obsession with complexity for its own sake—a love of “wonky” solutions to problems that are somehow the only realistic way to do anything, even though they require a graduate degree in public policy just to comprehend. Politics by experts gives us a politics that only experts can understand. Complexity allows people to make things slightly better while mostly preserving the status quo and appearing to have Done Something Smart.

In Frank’s description of Hillary Clinton we see where all this leads: a feeling of goodness that replaces politics. This isn’t entirely fair, of course—for the millions of Clinton voters (and there were, we should remember, some 3 million more of them than Trump voters), one can assume that at least as many of them were motivated by her actual stated policy goals as Trump voters were by promises of jobs and a wall. Yet Clinton came up short in the key states that lost her the Electoral College as much because poor and working people stayed home than because of any sizable flip of the mythical “White Working Class,” those bitter non-degree-havers of the coastal media’s imagination, to Trump.

Feeling good about voting for Clinton because she was less crass than Trump—the campaign message that the Clinton campaign seemed to settle on—was not enough to inspire a winning majority at the polls. Feelings, Frank would agree, are no substitute for politics.


What is left of liberalism these days, then? Surveying the wreckage of the Democratic Party, one is tempted to answer: not much. On the other hand, the 2016 election (and the 2017 elections in the United Kingdom and France) show us the rise of a current presumed dead for decades. In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the United States has seen the awakening of socialist politics, breathing life into the kind of class talk that Frank has yearned for his entire career. It is important, then, that we take note of the limitations of longing for a vanished past, that we salvage the lessons from recent history that Frank offers in order to move forward.

Frank’s books presume that a return to the New Deal is the best we can hope for. His frequent invocations of FDR demonstrate the problems with Frank’s take on “culture.” Many New Deal programs, after all, excluded workers who were not white men, and while the best parts of the New Deal have resisted right-wing attempts to take them down, nostalgia for its peak is similar to that which motivates right-wing populism. It is the left’s version of “Make America Great Again.”

The echoes of Kansian arguments have returned to a left grappling with the best way to respond to Trump; some have forthrightly said that pandering to presumably cultural-reactionary Trump voters is necessary, that Democrats should discard “identity liberalism,” in Mark Lilla’s words. In Kansas, Frank wrote, “If basic economic issues are removed from the table . . . only the social issues remain to distinguish the parties.” But this is also true in reverse: when Trump ran to the left on trade, denouncing deals that Hillary Clinton had backed, few people were able to successfully explain why Trump’s racism and sexism made him, still, a bad deal for working people.

Frank demonstrates both liberalism’s promise and its limitations—which are also the limitations of Bernie Sanders and those who, in trying to defend the left against its more disingenuous critics, wind up casting the New Deal–state as the apotheosis of all possible politics rather than as one temporary phase in the class war.

For it is class war that we are in, whether we like it or not, and we will not win it with smartness or with better billionaires. It is a power struggle in which the right will aim to divide and conquer, to mobilize racism and sexism to maintain a hierarchy, and the center will attempt to smooth the roughest edges in order to hold onto its own power or, what’s worse, because it genuinely believes that there is still No Alternative.

“Liberalism,” Frank notes in The Wrecking Crew, “arose out of a long-ago compromise between left-wing social movements and business interests.” In most of his books there is a brief acknowledgment of this kind of struggle—nods to what Kansas refers to as “decades of movement building, of bloody fights between strikers and state militias, of agitating, advocating, and thankless organizing.” We need that kind of fight once again, if we are to hope for things to get better.

John Feltner of Rexnord knew; he joined his union comrades on the picket line even as he was preparing to lose his own factory job. Feltner told me about his time at “union school,” held on the grounds of the great labor leader and five-time Socialist presidential candidate’s home, and how compared to Debs’s day, neither political party spoke to him.

We need to ensure that our politics are not just a welfare-state version of Make America Great Again, a kinder fetishizing of the industrial working class that leaves so-called “social issues” out of the picture. For that hope, we need to turn to the social movements of recent years, to the growth of the Movement for Black Lives and the promise of the Women’s March and particularly the Women’s Strike, to the activists sitting in and disrupting town halls to save healthcare and even improve it, as well as the burgeoning membership of socialist organizations and the rise of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi. The groundwork is being laid, but as Frank notes, no benevolent leader is going to bring us the change we need.

That is going to be up to all of us."
2017  neoliberalism  sarahjaffe  donaldtrump  thomasfrank  hillaryclinton  meritocracy  smartness  elitism  politics  us  elections  newdeal  economics  workingclass  class  classism  berniesanders  socialism  capitalism  chokweantarlumumba  liberlaism  unions  labor  activism  organizing  chokwelumumba 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Design Thinking Movement is Absurd – Lee Vinsel – Medium
"A couple of years ago, I saw a presentation from a group known as the University Innovation Fellows at a conference in Washington, DC. The presentation was one of the weirder and more disturbing things I’ve witnessed in an academic setting.

The University Innovation Fellows, its webpage states, “empowers students to become leaders of change in higher education. Fellows are creating a global movement to ensure that all students gain the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge to compete in the economy of the future.” You’ll notice this statement presumes that students aren’t getting the “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they need and that, more magically, the students know what “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they themselves need for . . . the future.

The UIF was originally funded by the National Science Foundation and led by VentureWell, a non-profit organization that “funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.” VentureWell was founded by Jerome Lemelson, who some people call “one of the most prolific American inventors of all time” but who really is most famous for virtually inventing patent trolling. Could you imagine a more beautiful metaphor for how Design Thinkers see innovation? Socially beneficial, indeed.

Eventually, the UIF came to find a home in . . . you guessed it, the d.school.

It’s not at all clear what the UIF change agents do on their campuses . . . beyond recruiting other people to the “movement.” A blog post titled, “Only Students Could Have This Kind of Impact,” describes how in 2012 the TEDx student representatives at Wake Forest University had done a great job recruiting students to their event. It was such a good job that it was hard to see other would match it the next year. But, good news, the 2013 students were “killing it!” Then comes this line (bolding and capitalization in the original):

*THIS* is Why We Believe Students Can Change the World

Because they can fill audiences for TED talks, apparently. The post goes on, “Students are customers of the educational experiences colleges and universities are providing them. They know what other students need to hear and who they need to hear it from. . . . Students can leverage their peer-to-peer marketing abilities to create a movement on campus.”

Meanwhile, the UIF blog posts with titles like, “Columbia University — Biomedical Engineering Faculty Contribute to Global Health,” that examine the creation of potentially important new things mostly focus on individuals with the abbreviation “Dr.” before their names, which is what you’d expect given that making noteworthy contributions to science and engineering typically takes years of hard work.

At its gatherings, the UIF inducts students into all kinds of innovation-speak and paraphernalia. They stand around in circles, filling whiteboards with Post-It Notes. Unsurprisingly, the gatherings including sessions on topics like “lean startups” and Design Thinking. The students learn crucial skills during these Design Thinking sessions. As one participant recounted, “I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other fellows.”

The UIF has many aspects of classic cult indoctrination, including periods of intense emotional highs, giving individuals a special lingo barely recognizable to outsiders, and telling its members that they are different and better than ordinary others — they are part of a “movement.” Whether the UIF also keeps its fellows from getting decent sleep and feeds them only peanut butter sandwiches is unknown.

This UIF publicity video contains many of the ideas and trappings so far described in this essay. Watch for all the Post-It notes, whiteboards, hoodies, look-alike black t-shirts, and jargon, like change agents.

When I showed a friend this video, after nearly falling out of his chair, he exclaimed, “My God, it’s the Hitlerjugend of contemporary bullshit!”

Tough but fair? Personally, I think that’s a little strong. A much better analogy to my mind is Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

When I saw the University Innovation Fellows speak in Washington, DC, a group of college students got up in front of the room and told all of us that they were change agents bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to their respective universities. One of the students, a spritely slip of a man, said something like, “Usually professors are kind of like this,” and then he made a little mocking weeny voice — wee, wee, wee, wee. The message was that college faculty and administrators are backwards thinking barriers that get in the way of this troop of thought leaders.

After the presentation, a female economist who was sitting next to me told the UIFers that she had been a professor for nearly two decades, had worked on the topic of innovation that entire time, and had done a great deal to nurture and advance the careers of her students. She found the UIF’s presentation presumptuous and offensive. When the Q&A period was over, one of UIF’s founders and co-directors, Humera Fasihuddin, and the students came running over to insist that they didn’t mean faculty members were sluggards and stragglers. But those of us sitting at the table were like, “Well then, why did you say it?”

You might think that this student’s antics were a result of being overly enthusiastic and getting carried away, but you would be wrong. This cultivated disrespect is what the UIF teaches its fellows. That young man was just parroting what he’d been taught to say.

A UIF blog post titled “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” lays it all out. The author refers to Fasihuddin as a kind of guru figure, “If you participated in the Fall 2013 cohort, you may recall Humera repeating a common statement throughout session 5, ‘By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for the faculty.”

Where does the faculty’s fear come from? The blog post explains, “The unfortunate truth in [Humera’s] statement is that universities are laggards (i.e. extremely slow adopters). The ironic part is universities shouldn’t be, and we as University Innovation Fellows, understand this.”

Now, on the one hand, this is just Millennial entitlement all hopped up on crystal meth. But on the other hand, there is something deeper and more troubling going on here. The early innovation studies thinker Everett Rogers used the term “laggard” in this way to refer to the last individuals to adopt new technologies. But in the UIF, Rogers’ vision becomes connected to the more potent ideology of neoliberalism: through bodies of thought like Chicago School economics and public choice theory, neoliberalism sees established actors as self-serving agents who only look to maintain their turf and, thus, resist change.

This mindset is quite widespread among Silicon Valley leaders. It’s what led billionaire Ayn Rand fan Peter Thiel to put $1.7 million into The Seasteading Institute, an organization that, it says, “empowers people to build floating startup societies with innovative governance models.” Seasteaders want to build cities that would float around oceans, so they can escape existing governments and live in libertarian, free market paradise. It’s the same notion undergirding the Silicon Valley “startup accelerator” YCombinator’s plan to build entire cities from scratch because old ones are too hard to fix. Elon Musk pushes this view when he tweets things, like “Permits are harder than technology,” implying that the only thing in the way of his genius inventions are other human beings — laggards, no doubt. Individuals celebrated this ideological vision, which holds that existing organizations and rules are mere barriers to entrepreneurial action, when Uber-leader Travis Kalanick used a piece of software to break city laws. And then they were shocked, shocked, shocked when Kalanick turned out to be a total creep.

Now, if you have never been frustrated by bureaucracy, you have not lived.Moreover, when I was young, I often believed my elders were old and in the way. But once you grow up and start getting over yourself, you come to realize that other people have a lot to teach you, even when — especially when — they disagree with you.

This isn’t how the UIF sees things. The blog post “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” advises fellows to watch faculty members’ body language and tone of voice. If these signs hint that the faculty member isn’t into what you’re saying — or if he or she speaks as if you are not an “equal” or “down at you” — the UIF tells you to move on and find a more receptive audience. The important thing is to build the movement. “So I close with the same recurring statement,” the blog post ends, “By connecting to other campuses that have been successful . . . it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”

Is there any possibility that the students themselves could just be off-base? Sure, if while you are talking someone’s body tightens up or her head looks like it’s going to explode or her voice changes or she talks down to you and doesn’t treat you as an equal, it could be because she is a demonic, laggard-y enemy of progress, or it could be because you are being a fucking moron — an always-embarrassing realization that I have about myself far more often than I’d like to admit. Design Thinkers and the UIF teach a thoroughly adolescent conception of culture.

Edmund Burke once wrote, “You had all of these advantages . . . but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.” The brain-rotting … [more]
leevinsel  designthinking  2018  d.school  tedtalks  tedx  cults  innovation  daveevans  design  d.life  humerafasihuddin  edmundburke  natashajen  herbertsimon  peterrowe  robertmckim  petermiller  liberalarts  newage  humanpotentialmovement  esaleninstitute  stanford  hassoplattner  davidkelly  johnhennessy  business  education  crit  post-its  siliconvalley  architecture  art  learning  elitism  designimperialism  ideo  playpump  openideo  thommoran  colonialism  imperialism  swiffer  andrewrussell  empathy  problemsolving  delusion  johnleary  stem  steam  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  georgeorwell  thinking  howwwethink  highered  highereducation  tomkelly  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  commercialization  civilrightsmovement  criticism  bullshit  jeromelemelson  venturewell  maintenance  themaintainers  maintainers  cbt  psychology  hucksterism  novelty  ruthschwartzcowan  davidedgerton 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Almost All the Colleges I Wanted to Go to Rejected Me. Now What? - The New York Times
"There’s a greater delusion here. We’re often encouraged to imagine our society as an egg-sorting machine: jumbo, extra-large, large, medium (and then the sizes that don’t show up in the supermarket: small, peewee). We’re drawn to the idea that the rewards of social life — money, esteem, opportunities at college and then, later, at work — are determined by talent and dedication. In this picture, everyone can be ranked on a scale of how meritorious they are. True, we can complicate that picture a little and acknowledge that skills are various; that one person might be a fine mathematician and another a fine musician. But even if you had multiple scales for multiple skills, you would find that the vast majority of us aren’t great at anything. A person can only be at the top if there are lots of people ranged below.

If your self-worth is tied to being better than others, then, you’re headed for trouble. Your classmate in the honors program can feel inadequate compared with a higher-performing classmate in that program, who can feel inadequate compared with a still-higher-performing classmate and so on up the line. They could all walk around in a state of dejection. But that would be an ethical error. Why ethical? Because ethics, in its classical sense, concerns itself with what makes a life go well.

In the end, what matters isn’t how we rank against others. (Though my hunch is that you’re the only student at your school to be published in The New York Times this week!) You started out with a bundle of talents and interests unlike anyone else’s — yes, even if you have an identical twin. Your life so far has allowed you to develop some of them and to take up projects that you are committed to: Maybe it’s playing the guitar decently, writing a short story, serving the needs of the less well off in your community, being a good Christian or Muslim. Maybe your aim right now is simply being a good friend, taking genuine pleasure in the good fortune of those you care about. “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?” Dorothea asks in George Eliot’s “Middlemarch.”

You may acquit yourself, in these various endeavors, better or worse than another person, but nobody else is trying to do exactly the things you are trying to do with exactly the developed talents you have. Because we all come equipped with different capacities and have been born into different circumstances, and because we choose our own projects, each of us faces his or her own challenge, one that is, like you, unique. You have, as the great German thinker Johann Gottfried Herder once put it, your own measure.

The goal, therefore, isn’t to be the best; it’s to do your best. And don’t think this lets you off the hook. To become a better version of yourself is quite demanding enough. The 18th-century Hasidic rabbi Zusha is supposed to have said that when he died and appeared before the heavenly court, they could ask him, “Why were you not as great as Abraham?” and he wouldn’t be afraid; after all, he wasn’t given Abraham’s intellectual gifts. They could ask him, “Why weren’t you Moses?” and he wouldn’t be afraid; he didn’t have Moses’ skills as a leader. The question that frightened him was this: “Why weren’t you Zusha?” The scholar Martin Buber, writing in the past century, called this the “question of questions.”

I’ve talked about delusions. Here’s what’s true: Lots of things that happen to you — a good number of which will be a matter of sheer luck — will affect the life you make. But what will make your life a good one, along with luck, is a willingness to run with the opportunities that come your way.

Mourning all the things that didn’t turn out in your college-admissions season, you say that you can’t see yourself thriving in any school that has accepted you. Don’t trust that intuition for a moment. If acceptance from elite colleges is hard, self-acceptance can be harder.

Take up that question of questions. Think about what you can do with the opportunities you have, like going to a good college near home. If you do the work, make friends and enjoy reasonable luck there, you’ll come away from the college enriched and ready for the next phase of your life. So seize the day. The race you’re running has only one competitor, and it’s you."
colleges  universities  admissions  collegeadmissions  2019  kwameanthonyappiah  education  highered  highereducation  meritocracy  sorting  ranking  hierarchy  ethics  inequality  selectivity  personhood  acceptance  elitism  self-acceptance  delusions  measurement 
may 2019 by robertogreco
anton on Twitter: "Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union: - waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it's of poor workmanship and quality - promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in,
"Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union:

- waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it's of poor workmanship and quality

- promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in, day out

- living five adults to a two room apartment

- being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you

- 'totally not illegal taxi' taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet

- everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex

- mandatory workplace political education

- productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites

- deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences

- networked computers exist but they're really bad

- Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason

- elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges

- failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs

- otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it's the only way to get ahead

- the plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work

- the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default

- the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless

- the economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users"
siliconvalley  sovietunion  tesla  uber  lyft  us  2018  antontroynikov  russia  space  utopia  society  propaganda  labor  work  housing  politics  social  elitism  collateraldamage  militaryindustrialcomplex  evil  currency  fake  economics  economy  planning  algorithms  mainstream  computing  henrykissinger 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Rebel Alliance: Extinction Rebellion and a Green New Deal - YouTube
"Extinction Rebellion and AOC’s Green New Deal have made global headlines. Can their aims be aligned to prevent climate catastrophe?

Guest host Aaron Bastani will be joined by journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot and economist Ann Pettifor."
extinctionrebellion  georgemonbiot  gdp  economics  capitalism  growth  worldbank  2019  greennewdeal  humanwelfare  fossilfuels  aaronbastani  climate  climatechange  globalwarming  mainstreammedia  media  action  bbc  critique  politics  policy  currentaffairs  comedy  environment  environmentalism  journalism  change  systemschange  left  right  thinktanks  power  influence  libertarianism  taxation  taxes  ideology  gretathunberg  protest  davidattenborough  statusquo  consumerism  consumption  wants  needs  autonomy  education  health  donaldtrump  nancypelosi  us  southafrica  sovietunion  democrats  centrism  republicans  money  narrative  corruption  diannefeinstein  opposition  oppositionism  emissions  socialdemocracy  greatrecession  elitism  debt  financialcrisis  collapse  annpettifor  socialism  globalization  agriculture  local  production  nationalism  self-sufficiency  inertia  despair  doom  optimism  inequality  exploitation  imperialism  colonialism  history  costarica  uk  nihilism  china  apathy  inaction 
april 2019 by robertogreco
From Harvard to UChicago, Elite Colleges Are an Anomaly - The Atlantic
"A focus on highly selective schools obscures the experience of the vast majority of American undergraduates."



"Every year at this time, headlines reveal once again what everyone already knows: America’s top institutions are selective—very. Harvard took a record-low 4.5 percent of the applicants to its 2023 class. Yale accepted 5.9 percent, the same as the University of Chicago.

These numbers—albeit wild—are outliers, representing an almost-negligible slice of the United States’ higher-education ecosystem. Approximately 10.8 million undergraduates were enrolled in the country’s more than 2,500 four-year universities in the fall of 2017, according to an Atlantic analysis of raw figures from the Education Department’s data center.

The majority of students—more than 80 percent—attend schools, such as Texas A&M, Rutgers, and Simmons University, that accept more than half their applicants. In 2017, our analysis shows, roughly 3 percent of the country’s bachelor’s-degree candidates were enrolled at a four-year university that accepts fewer than a quarter of undergraduate applicants; only 0.8 percent of undergraduates were attending one of the handful of universities that accept fewer than one in 10 applicants.

Most schools are not these highly selective institutions, and the application process for millions of students is not the stress-inducing nightmare that gets so much public attention. Excluded from the narrative are the thousands of four-year colleges that serve millions of undergraduates, including many historically black colleges and universities—not to mention the 1,000-plus community colleges.

Various characteristics set these more-typical institutions apart from their brand-name counterparts, such as the fact that the former are more likely to enroll Pell grant recipients (read: very low-income individuals), as well as “nontraditional” students (that is, those who are 24 or older and/or have children of their own) and military veterans, according to the New America higher-education policy analyst Iris Palmer. They’re also less likely to be considered research universities—generally those that offer doctoral-degree programs—and more likely to be commuter campuses, according to Georgetown University researchers. Of all the country’s four-year institutions, slightly more than half are private, nonprofit schools, such as Massachusetts’s Endicott College and Texas’s Trinity University. About 29 percent are public—Mississippi’s Alcorn State University, for instance, and the University of California at Merced, near Fresno. The remaining 17 percent are for-profit, such as the College of Westchester in New York, and Oregon’s Pioneer Pacific College.

These schools dominate the options for most American high schoolers; attending them is a far more common experience than that provided by the Dartmouths and Dukes and Davidsons of the country. The landscape of higher education is far more sprawling than a focus on selective schools allows.

Moreover, the student bodies of the upper tier of competitive colleges are not representative of the demographics of the country at large. Research published by Opportunity Insights, a think tank led by the economists Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Nathaniel Hendren, has found that roughly three dozen of the country’s “elite” colleges—schools including Washington University in St. Louis, Trinity College (Connecticut), Tufts, Yale, and Brown—enroll more students from households in the top 1 percent of the income scale than they do students from the bottom 60 percent of that scale. In fact, students from the top 1 percent are 77 times more likely to attend “elite” colleges, here defined as schools that accept fewer than a quarter of undergraduate applicants, than are their peers in the bottom 20 percent.

Another often-overlooked feature of higher education in the U.S.: community colleges. Of the nearly 2 million bachelor’s degrees granted last year, roughly half of the recipients had community-college credit. In some states, a solid majority of bachelor’s-degree recipients at some point attended community college—in Texas, for example, the rate last year was three in four. In the fall of 2017, 5.8 million people were enrolled at community colleges, most of them as part-time students.

The most selective schools produce many of the people who populate the top ranks of American business, media, and political leadership. But the country is much bigger and more multitudinous. The work of educating its people falls by and large not to the small set of famous schools, but to the much wider array of ordinary schools, where millions of Americans go to learn every day."
admissions  collegeadmissions  2019  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  elitism  anxiety  education 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The Great American Meritocracy Machine – alex posecznick
"Cheating is a thing. It happens a lot. A few years ago, I was having a conversation with Gregoire, who ran the testing center at an institution I will call “Ravenwood College.” Although Ravenwood accepted SAT and ACT scores, they also had their own in-house entrance exam which was administered on site. Gregoire was meticulous in proctoring exams, checking paperwork and especially photo identification carefully. He recalled one time, when an applicant claimed to have left her ID in the Office of Admissions and said she would be right back. Later, the applicant returned with the ID and escorted by an admissions counselor, but it was an entirely different person.

She tried to persuade Gregoire that he was mistaken – that they had just spoken and she had come back as instructed. But he responded, with a roll of the eyes and a dry comment: “Okay, who did you get to take your exam for you?”

Sound familiar?

The Operation Varsity Blues admissions scandal has splatted hard in the middle of the media, and already faded from our attention. Several days of non-stop coverage and opinion, followed by fatigue. Our attention is nothing if not fickle. It is outrageous that wealthy elites and influential celebrities and their consultants have falsified documents and bribed coaches so their kids can go to extremely selective universities. And it makes sense that this would catch our collective attention. The story fundamentally undermines our trust in American meritocracy.

Maybe it should. Maybe that’s a good thing. Because the most noteworthy thing about the scandal is not the cheating. There are other important observations to be made. And there have been many who have made important observations about how affluent families already game the system in entirely legal ways. But there is more still to consider here.

I’ve spent a lot of my professional life around colleges and universities and seen wonderful and transformative things happen there. But we have to also recognize that a big part of what colleges do is sort students into piles based on merit. “Going to college” is one sort of meritorious pile that employers pay a lot of attention to; and in some circles the most relevant pile is which college we went to. And even affluent parents are under a tremendous amount of pressure to make sure their kids are sorted into the most distinctive pile. There is thus a lot of consequence here.

The contradiction, however, is that the more people obtain degrees, the less distinctive those degrees become. This pushes people to find new ways to be distinctive: a degree from this elite college, or perhaps a master’s degree. But this is an anxiety-fueled, credentials arms race – and although it can benefit colleges and universities financially, I’m not sure it is sustainable. How many loans can the average American family bear?

Elite institutions flourish when demand is high and admission low. Demand is measured by how many people you reject every year. But admission offices need to constantly balance the demands of coaches, wealthy donors, trustees, campus executives, ranking metrics, and alumni. One’s job could be at risk if the wrong donor is unhappy, or if the institution falls in a popular ranking system. We therefore need to acknowledge that colleges and universities are not the ivory towers we like to pretend they are. Not any longer. Colleges and universities are extremely competitive, profit-focused enterprises that must reconcile competing aims: educational mission on one side and market on the other. The big secret is that admission offices are under as much pressure as parents are.

This pressure shifts in less-selective spaces, but does not diminish.

Less-selective institutions flourish based on higher enrollments, because their budgets are so closely tied to the number of students sitting in their classrooms. Such institutions may have some strong standing locally, but like “Ravenwood” College, are not household names across the country. For these colleges, the consequence to a bad year could be layoffs, contractions, budget cuts, or closures. In fact, Ravenwood itself experienced some of these challenges. And this is increasingly a concern: by some accounts, private colleges are closing at the rate of 11 per year!

Public universities are not cushioned from such pressures either; many states have so severely cut funding to public higher education in recent years that they must learn to play the market like private institutions. Colleges and universities want to appear distinctive for the same reasons that we all do.

In short, we have built a massive, comprehensive infrastructure to “objectively” identify, evaluate, measure, and sort us into piles. And this sorting machinery involves high school administrations, college recruiters, College Board test designers, marketing teams, private test prep centers, university administrations, college athletics, federal regulatory agencies, voluntary accrediting agencies, magazine publishers, student loan lenders, employers, faculty, students, and their families.

Attending college does not define our value as human beings, but it would be naïve to pretend that there was no consequence to how we get sorted. When employers take note of a particular name or brand, what they are really interested in is how we’ve been continuously sorted into the right bins across our lifetimes. This scandal (and the many editorials since it broke) has revealed that this infrastructure is not objective. The notion of meritocracy has long been at the heart of the rhetoric of education in American society, but is that machinery broken?

Students of history should know that we’ve never had an objective, merit-measuring machine; this is not the story of national decline that some have been preaching. As many have been pointing out, affluent families systemically use their resources to give their kids advantage all the time – and always have. There are boarding schools, expensive test-prep programs, legacy admissions, private counselors and coaches, private violin lessons and extravagant service trips to other countries that make for a great personal statement. And despite some recent and limited interventions through affirmative action, communities of color have been systematically and appallingly excluded for centuries.

Operation Varsity Blues reveals that although the meritocracy machine is powerful and active, we should not always accept it at face value. Not only in elite space, but at all levels, we must recognize individuals for their achievements while weighing them critically and skeptically. In short, the best measure against a broken meritocracy machine is vigilant, morally-grounded people willing to challenge what they see. As long as we have the credentials arms race, there will be cheats and scammers – and the most noteworthy part of this scandal is not that some cheated, but that the wealthy perpetrators will face consequences.

Unless of course the siren call of some new big scandal distracts us."
meritocracy  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  2019  operationvaristyblues  alexposecznick  markets  degree  sorting  ranking  rankings  society  degreeinflation  employment  elitism  objectivity  testing  standardizedtesting  cheating  credentials  scams  corruption  admissions  anxiety  education 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Mike Gravel on Twitter: "Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class."
"Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class.

Professional Democrats and elite journalists are largely in thrall to the cult of meritocracy, which is the solidification and beautification of inequality. It is inequality based on socially-defined merit—but inequality nonetheless. It is “talent” made god.

And because the new elite ostensibly owes its position to merit, rather than inherited privilege, it feels no sense of noblesse oblige that older aristocracies felt; as Christopher Lasch pointed out, there is no valor or chivalry in the new system, just Darwinian triumph.

Ultimately, as Lasch said, “meritocracy is a parody of democracy.” Meritocracy is an idea that allows the ruling class to hold on to power through the illusion that they deserve it because of merit (read Genovese). It tells the underclass—don’t worry, all is just in the world.

The popularity of true leftism seems to augur the return of old class-based politics, when Democrats were populists who fought for equality, not inequality under the veil of meritocracy. Buttigieg is the archetypal meritocrat—he is the perfect one to save the system.

It is the dream and hope of the meritocrats in journalism and politics that Buttigieg’s shininess distracts from the ravaged country that the current system, the one he clearly wants to perpetuate, has created.

The rule of the meritocrats, the “best and brightest,” has given us a country riven by rampant inequality, drug addiction, and endless wars abroad. Whether their name is Wolfowitz or Summers or Rubin, they’ve been in charge for decades—and look how far we’ve come!

To paraphrase Bakunin: “When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the Meritocratic Stick.’”

It’s time to return to a politics cognizant of class, one that is not obsessed with helping the best and brightest rise to the top, with making our unequal system more diverse, but instead concerned with leveling the system entirely. The promise of a good life for all."
mikegravel  meritocracy  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  inequality  noblesseoblige  society  socialdarwinism  journalism  journalists  education  petemuttigieg  capitalism  liberalism  neoliberalism  class  classism  rankings  success  justification  talent  christopherlasch  chivalry  power  control  self-importance  canon  politics  policy  mikhailbakunin  paulwolfowitz  larrysummers  robertrubin 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Luxury Interiors – Popula
"The question of “U.S.C. versus A.S.U.” in this piece was unclear to me; to what extent was Hess underwriting this hierarchy? I wrote to ask her, and she replied that she wished she’d had the space to elaborate in the piece. And for good reason:
I’m from a Sun Devil family. My mom worked at Arizona State… I don’t think any of the jokes about ASU are based on a real understanding of the kind of education you could receive there; it’s based on the number of people who can access that education […]

The same people who surely believe that every child should have access to a college education also make sure to rank some of those educations as enviable and others as embarrassing. The idea of an elite, high-class education must be hoarded by a select few, because if everybody had it, it would lose its value to the elite.

Which just begins to explain why someone like Mossimo Giannulli might want to be able to say, “my daughter is at U.S.C.”

***

When people are willing to drown themselves in debt and even commit literal crimes in order to obtain an elite college education for themselves or their kids, what, really, what exactly, do they they think they are buying?

Or selling. What are people thinking, who are selling an “education” that is actively harming a whole society; that wrecks the fabric of a city, that causes people to lose their grip on their conscience, their sanity; that makes them set so catastrophic an example, somehow both before, and on behalf of, their children. All this makes a mockery of the Enlightenment values—by which I mean the egalitarianism and erudition of Alexander Pope, and not Edmund Burke getting himself in a lather over Marie Antoinette—that a Western education was once imagined to represent.

Reaction to the admissions scandal has so far centered on these rich parents and their unworthy spawn, whose lawyers now prepare to spin a tale of misguided, but forgivable, parental devotion. No less a cultural authority than the playwright David Mamet wrote an “open letter” defending accused admissions cheat Felicity Huffman; according to him, “a parent’s zeal for her children’s future may have overcome her better judgment for a moment.” Except that the “moment” went on for months, according to court filings, and involved Huffman’s paying $15,000 to ensure that her daughter would have twice the time to complete her SAT exam that an ordinary, non-bribery-enabled kid would have. Also to hire a crooked proctor afterwards, who could change some of her daughter’s wrong answers to correct ones.

In any case, Hess is right: You can get an ultrafine education at A.S.U. That place is an R1 university, positively bristling with Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows. Walter V. Robinson, who led the famous “Spotlight” newsroom at the Boston Globe, teaches there. It’s wild to think anyone would be willing to blow half a million dollars to ensure an admission to U.S.C. over A.S.U.

Anyone who has been to (any) college can tell you that the proportion of enlightenment to hangovers varies greatly from customer to customer. It’s something else altogether that calls for the half-million bucks.

***

Coming from a quite different angle—and on March 27th, the very same day as Hess’s piece—Herb Childress, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, asked: “How did we decide that professors don’t deserve job security or a decent salary?” (“This is How You Kill a Profession.”) Childress is one of tens of thousands of Ph.D.s in the United States who failed to find a place on the tenure track, and who were slowly forced out of a professional academic career as their prospects faded year by year in the academic Hunger Games, as this brutal process is not uncommonly described.

You might assume that people like Childress just “didn’t make it” through some fault of their own, but you’d be wrong. Over the last fifty years academic work has come to look more and more like indentured servitude: Grad students and postdocs are a species of flexible workers in a gig economy, toiling in low-paying jobs waiting for their once-a-year chance to play the tenure track lottery.

Please note that these are the very people who work in the “good schools,” who are compelled to “teach,” for insanely low pay—like, a few thousand dollars per class—people like Mossimo Giannulli’s daughter Olivia Jade, a famous YouTube “Influencer.” This lady’s dad paid hundreds of thousands to put her in the orbit of hugely educated, committed, job-insecure people like Childress. She, meanwhile, impishly bragged to her legion of YouTube followers that she doesn’t really “care about school.”

And yet scholars like Childress can’t let go of their romantic notions of the academy, and their sense of vocation, which can easily be exploited; unfortunately they’ll agree to live the dream even at cut rates, as Childress himself openly admitted in the Chron.
The grief of not finding a home in higher ed—of having done everything as well as I was capable of doing, and having it not pan out; of being told over and over how well I was doing and how much my contributions mattered, even as the prize was withheld—consumed more than a decade. It affected my physical health. It affected my mental health. It ended my first marriage. […]

Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Consider the benefits-free, pension-free pittance paid to the vast majority of people providing the elite education, who never saw a dime of all those millions in bribes, and a more complicated and larger picture than we’ve yet seen emerges."



"I wasn’t nearly as much of a paragon, but as a brown-trash “gifted” kid who came up poor and went to fancy schools I can easily understand how listening to this brilliant lecturer dazzled my friend, and changed the course of his life. This feeling comes to students anywhere, everywhere, in every school with a good teacher with time and attention to give us. There was and still is something vital, something good and real, to want out of an “education,” something quite beyond the ken of the kind of people who would pay an SAT proctor to cheat.

Then there’s this other angle. I first went off to college already inured to the idea that I was involved in an economy; that we were trading. Everything had been made easier for the rich kids, of course, and it wasn’t their fault, all had been bought and paid for by their parents and grandparents, but also—a crucial thing—they had also lacked our luck; they lacked certain desirable qualities, qualities as randomly distributed as wealth, things with which some of us had won a different lottery, had skipped grades with and been celebrated for: the sort of “intelligence” that made school easy. There seemed to be a natural symbiosis in this structure, crazy and shameful as the whole business of “meritocracy” appears to me now.

But also like all college kids we mainly didn’t give a fuck about any of that and just got to be friends for true reasons, just loved one another. The rich kids happened to be able to teach the poor ones what fork to use and how to ski, and the poor and/or brown kids of halfway reasonable intelligence gave them books, new kinds of food and family, music and art, a view of the other side of the tracks, new ways to have fun. We poor ones brought, say, a taste for Lester Bangs, arroz con pollo, Brian Eno and Virginia Woolf; they treated us to foie gras and Tahoe and big old California cabs on our 18th birthday. Gross, right? Really gross. But the (grotesquely mistaken) idea was that we were bringing each other into a better world, a different world, and a little at a time the true, good world would finally come.

This may sound a bit tinfoil but now I suspect that the problem may have been, all along, that all the college kids started to realize together (as I think they are still) that there was something sick at the roots of this tree of knowledge as it was then constituted. Strangely, dangerously healing, egalitarian ideas began to take hold; demographics changed, and the country began to move to the left. The 90s was the era of the tenured radical on campus, and the culture wars grew white-hot. Al Gore was elected president, and was prevented by the merest whisker from taking office. Even a barely left of center President Gore would have made things a little too parlous for the powers that be, who are on the same side as the Giannullis of the world.

Hess told me that some people think there’s one kind of education within the purview of everyone willing to work to get it, the “embarrassing” kind, and then there’s another kind that is luxury goods, strictly for “elites” from “elite” institutions—however corrupt the latter may be—served tableside by an underpaid servant class.

But the egalitarian view of education and the luxury view are mutually exclusive. Pulling up the drawbridge around your ivory tower only cuts it off from the global commons, which alone can provide the intellectual atmosphere in which a free society, and its academy, can breathe and thrive. Power wants its “meritocracy”: thus the eternal cake-having rhetoric around higher education, the queasy mingling of “exclusivity” and “diversity.”

Note too that the ruling class protects its interests as starkly on the fake left of the centrist Democrats as it does on the right, where the Koch brothers have long bought professors like they were so many cups of coffee. In Jacobin, Liza Featherstone’s … [more]
education  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  mariabustillos  culture  society  smartness  petebuttigieg  operationvaristyblues  meritocracy  us  capitalism  competition  scarcity  lizafeatherstone  donaldtrump  centrism  herbchildress  academia  colleges  universities  rankings  admissions 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Have You Heard? Pete Buttigieg Is Really Smart
"He holds degrees from Harvard and Oxford. Like many Ivy League grads, he also worked as a consultant for McKinsey. He won a national essay contest in high school. He speaks eight languages, including English, Norwegian, Maltese, Italian, French, Spanish, Dari, and Arabic. He learned Norwegian to read a favorite author in that language, and at a recent press conference, spoke with some Norwegian journalists in their native tongue. He was a Rhodes Scholar.

He’s been precocious all his life — no wonder that at only thirty-seven he’s running for president. Pete Buttigieg, son of two professors, is a classic Smart Dude, and there is nothing journalists love more. His followers even have a proudly know-it-all approach to his name, showing up at his rallies with signs explaining, “It’s Pete BOOT-Edge-Edge.” He says he’s all about “bringing forward good ideas.”

For the upper professional-managerial class (PMC), guys like this represent a dreamy ideal of human supremacy. That’s because for them, all of life is an Ivy League application. Well-rounded “smartness” is everything, even in the wake of recent news that this is not necessarily what elite college admissions are based upon.

As a result, BOOTedgedge has been the focus of a media frenzy, despite polling far behind Sanders and Biden (even 538 is skeptical of his recent much-ballyhooed jump in Iowa). CNN’s Chris Cillizza finds his resumé “remarkable.” Some call him “bookish.” Queerty.com exults that he “represents the best and brightest of our country.” A New Republic headline uses the word “Genius.”

Liberal feminists have rightly bristled at the collective ecstasy over the mighty dome of BOOTedgedge. When economist boy-wonder Alan Cole tweeted this week, “Mayor Pete seems head and shoulders smarter than the other candidates running and IMO that should count for quite a lot,” he was widely and correctly rebuked for sexism. What about Elizabeth Warren, asked Katha Pollitt, Jill Filipovic, and many others. The Twittersphere weighed in with lists of Warren’s accomplishments. Others pointed out that the tweet was possibly racist as well as sexist; Julian Castro holds degrees from Harvard, Harvard Law School, and Stanford, and Cory Booker was, like BOOTedgedge, a Rhodes Scholar, among a pile of other academic achievements.

The question of what “smart” even means and why this type of smart should matter in a presidential race got less attention. One person rightly asked, “are you sure he’s not just smart in the ways you also fancy yourself to also be smart.” No one asked why this particular form of well-credentialed “smart” should “count for quite a lot.”

That’s because while the PMC are often eager to be more inclusive about who gets to be “smart” — women, black people — they have tremendous faith in the concept itself. They love rich people whose intelligence has made them prosper: they may cringe at the science-denying Koch Brothers but they went into deep mourning when Steve Jobs died. They devour Malcolm Gladwell’s veneration of the wisdom of genius entrepreneurs over the plodding, clueless masses.

This notion of “smart” allows elites to recast inequality as meritocracy. In this narrative, you’re rich because you did well in high school and went to Princeton, not because capitalism has taken something from someone else and given it to you. Yet the culture of smart is not all smugness; it also contains a heavy dose of fear. The PMC understands that while it’s fun to brag about having a kid like BOOTedgeedge, it’s not optional (like, say, having a pet that can do weird tricks, a cat that can use a human toilet, for instance). In the neoliberal order, if you’re not born into the top 0.1 percent, you have to be “smart” and unusually talented and motivated, otherwise you will not only lose what privileges you have, but possibly not even survive. As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman once gleefully proclaimed, “Average is over.”

The PMC therefore tries hard to make their children “gifted” and to nourish their talents, an effort that is supposed to culminate in the kind of august institutional validation that BOOTedgedge has enjoyed. Because they have, all their lives, felt a certain panic about the need to be college-application impressive, the PMC has come to see such impressiveness as somehow morally admirable. For people like this, the recent college admissions scandal, exposing corruption at institutions like Yale and USC, occasions not eye-rolling and wisecracks, as it does on dirtbag Twitter (this writer is guilty), but earnest hand-wringing about fairness and social justice. Smartness, to them, makes some people more deserving of the good life than others. Smartness culture is social Darwinism for liberals.

This obsession pervades the politics of the PMC. Trump’s proud ignorance and shameless pandering to the nation’s dumbness often seems to gall them more than his inhumane, death-drive policies. This class always seeks a Smart Dude as savior. Obama, of course, represents successful fulfillment of this dream, and they can’t wait to repeat it. Beto, after some initial signs of promise, has now revealed himself to be a dummy who has to ask his wife on the proper usage of “subconscious.” Hence, BOOTedgedge mania.

The quest reflects a theory of change in which, as political scientist Adolph Reed Jr remarked years ago, describing the worldview of some of his academic colleagues, “all the smart people get together on the Vineyard and solve the world’s problems.” Davos is the fullest expression of this: elites get together and showcase how smart they are, advertising how fit they are to be our ruling elites.

It’s oddly banal, the culture of smart. Like most of the detritus of “smartness” culture, from Freakonomics to TED Talks to NPR, BOOTedgedge is politically underwhelming. What good ideas he has are shared by other candidates in the crowded field, some originating from politicians to his left, like Bernie Sanders. His bad ideas are hardly edgy, either: capitalism can be good while government regulation can be bad.

This Democratic primary lineup is not the worst, and within it, neither is Mayor Pete (the term used by those not quite smart enough to pronounce BOOTedgedge). He seems to support Medicare for All and the Green New Deal in some form. He invested in infrastructure in South Bend. He won office as an openly gay man in Mike Pence country and has a record of connecting with voters who voted for Trump. And there’s no question that he’d be a better president than Trump or some of his Democratic primary competitors. We do need a president capable of reading a book, not one reveling proudly in his ignorance like the current occupant of the White House, who seems to reflect our dumbest tendencies insultingly right back to us. (When Trump this week fantasized that a Hillary Clinton victory would have turned the power grid over to solar energy and deprived us of the joy of watching TV, the writer Tara Rose aptly observed, “He’s so perfect for the kind of stupid that we are.”) A BOOTedgedge presidency would reassure those of us who believe in things like science and logic that we have stepped back from the braying idiocy that now envelopes us like a toxic plume. Of course, that would be a pleasant reprieve.

But the obsession with his kind of ostentatious intelligence is deeply unserious and anti-democratic. “Smart” is not going to save us, and fetishizing its most conventional manifestations shores up bourgeois ideology and undermines the genuinely emancipatory politics of collective action. Bernie Sanders, instead of showing off his University of Chicago education, touts the power of the masses: “Not Me, Us.” The cult of the Smart Dude leads us into just the opposite place, which is probably why some liberals like it so much."
elitism  meritocracy  2019  petebuttigieg  smartness  lizafeatherstone  inequality  berniesanders  politics  elections  saviors  merit  liberalism  socialdarwinism  malcolmgladwell  genius 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Evaluating scholarship, or why I won’t be teaching Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism | Blayne Haggart's Orangespace
"In his review, which is a wonder of careful thinking and contextualization, Morozov performs a couple of useful services. First, he highlights the extent to which Zuboff’s argument about how surveillance capitalism works rests on a tautology – “surveillance capitalists engage in surveillance capitalism because this is what the imperatives of surveillance capitalism demand” – that leaves they why of the matter unexamined. Second, he places her squarely within an intellectual tradition of “managerial capitalism” and a wider functionalist tradition in sociology associated with Talcott Parsons. Morozov argues that partly as a result of this (unacknowledged) mindset, Zuboff fails to understand the extent to which her critique of surveillance capitalism is actually a critique of capitalism, full stop. This inability to see anything outside the mindset of capitalism accounts for the way the book just kind of finishes without suggesting any real possible paths forward other than, we need a new social movement, and surveillance capitalism must be destroyed and replaced with a better form of (digital?) capitalism.

I hadn’t made those exact connections, and Morozov’s review does a great job in concisely summing up these intellectual frameworks. And if you didn’t know anything about managerial capitalism and Alfred Chandler, or the Italian Autonomists, you could also be forgiven for not making those connections either. I knew very little about managerial capitalism, nothing of Alfred Chandler. I am familiar with Parsons and my only exposure to the Italian Autonomists was by reading Hardt and Negri’s Empire during my PhD, which was enough to convince me that I wanted nothing to do with them.

Morozov’s final conclusion is both persuasive and damning from an academic perspective. The book, he says, could be politically powerful because it is a sharp broadside against two companies – Google and Facebook – that represent a clear and present danger to society. However, it “is a step backward in our understanding of the dynamics of the digital economy.”

I think that’s about right.

I am also pretty sure that, despite the acclaim it’s getting in non-Baffler circles, I’m not going to be teaching The Age of Surveillance Capitalism in my Global Political Economy of Knowledge course, but not because I disagree with Zuboff’s argument or feel threatened by her analysis. To the contrary, she’s pretty much telling me exactly what I want to hear. Or more to the point, what I want to believe.

I’m not going to be teaching it because as an academic work, it falls far short of the standards to which we should hold ourselves. It may be a politically effective polemic, but as scholarship that advances our understanding of the world, it is sorely lacking."



"Four tells of poor academic scholarship

1. Exaggerated claims to novelty"



"2. Absence of relevant literatures"



"So. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a study of the messy interactions between economic and social imperatives. (Actually, I’d argue it’s really two linked business case studies of Facebook and Google that wants to be a study of a larger system, but that’s another matter entirely.) This means that it is a study of political economy. Which means it has to engage with the political economy literature on surveillance (a specialized literature, but it does exist) and capitalism (its entire raison d’être). I expect it to engage with particular sources, like Srnicek, like Shawn Powers and Michael Jablonski’s The Real Cyber War. With, in other words, the books that can provide context and support for, and pushback against, its argument.

And if you’re talking about big trends in capitalism and society from a critical perspective, Hannah Arendt is not your go-to. You also need to go beyond the social-science founders – Durkheim, Marx, Weber. You need to engage with the likes of Susan Strange. Or Robert Cox. Or Michael Mann, people who are interested in exactly the same issues that you are dealing with. Karl Polanyi is great, and Zuboff grabs just the right concepts from him. But He. Is. Not. Enough.

(Polanyi was also much more than an “historian,” as Zuboff identifies him. As his Wikipedia entry makes clear, he was an “economic historian, economic anthropologist, economic sociologist, political economist, historical sociologist and social philosopher. Then again, the phrase “political economy” appears only four times in this book, and exclusively in the titles of cited books and articles in the endnotes.)

Finally, if one is talking about the dangers involved in a form of power that “knows and shapes human behaviour toward others’ ends” (page 8) and Antonio Gramsci’s conception of hegemony doesn’t rate a mention, I don’t even know. Especially if it’s presented as a completely new idea (in this case “instrumentarian power” – see: Exaggerated claims of novelty). The Gramscian concept of hegemony is all about how the powerful can get other groups to buy into ideologies that may not be in their best interests.

Much of the book is about how surveillance capitalists are working to change human nature so that human thinking more closely resembles that of machine learning. Absolutely correct, but not only is this not the first time that the powers that be have worked to reshape what we think of as human nature, it’s also kind of what it means to rule a society, any society. That’s what the whole concept of hegemony is all about, as any student of Gramscian thought could tell you. Or what someone like Susan Strange or Robert Cox (the two thinkers I’m using in my own work on these very subjects) would note. Knowing that this type of activity is simply how power works in human society puts a different spin on what Zuboff is arguing. It’s not so much that surveillance capitalists are rewiring human nature, but that their ideology is antithetical to a particular type of human nature, namely one in the liberal-democratic vein. Actually engaging with the voluminous work on hegemony and the social construction of knowledge, however, would have challenged Zuboff’s argument that the knowing and shaping of “human behavior toward others’ ends” is unique to surveillance capitalism.

(Maybe the problem is with capitalism itself? As Morozov noted in a follow-up tweet, “My critique of Zuboff’s new book boils down to a paraphrase of Horkheimer: ‘If you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you’d better keep quiet about surveillance capitalism’.”)

And it’s just a bit odd that Michel Foucault doesn’t get so much as a mention beyond a reference in a footnoted title about neoliberalism. In a book that’s all about the relationship between power and knowledge."



"3. Unclear framework"



"4. Use of hyperbole: These go to eleven"



"The final verdict: No go

To be honest, before reading Morozov’s critique, watching the glowing reviews come in, I started questioning my judgment. Sure, there were flaws in the book, some of which I would have called out immediately if committed by an undergraduate, but how much did they really matter?

Part of me, I’m embarrassed to say, was swayed by the identity of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’s author. A professor emerita. From Harvard. Who had done important previous work in the field. Even though I know better, I got inside my own head, internalizing the academic class system that places certain schools and scholars above others. The “important voices” whose work is guaranteed a respectful hearing merely by virtue of their pedigree or institution.

The saddest thing is, my receptiveness to this argument from authority says as much about where I see myself in the academic food chain as it does about a Harvard professor. Even though I have witnessed the most idiotic arguments and proposals made by scholars from top-ranked universities, endured recycled banalities from leading lights with nothing to say, and read the most embarrassing articles by celebrated Ivy-league academics. Even though I will put my Canadian Carleton University education up against anyone’s from Oxford or Yale or Harvard. I know this.

And yet, there was that part of me, whispering, But look at who she is. She’s an Authority. Look at all the praise she’s getting, the panels she’s on. Maybe you’re just being judgmental. Maybe you’re being too critical. Maybe you’re wrong.

Well, maybe I am wrong, but a failure to produce an honest critique because of our respective places in the academic food chain is the absolutely worst reason not to make the critique. One of my proudest moments as a teacher was when I heard that a second-year student had written a fantastic, well-researched and impeccably argued paper about how I’d been wrong about something I’d claimed in my Introduction to International Relations class. (And she was right.) We should expect all academics to live up to the same standards we set for our students.

So, no. After spending an entire work week reading this book, after taking over 100 pages of notes and thinking about it constantly for far too long afterwards, I do not believe that The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a good piece of scholarship. It is not careful in its presentation of evidence. It chooses hyperbole over accuracy. It fails to engage with the relevant literatures and critical voices that would challenge what ends up being a one-sided, almost existentially bleak argument.

Its lack of engagement with the relevant literatures makes possible the blind spots, trenchantly catalogued by Morozov, regarding surveillance capitalism’s relationship to capitalism, as well as those regarding the role of the state as something more than a bit player in this epic story. These impair the book’s value in terms of its analysis and, as Morozov’s comments about Zuboff’s failure to consider the “capitalism” part of “surveillance capitalism” suggest, its prescriptions. Why the book … [more]
blaynehaggart  shoshanazuboff  evgneymorozov  criticsm  surveillancecapitalism  mnagerialism  harvard  pedigree  academia  hierarchy  criticism  robertcox  highered  highereducation  michelfoucault  hannaharendt  hyperbole  2019  hegemony  technology  economics  politics  policy  scholarship  authority  elitism 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Get Real | Tarence Ray
"What liberals like Paul Krugman still don’t understand about rural America"



"This question of why the rural working class often votes against its interests has been bugging liberals for a few decades now, and you can’t really blame them. Democrats still held a lot of sway in rural America for the first half of the twentieth century, but then things started to change. Neoliberal economics tore rural regions apart. Both jobs and people left in short order. Now these regions swing predominantly conservative, and liberals are left scratching their heads.

Today, rural America is largely viewed as politically and culturally “a world apart,” when in reality the picture is bleaker: conservatives simply maintain a stronger grasp on power in rural areas than liberals do. Liberals think that the majority of people in rural areas see this as a desirable state of affairs. Many of us don’t. It’s just that our voices have been erased by the overwhelming might of power and industry.

Krugman would do better to skip the psychoanalysis and examine the way power is actually constituted in rural America: to look at why and how ideology is formed, who does the forming, and what material interests are served by it. But he knows his audience, and he knows that they don’t really want to know the answers to those questions because that would mean they would have to actually believe in and fight for something. And they’re not going to do that. They’d rather be at brunch.

*****

As good Marxists, let’s state up front that the primary function of rural areas within the larger national economy is as a supply source of raw materials: food, oil, natural gas, coal, timber, and other resources. To keep these goods flowing out of rural areas —and profit flowing into capitalists’ pockets—freethinking dissent within the extractive regions must be squashed at all costs. Compare this with urban areas, where a greater productive capacity and larger middle classes can absorb and dilute a great deal of dissent. In rural areas, those impulses have to be stamped out before they can really take off; nothing less than the unchallenged flow of profit and resources is at stake. Conservatives understand this, and it’s why one of their foremost political strategies in rural areas is that of social control.

If you live in a rural community, extractive or not, you are likely confronted every day with an onslaught of images, dogmas, and various cultural reinforcements regarding your role within the national social structure. Perhaps the primary location for this “indoctrination” is the local school system. In many rural communities, it is well understood that while state power may be concentrated in the county courthouse, social power—the power to shape the ideological contours of the community, and therefore how it votes, prays, works, and obeys—is concentrated in the local school board."



"The only thing capable of breaking the conservative stranglehold on rural communities—and of breaking the power of their foot soldiers in the local school boards, chambers of commerce, and churches—is a nationwide political movement based in the actual interests of the working class: the service industry employees and care workers, the teachers and tenants. That’s because the right wing has their own institutions, programs, and forms of ideological preservation in rural areas. They have invested heavily in them for the last thirty years, and they will not stop until rural America is a useless ecological graveyard. Conservatives see their beliefs gradually losing support, and they have entered death cult mode. They want to squeeze as much profit and as many resources out of rural areas as possible, until we, too, have gone to the graveyard.

The result is a rapidly deteriorating economic landscape that stumps writers like Krugman. When he writes about the economic forces contributing to rural America’s decline “that nobody knows how to reverse,” the “nobody” he’s referring to is himself. Krugman’s liberalism, with its focus on slow incrementalism and social tinkering, has become incompatible with rural economies that are beholden to the whims of increasingly embattled industry. In the days when America’s economy was booming after World War II, when regulations meant to safeguard the financial interests of ordinary people didn’t necessarily threaten the immense wealth that was being produced throughout society, it was feasible that pro-business ideas could coexist with liberal doctrines like human rights and social welfare policies. But in the era of post-industrial capitalism, as wages decline, jobs are relocated, and the social safety net shrinks, it’s become impossible to square that contradiction.

So the best Krugman can offer is a kind of liberal realism: progressive values are simply incompatible with the minds of backwards yokels living out in the provinces, and we need to get real about that. This allows Krugman to erase all forms of rural radicalism: he doesn’t see us as powerless, silenced by the authoritarian regime of conservative social control, because he doesn’t see power at all.

But we know that rural radicalism exists, and we know that the rural working class can exert a great deal of leverage on entrenched power structures. The statewide teacher strikes in predominantly rural West Virginia serve as the best recent example. Our power is growing. It may take some time and experimentation, but conservatives will not reign unchallenged in rural America for eternity. We’ve never stopped fighting back."
rural  us  paulkrugman  politics  economics  2019  power  taranceray  liberals  neoliberalism  capitalism  democrats  republicans  ideology  incrementalism  elitism  society  socialwelfare  welfare  radicalism  humanrights  work  labor  workingclass  class  teachers  tenants  coal  westvirginia  newmexico  oil  gas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Jacobin Radio - The Dig: Astra Taylor on Democracy - Blubrry Podcasting
"Jacobin editor Alyssa Battistoni interviews Astra Taylor on her new film What is Democracy?, in which Astra asks ordinary people and political philosophers alike just that. The answers are often extraordinary and far more incisive than the mindless pablum emanating from Washington and its official interpreters. The film opens in New York on Wednesday January 16 at the IFC Center before traveling to theaters and campuses. Special guests on hand during opening week for live Q&As with Astra include Silvia Federici, Cornel West, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. For details, go to ifccenter.com/films/what-is-democracy. Those of us who don't live in New York can find other dates through the distributor at zeitgeistfilms.com. And if you want to bring this film to your school or town, and you really should, contact Zeitgeist Films!"

[See also:
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/02/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-interview
https://www.thenation.com/article/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-new-film-interview/
https://zeitgeistfilms.com/film/whatisdemocracy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHxRj9JWQMs

also available here:
https://www.thecut.com/2019/01/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-women-interview.html
https://player.fm/series/jacobin-radio-1354006/the-dig-astra-taylor-on-democracy
https://podtail.com/en/podcast/jacobin-radio/the-dig-astra-taylor-on-democracy/ ]
astrataylor  alyssabattistoni  2019  democracy  us  inequality  statusquo  elitism  policy  politics  economics  keeanga-yamahttataylor  cornelwest  silviafederici  philosophy  labor  justice  capitalism  socialism  society  slavery 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged in U.S. College Entry Fraud - The New York Times
[using this bookmark as a placeholder for many links on this topic:

"Varsity Blues and the Destructive Myth of Meritocracy"
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/183433523388/varsity-blues-and-the-destructive-myth-of

"Inside the audacious college scheme to get kids of the rich and famous into elite schools"
https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-college-admission-scheme-varsity-blues-20190312-story.html

"The College Bribery Scam Reveals How Rich People Use 'Charity' to Cheat
Anand Giridharadas explains how alleged payoffs to test takers and athletic coaches are part of a larger ecosystem of elite hypocrisy."
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/panw7g/the-college-bribery-scam-shows-how-rich-people-felicity-huffman-lori-loughlin-allegedly-use-charity-to-cheat

"All College Admissions Are a Pay-to-Play Scandal"
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/college-admissions-bribery-scandal-felicity-huffman-loughlin-analysis-explained.html

"One of Silicon Valley’s most prominent voices for ethical investing is implicated in a college admissions bribery scandal"
https://www.recode.net/2019/3/12/18262003/bill-mcglashan-college-admissions-scandal-tpg-stanford-usc-yale

"What the role of one Silicon Valley entrepreneur reveals about the college admissions scandal"
https://twitter.com/i/events/1105618857320865792

"The unfortunate reality behind meritocracy"
https://dellsystem.me/posts/fragments-71

"College Admission Scam Involved Photoshopping Rich Kids’ Heads Onto Athletes’ Bodies"
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/college-admissions-scandal-kids-photoshopped-as-athletes.html

"Two CEOs. A wine magnate. A doctor: The Bay Area parents charged in a college bribe scandal"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Two-CEOs-A-wine-magnate-A-doctor-The-Bay-Area-13683029.php

"Why the College-Admissions Scandal Is So Absurd: For the parents charged in a new FBI investigation, crime was a cheaper and simpler way to get their kids into elite schools than the typical advantages wealthy applicants receive."
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/college-admissions-scandal-fbi-targets-wealthy-parents/584695/

"In the college admissions game, even the legal kind, money has always mattered"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/In-the-college-admissions-game-even-the-legal-13683518.php

"Fifty charged in massive college admissions scheme"
https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/fifty-charged-in-massive-college-admissions-scheme-1456907331756

"Bribes to Get Into Yale and Stanford? What Else Is New?: A new college admissions scandal is just the latest proof of a grossly uneven playing field."
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/opinion/college-bribery-admissions.html

"Bribery ringleader said he helped 750 families in admissions scheme"
https://www.axios.com/william-singer-college-bribery-fraud-scheme-d769eb2c-dfb2-4ea0-99f3-8135241c5984.html

"College admission scandal grew out of a system that was ripe for corruption"
https://theconversation.com/college-admission-scandal-grew-out-of-a-system-that-was-ripe-for-corruption-113439

"College Admissions Scandal Exposes Moral Rot at the Heart of US Plutocracy"
https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2019/03/13/college-admissions-scandal-exposes-moral-rot-at-the-heart-of-us-plutocracy/



Additional articles and resource predating the scandal, but relevant to the topic.

[syllabus] "Reconsidering Merit(ocracy)In K-12, Higher Education, and Beyond"
https://www.nadirahfarahfoley.com/reconsidering-meritocracy

"guest post: “legacy” admissions vs familial capital and the importance of precision"
https://scatter.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/guest-post-legacy-admissions-vs-familial-capital-and-the-importance-of-precision/

"Against Meritocracy: Culture, power and myths of mobility"
https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781317496045

"The Unfulfillable Promise of Meritocracy: Three Lessons and their Implications for Justice in Education"
https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/6w9rg/

"A Radical Plan to Combat Inequality in College Admissions: It's time universities began to think of themselves as producers of value, not arbiters of merit."
https://psmag.com/education/a-radical-plan-to-combat-inequality-in-college-admissions

"Racial Literacy as a Curricular Requirement: A core curriculum must be institutionalized and mandated for all students, argues Daisy Verduzco Reyes."
https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/03/08/colleges-should-have-required-core-curriculum-racial-literacy-opinion

"'I'm Tired Of Justifying My Admissions Letter To People'"
https://www.wbur.org/edify/2019/02/25/affirmative-action-self-advocacy

"White parents are enabling school segregation — if it doesn't hurt their own kids
This is what happens when anti-racism is no longer a major goal of educational policy."
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/white-parents-are-enabling-school-segregation-if-it-doesn-t-ncna978446

"White progressive parents and the conundrum of privilege"
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-hagerman-white-parents-20180930-story.html

"How Elite Schools Stay So White"
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/opinion/affirmative-action-new-york-harvard.html ]
colleges  universities  admissions  privilege  wealth  inequality  operationvarsityblues  scandals  legacy  legacyadmissions  race  racism  power  meritocracy  bribery  elitism  siliconvalley  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  anandgiridharadas  margarethagerman  noahberlatsky  nadirahfarahfoley  2019  education  parenting  economics  class  cheating  sats  testing  standardizedtesting  daisyverduzcoreyes  us  competitiveness  worth  value  merit  competition  motivation 
march 2019 by robertogreco
An Honest Living – Steve Salaita
"There are lots of stories from Virginia Tech, the University of Illinois, and the American University of Beirut [AUB], but they all end with the same lesson: for all its self-congratulation, the academy’s loftiest mission is a fierce compulsion to eliminate any impediment to donations."



"Platitudes about faculty governance and student leadership notwithstanding, universities inhibit democracy in ways that would please any thin-skinned despot."



"But forward progress as material comfort is cultivated through the ubiquitous lie that upward mobility equals righteousness. Honest living is a nice story we tell ourselves to rationalize privation, but in the real world money procures all the honesty we need."



"You hear ex-professors say it all the time and I’ll add to the chorus: despite nagging precariousness, there’s something profoundly liberating about leaving academe, whereupon you are no longer obliged to give a shit about fashionable thinkers, network at the planet’s most boring parties, or quantify self-worth for scurrilous committees (and whereupon you are free to ignore the latest same-old controversy), for even when you know at the time that the place is toxic, only after you exit (spiritually, not physically) and write an essay or read a novel or complete some other task without considering its relevance to the fascist gods of assessment, or its irrelevance to a gang of cynical senior colleagues, do you realize exactly how insidious and pervasive is the industry’s culture of social control."
academia  highered  highereducation  2019  stevensalaita  purpose  meaning  corporatization  precariousness  precarity  assessment  socialcontrol  hierarchy  mobility  upwardmobility  society  dishonesty  honesty  democracy  hypocrisy  education  cv  privation  toxicity  committees  elitism  learning  howwelearn  compromise  canon 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Raising Free People | Raising Aware People #LRC2018 - YouTube
"What are your experiments with the intersection of Unschooling / Self Directed Education and Social Justice. And your understanding of this intersection. While, hey are inextricably linked, the practice of unschooling as social justice and raising aware people isn't widely understood, spoken about or shared.

So at Learning Reimagined 2018, we hosted an interactive panel discussion as an introduction to the relationship and practice of the two, with the hope that this will help participants and now viewers to think around these issues and to then discuss and share further in their communities and here with us online so we can learn too.

The panel consisted of a mix of young unschoolers and featured speakers (Akilah Richards, Bayo Akomolafe, Teresa Graham Brett) at Learning Reimagined 2018."

[from the Learning Reimagined 2018: Unschooling As Decolonisation conference conference: https://www.growingminds.co.za/learning-reimagined-conference-2018/ ]
unschooling  education  socialjustice  self-directed  self-directedlearning  akilahrichards  bavoakomolafe  teresagrahambrett  liberation  justice  zakiyyaismail  deschooling  learning  politics  southafrica  us  difference  scaffolding  parenting  poc  howwelearn  decolonization  2018  race  racism  inclusivity  conferences  lrc2018  bias  inclusion  community  privilege  kaameelchicktay  elitism  schools  schooling  indigeneity  class  classism  humanism  language  english  africa  colonization  agilelearningcenters  agilelearning  lcproject  openstudioproject  children 
january 2019 by robertogreco
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
The Acceptance Rate Of Elite US Colleges From 2015 To 2018, Visualized - Digg
"If you have your heart set on getting into an Ivy League school these days, then we have some bad news for you: it's definitely not going to be an easy ride.

As the number of applications for prestigious colleges has risen — thanks in part to the emergence of Common Application, a process that allows students to apply to multiple schools with ease, and the increase of international applicants — acceptance rates for the elite colleges of the US have declined quite sharply in the past few years. In fact, this year, with the exception of Yale, all Ivy League schools produced the lowest acceptance rates in their respective histories.

To get a better idea of how admission rates have declined in the most selective colleges in the US, we can look to this graph made by Hunter Blakewell of Ivy Academic Coach, which charts the changes in acceptance rates of elite colleges from 2015 to 2018. The 43 colleges included in this chart are academic institutions that had an acceptance rate of less than 20% in 2018.

As you can see, there has been a noticeable decrease in acceptance rates among the majority of elite colleges in the US. Some are more minimal decreases. For instance, Stanford, the most selective school in the US, only saw its acceptance rate drop from 5.04% in 2015 to 4.36% this year.

New York University, on the other hand, has had one of the most drastic drops in admission rates. According to Ivy Academic Coach, NYU's admission rate dropped from 32% in 2016 to merely 19% in 2018, an over-40% decrease within the span of two years.

The drop in acceptance rates among the US's elite colleges is a worrying trend. Although there are studies that show attendance at an elite college may bear little relationship with a person's long-term earnings, further research has clarified that going to an Ivy League school matters less when you're a rich, white man — but if you're a woman or a minority, attendance at an elite university still has a palpable effect on your future income."
colleges  universities  admissions  anxiety  selectivity  2018  visualization  srg  edg  highered  highereducation  ivyleague  elitism  education 
january 2019 by robertogreco
The Making of a Democratic Economy | Ted Howard | RSA Replay - YouTube
"While not often reported on in the press, there is a growing movement – a Community Wealth Building movement – that is taking hold, from the ground up, in towns and cities in the United States and in the United Kingdom, in particular.

Ted Howard, co-founder and president of the Democracy Collaborative, voted one of ‘25 visionaries who are changing your world’, visits the RSA to share the story of the growth of this movement, and the principles underlying it. Join us to explore innovative models of a new economy being built in cities from Cleveland, Ohio to Preston, Lancashire, and to discuss how we might dramatically expand the vision and reality of a democratic economy."
economics  tedhoward  inequality  democracy  extraction  extractiveeconomy  us  uk  2018  capitalism  privatization  finance  wealth  power  elitism  trickledowneconomics  labor  work  universalbasicincome  ubi  austerity  democraticeconomy  precarity  poverty  change  sustainability  empowerment  socialism  socialchange  regulations  socialsafetynet  collectivism  banking  employment  commongood  unemployment  grassroots  organization  greatdepression  greatrecession  alaska  california  socialsecurity  government  governance  nhs  communities  communitywealthbuilding  community  mutualaid  laborovercapital  local  absenteeownership  localownership  consumerism  activism  participation  participatory  investment  cleveland  systemicchange  policy  credit  communityfinance  development  cooperatives  creditunions  employeeownership  richmond  virginia  nyc  rochester  broadband  publicutilities  nebraska  energy  utilities  hospitals  universities  theprestonmodel  preston  lancashire 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Educational Tyranny of the Neurotypicals | WIRED
"Ben Draper, who runs the Macomber Center for Self Directed Learning, says that while the center is designed for all types of children, kids whose parents identify them as on the autism spectrum often thrive at the center when they’ve had difficulty in conventional schools. Ben is part of the so-called unschooling movement, which believes that not only should learning be self-directed, in fact we shouldn't even focus on guiding learning. Children will learn in the process of pursuing their passions, the reasoning goes, and so we just need to get out of their way, providing support as needed.

Many, of course, argue that such an approach is much too unstructured and verges on irresponsibility. In retrospect, though, I feel I certainly would have thrived on “unschooling.” In a recent paper, Ben and my colleague Andre Uhl, who first introduced me to unschooling, argue that it not only works for everyone, but that the current educational system, in addition to providing poor learning outcomes, impinges on the rights of children as individuals.

MIT is among a small number of institutions that, in the pre-internet era, provided a place for non-neurotypical types with extraordinary skills to gather and form community and culture. Even MIT, however, is still trying to improve to give these kids the diversity and flexibility they need, especially in our undergraduate program.

I'm not sure how I'd be diagnosed, but I was completely incapable of being traditionally educated. I love to learn, but I go about it almost exclusively through conversations and while working on projects. I somehow kludged together a world view and life with plenty of struggle, but also with many rewards. I recently wrote a PhD dissertation about my theory of the world and how I developed it. Not that anyone should generalize from my experience—one reader of my dissertation said that I’m so unusual, I should be considered a "human sub-species." While I take that as a compliment, I think there are others like me who weren’t as lucky and ended up going through the traditional system and mostly suffering rather than flourishing. In fact, most kids probably aren’t as lucky as me and while some types are more suited for success in the current configuration of society, a huge percentage of kids who fail in the current system have a tremendous amount to contribute that we aren’t tapping into.

In addition to equipping kids for basic literacy and civic engagement, industrial age schools were primarily focused on preparing kids to work in factories or perform repetitive white-collar jobs. It may have made sense to try to convert kids into (smart) robotlike individuals who could solve problems on standardized tests alone with no smartphone or the internet and just a No. 2 pencil. Sifting out non-neurotypical types or trying to remediate them with drugs or institutionalization may have seemed important for our industrial competitiveness. Also, the tools for instruction were also limited by the technology of the times. In a world where real robots are taking over many of those tasks, perhaps we need to embrace neurodiversity and encourage collaborative learning through passion, play, and projects, in other words, to start teaching kids to learn in ways that machines can’t. We can also use modern technology for connected learning that supports diverse interests and abilities and is integrated into our lives and communities of interest.

At the Media Lab, we have a research group called Lifelong Kindergarten, and the head of the group, Mitchel Resnick, recently wrote a book by the same name. The book is about the group’s research on creative learning and the four Ps—Passion, Peers, Projects, and Play. The group believes, as I do, that we learn best when we are pursuing our passion and working with others in a project-based environment with a playful approach. My memory of school was "no cheating,” “do your own work,” "focus on the textbook, not on your hobbies or your projects," and "there’s time to play at recess, be serious and study or you'll be shamed"—exactly the opposite of the four Ps.

Many mental health issues, I believe, are caused by trying to “fix” some type of neurodiversity or by simply being insensitive or inappropriate for the person. Many mental “illnesses” can be “cured” by providing the appropriate interface to learning, living, or interacting for that person focusing on the four Ps. My experience with the educational system, both as its subject and, now, as part of it, is not so unique. I believe, in fact, that at least the one-quarter of people who are diagnosed as somehow non-neurotypical struggle with the structure and the method of modern education. People who are wired differently should be able to think of themselves as the rule, not as an exception."
neurotypicals  neurodiversity  education  schools  schooling  learning  inequality  elitism  meritocracy  power  bias  diversity  autism  psychology  stevesilberman  schooliness  unschooling  deschooling  ronsuskind  mentalhealth  mitchresnick  mit  mitemedialab  medialab  lifelongkindergarten  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  pedagogy  tyranny  2018  economics  labor  bendraper  flexibility  admissions  colleges  universities  joiito 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Real Enemy of Education Reform: It’s the Colleges, Stupid | The New Republic
"Colleges do very well under the status quo. And that’s bad for students and our economy."



"Where is all this money going? Many point to the rise of university administrator salaries and staffs. (You might know them as the college presidents complaining about all these changes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to make to the higher education system.) Another possible culprit is bloated construction costs, which go toward building show palaces for…well, for the administrators to crow about, and attract more students to pay those high tuition rates.

Whatever explanation appeals to you, the failures of the current system point clearly toward supplying a public debt-free option as a way to drive down costs. This would provide an anchor against skyrocketing costs, and force the cleanup of administrative bloat and unnecessary construction spending. You can force public colleges to lower costs as a condition of accepting tuition reimbursement. And if a glut of student loans causes prices to rise, then a free public option would reverse the effect.

This goes back to the core issue: Incumbents prospering from a system don’t have much interest in seeing it change. And those wanting to reform the system must challenge those incumbents. It’s easier to single out the easy villains, the Sallie Maes and the Corinthian Colleges. But that just sidesteps the real opponent, and will lead to something far less than reform.

Most colleges are seen in a fairly benevolent light. Large higher-education institutions are often major employers in their communities. They drive innovation, and provide sanctuary to some of our best thinkers. And for many adults, they are wrapped in the warm and fuzzy gauze of nostalgia. It’s hard to get people to see them as propping up a crisis that is over-burdening students and even stunting the growth of our economy. But until we do, it’s going to be very difficult to see any change."
colleges  universities  education  schools  schooling  deschooling  unschooling  hierarchy  inequality  economics  capitalism  elitism  highered  highereducation 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Education That's Just for the "So-called Talented Young People" is "Sort of a Bullshit Construct" | | Eye on Design
"I’m conscious of how personal liberty has been co-opted by a really aggressive, neoliberal, capitalist model. Education is shifting—we’re moving towards mass education systems—and I personally don’t have an issue with it. I’m happy to move away from the highly selective notion of education for the so-called talented young people, because it’s sort of a bullshit construct. It has to do with access, privileges, and the implicit and explicit biases of people who are making the selection. We need to rethink our approach: What does it mean to effectively operate a diverse, contradictory, and ambiguous education program? I think it’s feasible if we’re able to countenance the idea of not being experts, not in the sense of “let’s punish the experts,” but in terms of reconsidering our sense of where authority and knowledge lies.

Are we able to support the handing over of the education to the students? It’s a fight, because this is a generation of students who’ve been brought through an incredibly instrumental, formal education system, particularly in the UK, which is driven by grades and outcomes. We aim to offer scaffolding and support, which can be easily removed when students are developing their own mode of learning. They have every capacity, they just need the affordance to do it. To flourish and be agents of change, they need to hold on to the controls."



"We’re moving towards a point of revalidation [at Camberwell], we’re re-writing courses and talking about this a lot. I’m interested in pre-existing educational models, like that at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, where there’s a focus on thinking about how you contextualize your practice, how you flavor or inflect it with an understanding of a context. At Camberwell we’re thinking about introducing these “flavors,” which students will be able to align themselves with. We call it ‘Illustrator as…’ and then the inflections will be ‘as activist,’ ‘as author,’ ‘as educator,’ and ‘in industry.’

My aspiration would be that we’d be able to take inspiration from dynamic groups like Artist Placement Group [a London-based, artist-run organization formed in 1965, which sought to refocus art outside the gallery]. The organization announced itself as an artist consultant for big business. It seemed ridiculous, but in reality there’s massive potential—through the type of education and the organization that goes on just in terms of running your own project—to do that. I like the idea of breeding a bunch of sort-of saboteurs, who are able to go and change things from the inside, and be convincing and persuasive."
education  meritocracy  unschooling  2018  design  graphidesign  learning  howwelearn  elitism  deschooling  darrylclifton  lcproject  openstudioproject 
november 2018 by robertogreco
How I Know You Wrote Your Kid’s College Essay - The New York Times
[not quoting the article here, but adding this response from Phoebe Maltz Bovy:
https://twitter.com/tweetertation/status/1049271068064534529

"Where to begin? Maybe where commenters do: why is someone who *edited college admissions essays for pay* lecturing parents on the inauthenticity + unfairness of parents helping kids with theirs?

But also: no “henceforth” (or any other word) isn’t a definitive tell that a 17-year-old got help writing something. But that’s kind of the least of it. The real problem is the admissions essay itself in its current purpose

It’s not a writing sample. It’s not a cover letter. It’s... well, the linked article explains quite well what it is, but unfortunately celebrates it while doing so

"So the good news is: The college essay is the purest part of the application." With purity meaning what, in this context?

Purity as in, *who the applicant truly is as a person*, something colleges go through this whole ritual of pretending 1) that they can figure out via a short (and maybe ghostwritten) essay) and 2) that it's remotely their place ethically to determine

"In fact, a good test of a college essay is: Can the writer convince the reader that she would make a great roommate?" Meaning, "Are you any fun?" Again, the two questions: 1) *can* colleges even assess "fun" from these things, and 2) should as-a-person-ness even enter into this?

What would be the great tragedy if - if the US finds regional-colleges-for-all too bleak or foreign - the assessment really were based on tangibles? (Could be grades, scores, extracurriculars, demographics, could even take into account special circumstances) and not As-A-Person?

Colleges both logistically can't *and shouldn't pretend to* know who applicants are as people, and it's so bonkers that assessment is at all based on how charming (to adults) someone comes across in an essay (that someone else maybe wrote)

The application should be understood by all parties as just that: an application for admission to a school or, if common-app, multiple schools. That's all it is, no more, no less. It's not a Human Worthiness test.

I've written on this before and named the problem as "holistic" assessment. But in a way, that's not even it. Keep "holistic," fine! But be clear that it's holistic assessment *of college applicants* and not *of applicants as human beings*"]

[my addition to that:
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/1051555285020495873

"👏 to this response thread. There is no “purity” in the admissions process, not even in the essays as the oped claims. This “authenticity” business is just the latest gaming of the hyper-corrupted process in the favor of those that have more."]
colleges  universities  admissions  2018  phoebemaltzbovy  parenting  elitism  highered  highereducation  education  collegecounseling  purity  authenticity  inequality 
october 2018 by robertogreco
John Warner on Twitter: "So It looks like the whole damn thing is rotten to its core with lots of powerful, privileged people protecting each other from scrutiny or punishment. Of course we all know this has been going on, but it's rare that it's exposed
"So It looks like the whole damn thing is rotten to its core with lots of powerful, privileged people protecting each other from scrutiny or punishment. Of course we all know this has been going on, but it's rare that it's exposed quite this openly.John Warner added,

[quoting @sarahposner (https://twitter.com/sarahposner/status/1042782775168958464 ):
"'No accident' Brett Kavanaugh's female law clerks 'looked like models', Yale professor told students https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/20/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court-yale-amy-chua
A top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him, the Guardian has learned.

Amy Chua, a Yale professor who wrote a bestselling book on parenting called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was known for instructing female law students who were preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh on ways they could dress to exude a “model-like” femininity to help them win a post in Kavanaugh’s chambers, according to sources.
]

What's interesting is how mundane all this is to the people inside the privileged spaces. This is just how things work for them, powerful men who get to prey upon women to varying degrees, with women who are granted admittance to that club willing to be some of the enforcers.

This is the meritocracy at work. As someone who has moved in meritocracy-adjacent spaces, but never joined, I've always known the meritocracy was total bullshit based on the people I knew who were inside it, but maybe, just maybe, the lid is being peeled back a bit.

I'm highly skeptical that these revelations will have any impact on the meritocracy, places like Yale/Harvard, the Supreme Court. Ultimately, these places are about power and no group in power has ever relinquished it willingly. The only alternative is to shift the locus of power

At the least, we should end the fiction that these privileged institutions are places of great wisdom or probity, rooted in enduring values. They're among the most corrupt places we have. Note this from the Guardian story about how Kavanaugh likes his female clerks to look.

[image: "Sources who spoke to the Guardian about their experiences with Chua and Rubenfeld would only speak under the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution and damage to their future careers."]

Those who are telling the truth know that to tell the truth publicly about the cesspool they're required to navigate would result in expulsion from the group. Next time someone says someone like Kavanaugh comes from the "best" places, remember it's more like the opposite.

The deep irony is that if all that these people are up to was truly known and exposed, a huge proportion of those coming out of these elite law schools would never be able to pass the American Bar Association's ethics requirement.

Here's how one of the court chroniclers of the meritocracy tries to thread the needle on the accusations. It should be embarrassing to commit this opinion into print, but to hold onto the perch, must placate the powerful while giving a sop to audience. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-there-a-kavanaugh-doppelganger/2018/09/18/88418f52-bb86-11e8-a8aa-860695e7f3fc_story.html

I mean can we believe for even a second that this is Kathleen Parker's genuine opinion? How foolish do they expect us to be? Don't answer that. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-there-a-kavanaugh-doppelganger/2018/09/18/88418f52-bb86-11e8-a8aa-860695e7f3fc_story.html

This Chua statement at the end of the Guardian article is an illustration of the self-reinforcing insularity of the meritocracy. In her mind, Kavanaugh only hires the most qualified clerks because so many are go on to the SC, as though the network of connections didn't matter.

[image: "The couple have hired a well-known crisis communications expert but he did not respond to specific questions from the Guardian about Chua’s remarks or the internal investigation.

In an emailed statement, Chua told the Guardian: “For the more than 10 years I’ve known him, Judge Kavanaugh’s first and only litmus test in hiring has been excellence. He hires only the most qualified clerks, and they have been diverse as well as exceptionally talented and capable.

“There is good reason so many of them have gone on to supreme court clerkships; he only hires those who are extraordinarily qualified. As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal, he has also been an exceptional mentor to his female clerks and a champion of their careers. Among my proudest moments as a parent was the day I learned our daughter would join those ranks.”"]

Consider the psychology underpinning this. Amy Chua is convinced she's helping identify the best, a very important perch, and it matters little that she may be perpetuating sexist and abusive practices as long as these people are reaching the heights of SC clerkships.

It's as thought success inside the meritocracy absolves all previous sins (if they were sins to begin with). If you achieve the spoils, who cares about who or what was damaged on the way? The connections to Chua's tiger mom-ing seem obvious.

Chua and her husband's championing of self-control is also interesting here. Apparently one of the things you're supposed to have self-control over is reporting potentially predatory behavior by powerful people. Chua new about Kozinski for years. Great ethics there.

In sum, those elite spaces are always going to be totally fucked up and if you want to play in those circles you figure out how to justify either tolerating and/or doing some fucked up shit. That we let these people run our most important and powerful institutions is a scandal.

When you hear that someone came out of an exclusive D.C. prep school, Yale undergrad and Yale law, we shouldn't be thinking how great they are, but instead wondering what kind of fucked up shit they've seen or done in order to navigate in such corrupt spaces.

Like a good way to trip up a Kavanaugh-type in an hearing would be to just say: Where did you and friends bury the drifter you hit with the car when you were driving home drunk from the Cape that one summer, and their eyes will go wide and they'll say, "How did you know?"

Now dreaming of a future where a big appointment is announced: Prep school educated, Yale undergrad, Yale law, Supreme Court clerkship, and the public knows to say, "Uh-oh."""
johnwarner  meritocracy  corruption  elitism  2018  privilege  brettkavanaugh  amychua  jedrubenfeld  collusion  politics  scotus  donaldtrump  ivyleague  law  legal  alexkozinski 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Meet the ‘Change Agents’ Who Are Enabling Inequality - The New York Times
"Giridharadas rightly argues that this misallocation of resources creates a grave opportunity cost. The money and time the MarketWorlders spend fixing the edges of our fraying social order could be used to push for real change. This is especially so in the political battles in which the country is currently engaged, where a majority of the Supreme Court and members of Congress seem hellbent on rewriting the rules of the American economy and political system in ways that will exacerbate economic disparities, increase monopoly power, and decrease access to health care and women’s reproductive rights.

Moreover, the ideology of the MarketWorlders has spread and just espousing it has come to seem like a solution instead of the distraction that it is. Giridharadas shows how this is done. One category of enabler he describes is the cringeworthy “thought-leader,” who nudges plutocrats to think more about the poor but never actually challenges them, thus stroking them and allowing them to feel their MarketWorld approaches are acceptable rather than the cop-outs they are. Another recent book, the historian Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains,” provides a salutary lesson on the dangerous ways a self-serving ideology can spread.

Giridharadas embedded himself in the world he writes about, much as the journalist David Callahan (who edits the Inside Philanthropy website) did for his recent book, “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age.” And like Callahan, Giridharadas is careful not to offend. He writes on two levels — seemingly tactful and subtle — but ultimately he presents a devastating portrait of a whole class, one easier to satirize than to reform.

Perhaps recognizing the intractability and complexity of the fix we are in, Giridharadas sidesteps prescriptions by giving the book’s last words to a political scientist, Chiara Cordelli. “This right to speak for others,” Cordelli says, “is simply illegitimate when exercised by a powerful citizen.” Although a more definitive conclusion would have been welcome, Cordelli does point to the real lesson of the book: Democracy and high levels of inequality of the kind that have come to characterize the United States are simply incompatible. Very rich people will always use money to maintain their political and economic power. But now we have another group: the unwitting enablers. Despite believing they are working for a better world, they are at most chipping away at the margins, making slight course corrections, while the system goes on as it is, uninterrupted. The subtitle of the book says it all: “The Elite Charade of Changing the World.”"
inequality  change  anandgiridharadas  elitism  neoliberalism  2018  josephstiglitz  economics  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  wealth  taxes  reform  changeagents  instability  davos  ideology  chiaracordelli  capitalism  power  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Beware Rich People Who Say They Want to Change the World - The New York Times
"“Change the world” has long been the cry of the oppressed. But in recent years world-changing has been co-opted by the rich and the powerful.

“Change the world. Improve lives. Invent something new,” McKinsey & Company’s recruiting materials say. “Sit back, relax, and change the world,” tweets the World Economic Forum, host of the Davos conference. “Let’s raise the capital that builds the things that change the world,” a Morgan Stanley ad says. Walmart, recruiting a software engineer, seeks an “eagerness to change the world.” Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook says, “The best thing to do now, if you want to change the world, is to start a company.”

At first, you think: Rich people making a difference — so generous! Until you consider that America might not be in the fix it’s in had we not fallen for the kind of change these winners have been selling: fake change.

Fake change isn’t evil; it’s milquetoast. It is change the powerful can tolerate. It’s the shoes or socks or tote bag you bought which promised to change the world. It’s that one awesome charter school — not equally funded public schools for all. It is Lean In Circles to empower women — not universal preschool. It is impact investing — not the closing of the carried-interest loophole.

Of course, world-changing initiatives funded by the winners of market capitalism do heal the sick, enrich the poor and save lives. But even as they give back, American elites generally seek to maintain the system that causes many of the problems they try to fix — and their helpfulness is part of how they pull it off. Thus their do-gooding is an accomplice to greater, if more invisible, harm.

What their “change” leaves undisturbed is our winners-take-all economy, which siphons the gains from progress upward. The average pretax income of America’s top 1 percent has more than tripled since 1980, and that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than sevenfold, even as the average income of the bottom half of Americans stagnated around $16,000, adjusted for inflation, according to a paper by the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

American elites are monopolizing progress, and monopolies can be broken. Aggressive policies to protect workers, redistribute income, and make education and health affordable would bring real change. But such measures could also prove expensive for the winners. Which gives them a strong interest in convincing the public that they can help out within the system that so benefits the winners.

After all, if the Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter and his co-author Mark R. Kramer are right that “businesses acting as business, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues we face,” we shouldn’t rein in business, should we?

This is how the winners benefit from their own kindness: It lets them redefine change, and defang it.

Consider David Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. He’s a billionaire who practices what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.” For example, when a 2011 earthquake damaged the Washington Monument and Congress funded only half of the $15 million repair, Mr. Rubenstein paid the rest. “The government doesn’t have the resources it used to have,” he explained, adding that “private citizens now need to pitch in.”

That pitching-in seems generous — until you learn that he is one of the reasons the government is strapped. He and his colleagues have long used their influence to protect the carried-interest loophole, which is enormously beneficial to people in the private equity field. Closing the loophole could give the government $180 billion over 10 years, enough to fix that monument thousands of times over.

Mr. Rubenstein’s image could be of a man fleecing America. Do-gooding gives him a useful makeover as a patriot who interviews former presidents onstage and lectures on the 13th Amendment.

Walmart has long been accused of underpaying workers. Americans for Tax Fairness, an advocacy group, famously accused the company of costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year because it “pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps, health care and other taxpayer-funded programs.” Walmart denies this criticism, citing the jobs it creates and the taxes it pays.

When a column critical of Walmart ran in this newspaper some years ago, David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, published a red-penned edit of the piece on a company blog. Beside a paragraph about how cutthroat business practices had earned the heirs of the Walton family at least $150 billion in wealth, Mr. Tovar wrote: “Possible addition: Largest corporate foundation in America. Gives more than $1 billion in cash and in kind donations each year.”

Mr. Tovar wasn’t denying the $150 billion in wealth, or that more of it could have been paid as wages. Rather, he seemed to suggest that charity made up for these facts.

A few years ago, some entrepreneurs in Oakland, Calif., founded a company called Even. Its initial plan was to help stabilize the highly volatile incomes of working-class Americans — with an app. For a few dollars a week, it would squirrel away your money when you were flush and give you a boost when you were short. “If you want to feel like you have a safety net for the first time in your life, Even is the answer,” the company proclaimed.

The rub against such an idea isn’t just that it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s also that it dilutes our idea of change. It casts an app and a safety net as the same.

Fake change, and what it allows to fester, paved the road for President Trump. He tapped into a feeling that the American system was rigged and that establishment elites were in it for themselves. Then, darkly, he deflected that anger onto the most vulnerable Americans. And having benefited from the hollowness of fake change, he became it — a rich man who styles himself as the ablest protector of the underdogs, who pretends that his interests have nothing to do with the changes he seeks.

President Trump is what we get when we trust the rich to fix what they are complicit in breaking.

In 2016, Mr. Trump and many of the world-changing elite leaders I am writing about were, for the most part, on opposite sides. Yet those elites and the president have one thing in common: a belief that the world should be changed by them, for the rest of us, not by us. They doubt the American creed of self-government.

A successful society is a progress machine, turning innovations and fortuitous developments into shared advancement. America’s machine is broken. Innovations fly at us, but progress eludes us. A thousand world-changing initiatives won’t change that. Instead, we must reform the basic systems that allow people to live decently — the systems that decide what kind of school children attend, whether politicians listen to donors or citizens, whether or not people can tend to their ailments, whether they are paid enough, and with sufficient reliability, to make plans and raise kids.

There are a significant number of winners who recognize their role in propping up a bad system. They might be convinced that solving problems for all, at the root, will mean higher taxes, smaller profits and fewer homes. Changing the world asks more than giving back. It also takes giving something up."
2018  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  anandgiridharadas  philanthropy  charity  hierarchy  inequality  change  democracy  donaldtrump  oligarchy  elitism  us  michaelporter  markkramer  thomasbikkety  emmanuelsaenz  gabrielzucman  markzuckerberg  morganstanley  economics  capitalism  latecapitalism  davidrubenstein  walmart  facebook  power  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
How He's Using His Gifts | Akilah S. Richards [Episode 12]
"We explore…gifted students, twice exceptional students, educators who shift from traditional to self-directed education, civic connections, the truth about college, and giving black and brown children more access.

Anthony Galloway wasn’t willing to be another cog in the system.

He’s a smart, twenty-something year old African-American man who chose to go into the field of education. He came up through the system, and learned how to excel in it. He also knew that he wanted to be part of the change in public education that allowed children of color access to the same resources and opportunities as children in white schools or private ones.

Anthony co-founded an Agile Learning Center, now facilitated by both him and long-time educator, Julia Cordero. I think you’re gonna find this discussion interesting because Anthony’s an educator who saw the school system for what it was and is, and started his own school to create something better."
akilahrichards  anthonygalloway  schools  education  unschooling  deschooling  gifted  juliacordero  race  schooling  self-directed  self-directedlearning  lcproject  openstudioproject  children  howwelearn  learning  praise  comparison  alternative  grades  grading  curiosity  libraries  systemsthinking  progressive  reading  howweread  assessment  publicschools  elitism  accessibility  class  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  unpaidinternships  studentdebt  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  agilelearning  community  collaboration  sfsh  tcsnmy  freeschools  scrum  cv  relationships  communities  process  planning  documentation  adulting  agilelearningcenters 
july 2018 by robertogreco
In What Language Does Rain Fall Over Tormented Cities? – Raiot
"Text of The W. G. Sebald Lecture on Literary Translation by Arundhati Roy
5 June 2018, The British Library, London."

[more excerpts coming soon]

"Twenty years after the publication of The God of Small Things, I finished writing my second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but if a novel can have an enemy, then the enemy of this novel is the idea of “One nation, one religion, one language.” As I composed the cover page of my manuscript, in place of the author’s name, I was tempted to write: “Translated from the original(s) by Arundhati Roy.” The Ministry is a novel written in English but imagined in several languages. Translation as a primary form of creation was central to the writing of it (and here I don’t mean the translation of the inchoate and the prelingual into words). Regardless of which language (and in whose mother tongue) The Ministry was written in, this particular narrative about these particular people in this particular universe would had to be imagined in several languages. It is a story that emerges out of an ocean of languages, in which a teeming ecosystem of living creatures—official-language fish, unofficial-dialect mollusks, and flashing shoals of word-fish—swim around, some friendly with each other, some openly hostile, and some outright carnivorous. But they are all nourished by what the ocean provides. And all of them, like the people in The Ministry, have no choice but to coexist, to survive, and to try to understand each other. For them, translation is not a high-end literary art performed by sophisticated polyglots. Translation is daily life, it is street activity, and it’s increasingly a necessary part of ordinary folks’ survival kit. And so, in this novel of many languages, it is not only the author, but the characters themselves who swim around in an ocean of exquisite imperfection, who constantly translate for and to each other, who constantly speak across languages, and who constantly realize that people who speak the same language are not necessarily the ones who understand each other best.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has been—is being—translated into forty-eight languages. Each of those translators has to grapple with a language that is infused with many languages including, if I may coin a word, many kinds of Englishes (sociolects is perhaps the correct word, but I’ll stay with Englishes because it is deliciously worse) and translate it into another language that is infused with many languages. I use the word infused advisedly, because I am not speaking merely of a text that contains a smattering of quotations or words in other languages as a gimmick or a trope, or one that plays the Peter Sellers game of mocking Indian English, but of an attempt to actually create a companionship of languages.

Of the forty-eight translations, two are Urdu and Hindi. As we will soon see, the very fact of having to name Hindi and Urdu as separate languages, and publish them as separate books with separate scripts, contains a history that is folded into the story of The Ministry. Given the setting of the novel, the Hindi and Urdu translations are, in part, a sort of homecoming. I soon learned that this did nothing to ease the task of the translators. To give you an example: The human body and its organs play an important part in The Ministry. We found that Urdu, that most exquisite of languages, which has more words for love than perhaps any other language in the world, has no word for vagina. There are words like the Arabic furj, which is considered to be archaic and more or less obsolete, and there are euphemisms that range in meaning from “hidden part,” “breathing hole,” “vent,” and “path to the uterus.” The most commonly used one is aurat ki sharamgah. A woman’s place of shame. As you can see, we had trouble on our hands. Before we rush to judgment, we must remember that pudenda in Latin means “that whereof one should feel shame.” In Danish, I was told by my translator, the phrase is “lips of shame.” So, Adam and Eve are alive and well, their fig leaves firmly in place.

Although I am tempted to say more about witnessing the pleasures and difficulties of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness being translated into other languages, more than the “post-writing” translations, it is the “pre-writing” translation that I want to talk about today. None of it came from an elaborate, pre-existing plan. I worked purely by instinct. It is only while preparing for this lecture that I began to really see how much it mattered to me to persuade languages to shift around, to make room for each other. Before we dive into the Ocean of Imperfection and get caught up in the eddies and whirlpools of our historic blood feuds and language wars, in order to give you a rough idea of the terrain, I will quickly chart the route by which I arrived at my particular patch of the shoreline."



"So, how shall we answer Pablo Neruda’s question that is the title of this lecture?

In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?7

I’d say, without hesitation, in the Language of Translation."
arundhatiroy  language  languages  translation  literature  2018  india  colonialism  nationalism  authenticity  elitism  caste  nativism  identity  culture  society  inbetween  betweenness  multilingual  polyglot  everyday  communication  english  hindi  nationstates  imperialism  urdu  persian  tamil  sinhala  bangladesh  pakistan  srilanka  canon 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Cory Doctorow: Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the...
"Anton Troynikov: [https://twitter.com/atroyn/status/1014974099930714115 ]

• Waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it’s of poor workmanship and quality.
• Promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in, day out.
• Living five adults to a two room apartment.
• Being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you.
• ‘Totally not illegal taxi’ taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet.
• Everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex.
• Mandatory workplace political education.
• Productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites.
• Deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences.
• Networked computers exist but they’re really bad.
• Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason.
• Elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges.
• Failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs.
• Otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it’s the only way to get ahead.
• The plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work.
• The United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default.
• The currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless.
• The economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users."
ussr  russia  economics  siliconvalley  disruption  politics  indoctrination  centralization  policy  2018  currency  planning  conformity  conformism  drudgery  work  labor  humor  tesla  elonmusk  jeffbezos  wageslavery  failure  henrykissinger  us  government  governance  ideology  experience  class  collateraldamage  elitism  antontroynikov  consequences  space  utopia  workmanship  quality  accountability  productivity  falsification  workplace  colonization 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Michael Hardt On Revolution And Democracy - YouTube
"Revolution then today refuses that dialectic between purgatory and paradise. It’s rather instigating utopia everyday."
michaelhardt  democracy  revolution  everyday  utopia  paradise  examinedlife  capitalism  hierarchy  elitism  politics  philosophy  vladimirlenin  lenin 
july 2018 by robertogreco
The Birth of the New American Aristocracy - The Atlantic
[via: https://twitter.com/irl/status/998252910214549504 ]

"New forms of life necessarily give rise to new and distinct forms of consciousness. If you doubt this, you clearly haven’t been reading the “personal and household services” ads on Monster.com. At the time of this writing, the section for my town of Brookline, Massachusetts, featured one placed by a “busy professional couple” seeking a “Part Time Nanny.” The nanny (or manny—the ad scrupulously avoids committing to gender) is to be “bright, loving, and energetic”; “friendly, intelligent, and professional”; and “a very good communicator, both written and verbal.” She (on balance of probability) will “assist with the care and development” of two children and will be “responsible for all aspects of the children’s needs,” including bathing, dressing, feeding, and taking the young things to and from school and activities. That’s why a “college degree in early childhood education” is “a plus.”

In short, Nanny is to have every attribute one would want in a terrific, professional, college-educated parent. Except, of course, the part about being an actual professional, college-educated parent. There is no chance that Nanny will trade places with our busy 5G couple. She “must know the proper etiquette in a professionally run household” and be prepared to “accommodate changing circumstances.” She is required to have “5+ years experience as a Nanny,” which makes it unlikely that she’ll have had time to get the law degree that would put her on the other side of the bargain. All of Nanny’s skills, education, experience, and professionalism will land her a job that is “Part Time.”

The ad is written in flawless, 21st-century business-speak, but what it is really seeking is a governess—that exquisitely contradictory figure in Victorian literature who is both indistinguishable in all outward respects from the upper class and yet emphatically not a member of it. Nanny’s best bet for moving up in the world is probably to follow the example of Jane Eyre and run off with the lord (or lady) of the manor."



"You see, when educated people with excellent credentials band together to advance their collective interest, it’s all part of serving the public good by ensuring a high quality of service, establishing fair working conditions, and giving merit its due. That’s why we do it through “associations,” and with the assistance of fellow professionals wearing white shoes. When working-class people do it—through unions—it’s a violation of the sacred principles of the free market. It’s thuggish and anti-modern. Imagine if workers hired consultants and “compensation committees,” consisting of their peers at other companies, to recommend how much they should be paid. The result would be—well, we know what it would be, because that’s what CEOs do.

It isn’t a coincidence that the education premium surged during the same years that membership in trade unions collapsed. In 1954, 28 percent of all workers were members of trade unions, but by 2017 that figure was down to 11 percent."



"10.
The Choice

I like to think that the ending of The Great Gatsby is too down-beat. Even if we are doomed to row our boats ceaselessly back into the past, how do we know which part of the past that will be?

History shows us a number of aristocracies that have made good choices. The 9.9 percenters of ancient Athens held off the dead tide of the Gatsby Curve for a time, even if democracy wasn’t quite the right word for their system of government. America’s first generation of revolutionaries was mostly 9.9 percenters, and yet they turned their backs on the man at the very top in order to create a government of, by, and for the people. The best revolutions do not start at the bottom; they are the work of the upper-middle class.

These exceptions are rare, to be sure, and yet they are the story of the modern world. In total population, average life expectancy, material wealth, artistic expression, rates of violence, and almost every other measure that matters for the quality of human life, the modern world is a dramatically different place than anything that came before. Historians offer many complicated explanations for this happy turn in human events—the steam engine, microbes, the weather—but a simple answer precedes them all: equality. The history of the modern world is the unfolding of the idea at the vital center of the American Revolution.

The defining challenge of our time is to renew the promise of American democracy by reversing the calcifying effects of accelerating inequality. As long as inequality rules, reason will be absent from our politics; without reason, none of our other issues can be solved. It’s a world-historical problem. But the solutions that have been put forward so far are, for the most part, shoebox in size.

Well-meaning meritocrats have proposed new and better tests for admitting people into their jewel-encrusted classrooms. Fine—but we aren’t going to beat back the Gatsby Curve by tweaking the formulas for excluding people from fancy universities. Policy wonks have taken aim at the more-egregious tax-code handouts, such as the mortgage-interest deduction and college-savings plans. Good—and then what? Conservatives continue to recycle the characterological solutions, like celebrating traditional marriage or bringing back that old-time religion. Sure—reforging familial and community bonds is a worthy goal. But talking up those virtues won’t save any families from the withering pressures of a rigged economy. Meanwhile, coffee-shop radicals say they want a revolution. They don’t seem to appreciate that the only simple solutions are the incredibly violent and destructive ones.

The American idea has always been a guide star, not a policy program, much less a reality. The rights of human beings never have been and never could be permanently established in a handful of phrases or old declarations. They are always rushing to catch up to the world that we inhabit. In our world, now, we need to understand that access to the means of sustaining good health, the opportunity to learn from the wisdom accumulated in our culture, and the expectation that one may do so in a decent home and neighborhood are not privileges to be reserved for the few who have learned to game the system. They are rights that follow from the same source as those that an earlier generation called life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Yes, the kind of change that really matters is going to require action from the federal government. That which creates monopoly power can also destroy it; that which allows money into politics can also take it out; that which has transferred power from labor to capital can transfer it back. Change also needs to happen at the state and local levels. How else are we going to open up our neighborhoods and restore the public character of education?

It’s going to take something from each of us, too, and perhaps especially from those who happen to be the momentary winners of this cycle in the game. We need to peel our eyes away from the mirror of our own success and think about what we can do in our everyday lives for the people who aren’t our neighbors. We should be fighting for opportunities for other people’s children as if the future of our own children depended on it. It probably does."



[earlier on]

"Nowhere are the mechanics of the growing geographic divide more evident than in the system of primary and secondary education. Public schools were born amid hopes of opportunity for all; the best of them have now been effectively reprivatized to better serve the upper classes. According to a widely used school-ranking service, out of more than 5,000 public elementary schools in California, the top 11 are located in Palo Alto. They’re free and open to the public. All you have to do is move into a town where the median home value is $3,211,100. Scarsdale, New York, looks like a steal in comparison: The public high schools in that area funnel dozens of graduates to Ivy League colleges every year, and yet the median home value is a mere $1,403,600.

Racial segregation has declined with the rise of economic segregation. We in the 9.9 percent are proud of that. What better proof that we care only about merit? But we don’t really want too much proof. Beyond a certain threshold—5 percent minority or 20 percent, it varies according to the mood of the region—neighborhoods suddenly go completely black or brown. It is disturbing, but perhaps not surprising, to find that social mobility is lower in regions with high levels of racial segregation. The fascinating revelation in the data, however, is that the damage isn’t limited to the obvious victims. According to Raj Chetty’s research team, “There is evidence that higher racial segregation is associated with lower social mobility for white people.” The relationship doesn’t hold in every zone of the country, to be sure, and is undoubtedly the statistical reflection of a more complex set of social mechanisms. But it points to a truth that America’s 19th-century slaveholders understood very well: Dividing by color remains an effective way to keep all colors of the 90 percent in their place.

With localized wealth comes localized political power, and not just of the kind that shows up in voting booths. Which brings us back to the depopulation paradox. Given the social and cultural capital that flows through wealthy neighborhoods, is it any wonder that we can defend our turf in the zoning wars? We have lots of ways to make that sound public-spirited. It’s all about saving the local environment, preserving the historic character of the neighborhood, and avoiding overcrowding. In reality, it’s about hoarding power and opportunity inside the walls of our own castles. This is what aristocracies do… [more]
class  us  politics  economics  inequality  2018  disparity  matthewstewart  education  labor  work  unions  highered  highereducation  nannies  governesses  workingclass  elitism  aristocracy  wealth  opportunity  power  privilege 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | The Democrats’ Gentrification Problem - The New York Times
"Research that focuses on the way city neighborhoods are changing by income, race and ethnicity, while not specifically addressed to political consequences, helps us see the potential for conflict within the Democratic coalition.

Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard, published a detailed study in 2015 for the St. Louis Federal Reserve of the economic composition of neighborhoods. Overall, he found, “middle-income neighborhoods are tenuous,” while neighborhoods at the top and bottom of the economic ladder have remained strikingly stable."



"Upscale liberal whites “who consider themselves committed to racial justice” tend to be “NIMBYists when it comes to their neighborhoods,” Cain wrote, “not living up to their affordable housing commitments and resisting apartment density around mass transportation stops.”"



"As intraparty economic and racial divisions have increased within the Democratic coalition, the political power of the well-to-do has grown at the expense of racial and ethnic minorities."



"The maneuvers in California are a reflection of a larger problem for Democrats: their inability to reconcile the conflicts inherent in the party’s economic and racial bifurcation."



"Democratic politicians should respond by imposing higher taxes on the wealthy and spending the proceeds on the less well off."



"The progressivity of income taxes has decreased, reliance on regressive consumption taxes has increased, and the taxation of capital has followed a global race to the bottom. Instead of boosting infrastructure investment, governments have pursued austerity policies that are particularly harmful to low-skill workers. Big banks and corporations have been bailed out, but households have not. In the United States, the minimum wage has not been adjusted sufficiently, allowing it to erode in real terms."



Rodrik cites the work of the French economist Thomas Piketty, who argues that political parties on the left have been taken over, here and in Europe, “by the well-educated elite” — what Piketty calls the “Brahmin Left.” The Brahmin Left, writes Rodrik,
is not friendly to redistribution, because it believes in meritocracy — a world in which effort gets rewarded and low incomes are more likely to be the result of insufficient effort than poor luck.
"



"The Democrats will become the party of urban cosmopolitan business liberalism, and the Republicans will become the party of suburban and rural nationalist populism."



"The force that had historically pushed policy to the economic left — organized labor — has for the most part been marginalized. African-American and Hispanic voters have shown little willingness to join Democratic reform movements led by upper middle class whites, as shown in their lack of enthusiasm for Bill Bradley running against Al Gore in 2000 or Sanders running against Clinton in 2016.

The hurdle facing those seeking to democratize elite domination of the Democratic Party is finding voters and donors who have a sustained interest in redistributive policies — and the minimum wage is only a small piece of this. Achieving that goal requires an economically coherent center-left political coalition. It also requires the ability to overcome the seemingly insuperable political divisions between the white working class and the African-American and Hispanic working classes — that elusive but essential multiracial — and now multiethnic — majority. Establishing that majority in a coherent political coalition is the only way in which the economic interests of those in the bottom half of the income distribution will be effectively addressed."
inequality  us  politics  democrats  meritocracy  2018  democracy  taxes  capitalism  capital  gentrification  cities  urban  urbanism  nimbyism  california  policy  progressives  wealth  unions  labor  thomaspiketty  michaellind  danirodrik  elitism  liberalism  neoliberalism  republicans  donaldtrump  race  racism  class  classism  segregation  thomasedsall  nimbys 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Admit Everybody | Current Affairs
"There are two conclusions here, one of which I agree with and one of which I find objectionable. The conclusion I agree with is that the SAT may be the “least bad” of three options for competitive admissions, when compared with using grades or Mushy Holistic Factors, and that therefore eliminating the SAT alone won’t in and of itself produce greater equality and could backfire. (I even have a certain soft spot for the SAT because it enabled me, a person who didn’t know any of the weird upper-class “holistic” signals that impress colleges, to go to a good college.) But the conclusion I disagree with is that this somehow makes a “progressive case for the SAT,” or that we should “defend the SAT.” This is the same logic that causes people like Nicholas Kristof to argue that because sweatshops are supposedly better than farm labor, there is a progressive case for sweatshops and we should defend them. This is one of the differences between liberalism and leftism: liberalism argues for the least bad of several bad options, while leftism insists on having a better set of options.

It’s the talk about “powerful ways” to “distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack” that troubles me. My concern is about what happens to the rest of the pack! As my acquaintance Patrick Conner put it, the difference between meritocracy and socialism is “I don’t want everyone to have a fair shot at the 15% of non-shitty lives, I want everyone to have a decent life.” Instead of arguing for the least-unfair version of the brutally competitive war of all-against-all that is the contemporary college admissions system, the progressive case should be that we ought to have an actual fair admissions system.

In other words: just admit everybody. The whole “competitive” nature of undergraduate admissions is absurd to begin with, and the very fact that students are sorted according to “merit” is socially corrosive. Let’s face it: college isn’t like brain surgery or social work. People’s lives aren’t in your hands. Instead of finding the “top ten best people” we should be selecting “anyone who has proved they are capable of doing the expected work.” Competitive admissions are as irrational as grading curves. With a grading curve, only X percent of the class will get As on their papers, even if every single person in the class wrote an excellent paper, which forces you to start making silly and arbitrary distinctions in a contrived effort to pit the students against each other. The better way to grade is by developing a standard independently and giving students a qualification if they meet the standard. Here’s the admissions parallel: everyone who shows themselves capable of doing the work required of a Harvard undergrad is marked “qualified” for Harvard and allowed to apply. There are a limited number of places, of course, but those places will be filled by selecting a random group of students from among all of those marked “qualified.” You might still get a very low percentage of applicants admitted because space is limited, but it won’t be because those applicants have been deemed worthier, it will be because the lottery happened to favor them.

My vision of universities is as a place where anybody can come and learn, so long as they can do the work. Now, you could argue that at elite schools, the work is so hard that only a few people would be qualified to do it. That’s false, though. I have been a TF at Harvard, so I am acquainted with the level of rigor in the undergraduate curriculum, and it’s obvious that vastly more students than the 4.8% they actually admit are capable of passing the courses. In fact, possibly the majority of the applicants could do fine. We know that college admissions are a crapshoot. But let’s just make them an actual crapshoot, so that nobody would be deluded into thinking that merit was involved, beyond the merit of basic literacy and numeracy.

We might have a different system at the graduate level, where higher levels of specialized skill are required. But I think the same principle should be followed: set a clear standard for the minimum a student needs to be able to do. Make that standard public, so that everybody knows that if they can do X they will have the same shot at being admitted to a program as anybody else. Then choose at random from among those who have met the basic standard.

Alright, so you can probably come up with half a dozen criticisms of this system, the way you can criticize the idea of a randomly-selected congress or a jury trial. Colleges will raise the “basic standard” to unrealistic levels and thus recreate a highly-competitive admissions system, and Harvard will start pretending that you need to be able to do calculus in order to muddle your way to a Bachelor of Arts there. (You don’t.) As long as you still have underlying social and economic inequalities, you can’t actually have an equal system, because everything will reflect those inequalities until we get rid of them. Rich parents will always find ways to make sure their children get more than other children. This is part of Freddie’s point, and he is right: instead of fixing the admissions system you have to fix the economic system, because you can’t isolate the one from the other. It’s an important point, but it doesn’t amount to a defense of the “meritocracy” illusion or the concept of “distinguishing from the rest of the pack.” And the left’s education experts should be devising practical alternatives to meritocracy rather than slightly-less-awful versions of it.

We should always be clear on what the goal is: a world in which we don’t all have to fight each other all the time, where we can work together in solidarity rather than having to wage war against our friends for the privilege of having a good job. There is no reason why everyone shouldn’t have equal access to the highest-quality education, and in a properly organized society it would be perfectly simple to provide it. We don’t need “best” and “worst” universities, ranked from top to bottom, we just need “universities,” places where people go to explore human knowledge and acquire the skills that enable them to do things that need doing. Progressive education means an end to the illusion of meritocratic competition, an end to the SAT, and the realization of a vision of equal education for all."
sat  standardizedtesting  testing  nathanrobinson  2018  freddiedeboer  bias  elitism  inequality  meritocracy  liberalism  leftism  progressive  patrickconner  socialism  competition  selectivity  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  admissions  education  ranking  society  merit  fairness  egalitarianism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 67. Carl Abrahamsson & Mitch Horowitz in “Occulture (Meta)” // Anton LaVey, Real Magic & the Nature of the Mind
"Look, I’m not gonna lie to you - we have a pretty badass show this time around. Carl Abrahamsson and Mitch Horowitz are in the house.

Carl Abrahamsson is a Swedish freelance writer, lecturer, filmmaker and photographer specializing in material about the arts & entertainment, esoteric history and occulture. Carl is the author of several books, including a forthcoming title from Inner Traditions called Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward.

Mitch Horowitz is the author of One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life; Occult America, which received the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence; and Mind As Builder: The Positive-Mind Metaphysics of Edgar Cayce. Mitch has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Salon, Time.com, and Politico. Mitch is currently in the midst of publishing a series of articles on Medium called "Real Magic".

And it is that series paired with Carl’s book that lays the foundation for our conversation here."
carlabrahamsson  mitchhorowitz  occult  culture  occulture  magic  belief  mind  ouijaboard  astrology  mindfulness  buddhism  religion  academia  antonlavey  materialism  mainstream  intellectualism  elitism  mindbodyspirit  2018  esotericism  authority  norms  nuance  change  enlightenment  popculture  science  humanities  socialsciences  medicine  conservatism  churches  newage  cosmology  migration  california  hippies  meaning  psychology  siliconvalley  ingenuity  human  humans  humannature  spirituality  openmindedness  nature  urbanization  urban  nyc  us  society  santería  vodou  voodoo  voudoun  climate  light  davidlynch  innovation  population  environment  meaningmaking  mikenesmith  californianideology  thought  thinking  philosophy  hoodoo  blackmetal  norway  beauty  survival  wholeperson  churchofsatan  satanism  agency  ambition  mysticism  self  stories  storytelling  mythology  humanism  beinghuman  surrealism  cv  repetition  radicalism  myths  history  renaissance  fiction  fantasy  reenchantment  counterculture  consciousness  highered  highereducation  cynicism  inquiry  realitytele 
february 2018 by robertogreco
'The connection between education and democracy should be clear'
"Simon Creasey meets the academic calling for teachers to revolt against the ‘pedagogy of oppression’ and demand due payment for their overlooked role in underpinning democracy

Henry Giroux wants teachers to mobilise. He wants them to rise up and launch a revolutionary movement in order to eradicate what he calls a “pedagogy of oppression” that has permeated the education system, both in the UK and in his native US. Teachers and teachers’ unions should work with parents to pressure governments to focus education on creating “informed citizens”, he says, not learning-by-rote simply to get students to pass their exams and become workforce-ready.

This is a push for change that Giroux has been working on for some time. He currently holds the McMaster University chair for scholarship in the public interest, in Ontario, Canada. But he has been an education academic for decades and penned numerous books. He’s insistent on this course of action because “you cannot have a democracy without an informed citizenry”.

“We live in a culture that thrives on ignorance, refuses to invest in education, flees from the obligations of shared citizenship and ignores what it means to provide a decent life for everyone, especially children,” says Giroux.

“[In this environment,] politics degenerates into a pathology and education is reduced to a form of training.”

'We need to have a dialogue'
To emphasise his point, he cites the election of Donald Trump – a president who is on record claiming that he “loves the poorly educated”.

“[Trump’s election win] is not just about a crisis of politics; it’s about the crisis of education, it’s about the crisis of civic literacy,” he says. So, how do teachers contribute to putting this right?

As a starting point, he thinks a discussion needs to be had about the true purpose of education. “We need to have a dialogue about what teachers can do to, in a sense, ensure that education is viewed as a public good and that it is tied to a democratic project that would be used to prepare students to be engaged, critical and informed citizens,” Giroux says. “We’ve got to ditch this notion that the only purpose of education is basically to educate people for the workforce or that the most important aspect of education is learning 25 different ways to teach. That’s just silly, it’s reductionistic and it turns teachers into automatons.

“This type of educational reform is really about deskilling teachers and turning education into an adjunct of the corporate workplace. It kills any notion of the imagination, and what we usually end up with is people teaching for the test. We end up with people basically implementing what I call ‘pedagogies of oppression’.”

Giroux explains that a pedagogy of oppression is one that essentially “assaults” a student’s imagination. “It often emphasises memorisation; it places a strong emphasis on harsh forms of discipline; it can result in enormously unproductive and poisonous forms of racism; it usually teaches for the test,” he says. “It embraces standardisation as a measure of knowledge and it does everything it can to basically shut down any sense of curiosity and any sense of teaching students – and teachers for that matter – what it means to exercise a degree of civic courage, to take risks, to doubt, to in some way be critically conscious of the world, to explore the full capacity of their imagination, and to open the world and themselves in a way in which they can embrace and expand their capacity to be real social-political agents.”

Giroux believes that we should educate educators in a way that enables them to fulfil the “civic purpose” of education.

“I think that increasingly gets lost in the commercialisation, the corporatisation, the commodification and the standardisation of education,” he says. “These are forces that have been highly influenced by a corporate state that doesn’t really recognise the relationship – and doesn’t want to recognise the relationship – between education and democracy, and I think teachers need to seize upon and develop a new language for understanding the purpose of education.”

Giroux identifies another issue: the things that children are being taught in schools typically bear no relation to the world in which they live – a world that is heavily influenced by social media, popular culture and mainstream media.

“To me, this is tragic because when that happens, schools often translate into dead zones of education and spaces of abandonment,” he argues. “They become places that seem irrelevant to young people. They seem to have no meaning except for an elite who need the credentials to get into Oxford, Cambridge, Yale or Harvard.”

He is similarly depressed by what he perceives to be a “deskilling” of teachers that has been brought about by the “audit culture” that pervades the education system in the US and UK. Educators, he believes, should push against or ignore it.

“Teachers can’t just close their door and say ‘I’m going to do everything I can to avoid this’,” says Giroux. “They need to organise collectively. They need to bring the power of a collective teacher’s union, and the power of working with parents and young people, to begin to put pressure on governments because in the final analysis what is at stake here is changing policy. That is, changing policies that are oppressive and endlessly put into play.”

‘Great social movement’

What is important, he says, it that such a reaction is not politically aligned. Giroux explains that “the notion of creating informed and critical students cuts across ideological lines” and that it “should be attractive to anyone who believes that schooling is crucial to creating informed citizens”.

To do this, teachers need to have a clear idea of their larger role in society and this role needs to be self-defined. “Teachers have to become part of a great social movement in which they define themselves as a public resource,” says Giroux.

He argues that, as part of this movement, teachers should fight for policies that advocate more funding for education, more autonomy for teachers and higher pay.

“Teachers should be paid like doctors and they should be professionalised in ways that suggest they are a valued part of any society, which is what they are,” says Giroux. “Schools matter in a democracy and teachers should be one of the most valued groups of people that we have in our society, yet at the same time they are the most belittled, the most dehumanised and the most exploited among professionals – and I think that’s because we have no faith in democracy.

“We can’t seem to make the connection between teaching, education and democracy, and I think that teachers need to make that connection and they need to make it loud and clear. They need to talk about public schools and higher education as democratic public spheres and they need to make clear that what they do is absolutely vital to the nature of society itself – and they need to fight for it.”

Picking sides

Although he concedes that he is “utterly pessimistic” about the changes that have taken place to the education system in the US since the 1980s – the public schools sector in particular – he is quietly optimistic about the future. “I think we’ve reached a breaking point where many people are refusing to accept what we call the ‘school to prison’ pipeline,” says Giroux.

“They’re refusing to accept the racism that goes on in schools with kids being expelled and thrown out of schools, and we have also seen this huge revolt in the US against teaching for the test. More and more people are now realising that education is one of the few protected spaces and battlefronts left over which we can defend any notion of a liberal education. An education that is engaged in creating critical citizens and furthering the parameters of a democratic society.”

Regardless of whether this change is happening as quickly as Giroux feels it must, he is clear that we are at a point where teachers need to pick sides.

“Democracy is in crisis around the world and to address that crisis, education needs to be reclaimed as a moral and political project willing to address the future with a degree of civic courage and educated hope,” he says. “In this case, the struggle to reclaim the democratic function of education is not an option, it is a necessity.”"
simoncreasey  henrygiroux  children  schools  schooling  unschooling  deschooling  teachers  teaching  democracy  oppression  pedagogy  civics  politics  pathology  education  standardization  racism  race  rote  rotelearning  learning  corporatism  memorization  resistance  socialmedia  popularculture  society  elitism  credentials  us  uk  policy  autonomy  unions  organization  2018  sfsh 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Los Angeles, Houston and the appeal of the hard-to-read city
"This is not going to be a column about all the things the New York Times got wrong about the Los Angeles Times in its recent front-page story by Tim Arango and Adam Nagourney, "A Paper Tears Apart in a City That Never Quite Came Together." It is not, for the most part, going to be about all the things the New York Times got wrong (or simply failed to mention) about Los Angeles itself in that article, which argued that recent turmoil at this newspaper is emblematic of the city's broader lack of support for its major institutions. Plenty of smart people have already weighed in on both fronts.

And yes, every word in the previous sentence links to one of those smart people. Here are a couple more for good measure. When Josh Kun, Carolina Miranda, Daniel Hernandez, David Ulin, Alissa Walker, Matthew Kang and Carolyn Kellogg are united in knocking your analysis of Los Angeles, it might, you know, be a sign.

Anyway. This is going to be a column, instead, about something slightly different: about the legibility (and illegibility) of cities more generally. About how we react — as reporters and critics and simply as people — when we're confronted with a city that doesn't make sense to us right away.

Ten days or so before that story appeared, I spent a long weekend in Houston, meeting up with three old friends ostensibly to see the Warriors, the NBA team I grew up rooting for, play the Rockets — but also just to hang out and eat barbecue and visit the Menil, my favorite museum building in America (just edging out another Texas landmark, the Kimbell in Fort Worth).

Houston is casually written off even more often than Los Angeles, which is saying something. Now the fourth largest city in the country in population — and gaining on third-place Chicago — it's an unruly place in terms of its urbanism, a place that (as Los Angeles once did) has room, or makes room, for a wide spectrum of architectural production, from the innovative to the ugly. Like Los Angeles, it's a city that invested heavily in freeways and other car-centric infrastructure last century and remains, in many neighborhoods, a terrible place to walk.

It's long been a place people go to reinvent themselves, to get rich or to disappear. The flip side of its great tolerance is a certain lack of cohesion, a difficulty in articulating a set of common civic goals. (Here's where I concede that the instinct behind the New York Times piece on L.A., if little about its execution, was perfectly reasonable.) As is the case in Los Angeles, the greatest thing and the worst thing about Houston are one and the same: Nobody cares what anybody else is doing. Freedom in both places sometimes trumps community. It also tends to trump stale donor-class taste.

Roughly one in four residents of Houston's Harris County is foreign-born, a rate nearly as high as those in New York and Los Angeles. Houston's relationship with Dallas, the third biggest city in Texas, is something like L.A.'s with San Francisco; the southern city in each pair is less decorous, less fixed in its civic identity and (at the moment, at least) entirely more vital.

I've been to Houston five or six times; I like spending time there largely because I don't know it as well as I'd like to. That's another way of saying that while I'm there, I'm reminded of the way in which much of the world interacts with and judges Los Angeles, from a position of alienation and even ignorance. I just happen to enjoy that sensation more than most people do.

If I had to put my finger on what unites Houston and Los Angeles, it is a certain elusiveness as urban object. Both cities are opaque and hard to read. What is Houston? Where does it begin and end? Does it have a center? Does it need one? It's tough to say, even when you're there — even when you're looking directly at it.

The same has been said of Los Angeles since its earliest days. Something Carey McWilliams noted about L.A. in 1946 — that it is a place fundamentally ad hoc in spirit, "a gigantic improvisation" — is perhaps even more true of Houston. Before you can pin either city down, you notice that it's wriggled out of your grasp.

People who are accustomed to making quick sense of the world, to ordering it into neat and sharply defined categories, tend to be flummoxed by both places. And reporters at the New York Times are certainly used to making quick sense of the world. If there's one reason the paper keeps getting Los Angeles so spectacularly wrong, I think that's it. Smart, accomplished people don't like being made to feel out of their depth. Los Angeles makes out-of-town reporters feel out of their depth from their first day here.

Their reaction to that feeling, paradoxically enough, is very often to attempt to write that feeling away — to conquer that sense of dislocation by producing a story that sets out to explain Los Angeles in its entirety. Because it's a challenge, maybe, or because they simply can't be convinced, despite all the evidence right in front of them, that Los Angeles, as cities go, is an especially tough nut to crack.

Plenty of journalists have left Los Angeles over the years and moved to New York to work for the New York Times; none of them, as far as I know, has attempted, after two or three months on the job, to write a piece explaining What New York City Means. I can think of many New Yorkers — each of them highly credentialed academically or journalistically or both, which is perhaps the root of the problem — who have come to Los Angeles and tried to pull off that same trick here.

That tendency — to attempt the moon shot, the overarching analysis, too soon — is equal parts hubris and panic. It usually goes about as well as it went this time around for Arango, not incidentally a brand-new arrival in the New York Times bureau here, and Nagourney.

Among the most dedicated scholars of Houston's urban form in recent years has been Lars Lerup, former dean of the Rice University School of Architecture. In his new book of essays, "The Continuous City," he argues that the first step in understanding Houston and cities like it is to begin with a certain humility about the nature and scale of the task.

This kind of city has grown so large — in economic and environmental as well as physical reach — that it begins to stretch beyond our field of vision. The best way to grasp it, according to Lerup, is to understand that it is not Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago — to recognize it instead as "a vast field with no distinct borders."

"The old city was a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill surrounded by a collectively constructed wall; the new city is everywhere," he writes. "Only when we accept that we can only attain a partial understanding can work begin."

Lerup stresses that huge, spread-out cities like Houston — which he also calls "distributed cities," places where "the spiky downtown is just a blip in the flatness" — have long been tough to read, in part because they are "always in the throes of change." But the relationship between urbanization and climate change has added a new layer of complexity, because big metro regions and their pollution are exacerbating the ecological crisis. The city now "owns everything" and must answer for everything, "even the raging hurricane bearing down on its coast." The vast city has grown vaster still.

If there's one place I part ways with Lerup, it has to do with his insistence that "few conceptual tools have evolved" to help us grapple with the distributed city and its meanings. At least in the case of Los Angeles, the literature on this score is richer, going back many decades, than even many locals realize.

There's not only McWilliams' superb, clear-eyed book "Southern California: An Island on the Land," which I would make required reading for every new hire if I were running the Los Angeles bureau of the New York Times. (Especially the part where McWilliams admits that he hated Los Angeles when he arrived and that it took him "seven long years of exile" to understand and appreciate the city. Seven years! And that was with a brain bigger and more nimble than most.) There's also architect Charles Moore's 1984 guidebook, "City Observed: Los Angeles," which he wrote with Peter Becker and Regula Campbell.

Right at the beginning, Moore, as if to anticipate Lerup, reminds his readers that L.A. is "altogether different from the compact old centers of Manhattan and Boston." (It is not a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill.) Making sense of it, as a result, requires "an altogether different plan of attack."

That simple bit of advice is the only one journalists newly arrived in Los Angeles really need to get started on the right foot. It's also one those journalists have been ignoring for 34 years and counting."
houston  losangeles  cities  illegibility  vitality  urban  urbanism  nyc  christopherhawthorne  2018  socal  california  larlerup  manhattan  boston  sanfrancisco  chicago  nytimes  careymcwilliams  joshkun  carolinamiranda  danielhernandez  davidulin  latimes  alissawalker  matthewkang  carolynkellogg  timarango  adamnagourney  elitism  legibility  population  place  identity  elusiveness  hubris  panic  urbanization  climatechange  complexity  charlesmoore 
february 2018 by robertogreco
#GeniusTweeter on Twitter: "The Midwest Academy Manual for Activist quotes a consultant who was speaking to a group of corporate executives about some of the *tricks* your opponents will use against you.… https://t.co/FGK2Gw2jPs"
"The Midwest Academy Manual for Activists [http://www.midwestacademy.com/manual/ ] quotes a consultant who was speaking to a group of corporate executives about some of the *tricks* your opponents will use against you.
The authors describe it as: "You are reasonable but your allies aren't. Can, we just deal with you?"... In this tactic, institutions resisting change can divide coalitions, decreasing their power and tempering their demands, by bringing those who have the most invested in the status quo into the Inner circle" to negotiate, in theory, for the full group's interests..? Lawyers often have an easier time getting meetings with decision makers precisely because we are seen as more "reasonable," i.e., amenable to the status quo, and we are too often tempted to accept this access rather than insisting on solidarity with more radical leaders from affected communities...

The manual quotes a consultant speaking to a group of corporate executives to explain this tactic,
Activists fall into three basic categories: radicals, idealists, and realists. The first step is to isolate and marginalize the radicals. They're the ones who see inherent structural problems that need remedying if indeed a particular change is to occur..' The goal is to sour the idealists on the idea of working with the radicals. Instead, get them working with the realists. Realists are people who want reform, but don't really want to upset the status quo; big public interest organizations that rely on foundation grants and corporate contributions are a prime example. With correct handling, realists can be counted on to cut a deal with industry that can be touted as a 'win-win" solution, but that is actually an industry victory.

"There's more to what the consultant advises the corporate executives:
"To isolate them (the radicals), try to create the perception in the public mind that people advocating fundamental solutions are terrorists, extremists, fear mongers, outsiders, communists, or whatever.+"
https://twitter.com/prisonculture/status/962360911225937920

"After marginalizing the radicals, then identify and educate the idealists - concerned and sympathetic members of the public -- by convincing them that changes advocated by the radicals would hurt people.""
https://twitter.com/prisonculture/status/962361148841627649 ]
idealists  idealism  activism  activists  radicals  radicalism  radicalists  centrists  statusquo  elitism  policy  politics  institutions  corporatism  democrats  republicans  marginalization  race  racism  cooption  power  control  corporations  law  lawyers  solidarity  leadership  reform  change  changemaking  fear  outsiders  communists  communism  inequality  oppression  perpetuation  terrorism  extremism  perception  messaging  mariamekaba 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Ana Mardoll on Twitter: "The thing about every "I did [ableist thing] and everyone was happy with me" article is that it relies heavily on human confirmation bias.… https://t.co/2wRZLAj4yF"
"The thing about every "I did [ableist thing] and everyone was happy with me" article is that it relies heavily on human confirmation bias. https://twitter.com/nrsmithccny/status/934032393572356096

Most humans are poised to believe that our decisions will have good outcomes. That's why we MAKE the decisions, after all. We pick what seems like the best decision and we hope it turns out well.

Recognizing that the decision was a BAD one in retrospect is REALLY HARD, and becomes even harder when we have to grapple with the fact that we hurt people in the process.

So when teachers ban laptops or fidget spinners or whatever, or when employers force everyone to wear fitbits and take the stairs, they're STARTING with the belief that this will have a good outcome.

Then we look at the words Nicholas has used there: "Low cost" to ban electronics. Well, for him it surely was!

For the students who had to scramble to buy paper and pens and bags to carry them in when they'd been EXPECTING to use the laptop they already owned... a bit more cost.

"Minimal Resistance". That isn't really surprising when we understand that disabled students aren't the majority--which is why they're so easy to stomp all over.

Also not surprising when we understand the high COST of "resisting". Easier to drop the class.

"Learning improved dramatically" but based on what? Knowing that this is a situation heavily prone to bias, how do we measure that?

This isn't pedantry. We're talking about a school. Research methods are important.

We also need to understand how fucked up it is when the goal is to maximize the experience for the geniuses in the class and if the bottom 10% drop out because it's too hard, that's considered a GOOD thing.

If banning electronics causes a "sharpening" of the grade curve--fewer "middle" students, but the higher ones get higher and the lower ones go lower--that means embracing the destruction of the weak in order to elevate your preferred students.

The American school system is competitive in really messed up ways, and electronics bans play into that. If you can't "cut it" with paper notes, you're left behind. Teaching as social Darwinism.

I am going to add, and folks aren't going to like this, that professors are some of the most ableist people on the planet. In my experience.

They've risen to the top of a heavily ableist system that is DEEPLY invested in pretending that it's merit-based.

In the midst of that merit-based pretense, they're also urged to believe that they're biologically better, smarter, cleverer, deeper thinkers.

So you have people who believe they are biologically better than disabled people but also think they know how to accommodate us. Red flags right there.

They're also steeped in a competitive atmosphere where learning takes a backseat to rankings and numbers games and competition.

So very quickly any accommodation seems like "cheating".

You need an extra hour to take the test? How is that FAIR to the OTHER students?

We wouldn't ask these questions if we weren't obsessively ranking and grading and comparing students to each other in an attempt to sift out the "best".

Why do we do that? Well, part of it is a dance for capitalism; the employers want a shiny GPA number so they know who will be the better employee.

But a lot of professors don't really think about that. They just live for the competition itself, and they view us as disruptive.

They also view us, fundamentally, as lesser. No matter how much we learn, we'll never be peak students because we're disabled.

That means we're disposable if we threaten the actual "peak" students and their progress.

That's why laptop ban conversations ALWAYS devolve into "but if you allow laptops for disabled kids, the able-bodied students will use them and be distracted!"

The worry is that the abled-kids who COULD be "peak" students won't be.

If the options are:

(1) Disabled kid, 3.5 GPA. Abled kid, 3.5 GPA.

(2) Disabled kid, 2.0 GPA, Abled kid, 4.0 GPA.

They'll pick #2 every time. They don't want everyone to do moderately well; they want a Star.

Professors want STARS, because a STAR means they're doing well. They're the best coach in the competitive sports they call "school".

Throwing a disabled student under the bus to make sure the able-bodied Star isn't distracted? No brainer. 9 out of 10 professors will do it.

I had very few professors--over 7 years and 2 schools--who recognized the ranking system was garbage.

One of them told us on the first day of class that we would all get As, no matter what we did. Told us that we didn't even need to show up, but that he HOPED we would because he believed we could learn from him.

I learned more from that class than maybe any other I took that year. The erasure of all my fear, anxiety, competition, and need to "win" left me able to focus SO much better.

It's INTERESTING that we don't talk about banning GRADES and instead we ban laptops.

We could improve learning dramatically if we banned grades. But we don't. Why not?

- Capitalism. We want employers to pick our students.

- Ableism. We LIKE ranking humans from better to worse.

- Cynicism. We don't believe students WANT to learn, we think we need to force them.

So in an effort to forced Abled Allen to be the best in a competition for capitalism, we ban laptops.

If Disabled Debbie does poorly after the laptop ban, it's no great tragedy; she was never going to be a 4.0 student anyway. Not like Abled Allen, the winner.

Anyway. Laptop bans are ableist. So is a moratorium on any notes whatsoever. Let students learn the way they feel comfortable learning.

And asking students to "trust" teachers will put disabled students first is naive in the extreme.

I don't "trust" a team coach to prioritize the needs of a third-string quarterback. Maybe some will, but most won't.

(Final note that there ARE good teachers out there and even good DISABLED teachers. I'm talking about systemic problems, not saying that all professors are evil. The problem is the system, not necessarily the people.)

(Although some of the people ARE trash. But only some.)

The original tweet is gone and please don't harass the teacher in question. Here's a screenshot for context, otherwise my thread makes little sense.

I want to add something that I touched on in another thread: Teachers are PROFOUNDLY out of touch when it comes to note-taking.

I guaran-fucking-tee these college teachers who "insist" their students note-take by hand aren't hand-writing to this extent.

For example, the quoted tweet has a professor saying "you just type whatever I say without thinking". That is so ridiculous.Ana My mobile still could load it.

Hardly anyone I know types fast enough to transcribe human speech.

When I take typed notes, I'm choosing what to include and what to leave out. Those choices are interacting with the material.

I'm not recording like a robot.

These professors have been out of the "student seat" for so long that they don't know what studenting is like.

They think we're transcriptionists when we're not. They think pen-and-paper students are paying perfect attention when they're not.

They think writing notes for 4-5 classes a day for 4-7 years is easy on the hands, when it's not.

They just don't KNOW, but (scarily!) they think they do."
notetaking  ableism  laptops  highered  highereducation  learning  education  meritocracy  capitalism  cynicism  grades  grading  sorting  ranking  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  disabilities  disability  transcription  typing  lectures  resistance  socialdarwinism  elitism  competition  anamardoll 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Lingua Franca - February 2001 | Cover Story: The Ex-Cons
"The only thing that arouses Luttwak's ire more than untrammeled capitalism is its elite enthusiasts—the intellectuals, politicians, policy makers, and businessmen who claim that "just because the market is always more efficient, the market should always rule." Alan Greenspan earns Luttwak's special contempt: "Alan Greenspan is a Spencerian. That makes him an economic fascist." Spencerians like Greenspan believe that "the harshest economic pressures" will "stimulate some people to...economically heroic deeds. They will become great entrepreneurs or whatever else, and as for the ones who fail, let them fail." Luttwak's other b'te noire is "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap, the peripatetic CEO who reaps unimaginable returns for corporate shareholders by firing substantial numbers of employees from companies. "Chainsaw does it," says Luttwak, referring to Dunlap's downsizing measures, "because he's simpleminded, harsh, and cruel." It's just "economic sadism." Against Greenspan and Dunlap, Luttwak affirms, "I believe that one ought to have only as much market efficiency as one needs, because everything that we value in human life is within the realm of inefficiency—love, family, attachment, community, culture, old habits, comfortable old shoes.""



"Although Luttwak writes in his 1999 book Turbo-Capitalism, "I deeply believe...in the virtues of capitalism," his opposition to the spread of market values is so acute that it puts him on the far end of today's political spectrum—a position that Luttwak congenitally enjoys. "Edward is a very perverse guy, intellectually and in many other ways," says former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz, one of Luttwak's early champions during the 1970s. "He's a contrarian. He enjoys confounding expectations. But I frankly don't even know how serious he is in this latest incarnation." Luttwak insists that he is quite serious. He calls for socialized medicine. He advocates a strong welfare state, claiming, "If I had my druthers, I would prohibit any form of domestic charity." Charity is a "cop-out," he says: It takes dignity away from the poor."

[via: https://twitter.com/jonathanshainin/status/907983419413381120
via: https://twitter.com/camerontw/status/908176042182950914 ]

[from the responses to the tweet above:

"reminds me of kurt vonnegut on buying an envelope"
https://twitter.com/okay_dc/status/907991703184912386

"[When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore."

http://blog.garrytan.com/kurt-vonnegut-goes-to-buy-an-envelope-profund
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9299135 ]

[also from the responses:

"Excellent. Nicholas Carr http://www.roughtype.com/?p=4708 "
https://twitter.com/BrianSJ3/status/908022365128462337

"Pichai doesn’t seem able to comprehend that the essence, and the joy, of parenting may actually lie in all the small, trivial gestures that parents make on behalf of or in concert with their kids — like picking out a song to play in the car. Intimacy is redefined as inefficiency."
http://www.roughtype.com/?p=4708 ]

[Cf: "The automated island"
http://crapfutures.tumblr.com/post/161539196134/the-automated-island

"In his frankly curmudgeonly but still insightful essay ‘Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer’ (1987), Wendell Berry lays out his ‘standards for technological innovation’. There are nine points, and in the third point Berry states that the new device or system ‘should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better’ than the old one. This seems obvious and not too much to ask of a technology, but how well does the automated entrance at Ponta Gorda fulfill that claim?

Berry also has a point, the last in his list, about not replacing or disrupting ‘anything good that already exists’. This includes relationships between people. In other words, solve actual problems - rather than finding just any old place to put a piece of technology you want to sell. Even if the scanners at Ponta Gorda did work, how would eliminating the one human being who is employed to welcome visitors and answer questions improve the system? In Berry’s words, ‘what would be superseded would be not only something, but somebody’. The person who works there is a ‘good that already exists’, a human relationship that should be preserved, especially when her removal from a job would be bought at so little gain."]
2001  efficiency  capitalism  policy  politics  alangreenspan  edwardluttwak  freemarkets  humans  humanism  love  family  attachment  community  culture  canon  inefficiency  economics  slow  small  coreyrobin  charity  poverty  markets  welfarestate  dignity  normanpodhoretz  karlmarx  marxism  johngray  conservatism  thatcherism  ronaldreagan  elitism  kurtvonnegut  nicholascarr  parenting 
september 2017 by robertogreco
How U.S. News college rankings promote economic inequality on campus
"Once ladders of social mobility, universities increasingly reinforce existing wealth, fueling a backlash that helped elect Donald Trump."



"America’s universities are getting two report cards this year. The first, from the Equality of Opportunity Project, brought the shocking revelation that many top universities, including Princeton and Yale, admit more students from the top 1 percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent combined. The second, from U.S. News and World Report, is due on Tuesday — with Princeton and Yale among the contenders for the top spot in the annual rankings.

The two are related: A POLITICO review shows that the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings — a measure so closely followed in the academic world that some colleges have built them into strategic plans — create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants.

Those criteria often serve as unofficial guidelines for some colleges’ admission decisions and financial priorities, with a deeply ingrained assumption that the more a school spends — and the more elite its student body — the higher it climbs in the rankings. And that reinforces what many see as a dire situation in American higher education.

“We are creating a permanent underclass in America based on education — something we’ve never had before,” said Brit Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland system.

For instance, Southern Methodist University in Dallas conducted a billion-dollar fundraising drive devoted to many of the areas ranked by U.S. News, including spending more on faculty and recruiting students with higher SAT scores — and jumped in the rankings. Meanwhile, Georgia State University, which has become a national model for graduating more low- and moderate-income students, dropped 30 spots.

Among the factors in the U.S. News formula are:

—Students’ performance on standardized admissions tests, which correlate strongly with family income, more than high school grades, which have less of a correlation.

— Having a lower acceptance rate, which many colleges have sought to achieve by leaning more on early decision admissions; this hurts lower-income students who apply to more schools in order to compare financial aid packages.

— Performing well on surveys of high school guidance counselors from highly ranked high schools, while many high schools in less affluent areas have few or no counselors.

— Alumni giving, which creates incentives to appease alumni by accepting their kids.

Meanwhile, there is no measurement for the economic diversity of the student body, despite political pressure dating back to the Obama administration and a 2016 election that revealed rampant frustration over economic inequality. There is, however, growing evidence that elite universities have reinforced that inequality.

Recent studies have produced the most powerful statistical evidence in decades that higher education — once considered the ladder of economic mobility — is a prime source of rewarding established wealth. One report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation found that kids from the top quartile of income earners account for 72 percent of students at the nation’s most competitive schools, while those from the bottom quartile are just 3 percent. Fewer than 10 percent of those in the lowest quartile of income ever get a bachelor’s degree, research has shown.

The lack of economic diversity extends far beyond the Ivy League, and now includes scores of private and public universities, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project, which used tax data to study campus economic trends from 2000 to 2011, the most recent years available. For instance, the University of Michigan enrolls just 16 percent of its student body from the bottom 60 percent of earners. Nearly 10 percent of its students are from the top 1 percent."



"Alexander noted that a key to success in the rankings is paying higher faculty salaries and spending more per student overall, which drives up tuition in an era when sticker price has kept many low-income students from even applying to college.

Much of the score “is about spending the most amount of money on the fewest amount of students — and generally, students you already know are going to succeed,” Alexander said. “We’re spending more money on students who need it the least — and U.S. News gives you high marks for that. I call it ‘the greatest inefficiency ranking in America.’”

Carol Christ, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley — perennially near the top of the rankings — said the extent to which U.S. News motivates schools to pick wealthier students is “mind-boggling.”

“At a time when we should all be concerned about the financial efficiency of higher education, U.S. News rankings certainly don’t reward for that,” Christ said. “It’s so troubling to me.”

Kirwan cast the problem in simpler terms, saying that U.S. News creates the false impression that schools with the wealthiest students are, based on their criteria, the best.

“If some foreign power wanted to diminish higher education in America, they would have created the U.S. News and World Report rankings,” he said. “You need both more college graduates in the economy and you need many more low-income students getting the benefit of higher education — and U.S. News and World Report has metrics that work directly in opposition to accomplishing those two things that our nation so badly needs.”

An elitist equation

Higher education in America is a fiercely competitive enterprise. It’s a market-based system in which status is largely based on perception — a university’s prestige has an inordinate effect on who applies and how easily students are able to get jobs with lucrative employers. And the mark of prestige, in recent decades, has been a ratings system begun by the nation’s third-largest news magazine.

Mitchell Stevens, a Stanford University sociologist who has studied college admission practices, said the U.S. News rankings have evolved into nothing less than “the machinery that organizes and governs this competition.”

“They’re kind of a peculiar form of governance,” he said. “They’re not states, they’re not official regulators, they don’t have the backing of a government agency. But they effectively serve as the governance of higher education in this country because schools essentially use them to make sense of who they are relative to each other. And families use them basically as a guide to the higher education marketplace.”"
highered  highereducation  2017  usn&r  rankings  us  economics  inequality  elitism  colleges  universities  politics  donaldtrump  class  workingclass  benjaminwermund  testing  sat  act  admissions  grades  grading  socialmobility 
september 2017 by robertogreco
California Über Alles | Ann Friedman
"It’s tempting to interpret the waning economic prospects and cultural relevance of rural America as an inevitable consequence of casual bigotry. If these people were just a bit more forward-looking—more accepting of immigrants and gay people, more interested in new technology—then maybe people like me would stay put. And maybe those states would still be attracting employers. Maybe there would be TV shows and movies set there. Maybe they’d even be drawing in transplants rather than hemorrhaging the best and brightest of each generation. Oppressive state laws can drive people away; in several states, for example, major businesses have scuttled investment plans in response to anti-LGBT legislation. The Associated Press found that North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill, passed last year, will end up costing the state at least $3.76 billion over twelve years in canceled business.

Yet in the end, this vision of culture-wide economic payback for the politically backward interior is as much a fantasy as the notion that Trump can bring back manufacturing jobs. The real reason that jobs have disappeared from large swathes of the country has more to do with neoliberalism than with social issues. Broadly speaking, California is a winner in this system. Most other places in America are not.

The Golden State has long contained some of the richest zip codes in the country, but it’s increasingly becoming a state where only the wealthy can build a decent life for themselves. This is apparent in places like Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights, where my friend flies his rebel flag but rising housing prices are breaking up the Latino community that’s called the neighborhood home since the 1950s. Zoom out the lens, and you can see that it’s not just a local issue: since 2011, housing prices across the state have gone up 71 percent. That’s had real consequences. Between 2007 and 2014, more people left California than migrated here. Leading the exodus were people without college degrees—in other words, the same demographic that’s credited with delivering Trump a landslide victory in red states.

The hard truth about liberal secession fantasies is that California is not a place where progressive policies enable everyone to become successful. It’s a place to which people move to enjoy their success when they’ve beaten the odds elsewhere. As Kendrick Lamar reminded us, people come to California for “women, weed, and weather”—not decent wages, affordable education, and accessible health care.

Ruiz Evans’s case for secession rests on the claim that Californians’ “views on education, science, immigration, taxation and healthcare are different” from those prevailing in much of the rest of the country. This is certainly true when you look at polling on the issues. But when it comes to policies and outcomes, California’s unique values are less apparent. To take just the first example on Ruiz Evans’s list, California’s per-pupil spending on K-12 education has declined for years, falling well below the national average. In this realm, California is comparable to states like Florida and Texas—even though California also boasts some of the highest-performing high schools in the nation. This is not a sign of our more progressive views on education; it’s an indication that the state is deeply segregated along lines of race and class."



"The heartland isn’t monolithically conservative. My home state of Iowa split its Senate seats for decades, electing both a liberal member and a conservative one, and many of the midwestern states that delivered Trump the Electoral College have a similar history of mixed representation. Now that Trump is going to fail to deliver on his promises to improve the economic prospects of the people who voted for him in these states, the time is ripe for liberals to put forth an economic agenda that rests not on racial fearmongering but on guaranteed access to health care, fair wages, education, and affordable housing.

And as it turns out, these needs are every bit as acute in California as they are in Iowa. To move toward a true majoritarian liberal strategy means we must challenge more than a few ingrained narratives about American politics. It means rejecting the fallacy that California is a liberal utopia, a place where we coastal transplants can enjoy the moral high ground over our high school classmates who remained in our hometowns to raise their families. It also means dispensing with the opposite fallacy: that those who stayed behind have some sort of shopworn dignity that the rest of us lack.

And this is because, ultimately, division helps Trump advance his agenda. It keeps Republicans firmly in control of state legislatures and the House. So we must resist the urge to smugly turn our backs on the glum spectacle of the self-inflicted economic immolation of Trump country. We must keep it together. If you had a choice about where to build your life, you now have an obligation—not to move back to your beleaguered homeland, but to stay engaged with it. And if you hope to maintain any genuine sort of moral high ground in your adopted state, you have an obligation there, too: to work to make its policies align with your beliefs.

This is not, as Rich suggests, as simple as adopting Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip rhetorical style. Nor is it a question of luring venture capitalists to rural Ohio—where, in all likelihood, they would bring the same mounting inequality and diminished returns that have made Silicon Valley a fortress of paper wealth. It’s a matter of supporting candidates who share our values and have a track record of actually getting them enacted in policy. That’s a hard thing to prove when Democrats are not in power. But as I write these words, opinion polls show that Bernie Sanders is the most popular political leader in the country. Surely that suggests an opportunity to build on the best parts of his 2016 platform and to get behind other Democrats who are known for supporting such policies. There are several, like Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, who enjoy a cross-demographic appeal. The time is also ripe to capitalize on the fiasco of Trumpcare and place single-payer health reform back on the table. Similar opportunities will surely present themselves on other issues, from education reform to infrastructure investment, as the president fails to deliver on promises to his base. The trick will be to continue to frame these issues as nationwide problems that we all have a stake in solving.

Those of us who have the economic freedom to migrate to pursue better jobs and a broad range of economic opportunities are the ones who bear the greatest burden for bridging the country’s internal geopolitical divides. Believe me, I understand the temptation to separate yourself: it’s true that I am different from the people I grew up with who chose to stay in Iowa. Part of that difference is, now, an economic and cultural advantage. So I have a dual responsibility: to see that California actually makes good on its professed values, and to ensure that those values incorporate the rest of America. Refusing to rationalize elite neglect is the real rebellion."
california  politics  policy  economics  work  labor  inequality  annfriedman  2017  education  healthcare  segregation  progressivism  class  race  classism  racism  homeless  homelessness  housing  donaldtrump  division  us  secession  siliconvalley  democrats  highereducation  highered  property  proposition13  elitism  migration  freedom  values  exclusion  inclusion  inclusivity  berniesanders  sherrodbrown  elizabethwarren  singlepayer  livingwage  affordability 
june 2017 by robertogreco
What is NEOLIBERALISM? on Vimeo
"What is Neoliberalism? is a video by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, featuring interviews with Lisa Duggan, Miranda Joseph, Sealing Cheng, Elizabeth Bernstein, Dean Spade, Sandra K. Soto, Teresa Gowan, and Ana Amuchástegui. In the video, contributors describe the various meanings that have been attributed to the term “neoliberalism,” the neoliberal economic policies developed through the IMF and the World Bank, and the usefulness of “neoliberalism” as an organizing rubric for contemporary scholars and activists. Drawing from research on immigration policy, the prison-industrial complex, poverty management, and reproductive rights, they sketch some of neoliberalism’s intersections with gender, sexuality, race, class, and nation. Recorded Fall 2012.

What is Neoliberalism? was published in issue 11.1-11.2 of The Scholar & Feminist Online, “Gender, Justice, and Neoliberal Transformations.” See the entire issue at sfonline.barnard.edu/gender-justice-and-neoliberal-transformations for additional resources."

[Also here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kL4p3llmHk ]

[See also: http://sfonline.barnard.edu/gender-justice-and-neoliberal-transformations/what-is-neoliberalism/ ]
2012  neoliberalism  lisaduggan  mirandajoseph  sealingcheng  latinamerica  worldbank  imf  globalization  economics  politics  liberalism  elizabethbernstein  deanspade  sandrasoto  teresagowan  us  anaamuchástegui  gender  sexuality  capitalism  elitism  marxism  neo-marxism  neo-foucaultism  wendybrown  nicholasrose  culture  society  markets  statetransformation  carceralstate  massincarceration  welfarestate  wealthconcentration  labor  work  trade  freetrade  exploitation  justice  socialjustice  immigration  prisons  systemsthinking  welfare  moralism  violence  deathpenalty  capitalpunishment  power  control  poverty  discipline  sovereignty  foucault  michelfoucault 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Lana Del Raytheon🌹 on Twitter: "The Democrats: we keep losing even though the opposing party wants your family to die horribly because we love our major donors too much"
"The Democrats: we keep losing even though the opposing party wants your family to die horribly because we love our major donors too much

The Democrats: we squandered two years of complete power and totally failed poor people and immigrants but at least now we have drone murder

The Democrats: We like our voters engaged with politics like Americans like soccer—intensely, shallowly, and only every 4 years

The Democrats: We lost the easiest election ever because we love money, provincial power, and the existing capitalist system too damn much

The Democrats: We would rather you all die horribly *and* keep losing elections than lose our personal money/power
sick transit, gloria @samknight1
.@EvanMcS asks @NancyPelosi if single payer should be a Democratic Party platform in 2018.

"No," she says, without missing a beat

The Democrats: We will sell you all out if it means even just a fleeting amount of money and power from donors

David Sirota @davidsirota
EXPOSED: Dianne Feinstein held fundraiser with healthcare lobby firm days after slamming Sanders' single-payer bill http://www.ibtimes.com/political-capital/dianne-feinstein-takes-money-health-care-lobby-rejects-single-payer-insurance

The Democrats: We will claim credit for anything good even though we are too useless + craven to ever accomplish it
The New York Times @nytimes
Hillary Clinton has a new message for voters: Universal health care was her idea first http://nyti.ms/1UjcoFU
"
democrats  us  2017  elections  nancypelosi  healthcare  universalhealthcare  poer  elitism  change  politics  policy  corruption  democracy  poverty  immigration  capitalism  economics  money  influence  governance  diannefeinstein  california 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Richard Walker: The Golden State Adrift. New Left Review 66, November-December 2010.
"Since the apotheosis of the state’s favourite son Ronald Reagan, California has been at the forefront of the neoliberal turn in global capitalism. The story of its woes will sound familiar to observers across Europe, North America and Japan, suffering from the neoliberal era’s trademark features: financial frenzy, degraded public services, stagnant wages and deepening class and race inequality. But given its previous vanguard status, the Golden State should not be seen as just one more case of a general malaise. Its dire situation provides not only a sad commentary on the economic and political morass into which liberal democracies have sunk; it is a cautionary tale for what may lie ahead for the rest of the global North."



"California’s government is in profound disarray. The proximate cause is the worst fiscal crisis in the United States, echoing at a distance that of New York in the 1970s. Behind the budgetary mess is a political deadlock in which the majority no longer rules, the legislature no longer legislates, and offices are up for sale. At a deeper level, the breakdown stems from the long domination of politics by the moneyed elite and an ageing white minority unwilling to provide for the needs of a dramatically reconstituted populace.

The Golden State is now in permanent fiscal crisis. It has the largest budget in the country after the federal government—about $100 billion per year at its 2006 peak—and the largest budget deficit of any state: $35 billion in 2009–10 and $20 billion for 2010–11. The state’s shortfall accounts for one-fifth of the total $100 billion deficit of all fifty states. These fiscal woes are not new. They stem in large measure from the woefully inadequate and inequitable tax system, in which property is minimally taxed—at 1 per cent of cash value—and corporations bear a light burden: at most 10 per cent. Until the late 1970s, California had one of the most progressive tax systems in the country, but since then there has been a steady rollback of taxation. In the 1970s, it was one of the top four states in taxation and spending relative to income, whereas it is now in the middle of the pack.

The lynchpin of the anti-tax offensive is Proposition 13, passed by state-wide referendum in 1978, which capped local property taxes and required a two-thirds majority in the state legislature for all subsequent tax increases—a daunting barrier if there is organized opposition. Proposition 13 was the brainchild of Howard Jarvis, a lobbyist for the Los Angeles Apartment Owners’ Association. Support for it came not so much from voters in revolt against Big Government as from discontent with rising housing costs and property-tax assessments. But it was to prove a bridgehead for American neoliberalism, which triumphed two years later with Reagan’s ascent to the presidency."



"The fiscal crisis overlays a profound failure of politics and government in California. The origins of the stalemate lie in the decline of the legislative branch, which has popularity ratings even lower than Schwarzenegger’s. Led by Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh in the 1960s, California’s legislature was admired across the country for its professionalism. But by the 1980s, under Speaker Willie Brown, it had become largely a patronage system for the Democratic Party, which has controlled the state legislature continuously since 1959. Republicans went after Brown and the majority party by means of a ballot proposition imposing term limits on elected officials in 1990. Term limits neutered the legislature, taking away its collective knowledge, professional experience and most forceful voices, along with much of the staff vital to well-considered legislation. Sold as a way of limiting the influence of ‘special interests’, term limits have reinforced the grip of industry lobbyists over legislators."



"Efforts to jettison Proposition 13, such as that by the public-sector unions in 2004, have been stillborn because the Democratic Party leadership refuses to touch the ‘third rail’ of California politics. Most left-liberal commentators attribute this impasse to an anti-tax electorate and organized opposition from the right, but this does not square with the evidence. Electorally, the Democrats have easily dominated the state for the last four decades: both houses of the legislature, one or both us Senate seats, the majority of the House delegation, and the mayoralties of Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco; and, from Clinton onwards, every Democrat presidential candidate has carried the state by at least 10 per cent.

Rather than electoral vulnerability, it is the Democrats’ fundamental identification with the agenda of Silicon Valley, Hollywood and financiers—and dependence on money from these sources—that explains their unwillingness to touch the existing system."



"The victor, septuagenarian Democrat Jerry Brown, was governor of the state from 1975–83 and mayor of Oakland from 1999–2007; his most recent post was that of state Attorney General. Once a knight-errant of the liberal-left, it was his blunders in dealing with a budget surplus that paved the way for Proposition 13, and his harping on the theme of an ‘era of limits’ made him a rhetorical precursor to neoliberalism. In Oakland, his main contribution was to revivify the downtown area through massive condo development in the midst of the housing boom; he was also instrumental in pushing through charter schools. Brown’s low-key campaign kept its promises vague, but adhered to a broadly neoliberal agenda: pledging to cut public spending, trim the pensions of public employees, and put pressure on the unions to ‘compromise’. He has a fine nose for the political winds, but lacks any strong connection to a popular base."



"Yet whites have continued to dominate electoral politics, still making up two-thirds of the state’s regular voters. The majority of colour is vastly under-represented, because so many are non-citizens (60 per cent), underage (45 per cent) or not registered to vote. Turnout rates among California’s eligible Latinos are an abysmal 30 per cent, and the number of Latino representatives in city councils, the legislature and Congress remains far below what would be proportionate; Antonio Villaraigosa is the first Latino Mayor of Los Angeles since the 19th century. The fading white plurality continues to exert a disproportionate influence on the state. Markedly older, richer and more propertied, the white electorate has correspondingly conservative views: for many, immigrants are the problem, the Spanish language a threat, and law and order a rallying cry. Even the centrist white voter tends to view taxes as a burden, schools of little interest, and the collective future as someone else’s problem."



"The current economic and fiscal crises are just the latest symptoms of the slow decline of California’s postwar commonwealth. Here, as much as anywhere in the us, the golden age of American capitalism was built on a solid foundation of public investment and competent administration. Here, too, the steady advance of neoliberalism has undermined the public sector, and threatens to poison the wellsprings of entrepreneurial capitalism as well. This is especially apparent in the realm of education, from primary to university levels. The state’s once-great public-school system has been brought to its knees. Primary and secondary education (K–12: from kindergarten to twelfth grade) has fallen from the top of national rankings to the bottom by a range of measures, from test scores to dropout rates; the latter is currently at 25 per cent. There are many reasons for the slide, but the heart of the matter is penury—both of pupils and of the schools themselves, as economic inequalities and budget cuts bear down on California’s children."



"The upper middle class shield themselves by simply taking their children out of the public-school system and sending them to private institutions instead; previously rare, such withdrawals have now become commonplace—along with another alternative for the well-off, which is to move to prosperous, whiter suburbs where the tax base is richer. If public funds are insufficient, parents raise money amongst themselves for school endowments. In July of this year, a combination of civil-society groups launched a lawsuit over the injustice of school funding, hoping to produce a ‘son of Serrano’ ruling."



"California has been living off the accrued capital of the past. The New Deal and postwar eras left the state with an immense legacy of infrastructural investments. Schools and universities were a big part of this, along with the world’s most advanced freeway network, water-storage and transfer system, and park and wilderness complex. For the last thirty years, there has been too little tax revenue and too little investment. To keep things running, Sacramento has gone deeper and deeper into debt through a series of huge bond issues for prisons, parks and waterworks. By this sleight of hand, Californians have been fooled into thinking they could have both low taxes and high quality public infrastructure. The trick was repeated over and over, in a clear parallel to the nationwide accumulation of excessive mortgage debt. As a result, California now has the worst bond rating of any state."
richardwalker  california  via:javierarbona  2010  politics  policy  proposition13  inequality  education  schools  publicschools  highereducation  highered  government  termlimits  democrats  neoliberalism  liberalism  progressivism  elitism  nancypelosi  jerrybrown  ronaldreagan  race  demographics  history  1973  poverty  children  class  economics  society  technosolutionism  siliconvalley  finance  housingbubble  2008  greatrecession  taxes 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers. - The New York Times
"The glorification of leadership skills, especially in college admissions, has emptied leadership of its meaning."



"In 1934, a young woman named Sara Pollard applied to Vassar College. In those days, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and Sara’s father described her, truthfully, as “more a follower type than a leader.”

The school accepted Sara, explaining that it had enough leaders.

It’s hard to imagine this happening today. No father in his right mind (if the admissions office happened to ask him!) would admit that his child was a natural follower; few colleges would welcome one with open arms. Today we prize leadership skills above all, and nowhere more than in college admissions. As Penny Bach Evins, the head of St. Paul’s School for Girls, an independent school in Maryland, told me, “It seems as if higher ed is looking for alphas, but the doers and thinkers in our schools are not always in front leading.”

Harvard’s application informs students that its mission is “to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society.” Yale’s website advises applicants that it seeks “the leaders of their generation”; on Princeton’s site, “leadership activities” are first among equals on a list of characteristics for would-be students to showcase. Even Wesleyan, known for its artistic culture, was found by one study to evaluate applicants based on leadership potential.

If college admissions offices show us whom and what we value, then we seem to think that the ideal society is composed of Type A’s. This is perhaps unsurprising, even if these examples come from highly competitive institutions. It’s part of the American DNA to celebrate those who rise above the crowd. And in recent decades, the meteoric path to leadership of youthful garage- and dorm-dwellers, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, has made king of the hill status seem possible for every 19-year-old. So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It’s no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school.

Yet a well-functioning student body — not to mention polity — also needs followers. It needs team players. And it needs those who go their own way.

It needs leaders who are called to service rather than to status.

Admissions officers will tell you that their quest for tomorrow’s leaders is based on a desire for positive impact, to make the world a better place. I think they mean what they say.

But many students I’ve spoken with read “leadership skills” as a code for authority and dominance and define leaders as those who “can order other people around.” And according to one prominent Ivy League professor, those students aren’t wrong; leadership, as defined by the admissions process, too often “seems to be restricted to political or business power.” She says admissions officers fail to define leadership as “making advances in solving mathematical problems” or “being the best poet of the century.”

Whatever the colleges’ intentions, the pressure to lead now defines and constricts our children’s adolescence. One young woman told me about her childhood as a happy and enthusiastic reader, student and cellist — until freshman year of high school, when “college applications loomed on the horizon, and suddenly, my every activity was held up against the holy grail of ‘leadership,’ ” she recalled. “And everyone knew,” she added, “that it was not the smart people, not the creative people, not the thoughtful people or decent human beings that scored the application letters and the scholarships, but the leaders. It seemed no activity or accomplishment meant squat unless it was somehow connected to leadership.”

This young woman tried to overhaul her personality so she would be selected for a prestigious leadership role as a “freshman mentor.” She made the cut, but was later kicked out of the program because she wasn’t outgoing enough. At the time, she was devastated. But it turned out that she’d been set free to discover her true calling, science. She started working after school with her genetics teacher, another behind-the-scenes soul. She published her first scientific paper when she was 18, and won the highest scholarship her university has to offer, majoring in biomedical engineering and cello.

Our elite schools overemphasize leadership partly because they’re preparing students for the corporate world, and they assume that this is what businesses need. But a discipline in organizational psychology, called “followership,” is gaining in popularity. Robert Kelley, a professor of management and organizational behavior, defined the term in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article, in which he listed the qualities of a good follower, including being committed to “a purpose, principle or person outside themselves” and being “courageous, honest and credible.” It’s an idea that the military has long taught.

Recently, other business thinkers have taken up this mantle. Some focus on the “romance of leadership” theory, which causes us to inaccurately attribute all of an organization’s success and failure to its leader, ignoring its legions of followers. Adam Grant, who has written several books on what drives people to succeed, says that the most frequent question he gets from readers is how to contribute when they’re not in charge but have a suggestion and want to be heard. “These are not questions asked by leaders,” he told me. “They’re fundamental questions of followership.”

Team players are also crucial. My sons are avid soccer players, so I spend a lot of time watching the “beautiful game.” The thing that makes it beautiful is not leadership, though an excellent coach is essential. Nor is it the swoosh of the ball in the goal, though winning is noisily celebrated. It is instead the intricate ballet of patterns and passes, of each player anticipating the other’s strengths and needs, each shining for the brief instant that he has the ball before passing it to a teammate or losing it to an opponent.

We also rely as a society, much more deeply than we realize, on the soloists who forge their own paths. We see those figures in all kinds of pursuits: in the sciences; in sports like tennis, track and figure skating; and in the arts. Art and science are about many things that make life worth living, but they are not, at their core, about leadership. Helen Vendler, a professor of English at Harvard, published an essay in which she encouraged the university to attract more artists and not expect them “to become leaders.” Some of those students will become leaders in the arts, she wrote — conducting an orchestra, working to reinstate the arts in schools — “but one can’t quite picture Baudelaire pursuing public service.”

Perhaps the biggest disservice done by the outsize glorification of “leadership skills” is to the practice of leadership itself — it hollows it out, it empties it of meaning. It attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve. It teaches students to be a leader for the sake of being in charge, rather than in the name of a cause or idea they care about deeply. The difference between the two states of mind is profound. The latter belongs to transformative leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi; the former to — well, we’ve all seen examples of this kind of leadership lately.

If this seems idealistic, consider the status quo: students jockeying for leadership positions as résumé padders. “They all want to be president of 50 clubs,” a faculty adviser at a New Jersey school told me. “They don’t even know what they’re running for.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What if we said to college applicants that the qualities we’re looking for are not leadership skills, but excellence, passion and a desire to contribute beyond the self? This framework would encompass exceptional team captains and class presidents. But it wouldn’t make leadership the be-all and end-all.

What if we said to our would-be leaders, “Take this role only if you care desperately about the issue at hand”?

And what if we were honest with ourselves about what we value? If we’re looking for the students and citizens most likely to attain wealth and power, let’s admit it. Then we can have a frank debate about whether that is a good idea.

But if instead we seek a society of caring, creative and committed people, and leaders who feel called to service rather than to stature, then we need to do a better job of making that clear."
susancain  leadership  leaders  sfsh  followers  community  courage  honesty  purpose  2017  colleges  universities  admissions  canon  small  slow  helenvendler  arts  art  artists  followership  soccer  football  us  values  credibility  military  authority  power  dominance  ivyleague  admission  capitalism  politics  elitism  adamgrant  introverts  extroverts  allsorts  attention  edg  srg  care  caring  maintenance  futbol  sports 
april 2017 by robertogreco
[52] The Activist Collective You Need To Know About! - YouTube
"In the first part of this latest Redacted Tonight VIP, Lee Camp talks with author Alnoor, the Executive Director of The Rules. The Rules is a worldwide network of activists, artists, writers, farmers, peasants, students, workers, designers, hackers, spiritualists and dreamers. Inequality is no accident to this group, and they, through a variety of means and with a variety of people attempt to fix it are using unique organizing tactics in these day of increased political awareness. Lee Camp hilariously reports on the latest analysis by Chris Hedges in the second half of Redacted Tonight VIP. The system has revealed its flaws, but the elite are no longer trying to save it but just obsessed with saving themselves. How can we be cutting the fat when the current administration is loading up on expensive useless projects? This and more on Redacted Tonight VIP."
therules  leecamp  alnoorladha  activism  economics  latecapitalism  postcapitalism  capitalism  worldbank  neoliberalism  elitism  growth  environment  standingrock  socialjustice  resistance  ows  occupywallstreet  onepartyplanet  corporations  corporatism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
The revolt of the back row kids – Medium
"1. I earlier predicted Hillary would win in a landslide and I was wrong.

2. I predicted this despite spending the last year talking to voters all over the country and hearing from them nothing but anger.

3. Along with hearing anger, I have heard very little good said about Hillary Clinton. From anyone. Black or white.

4. I hear awful things about her, outright lies and nastiness, from many Trump voters. She is hated beyond anything.

5. I hear less awful things, but still bad, from Reagan Democrats who voted for Obama. They “just don’t like her.”

6. I hear from working class whites who love Bernie. Who will not vote for Hillary. “She is in Wall Streets hands.”

7. I spend an equal time in working class black neighborhoods, & they will vote for her. With little enthusiasm.

8. Many older blacks love Bill Clinton. And that is why they are voting for Hillary.

9. Is all of this anger and tepid support for Hillary just about sexism? Partly. But it is far more than that. She is viewed as aloof & calculating. As the establishment. As the elite. She represents the front row kids.

10. She is everything everyone dislikes about the front row kids. And this election is about everyone else throwing them out.

11. Bill Clinton was a back row kid at heart. That is what he came from. (Go visit his hometown. Really.)

12. Trump is what the back row (and middle rows) often love best. Someone from the front row who joins them.

13. Not only is Trump joining them, he is shooting spitballs at the kids in the front. Making them all mad!

14. And what does team Hillary do? Goes full front row on everyone, throwing scorn. “How dare you behave so awfully! Grow up! Bad kids!”

15. That is why “basket of deplorable” was so damaging. It is exactly how everyone who isn’t in the front row thinks the front row thinks about everyone else.

16. And the thing is, as someone who was in the front row for much of my life (Wall Street banker). It is exactly how many in the front row think!

17. Hillary and the front row kids can still easily win. But only if they become a little self aware and a little humble. Offer up real ideas and admit fault, rather than just dish out condescending scorn.

18. Judging from the dismissive yells of “Racist!” of, “They are stupid”, I hear daily from smart front row kids. Hillary, and her front row supporters, are in trouble.

PS: Here is a more mathematical description of the same thing: Why Trump voters are not “Completely idiots” [https://medium.com/@Chris_arnade/trump-politics-and-option-pricing-or-why-trump-voters-are-not-idiots-1e364a4ed940 ]

PSS: Feel free to yell at me on Twitter."

[See also (from 2 Feb 2017): https://twitter.com/chris_arnade/status/827161942452101122

1. The US right now is massively divided. The biggest division is race. Even after Obama. The next biggest division is education.

2. There are the Front Row Kids (Below is my summary of how I define that) [image]

3. There are the Back Row Kids (Again. My definition) [image]

4. These are two entirely different world views. They are two different realities. Neither understands each other! Both want power.

5. How we frame & see everything, especially politics, is function of what group we are in [https://medium.com/@Chris_arnade/divided-by-meaning-1ab510759ee7 ]

6. Politics is about each group wanting to run stuff. For last X yrs, until this election, Front Row kids & their world view has run stuff

7. Frustrated, with their world view devalued, back row kids figured their only option was to knock over the game. Break the system. Trump

8. Now the Front row kids are flippin out. Because their world view is being questioned, broken, and devalued.

9. Just like the Back Row kids spent last X years flippin out.

How each flips out is also a function of their world view.

10. Back row kids flip out by anger/exclusion. Embracing populist. Strength is key
Front row kids flip out by condescending. Casting scorn.

11. In both cases it is to deny validity as they define it. Back row says Front row is "Weak/unAmerican." Front row says Back row is "Dumb"

12. These competing world views & realities are only growing bigger, driven by those wanting to intentionally exploit them (Trump!)

But....

13. They are also getting bigger by folks just not understanding they have a worldview that is limiting & often selfish. On both sides!

14. Most people are just good people (on both sides!), and overwhelmed with the daily realities of THEIR world to focus beyond that.

15. They are immersed in their reality, and when another reality comes slamming in -- the natural reaction is to retreat further. Not talk

16. And this social media thing ain't helping at all.

I myself don't see things getting better. I only see further division & more storms

17. Last 6 yrs talking to voters has been uplifting/depressing. Uplifting because individually we are great. But collectively we are divided

18. I can only hope, and stay focused, on the basic decency of everyone I have met all over the US. And hope that wins out."]
via:lukeneff  chrisarnade  us  elections  2016  politics  donaldtrump  hillaryclinton  elitism  inequality  meritocracy  value  worth  communication  worldview  meaning  opposition  2017  division  frontrowkids  backrowkids  government  power  reality 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Who Gets to Be a Restaurant Critic? - Eater
"That, however, is just the trouble with standards: They don’t translate well across types of people, or the group divisions that help define those standards in the first place. The tension between haute cuisine and populism, a Times review and Yelp, is about competing ways of deciding what’s good — of whether chips should be fat and soft like in a chippy, or thin and crisp like bistro frites. But when the public discourse around food is so overwhelmingly dominated not just by highfalutin critics, but those who are often white, middle-income, and left-leaning, the assumed standards by which food is judged tend to reflect and replicate exactly those values. If critics these days seem to most value food which presents a vision, highlights the ingredients, or inventively mixes influences, it’s because those are the values of upwardly mobile, culturally omnivorous eaters who believe in conscious capitalism.

This is why the Chicken Connoisseur feels so pleasantly unusual. It checks off all the boxes for what modern food criticism looks like, self-reflexively paying attention to its own status as criticism, but instead of taking you to places with small plates, or omakase, takes you to chicken shops in Hackney or Tottenham or any number of other London areas that haven’t been entirely subsumed by gentrification. Those shops are, in a simple empirical sense, the kinds of places where millions of people eat, but that people concerned with food as signifier of cultural capital would rather ignore — perhaps because such places don’t represent change or novelty, the necessary fuel of the media, but also perhaps because the change they might stand for isn’t considered relevant. In putting a critical vocabulary people were already using into a polished, appealing YouTube show, however, Quashie ends up providing a model for what a food criticism that speaks to a broader, browner, less-wealthy audience might look like. It’s fast food, framed as a product of its place and time, by someone who is winning and funny in front of a camera, and who happens to be young and black. But Quashie also stands as a challenge to all kinds of institutional critics, urging them to grapple with — and take seriously — the things that a majority of people hold dear.

This is, I think, exactly as it should be. When literary criticism moved away from Leavis or the New Critics and started to dabble in feminism or postcolonialism, its emphasis wasn’t simply on the politics of how literature got created or the representation therein. It was also on aesthetics, so Woolf’s feminism wasn’t just in her message, but her prose. Cuisine’s import and relevance isn’t just in “what story a plating tells,” but our culturally loaded expectations about what food should be. Say what you will about four wings for around two dollars, but the demand that they be crispy and spicy is a standard, and one that people care about. At root, it’s a question of what the object and nature of criticism should be: a narrow slice of food that represents the bleeding edge and demands the language of a specialist, or a shifting set of criteria that tackle both the highbrow and the everyday without insisting one is more culturally significant than the other.

************

There is, at the dawn of 2017 — what feels like a decidedly new phase of history — something like a lesson there. In the aftermath of Brexit and Trump, there was a gnashing of teeth over the rise of populism as a transatlantic, if not global, phenomenon. But the attention paid to the gaping distance between the media and great swaths of the country was framed as either a problem to be solved using the same tools people have always deployed, or a thing to be dismissed because of ignorance or racism. When one also considers the boggling number of people who didn’t vote at all, perhaps this new era demands some sort of reckoning with what is popular, common, and reflects how the majority of people actually talk about food.

It is of course true that part of criticism’s function it to both engage in a dialectic with a craft, challenging it to do better, while also calling attention to broader, systemic issues. A food reviewer who only ever judged fried chicken joints without ever calling attention to factory farming or the environment would be in dereliction of their duty. And Quashie does at one point mention that a less-than-stellar wing from a chicken which “did not live a good life” tasted of sadness and suffering. But perhaps the first step is making room for a food criticism that speaks to people where they are, and like all criticism, through standards that they too value and understand.

At the end of Quashie’s first post-fame video, he acknowledges his sudden success — and then squints as an off-camera voice says “Chinese!” It turns out this fave, like any, is problematic. Still, it’s troubling to see talk of ethnic food that has been “elevated” by removing it from its context or, conversely, to see the food that most people eat derisively dismissed, and the Chicken Connoisseur is a rejoinder to both.

In episode 6 of The Pengest Munch — the one that first went viral and now has over 3.5 million views — Elijah Quashie mentions he chewed on a bone in a strip burger, then looks at the camera and says with a smirk, “Bossman: I don’t know wha gwan, but that can’t run. That can’t run fam.” You might also say the same of a food culture that ignores so much of the population, pretending that its own standards are somehow objective, while those of critics like Quashie are not simply arbitrary, but just wrong. If food criticism is to grapple with the populist present, that situation, it seems fair to say, fam, can’t run either."
navneetalang  culture  criticism  foodcritics  foodcriticism  food  2017  populism  elijahquashie  thepengestmunch  accessibility  elitism  everyday  standards  restaurants  howweeat 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Hating Comic Sans Is Ableist
"The line of thinking behind anti-Comic Sans movements is elitist, belittling, and condescending"



"There are fonts that have been specifically created for people with dyslexia, all of which lack the clean minimalism or elegant balance and perfect kerning favored by typography snobs. But they are crucial disability aids. Some are free, such as Lexie Readable (which calls itself “Comic Sans for grown-ups”), Open-Dyslexic, and Dyslexie. Others are for purchase or are publisher-owned and unavailable to the general public.

But for Jessica, Comic Sans is still the best. “I don’t use Open Dyslexic because it’s not as easy for me to read,” Jessica says. “It’s not my font. I was dyslexic before Open Dyslexic happened. My mind has been getting used to Comic Sans.”"
ableism  comicsans  laurenhudgins  2017  accessibility  elitism  condescension 
march 2017 by robertogreco