Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘another world is possible

Thursday Links, Just for You

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tumblr_nz7vbeDGSf1tjrwu3o9_r1_5408 Characters I Created To Teach My Kid About Dental Hygiene That Have Unfortunately Come To Life.

* There’s organized crime, and then there’s organized crime.

Now, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.

It’s called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month.

Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.

This is literally highway robbery.

In Rochester, a paid informant went undercover and drove a man suspected of being an Islamic extremist, Emanuel Lutchman, to a Walmart in December to buy a machete, ski masks, zip ties and other supplies for a would-be terrorist attack on New Year’s Eve. Because Mr. Lutchman, a mentally ill panhandler, had no money, the informant covered the $40 cost.

* Even The National Review thinks Cuomo’s anti-BDS executive order is trouble.

Having a child is like rereading your own childhood.

On Eve of Graduation, University of Chicago Student President Faces Expulsion.

Inside the growing movement against campus militarization.

* Five eye-opening figures from the U.S. Education Department’s latest civil rights data dump.

1. In the 2013-2014 school year, 6.5 million children were chronically absent from school, missing 15 or more days of school.

2. 850,000 high school students didn’t have access to a school counselor.

3. 1.6 million students went to a school that employed a sworn law-enforcement officer, but no counselor.

4. Nearly 800,000 students were enrolled in schools where more than 20 percent of teachers hadn’t met state licensure requirements.

5. Racial disparities in suspensions reach all the way down into preschool: Black children represent 19 percent of all preschoolers, and 47 percent of all those who were suspended.

Everyone has celebrated how Beyoncé’s celebrity power has elevated Warsan Shire’s work to global attention. But African literature should not only attain universal value when endorsed by the west, argues Ainehi Edoro.

Dry Taps and Lagoons of Sewage: What America’s Water Crisis Looks Like.

* OrderOfBooks.com: Complete List of All Book Series in Order.

Talk grows of replacing Trump at GOP convention. Talk of a convention coup rattles Republican politics. Walker Agonistes. Advisors Fear Trump Will Suddenly Announce VP Pick on Twitter. Google GOP Dot Com Truth. Trump is really bad at this. Calm Down, Trump Won’t Be President. Trump and Weimar America. “For what it’s worth, however, I would suggest that the least bad option is for all career lawyers in the Justice Department—and career officials in other agencies—to stay put and serve in a Trump administration.”

* The Anointed One, or the Comeback Kid? It’s time to admit Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily talented politician. Here Comes Hillary the Hawk.

The 11 states that will determine the 2016 election.

The general problem is that the modern liberal nation-state and its characteristic institutions are simply no longer capable of delivering on their baseline promises and possibilities to any national population anywhere. Even in nations that appear by most measures to be successful, the state withers due its lack of vision. Liberalism cannot handle the extension of its rights to all who are entitled, and its major alleged champions increasingly endorse depraved forms of military and economic illiberalism in the name of its defense. The brief moment of reform in which capital seemed to be harnessed to social democracy is very nearly over, and the difference between illicit and licit economies now seems paper-thin at best. Very little policy gets made because it’s the right thing to do; most policy is about transfer-seeking. Every dollar is spoken for. Every play is a scrum in the middle that moves the ball inches, never yards. Political elites around the world either speak in laughably dishonest ways about hope and aspiration or stick to grey, cramped horizons of plausibly incremental managerialism. Young people all around the world recognize that there is little hope of living in a better or more comfortable or more just world than their parents did, and their grandparents must often live every day with the possibility of losing whatever they’ve gained, that they are one lost job or sickness away from falling without a safety net. In the United States, what this all means in a more immediate sense is that Donald J. Trump is only the beginning.

* Alas, Bernie!

Welcome to the Party, America! 11 Muslim women who have been PM or President.

Here are the proposed names for the 4 newest elements on the periodic table.

There are some constraints to naming, however. The IUPAC rules stipulate new elements must be named after either

* “A mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object)”
* “A mineral, or similar substance”
* “A place or geographical region”
* “A property of the element”
* “A scientist”

Scientists Avoid Studying Women’s Bodies Because They Get Periods.

What everyone earns working on a $200m blockbuster.

* A new study produced by Cambridge University statistician David Spiegelhalter suggests the cause of declining sex trends over the past 30 years is Netflix.

What Happened to ‘The Most Liberated Woman in America’?

* Being Dinosaur Comics’s Ryan North.

Snow Crash and Infinite Jest Both Predicted Our Cyberpunk Present.

* Fighting salary compression at the University of Washington. This is such a tough problem everywhere; the situation sounds much worse on every level at Marquette, for instance, than even what the article describes at Washington.

For more than 20 years, actors and crew members stayed silent about mistreatment they suffered at the acclaimed Profiles Theatre. Now they’re speaking up, hoping to protect workers in non-Equity theaters across the country.

* Do Deaf Babies Need to be ‘Fixed’? I’ve found this debate utterly fascinating for years. I have no idea how to solve it.

* From Cleveland: Testing of backlogged rape kits yields new insights into rapists and major implications for how sexual assaults should be investigated.

* Behind Peter Thiel’s Plan to Destroy Gawker.

* Navigating WisCon.

* Of course you had me at “Biologists Have Learned Something Horrifying About Prairie Dogs.”

* Ours is a vale of tears.

* Star Wars stained glass.

And this could be the biggest case of treason involving cheese — ever.

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Let’s Just Start Over; Abolish the Constitution

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I went off on a bit of a tear this morning on Twitter and wanted to put it into a slightly more coherent form before I went about my day: my suggestion is that liberals, progressives, and liberal-leftists should look at the results of the last six years and conclude that there is simply no hope for significant reform within the existing constitutional order.

I’ve been saying this for years now, but here it is again: Obama swept into office at the head of a mass movement with a congressional supermajority during the worst crisis in 70 years, with the opposition party totally and absolutely discredited. That was the chance, the only chance, that the existing system had to reform, and he either blew it or betrayed it, however you come down on him. There’s no reason to think there will ever be another 2008 for the liberal-left. It’s over. The only hope now is a radical shift in the constitutional order, which can be achieved by calling for a new constitutional convention as prescribed within the existing constitution. It’s a legal move; it’s just never been tried.

Now, we know that the existing order is on course to destroy civilization within our lifetimes or the lifetimes of our children; we have to weigh any possible outcomes against that. But even bracketing climate change entirely, we have to understand that progressive and leftist economic policy can’t win within the existing order because it’s rigged for paralysis. A constitutional order with this level of malapportionment and this many chokepoints inevitably favors the political right. Even the best-case, most generous reading of Obama’s colossal failures demonstrates this to be true.

A new constitution would be a gamble, but it’s a gamble we take against a certainty of failure; recall that Clinton ’16, Clinton ’20, ClintonVP ’24 is the mainline Democrats’ most optimistic scenario, the one where they hit gold every time and never miss. And there’s good reason to think a new constitution literally couldn’t be worse than what we have now. A new constitution couldn’t get away with shortchanging CA and NY 14 senators, just for starters, much less any of the other crazy stuff that seems normal to us now; there’d be no way to justify it. Even a new constitutional convention that failed and saw the country break up into a loose confederation or into smaller states would be, on balance, an improvement for the world. With the experience of 2008-2014 — not to mention every other thing that’s happened in American politics on either the state or federal level for as long as I’ve been alive — it’s hard to see how a new system could possibly be worse for progressive hopes that the current system, which at this point we have to accept is guaranteed to always steamroll us.

A movement for a new constitution that took ten years to get off the ground would be catching fire at the end of Clinton’s second term, maybe; one that took fifteen years to get off the ground would hit just as whoever follows Clinton was taking office post-reelection. Do you honestly think politics in fifteen years will be better than it is now? Will the system be more just, more peaceful, more ecologically sustainable? Do you think we’ll be glad then that we stuck with the existing system, so Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo and Jay Nixon can save us?

In short my recommendation to the liberal-left and to progressives is to simply stop caring so much about whether Democrats win or lose and to devote themselves instead to advocating that we just start over, aligning with whatever savory and unsavory characters on the right we can get to sign on to the plan so that the convention happens and things at least have some chance to improve things before capitalism has fully and finally destroyed all hope for the future. At this point it’s not even really a gamble; there’s nothing left to lose, we’ve all already lost.

#teachthecontroversy #readyforHillary #despair #nihilism #breadsticks

Guiltpiercer

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I wanted to Storify my back-and-forth with my friend Aaron Bady (and a few other people, but mostly him) on the question of guilt and complicity in liberal politics, which was prompted by his Texas Stands With Gaza post and ultimately looped around, as all things must, to Snowpiercer.

Aaron is right that I’m using Snowpiercer (along with Pacific Rim, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and some other recent Anthropocene science fictions) in a piece of academic writing I’m working on, so I’ll hold off on doing a full reading of the film here for now. But I think the film actually figures this debate we’re having in a pretty direct way. The people on the train are all “guilty” and “complicit” with the Snowpiercer system, albeit in different ways and to different degrees; like any necropolitical survivor, they are all alive while/because someone else has died. Even on the level of character development, much of the movement of the film is directed towards making Chris Evans’s character Curtis feel as though he is worthy of great things despite the guilt he carries with him; characters frequently say this to him explicitly, even, most notably, the character he once tried to eat as a baby and who he later abandons in the name of the larger mission! In fact this guilt, in properly liberal terms, is indistinguishable from his worthiness to lead, with the final act of the film culminating in Curtis being offered the position of the Wizard of Snowpiercer. The Curtis plot in the film is more or less a familiar liberal drama about coming to terms with your own guilty complicity in the system, a process which as if by baptismal magic thereby makes you worthy to run the whole thing as if you’d never been guilty or complicit in the first place.

Aaron’s reading on the film insists that this is the only trajectory open to us, even as he repeatedly turns to Kang-ho Song’s Namgoong as the voice of alterity, rejecting his plan as nonviable. Namgoong knows the train is a horror and knows the train is doomed by its own entropic breakdown, rejects guilt or complicity as a frame, and instead works to blow open the doors and escape. (And this is the position Curtis ultimately settles into as well, having finally hit an encounter of guilt which he can’t autoredeem his way out of in the form of the children in the engine.) Here then we see one version of the Canavan position: guilt is a way of becoming re-trapped, linked back into the atrocity engine, while refusing to identify with the system and its terms opens up the horizon of the future. Neither Namgoong nor Curtis survive the derailment of the train (“there is hope, infinite hope, but not for us”), but their protégés do, and in the final shot of the film see a live polar bear moving outside the train, indicating that life of some kind persists outside the train and that therefore there is something like hope after all.

Now, Aaron rejects all of this — “it’s too cold out there! they have no skills or supplies! that polar bear will probably just eat them!” — and of course he’s right to do so on the level of cold realism; like most such apocalyptic scenarios, the situation is too far gone to allow any sort of genuine renewal. (I always think of the way the Matrix sequels had to confront this, ultimately having the heroic rebels make a truce with the monsters they were supposed to slay because the world is too far gone to actually free anyone anymore.) But this is where Aaron’s flattening of Jameson’s theory of utopia hurts him a bit — because the kernel of the Jamesonian reading of the film is not to imagine it as a practical alternative to the present so much as to figure the ongoing exist alternative in an era that, at every turn, loudly insists there isn’t one.

For it is the very principle of the radical break as such, its possibility, which is reinforced by the Utopian form, which insists that its radical difference is possible and that a break is necessary. The Utopian form itself is the answer to the universal ideological conviction that no alternative is possible, that there is no alternative to the system. But it asserts this by forcing us to think the break itself, and not by offering a more traditional picture of what things will be like after the break. (Archaeologies 232)

Snowpiercer, it seems to me, is pretty plainly about this effort of the imagination; neither the setup nor the climax is really amenable to any sort of realistic analysis about the practicalities of the situation. It’s preposterous from start to finish. The point of the film is to disrupt our guilty comfort and our comforting guilt about a system we all know is terrible (“those crooked fuckers”) but think we can’t oppose, only picket and sigh about and be more beautiful than (“oh, we guilty sinners, oh this fallen world”). So of course the film is an allegory after all; what it figures isn’t the actual situation of capitalism but the hopeless prospects for people who can’t see any way to stop the train, other than a crash, and who perhaps for that very reason have come to believe they’re the ones who are driving it.

Another World Is Possible

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Look for the helpers.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Anecdote of the Day

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In the Spring of 2000, my friend and former colleague Zack Exley arrived in Washington, DC, to observe the protests that had engulfed the city during the World Bank’s annual meeting. Driving into Washington from the airport, out the window of his taxi he saw “a teenage white girl with long dreadlocks who wore a homemade t-shirt proclaiming: WE NEED A NEW SYSTEM.”

Later that evening he attended a party at the home of then-Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers along with “ambassadors, politicians, esteemed professors and what seemed like the entire combined senior economist staff of the IMF, World Bank and Treasury.”

It turned out Larry Summers had seen the girl too and was eagerly telling his guests about an interaction he had with her:

And so I asked the girl: ‘What is this new system that you want? Tell me about it!’ And the girl had nothing. Nothing! She had no fucking clue what this magical new system was supposed to be. No one is saying that there aren’t problems with the world economy the way it is today. But these kids out there — they don’t know what they want!

“Mr. Secretary,” said Zack. “You’ve got 50 economics PhDs in this room who pretty much run the world economy. And you’re asking that girl for a better system? Aren’t the solutions your job? You admit billions are living in hell, but it’s up to that girl to fix it?”

Summers chuckled and the conversation moved on. Via @tomtomorrow.