Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘change

Weekend Links! Catch Them All!

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oeb-3Americans first learn about slavery as children, before adults are willing to explain finance capital or rape. By high school, young adults are ready to hear about sexual violence as an element of slavery and about how owners valued their property, but there’s no level of developmental maturity that prepares someone to grasp systemized monstrosity on this scale. Forced labor we can understand—maybe it’s even a historical constant so far. Mass murder too. But an entire economy built on imprisoning and raping children? One that enslaved near 40 percent of the population? Even for the secular, only religious words seem to carry enough weight: unholy, abomination, evil.

Plan C: The top secret Cold War plan for martial law in the USA.

* The Huntington honors Octavia Butler. And from the archives! My writeup on the Butler papers at the Huntington.

* The first issue of the MOSF Journal of Science Fiction.

Feeding English Majors in the 21st Century.

Chicago State University in danger of closing: Alumni speak out.

* CFP: Fantasies of Contemporary Culture. Paradoxa 29: “Small Screen Fictions.” MUHuCon 2016. Feminist Review: Dystopias and Utopias.

* One of the major figures in science fiction studies, Rob Latham, has issued a statement regarding his shocking firing from UC Riverside.

* Melissa Click has now been suspended, after being charged with third degree assault.

A University Softens a Plan to Cut Tenured Faculty, but Professors Remain Wary.

Prominent Medieval Scholar’s Blog on ‘Feminist Fog’ Sparks an Uproar.

How startling, unique cuts have transformed Louisiana’s universities.

* A How-To.

Is It Discriminatory to Require Peer Review?

2.5 million men ‘have no close friends.’

* After capitalism.

Sanders and the Theory of Change: Radical Politics for Grown-Ups.

* Bernie Sanders and the Liberal Imagination.

How to pair wine with your favorite Girl Scout cookies.

How Intellectuals Create a Public.

Long Before Helping Flint, Michigan Officials Were Shipping Clean Water to Their Own Workers. Flint’s Bottom Line. What went wrong in Flint. Flint Residents Told That Their Children Could Be Taken Away If They Don’t Pay For City’s Poison Water. Report: ‘Every Major US City East of the Mississippi’ Is Underreporting Heavy Metals In Its Water. It’s everywhere. “Milwaukee taking steps to prevent lead from getting in water.”

* And elsewhere on the Milwaukee beat: FBI arrests suspect who allegedly wanted to cause mass terrorism in Milwaukee. MPS as “national disgrace.” ‘Back in time 60 years’: America’s most segregated city. Milwaukee leaders speak out against deadly rise in car thefts. Have I mentioned we’re hiring?

Chicago Police Hid Mics, Destroyed Dashcams To Block Audio, Records Show.

What Happened to Jane Mayer When She Wrote About the Koch Brothers.

* The Difference a Mutant Makes.

* See? It’s good that I’m like this.

AmazonWarnings* Suggested Amazon warning labels.

* Star Wars Social Networks.

* On the SNAFU Principle.

* Richard Feynman, “Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle.”

Rhode Island: Children Under 10 Shall Not Be Left Home Alone, Even Briefly.

Sea level rise from ocean warming underestimated, scientists say.

* History is melting.

* In praise of blizzards.

Climate dystopia is here: Zika virus prompts calls for women to stop having babies.

Why science-fiction writers find it so hard to discuss climate tech.

Racial harmony in a Marxist utopia: how the Soviet Union capitalised on US discrimination.

Linguists Analyze Every Disney Princess Movie, to Somewhat Depressing Results.

List of animals with fraudulent diplomas.

* Everything’s fine: Hillary’s team copied intel off top-secret server to email.

Constitutional Convention 2016.

* Today in Doctor Who fandom: The Season of River Song. And then there was Chibnall.

Fictional Games From Epic Fantasy Books. A People’s History of Board Games.

Instructor explained clearly that he’d hand out the rating sheets and then sit in his car while we completed them.

Here’s why we’re attracted to people of a similar height, scientists say.

Former NFL Player Tyler Sash Had CTE When He Died At Age 27.

* A dark, gritty Hanna-Barbera reboot.

Airbnb makes half its SF money with illegal listings.

Trailer with $70,000 worth of cheese stolen in Wisconsin. And that’s only the second-largest cheese heist in the state this week.

Nearly $50,000 In Bull Semen Stolen From Turlock Truck.

The final days of Al Jazeera America.

* Twilight of the sleazy professor.

* The end of Go.

* Dailyshowgnarok.

The FBI Claims Not to Have a File on David Bowie.

According to the trades and his pitch to investors, Ryan Kavanaugh had found film business formula that couldn’t lose. It could. Unraveling a Tinseltown Ponzi scheme.

69% of the alcohol sold in the UK is sold to “harmful,” “hazardous” or “increasing risk” drinkers, accounting for more than 60% of the industry’s revenues.

* A map of every city.

* The lost age of pinball.

* It’s finally happening.

Meet the Americans Who Moved to Europe and Went AWOL on Their Student Loans.

* And there is no politics — only LEGO.

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 29, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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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

Quote of the Day – 2

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[All] conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must always be painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.

—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Written by gerrycanavan

May 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Infinite Summer #6: Environmentalism, Consumerism, Addiction, Johnny Gentle (Famous Crooner), and the Politics of Hope

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On the question of irony—where I left off last time, and where Infinite Zombies’ Daryl Houston starts off in his latest post—it’s a little difficult for me to know exactly how to read this week’s section on the Reaganesque presidency of Johnny Gentle, Famous Crooner. The signposts for reading this section as a satire are all there, not just in Gentle’s OCD and Howard-Hughes-style obsession with cleanliness but also in the complete vacuity of C.U.S.P.’s political agenda—but it is difficult to tell whether the narrative’s apparent contempt for environmentalist thinking is an aspect of the satire or the motivation for it. Gentle’s political party, the Clean U.S. Party—an unlikely political coalition comprised of “ultra-right jingoist hunt-deer-with-automatic-weapons types and far-left macrobiotic Save-the-Ozone, -Rain-Forests, -Whales, -Spotted-Owel-and-High-pH-Waterways ponytailed granola-crunchers” whose first platform was organized around the ingenious plan “Let’s Shoot Our Wastes Into Space”—is organized around an anti-ecological version of supposed environmentalism that understands “American renewal” as “an essentially aesthetic affair” (382). This is, then, a fairly pitch-perfect satire of ecology as ideology, the empty apolitics of the sort “we can all agree to” that looks for consumer-friendly solutions to the environmental catastrophe caused by consumerism itself. This is our moment: “a dark time when all landfills got full and all grapes were raisins and sometimes in some places the falling rain clunked instead of splattered” (382).

I can think here of nothing so much as a DFW quote on addiction Daryl highlighted in his own post:

An activity is addictive if one’s relationship to is lies on that downward-sloping continuum between liking it a little too much and really needing it. Many addictions, from exercise to letter-writing, are pretty benign. But something is malignantly addictive if (1) it causes real problesm for the addict, and (2) it offers itself as a relief from the very problem it causes.

Consumerism, I think, clearly qualifies, as Wallace shows throughout this section.

In IJ, it’s our malignant addiction to a consumer lifestyle that leads to Gentle’s experialist mandate, the outsourcing of environmental costs to Indian reservations and our partner “enemy-allies” (385) in O.N.A.N. It’s this malignant addiction that leads us to build wasteful and inefficient fusion reactors even though they have the “generating-massive-amounts-of-high-R-waste part down a lot more pat than the “consuming-the-waste-in-a-nuclear-process-whose-own-waste-was-the-fuel-for-the-first-waste-intensive-phase-of-the-circle-of-reactions part” (1029n150).

In the end it leads even to the forcible gifting of most of New England to Canada as the Great Concavity/Convexity, hollowed out and glass-walled with giant fans blowing our toxic air northward (385). There’s a fair critique of NIMBYism here, as well as the perpetually empty promise of near-future technological millennialism that has been so deftly exploited by the partisan right-wing and their corporate allies to preempt all environmentalist reforms over the decades. There’s a critique of the politics of Othering, too, the need for “some people beside each other of us to blame” (384) and the national ennui that apparently comes from a post-Soviet, post-Jihad era with no “Foreign Menace” to distract us from the problems of our own making (382). (What, we skipped China?) And there’s, yes, a critique of the left-wing, more-eco-than-thou granola set in (among other things) Gentle’s addictive obsessive-compulsive cleaniness and C.U.S.P.’s easy consumerist ethos, though frankly this critique seems much more of the strawman variety than most of Wallace’s jokes.

But is this scattershot, unstable irony all there is here? A pox on everybody’s house? Is there any place for the reader of Infinite Jest to imagine a non-hypocritical, anti-consumerist politics? Do we really have no stable interpretive ground on which to stand? History seems in this novel to have somehow calcified into an inevitable trajectory of decadent disposability, and the only suggested response for the educated observer of these trends seems accordingly to be a bitter, smug withdrawal. I want to see DFW as getting past mere smugness into something more viable, but he doesn’t make it easy. The only way out of this trap of hopeless cynicism that I can see so far lies in the unstable irony inherent in the novel’s own presentation, its cartoonish and over-the-top hyperbole. Here, it’s the fact that all this information is literally being conveyed to us through the well-respected and politically responsible medium of video puppet show, organized around Mario and his father’s penchant for the “parodic device of mixing real and fake news-summary cartridges, magazine articles, and historical headers” (391). But I’m not sure irony alone is enough to get us out of smugness—I’m just not sure yet if the novel gives us much hope for escape from the surreal banality of turn-of-the-millennium American life, hope for something after or beyond consumer culture. We’ve already seen in IJ the transcendental existential threat of the Entertainment, which clogs entirely our ability to want anything besides it. Elsewhere, as with Gately, we see that addictions can in fact be broken, that renewal is difficult but still possible—but where is that hope here?

The use of the phrase “years right around the millennium” in the same footnote I cited above contains, I think, an important ambiguity for all this—from what point in the future, and from what cultural assumptions, are we to understand this book actually being composed? Is it a moment where this sort of perpetual-motion fusion suddenly somehow works—a time in which the miracle works? A moment in which the Entertainment, or something like it, has destroyed the culture entirely? Or, perhaps, a moment that is not “a terrible U.S. time for waste” for other, more politically hopeful reasons—a moment where, beyond belief, we have somehow managed to change?

Can addictions only be beaten when they originate in an individual’s excess? When an addiction is communal—when it is ideological and so totally normalized—what is our prescription for hope?

Change You Can Believe In?

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 7, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Happy Updates

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With cheers and chants that echoed President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign of change, jubilant workers agreed to a $1.75 million settlement that ends their six-day occupation of a shuttered Chicago factory that became a symbol of the plight of labor nationwide.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 11, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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HRC, SOS

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My very first use of the “Barack Obama” tag was on August 30, 2007, when I wrote of some now-vanished article concerning some saber-rattling HRC comments on Iran:

Hillary Clinton, working as hard as ever to make it impossible to support the Democrats in 2008.

A few months later, in December, I was more explicit:

God save us from the Clintons.

So you can imagine how happy I am to see Hillary Clinton apparently being offered, and accepting, Secretary of State.

I see the logic of it, accept the political wisdom of it, but good lord, this is not what I had in mind.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 18, 2008 at 1:23 am