Daily Archive: 11/25/2013

Nov 25 2013

“Machinery of Social and Civil Death”

Author and scholar, Henry Giroux joined Bill Moyer, to discuss his book Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism which describes how [our current system is informed by a “machinery of social and civil death” that chills “any vestige of a robust democracy.”

Giroux explains that such a machine turns “people who are basically so caught up with surviving that they become like the walking dead – they lose their sense of agency, they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.”

What’s more, Giroux points out, the system that creates this vacuum has little to do with expanding the meaning and the substance of democracy itself. Under “casino capitalism,” the goal is to get a quick return, taking advantage of a kind of logic in which the only thing that drives us is to put as much money as we can into a slot machine and hope we walk out with our wallets overflowing.

Henry Giroux on Zombie Politics



The full transcript can be read here

Henry Giroux: Well, for me democracy is too important to allow it to be undermined in a way in which every vital institution that matters from the political process to the schools to the inequalities that, to the money being put into politics, I mean, all those things that make a democracy viable are in crisis.

And the problem is the crisis, while we recognize in many ways is associated increasingly with the economic system, what we haven’t gotten yet is that it should be accompanied by a crisis of ideas, that the stories that are being told about democracy are really about the swindle of fulfillment.

The swindle of fulfillment in that what the reigning elite in all of their diversity now tell the American people if not the rest of the world is that democracy is an excess. It doesn’t really matter anymore, that we don’t need social provisions, we don’t need the welfare state, that the survival of the fittest is all that matters, that in fact society should mimic those values in ways that suggest a new narrative.

I mean you have a consolidation of power that is so overwhelming, not just in its ability to control resources and drive the economy and redistribute wealth upward, but basically to provide the most fraudulent definition of what a democracy should be.

I mean, the notion that profit making is the essence of democracy, the notion that economics is divorced from ethics, the notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism, the notion that the welfare state is a pathology, that any form of dependency basically is disreputable and needs to be attacked, I mean, this is a vicious set of assumptions.

Bill Moyers: Are we close to equating democracy with capitalism?

Henry Giroux: Oh, I mean, I think that’s the biggest lie of all actually. The biggest lie of all is that capitalism is democracy. We have no way of understanding democracy outside of the market, just as we have no understanding of how to understand freedom outside of market values.

Nov 25 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Kofi Anan: Climate Crisis: Who Will Act?

Geneva – The last-minute deal at the United Nations Climate Conference in Warsaw keeps hopes for a comprehensive successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto protocol alive. But let us be clear: Much more decisive action will be needed if we are to stand any chance at fending off the dangers of climate change.

We now have just one more shot, next year in Peru, to make more substantive progress toward a successor agreement before the crucial 2015 Paris conference. Even before then, it will be crucial for governments to put aside narrow national interests in order to ensure that the pledges made at the 2009 Copenhagen conference – to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to pre-industrial levels – are met.

Paul Krugman: California, Here We Come?

It goes without saying that the rollout of Obamacare was an epic disaster. But what kind of disaster was it? Was it a failure of management, messing up the initial implementation of a fundamentally sound policy? Or was it a demonstration that the Affordable Care Act is inherently unworkable?

We know what each side of the partisan divide wants you to believe. The Obama administration is telling the public that everything will eventually be fixed, and urging Congressional Democrats to keep their nerve. Republicans, on the other hand, are declaring the program an irredeemable failure, which must be scrapped and replaced with … well, they don’t really want to replace it with anything.

At a time like this, you really want a controlled experiment. What would happen if we unveiled a program that looked like Obamacare, in a place that looked like America, but with competent project management that produced a working website?

Well, your wish is granted. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you California.

Jared Bernstein: Will Things Economic Soon Be Looking Up?! Sorry, I Don’t See It…

Hmmm… you’ve got Bernanke saying the U.S. economy is getting better and, as per incoming data, the Fed will at some point slowly start to pull back support. And you’ve got the OECD doing what all forecasters do these days: marking down their estimates for future growth and warning of various headwinds.

Meanwhile, mixed in with all this near-term analysis, many in my world are mulling over Larry Summers’ warning that whatever the cycle is doing, the underlying problem is one of structural slog.

What does it all mean? With the mild caveat that no one knows, I’ll take a stab.

Paul Rieckhoff: Broken Senate Delays Military Sexual Assault Reform

Senate gridlock and dysfunction has reared its ugly head again — and this time it’s survivors of military sexual assault who will pay the price.

There is an unclear path forward for the critical Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), legislation that would support survivors of military sexual assault and strengthen our military. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is stalled in the U.S. Senate. After parliamentary tricks, the Senate left for its Thanksgiving vacation Thursday night after Senate leaders failed to reach an agreement to move forward with the defense bill, a vehicle for the MJIA.

So far, 53 senators have signed on to support the Military Justice Improvement Act. It’s a group of Senators that rarely join together. How often do you see Senators Rand Paul and Al Franken supporting the same bill? Or Senators Ted Cruz and Senator Dick Durbin? The historic nature of this bi-partisan coalition underscores the growing momentum for the change we need in the military justice system.

Robert Kuttner: Filibuster Reform: The Stakes for 2014

The Senate Democrats’ lond-deferred success in reforming the filibuster rule for executive branch and judicial appointments will have reverberations that are only gradually being appreciated. Not only will 76 long-blocked appointments — a record — now go forward in short order. Obama, if he chooses, will be able to appoint more robust progressives.

In the past, especially on court appointments, prospective Obama nominees were pre-cleared with Republicans to make confirmation more likely. The result of this White House strategy was not only to slow the process of nominations but to place a premium in coming up with centrists rather than liberals. [..]

Filibuster reform has restored a measure of democracy to the Senate. To make that reform durable and meaningful, it’s necessary to restore democracy to the process of exercising the even more fundamental right to vote.

Nov 25 2013

On This Day In History November 25

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 25 is the 329th day of the year (330th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 36 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1999, The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution designating November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The resolution, which was introduced by the Dominican Republic, marked the anniversary of the death of three sisters, Maria, Teresa, and Minerva Mirabel, who were brutally murdered there in 1960. While women in Latin America and the Caribbean had honored the day since 1981, all UN countries did not formally recognize it until 1999.

Many organizations, including the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), had been pushing for international recognition of the date for some time.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

The Mirabal sisters were four Dominican political dissidents who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Three of the sisters were assassinated by persons unknown.

Patria Mercedes Mirabal (February 27, 1924 – November 25, 1960), Belgica Adela “Dede” Mirabal-Reyes (March 1, 1925 – present), Maria Argentina Minerva Mirabal (March 12, 1926 – November 25, 1960) and Antonia Maria Teresa Mirabal (October 15, 1935 – November 25, 1960) were citizens of the Dominican Republic who fervently opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Dede Mirabal was not assassinated and has lived to tell the stories of the death of her sisters. Presently, she lives in Salcedo, Dominican Republic in the house where the sisters were born. She works to preserve her sisters’ memory through the Museo Hermanas Mirabal which is also located in Salcedo and was home to the women for the final ten months of their lives. She published a book Vivas en El Jardin, released on August 25, 2009.

The Mirabal women grew up in an upper class, well-cultured environment. Their father was a successful businessman. All became married family women. When Trujillo came to power, their family lost almost all its fortune. They believed that Trujillo would send their country into economic chaos. Minerva became particularly passionate about ending the dictatorship of Trujillo after talking extensively with an uncle of hers. Influenced by her uncle, Minerva became more involved in the anti-Trujillo movement. She studied law and became a lawyer, but because she declined Trujillo’s romantic advances, he ordered that while she would be issued a degree she was not to receive her practitioner’s license. Her sisters followed suit, and they eventually formed a group of opponents to the Trujillo regime, known as the Movement of the Fourteenth of June. Within that group, they were known as “The Butterflies” (Las Mariposas in Spanish) because that was the underground name that Minerva was given. Two of the sisters, Maria Argentina Minerva Mirabal and Antonia Maria Teresa Mirabal, were incarcerated and tortured on several occasions. While in prison they were repeatedly raped. Three of the sisters’ husbands were incarcerated at La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo.

Despite these setbacks, they persisted in fighting to end Trujillo’s leadership. After the sisters’ numerous imprisonments, Trujillo was blamed for their murders, but this is now being questioned. During an interview after Trujillo’s assasination, General Pupo Roman claimed to have personal knowledge that they were killed by Luis Amiama Tio, perhaps to create a rise in anti-Trujillo sentiment. On November 25, 1960, he sent men to intercept the three women after they visited their husbands in prison. The unarmed sisters were led into a sugar cane field and executed, they didn’t even have the luxury of being shot, instead they were beaten to death, along with their driver, Rufino de la Cruz. Their car was later thrown off of a mountain known as La Cumbre, between the cities of Santiago and Puerto Plata, in order to make their deaths look like an accident.

This day also marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence. The end of the 16 Days is December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Nov 25 2013

Sunday Train: Trains & Buses Should Be Friends

The Salt Lake Tribune adopts the familiar mode-warrior framing in comparing rail and upgraded buses, typically called “BRT” for “Bus Rapid Transit”:

The Utah Transit Authority figures the many new rail lines it opened in the last three years attracted $7 billion to $10 billion worth of new development near stations as a side benefit to improving transportation. Since it spent $2.4 billion on those lines, it sounds like a good return on investment.

But a new study says governments get even more bang for their buck in revitalizing areas if they instead build “bus rapid transit” (BRT) systems. While far cheaper to construct, they attract just as much development.

… which elicits a measured response from the UTA:

The UTA says there is no need for buyer’s remorse for its new TRAX, FrontRunner and streetcar projects – because they do more than revamp areas. But UTA adds that BRT is a focus of its future plans. It is sort of a TRAX on rubber wheels where buses have exclusive lanes, passengers buy tickets from vending machines before boarding on platforms, and buses have priority at intersections.

The “odds and sods” system in the US for funding transit improvements encourages this type of mode-warrior framing … which mode delivers more:

  • … bang for the buck
  • … diversion of motorists to transit
  • … Greenhouse Gas Emissions reduction
  • … development impact
  • … reduction in the annual slaughter of Americans by motorists
  • … amenity to the rider
  • … farebox revenue
  • … (and etcetera and etcetera) …

And that framing for studies like the one that the Institute for Transport and Development Policy is presently promoting, claiming that BRT delivers 31x the bang for the buck that rail does.