His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming

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

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

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

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

Sun 11 Mar 2018

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

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

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

We inherited a planet of beauty and wonders – and we’re saying goodbye to all that.

The cultural historian Paul Fussell once identified the catastrophe of the first world war with the distinctive sensibility of modernity, noting how 20th century history had “domesticate[d] the fantastic and normalize[d] the unspeakable.”

Consider, then, the work of climate change.

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

As concentrated CO2 intensifies extreme events, a new and diabolical weather will, we’re told, become the norm for a generation already accustomising itself to such everyday atrocities as about eight million tons of plastics are washed into the ocean each year.

It may seem impossible to imagine, that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we’re now in the process of doing.”

This passage from the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert concluded a piece on global warming, which was published way back in 2005. Over the 13 years since, the warnings from scientists have grown both more specific and desperate – and yet the march to destruction has only redoubled its pace.

The extraordinary – almost absurd – contrast between what we should be doing and what’s actually taking place fosters low-level climate denialism. Coral experts might publicise, again and again and again, the dire state of the Great Barrier Reef but the ongoing political inaction inevitably blunts their message.

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

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

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

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

Kate Manne: The Shock Collar That Is Misogyny

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

A philosopher rethinks what’s keeping women down.

By Regan Penaluna
February 7, 2018

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

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

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

Manne tosses out the common thinking that misogyny is equivalent to despising all women, and instead offers that it’s a way to keep women in their place. Misogyny, she writes, is “the system that operates within a patriarchal social order to police and enforce women’s subordination and to uphold male dominance.” Like a shock collar used to keep dogs behind an invisible fence, misogyny, she argues, aims to keep women—those who are well trained as well as those who are unruly—in line. The power of Manne’s definition comes from its ability to bring together various behaviors and events under one umbrella. If misogyny is anything that enforces women’s subordination, then it turns out that lots of phenomena fit the profile.

I spoke with Manne over the phone in an attempt to shed some light on this past year, during which so many brave women have come forward to share their experiences of sexual trauma and have actually been taken seriously. The moment is ripe for a reckoning, and Manne offers the language and theory I’ve found myself grasping for. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, she combines the hyper-articulateness of a philosopher and the energy and humor of a down-to-earth millennial, which is electrifying; I imagine she’s a popular professor. At one point during our call, her corgi happily barked in the background, and she pointed out that her dog “couldn’t be silenced” by the patriarchy.

More than anything, I could feel an urgency on the line. Manne is restlessly driven by a sense that things are not right, a sense that this world is a very unjust place for women. She doesn’t think she can fix it. “I’m much more a clarity person than a solutions person,” she says. But she does believe that philosophy can help us understand what’s at stake in the broader fight to overcome patriarchy. “It’s so far from cessation,” she says, “but I’m not despairing.”

Regan Penaluna for Guernica

Guernica: Why did you write a book about misogyny?

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

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

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

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

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

By Cody Fenwick
March 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some millennials aren’t saving for retirement because they don’t think capitalism will exist by then

From Salon:  https://www.salon.com/2018/03/18/some-millennials-arent-saving-for-retirement-because-they-do-not-think-capitalism-will-exist-by-then/

Given poor economic prospects, many millennials can’t save anyway — but their hope for the future is social change

Keith A. Spencer

CNN reported last week that 66 percent of millennials aged 21 to 32 have nothing saved for retirement. And while their writer chalks up this inequity to student loans, “stagnant wages” and “high unemployment,” there may yet be a deeper cause: many millennials honestly don’t see a future for our economic system.

The aforementioned CNN article about millennials’ (lack of) retirement savings went semi-viral, partly because many saw humor in how it missed how many truly felt. “RT if socialism is your retirement plan,” Holly Wood, 32, a political organizer, wrote on Twitter.

The idea that we millennials’ only hope for retirement is the end of capitalism or the end of the world is actually quite common sentiment among the millennial left. Jokes about being unable to retire or anticipating utter social change by retirement age were ricocheting around the internet long before CNN’s article was published.








my investing style is i give five bucks to chapo in the hope that their dumb asses will create socialism by the time i retire
— Frank Furtschool ☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭ (@kulturalmarx) August 4, 2017

My retirement plan is death
— Swan Snow (@Wan_Eyed_King) March 10, 2018

My retirement plan is death at 55: a millennial love story
— Lucretia Boredgia (@KelseyChapstick) September 30, 2017

Older generations, and even millennials who are better off and who have managed to achieve a sort of petit-bourgeois freedom, might find this sentiment unimaginable, even abhorrent. And yet, in studying the reaction to the CNN piece and reaching out to millennials who had responded to it, I was astounded not only at how many young people shared Wood’s feelings, but how frequently our expectations for the future aligned. Many millennials expressed to me their interest in creating self-sustaining communities as their only hope for survival in old age; a lack of faith that capitalism as we know it would exist by retirement age; and that alternating climate crises, concentrations of wealth, and privatization of social welfare programs would doom their chance at survival.

Continue reading at:  https://www.salon.com/2018/03/18/some-millennials-arent-saving-for-retirement-because-they-do-not-think-capitalism-will-exist-by-then/

Missing Shulamith and The Dialectic of #MeToo

Shulmith Firestone passed away a few years back, alone and mostly forgotten, after battling years of mental health issues.  But I remember her writings from nearly fifty years ago and the white hot heat of Second Wave Feminism, how much strength it provided me with when I was coming out.

From Tikkun Magazine:  https://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/missing-shulamith-and-the-dialectic-of-metoo

by Martha Sonnenberg
February 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

Power and patriarchy defends itself

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

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

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

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

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

Thu 8 Mar 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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