The Left Needs to be Critical on Russiagate

By Joe Lowndes (February 26, 2018)

I have not posted much on Russiagate out of my own ambivalence. On one hand, I am wary of the liberal investment in both fantasies of deliverance and nightmares of foreign control, as well as the uncritical trust placed in the FBI and CIA. But on the other hand, I DO think that we have to take seriously Russia’s promotion of racist, ultranationalist, and fascist political formations around the globe.

Yet, what began as a charge of collusion by Trump and the far right has now been turned on anyone to the left of Clinton (which, I suppose, should have been pretty easy to predict in retrospect). It is exactly the kind of demonology the late political theorist Michael Rogin described – a paranoid style that will always more easily be focused on the left in US politics. It is not only Sanders who is loudly being called treasonous on the basis of almost no evidence. An article in Raw Story last week blamed Al Franken’s fall not on his own well-documented history of sexual harassment, but on Russian bots.

What then happens to any movement that challenges the political center?

Will Black Lives Matter be delegitimized as a polarizing force authorized by the Kremlin? What about when high school students go after Democrats who get money from the NRA? Liberals who are drawn into this particular form of melodrama and uncritically accept this framing of the political landscape in the US will lose allies they need in battling Trump and the far right, and worse, destroy the possibility of any real political vision that can contest our dismal present. It is possible to see Russia as an imperial power with an interest in promoting polarization and supporting neo-fascist movements without believing that it has omnipotent power over domestic politics in the US.


Good Institutions Are about Helping to Govern, Not Charity

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (February 23, 2018)

I’m serious when I say that institutions should be judged by their capacity to help people govern, both govern themselves and with others.

I worry that charity institutions provide services without growing people’s capacity to govern. This breeds accountability problems, and more importantly, since these institutions emerge as a matter of charity, not justice, there is no space to contest the terms of the service provided. This going to come down to a fundamental unwillingness or inability to share, with the mindset of the service-provider being, “Why should I have to share power? I’m providing services, instead.”

My goal is for people to grow power through services, and since real power is in production, I worry that the only people who grow power are the service-providing decision makers. And if it’s not done right, the only lesson they learn is how to lord over people as oligarchs.


We Have More Serious Things to Worry About Than Russian Meddling

By Arun Gupta (February 21, 2018)

I’m convinced the Russian state did/does have the intention to stir the pot in the U.S., sabotage elections, create chaos. But that is mainly because we destroyed their country during the shock therapy of the 1990s. There was a staggering decline in life expectancy on the scale of a full-blown invasion. Then Clinton lent U.S. support for anti-Russian unrest in the Ukraine and anti-Putin protests in Russia.

So I think anyone on the left trying to deny Russian meddling is hiding their head in the sand.

That said, my opinion of it is, “Meh.” There is a huge gulf between the intent to meddle vs. how much if it has really happened, and, then, most important, whether it has any actual effect. On the last part, I think the evidence thus far shows the impact is pretty much nonexistent.

It’s amusing and sad to watch so many liberals itching for a new Cold War with Russia and calling Trump a traitor. Because long before the Russians supposedly tried to hack the 2016 election, the U.S. electoral process was a shitshow.

Part of that shitshow is due to partisan right-wing gerrymandering that goes back years.

Part of it is due to voter suppression and the disenfranchisement of millions of Black and Brown folk criminalized under the bipartisan war on drugs and war on crime that go back decades — and which the Clintons bear considerable responsibility for.

And part of it is embedded in the U.S. Constitution going back centuries, specifically the anti-democratic nature of the Senate at the federal (and state) level, and the unitary executive with veto power from the municipal level to the federal.

Either of these are far more damaging to a functioning representative democracy than not just Russian intervention, but the bugaboo of money in politics.

As for the Russian troll and bot armies on social media, they are laughable. Liberals, progressives, leftists, “revolutionaries,” don’t need help attacking each other with hammer and tongs. I can’t open Facebook without seeing conversations where people — who know each IRL — are cursing and slandering each other.

It’s understandable, the stakes are high and we seem powerless. I am certainly not an innocent in this internecine warfare online. But I’ve concluded the problem is not Russians stirring the pot, it’s social media itself. It valorizes strident rhetoric and snarky slogans, both of which damage genuine organizing and base-building.

I prefer to hang out and talk to people in person, whether in a formal organizing setting or shooting the shit over good food and drink.

We build a better world by building better relationships.


Wakandans are not Black and Killmonger is Right

By Tommy J. Curry (February 20, 2018)

It is so funny to me how all these commentaries on Black Panther are coming out without really any understanding of the MCU. Black people love pretending they are overnight specialists in anything Black.

You do understand that if you accept the existence of Wakanda, you also accept the existence of mutants like Storm, meta-humans, and the multiverse, alternative Earths where Black people would not be oppressed, time travel, & evolutionary powers unlocked by natural selection.

In that world, with the Silver Surfer and Galactus, Killmonger could in fact be right. Humanity is doomed in comics. That’s what makes super-heroes cool. Wakanda is like Themyscira in a lot of ways, so why ruin it with these narrow politics that are fueled largely by misunderstandings of nationalist and feminist gender politics.

Wakanda does not have the same understandings of men and women as the rest of the world…You can’t use Western concepts of thought to analyze a nation that literally evolved separately from the rest of civilization. Their societies are based in animal deities…the Black Panther, the white Gorilla, and I think Lions…How do you get the same concepts with these idols.

And just so you know…Wakandans are mutants…Vibranium causes mutations just like Captain America’s serum, so they do not share all of the physiological properties of “normal” humans.

A more interesting question would be why are we so keen as reading them as Black. Do you think Wakandans would really see us as the same? Why do you think so? Oh, because we have the same skin color…See this is what is funny to me…Wakanda is an example of a superior race (Wakandans) who are in Africa. They stand apart from every Black race. Notice, the movie is about how a Wakandan is raised (mistakenly) as Black, and how because he Wakandan, he was left amongst a decadent world full of violence. You are missing that this is not about Blackness, but the racialization of Wakandan’s who are debating if they are Black like we are. That’s what is powerful.

AND this points out that we have not evolved to a point in our thinking where you can see HUMANS with Black skin without imposing Blackness (our histories of racial inferiority upon them). The beauty of Wakanda is that it shows a superior humanity, technology, and world with Black skin that is not limited by race…they could be aliens who landed in Africa literally. But we are so trapped by our thinking that we can’t see that what Wakanda really is…what it represents…is so far beyond our imagination…that our thinking about it is ruining it.

Said differently, Killmonger has to be right…otherwise there would be no need for you to actually celebrate the movie. There has to be a relationship between Black skin and slavery. This is literally what he says when he dies, which is why he says his ancestors are different and would not live in cages, because in Wakanda death means something completely different. He is saying he is Black not Wakandan.


Interview: Alexander Riccio


Alexander Riccio is a labor organizer based in Corvallis, Oregon. He co-hosts the podcast LabourWave Revolution Radio and is currently collaborating with the Common Space Collective on a project to revive the commons in the Willamette Valley.


What are the sorts of experiences that led you to become a union organizer?

I am asked this question, or a variation of it, a lot and I find it’s very difficult to answer. I think this is because when people ask, ‘how did you become an activist’ or ‘how did you become an organizer’ they seem to actually be asking ‘what is the secret to change people from being passive to active?’ At the risk of disappointing such earnestness, I do not think there is a secret formula we can learn that will magically turn people into activists or organizers. The process by which someone becomes who they are is one which covers an entire lifetime. While I believe there are cataclysmic moments, or events, that inevitably occur in a person’s life that will change the course of their personal trajectory, I think these are often less important occasions in a person’s development than we might like to believe. The experiences of everyday life are the ones that shape a person, and these often take on the appearance of monotony or lull, so much so that we tend to neglect how important such everyday life is for shaping a person’s perspective and steering them towards a life of passivity or action.


For me, I grew up primarily in a working-class house raised by a single-mother. My class background is complicated, because there were years where my mother re-married and her spouse slowly rose up the class ladder during their marriage. So I remember in one year I moved six times across three different states from apartment to apartment, and then we began moving less and our moves turned from one apartment to another to one condo to a rental house to a mortgaged home. There were years of stability, and then those years changed again to precarious living.


My experience as an adult has been one of precariousness to a slow and steady improvement in my class conditions (though not in a linear way) to where now I am modestly comfortable, but still very much a part of the working-class. All of this, which likely seems unremarkable, I think is tremendously important for the development of my political worldview.


I also grew up in a home where abuse at the hands of a former step-father was very common, which forced me to encounter the true ugliness of what some might refer to as “toxic masculinity.” I call it patriarchy. This was part of my everyday experience, and all of these things have shaped me and ultimately steered me toward organizing.


There were momentous events, as well, that directed me to organizing. Again, I don’t think on the whole these events were as important as the experiences of my everyday life, but they were still significant. The most significant single event, I believe, which guided me toward organizing was Occupy Wall Street. OWS sprang to life when I was twenty-three years old, working in a pizza restaurant where I made $8.50 an hour and had no healthcare (which was a particular challenge for me as I have chronic asthma). No one had to convince me that we live in a class society, but until OWS no one was saying things like “We are the 99%.” Once I heard that slogan it clicked for me that my material conditions as a wage-earner with no social safety net was a political relationship.

At the time of Occupy I was not yet ready to dive into activism and be a part of the movement, but I visited the encampments in Atlanta a couple of times and listened to people talk about a range of topics, from police brutality to the oppression of women to the dominance of the ruling class (the 1%), and then shortly after my visits the entire Occupy movement was brutally crushed by police. It was shocking to me at the time, and I realize in hindsight how naive I must have been to be shocked, but seeing the news for a week-straight of encampment after encampment being broken up by police and people getting the shit kicked out of them is something I’ll never forget. If you ever want to see me get ruffled, which I’m typically a pretty calm person, just tell me about how much “freedom” we have in the US to criticize our government.


I had to process what happened during Occupy for a while, I feel like at least a year, and then it became clear to me that I needed to get involved.


Who would you consider your organizing heroes and what did you learn from them that inspires you?

I’ve been very privileged in that I’ve had many great mentors who have helped guide me as an organizer. To sort of break the fourth wall here, two of my mentors who were quite honestly the biggest influences in my organizing are Tony Vogt and Joseph Orosco, the founders of the Anarres Project and two professors I had serve on my graduate school committee when I was a student. I also want to acknowledge Dr. Robert Thompson and Dr. Allison Hurst as great influences on me and my politics.


To me, there are two sides to the question of who are my “organizing heroes.” On the one side, there are those whose writings and political engagements have been inspiring and influential for me, and on the other side there are those who I have organized alongside that have inspired me and given me reason for hope. I feel that the latter are more foundational.


I’m impressed by the work of Jane McAlevey, Ursula le Guin, David Graeber, and many others. But, to sound a bit corny, my heroes are the ordinary people that I get to work alongside regularly. I’ve lived in Corvallis, Oregon now for over four years and I’ve been able to engage and work with so many people, and I continue to encounter new folks who are considerate and care about changing the world.


What inspires me the most is meeting someone and then getting to witness their own political development. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone who is completely new to organizing, and maybe thinks politics is a matter of voting for either a Democrat or Republican, and then have witnessed them become radicalized and tremendous leaders. It happens all the time.


These experiences help recharge my energy, because it reminds me that there are potential radicals everywhere and people are capable of enormous personal growth. As well, the vast majority of people that I’ve engaged with in political conversations, even when at first they’ve seemed like a conservative or apologist for the status quo, have proven to be incredibly sensitive and compassionate. Nurturing those qualities of compassion and sensitivity is a primary task for organizers. If we approach organizing from a framework where we recognize people as dynamic and not static, that they’re politics are not fixed but always changing, then we can begin to start recognizing, as John Holloway puts it, “the rebellion in each and every one of us.”


Since we’re all potential agents of change, then we don’t really need to rely on the heroics of a few individual people to inspire us, and really we probably limit ourselves when we’re searching for those few famed heroes because likely the heroes we’re searching for are right in front of us all along.


What gives you hope for the future?

In addition to the things I’ve said about every person’s extraordinary capacity for change, what gives me hope is the fact that capitalism is not stable. Its power seems inescapable, but in fact the systems of domination we all live under are unstable and have many weaknesses.


I always make the following point when people slip into despair and fatalism, which is a particularly big problem for Leftist intellectuals (the ghost of Foucault perhaps): if capitalism were so absolutely powerful then why is it necessary to keep innovating techniques of surveillance and social control? In fact, why is it necessary for all the police and policing if the status quo were so total?


I make this point to highlight that capitalism is always having to conspire new ways of trying to control people because we are always rebelling against it, and as far back as written history one finds that there is a constant rebellion by ordinary people against any system of domination they live under. Silvia Federici points out that capitalism itself emerged as a counter-revolution to explosive liberation movements happening in the 16th and 17th centuries.


Maybe it’s just as plausible as any other claim about human nature to suggest that part of human nature is the refusal to be oppressed? The tendency latent in humans to refuse their subordination is something that continues to fuel my commitment to organizing, because while the future is not predetermined something we can reasonably assume as a given is that people will continue to fight against any forms of injustice we collectively encounter. Because of the human drive toward rebellion, capitalism is not stable. So that’s hope. The harder challenge is how to maximize such refusal into something at the scale we need to overturn this rotten system.


What do you think are the most significant obstacles to social/economic justice in the future?

I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people are capable of personal growth stimulated by their empathy for others, but what we encounter today is an incredibly isolating society where public space is steadily shrinking and the opportunities for people to connect with one another on a face-to-face basis are disappearing. When we are alienated in such a way, it becomes incredibly easy for people to dehumanize each other, because we don’t have to see each other’s lives and experiences as fundamentally human. In other words, attaining justice will require that we begin recognizing each other as human beings.


Part of how power is embodied is through the display of who gets to be considered human and who doesn’t. Within feminist theory there is the concept of “interpretative labor,” where what these thinkers have explored is how people who are oppressed are constantly in the position of having to identify the emotional needs of their oppressors. Oppressed people do this as a strategy for survival.


What this means is that we’re constantly looking through the gaze of the powerful in order to empathize with their so-called plight (consider here the despicable notion of the “white man’s burden” coined by Rudyard Kipling used as a pretext for invading foreign countries).


I remember one specific conversation I had in a classroom where I began talking about how difficult the labor and life of a farmworker is and how CEOs of big banks are not creating socially valuable goods that we can actually eat, and therefore we should be paying farmworkers more than CEOs when someone immediately said, “But those CEOs have hard jobs, and it can be really stressful to be a CEO.” What about the stress for the worker in the fields being paid poverty wages?


Coming back to my original point, I think these struggles to be recognized as human are really rooted in the structures of everyday life and the inability for people to have regular meaningful contact with one another. If we could start creating spaces where people can come together to relate to each other as humans, then I think we’ll begin making progress on these fronts.


Take up space.

Take it all.


I think one of our immediate tasks in fighting capitalism is to transfer as much private space as possible into public space, and as much public space as possible into the commons. And when we begin to start thinking about the commons, we can really enlarge our collective imagination about just what these spaces might look like and what they could mean. Common spaces could be seed exchanges and community gardens, open software programs and a collectively owned internet, they could be communes or cooperative workplaces, land trusts for sustainable farming or housing, and they could even be cooperatively owned laundry mats with free libraries and free educational classes.


The absence of shared spaces really fatigues our social movement energies, and I think if we begin to start creating spaces which can be for the purpose of organically reproducing our movement energies and relating to one another on a human level then we can shatter our collective alienation and really build a better world.


What books or movies would you recommend people study to learn about organizing and social change?

There are so many great books to read, but I’ll share a few that have been particularly impactful for me. John Holloway’s In, Against, and Beyond Capitalism; Jane McAlevey’s No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power; adrienne maree brown’s Emergent StrategiesOur Word is Our Weapon a collection of works by the Zapatistas, David Graeber’s The Democracy Project; Andrew Cornell’s Oppose and Propose; Grace Lee Bogg’s The Next American Revolution; and for a great encyclopedia of key radical terms and ideas I love the collection Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle.


For movies, the series Trouble put out by is spectacular and I love the films, Tout Va Bien with Jane Fonda and directed by Costa-Gavras. I also really like movies like It and A Bug’s Life because they have very clear messages on inequality and the power of collective action— just think about it.


But for all the great books and films one can learn about social movements, nothing really beats the education you’ll receive by getting involved with a group, whether that means joining an existing group or creating a new one. So for folks that are looking to gain more insights and education on how social change happens, the best way is to put yourself out there and start forming relationships with people in your area that are passionate like you are. I know for many this is daunting because we can feel like we don’t know enough, we’re not educated on political matters, we don’t have anything to say or our own original ideas, and we don’t have the experience all of which may make one feel very insecure. But, speaking as an organizer, I can guarantee you that you’re not alone in this feeling and the people that present themselves as super confident, cool, and knowledgeable on every little thing often are full of shit because we’re all really trying to figure this out as we go. Like the Zapatistas say, “walking we ask questions.”


(Interview with Joseph Orosco, February 2018)


On a National Suicide Path

By Mark Naison (February 16, 2018)

The way I see it, this country is on a suicide path.

First of all, the people shaping education policy in this country, during the last twenty years, have done everything possible to create more wounded children like Nikolaus Cruz;

They have deluged schools with standardized tests that squeeze every ounce of joy out of classrooms;

To pay for the tests, they have cut back on counseling, libraries, the arts, sports, physical education, all activities where young people in trouble can find refuge or a place to express themselves;

They have deprived more and more students of meaningful social interaction, either with teachers, or one another, by having them sit in front of computers all day;

They have adopted zero-tolerance disciplinary policies and throw out students who cannot adopt to the test and punish regimes that dominate more and more schools.

The result: more and more students who have emotional issues or learning disabilities who are given little support, little mentoring, and few outlets for their emotions or talents, and are pushed out or pushed aside.

And then, if they are angry, what is there to greet them?

Easy access to drugs.

Easy access to guns, including assault weapons.

We are creating an army of outcasts and then arming them to the teeth. And unless we do something about both issues–a rigid, test driven education system, and easy access to guns–we are going to see more and more acts of terrifying violence in our schools and communities.


Black Panther is Popular, but Black People Still Marginalized

By S. (February 15, 2018)

I’m looking forward to the new Black Panther movie too, but first, let’s have a little talk about race.

Since being kidnapped from Africa, black people have been marginalized. Marginalized means we have been placed at the margins, we are never centered. Our rights, our voices, our experiences, our lives, our needs, our everything, are at the margins of American society (a society shared between black people and white people, and many other marginalized races and ethnicities). Historically black people went to black schools, had black doctors, and lived in black neighborhoods. Things are slowly changing and we are in some ways less marginalized physically but we are still marginalized socially. In mainstream movies we are in supporting roles but we are not the central characters, we are the marginal characters (i.e. the sassy black girlfriend, the wise old man who gives advice, the scary thug who threatens the main character). Things are changing, Moonlight won best film, Hidden Figures was a surprise hit, and we have Black Panther coming soon.

But the marginalization is embedded in every aspect of society, even our interpersonal relationships. In our friendships with non-black people, we often find our blackness marginalized. This is where things get sad, and this is what I want to talk about. In order to make my non-white friends comfortable, I am often the one who is marginalizing my blackness. Sometimes I am asked to do this, and sometimes I do it of my own volition. What I am saying is that I have to police my behavior around white people. Everyone should police their behavior around each other though (we call it having manners), but there is an aspect of myself, my life, and my experiences that is born out of my blackness, that has to be especially carefully managed around my white friends. I have to think carefully about how I say things, some topics I just don’t speak up on, and some of my great joys in life you don’t get to be a part of.

We look for common ground with our white friends. But for so long our culture, religion, society, and norms have been centered around whiteness, that our common ground with you is going to be white. We can’t ask you to understand and relate to our black experiences and black selves, because the lack of centering means you have an incomplete understanding, at best, of what it means to be black. So we, your black friends, come to you using our cultural understandings of whiteness. Now this is the easy setting, imagine what it is like when I have to find common ground with someone who is not as enlightened about race as you are.

First, I’d like to give a non-racial example of finding common ground between friends. I hate Twin Peaks. My friends B. and J. love Twin Peaks. They tell me that they love Twin Peaks because they want to share something they love with someone they love. Now, I like knowing that they love Twin Peaks because it means I have a little bit more information about who they are. Maybe I’ll send them both Valentine’s Days cards featuring the Log Lady. Knowing that a Twin Peaks card would put a smile on their faces makes smile too. But neither B. nor J. will spend much time talking to me about Twin Peaks, because they know I don’t like it. To an extent, they are policing their behavior around me. (Even though I called this example non-racial, it is racial simply because Twin Peaks is a TV show with few, if any, black characters that is written, directed, and produced by white people).

What about mainstream black people like Michael Jackson, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Snoop Dog, Mr. T, Li’l Wayne, et al.? In order for them to become mainstream (i.e. escape the margins) they had to think long and hard about their blackness—how to represent it and what to omit. Even if black figures and leaders are deciding to show our warts (i.e. gangsta rap) to the mainstream, it is still done with thought and consideration.

I’m talking about how we connect with each other. We are all looking for common ground. Our disagreements can be used to help us better pinpoint our commonalities. Though too often we use our disagreements as excuses not to get closer. When black people look for common ground, most of that common ground is centered around whiteness. What we share in common with you is based on tastes, norms, and ideas that are most likely centered around white perspectives, what do white people like, and what corporations controlled mainly by white people think will sell. Basically, when white and black people come together in friendship, chances are very good that the black person has done a lot more work, and has much more knowledge of white culture than the white person has of black culture.

Watching Black Panther does not make you a good ally. I’m not looking for allies; I want friends who get me. I want to be my authentic self around you. I want friends who get that that my experiences may not only differ from yours, but might seem scary and threatening to you because they are so far from our white-centered mainstream. You don’t have to agree with me, and you don’t have to like a lot of what I’m saying, but you should be open and willing to listen. And when it comes to creating the common ground between us, you should be willing and respectful enough to exclude elements that I may find racially insensitive, even if you don’t understand why. Yes, this is a secret pink pussy hat post.

Movements are built from relationships. If we want our movements to be strong, we need to strengthen our connections and relationships. Most of us are marginalized in many ways. And even though they are not marginalized, sometimes the needs of cishet white men are ignored (e.g. the damage caused by toxic masculinity, or the drastic decline in life expectancy of white men without college degrees). We strengthen our connections by listening, being present, and by not being resistant to each other’s perspectives. How can we create common ground? How can I push past my resistance and my limited perspectives to understand what my women friends are saying, what my trans friends are saying, what my friends with physically challenges are saying, or even what my cishet white male friends are saying? How can we use the experiences of our friends to change our behaviors for the better? This is my challenge, but it is your challenge. If we succeed we change the world. If we fail we crumble away in squabbling, yelling factions.

The Alt Right is Not Just Nazis

By Alexander Reid Ross (February 15, 2018)

Here’s why I call them the “Alt Right” instead of just “Nazis.”

The Alt Right is a composite of a number of far-right tendencies including anarcho-capitalists, silicon valley neo-reactionaries, MRAs, Klansmen, and other forms of fascists.

Broadly, it’s a fascist movement, but it’s a fascist movement of a certain character.

Calling them the Alt Right makes a clear, descriptive identification specific, and shows that this is a discrete group, or rather group of groups, with a set of visible, self-proclaimed and established leaders.

The group itself must be destroyed and the individuals behind it brought to justice. The state won’t do anything about them, so we must.


On the Unfinished Work of Extending Rights to All Americans

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (February 13, 2018)

The basic problem is that our rights were conceived with property owning white men in mind. These rights presupposed economic security and independence. Security and independence came in the form of property. And that’s why the Constitution is primarily concerned with securing property rights. Also the exercise of rights relies on the collegiate fraternity of white men, but I’ll consider this later.

When you start formally extending rights to dependent women, how do you secure the independence of their actions in exercising those rights, i.e., how free can you be if you are economically dependent on a guy who is threatening to kick you out if you speak out? Furthermore, even if you do become economically independent, these rights presuppose a balance of power, so how can you exercise them if men clique up against you, to, for example, lock you out of the press. Again, remember that you are fighting both economic dependence upon and the fraternity of white men.

This set of problems births the need for family law, and if we had thought of how we baked in the presuppositions of economic independence and white fraternity from the beginning, family law would have more robust constitutional protections, so that the government secured free and equal relations between spouses (and the economically dependent spouse and society) the way it secures free and equal relations between property owning white men.

A similar set of problems emerges when we talk about extending rights to employees who are economically dependent upon their employer. How free can you be if you can be fired for speaking out of turn? The Founders were worried that employees would be used as tools of their employers. They were right to worry about this. But they were wrong to use that as a reason to deny employees political power. Once again, the particular social position of the Founders skewed their conception of rights, so if you are going to constitutionally secure the economic foundation for the exercise of rights for property holding white men, that is, property rights, then you have to constitutionally secure the economic foundation for employees, also, protect employees from the collusion of the fraternity of white male propertied employers. This is why you need worker and organized labor protections in the constitution if you expect workers to ever be able to exercise their other rights. This is why we have property rights in the constitution because we DID expect white property holders to exercise rights.


Now you have black people who are both without property and without the fraternity of whiteness, and more pointedly, whose inability to exercise their rights is directly tied to their economic and political dependence, rendering them targets for exploitation by property owning white men and their auxiliaries.

The question is always going to turn on how do we constitutionally secure the ability to exercise rights for everyone, including women, the property-less, and non-white people, the way we constitutionally secured the ability of propertied white men to exercise rights.

The analogy I used was fighting so hard to get into a poker game, only to find out that you can’t afford the ante. Then fighting so hard to get the ante, only to find out that the other players are colluding against you because they’ve known each other for so long.

So in order to actually play the game you need to both have the ante (economic security) and protections against collusions/cliques of the other players.


On the Spousal Abusers in the White House

By Mark Naison (February 13, 2018)

Sexual and physical abuse is something which crosses lines of class and race and ideology- it is not something that can be placed at the feet of any one occupational group or political party.

Nevertheless, it is telling that two high level figures in the Trump White House who were close to the President, first Steve Bannon and now Rob Porter, had a record of physical abuse of spouses.

I do not think this is accidental. I strongly believe that the way men approach power in all aspects of their lives spills over into how they deal with women, both those they are in professional or personal relationships with, and those they meet in random encounters. If you create a culture at your workplace where weakness is despised, strength is exalted, and compassion is seen as the province of fools, as Mr Trump apparently does, you are likely to attract people who apply those principles to their personal lives.

I have often said that if Donald Trump is to be neutralized and discredited, it will not be Russia that will be his downfall, but his attitudes towards and relationships with women. Surrounding himself with spousal abusers is one part of a disturbing pattern of cynical behavior towards women that reflects a worldview which transforms all individuals and groups perceived as “weak” into objects of contempt. Most people, if they thought about this pattern honestly, would be very uncomfortable having a person with such views as their leader, whether in their community or the nation.

Donald Trump may well complete his first full term in office, but the toxic features of his leadership style are gradually getting exposed in ways which will permanently tarnish his Presidency.


OK Maybe The Markets Are in a Downturn

By Arun Gupta (February 10, 2018)

If you care about what’s happening in the financial markets, now is the time to panic. But then again, if you care, you are probably in the top 10% in terms of wealth in America as they own 84% of the stock.

On Monday, I shrugged at the 4% drop in the markets in one day as there was nothing unusual about that in historical terms. But things change fast in such a volatile market. The major indices were unable to make a recovery on Tuesday and Wednesday, and have now plunged to new lows, putting them into correction territory. That means a drop of 10%. If they drop 20%, that is the definition of a bear market, though in the last 20 years the two major bear markets saw brutal downturns, with a 50% drop in the S&P500 from 2000-02, and then a 60% drop from 2007-09.

A 10% drop is a long way from that, but indicators are looking ugly. This can turn out well, actually, as Trump has tied his fortunes so closely to the market, a downturn will hurt his and Republicans political standing.

Effects on the economy should be muted because it is doing about as well as a kleptocratic neoliberal system can be expected to do. But if the markets keep falling, going into a 30% or more decline, then it’s likely unemployment will increase. Which Trump will, of course, blame on immigrants, Democrats, Obama, and antifa.

On a personal note, I find the financial markets to be infinitely more fascinating than sports. About the worst thing that happens in sports are white bros rioting, as in Philadelphia. But the financial markets stoke wars and revolutions, topple governments, create widespread social and ecological chaos. It’s ugly, but it’s a lot more interesting, to me at least, than events like the Stupid Bowl.