Tag Archive: Politics

The Bill Cronon-Wisconsin Republican party tangle is making me — and many others, judging by the responses I’ve seen on academic listservs — think a little more deeply about how we use our e-mail addresses. Like many, I’m troubled by the possibility that someone could ask to see my e-mail correspondence on any old topic. But I also recognize that they have that right, or something like it, and that the same Freedom of Information laws allow me to ask for others’ e-mails — not everyone’s, but anyone’s who works for a publicly funded institution, like a university. That’s part of the price we pay for a public culture, which keeps us from the Hobbesian state of everyone’s liberty (with guns) against everyone else’s. It’s also what makes that culture vulnerable, but that makes it all the more important to use our public profiles in ways that enhance that culture’s viability.

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A few observations from the events of the last week or so:

(1) Tsunamis happen. When they do, in a globally media-connected world, they bring us all a little closer together. (Not all of us; those who don’t wish to be brought closer may drift further apart. But, to risk getting overly psychoanalytical, those who’ve had a reasonably loving upbringing, or those whose instincts and/or the influences they were exposed to helped them overcome a loveless upbringing, will drift closer together — because empathy works on, with, and through them, and the images and thoughts of tragedy resonate.) This is something new in human history, and it gives me cause for hope.

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By Jon Cloke

Loughborough University geographer Jon Cloke shared this piece with the Crit-Geog-Forum in response to the recent discussion about blogs and social media (see here for more on that). Jon’s been kind enough to allow me to share it on Immanence. I think it provocatively gets at the larger picture in which blogs (and related media forms) are both filling in the communicative gaps for social movements that have not been well served by traditional media or academic circuits, and are helping create new circuits for informational exchange. – ai

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Revolutionary democracy

Here are a few thoughts after watching Frontline’s Revolution in Cairo, which is a very good 24-minute summary of how this particular democratic moment occurred, and after reading Badiou‘s, Hardt & Negri’s, Hallward‘s, Amit Rai‘s, and some other takes on the events.

(1) The recipe:

Tools + Techniques + Events + Vision = The revolution(s) we’ve been witnessing

The first three, in the Egyptian instance, are pretty easy to identify (click on the links). To oversimplify just a little, they are   View full article »

Johann Hari’s article in The Nation on How to Build a Progressive Tea Party is one of the more exciting and inspiring pieces of news I’ve read recently. Hari recounts how a group of Twitter-linked citizens outraged by David Cameron’s £7 billion cuts to social programs when a single company, cellphone giant Vodafone, was allowed to get away without paying £6 billion in British taxes, organized to shut down Vodafone stores across the country.

All the cuts in housing subsidies, driving all those people out of their homes [200,000 in London alone, apparently], are part of a package of cuts to the poor, adding up to £7 billion. Yet the magazine Private Eye reported that one company alone—Vodafone, one of Britain’s leading cellphone firms—owed an outstanding bill of £6 billion to the British taxpayers. According to Private Eye, Vodaphone had been refusing to pay for years, claiming that a crucial part of its business ran through a post office box in ultra-low-tax Luxembourg. The last Labour government, for all its many flaws, had insisted it pay up. But when the Conservatives came to power, David Hartnett, head of the British equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service, apologized to rich people for being “too black and white about the law.” Soon after, Vodafone’s bill was reported to be largely canceled, with just over £1 billion paid in the end.

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inside job


It’s not as good a film as I would have liked — there are too many talking heads, and director/interviewer Charles Ferguson (who remains conveniently invisible throughout) has an annoying tendency to look for “gotcha” moments, when his interview subjects hesitate and stumble in answering his questions, as if these provide the smoking gun that shows us they’re lying, squirming, deceitful cheaters. They probably are (some of them at least), so relying on these techniques isn’t really necessary and it makes too easy targets of them as individuals.

But Inside Job still manages to pack a lot of information into a cogent and easily understandable narrative. It is, in fact, probably the best two-hour summary of what happened to bring about the recent, and ongoing, economic crisis, and of who’s primarily responsible for it. The film points its finger at the deregulator economists and the type-A personalities on Wall Street who took advantage of the opportunities deregulation offered for making millions at the expense of the rest of us dupes, and at the revolving doors between government and capital that have corrupted democracy to the point where it’s bringing about its own downfall. (The first “it” being the corruption, the second being democracy.*)

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Now that the election results are in, we can all go back to thinking about what U.S. citizens (and non-citizen residents like me) can do about the sad state of affairs in this country. Gara LaMarche’s and Deepak Bhargava’s recent Nation piece The Road Ahead for Progressives: Back to Basics captures the overall picture quite well, in my opinion.

While LaMarche and Bhargava acknowledge Obama’s tactical errors and mistakes in judgment, they don’t wallow in self-pity, as the left tends to in moments like these. “As for the left,” they write,

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Jodi Dean, whose work I respect a lot, won’t vote in the upcoming U.S. elections. The election, she argues, “won’t do anything but secure a false sense of connectedness from those who do vote to the oligarchy that continues to exploit us.” Mark Lance is agreeing with her that voting is the opiate of the masses, but thinks voting can still be useful.

I can’t vote, since I only live and work here; I’m not a citizen. (There are a few places in the U.S. where I could vote locally, though not federally, but the progressive bastion of Burlington, Vermont, isn’t one of them.) But if I could, I would. Here’s why.

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letter to a Tea Party sympathizer

As another political season (leading to the midterm elections) winds down here in the US, people get wound up. Here’s part of something I wrote to a friend who happens to be a Tea Party sympathizer – which surprised me when I found this out, but life is full of surprises, and meeting them mindfully keeps things interesting.

[. . .]

“I completely agree with you about special interest groups being too powerful in the U.S. It’s one of the reasons why I originally hesitated to move here when I was offered a job at the University of Wisconsin ten years ago. (The U.S. has ten times as many people, and ten times as many universities, than Canada, so it was likelier that I’d find a job – which I was looking for at the time – in the U.S. than at home.)

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just sitting there

My favorite line in Patrick Groneman’s account of a group of Buddhist meditators’ attempt to bear witness, by just sitting, amidst the rival armies of 9-11 protestors in downtown New York City (anti-mosque, pro-mosque, et al) is the passer-by yelling

“This is New York, don’t just sit there…stand up and say what you believe in.”

Which made me think: Isn’t that what blogging is — everyone standing up and waving their beliefs for everyone else to see?

Ideally, of course, it isn’t that. Saying something is only one part of communicating; listening is the second, and attending to the ecology of speaking and thinking — the links made up of one’s interlocutors, the things spoken of and those left unsaid, the feeling and impulse giving rise to the speaking, and so on — is the third.

Nathan at Dangerous Harvests has a good wrap-up of the debates over Socially Engaged Buddhism that have followed this summer’s symposium on that topic. (See also Fly Like a Crow.)

Meanwhile, this video, shared by Santi Tafarella, stages the encounter between the “two Americas” in a way that leaves me a little uncomfortable (because of the ethical issues the experiment raises) but that at least gives us some figures: 6 for (racism), 13 against (and willing to act in defense of a Muslim American’s rights), and 22 not willing to stand up and say what they believe, or much of anything. That’s a majority. Definitely not New York.