Sunday, November 23, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

Little piece of cornbread sitting on the shelf:
If you want any more, you can sing it yourself.

—Traditional children's song
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle.... If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

— Frederick Douglass, 1857
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Friday, November 21, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.... [O]ur analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

— Martin Gillens & Benjamin I. Page, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens" (forthcoming, Fall, 2014)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

Since coming back to the United States after three years away in China, I have been asking experts around the country whether America is finally going to hell.... [T]he question wasn’t simply a joke.... I spoke with historians and politicians, soldiers and ministers, civil engineers and broadcast executives and high-tech researchers. Overall, the news they gave was heartening—and alarming, too. Most of the things that worry Americans aren’t really that serious, especially those that involve “falling behind” anyone else. But there is a deeper problem almost too alarming to worry about, since it is so hard to see a solution.... We could correct all these problems—and that is the heart of the problem. America still has the means to address nearly any of its structural weaknesses.... We know that such an investment could happen here—but we also know that it won’t. That is the American tragedy of the early 21st century: a vital and self-renewing culture that attracts the world’s talent, and a governing system that increasingly looks like a joke.... America the society is in fine shape! America the polity most certainly is not.... Our government is old and broken and dysfunctional, and may even be beyond repair.

James Fallows (2010)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

The real fear today is that the world we now live in was intended by those who profit from it.

John Clute
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

...And the truth cannot be hid;
Somebody chose their pain,
What needn't have happened did.

—W. H. Auden
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Monday, November 17, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

Inequality kills. Between 1990 and 2008, life expectancy for White American men without a college degree fell by three years, and White low-educated women had their lives shortened by more than five years. Only AIDS in southern Africa and the restoration of capitalism in Russia have had a more lethal impact than the US social polarization in the boom years of Clinton and Bush.

— G├Âran Therborn, The Killing Fields of Inequality
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

The inescapable reality is this: wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of its existence, so that some people imagine that it belongs to surreal or mysterious entities.

—Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

But we know that people’s frustrations run deeper than these most recent political battles.... They experience in a very personal way the relentless, decades-long trend that I want to spend some time talking about today. And that is a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain -- that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead. I believe this is the defining challenge of our time... [T]he basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed. In fact, this trend towards growing inequality is not unique to America’s market economy... But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.... The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.

—Barack Obama, December, 2013
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Friday, November 14, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.

—George Carlin, Life is Worth Loosing (2005)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality (Con't)

We are the 99%.

—Slogan of Occupy Wall Street
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 32, America in 2014: Inequality

Good historians, I suspect, whether they think about it or not, have the future in their bones. Besides the question: Why? the historian also asks the question: Whither?

— E. H. Carr
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years (Con't)

NYC authorities clearly feel #OWS eviction is just and reasonable. That's why they are doing it at 2am and barring all press.

George Zornick
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years (Con't)

To all those across the world currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity... [W]e are now in many ways involved in the same struggle.... An entire generation across the globe has grown up realising, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organisations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the "free market" pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even.... The current crisis in America and western Europe has begun to bring this reality home to you as well: that as things stand we will all work ourselves raw, our backs broken by personal debt and public austerity.... Spaces for gathering, leisure, meeting and interacting – these spaces should be the reason we live in cities. Where the state and the interests of owners have made them inaccessible, exclusive or dangerous, it is up to us to make sure that they are safe, inclusive and just....We are all watching one another now, and from Cairo we want to say that we are in solidarity with you, and we love you all for what you are doing.

—Message from Tahir Square occupiers to Occupy Wall Street & other occupations, October 25, 2011
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years (Con't)

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly on September 29, 2011

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
  • They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*
To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

* These grievances are not all-inclusive. [footnote in the original]
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years (Con't)

Who are the men who really run this land?
And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?

—David Crosby, "What Are Their Names" (1971), sung in Zuccotti Park, 2011
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Friday, November 07, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years (Con't)

All of a sudden it was cool to be a lefty again.

— Kalle Lasn
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years (Con't)

Shit is fucked up and bullshit.

—Protest sign at Occupy Wall Street (Zuccotti Park), Fall, 2011 (repeated since)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years (Con't)

A worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future. The spirit of this fresh tactic, a fusion of Tahrir with the acampadas of Spain, is captured in this quote:
"The antiglobalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people." - Raimundo Viejo, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain
The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people's assemblies... The time has come to deploy this emerging stratagem against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America. On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.... It's time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY, we're doomed without it.

—Blog post on Adbusters blog, " #OCCUPYWALLSTREET: A shift in revolutionary tactics", July 13, 2011
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years (Con't)

Republicans were threatening to cause the US government to default in order to force massive cuts in social services intended to head off a largely imaginary debt crisis…President Obama, in turn, had decided the way to appear reasonable in comparison and thus seem as his advisors liked to put it ‘the only adult in the room’ was not to point out that the entire debate was founded on false economic premises, but to prepare a milder, ‘compromise’ version of the exact same program—as if the best way to expose a lunatic is to pretend that 50 percent of his delusions are actually true…. This is how a ragtag group of anarchists, hippies, unemployed college students, pagan tree sitters, and peace activists suddenly managed to establish themselves, by default, as America’s adults in the first place.

—David Graeber, The Democracy Project (2013)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Monday, November 03, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 31, Occupy Wall Street & Other Politics of the Obama Years

JUMP! you fuckers

—Sign on Wall Street, 2008
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 30, The Dark Side: Torture, Detention, Surveillance, Drones & Secrecy in the Bush/Obama Era (Con't)

CARVER: Girl, you can't even call this shit a war.
HERC: Why not?
CARVER: Wars end.

The Wire, Season 1, Episode 1
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 30, The Dark Side: Torture, Detention, Surveillance, Drones & Secrecy in the Bush/Obama Era (Con't)

War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties; the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course, the ideal of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never really attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation instead of converting, merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Loyalty - or mystic devotion to the State - becomes the major imagined human value. Other values, such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.... [F]or the sake of a war of offensive self-defense, undertaken to support a difficult cause to the slogan of "democracy," [the American nation] would reach the highest level ever known of collective effort.... The question whether the American nation would act like an enlightened democracy going to war for the sake of high ideals, or like a State-obsessed herd, has been decisively answered.

— Randolph Bourne (1918)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.