Even criminals call the U.S. criminal

If we consider the use of physical force to achieve self-serving ends to be criminal, then to look at the role of governing as an exercise in power over others is to look at an inherently criminal act. As Max Weber acknowledged, “Ultimately, one can define the modern state sociologically only in terms of the specific means peculiar to it, as to every political association, namely, the use of physical force.”[1] And as Gerhard Lenski acknowledged in his classic on social inequality, elites act principally in service to themselves.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Max Weber, “What Is Politics?” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 114.
  2. [2]Gerhard Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966).

We need to change

“We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” Michael Brown’s family said. “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.” The statement came in response to a grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot Brown in August, 2014.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Monica Davey and Julie Bosman, “Protests After Ferguson Officer Is Not Indicted,” New York Times, November 24, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/us/ferguson-darren-wilson-shooting-michael-brown-grand-jury.html

I will say it forthrightly and without qualification: Bill Cosby is a rapist

Note: This posting has been updated (in line) and corrected since it was first published. See in-line updates and the notice at the end.

Fourteen [Update, November 19, 2014: Make it fifteen as Janice Dickinson has added her name to the list of Bill Cosby’s accusers.[1]] [Update, November 24, 2014: And now the number is sixteen.[2]] women have now come forward over a period of decades to say that they were raped or sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Chicago note: Chris Witherspoon, “Supermodel Janice Dickinson: ‘Bill Cosby Raped me’,” Grio, November 18, 2014, http://thegrio.com/2014/11/18/janice-dickinson-bill-cosby-rape/
  2. [2]Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi, and Mary Pat Flaherty, “Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby – through the stories of his accusers,” Independent, November 24, 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/revealed-the-case-against-bill-cosby–through-the-stories-of-his-accusers-9878773.html
  3. [3]Eddy Cara, “13 women accused Bill Cosby of rape—but it only took one man to make us care,” Daily Dot, November 18, 2014, http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/hannibal-buress-bill-cosby-rape-accusers/

Learning about authoritarianism from Bill Cosby

Update, November 17, 2014: Since this post was originally published, Bill Cosby’s lawyer released a statement dismissing rape allegations against him. This post has been updated twice, first when Raw Story published the comment but without naming the lawyer, and second when the Washington Post named the lawyer in a story covering the allegations of yet another victim, Joan Tarshis.

In reviewing the foregoing sections of this essay [written for my practicum], I am faced with that dissonance again. Above all, conservatives claim knowingness, a practicality that they know how “it,” meaning the real world, really is, how “we” really are. The Christian concept of original sin is central to this conception. It rationalizes a claim that “we” must be led, that somehow, inexplicably, these select humans—these elites—but no one else, can be trusted to have risen above the immorality that afflicts the rest of us (Kirk, 1985/2001; Weaver, 1964/1995). Read more

The hope for human (and non-human) survival

Long-time readers of this blog know that I am harshly critical of our current system of social organization.[1] Introduced with the Neolithic, it substituted an authoritarian, exploitative structure for a relatively egalitarian, harmonious structure. It enabled massive population growth and replaced an ethic of living with nature with an ethic of domination.[2] The resulting domination, of humans, animals, and nature, in combination with population growth, has led to extreme social injustice and to environmental havoc on a scale that poses an existential threat to human survival.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works’,” March 15, 2012, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2012/03/15/we-need-to-know-how-it-works/
  2. [2]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008); William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2008); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991).
  3. [3]David Benfell, “‘We have found the enemy, and he is us’ — and our system of social organization,” March 6, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2013/03/06/we-have-found-the-enemy-and-he-is-us-and-our-system-of-social-organization/

Why the Right Keeps Winning and the Left Keeps Losing

Reproduced by permission from source on www.tikkun.org

Why the Right Keeps Winning and the Left Keeps Losing

November 10, 2014

By Rabbi Michael Lerner

Salon.com recently published my analysis of why the Right keeps winning. You can read it online here. Below is a slightly updated version of that analysis, which you can also read online here.  Please share this via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, send it out to any lists you are on, and post it on your own website. In the wake of the 2014 elections, I see many people retreating into despair or denying that there really was a decisive loss in the midterms, but I have not seen many progressives offering new strategies to alter the political landscape. The strategy I outline below has not been tried during the last forty years of our country moving more to the right than to the left. If you agree with what I’m proposing below, help me create this discussion in your hometown as a first step toward reversing the increasing dominance of the Right.

Why does the Right keep winning in American politics, sometimes through electoral victories, sometimes by having the Democrats and others on the Left adopt what were traditionally right-wing policies and perspectives? Sure, I know that progressives won some important local battles in 2014: A few towns in California, Texas, and Ohio banned fracking. A few towns in Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida, and Illinois supported ballot measures to overturn Citizens United. Richmond, California, stood up to Chevron, and Berkeley stood up to “Big Soda.”

Read more

The drubbing

So it’s another “Jobs Friday” and another “good” employment report.[1] I’ve been slacking off lately, often not updating my employment calculations for weeks after the numbers come out, if at all. But I did update them today.

Democrats are undoubtedly wistful. The economy seems to have been a major factor in the drubbing they suffered on Tuesday.[2] If only, they might imagine, these statistics had come out before the election. Of course, that would require people who have felt unrepresented by the government’s statistical reporting so far to suddenly believe today’s report. Read more

  1. [1]Patricia Cohen, “Jobs Data Show Steady Gains, but Stagnant Wages Temper Optimism,” New York Times, November 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/08/business/jobs-numbers-for-october-2014-reported-by-labor-department.html
  2. [2]Dave Boyer, “Obama loses his base as broken promises breed disillusioned Democrats,” Washington Times, November 3, 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/3/obama-loses-his-base-as-broken-promises-breed-disi/; John Cassidy, “A Disastrous Night for the Democrats,” New Yorker, November 5, 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/disastrous-night-democrats; Joel Kotkin, “The Demographics That Sank The Democrats In The Midterm Elections,” Forbes, November 5, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2014/11/05/the-demographics-that-sank-the-democrats-in-the-mid-term-elections/; Ben Mathis-Lilley, “Why the Economy Motivated Angry Voters … in a Recovering Economy,” Slate, November 6, 2014, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/11/06/midterms_economy_step_1_rich_eat_recovery_step_2_step_3_republicans_profit.html; Greg Sargent, “What really went wrong for Democrats,” Washington Post, November 5, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/11/05/what-really-went-wrong-for-democrats/

Plumbing the lows in dehumanizing advertising

Fig. 1. On the Piner Road side of a 76 gas station at 3230 Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, California 95403, United States, on November 4, 2014. Photograph by author.
Fig. 1. On the Piner Road side of a 76 gas station at 3230 Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, California 95403, United States, on November 4, 2014. Photograph by author.
You know those guys that pizza joints, tax preparation joints, and other retail operations occasionally hire to advertise their businesses by waving their sign so it catches the attention of motorists? You know, the ones who bring along their music and show off their dance moves? Based on a web search, I guess they’re called “sign spinners.” Read more

Bound together in a criminal country

“[T]here’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America,” then-Senate candidate Barack Obama told the Democratic National Convention in 2004.[1] It was the first of a few great speeches that propelled Obama to the presidency a bare four years later. Read more

  1. [1]Barack Obama, “Transcript: Illinois Senate Candidate Barack Obama,” Washington Post, July 27, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19751-2004Jul27.html