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Normal Life by Dean SpadeEverybody should probably go and get a copy of this book right now. The long title is Normal Life – Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. Spade criticizes mainstream gay politics and suggests a more radical, less marginalizing politics that centers poor trans people of color. The book is amazing.

Best quotes:

“Lesbian and gay organizations have also generally followed a model of governance and efficacy based on private sector norms rather than social justice values. The most well-funded organizations have pay scales similar to the private sector, with executive directors often making three to four times the salaries of the lowest paid employees. Pay often correlates to educational privilege, which again means that the greatest share of resources goes to white employees from privileged backgrounds while the least goes to employees of color and people without educational privilege.” pg.67

“Trans populations are disproportionately poor because of employment discrimination, family rejection, and difficulty accessing school, medical care, and social services. These factors increase our rate of participation in criminalized work to survive, which, combined with police profiling, produces high levels of criminalization.” pg.89

“Three concerns about law reform projects permeate many sites of resistance. First, these projects change only what the law says about what a system is doing, but not its actual impact. Second, they refine a system in ways that help it continue to target the most vulnerable people, while only partially or temporarily removing a few of the less vulnerable from its path. And finally, law reform projects often provide rationales and justifications for the expansion of harmful systems.” pg.92

“The myth of legal equality in the United States is supported by the narrative that US laws used to exclude people on the basis of race and gender but now they do not. Supposedly, all is now fair and equal. However, our nation itself was built by the establishment of population-level systems of property and labor regulation that created and utilized racial and gender categories from the beginning. The population-level programs that were mobilized from their inception by explicit race and gender exclusions continue to do the work of distributing security and vulnerability along race and gender lines, just under the auspices of race and gender neutral criteria.” pgs.116-117

“[L]egal inclusion and recognition demands often reinforce the logics of harmful systems by justifying them, contributing to their illusions of fairness and equality, and by reinforcing the targeting of certain perceived “drains” or “internal enemies,” carving the group into “the deserving” and “the undeserving” and then addressing only the issues of the favored sector.” pg.124

“For those who have long articulated opposition to state incentivization and reward for heteropatriarchial sexuality and family structures and punishment for others, the idea that lesbian and gay people should seek marriage recognition rather than aim to abolish marriage and achieve more just methods of distribution is…problematic.” pg.126

“[O]ne might observe that the lesbian and gay rights agenda primarily operates to restore privileges of the dominant systems of meaning and control to those gender-conforming, white, wealthy gay and lesbian US citizens who are enraged at how homophobic laws and policies limit access to benefits to which they feel entitled.” pg.60

“We must not only refuse reforms that require dividing and leaving behind more vulnerable trans populations, but also try to assume that the most easily digestible invitations to be included are the very ones that bring us into greater collusion with systemic control and violence.” pgs.161-162

“[T]he legalistic approach of [law reform projects] has been linked to concerns about an unjust distribution of power and leadership, especially when the work is funded and directed largely by white, upper-class professionals who inevitably create an agenda that centralizes the concerns and experiences of people like themselves.” pg.172

“[A] challenging dynamic has emerged: social welfare has increasingly become dependent on private businesses and foundations. Corporate funders have become the sponsors and benefactors of social services… The situation translates into overreliance by many organizations on income from corporations and accumulated wealth stored in foundations.” pg.173

“Nonprofits serving primarily poor and disproportionately people of color populations are frequently governed almost entirely by wealthy white people with college and graduate degrees. Staffing follows this pattern as well, with most nonprofits requiring formal education as a prerequisite to working in administrative or management-level positions. Thus, the nature of the infrastructure in many social justice nonprofits often leads to concentrated decision-making power and pay in the hands of people with education, race, gender and class privilege rather than in the hands of those bearing the brunt of the systems of maldistribution… “This dynamic leads to the reproduction of the very same systems of maldistribution that organizations are purportedly targeting. Inside those organizations, white elites determine the fates of the vulnerable and get paid to make decisions about their lives while people directly impacted are kept out of leadership.” pgs.176-177

“Nonprofits are one way that wealthy people and corporations avoid tax liability. Most of the money that gets redirected out of the tax system by philanthropy does not go to social justice.” pg.179

Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma, gained my notice by expressing this extremely creative history of Oklahoma at the Republican National Convention:

Governor Mary Fallin

“The history of my great state of Oklahoma offers a great example of pursuing the American Dream. It was built and settled by pioneers movibe west to seek better lives. During the Great Land Run of 1889, thousands of families rushed to put a stake down on empty plots of land. They built tent cities overnight. They farmed the land and they worked hard. And, in 1897, eight years after the land run, a handful of adventurous pioneers risked their own money — not the federal government’s money — to drill Oklahoma’s first oil well, the Nellie Johnstone. By doing so, these early-day pioneers changed the future and Oklahoma forever and today Oklahoma is one of the nation’s key energy producers and job creators. President Obama wants us to believe that Oklahomans owe that success to the federal government — to the Department Of Energy,to the EPA, to the IRS, or maybe even to him. Mr. President, we know better. As we say in Oklahoma, that dog won’t hunt.”

I recommend the following party game: have someone read this statement aloud (or play the youtube video!). Everytime Fallin says something that is TOTALLY MADE-UP AND/OR OBSCENELY OFFENSIVE, everyone takes a shot. The first person to black out loses.

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West published a book called The Rich and the Rest of Us. I recently read this book, and here are my favorite quotes. I highly recommend this book as an excellent introduction into poverty issues and America’s class system.

” “There has been something crude and heartless and unfeeling in our haste to succeed and be great,” President Woodrow Wilson declared in 1913 at the beginning of the 20th century…”

“Poverty is 21st-century-style slavery; its eradication should serve as the battle cry of a new civil rights movement.”

“[A] condition of truth is to allow the suffering to speak.”

So indicates the Chicago Tribune and the jerks it interviewed for the article Politicians, health advocates seek transparency, restrictions in food stamp program.

At issue is the worn-out “debate” about whether food stamps recipients should be able to decide for themselves what they want at the grocery store, or whether the government should decide for them.

Suddenly, the government cares that corporations peddling unhealthy food and beverages may receive “government money” in the form of people using food stamps to buy, for example, Pepsi. As though major corporations don’t receive government perks at every turn, and the thought of a poor person enjoying a soda just offends certain officials’ senses of corporate ethics.

As though the “healthy food” that the government would rather poor people use their food stamps on is not also corporate-owned and already government-subsidized just as the “unhealthy food”.

I will never understand why punishing poor people for their poverty is a solution when they likely live in “food deserts”, where real grocery stores, let alone farmer’s markets and the like, are scarce and the junk food sold at bodegas is easier to get and more filling.

Punishing poor people for being poor will not make them healthier, will not cause them to make “better” choices, and will not stop the sale of unhealthy food and beverages. It will simply be another way in which the government and our society infantilize and condescend to the poor without offering any real solutions aimed at the root of their problems. In fact, it seems we believe the poor are to blame for their own poverty, which is why they need the government to tell them what to eat and what not to eat. The assumption that poor people are dumb lies barely covered beneath the surface of these crap arguments.

If these unhealthy food items and beverages must be banned from the poor, why not also everyone else? If the government and “health advocates” are so concerned about the public health effects of unhealthy food, why not ban it from everyone, regardless of income level? That would certainly strike that blow the government is suddenly so eager to strike against the corporations producing these products.

Newsflash! Poor people are poor! And being poor sucks!

Thanks for researching that. And getting paid for it. It must have been harrowing.

I recently read Anarcho-Syndicalism, Theory and Practice by Rudolf Rocker. I pulled out the take-away lessons, so now you don’t even need to read the book yourself!

“[In industrial democracies] the role of the public is to ratify decisions taken elsewhere, to adopt the doctrines prepared for them by their superiors, and in general to observe passively while performing their duty.” Pg.ii (Part of the introduction written by Noam Chomsky.)

“As long as within society a possessing and a non-possessing group of human beings face one another in enmity, the state will be indispensable to the possessing minority for the protection of its privileges.” Pg.11

“The urge for social justice can only develop properly and be effective, when it grows out of man’s sense of personal freedom and is based on that.” Pg.14

“[O]ne cannot at will hear with his eyes and see with his ears, so also one cannot at pleasure transform an organ of social oppression into an instrument for the liberation of the oppressed. The state can only be what it is: the defender of mass-exploitation and social privileges, the creator of privileged classes and castes and of new monopolies.” Pg.15

Read the rest of this entry »

Uh, hello, even Fox News can tell this is a bad idea:

Nearly two dozen states are considering plans this session that would make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And Wyoming lawmakers advanced such a proposal this week.

Driving the measures is a perception that people on public assistance are misusing the funds and that cutting off their benefits would save money for tight state budgets — even as statistics have largely proved both notions untrue.

…The issue has come up in the Republican presidential campaign, with front-runner Mitt Romney saying it’s an “excellent idea.”

Of course the millionaire thinks it’s okay to invade the privacy of people in desperate situations and treat them like criminals for being poor.

There’s a word for that: classism.

Statistics indicate that people who receive public assistance are no more likely to use drugs than the general population. Budget analysis shows that testing is so expensive, and so few people actually fail the test and get kicked off assistance, that it costs much more than it saves. Additionally, there is a trend of these laws getting ruled unconstitutional in court.

So why would Republicans still support bills that discriminate pointlessly, add cost to state budgets, and will probably get declared unconstitutional?

Because they are counting on the existence of stereotypes about the poor, and that this discrimination will win them short-term political points.

Huzzah!

Some state politicians have tried to add in drug testing for state legislators, who receive even more money from the government than recipients of public assistance. None of these measure have been adopted or seen the same kind of vigorous support as drug testing for the poor. Huh.

NO

Tamara Ecclestone holding a cardboard sign

Read more about this fascinating hereditary billionaire’s very meaningful “art”. Or don’t.

New Jim Crow book coverI just finished Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. I can’t recommend it enough. For everyone. READ IT NOW!

Here are some quotes that struck me:

“One in three young African American men is currently under the control of the criminal justice system – in prison, in jail, on probation, or on parole – yet mass incarceration tends to be categorized as a criminal justice issue as opposed to a racial justice or civil rights issue (or crisis).” Pg.9

“What is key to America’s understanding of class is the persistent belief – despite all evidence to the contrary – that anyone, with the proper discipline and drive, can move from a lower class to a higher class.” Pg.13

The rest are here:
Read the rest of this entry »

Interesting things happen when local Tea Party affiliates infiltrate your school board:

  • They implement racial and economic segregation in one of the most integrated school systems in America: Wake County School District in North Carolina. (With the financial backing of a wealthy Libertarian.)

You may recall that we have former Tuscon School District Superintendent Tom Horne (supported by his local Tea Party) to thank for this mess.  His legacy is being dutifully carried forward by current Superintendent John Huppenthal, “who threatened to withhold millions of dollars if TUSD didn’t terminate the nationally acclaimed [Mexican-American studies] program immediately.”

Then Tuscon school administrator Lupita Garcia comes out and actually says: “This country is called America, okay? And they study US history. If you were to go back to Mexico… you would study Mexican history.”

  • They remove mention of racial minorities and critique of wealthy whites from history books in Tennessee.

Here is some of their actual curriculum criteria:

“No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Also:

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the [coalition of Tennessee Tea Party's] lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

  • And how can we forget that last year, Tea Party affiliates in Texas attempted to edit out the word “slavery” from their textbooks and replace it instead with the term “Atlantic Triangular Trade“.

“Behind every great fortune is a crime.”

-Honore de Balzac, 1799-1850

Interesting…

From Barclays Capital via Rawstory:

“Our Skyscraper Index continues to show an unhealthy correlation between construction of the next world’s tallest building and an impending financial crisis — New York 1930; Chicago 1974; Kuala Lumpur 1997 and Dubai 2010.

“Yet often the world’s tallest buildings are simply the edifice of a broader skyscraper building boom, reflecting a widespread misallocation of capital and an impending economic correction.”

I recently read Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. I pulled out some interesting quotes that seem relevant to America’s current political situation.

Occupy Wall Street’s critique of the superrich and wealth inequality

“The picture of American society has, if I may so speak, a surface covering of democracy, beneath which the old aristocratic colors sometimes peep out.” Pg.47

“But beneath this artificial enthusiasm and these obsequious attentions to the preponderating power [the interests of the middle & working classes], it is easy to perceive that the rich have a a hearty dislike of the democratic institutions of their country.” Pg.187

Centralizing power and removing citizens’ rights

” “The will of the nation” is one of those phrases that have been most largely abused by the wily and the despotic of every age. Some have seen the expression of it in the purchased suffrages of a few of the satellites of power; others, in the votes of a timid or an interested minority; and some have even discovered it in the silence of a people, on the supposition that the fact of submission established the right to command.” Pg.57

“Unlimited power is in itself a bad and dangerous thing. Human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion.” Pg.270

Jingoism and nationalism

“Patriotism… is frequently a mere extension of individual selfishness.” Pg.402

Intolerance of difference

“In the United States… all parties are willing to recognize the rights of the majority, because they all hope at some time to be able to exercise them to their own advantage. The majority in that country, therefore, exercise a prodigious actual authority, and a power of opinion which is nearly as great; no obstacles exist which can impede or even retard its progress, so as to make it heed the complaints of those whom it crushes upon its path. This state of things is harmful in itself and dangerous for the future.” Pg.266

Some sound advice from George Washington that should be applied to Israel & Palestine

“…Washington makes this admirable and just remark: “The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.” ” Pg.242

Perhaps you have already had the good/bad fortune to come upon an article at Forbes.com called If I Were a Poor Black Kid. This article is written by a “middle class” white accountant, consulting firm owner, business technology columnist, and former senior manager at KPMG named Gene Marks. Sounds totally “middle class”. Probably an income of $60k a year, you think?

You can see where this is going. My personal additional annoyance beyond the many more obvious ones is: does he really expect to be reaching poor black kids by publishing a blog post on Forbes.com? Obviously not. He never intended for this “advice” to reach a real world poor black kid. He is writing for wealthy white people, at the expense of poor black kids, in an attempt to unearth a dead horse and beat it some more: i.e. the myth that blacks wouldn’t be so poor if they just worked harder. Note of hilarity: This column was originally titled “If I Was a Poor Black Kid”, but so many people were amused by his poor grammar that someone corrected it.

So read it for yourself if you enjoy bathing in a rich froth of righteous privilege and oblivion as to how the real world works.

OR, read one of these amazing and insightful rebuttals, which attempt to relieve Mr. Marks of his embarrassing ignorance.

If I Were a Rich White Dude by Jeff Yang

Trolling The Internet With ‘If I Were A Poor Black Kid’ by Kashmir Hill

A Muscular Empathy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

If I Were the Middle Class White Guy Gene Marks by Kelly Virella

An Ode to a ‘Poor Black Kid’ I Never Knew: How Forbes Gets Poverty Wrong by Cord Jefferson

If I Were Gene Marks by Carolyn Edgar

If I were a wealthy white suburbanite by DN Lee

If Gene Marks Were a Poor Black Kid Who Went to Ballou In 2003 by Shani Hilton

If I Was A Poor Black Kid, I’d Key Gene Marks’s Car by Peter Vidani

H/t ES

“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday.  They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash, unless it is illegal.”

-Newt Gingrich

From the Atlantic:

Occupiers all viscerally sense the problem: extreme economic inequality. They all cite a lack of fairness — a lack of opportunity. They also agree that the status quo is failing.

But when it comes to women, Occupy is really a microcosm of the greater culture at large. This should … greatly embarrass those in the movement who see themselves as revolutionaries.

Just as when misogynists claimed the women accusing Julian Assange of rape were in fact part of a CIA-planned “honey trap”, there are misogynists calling the acknowledgment of gender inequality in the “Occupations” a plot by the powers-that-be to delegitimize the movement.  Little do they know that any participant’s disregard for the concerns of women in the movement, and their lack of willingness to acknowledge that women face sexism in society, will do plenty more to delegitimize Occupy than anything these alleged powers-that-be could do with their sudden, uncharacteristic feminism.  (Society’s power networks have never been known for being particularly woman-friendly, so claims that this is a government or corporate plot seem specious.)

How about this: to pre-empt these nefarious powers attempting to delegitimize the Occupy movement by pointing out how it reproduces society’s inequalities, why doesn’t Occupy instead model what an equal society should look like by being actively feminist, anti-racist, and welcoming to all other marginalized identities?

The argument that we must ignore all inequality except for class inequality is a surefire way to create an all white male movement that benefits white males.  The American Socialist Party in the early 20th century did the same thing, and we can see how powerful they are now. Quote:

[The Socialist Party's] female members were not encouraged to join other women’s organizations in the fight for women’s rights ans suffrage. The class struggle was to have priority over matters of gender equality.

Not only does an equal class, unequal gender vision of the future serve to benefit men and turn off women, but it is impossible. How is it possible for unequal people to maintain equal wealth or wages or standards of living?

No one is a single identity.  Each of us is a whole person with many different identities around race, ethnicity, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, religion, age, etc.  An individual’s class is heavily affected by their other identities.  Black and brown people have considerably less wealth than white people, women still earn less than men for equivalent work, trans people are more likely to be homeless than cisgendered people, etc.  If you can’t bring that into your class analysis, you are doing some shitty class analysis.

To call women, or people of color, or other marginalized groups abettors of the oppressors for raising their particular concerns is to be willfully blind to the real way class works, and to silence those who experience the preponderance of its negative effects… i.e. the best and most motivated potential activists.

Here is some information about wealth disparities for the skeptical.

Florida’s brand new Tea Party-approved law requiring all food stamp and other public assistance applicants to pass a drug test before accessing aid has been temporarily blocked. It seems Federal Judge Mary Scriven was concerned it violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Before signing the law, [Governor Rick] Scott made several references to people on welfare using drugs at a higher rate than the general population. Maria Kayanan, of the ACLU in Florida, called the law “patriarchal, racist and mean-spirited.”

Pre-judicial block, while the law was in operation, over 99% of applicants passed their tests. (6,968 out of 7,000)

This Tea Party-approved measure is estimated to cost the Florida government $178 million a year.

Sounds like a small-government, cut-wasteful-spending, fiscal-conservative type of measure to me. That’s why I’m certain it has nothing to do with poor-bashing, stereotypes, or racism. Just the cold hard facts!

It’s not like we need myths about the good-for-nothingness of the poor to prop up the solid truth of our tots meritocratic capitalist economic system.

Oh, and FYI, Gov. Scott founded the company, Solantic, that has the sole government contract to do this testing.

Wow, this kind of looks like war:

Riot Police at Occupy Oakland on Oct.25, 2011

Photo by Jane Tyska

On Tuesday, October 25th, Oakland police attacked peaceful Occupy Oakland protesters. They shot rubber bullets, bean bag rounds (bags filled with lead balls) and tear gas, and lobbed flash-bang grenades. They deny this, but video from the scene makes the facts clear.

They cracked the skull of Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran, and then lobbed grenades at those who rushed to help him.

Scott Olsen, Iraq veteran

Stillframe from Youtube video above

This Laura Flanders video shows the chaos pretty clearly.

I’m surprised to say that the Washington Post has a good article about the incident and Scott Olsen’s injuries.

The Root also discusses the police attack.

A photo slideshow is available at the LA Times.

In related news…

Further south in LA, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa explains his priorities:

He decided the camp could not stay … because of concerns about the condition of the lawn and trees.

“Look, our lawn is dead, our sprinklers aren’t working . . . our trees are without water,” the mayor said.

Sounds a lot like the tactics used at other Occupy locations, such as the purported deep concern for the flower beds in Liberty Plaza, New York and the plaintive calls by the authorities of Boston for Occupy Boston to PLEASE THINK OF THE SHRUBBERY!

Side note of interest: Google reports that, “We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove.”

Huh.

“[E]xperience has made it painfully clear that men in suits not only don’t have any monopoly on wisdom, they have very little wisdom to offer.”

-Paul Krugman, in Confronting the Malefactors

The NY Daily News, a newspaper of ill-repute, recently published an article entitled Gilgo Beach victim was a man wearing women’s clothing, possibly working as prostitute: authorities, written by Matthew Lysiak and Rich Schapiro. Yes, they did. Let’s dissect.

Police released sketches Tuesday of two victims found at a suspected serial killer’s beachside dumping ground – one of them a gap-toothed man who was dressed as a woman and likely turning tricks.

They know this person identified as a man? Amazing detective work. They don’t even know who zie was, so how can they possibly be aware of hir gender identity in 2000, the year they believe zie was killed? Also, “likely turning tricks”??

Gilgo Beach Victim Sketches

Even the police sketch appears to misgender this person.

The composite sketches were made public along with pictures of jewelry worn by two of the victims – the first new details Long Island cops have put forward in months in the puzzling, creepy cases. The bizarre discovery of the cross-dressing Asian man found near Gilgo Beach led cops to theorize he may have been a prostitute – like five of the other 10 victims.

BIZARRE?? Have the writers, Lysiak and Schapiro, never heard of transgendered people before? Are they unaware of the centuries-long history of people dressing differently than the gender assigned them at birth? I wonder if they know gender is socially-constructed. Um, probably not. Is the “bizarreness” factor heightened by the victim’s race, in the minds of these writers? Do they know that calling minorities — whether racial, sexual or otherwise — “bizarre” is incredibly offensive?

Also, I appreciate the automatic yet subtle association of “cross-dressing” (i.e. gender non-conformity) with sex work.

He was estimated to be between the ages of 17-23 and stood about 5-feet-6, authorities said. He had poor dental health, missing both top and bottom molars and one of his top front teeth.

Nice assumptive use of “he”. You know what “poor dental health” often indicates? Poverty. Just saying. No mention of that being a common thread in these murders, though I have a strange suspicion the victims shared a common economic class in addition to a common gender presentation. Huh. Nothing to see here. Moving along…

Investigators believe he was killed between five and 10 years ago.

Yeah, so could we please treat this murder victim with a modicum of respect? Instead of writing a very public article mocking and insulting hir, much, I’m thinking, as the killer(s) probably did?

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