Thursday, May 31, 2018

Why Are Black People Defending Valerie Jarrett?



medium  |  Valerie Jarrett will never be stopped or profiled, she will never be seen as a Black woman and I’m sure she’s traded on that most of her life, if not all of it. However, her blending in and out of colorism when it suits her is not her real crime but the exploitation and robbing of poor Black people in Chicago is. It was insulting when Jarrett was chosen as the face of all things Black by Obama, between she and Al Sharpton, that should have signaled to all Black people his lack of seriousness in dealing with Black issues. So before you all start marching in support of Valerie Jarrett, you may want to at least ask the people of Chicago, since clearly doing any form of research about her corrupt history, evades you.
Grove Parc and several other prominent failures were developed and managed by Obama’s close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama’s constituents suffered. Tenants lost their homes; surrounding neighborhoods were blighted.
Some of the residents of Grove Parc say they are angry that Obama did not notice their plight. The development straddles the boundary of Obama’s state Senate district. Many of the tenants have been his constituents for more than a decade.
“No one should have to live like this, and no one did anything about it,” said Cynthia Ashley, who has lived at Grove Parc since 1994.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this winter and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.
Jarrett’s involvement in Chicago real estate development between 1992 and 2009 was marred with controversy, much of which centered on Habitat’s role as the sole developer for “family public housing,” a status granted under a district court ruling in 1987.
Under Jarrett’s leadership, Habitat oversaw the development of a number of public housing projects, one of which, in the Cabrini Green neighborhood, was dubbed a “national symbol of urban despair.” Others became so run-down the city had to ask the federal government to intervene.
A 2003 Harvard Law Review article cited the decline of the Cabrini Green development as an embodiment of the negative consequence associated with the “privatization of public housing.”
Valerie Jarrett and her construction company have overseen the complete decimation and gentrification all over Chicago (many labeling her Slum Queen), no Black person should be shedding a tear for her. As for Roseanne Barr, ABC and everyone else knew who she was before they chose to reboot her show. One of the issues ABC was having, is that a show that caters to poor Whites and the alt-right, had somehow surpassed all of the ratings of shows like those of Shonda Rhimes and others they were lauding to be the face of liberal television viewership. The other issue is that, the Obama’s were not going to allow their friend Jarrett to be insulted, no different than when Obama, broke his neck to defend Henry Louis Gates, his old elitist Harvard professor and friend. Black people were quick to praise and laud Channing Dungey, the Black woman and CEO of ABC’s parent company, Disney. However, Channing was the same woman who refused to air a show on Blackish that protested police violence/murders and discussed why Colin Kaepernick kneeled. However, we should already know by Obama’s fecklessness and inaction in going against the police that Neolibs have no desire of ever changing a system that works so well for them…until of course, someone like Roseanne reminds them that they’re still seen as a n*gga, or in this case an ape, or like Henry Louis Gates was profiled at his own home.

 

Ain’t Nobody Asked You To Speak For Us REDUX (Originally Posted 11/07/17)


NationalReview |  If I might be permitted to address the would-be benefactors of the white underclass from the southerly side of the class line: Ain’t nobody asked you to speak for us.
One of the intellectual failings of conservative social critics is our tendency to take external forces, economic and otherwsie, into greater account in the case of struggling rural and small-town whites than in the case of struggling urban blacks.
Of course there are external forces, economic and otherwise, that act on poor people and poor communities, and one of the intellectual failings of conservative social critics is our tendency to take those into considerably greater account in the case of struggling rural and small-town whites than in the case of struggling urban blacks. “Get off welfare and get a job!” has been replaced by solicitous talk about “globalization.” Likewise, the reaction to the crack-cocaine plague of the 1980s and 1990s was very different from the reaction to the opioid epidemic of the moment, in part because of who is involved — or perceived to be involved. And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a rash of deaths from opioid overdoses. As Dr. Peter DeBlieux of University Medical Center in New Orleans put it, heroin addiction was, for a long time, treated in the same way AIDS was in its early days: as a problem for deviants. Nobody cared about AIDS when it was a problem for prostitutes, drug addicts, and those with excessively adventurous sex lives. The previous big epidemic of heroin overdoses involved largely non-white drug users. The current fentanyl-driven heroin episode and the growth of prescription-killer abuse involve more white users and more middle-class users.

But there are internal forces as well. People really do make decisions, and, whether they intend it or not, they contribute to the sometimes difficult conditions in which those decisions have to be made.
Consider the case of how I became homeless.

I wasn’t homeless in the sense of sleeping in the park — most of the people we’re talking about when we’re talking about homelessness aren’t. The people who are sleeping on the streets are mainly addicts and people with other severe mental-health issues. I was homeless in the way the Department of Health and Human Services means: in “an unstable or non-permanent situation . . . forced to stay with a series of friends and/or extended family members.” (As a matter of policy, these two kinds of homelessness should not be conflated, which they intentionally are by those who wish for political reasons to pretend that our mental-health crisis is an economic problem.) Like many underclass families, mine lived very much paycheck-to-paycheck, and was always one setback away from economic catastrophe. That came when my mother, who for various reasons had a weakened immune system, got scratched by her poodle, Pepe, and nearly lost her right arm to the subsequent infection. A long hospitalization combined with fairly radical surgery and a series of skin grafts left her right arm and hand partially paralyzed, a serious problem for a woman who typed for a living. (She’d later learn to type well over 100 words per minute with only partial use of her right hand; she was a Rachmaninoff of the IBM Selectric.) I am sure that there were severe financial stresses associated with her illness, but I ended up being shuffled around between various neighbors — strangers to me — for mainly non-economic reasons. My parents had two houses between them, but at that time had just gone through a very ugly divorce. My mother was living with a mentally disturbed alcoholic who’d had a hard time in Vietnam (and well before that, I am certain; his grandfather had once shot him in the ass with a load of rock-salt for making unauthorized use of a watermelon from the family farm) and it was decided that it would be unsafe to leave children alone in his care, which it certainly would have been. He was very precise, in funny ways, and would stack his Coors Lite cans in perfect silver pyramids until he ran out of beer, at which point he would start drinking shots of Mexican vanilla, which is about 70 proof. Lubbock was a dry city then, and buying more booze would have meant a trip past the city limits, hence the resort to baking ingredients and, occasionally, to mouthwash. I am afraid the old realtors’ trick of filling the house with the aroma of baked cookies has the opposite of the desired effect on me.

Our mortgage then was $285 a month, which was a little less than my father paid in child support, so housing was, in effect, paid for. And thus I found myself in the strange position of being temporarily without a home while rotating between neighbors within sight, about 60 feet away, of the paid-up house to which I could not safely return. I was in kindergarten at the time.

Capitalism didn’t do that, and neither did illegal immigrants or Chinese competition to the Texas Instruments factory on the other side of town. Culture didn’t do it, either, and neither did poverty: We had enough money to secure comfortable housing in a nice neighborhood with good schools. In the last years of her life, my mother asked me to help her sort out some financial issues, and I was shocked to learn how much money she and her fourth and final husband were earning: They’d both ended their careers as government employees, and had pretty decent pensions and excellent health benefits. They were, in fact, making about as much in retirement in Lubbock as I was making editing newspapers in Philadelphia. Of course they were almost dead broke — their bingo and cigarette outlays alone were crushing, and they’d bought a Cadillac and paid for it with a credit card.

Warms My Heart To See WICHITA STILL DONT PLAY!!!


KAKE |  A 14-year-old boy says he was arrested at the Warren Theatre in east Wichita because his pants were sagging.

Alonzo Taylor Jr says he went to the East Warren 20 with a group of friends when the manager approached him about his pants.

"A couple of seconds after leaving the concessions counter, the manager walked up and said to pull up your pants or you'll be escorted," Taylor said.

He says he couldn't find a belt to wear and his pants began sagging while he was carrying a drink and popcorn. 
"I was by the counter and he said that, 'You're going to have to leave. I don't care what you did. You're trespassing.'" 
Taylor says he followed all of the manager's commands but was still arrested. He believes the manager targeted him because he is black. 

Taylor's mother, Ruth Dennis, says her son is a good kid who never gets into trouble. She's not mad at police for handcuffing her son. She's mad at the theater.

"I just don't want my son's record to be messed up over sagging and to be labeled as a trespasser," she said.

Taylor is still shocked by what happened and now doesn't feel welcome at the East Warren 20.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

WikiLeaks Calls QAnon A Pied-Piper Operation


twitter |  After more than 6 months of watching people get scammed by the #QAnon phenomena, I'm going to make the below thread to explain to you exactly why it is an intelligence agency-backed psyop, what techniques are being used, and why you need to stop people falling for it.

 Thread Guide:

1: #QAnon: Pied Piper op
2. Phase 1: Establishing credibility
3. Phase 2: Making it spiritual
4. Phase 3: Shifting Targets
5. Methodologies
6. Indicators
7. Answering questions
8. Snowden revelations
9. Finish

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

If Roseanne's Was A Fireable Offence, What Do These Psy-Op Minstrels Deserve?









Is There Any Point In Talking About What You Don't Have?


slate |  One of the nice things about Occupy Wall Street was that it provided a tidy shorthand to describe the problem of income inequality at a moment when the world didn’t really have one. Today, it’s a cliche: the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent. But at the time, that brief phrase awakened many people to the idea that America’s riches were distributed more unevenly than they thought, and that an increasingly outrageous share was being concentrated at the very top. The winners in this story were corporate executives, business owners, and highly paid professionals—especially bankers. The losers were just about everybody else. Like all shorthand, this tale was a bit oversimplified. But in the wake of a financial crisis brought on by the greed and recklessness of those 1 percenters, it felt apt. 

Back then, the people who took issue with framing America’s economy as a tug of war between the ultrarich and the rest of us generally fell into two camps. They were either inequality skeptics, who insisted unconvincingly that research showing the rise of the 1 percent was flawed, or inequality apologists, who argued that letting some people get exorbitantly wealthy was good for the economy, since it rewarded hustle and entrepreneurship (basically, Paul Ryan during his peak makers-vs.-takers period). 

Lately, though, a few writers have tried to play down the idea of the 1 percent for a different reason: They say it’s making us miss the real story of class and inequality in America. Last year, a Brookings Institution scholar named Richard Reeves published a book titled Dream Hoarders, in which he argues that America’s upper-middle class is rigging the economy in its own favor. Our national focus on the very rich, he suggests, is blinding us to the reality of how well-off soccer moms and dads in places like Arlington, Virginia, are killing the American dream for everyone but their own kids. “Too often, the rhetoric of inequality points to a ‘top 1 percent’ problem, as if the ‘bottom’ 99 percent is in a similarly dire situation,” he writes. “This obsession with the upper class allows the upper middle class to convince ourselves we are in the same boat as the rest of America; but it is not true.”\

Reeves’ book received a brief burst of national attention after David Brooks used it as a launching point for a weird and widely pilloried New York Times column, in which he recounted a story about seeing his friend get flustered by the selection of Italian cold cuts at a sandwich shop. (He assumed this was because she only had a high school education, since you apparently need a philosophy degree to be familiar with soppressata.) But this week, the Atlantic published a long feature more or less rehashing most of Dream Hoarders’ arguments. In “The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy,” writer Matthew Stewart argues that aside from a small sliver of true plutocrats who can actually afford to buy an election or two, the top 10 percent of wealthiest Americans are all essentially part of the same highly educated and privileged group—the “meritocratic class”—which has “mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children.” 

Reeves and Stewart are both attempting to give us a new shorthand for who is ruining the economy. Instead of the 1 percent, they would like us to talk about the dream hoarders, or the 9.9 percent. But in the end, both authors fail by lumping together large groups of Americans who haven’t really benefited equally from our winner-take-all economy. As a result, their stories about how the country has changed, and who has gained, just don’t track.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Systemwide Training Will Not Correct Imaginary Systemic Racism In Starbucks


NewYorker |  Elijah Anderson, a professor of sociology and African-American studies at Yale, has spent much of his career exploring the dynamics of African-American life in mostly black urban environments. Three years ago, however, he published a paper, titled “The White Space,” which looked at the racial complexities of mostly white urban environments. “The city’s public spaces, workplaces and neighborhoods may now be conceptualized as a mosaic of white spaces, black spaces and cosmopolitan spaces,” Anderson wrote. The white spaces are an environment in which blacks are “typically absent, not expected, or marginalized.”

Academics are commonly dogged by questions of how their research applies to the real world. Anderson has faced the opposite: a scroll of headlines and social-media posts that, like a mad data set liberated from its spreadsheet, seem intent on confirming the validity of his argument. The most notable recent case in point occurred on April 12th, when a white employee of a Starbucks in Philadelphia called the police on two young black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who asked to use the rest room before they had ordered anything. They were arrested on suspicion of trespassing; it turned out that they had been waiting for a business associate to join them.

The incident was both disturbing and disturbingly common. A few days later, an employee at a New Jersey gym called the police, on the suspicion that two black men using the facility had not paid; they had. A couple of weeks after that, a woman in California called the police on three black women whom she thought were behaving suspiciously. They were actually carrying bags out of a house they had rented on Airbnb. Earlier this month, a white student at Yale called the police on a black graduate student for exhibiting behavior that struck her as suspicious: napping in a common area. Thousands of social-media users have since shared their experiences as persons of color in a “white space.”

Starbucks didn’t press charges against the men, but protests followed, along with the requisite hashtag directive, in this case, #boycottStarbucks. The men, though, settled with the city for a dollar apiece and a promise to invest in a program to assist young entrepreneurs.

Starbucks Had A Really Bad Store Manager Problem In Philadelphia - Period


nakedcapitalism |  The results also support our hypothesis about the Starbucks incident, in which a now-fired manager called the cops on two men whose crime appeared to be waiting at a Starbucks while black, and using the restroom. The evidence below indicates this manager was a disaster waiting to happen and had been calling the police at a vastly higher frequency than her predecessor.

We had discussed briefly that one Malcolm Gladwell’s books included a case study of biased policing in the Los Angeles Police Department, which has a a terrible record in that regard. He found was that a very few cops were responsible for virtually all the incidents. Gladwell argued that that meant the conventional approach, of more training for all the police, was all wet. Those rogue policemen needed to be taken off the street. 

Starbuck’s rush to hold a training program may be good optics, but it isn’t likely to be the best approach. The coffee chain should require managers to write an incident report any time they call the police. That would enable them to see if any managers were making a lot of requests and they could then look as to whether the calls were warranted or not. 

News reports have pointed out that part of the problem is that Starbucks never gave its store managers any policy on what to do about people who stay in a Starbucks without buying anything. I’m skeptical that promulgating rules on a national basis is the right answer. As I mentioned when I had nearly a week of having to work in Starbucks thanks to Verizon-induced connectivity woes, there was often one or two homeless people in an area that was a bit removed from the cash registers. 

There were also plenty of customers back there, most working solo like me, but also a few groups of two or three people chatting. No one was bothered by the homeless people sitting nearby. In fact, I thought it was a good thing that some of the money I spent at Starbucks was helping the homeless. However, it isn’t hard to think that in an affluent suburb, the locals would go nuts if a homeless person were to hang out in a Starbucks, and management would almost be forced to run them off because customers were certain to make a stink.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Wynton Marsalis is 100% Right - Renee Graham and the Globe are a Disgrace


BostonGlobe |  WHEN WYNTON MARSALIS condemns rap and hip-hop, it’s less of a surprise, and more of a “Mama, it’s that man again” moment.

On a recent episode of a Washington Post podcast, the renowned jazz musician derided rap as a “pipeline of filth.” Marsalis compared what he perceives as its deleterious effect on culture to that of minstrel shows, which, more than a century ago, amplified racist stereotypes about African-Americans.

“My words are not that powerful,” Marsalis said. “I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about [n-words] and bitches and hoes. It had no impact. I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

A few years ago in New Orleans, Marsalis fought for the removal of Lee’s statue. He would like to do the same to some hip-hop.

“At 56, I’m pretty sure I will not be alive when our country and the world (of all races and persuasions) no longer accepts being entertained by the pathology of Black Americans and others who choose to publicly humiliate themselves for the appetites of those who don’t share the same ongoing history and challenges,” he wrote. “Over the years, I have come to accept this, but that doesn’t mean I have to like and endorse it. So I don’t.”

Conservative Antipathy To American Public Education


therealnews |  So 64 years ago, Brown vs. Board of Education found that separate and unequal education systems for African Americans was unconstitutional. You argue that many Virginians initially actually accepted this decision, but a public campaign was launched to sway public opinion against it. Can you talk about that? You start off the first chapter of your book with this history, talking about how students and teachers in Virginia, led by students, weren’t organized to be part of Brown. And then the public response against it.

NANCY MACLEAN: Yeah, in the state of Virginia in 1951 there was an extraordinarily inspiring event that is really, in a way, a precursor to some of what we’re seeing now with the teachers strikes, and student and teacher mobilizations for good public education. In that strike in 1951 in Prince Edward County, Virginia, a young woman named Barbara Rose Johns joined with her favorite teacher, and the two of them worked together, kind of strategized for a strike, a student strike, to demand a better high school for the black children of Prince Edward County. At that point many of the students were taking classes in tar paper shacks. They did not have indoor plumbing, in many cases, while the white school was the extraordinary state of the art facility. And so the 200 students in this high school went out on a 100 percent solid students strike for a better high school.

It was an incredibly inspiring event with the support of over 90 percent of their parents, the local black clergy, and NAACP. And what they wanted was a chance to learn, to grow, to have the same opportunities as other children in their cohort and their era and their community. And they only went back to school when the NAACP agreed to take their course. I’m sorry, to take their case against discrimination to the courts. And at that point the students went back to school, and this case from Prince Edward County became one of the five eventually folded into Brown vs. Board of Education.

Fast forward a bit, and after the Brown decision was issued by the court, Virginia’s extremely conservative white elite began in 1955 and ’56 to do everything it could to undermine the success of that decision, and to deny black children and communities the constitutional rights that had just been recognized by the court. The way that they did this was through a program called massive resistance, and they led the program of massive resistance and goaded the wider white South onto it. And one element of that massive resistance was state-funded tuition grants, what we today would call vouchers, to enable white parents to pull their children from public schools to private schools that would be beyond the reach of the Federal Court’s ruling that segregation was unconstitutional.

So that’s actually how I got into this story, and it was a story that led me to the surprising discovery that essentially the entire American right, and particularly of interest, this free market fundamentalist right that was just beginning to get organized in those years, supported these tax-funded school vouchers. And even, in many cases, supported the school closures in Prince Edward County to prevent the Brown decision from being implemented.

So that was fascinating to me. And I discovered that Milton Friedman, the Chicago school free market economist, had issued his first manifesto for such vouchers in 1955 in the full knowledge of how it could be used by the white segregationists of the South. And then I also stumbled onto a report by this James McGill Buchanan that we were discussing earlier, who essentially tried to pull the segregationist chestnuts out of the fire in early 1959, when a massive mobilization of moderate white parents had come together to try to save the schools from these school closures, and the bleeding of these tax monies out to private schools. And after the courts had ruled against school closures of schools that were planning to desegregate in Virginia. So that’s how Buchanan got on my radar. But what I realized was that this was a much deeper story about the right’s radical antipathy to public education precisely because it was public.

And here I think it’s important to point out that when this was happening in the late 1950s, American schools were the envy of the developed world. We lead the world in the efficacy of our public education system. Our schools were a model for the wider world. And yet this right was attacking public education even then. And as important, teachers were not organized then. There were no recognized teachers unions. There was no collective bargaining structure for teachers in those years. The right was attacking public education as a monopoly, saying that it denied choice, all the kinds of things that they say now against public education, and they were doing this at a time when teachers had no collective power.

So the antipathy that we see on the right toward teachers unions today, toward public education, is not really because of any failing on their part. It is ideological. It is dogmatic. It is an antipathy to public education precisely because it is public.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Neoliberal Identitarianism - Race Discouse Displaces Political Economy


nonsite |  Black political debate and action through the early 1960s focused on concrete issues—employment, housing, wages, unionization, discrimination in specific venues and domains— rather than an abstract “racism.” It was only in the late 1960s and 1970s, after the legislative victories that defeated southern apartheid and restored black Americans’ full citizenship rights, that “racism” was advanced as the default explanation for inequalities that appear as racial disparities. That view emerged from Black Power politics and its commitment to a race-first communitarian ideology that posited the standpoint of an idealized “black community” as the standard for political judgment, which Bayard Rustin predicted at the time would ensue only in creation of a “new black establishment.” It was ratified as a commonsense piety of racial liberalism by the Report of the Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—popularly known as the Kerner Commission, after its chair, Illinois Governor Otto Kerner—which asserted that “white racism” was the ultimate source of the manifold inequalities the Report catalogued as well as the pattern of civil disturbances the commission had been empaneled to investigate.

Reduction of black politics to a timeless struggle against abstractions like racism and white supremacy or for others like freedom and liberation obscures the extent to which black Americans’ political activity has evolved and been shaped within broader American political currents. That view, which oscillates between heroic and tragic, overlooks the fact that the mundane context out of which racism became a default explanation, or alternative to explanation, for inequality, was a national debate over how to guide anti-poverty policy and the struggle for fair employment practices in the early 1960s. Left-of-center public attention to poverty and persistent unemployment at the beginning of the 1960s divided into two camps. One, represented most visibly by figures like Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz, Senators Joseph Clark (D-PA) and Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN), United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther, and black labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, argued that both phenomena stemmed from structural inadequacies in the postwar economy, largely the consequence of technological reorganization, especially in manufacturing. From that perspective, effectively addressing those conditions would require direct and large scale federal intervention in labor markets, including substantial investment in public works employment and skills-based, targeted job-training.

The other camp saw poverty and persistent unemployment as residual problems resulting from deficiencies of values, attitudes, and human capital (a notion then only recently popularized) in individuals and groups that hindered them from participating fully in a dynamic labor market rather than from inadequacies in overall economic performance. In that view, addressing poverty and persistent unemployment did not require major intervention in labor markets. A large tax cut intended to stimulate aggregate demand would eliminate unacceptably high rates of unemployment, and anti-poverty policy would center on fixing the deficiencies within residual populations. Job training would focus on teaching “job readiness”—attitudes and values—more than specific skills. Liberals connected to the Ford Foundation and the Kennedy and Johnson administrations saw chronic poverty as bound up with inadequate senses of individual and group efficacy rather than economic performance. That interpretation supported a policy response directed to enhancing the sense of efficacy among impoverished individuals and communities, partly through mobilization for civic action. The War on Poverty’s Community Action program gave that approach a militant or populist patina through its commitment to “grassroots” mobilization of poor people on their own behalf. In addition, Community Action Agencies and Model Cities projects facilitated insurgent black and Latino political mobilization in cities around the country, which reinforced a general sense of their radicalism. At the same time, however, those programs reinforced liberals’ tendencies to separate race from class and inequality from political economy and to substitute participation or representation for redistribution.

Both camps assumed that black economic inequality stemmed significantly from current and past discrimination. A consequential difference between them, though, was that those who emphasized the need for robust employment policies contended that much black unemployment resulted from structural economic factors that were beyond the reach of anti- discrimination efforts. To that extent, improving black Americans’ circumstances would require broader social-democratic intervention in the political economy, including significantly expanded social wage policy. As Randolph observed at the 1963 March on Washington, “Yes, we want a Fair Employment Practices Act, but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers, black and white? We want integrated public schools, but that means we also want federal aid to education—all forms of education.” The other camp, in line with then Assistant Secretary of Labor Moynihan’s Negro Family jeremiad, construed black unemployment and poverty as deriving from an ambiguous confluence of current discrimination and cultural pathologies produced by historical racism. For a variety of reasons having to do with both large politics and small, the latter vision won.

Obama's Polite Gentrification Will Displace Poor Residents - Huh?


therealnews |  Years before he became president, Barack Obama got his start as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago. Now out of the White House, Obama is coming back to the south side to build his $500 million presidential center. But Obama now faces a pushback from the same community he once organized with. For months, south side residents have been holding protests. They don’t oppose the center, but they want to make sure it doesn’t cause gentrification and displacement.
SPEAKER: So we’re here to make this stand, to say that we don’t want displacement to happen in this community. We don’t want to see the jobs come from outside, be filled by people from the outside, the people living here don’t get a chance to work.
AARON MATE: South side residents have formed a coalition, calling on Obama to sign a community benefits agreement which, among other things, would help protect low income residents from eviction and higher rents. Coalition Member Paru Brown outlined their demands.
PARU BROWN: We are pushing for a city ordinance that would, one, set aside 30 percent of new and rehab housing for low-income and working families; two, freeze property taxes for longtime residents; three, require large developers like the University of Chicago to invest in new affordable housing; and four, independently monitor local hiring.
AARON MATE: But Obama and his foundation are refusing to sign a CBA. The former president recently told Chicago residents why.
BARACK OBAMA: And the danger here is that if we sign an agreement with any one organization, or two organizations, or five organizations-. I’ve lived on the south side and in Chicago long enough to know that they’re not representing everybody on the south side. So now suddenly I’ve got five other organizations to say, hey, how come, how come you signed with them? What about us? And then you got 10, oh, I just formed an organization. You know what I’m talking about. And next thing you know you’ve got 40 organizations or 50 organizations, everybody has their own organization, saying we should get, we should have say, control, decision-making over who gets the contract, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
AARON MATE: Well, Obama’s plans have now taken a big step forward. The Obama center has just won approval from two city commissions and the full City Council, moving the project to federal review. South side activists are not giving up their fight. Jawanza Malone is executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, and a member of the Obama library South Side CBA coalition. Jawanza, welcome. Talk to us first just about the struggle that you’ve been involved in for many months now, and the state of it now, and the aftermath of these city votes moving the project forward.
JAWANZA MALONE: Thanks for having me on, Aaron. For the last two and a half years, actually, the CBA coalition has been working to craft a community benefits agreement that involves not just the Obama Foundation but also the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago. In all the turmoil and excitement around President Obama himself, people forget that the University of Chicago is actually the entity that wrote the bill that was awarded to get the Presidential Center on the south side of Chicago in Jackson Park. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel had, you know, said two years ago that he was willing to move heaven and earth to make sure that it happened. And that’s what we’re, we’re seeing it happen over concerns raised with the city councilmen, over concerns raised by the community, particularly about where the money is going to come from for the infrastructure changes that the foundation has called for.
As you said in your intro, the city council and a quasi-governmental appointed body has voted to approve the plan moving forward. What we’ve been asking for is very simple. We’re asking for a legally binding agreement to ensure that residents are not, do not continue to get displaced from the area, because we’ve already seen displacement taking place. And so without a clear community benefits agreement that protects low-income and working families, who is the predominant population in that part of town, we’re going to see mass displacement of people, unfortunately.

Polite White Supremacy - Huh?



medium |  Polite White Supremacy is the notion that whites should remain the ruling class while denying that they are the ruling class, politely. Affectionately, it’s called #PWS for short. It has been referred to as the Casual American Caste System, Delicate Apartheid, Gentle Oppression, or what I like to call it after a few drinks: Chad Crow, the super chill grandson of Jim Crow.

No but seriously, Polite White Supremacy is very real. So why is it that we must specifically say ‘Polite White Supremacy’ rather than Racism? We must say Polite White Supremacy for three reasons. First, saying #PWS puts the responsibility solely on the creators of a systemic problem. Second, this phrase addresses the subtlety and casualness with which oppression is administered. Thirdly, it eradicates the all-too-common confusion between racism and prejudice. It’s important to eradicate this confusion so it can be clear that racism is tied to a power structure and access to resources.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
RACISM AND PREJUDICE

Racism and prejudice are NOT interchangeable. Racism is the systemic oppression of one group of people who can be categorized within certain phenotypical traits over multiple generations that has been, at one point, sanctioned by a country, the majority and/or ruling class. Racism is committed only by the ruling class and agents of the ruling class because they have the power that comes with racism. Racism, in America, is absolutely the attack dog of the white ruling class. However, sometimes it’s also a slow poison in that it causes its victims to die of exhaustion or grief. Again, racism is a kind of prejudice that comes with power. Racism is the systematic and intentional oppression of group of people from the ruling class and its agents. In America, the ruling class is white people…of all classes.
America has been playing a centuries-long game of ‘stop hitting yourself’ while holding the arms of Black America.
Prejudice, though harmful, is not necessarily systemic and can be committed by anyone. It simply requires one to pre-judge. It does not require its user to have any access to the ruling class or status of whiteness. However, you have to be part of or support the ruling class to wield the power of racism. Those who are not part of the white ruling class, yet support white supremacy of any form, are called agents of white supremacy. They are not white, but benefit in some direct way from empowering and enforcing white supremacy often times on their own people. Historically black overseers and house slaves were bestowed more rights, and ultimately more power during slavery. These were employed agents of white supremacy who oppressed their fellow blacks. This employment was a status. It was a form of racist power that white slave owners gave to black overseers as a way to also instill mistrust within the black community. Prejudice alone, has no real power without the system of control and power to support it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Why Is Pinker Anti-PC Okay - But Peterson Anti-PC Not Okay?


WaPo |  Ontario has been hit hard by the ravages of global economic policy and should be a prime location for emerging, radical action. Instead, Canada’s most populous province has produced the English-speaking world’s most controversial, right-wing surrogate dad: Jordan Peterson.

Peterson cloaks his anti-progressive opinions in folksy, common-sense advice. He is a master at inventing an enemy and offering young men a solution to various straw men. Peterson has perfectly tailored his self-help style to the individual, no doubt a holdover from his days as a clinical psychologist, which he mentions a lot when he talks.

Self-help alone isn’t dangerous, but it becomes dangerous in the way that Peterson uses it as the solution to the myriad problems that young people face. He argues that the left is dangerous and destructive because of the emphasis it places on “group identity.” In a trailer for a video called “No Safe Space,” to be released in 2018, Peterson argues that “group identity” is really what killed tens of millions of people under Stalin’s Communism and Hitler’s Nazism and then, remarkably, concludes, “and I’m concerned because the universities are so overwhelmed by this, that I can’t see how they can extract themselves from it.”

Therefore, supremacy of the individual is the only way to stop global war and mass murder.

Peterson’s message fits perfectly with the prevailing ideology that has driven public-policy debates in North America since the 1980s: People should be able to succeed on their own, without help from the state. This message intentionally erases systemic barriers that perniciously remain and instead demonizes anyone who understands that collective advancement is the key to improvement.


Deepening Contradictions: Token Pinkerite Acolyte Buoyed Up By The Alt-White


quillette |  There’s no reason to think that the definition of racism will stop expanding any time soon. And there’s no reason to think that progressives will ever stop demanding institutional reforms to fix racism—up to and including attempts to reform our subconscious minds with such things as mandatory implicit bias trainings. In a BBC feature on racism, the acclaimed poet Benjamin Zephaniah remarked, “laws can control people’s actions, but they can’t control people’s thoughts. As racism becomes more subtle, we need to keep pressuring our institutions to change.”

Luckily, he’s right that laws can’t reach into our subconscious minds, since anti-bias trainings don’t seem to work. But Zephaniah’s remark would have sounded alien to the Civil Rights leaders of yesteryear. In the words of political scientist Adolph Reed,
Black political debate and action through the early 1960s focused on concrete issues—employment, housing, wages, unionization, discrimination in specific venues and domains—rather than an abstract “racism.” It was only in the late 1960s and 1970s, after the legislative victories that defeated southern apartheid and restored black Americans’ full citizenship rights, that “racism” was advanced as the default explanation for inequalities that appear as racial disparities.
If the early 1960s were about reaching the mountaintop, then the modern era is about running on the Treadmill. Coates’s refrain, “resistance must be its own reward,” has become the watchword of the movement.13

The War on Racism, though intended to be won by those prosecuting it, will, in practice, continue indefinitely. This is because the stated goals of progressives, however sincerely held, are so apocalyptic, so vague, and so total as to guarantee that they will never be met. One often hears calls to “end white supremacy,” for instance. But what “ending white supremacy” would look like in a country where whites are already out-earned by several dark-skinned ethnic groups (Indian-Americans top the list by a large margin) is never explained. I would not be the first to point out the parallels between progressive goals and religious eschatology. Coates, for instance, professes to be an atheist, but tweak a few details and the Rapture becomes Reparations––which he has said will lead to a “spiritual renewal” and a “revolution of the American consciousness.”14

Staying on the Racism Treadmill means denying progress and stoking ethnic tensions. It means, as Thomas Sowell once warned, moving towards a society in which “a new born baby enters the world supplied with prepackaged grievances against other babies born the same day.”[15] Worse still, it means shutting down the one conversation that stands the greatest chance of improving outcomes for blacks: the conversation about culture.

By contrast, getting off the Treadmill means recognizing that group outcomes will differ even in the absence of systemic bias; it means treating people as individuals rather than as members of a collective; it means restoring the naive conception of equal treatment over the skin-color morality of the far Left; and it means rejecting calls to burn this or that system to the ground in order to combat forms of racial oppression that grow ever more abstract by the day. At bottom, it means acknowledging the fact that racism has declined precipitously, and perhaps even being grateful that it has.

Neoliberal Elite Intellectual Darling On Political Correctness


resilience |  It’s time to reclaim the mantle of “Progress” for progressives. By falsely tethering the concept of progress to free market economics and centrist values, Steven Pinker has tried to appropriate a great idea for which he has no rightful claim.

In Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, published earlier this year, Steven Pinker argues that the human race has never had it so good as a result of values he attributes to the European Enlightenment of the 18th century. He berates those who focus on what is wrong with the world’s current condition as pessimists who only help to incite regressive reactionaries. Instead, he glorifies the dominant neoliberal, technocratic approach to solving the world’s problems as the only one that has worked in the past and will continue to lead humanity on its current triumphant path.

His book has incited strong reactions, both positive and negative. On one hand, Bill Gates has, for example, effervesced that “It’s my new favorite book of all time.” On the other hand, Pinker has been fiercely excoriated by a wide range of leading thinkers for writing a simplistic, incoherent paean to the dominant world order. John Gray, in the New Statesman, calls it “embarrassing” and “feeble”; David Bell, writing in The Nation, sees it as “a dogmatic book that offers an oversimplified, excessively optimistic vision of human history”; and George Monbiot, in The Guardian, laments the “poor scholarship” and “motivated reasoning” that “insults the Enlightenment principles he claims to defend.” (Full disclosure: Monbiot recommends my book, The Patterning Instinct, instead.)

In light of all this, you might ask, what is left to add? Having read his book carefully, I believe it’s crucially important to take Pinker to task for some dangerously erroneous arguments he makes. 

Pinker is, after all, an intellectual darling of the most powerful echelons of global society. He spoke to the world’s elite this year at the World’s Economic Forum in Davos on the perils of what he calls “political correctness,” and has been named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” Since his work offers an intellectual rationale for many in the elite to continue practices that imperil humanity, it needs to be met with a detailed and rigorous response.

Besides, I agree with much of what Pinker has to say. His book is stocked with seventy-five charts and graphs that provide incontrovertible evidence for centuries of progress on many fronts that should matter to all of us: an inexorable decline in violence of all sorts along with equally impressive increases in health, longevity, education, and human rights. It’s precisely because of the validity of much of Pinker’s narrative that the flaws in his argument are so dangerous. They’re concealed under such a smooth layer of data and eloquence that they need to be carefully unraveled. That’s why my response to Pinker is to meet him on his own turf: in each section, like him, I rest my case on hard data exemplified in a graph.

This discussion is particularly needed because progress is, in my view, one of the most important concepts of our time. I see myself, in common parlance, as a progressive. Progress is what I, and others I’m close to, care about passionately. Rather than ceding this idea to the coterie of neoliberal technocrats who constitute Pinker’s primary audience, I believe we should hold it in our steady gaze, celebrate it where it exists, understand its true causes, and most importantly, ensure that it continues in a form that future generations on this earth can enjoy. I hope this piece helps to do just that.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bro.ConFeed Report To The Principal's Office To Discuss Patronage And The New Negroe...,


NewYorker |  Locke relished every titillating contradiction but shrank, still, from political extremes. Hoping to avoid the charge of radicalism, he changed the title of McKay’s protest poem from “White House” to “White Houses”—an act of censorship that severed the two men’s alliance. “No wonder Garvey remains strong despite his glaring defects,” the affronted poet wrote to Locke. “When the Negro intellectuals like you take such a weak line!”

And such a blurred line. In a gesture of editorial agnosticism, Locke brought voices to “The New Negro” that challenged his own. Among the more scholarly contributions to the anthology was “Capital of the Black Middle Class,” an ambivalent study of Durham, North Carolina, by E. Franklin Frazier, a young social scientist. More than thirty years later, Frazier savaged the pretensions and the perfidies of Negro professionals in his study “The Black Bourgeoisie.” A work of Marxist sociology and scalding polemic, it took a gratuitous swipe at the New Negro: the black upper class, Frazier said, had “either ignored the Negro Renaissance or, when they exhibited any interest in it, they revealed their ambivalence towards the Negro masses.” Aesthetics had been reduced to an ornament for a feckless √©lite.

The years after “The New Negro” were marked by an agitated perplexity. Locke yearned for something solid: a home for black art, somewhere to nourish, protect, refine, and control it. He’d been formed and polished by √©lite institutions, and he longed to see them multiply. But the Great Depression shattered his efforts to extend the New Negro project, pressing him further into the byzantine patronage system of Charlotte Mason, an older white widow gripped by an eccentric fascination with “primitive peoples.” Salvation obsessed her. She believed that black culture could rescue American society by replenishing the spiritual values that had been evaporated by modernity, but that pumped, still, through the Negro’s unspoiled heart.

Mason was rich, and Locke had sought her backing for a proposed Harlem Museum of African Art. Although the project failed (as did his plans for a Harlem Community Arts Center), Mason remained a meddling, confused presence in his life until her death, in 1946. During their association, he passed through a gantlet of prickling degradations. Her vision of Negro culture obviously didn’t align with his; she demanded to be called Godmother; and she was prone to angry suspicion, demanding a fastidious accounting of how her funds were spent. But those funds were indispensable, finally, to the work of Hughes and, especially, Hurston. Locke, as the erstwhile “mid-wife” of black modernism, was dispatched to handle the writers—much to their dismay. He welcomed the authority, swelling into a supercilious manager (and, to Hughes, a bullying admirer) who handed down edicts from Godmother while enforcing a few of his own.

Differentiating Right and Left Populisms


nakedcapitalism |  According to David Harvey, neoliberal globalization is comprised of four processes: accumulation by dispossession; de-regulation; privatization; and an upward re-distribution of wealth. Taken together they have increased both economic insecurity and cultural anxiety via three features in particular: the creation of surplus peoples, rising global inequality, and threats to identity.

The anxiety wrought by neoliberal globalization has created a rich and fertile ground for populist politics of both right and left. Neither Norris and Inglehart nor Laclau adequately account for such insecurity in their theorization of populism. As we have seen, populism can be understood as a mobilizing discourse that conceives of political subjectivity as comprised of “the people.” Yet this figure of “the people,” as Agamben has indicatedin What is a people? (2000) is deeply ambivalent insofar as it can be understood both in terms of the  body politic as a whole (as in the US Constitution’s “We the People”), or in terms of what Ranciere calls the “part that has no part,” or the dispossessed and the displaced; as in “The people united shall never be defeated,” or in the Black Panthers’ famous slogan: “All Power to the People.”

In this dichotomy, the figure of “the people” can be understood in terms of its differential deployments by right and left, which themselves must be understood in terms of the respective enemies through which “the people” is constructed. And this is the decisive dimension of populism.
Right populism conflates “the people” with an embattled nation confronting its external enemies: Islamic terrorism, refugees, the European Commission, the International Jewish conspiracy, and so on. The left, in marked contrast, defines “the people” in relation to the social structures and institutions – for example, state and capital – that thwart its aspirations for self-determination; a construction which does not necessarily, however, preclude hospitality towards the Other.

In other words, right-wing or authoritarian populism defines the enemy in personalized terms, whereas, while this is not always true, left-wing populism tends to define the enemy in terms of bearers of socio-economic structures and rarely as particular groups. The right, in a tradition stemming back to Hobbes, takes insecurity and anxiety as the necessary, unavoidable, and indeed perhaps even favourable product of capitalist social relations. It transforms such insecurity and anxiety into the fear of the stranger and an argument for a punitive state. In contrast, the left seeks to provide an account of the sources of such insecurity in the processes that have led to the dismantling of the welfare state, and corresponding phenomena such as “zero-hours” contracts, the casualization of labour, and generalized precarity. It then proposes transformative and egalitarian solutions to these problems. Of course, left populism can also turn authoritarian – largely though not exclusively due to the interference and threatened military intervention of the global hegemon and its allies – with an increasing vilification of the opposition, as we saw in Venezuela and Ecuador with Rafael Correa.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Trump Smacking Amazon While Afrikan Liberation Peddling "Neurospeculative AfroFeminist" Cloth


thenextweb |  The Guardian reports Berlin-bound artist and independent researcher Adam Harvey is developing a new technology which aims to overwhelm and confuse computer vision systems by feeding them false information.

The Hyperface Project, as Harvey calls it, revolves around printing deceitful patterns onto attire and textiles with the purpose of rendering your face illegible to surveillance systems.

The method essentially dodges facial recognition by presenting computer vision devices with an overload of patterns closely resembling facial features like eyes and mouths.

As Harvey explains, the Hyperface technology ultimately prevents computers from scanning your face by inundating “an algorithm with what it wants, oversaturating an area with faces to divert the gaze of the computer vision algorithm.”

The patterns, which Harvey developed in collaboration with interaction studio Hyphen-Labs, can then be worn to shield off the areas facial recognition systems seek to interpret.

MIT |  Sue Ding interviewed the creators of NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism, an ambitious and richly imagined project at this year’s Sundance New Frontier.  Artists Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Ashley Baccus Clark, Nitzan Bartov, and Ece Tankal are part of of Hyphen-Labs, a global team of women of color who are doing pioneering work at the intersection of art, technology, and science. Together they draw on a formidable range of expertise, including engineering, molecular biology, game design, and architecture.

NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism consists of three components. The first is an installation that transports visitors to a futuristic and stylish beauty salon. Speculative products designed for women of color are displayed around the space. They include sunscreen for dark skin, a scarf whose pattern overwhelms facial recognition software, earrings that can record video and audio in hostile situations, and a reflective visor that lets wearers see out while hiding their faces.

The second part of the project is a VR experience that takes place at a “neurocosmetology lab” in the future. Participants see themselves in the mirror as a young black girl, as the lab owner explains that they are about to receive Octavia Electrodes—cutting edge technology involving both hair extensions and brain-stimulating electrical currents. In the VR narrative, the electrodes then prompt a hallucination that carries viewers through a psychedelic Afrofuturist space landscape.

The final component of the project is Hyphen-Labs’ ongoing research about how VR can affect viewers, potentially reducing bias and fear by immersing participants in positive, engaging portrayals of black women. The team would eventually like to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to study how  participants respond to the experience.


Afrikan Liberation Movement - Amazon Giving RealTime Facial Rekognition To Law Enforcement


WaPo |  Amazon has been essentially giving away facial recognition tools to law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando, according to documents obtained by American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, paving the way for a rollout of technology that is causing concern among civil rights groups.

Amazon is providing the technology, known as Rekognition, as well as consulting services, according to the documents, which the ACLU obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A coalition of civil rights groups, in a letter released Tuesday, called on Amazon to stop selling the program to law enforcement because it could lead to the expansion of surveillance of vulnerable communities.

“We demand that Amazon stop powering a government surveillance infrastructure that poses a grave threat to customers and communities across the country,” the groups wrote in the letter.
Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey did not directly address the concerns of civil rights groups. “Amazon requires that customers comply with the law and be responsible when they use AWS services,” she said, referring to Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud software division that houses the facial recognition program. “When we find that AWS services are being abused by a customer, we suspend that customer’s right to use our services.”

She said that the technology has many useful purposes, including finding abducted people.  Amusement parks have used it to locate lost children. During the royal wedding this past weekend, clients used Rekognition to identify wedding attendees, she said. (Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)

The details about Amazon’s program illustrate the proliferation of cutting-edge technologies deep into American society — often without public vetting or debate. Axon, the maker of Taser electroshock weapons and the wearable body cameras for police, has voiced interest in pursuing face recognition for its body-worn cameras, prompting a similar backlash from civil rights groups.  Hundreds of Google employees protested last month to demand that the company stop providing artificial intelligence to the Pentagon to help analyze drone footage.

Urban Reconnaissance Through Supervised Autonomy (URSA)


DARPA |  DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office is hosting a Proposers Day to provide information to potential applicants on the structure and objectives of the new Urban Reconnaissance through Supervised Autonomy (URSA) program. URSA aims to develop technology to enable autonomous systems operated and supervised by U.S. ground forces to detect hostile forces and establish positive identification of combatants before U.S. troops encounter them. The URSA program seeks to overcome the inherent complexity of the urban environment by combining new knowledge about human behaviors, autonomy algorithms, integrated sensors, multiple sensor modalities, and measurable human responses to discriminate the subtle differences between hostile individuals and noncombatants. Additional details are available at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-18-48/listing.html

To register, visit https://www.client-meeting.net/Proposers-Day-May-2018. Registration closes at 4:00 PM ET on April 25, 2018.

Please address administrative questions to DARPA-SN-18-48@darpa.mil, and refer to the URSA Proposers Day (DARPA-SN-18-48) in all correspondence. 

DARPA hosts Proposers Days to provide potential performers with information on whether and how they might respond to the Government’s research and development solicitations and to increase efficiency in proposal preparation and evaluation. Therefore, the URSA Proposers Day is open only to registered potential applicants, and not to the media or general public.

Full URSA program details will be made available in a forthcoming Broad Agency Announcement posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website. 



The Destructive Dynamics of the Small Minority


NYTimes  |  Most Americans assume that democracy and free markets go hand in hand, naturally working together to generate prosperity and freedom. For the United States, this has largely been true. But by their very nature, markets and democracy coexist in deep tension.

Capitalism creates a small number of very wealthy people, while democracy potentially empowers a poor majority resentful of that wealth. In the wrong conditions, that tension can set in motion intensely destructive politics. All over the world, one circumstance in particular has invariably had this effect: the presence of a market-dominant minority a minority group, perceived by the rest of the population as outsiders, who control vastly disproportionate amounts of a nation’s wealth.

Such minorities are common in the developing world. They can be ethnic groups, like the tiny Chinese minority in Indonesia, which controls roughly 70 percent of the nation’s private economy even though it is between 2 percent and 4 percent of the population. Or they can be distinct in other ways, culturally or religiously, like the Sunni minority in Iraq that controlled the country’s vast oil wealth under Saddam Hussein.

Introducing free-market democracy in these circumstances can be a recipe for disaster. Resentful majorities who see themselves as a country’s rightful owners demand to have “their” country back. Ethnonationalism rears its head. Democracy becomes not a vehicle for e pluribus unum but a zero-sum tribalist contest. This dynamic was also at play in the former Yugoslavia, in Zimbabwe, in Venezuela and in virtually every country where there has been a market-dominant minority.

For most of our history, it seemed as though we were relatively immune to dynamics like these. Part of the reason is we never had a market-dominant minority. On the contrary, for 200 years, America was economically, politically and culturally dominated by a white majority — a politically stable, if often invidious, state of affairs.

But today, something has changed. Race has split America’s poor, and class has split America’s white majority. The former has been true for a while; the latter is a more recent development, at least in the intense form it has now reached. As a result, we may be seeing the emergence of America’s own version of a market-dominant minority: the much-discussed group often referred to as the coastal elites — misleadingly, because its members are neither all coastal nor all elite, at least in the sense of being wealthy.

But with some important caveats, coastal elites do bear a resemblance to the market-dominant minorities of the developing world. Wealth in the United States is extraordinarily concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of people, many of whom live on the West or East Coast. Although America’s coastal elites are not an ethnic or religious minority, they are culturally distinct, often sharing similar cosmopolitan values, and they are extremely insular, interacting and intermarrying primarily among themselves.
They dominate key sectors of the economy, including Wall Street, the media, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And because coastal elites are viewed by many in the heartland as “minority-loving” and pro-immigrant, they are seen as unconcerned with “real” Americans — indeed as threatening their way of life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Divisive Politics – What Does Neuroscience Tell Us?


weforum | Neuroscience has offered some evidence-based claims that can be uncomfortable because they challenge our notions of morality or debunk the myth about our ‘rational’ brain.

Critically, neuroscience has enlightened us about the physicality of human emotions. Fear, an emotion we have inherited from our ancestors, is not an abstract or intangible sense of imminent danger: it is expressed in neurochemical terms in our amygdala, the almond-shaped structure on the medial temporal lobe, anterior to the hippocampus. The amygdala has been demonstrated to be critical in the acquisition, storage and expression of conditioned fear responses. Certain regions in the amygdala undergo plasticity – changes in response to emotional stimuli – triggering other reactions, including endocrine responses.

Similarly, the way our brains produce moral reasoning and then translate it in the social context can now be studied to some extent in neuroscientific terms. For instance, the role of serotonin in prosocial behaviour and moral judgment is now well documented, with a demonstrably strong correlation between levels of serotonin in the brain and moral social behaviour.

Neuroscientists have also looked at how political ideologies are represented in the brain; preliminary research indicates that an increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex can be correlated with inclinations towards liberalism, while increased gray matter volume in the amygdala (which is part of the limbic system and thus concerned with emotions) appears to be associated with conservative values. These early findings, of course, are not meant to be reductionist, deterministic, or politically pigeonhole one group or the other, nor are they fixed. Rather, they can help explain the deep and persistent divide that we see in party politics across the world. It would very valuable to look into whether these preliminary findings pre-date political affiliation or occur as a result of repeated exposure to politically-inspired partisan and emotional debates.

More recently, policy analysis has turned to neuroscience too. For example, in the US 2016 election cycle, some have correlated the appeal of some candidates to the so-called hardwiring in our brains, and to our primordial needs of group belonging, while others have explored the insights from neuroscience on the role of emotions in decision-making. Similarly, the attitudes surrounding “Brexit” have also been analysed with references from neuroscience.

Divisive politics – what does neuroscience tell us?

The short answer is: some useful new insights. To be sure, some findings in neuroscience might be crude at this stage as the discipline and its tools are evolving. The human brain – despite tremendous scientific advances – remains to a large extent unknown. We do have, however, some preliminary findings to draw on. Divisive politics have taken centre stage and neuroscience may be able shed some light on how this is expressed in our brains.

“Us” vs. “them”, cultivating fear and hatred towards out-groups that are deemed different (ethnically, ideologically, religiously, etc.), and vicious and virulent attacks against them, are all part of an unsettling picture of growing ethnic and racial hostility. Philosopher Martin Buber identified two opposed ways of being in relation to others: I-It and I-thou. I-It means perceiving others as objects, whereas I-thou refers to empathic perceptions of others as subjects. Cognitive neuroscientists have studied this distinction with brain imaging techniques and the findings – unsurprisingly – tell us a lot about our increasingly polarised world today and the ways our brains process the distinction between us and “others”.