Friday, August 31, 2018

Pankaj Mishra Channels Sarah Jeong On BeeDeeism In The NYTimes...,

NYTimes |  A broad range of figures in the Anglosphere’s establishment, including some of Mr. Trump’s most ostentatious critics today, contributed manure to the soil in which Trumpism flourishes. Cheered on by the Murdoch press, Tony Blair tried to deepen Britain and America’s “special relationship” in Iraq. Leaders of Australia and Canada also eagerly helped with the torture, rendition and extermination of black and brown brutes. 

Not surprisingly, these chieftains of white settler colonies are fierce cultural warriors; they are all affiliated with private donors who build platforms where political correctness, Islam and feminism are excoriated, the facts of injustice and inequality denied, chests thumped about a superior but sadly imperiled Western civilization, and fraternal sympathy extended to Israel, the world’s last active settler-colonialist project.

Emotional incontinence rather than style or wit marks such gilded networks of white power. For the Anglosphere originally forged and united by the slave trade and colonialism is in terminal crisis today. Whiteness denoted, as Du Bois wrote, “the ownership of the earth forever and ever.” But many descendants of the landlords of the earth find themselves besieged both at home and abroad, their authority as overlords, policemen and interpreters of the globe increasingly challenged.

Mr. Trump appears to some of these powerful but insecure men as an able-bodied defender of the “higher races.” The Muslim-baiting British Conservative politician Boris Johnson says that he is “increasingly admiring of Donald Trump.” Mr. Murray, the British journalist, thinks Mr. Trump is “reminding the West of what is great about ourselves.” The Canadian YouTube personality Jordan Peterson claims that his loathing of “identity politics” would have driven him to vote for Mr. Trump. 

Other panicky white bros not only virulently denounce identity politics and political correctness — code for historically scorned peoples’ daring to propose norms about how they are treated; they also proclaim ever more rowdily that the (white) West was, and is, best. “It is time to make the case for colonialism again,” Bruce Gilley, a Canadian academic, recently asserted and promptly shot to martyrdom in the far-right constellation as a victim of politically correct criticism. Such busy recyclers of Western supremacism, many of whom uphold a disgraced racial pseudoscience, remind us that history often repeats itself as intellectual farce. 

The low comedy of charlatanry, however, should not distract us from the lethal dangers of a wounded and swaggering identity geopolitics. The war on terror reactivated the 19th century’s imperial archive of racial knowledge, according to which the swarthy enemy was subhuman, inviting extreme and lawless violence. The rapid contraction of suffrage rights witnessed in early-20th-century America is now mimicked by Republican attempts to disenfranchise nonwhite voters. The Australian lawmaker who recently urged a “final solution” for Muslim immigrants was only slightly out of tune with public debate about immigration in Australia. Hate crimes continue to rise across the United States, Britain and Canada. More ominously, demographic, economic and political decline, and the loss of intellectual hegemony, have plunged many long-term winners of history into a vengeful despair.

Black Political Agenda: Defund Israel/Deport All Replacement Negroes

Affirmative action is based on a view of equal protection that compensates for historical and present prejudice and lack of opportunity. It is premised on the notion that some of us start behind the eight ball and need an extra boost to achieve basic access. Favorable treatment for blacks is controversial because it appears to be applied in zero sum contexts. If you favor a black person, you have to disfavor a white one and that's the seasoning upon which Mr. Blum's cases are all based. It is not the definition of equal that causes the controversy. it is the adverse effect on whites, or in this case, proxy white replacement negroes. 

In the case of Harvard University, it would be trivial to favor blacks while protecting replacement negroes serving as proxies for poor whites. You see, kibutzim Blum pretends to be unaware of the historic legacy of Blacks in America - thus his elite racist bootlicking antics. Blum could of course trivially solve the zero sum angle he seeks to exploit by going after the 30% + alumni legacy admissions. Blum lacks the historical perspective, ethical fiber, and testicular fortitude to go after any elite affirmative action, well, because, these selfsame racist elites are the folks who pay his bills.

Ivy League "affirmative action" began shortly after World War II. It was stimulated by the GI Bill, which made college possible for veterans who never would have dreamed of going to college, let alone to an Ivy League university. The GI Bill demonstrated there was untapped national talent out in flyover. They found public high school students in the South, Midwest, and Far West with school records rivaling the best of the prep schools. Even when some public high school scores were slightly lower than preppy competitors, admissions committees sometimes chose the provincial public high school student over the privileged alumni legacy. They recognized high achievement in the face of educational and cultural disadvantage.

As a consequence, Harvard and its Ivy sisters began recruiting a few good men out beyond the inbred Lovecraftian prep schools and elite academies of New England and the Atlantic Coast. The Ivies understood that there was more promise in the lesser academic record than in the marginally better academic record. Moreover, they wanted a more diverse student body. 

This was the original affirmative action”. It transformed the Ivies into truly national and meritocratic institutions instead of elite regional colleges for those with wealth, privilege, and pedigree. Only when the same principles of national diversity and meritocratic selection—based on recognition of high achievement and the overcoming of disadvantages—came to include black student admissions,  did we experience white backlash and resentment.

NYTimes |  At the heart of the case is whether Harvard’s admissions staff hold Asian-Americans to higher standards than applicants of other racial or ethnic groups, and whether they use subjective measures, like personal scores, to cap the number of Asian students accepted to the school.

“Harvard today engages in the same kind of discrimination and stereotyping that it used to justify quotas on Jewish applicants in the 1920s and 1930s,” Students for Fair Admissions said in a court filing.

Harvard, which admitted less than 5 percent of its applicants this year, said that its own analysis did not find discrimination.

A trial in the case has been scheduled for October.

WaPo Making Up New Concepts of Tribalism to Claim "Trump Voters Are Wayciss"

WaPo |  You remember the photo, taken in early August, of two men at an Ohio Trump rally whose matching T-shirts read, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.” (Now you can buy them online for $14.) It was a gibe that spoke to our moment. The Republican brand — as with presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney — used to be pointedly anti-Russian; Romney called Moscow our chief global enemy. In the Trump era, though, you can be a Republican Russophile for whom Vladi­mir Putin is a defender of conservative values. American politics, it has become plain, is driven less by ideological commitments than by partisan identities — less by what we think than by what we are. Identity precedes ideology.

“The Democratic Party today is divided over whether it wants to focus on the economy or identity,” the veteran strategist and pollster Stanley B. Greenberg, a man of the economy-first school, has said. But once you come to grips with the potency of partisan-identity politics, the binary falls away. So does the assumption that the great majority of Republicans who support Trump are drawn to his noxious views. (That’s the good news in the bad news.) Among candidates who led in the Republican primaries, after all, his percentage of the vote was the lowest in nearly half a century. Identity groups come to rally behind their leaders, and partisan identification wouldn’t be so stable if it didn’t allow for a great deal of ideological flexibility. That’s why rank-and-file Republicans could go from “We need to stand up to Putin!” to “Why wouldn’t we want to get along with Putin?” in the time it takes to say: Rubio’s out, Trump’s in.

What’s true of partisan allegiance is true of ideological allegiance. In research published earlier this year, political scientist Lilliana Mason conducted a national survey that determined where people stood on various hot-button issues: same-sex marriage, abortion, gun control, immigration, the Affordable Care Act, the deficit. Then they were asked how they felt about spending time with liberals or conservatives. About becoming friends with one. About marrying one.

WaPo All-In On "Trump is Wayciss"Theme

WaPo |  Republicans are in a pickle. The midterms are just two months away, Democrats seem more excited than ever, and the president’s approval ratings are anemic. Faced with the possibility of disaster, what message will they focus on for November? It sure is a mystery. I’ll let the New York Times reveal the answer:
Democratic nominees for governor include three African-Americans, two of them in the old Confederacy, a prospect that not long ago would have been unthinkable. Record numbers of women are competing in congressional races. Elsewhere, Muslims, gays, lesbians and transgender people will be on the ballot for high-profile offices.
That diverse cast is teeing up a striking contrast for voters in November at a time when some in the Republican Party, taking their cues from President Trump, are embracing messages with explicit appeals to racial anxieties and resentment. The result is making racial and ethnic issues and conflicts central in the November elections in a way that’s far more explicit than the recent past.
Who could have imagined that the GOP would choose to campaign on racial resentment? Only anyone who has paid attention to Republican politics in the Trump era.

What’s more, this is the only kind of campaign it can run as long as Trump is president and dominates the party. Republicans may take a different path once he’s gone, or they may not. But any campaign that involves Trump will always be about race.

The primary reason, of course, is that Trump makes every campaign about race because that’s just who he is. There are some positions he adopts insincerely — I doubt he cares one way or another what his administration’s policies on health care or education are — but when it comes to getting rid of immigrants or his belief in the intellectual inferiority of African Americans, he speaks from the heart.

But it’s also because Trumpism as a political strategy rests on stirring up racial resentment among white voters. He turned himself from a reality TV star into a political figure by becoming America’s most prominent proponent of the racist theory that Barack Obama was not born in America; he also insisted that Obama could only have gotten into college and law school because he was an affirmative-action admission who pushed aside worthier white applicants.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Why Does the NFL Mandingo Rebellion Protest Avoid Calling Out the Military?

citizensmedia |  Regardless of the situation, “the petrodollar” has no direct bearing on the ability of the United States, or any other country, to provide for its people. The only thing that affects this is a country’s supply of real resources, and the fact that the country’s currency is the only one accepted for extinguishing tax obligations.

The United States is the “reserve currency” (meaning its currency is required to purchase oil) and has more resources than most (raw materials, labor, technology, and time). But neither of these things have any bearing on how well – as opposed to how “much” – it can provide for its citizens. All sovereign fiat economies (the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and England, among others) can fully employ all their citizens with the resources at its disposal as best they can.

If a conflict were to arise because of oil or resources, or “the petrodollar,” that conflict would of course have significant consequences. Ultimately, however, none of these things have any direct impact on any country’s supply of real resources, and therefore, no direct effect on any country’s domestic economy.

As far as what specifically would happen if the world stopped using the United States dollar for oil? The answer is, “Very little.”

The United States spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined. The U.S. military is one of the largest users of fossil fuels in the world and by far the biggest consumer of energy in the United States. The real problem is that the fossil fuel industry has too much influence on the United States government. Instead of fulfilling its original and only purpose – to protect the American People – the United States Military has now been hijacked to further enrich the very few, and to impose their power and reach across the globe.

Pursuit of Justice Through the Courts

BuzzFeed |  In response to a multiyear BuzzFeed News investigation, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Monday that he would support the efforts of victims who suffered abuse as children at a Catholic orphanage in the state to pursue justice through the courts. 

“The allegations against St. Joseph’s Orphanage are as extremely disturbing, horrific and deeply troubling today, as they were decades ago,” Scott said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News. 

The allegations include once-parentless children in the care of the Catholic orphanage being beaten, sexually abused, mutilated, and observing the deaths of other children at the hands of their protectors. 

The former residents of St. Joseph’s told of being subjected to tortures — from the straightforwardly awful to the downright bizarre — that were occasionally administered as a special punishment but were often just a matter of course. Their tales were strikingly similar, each adding weight and credibility to the others.

“My heart goes out to the many who were harmed, and I support their continued pursuit of justice in the courts,” Scott said in his statement to BuzzFeed News. “As a society, the safety and well-being of our children is one of our most critical responsibilities and abuse against children cannot be tolerated under any circumstance. While we’ve made significant gains in the many years since these incidents occurred, I know that is of little solace to those who suffered, and I know too many still suffer abuse. We must continue to shine a light on instances of abuse and advocate for justice and a system that puts protecting our children above all else.”

Vermont commissioner for the Department for Children and Families, Ken Schatz, told BuzzFeed News that he shared the sentiment expressed by the governor.

Black "Descendants of Slaves" a Specific Claim of Legal Standing NOT Identity Politics

wikipedia |  In law, standing or locus standi is the term for the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case. Standing exists from one of three causes:
  1. The party is directly subject to an adverse effect by the statute or action in question, and the harm suffered will continue unless the court grants relief in the form of damages or a finding that the law either does not apply to the party or that the law is void or can be nullified. This is called the "something to lose" doctrine, in which the party has standing because they will be directly harmed by the conditions for which they are asking the court for relief.
  2. The party is not directly harmed by the conditions by which they are petitioning the court for relief but asks for it because the harm involved has some reasonable relation to their situation, and the continued existence of the harm may affect others who might not be able to ask a court for relief. In the United States, this is the grounds for asking for a law to be struck down as violating the First Amendment, because while the plaintiff might not be directly affected, the law might so adversely affect others that one might never know what was not done or created by those who fear they would become subject to the law – the so-called "chilling effects" doctrine.
  3. The party is granted automatic standing by act of law.[1] Under some environmental laws in the United States, a party may sue someone causing pollution to certain waterways without a federal permit, even if the party suing is not harmed by the pollution being generated. The law allows them to receive attorney's fees if they substantially prevail in the action. In some U.S. states, a person who believes a book, film or other work of art is obscene may sue in their own name to have the work banned directly without having to ask a District Attorney to do so.
In the United States, the current doctrine is that a person cannot bring a suit challenging the constitutionality of a law unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that he/she/it is or will "imminently" be harmed by the law. Otherwise, the court will rule that the plaintiff "lacks standing" to bring the suit, and will dismiss the case without considering the merits of the claim of unconstitutionality. To have a court declare a law unconstitutional, there must be a valid reason for the lawsuit. The party suing must have something to lose in order to sue unless it has automatic standing by action of law.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Unparalleled Examples of Human Decency

theautomaticearth |  Let’s try a different angle. How about the world through the eyes of children’s? I don’t want to dwell on John McCain, too many people already do today, but I would suggest that your thoughts and prayers are with the souls of the hundreds of thousands of children that died because McCain advocated bombing them. Or, indeed, 50-odd years ago, were bombed by him personally. I wanted to leave him be altogether, don’t kick a man when he’s down, but I can’t get the image out of my head of him singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”.

To remember that, perhaps the most vile and infamous thing he’s ever done (it’s in the top ten), and then see someone like Ocasio-Cortez say he was an “unparalleled example of human decency”, it’s almost comedy. But not as funny as when in the 2008 campaign the woman in the red dress asked him if Obama was an Arab, and he responded: “No, ma’am. No, ma’am. He’s a decent, family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about”. 

That is full-blown hilarious. And hardly a soul caught it, which makes it many times worse. It made him a decent man in the eyes of Americans to defend Obama by declaring that Arabs are per definition neither decent nor family men. Yeah, well, you might as well bomb them all then. But enough about McCain: it’s about the children, and their souls, not his.

The Pope is visiting Ireland this weekend. There is really just one subject on people’s minds, even though the ‘leaders’ say this is one of Ireland’s biggest events in 40 years. What’s on their minds is -child- sex abuse by Catholic clergy. And it’s been -and probably still is- rampant in the country. Like it’s been everywhere the Catholic church is an important force. Which is in many countries, there are 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. The man claimed he was begging for God’s forgiveness. Not sure that will do it, there, Francis.

The Roman Catholic religion, and the Church, are fronts for the world’s biggest business empire, a multinational at least 1500 years older than the next one, Holland’s VOC -which existed maybe 100 years-. It has played power politics for longer than anyone else, all over the world. Its real estate portfolio alone is worth more than many a country. For that matter, it effectively owns many a country. 

There would have to be a huge outcry over the child abuse before there could ever be an investigation. Multiple popes have promised exactly such investigations, and nothing has happened. It would upset the business model too much. And most faithful still believe their priests are decent men, anyway. Yes, there’s that word again, ‘decent’.

If a priest can no longer be maintained in a specific church because he’s been too obvious, too perverted and too greedy, he simply gets transferred to another parish. They’ve been doing this for 1,500 years, they got it down. And when things heat up, they beg god for forgiveness. While the Church gets ever richer. 

At a 2% annual growth rate, wealth doubles every 34-35 years. The Catholic Church has been at it for 1,500. Do your math. Or look at it this way: real estate prices have been surging over the past few decades. And that’s the Vatican’s main industry. Anyone want to venture a guess at how much money they have made?

The Vatican is a facade hiding behind a facade hiding behind… Francis Ford Coppola tried tackling the topic in The Godfather III, but he was only mildly successful and not many people believed his portrayal. But, again, this is not about the Pope playing Kabuki theater like all his predecessors, it’s about the children.

The Desire of Identity Groups for Recognition a Key Threat to Liberalism?

newyorker |  It turns out that liberal democracy and free trade may actually be rather fragile achievements. (Consumerism appears safe for now.) There is something out there that doesn’t like liberalism, and is making trouble for the survival of its institutions.

Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The demand for recognition, Fukuyama says, is the “master concept” that explains all the contemporary dissatisfactions with the global liberal order: Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden, Xi Jinping, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, gay marriage, ISIS, Brexit, resurgent European nationalisms, anti-immigration political movements, campus identity politics, and the election of Donald Trump. It also explains the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Chinese Communism, the civil-rights movement, the women’s movement, multiculturalism, and the thought of Luther, Rousseau, Kant, Nietzsche, Freud, and Simone de Beauvoir. Oh, and the whole business begins with Plato’s Republic. Fukuyama covers all of this in less than two hundred pages. How does he do it?

Why is the desire for recognition—or identity politics, as Fukuyama also calls it—a threat to liberalism? Because it cannot be satisfied by economic or procedural reforms. Having the same amount of wealth as everyone else or the same opportunity to acquire it is not a substitute for respect. Fukuyama thinks that political movements that appear to be about legal and economic equality—gay marriage, for example, or #MeToo—are really about recognition and respect. Women who are sexually harassed in the workplace feel that their dignity has been violated, that they are being treated as less than fully human.

Fukuyama gives this desire for recognition a Greek name, taken from Plato’s Republic: thymos. He says that thymos is “a universal aspect of human nature that has always existed.” In the Republic, thymos is distinct from the two other parts of the soul that Socrates names: reason and appetite. Appetites we share with animals; reason is what makes us human. Thymos is in between.

The term has been defined in various ways. “Passion” is one translation; “spirit,” as in “spiritedness,” is another. Fukuyama defines thymos as “the seat of judgments of worth.” This seems a semantic overreach. In the Republic, Socrates associates thymos with children and dogs, beings whose reactions need to be controlled by reason. The term is generally taken to refer to our instinctive response when we feel we’re being disrespected. We bristle. We swell with amour propre. We honk the horn. We overreact.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Not Long-Legged Passah Mack Ruckus Lord Jeebus!!!!

Doesn't Pastor Manning Realize That He's A Huge Target?

With all of the enemies that he has created with his fiery rhetoric spoken from the pulpit and from his former YouTube platform, one would think that Pastor Manning would have better sense than to leave himself as vulnerable as he has by speaking to this young girl when it is so easy to be recorded with the gadgetry and technology that is available today for everyone if they so choose. It will very interesting to see how this plays out even though his vaudeville act of a pastor is truly no threat to the powers that be, it's just that his words most likely reached the "high places" that felt it was time to shut down such an annoying voice that simply just wouldn't shut up!

Useless Elderly Ass-Whooping Victim Confused About John Mccain

twitchy  |  Seems Democrats are coming out of the woodwork to say and write positive things about the late Senator John McCain, which would be so nice if they didn’t contradict the way most of them spoke about the good senator while he was still alive.

Take for example Rep. John Lewis:

Warrior for peace.


So wait, does this mean Lewis has stopped comparing John McCain to George Wallace? Because that’s what John said a decade ago … 

Asking for a friend.
Pretty much.
It’s almost as though Democrats call anyone and everyone they see as a threat a racist and then when they become a convenient ally in any way they’re magically not racist anymore.

Pope - All Hat No Cattle - When It Comes To Degenerate Ecclesiastical Slugs

rte  |  Pope Francis has said he will not respond to accusations by a former top Vatican official that the Pontiff had covered up sexual abuse, saying that the document containing the allegations "speaks for itself".

He dismissed the 11-page statement, or testimony, from his former Papal Nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, which accused the Pope of being aware of serious abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, five years before the cardinal resigned in June.

The Pope told reporters he had read the document but that he "will not say a single word on this".
He said: "I must tell you sincerely that, I must say this, to you and all those who are interested, read the statement carefully and make your own judgement."

He added: "I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the journalistic capacity to draw your conclusions. It's an act of faith. When some time passes and you have drawn your conclusions, I may speak."

Without going into specifics, the Pope also said: "I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you."

In a wide-ranging news conference on board the Aer Lingus flight, Pope Francis addressed issues ranging from clerical abuse to homosexuality and migration.

The Pope also said he would study a memorandum provided by the Minister for Children on the issue of mother and baby homes, telling reporters on his flight from Ireland back to Rome that Katherine Zappone had informed him that the Catholic Church "had something to do" with the issue.

Clerical Slug Trails DEMAND Cleansing Blue Fire...,

WaPo  |  In the wake of a summer of sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, topped this weekend with an explosive letter alleging that Pope Francis himself covered for an abusive cardinal, American Catholics are agitating for major changes in their church.

Perhaps for the first time, Catholics of all political stripes who protected their hierarchy through what had once seemed the worst of the sexual abuse crisis are training their ire on it. They are calling publicly for bishop resignations, Robert S. Mueller-like investigations, and boycotts of Mass and donations. Even the biggest fans of Francis and his reformist agenda are now questioning whether he is actually part of the problem.

“This is a different reaction from the laity than I’ve ever seen before,” said Adrienne Alexander, the founder of a nascent national movement called Catholics for Action that has staged protests in seven cities in the past two weeks, with more planned in the coming days. “Regular old church folks in the pews are saying: This bishop has to go. Or: All bishops have to go. That’s just something I’ve never seen from the laity.”

And with the biting 11-page letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò on Saturday, in which the former Vatican diplomat to Washington called for Francis’s resignation, some Catholics are voicing despair about the path forward.

“The hope of reform on this issue: If it can’t be achieved under Pope Francis, who can it be achieved under?” asked Christopher Jolly Hale, who helped lead Catholic outreach for President Obama and has until recently been a prominent supporter of Francis. He added: “No one with good conscience can really defend him with his record on sexual abuse. It’s been an absolute disappointment.”

Viganò’s inflammatory yet unverified letter alleges that Francis’s predecessor Pope Benedict XVI secretly sanctioned former cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick for sexually harassing young priests and seminarians, but Francis let the sanctions slide. He also obliquely implicated D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl in covering up the behavior of McCarrick, who last month became the first cardinal in history to resign as a result of sexual abuse allegations.

The letter “shoots the lack of trust right up the ladder,” said Joseph Capizzi, a professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America. “As a lay person, and I think I speak for a lot of people, we no longer trust these men anymore.”

Monday, August 27, 2018

Black American Political Strategy MUST Focus On Black DOS Interests, PERIOD

theintercept |  Dr. Touré Reed, professor of 20th Century U.S. and African American History at Illinois State University, observed that the presumption that black Americans aren’t equally or more invested in economic interventions as white Americans is “pregnant, of course, with class presumptions” which work well for the black and Latinx professional middle class — many of whom play a significant role in defining public narratives via their work in politics or media. Since “the principal beneficiaries of universal policies would be poor and working class people who would disproportionately be black and brown,” he told me, “dismissing such policies on the grounds that they aren’t addressing systemic racism is a sleight of hand of sorts.”

Intersectionality, the “buzzword” taken up so faithfully by mainstream Democrats in 2016, requires an acknowledgment that like race and sexual identity, class is a dimension that mediates one’s perspective. That means the hashtag #trustblackwomen shouldn’t collapse the interests of Oprah, a billionaire, with, well, anyone else’s. Similarly, not all blacks or latinos should be presumed to speak equally to the interests of poor and working class people of color. This is a truth easily internalized when Democrats consider figures like Ben Carson or Ted Cruz. It’s a more difficult reality to swallow when considering one of our own.

None of this is to say that in every scenario, race, gender, sexuality, and class are equal inputs. Affluent black athletes are still tackled by cops despite their wealth, and black Harvard professors are arrested trying to unlock their own front doors. But the fact that racism hurts even those with economic privilege is not “proof” that class doesn’t matter, as some race reductionists have claimed. It’s simply affirmation that racism matters too. 

Consider, for instance, my colleague Zaid Jilani’s review of comprehensive police shooting data in 2015, in which he found that 95 percent of police shootings had occurred in neighborhoods where the household income averaged below $100,000 a year. Remember that Philando Castile was pulled over, in part, because he was flagged for dozens of driving offenses described as “crimes of poverty” by local public defender Erik Sandvick. Failure to show proof of insurance, driving with a broken taillight — these are hardly patrician slip ups. If anything is privileged, it’s the fiction that there’s no difference between the abuses suffered by wealthy black athletes and working class blacks like Philando Castile. Race can increase your odds of being targeted and abused. Money can help you survive abuse and secure justice — something which sadly eluded Castile.

“There is a tendency to reduce issues that have quite a bit to do with the economic opportunities available to all Americans, African Americans among them, and in some instances overrepresented among them, to matters of race,” explained Dr. Reed, who is currently writing a book on the conservative implications of race reductionism. He pointed to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as well as the mass incarceration crisis, as examples. “In both those instances, Flint and the criminal justice system, whites are 40 percent, or near 40 percent, of the victims,” he said. And that’s an awfully high number for collateral damage.” He went on: “There’s something systemic at play. But it can’t be reduced, be reducible, to race.”

Unnaturally Round-Eyed Asians Be Like....,

NPR  |  What is an "Asian face"? Because when you go to China and you look at people from province to province, I mean, the vast array of facial structures and the size of your eyes or the size of your nose. ... I think it's a very limited view to think that there's only one representation of an Asian face, and it should be a Han Chinese descendant type person with a nose that is this many millimeters broad, or whatever it is.

On eyelid plastic surgery
Korea has become the plastic surgery capital of the world where all these young men especially are transforming their faces into that ... very plastic-looking K-pop singer look. I also I have been through my own journey of acceptance of how I look. ... I mean, several people in my family had suggested that I should get the double eyelid surgery. ... And I said, "Why would I do that? I like my eyes. I don't feel like I need to have more Western-looking eyes, or what's perceived as Western."

Unnaturally Blonde Negroes Be Like....,

npr  |  CHANG: Well, when you asked non-white people why they dyed their hair blond, what did they say to you?

RANKINE: I did hear a lot that it made my skin look lighter.

CHANG: Oh, interesting.

RANKINE: And probably the most sad and moving report I had was a young woman in a shop who said, I - when I went blonde, I found myself. It was really me. My skin was lighter. Even my mother said so. And that - I found that a little tragic.

CHANG: I read that some people got kind of defensive when you brought up the issue of whiteness. Why do you think people got defensive?

RANKINE: Mostly it was white people who got defensive.
A post shared by amandaseales (@amandaseales) on

CHANG: Really? And how so?


CHANG: Defensive in what way?

RANKINE: Mostly young white women - they felt that the choice to go blonde was a personal choice. And they felt they looked better. They felt better. They were treated better. And...

CHANG: Treated better by men, by women, by everybody?

RANKINE: By everyone. When I asked them if they thought that was tied somehow to the expectations of whiteness, they got defensive around that. And, you know, a few of them said, can you erase the interview or...


RANKINE: ...I don't want to talk about this anymore. So, you know - and I think that's tied to the fact that talking about race is taboo among white people. And so to say that you have invested in a thing - and it is an investment. You know, it costs sometimes $400, $200 for touch-ups. So, you know, that line of investigation and inquiry was not acceptable to them.

CHANG: Well, could an argument be made that the decision didn't go that deep, that you're assuming there is some deeper attachment or non-attachment to whiteness? But maybe the decision to go blond was just a fun, kind of care-free thing the way some people dye their hair blue or purple. And why interrogate them about it?

RANKINE: Exactly. It - I mean, it could be that. And often I would say, do you dye your hair other colors? And some women said, no, it's always blond. You know, so if it's really about the funness (ph) of dying your hair, then perhaps you would do blue or green or whatever. But for them, it was a commitment to blondness.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Why Shouldn't the CBC Dedicate Itself to Defunding Indians and Israel Alike?

WaPo  |  About US is a new initiative by The Washington Post to cover issues of identity in the United States. Look for the About US newsletter launching this fall.

A decade after the Cherokee Nation voted overwhelmingly to deny citizenship for descendants of the people it enslaved, a district court judge has invalidated the tribe’s decision. The Cherokee Nation has long argued that only those with Cherokee blood should be citizens — excluding the descendants of its black slaves — and a legal ruling otherwise would be an affront to its sovereignty and self-determination. Journalist Kenneth J. Cooper disagrees and is gathering evidence to show he and his relatives are among the estimated 3,000 living descendants of Cherokee Freedmen and deserve citizenship. (Leaders of the freedmen’s group have said as many as 25,000 descendants could be eligible to apply for citizenship.) Cooper explains why this part of his family’s identity deserves formal recognition:

I’m preparing to order certified copies of birth certificates: seven of my grandmother’s from Oklahoma, seven of my mother’s from Kansas, and 10 from Colorado, where I was born.
I’m getting them to enroll myself, my siblings and our nieces as citizens of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. My birth certificate and my siblings’ identify both our parents, in the language of that bygone era, as “Negro.”

So why are we, African Americans, seeking citizenship in a Native American nation?

Two weeks ago, Thomas F. Hogan, a senior U.S. district court judge in D.C., ruled that descendants of the former slaves of the Cherokee — yes, the Cherokee had black slaves, an unusual bit of American history most people don’t know — were entitled to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation under a treaty signed in 1866.

On my mother’s side, some of our ancestors were enslaved by prosperous Cherokee. Our family’s history with the Cherokee Nation goes back at least 200 years, to the early 1800s, in Georgia and North Carolina. The history of the Cherokee Freedmen and the Cherokee Nation are intertwined, a point Hogan makes in his opinion.

The lawsuit that led to Hogan’s ruling was prompted by a 2007 referendum that kicked the freedmen out of the tribe, a move supported by the great majority of Cherokee who voted. That summer, I confronted then-Chief Chad Smith, who orchestrated the referendum, at a panel discussion on the issue at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention in Chicago. I spoke angrily because of a comment Smith made to The Washington Post: “A lot of Cherokees don’t know who the freedmen are.” I read that as trying to erase slave-holding and my family from the tribe’s history.

Through a decade of genealogical research, I have identified my enslaved ancestors and most of their Cherokee slaveholders. One of those ancestors for sure, and likely two, Thomas Still and Malinda Thompson, separately trekked with the Cherokee on the “Trail of Tears.” Under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Army soldiers forced that tribe and others from the southeast to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, so white settlers could take over their lands.

Queer Academic and Clerical Slug Trails DEMAND Cleansing Blue Fire

newyorker | This is academics doing their job: engaging with things in great complexity. Discussions of #MeToo cases in other areas haven’t been up to this task. We certainly can’t expect it from Hollywood, whose job is to make stories palatable and simple. Writers, who on the subject of #MeToo have often practiced either avoidance or positional warfare, have been able to advance the conversation only so far. But this rare moment, when a wider audience is briefly interested in what academics have to say for and about themselves, might give us a chance for complicating the conversation. They can bring us back to some under-deliberated questions. In the #MeToo revolution, does the focus on identifying bad actors distract us from breaking down the structures that enable them? What is justice in terms of #MeToo, if not merely public disgrace and professional exile for the perpetrators? And how can justice be achieved?

As it happens, many of the scholars apparently most invested in the Ronell case have spent their professional lives studying power. That may give us a chance to finally acknowledge that there are power imbalances in all relationships, and that both parties in two-person interactions exercise some sort of power. The philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who is firmly convinced of Ronell’s innocence, argues that it was Reitman who was using Ronell. This sort of assertion is perhaps easier to make because the accuser is, in this case, a man, but also because Žižek has made a career of making shocking arguments.

What Žižek’s take does not acknowledge, however, is that even when it seems that everyone has behaved badly, it doesn’t mean that everyone has behaved equally badly, or is equally responsible for the bad relationships that have been created. This is where Duggan’s question, about the boundaries in the relationships between graduate students and their advisers, becomes crucial. The same blog on which Žižek’s post appeared, Theory Illuminati, posted a video of Jeremy Fernando, now a fellow at the European Graduate School (where Ronell is a professor), delivering a talk called “On Walking With My Teacher.” In the video, from 2015, Fernando, seated in front of a large projected photograph of him and Ronell, says, among other things, “My dear teacher Avital always reminded me that movement of thought and our bodies are potentially entwined.” For nearly forty minutes, he talks about love as a precondition for teaching and learning and bodies as the location of both knowledge and love. The talk is, clearly, full of love.

Ronell employs the psychoanalytic term “transference” to describe intense relationships with her students. She is not the first feminist postructuralist scholar to have done so, nor is she the first to get in trouble for it—or to take it too far. Twenty-six years ago, two graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee filed sexual-harassment complaints against the scholar Jane Gallop, who was eventually found to have violated a rule against consensual amorous relationships, though the university found no evidence to support other claims . (A contemporary account of the case, by Margaret Talbot, is eerily relevant.)

A different take on Ronell’s pedagogy came in an anonymous quote that circulated on Facebook. (I don’t know the name of the author, who declined to communicate with me, citing, through an intermediary, the fear of retaliation.)
We don’t need a conversation about sexual harassment by AR, we should instead talk about what AR and many of her generation call ‘pedagogy’ and what is still excused as ‘genius.’ When people talk about sexual harassment it’s within the logic of the symbolic order – penetration, body parts – I doubt you will find much of this here. But AR is all about manipulation and psychic violence. . . . AR pulls students and young faculty in by flattery, then breaks their self-esteem, goes on to humiliate them in front of others, until the only way to tell yourself and others that you have not been debased, that you have not been used by a pathological narcissist as a private slave, is that you are just so incredibly close, and that Avi is just so incredibly fragile and lonely and needs you 24/7 to do groceries, to fold her laundry, to bring her to acupuncture, to pick her up from acupuncture, to drive her to JFK, to talk to her at night, etc. . . . All I am saying is: the AR-case is not about a single case of sexual harassment, it’s about systematic manipulation, bullying, intimidation, pitting students against each other, creating rivalry between them. . . . I agree the concept of “Avital Ronell” is a great one: I too would love to be friends with a smart, hilarious, queer, Jewish, feminist, anarchist theorist!
Duggan calls for looking at harassment as an issue that is neither limited to sex nor rooted in “bad apple” individuals—rather, it is a function of power structures. Closed Title IX investigations are not a good way to address harassment, she suggests. “Perhaps we should begin to think about a restorative justice process that would center in departments, be transparent, hold faculty responsible, and assess the question of boundaries in local context?” she writes. “Perhaps impose confidentiality as the exception, not the rule—to be invoked when a need is demonstrated.”

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Sicherheitsdeinst: The Obvious Ass-Clownery of the Deep State

Counterpunch |  So, Paul Manafort, described by the New York Times as “a longtime lobbyist and political consultant who worked for multiple Republican candidates and presidents,” was convicted of bank fraud, tax fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account. And Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, pled guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud (making false statements to obtain loans), and breaking campaign finance laws by paying off two women who claimed to have had sexual affairs with Trump. Because Cohen says those payoffs were made at Trump’s direction, that is the one charge that directly implicates Trump. 

On the basis of the these results, the NYT editorial board insists: “Only a complete fantasist … could continue to claim that this investigation of foreign subversion of an American election, which has already yielded dozens of other indictments and several guilty pleas, is a ‘hoax’ or ‘scam’ or ‘rigged witch hunt.’” Democrats concur, saying the results “put the lie to Mr. Trump’s argument that Mr. Mueller was engaged in a political investigation.”

But these crimes are tax fraud, money laundering, and credit app padding that have nothing to do with Donald Trump, and campaign-finance violations related to what a critic of Trump aptly describes as “a classic B-team type of bumbling screw-up of covering up mistresses.” I question the level of word play, if not fantasizing, necessary to claim that these crimes validate “this investigation of foreign subversion.” None of them has anything to do with that. The perils of this, that, these, and those.

Do these results disprove that the Mueller probe is “a political investigation”? I think they imply quite the opposite, and quite obviously so.

Why? Because these convictions would not have occurred if Hillary Clinton had been elected president. There would be no convictions because there would have been no investigation.

Sicherheitsdeinst: The Ominous Brazenness of the Deep State

thenation |  Leaving aside the missed occasion to discuss the “revolving door” involving former US security officials using their permanent clearances to enhance their lucrative positions outside government, Cohen thinks the subsequent political-media furor obscures what is truly important and perhaps ominous: 

Brennan’s allegation was unprecedented. No such high-level intelligence official had ever before accused a sitting president of treason, still more in collusion with the Kremlin. (Impeachment discussions of Presidents Nixon and Clinton, to take recent examples, did not include allegations involving Russia.) Brennan clarified his charge: “Treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and to aid and abet the enemy.” Coming from Brennan, a man presumed to be in possession of related dark secrets, as he strongly hinted, the charge was fraught with alarming implications. Brennan made clear he hoped for Trump’s impeachment, but in another time, and in many other countries, his charge would suggest that Trump should be removed from the presidency urgently by any means, even a coup. No one, it seems, has even noted this extraordinary implication with its tacit threat to American democracy. (Perhaps because the disloyalty allegation against Trump has been customary ever since mid-2016, even before he became president, when an array of influential publications and writers—among them a former acting CIA director—began branding him Putin’s “puppet,” “agent,” “client,” and “Manchurian candidate.” The Los Angeles Times even saw fit to print an article suggesting that the military might have to remove Trump if he were to be elected, thereby having the very dubious distinction of predating Brennan.) 

Why did Brennan, a calculating man, risk leveling such a charge, which might reasonably be characterized as sedition? The most plausible explanation is that he sought to deflect growing attention to his role as the “Godfather” of the entire Russiagate narrative, as Cohen argued back in February. If so, we need to know Brennan’s unvarnished views on Russia. 

They are set out with astonishing (perhaps unknowing) candor in New York Times op-ed of August 17. They are those of Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover in their prime. Western “politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright, by Russian operatives…not only to collect sensitive information but also to distribute propaganda and disinformation.… I was well aware of Russia’s ability to work surreptitiously  within the United States, cultivating relationships with individuals who wield actual or potential power.… These Russian agents are well trained in the art of deception. They troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters. Too often, those puppets are found.” All this, Brennan assures readers, is based on his “deep insight.” All the rest of us, it seems, are constantly susceptible to “Russian puppet masters” under our beds, at work, on our computers. Clearly, there must be no “cooperation” with the Kremlin’s grand “Puppet Master,” as Trump said he wanted early on. (People who wonder what and when Obama knew about the unfolding Russiagate saga need to ask why he would keep such a person so close for so long.) 

And yet, scores of former intelligence and military officials rallied around this unvarnished John Brennan, even though, they said, they did not entirely share his opinions. This too is revealing. They did so, it seems clear enough, out of their professional corporate identity, which Brennan represented and Trump was degrading by challenging the intelligences agencies’ (implicitly including his own) Russiagate allegations against him. It’s a misnomer to term these people representatives of a hidden “deep state.” In recent years, they have been amply visible on television and newspaper op-ed pages. Instead, they see and present themselves as members of a fully empowered and essential fourth branch of government. This too has gone largely undiscussed while nightingales of the fourth branch—such as David Ignatius and Joe Scarborough in the pages of the The Washington Post—have been in full voice. 

Deep State Sanctions Cannot Bring Russia To Its Knees

bloomberg  |  The U.S.’s sanctions policy against Russia is evolving from trying to nudge the Kremlin in a desired direction to inflicting maximum pain. This is a slippery slope, and it’s time to consider the most extreme consequences for Russia, as well as the U.S. and its allies.

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, a telling exchange took place between Republican Senator John Kennedy and the Trump administration’s senior sanctions officials.

Kennedy demanded to know what they would do if the president ordered them to bring the Russian economy "to its knees.” They wouldn’t give a straight answer, saying instead that the ramifications of such a goal would need to be assessed and that current sanctions were already aggressive. Irritated, Kennedy insisted: “But the economy hasn’t been brought to its knees!”

His frustration is understandable. The U.S. has levied sanctions, or said it will, in response to a series of Russian actions: the annexation of Crimea, the fomenting of a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine, the attempted poisoning of an ex-spy in the U.K. and a string of cyberattacks. The list could go on — but President Vladimir Putin’s Russia has gone on doing all those things.

Treasury Undersecretary Sigal Mandelker said in her testimony that she believes Russia’s “adventurism” has indeed been checked by the economic pain the sanctions have inflicted.
That, however, looks like a statement of faith rather than fact. There is no evidence the sanctions have affected Putin’s thinking or plans. That he might like them to be lifted isn’t such proof.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Affirmative Action Never Intended For White Women or Replacement Negroes

newyorker  |  The application process for schools, fellowships, and jobs always came with a ritual: a person who had a role in choosing me—an admissions officer, an interviewer—would mention in his congratulations that I was “different” from the other Asians. When I won a scholarship that paid for part of my education, a selection panelist told me that I got it because I had moving qualities of heart and originality that Asian applicants generally lacked. Asian applicants were all so alike, and I stood out. In truth, I wasn’t much different from other Asians I knew. I was shy and reticent, played a musical instrument, spent summers drilling math, and had strict parents to whom I was dutiful. But I got the message: to be allowed through a narrow door, an Asian should cultivate not just a sense of individuality but also ways to project “Not like other Asians!”

In a federal lawsuit filed in Massachusetts in 2014, a group representing Asian-Americans is claiming that Harvard University’s undergraduate-admissions practices unlawfully discriminate against Asians. (Disclosure: Harvard is my employer, and I attended and teach at the university’s law school.) The suit poses questions about what a truly diverse college class might look like, spotlighting a group that is often perceived as lacking internal diversity. The court complaint quotes a college counsellor at the highly selective Hunter College High School (which I happened to attend), who was reporting a Harvard admissions officer’s feedback to the school: certain of its Asian students weren’t admitted, the officer said, because “so many” of them “looked just like” each other on paper.

The lawsuit alleges that Harvard effectively employs quotas on the number of Asians admitted and holds them to a higher standard than whites. At selective colleges, Asians are demographically overrepresented minorities, but they are underrepresented relative to the applicant pool. Since the nineteen-nineties, the share of Asians in Harvard’s freshman class has remained stable, at between sixteen and nineteen per cent, while the percentage of Asians in the U.S. population more than doubled. A 2009 Princeton study showed that Asians had to score a hundred and forty points higher on the S.A.T. than whites to have the same chance of admission to top universities. The discrimination suit survived Harvard’s motion to dismiss last month and is currently pending.

When the New York Times reported, last week, that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was internally seeking lawyers to investigate or litigate “intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions,” many people immediately assumed that the Trump Administration was hoping to benefit whites by assailing affirmative action. The Department soon insisted that it specifically intends to revive a 2015 complaint against Harvard filed with the Education and Justice Departments by sixty-four Asian-American groups, making the same claim as the current court case: that Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asians in admissions, giving whites an advantage. (The complaint had previously been dismissed in light of the already-pending lawsuit.) The combination of the lawsuit and the potential federal civil-rights inquiry signals that the treatment of Asians will frame the next phase of the legal debate over race-conscious admissions programs.

Just last year, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative-action program, which, like Harvard’s, aims to build a diverse class along multiple dimensions and considers race as one factor in a holistic review of each applicant. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, approved of a university’s ability to define “intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.” Incidentally, the phrase “intangible characteristics” echoes the sort of language that often describes the individualizing or leadership qualities that many Asian-American applicants, perceived as grinds with high test scores, are deemed to lack. The complaint against Harvard highlights the school’s history of using similar language to describe Jewish students nearly a century ago, which led to a “diversity” rationale designed to limit Jewish enrollment in favor of applicants from regions with fewer Jews, such as the Midwest. If diversity of various kinds is central to an élite school’s mission, an Asian may have to swim upstream to be admitted.

The U.T. affirmative-action case was brought by a white student and financed by Edward Blum, a white Jewish conservative who is also financing the lawsuit against Harvard. Justice Alito’s dissent in the U.T. case said that, in failing to note that U.T.’s admissions practices discriminated against Asians, the Court’s majority acted “almost as if Asian-American students do not exist.” For Asian-Americans—the majority of whom support affirmative action—being cast in the foreground of the affirmative-action debate can be awkward and painful. Affirmative action has consistently been a “wedge” issue, and groups such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice have opposed attempts to use Asian students as the wedge in conservative attacks on affirmative action that may harm black and Latino students. Some simply deny that race-conscious admissions procedures are disadvantaging Asians at all, which avoids confronting a complicated dilemma.

What Makes You Native American?

WaPo  |  In March 2012, Heather McMillan Nakai wrote a letter to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs asking the agency to verify that she was Indian. She was seeking a job at the Indian Health Service and wanted to apply with “Indian preference.” Nakai knew this might be difficult: As far as she was aware, no one from her North Carolina tribe — the Lumbee — had ever been granted such preference.

Her birth certificate says she’s Indian, as did her first driver’s license. Both of her parents were required to attend segregated tribal schools in the 1950s and ’60s. In Nakai’s hometown in Robeson County, N.C., strangers can look at the dark ringlets in her hair, hear her speak and watch her eyes widen when she’s indignant, and know exactly who her mother and father are. “Who’s your people?” is a common question in Robeson, allowing locals to pinpoint their place among the generations of Lumbee who have lived in the area for nearly 300 years.

Yet in the eyes of the BIA, the Lumbee have never been Indian enough. Responding to Nakai the following month, tribal government specialist Chandra Joseph informed her that the Lumbee were not a federally recognized tribe and therefore couldn’t receive any federal benefits, including “Indian preference.” Invoking a 1956 law concerning the status of the Lumbee, Joseph wrote: “The Lumbee Act precludes the Bureau from extending any benefits to the Indians of Robeson and adjoining counties.” She enclosed a pamphlet titled “Guide to Tracing Indian Ancestry.”

As a staff attorney for the National Indian Gaming Commission, Nakai understands the intricacies of documenting native bloodlines. In fact, she had submitted 80 pages of evidence to support her case. The Lumbee are descended from several Carolina tribes, including the Cheraw, who intermarried with whites and free African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nakai, 38, can trace her family tree back to at least 1900, when her great-grandfather was listed as Indian on the federal census. “That’s a terrible feeling,” she says, “to have somebody say to you, ‘You’re so not Indian that you need somebody to send you a pamphlet.’ ”

Lumbees rely on historic census documents listing the “Indian Population” of specific counties to enroll members in their tribe. In researching her response, Nakai realized the same documents could be used to argue that Lumbees were eligible for federal benefits. She thought hers was a powerful legal argument. If she could receive Indian preference, then so could other members of her tribe. “When I’m pushed, I don’t run,” Nakai says. “I want to push back.” And so she appealed the bureau’s decision — and kept appealing until her case landed in federal court.

Her battle would force the Department of the Interior to reexamine its policy toward the more than 55,000 Lumbee who make up the largest tribe east of the Mississippi. For more than 60 years, the government has acknowledged that they are Indians, yet denied them the sovereignty, land and benefits it grants to other tribes. It’s a situation that raises fundamental questions about identity: What makes someone Native American? Is it a matter of race, or culture, or some combination of both? The Lumbee don’t fit neatly into any racial categories, but they have long been living as Indians, cultivating unique traditions and community. Can a country divided by race ever accept them?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Political Activism and Mental Health

opendemocracy |  ‘Social prescribing,’ where patients with depression join in community activities as a part of their treatment, is moving from the fringe of medical practice to the mainstream. Matt Hancock, the new British Minister for Health and Social Care, has pledged £4.5m to promote it, but we should stop to think before we take this medicine: linking patients to their communities is a positive step, but a better move would be for people to get involved in social activism.

The Minister probably has one eye on his budget, since social prescribing is thought to stop patients coming back to doctor’s surgeries—so saving the state money in the National Health Service (NHS). But this scheme, which normally involves referring the patient to a link worker who then recommends different types of community activity for them, is about more than balancing the books: in fact the NHS is administering a large dose of social theory. 

Almost 20 years ago, the American Political Scientist Robert Putnam published Bowling Alone. Since then there has been a groundswell of interest in its central concept of ‘social capital’—the idea that community bonds such as those developed in bowling leagues in the USA make both individuals and societies happier and healthier. 

Putnam is a nuanced writer, but the core focus of Bowling Alone is on community participation not social activism. He wants to unify us not cause political fights, and hopes to develop a country of association-joiners: religious service attenders, sports club players, park gardeners, members of knitting circles and school governors. In one interview he analogises this to a honeycomb, a social system of welcoming and interlocking groups, each empowered as a part of a greater civic whole.

Charismatic, and with the enigmatic appearance of a nineteenth century preacher, Putnam has become an academic celebrity. His ideas on social capital have been met with great enthusiasm by policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic. One British policy group working right at the heart of the Cabinet Office has called him the most influential political scientist alive. Before his promotion, Hancock held the British Government’s brief for civil society, and the influence of Bowling Alone can be clearly felt in his new policy on social prescribing. Linking individual depression to a lack of community activity takes a leaf straight out of Putnam’s book.

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