With warrior cops, Massive Open Online Courses, mulling mullahs and a new Great Game in the Arctic, this week's articles are full of powerful images, phrases and ideas, some exciting and most disquieting. And to wash it all down, there's even a piece on Mayor Bloomberg's soda ban.
— Alleen Brown focuses on education.
“California Bill Seeks Campus Credit for Online Study,” by Tamar Lewin. The New York Times, March 13, 2013.
Legislation introduced Wednesday in California's Senate would force universities to grant students credit for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Online classes have been proposed as an alternative to oversubscribed, required courses that many students have been shut out of because of space issues. The article points out that the problem stems in part from state-level budget cuts.
— James Cersonsky focuses on labor and education.
“Day Laborers Defend Their Right to Public Space in Court,” by Michelle Chen. In These Times, March 6, 2013.
A lesser known provision of Arizona's notorious SB 1070 allowed police to arrest people for soliciting work in public. The law targeted workers—especially undocumented day laborers—for "obstructing traffic" while seeking work. In February, a Phoenix federal district court struck it down on free speech grounds. As Michelle Chen writes, this is obviously good news, though, for one of the most exploited class of workers, only one step for justice on the job—or, rather, the search for the job.
— Catherine Defontaine focuses on war, security and peace-related issues, African and French politics, peacekeeping and the link between conflicts and natural resources.
“Preventing an Arctic Cold War,” by Paul Arthur Berkman. The New York Times, March 13, 2013.
The effects of global warming have transformed the stakes for the Arctic. So far there has been cooperation among countries regarding the exploitation of the region’s natural resources and fisheries. Since 1996 eight nations surrounding the Arctic and groups representing indigenous communities have created the Arctic Council to promote cooperation and address “common Arctic issues”: sustainable development and environmental protection. However, even though tensions are now low, the potential for conflict is extremely high. For the Arctic states, the main challenge is to maintain peace in the region.
— Andrew Epstein focuses on social history, colonialism and indigenous rights.
“How Cops Became Soldiers: An Interview with Police Militarization Expert Radley Balko,” by Michael Arria. VICE, March 4, 2013.
In North Dakota, police borrowed a $154 million MQ-9 Predator Drone to arrest a separatist family who refused to return six cows that wandered onto their farm. Two SWAT teams were deployed in Colorado to find a man suspected of stealing groceries and a bicycle from Walmart. And on Wall Street, police swept out Occupy protesters with klieg lights and a military-style sound machine. Cops everywhere are looking a lot more like soldiers, Radley Balko explains in this interview and a forthcoming book. A fellow at the Cato Institute, Balko's analysis is inflected with libertarianism and thus misses the class structure behind this sea-change in domestic policing. But if we're going to demilitarize our neighborhoods—let alone the rest of the world—we need allies where we can find them.
— Luis Feliz focuses on ideas and debates within the left, social movements and culture.
“On Resigning from the SWP,” by Richard Seymour. Lenin’s Tomb, March 12, 2013.
In the wake of a sexual assault scandal and the undemocratic practices and lack of acceptability of the Central Committee of the British Socialist Workers Party, Richard Seymour and China Miéville along with more than sixty members have left the party. While it is still uncertain what the possible dissolution of the SWP bodes for the international left, its likely demise should give us all pause to weigh and consider the possibilities for the next principled left. The article for this week is Seymour’s resignation letter.
— Elana Leopold focuses on the Middle East, its relations with the US and Islam.
“What the Mullahs Are Mulling,” by Andrew Finkel. International Herald Tribune, March 6, 2013.
At this beginning of this week, leading Muslim scholars and clerics from all over the world—from Europe to the Middle East to Asia—gathered in Istanbul for a conference titled "Islamic Cooperation for a Peaceful Future in Afghanistan." Organized by an Afghani academic of conflict resolution and current faculty member of George Mason University, the gathering is especially significant given the unfruitful attempts of Afghani and Pakistani governments to organize a meeting of clerics in the last year, as well as for the diversity of participants.
— Alec Luhn focuses on East European and Eurasian affairs, especially issues of good governance, human rights and activism.
“Humanitarian Principles in the Post-9/11 World,” by Antonio Donini. Norwegian Refugee Council, November 2012.
The appropriation of humanitarian aid projects for political goals is hardly a new phenomenon and continues in the Middle East and elsewhere. Amid the growing effects of climate change and an increasingly multipolar world, humanitarian agencies will soon be pushed aside entirely by private contractors and military forces, Domini argues. In light of this, he calls for humanitarians to return to the more limited but effective task of "injecting a measure of humanity into situations that should not exist."
— Leticia Miranda focuses on race, gender, telecommunications and media reform.
“Minority Groups and Bottlers Team Up in Battles Over Soda,” by Nick Confessore. The New York Times, March 13, 2013.
The fight over New York City's soda ban and this revealing story about corporate giving to civil rights groups reminds me of the battles in media policy. This NY Times story offers a glimpse into how corporate thinking has developed within formerly progressive or liberal groups and leads us to a story that may be more complex than "they were just bought off."
— Brendan O’Connor focuses on media criticism and pop culture.
“When People Write for Free, Who Pays?” by Cord Jefferson. Gawker, March 8, 2013.
So spot on that I'm just going to pull a quote and leave it at that: "This is what props up the system of internships, low rates and writing for 'exposure': the middle- to upper-middle-class parent who can drop $900 for rent money here, or $2,000 for a broker's fee there, or who can simply co-sign a lease. Their budding writers get breathing room that millions of other mothers and fathers couldn't imagine being able to provide."
— Anna Simonton focuses on issues of systemic oppression perpetuated by the military and prison industrial complexes.
“5 Ways We Can Teach Men Not to Rape,” by Zerlina Maxwell. Ebony, March 11, 2013.
The Senate Armed Services Committee recently held its first hearing on the problem of sexual assault in the military in over ten years. Like the House hearing on the same subject that took place in January, much of the testimony and questioning centered on how to change the chain of command so that perpetrators are held accountable and survivors can report assault without fearing repercussions. These changes are badly needed, as this recent controversy shows. However, missing from the conversation is an analysis of the why male soldiers rape in the first place, and how they can unlearn the patriarchal aggression that's at the root of the problem. Zerlina Maxwell's article should be required reading material for senators and military training instructors alike.
— Cos Tollerson focuses on Latin American politics and society, and United States imperialism.
“Unthinkable,” by Pooja Bhatia. n+1, March 8, 2013.
In the process of reviewing Laurent Dubois' Haiti: The Aftershocks of History for n+1 magazine, Pooja Bhatia provides a concise summary of the island's political experience since its independence in 1804. She details the evolving forms of foreign authority that have targeted the nation in the past two centuries, the varied interests that have benefitted from the island's instability and the ahistorical narratives of local degeneracy that continue to exoticize Haiti’s inhabitants in an attempt to legitimize their exploitation. Globally, the combination of encouraged debt accumulation, occupation, covert intervention and dehumanization that Bhatia describes in Haiti forms the core of a neocolonial agenda, which has attempted to maintain the imbalance of power between Europe and the developing world since the implosion of formal colonial relationships.
— Sarah Woolf focuses on what’s happening north of the US border.
“Trudeau leadership win a 'fait accompli,' Garneau says,” by Laura Payton and Leslie MacKinnon. CBC News, March 13, 2013.
The embattled Liberal Party—once known as Canada's "natural governing party" and now a shell of its former self after it was decimated in the 2011 federal elections—is undergoing the process of picking its new party leader. The race just got a little less interesting (many observers had wondered if that was even possible) now that former astronaut Marc Garneau has withdrawn from the race. Garneau has effectively crowned le petit PET, Justin Trudeau (son of Canada's most famous Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau), the victor. In his closing statement, Garneau reflected, "I wish Twitter had existed during my time in space. This might have had a different outcome.'"