This week: revolution in Egypt, reproductive rights in DC, elections in South Korea and solidarity with Bangladeshi workers everywhere.
Darren Ankrom focuses on climate change.
“Are Simultaneous Floods, Drought an Omen in the Pacific?” by Terrell Johnson. Weather Underground, June 30, 2013.
As large countries bicker about climate change doubting what President Obama last week called “the overwhelming judgment of science,” low-lying nations such as the Marshall Islands are being hammered by the changing climate right now. Recently, the Marshalls (a chain of more than 1,000 islands in the North Pacific Ocean called home by an estimated 70,000 people) were hit with twin, seemingly paradoxical weather emergencies—an intense drought in the northern islands and heavy flooding in the southern parts. It’s a reminder that the Marshalls and other places like it, which have contributed virtually nothing to climate change, are simultaneously the most vulnerable and the first to feel its affects.
Humna Bhojani focuses on the War on Terror and the Middle East.
“US drone strikes more deadly to Afghan civilians than manned aircraft—adviser,” by Spencer Ackerman. The Guardian, July 2, 2013.
While the President and government officials have droned on about the precision of drone strikes and their ability to reduce collateral damage, a study found that drones were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.” Precision targeting (by drones or otherwise) might be precise, but it may not necessarily be accurate. Accuracy and precision are two different concepts. While drones may be able to precisely target a building, there is no way of exactly knowing if that is indeed the building they should be targeting. The answer to that question (and the accuracy of a strike) depends on intelligence.
Rick Carp focuses on media, psychology and environmentalism.
“A Spiritual Way of Seeing,” by Peter Gabel. Tikkun via Truthout, June 27, 2013.
Drawing on the psychology of R.D. Laing, theology and film, the author demonstrates how our material-centered worldview leads to forms of alienation that are rooted in the inherent disconnection existing in our superficial, modern relationships, which lack genuine “‘mutual recognition’ of our common humanity.” But this loss of community facilitates the ability of a person to ignore the plights of the Other, which leads to even more hyper-individualism, the continued fraying of social bonds and more internalized alienation! How do we restore solidarity and collective care when we live in a market-based society (that pits people against each other in competition), which is “primarily characterized by the denial of this desire for mutual recognition, in the sense that we are primarily in flight from each other and experience each other as a threat?”
Keenan Duffey focuses on Middle East national politics.
“Is Egypt approaching revolution redux?” by Amro Hassan. The Egypt Monocle, June 26, 2013.
The situation in Egypt has changed rapidly in recent days. This piece from The Egypt Monocle, written last week, is an honest appraisal of the feelings of the Egyptian people and their willingness to challenge, or not challenge, the rule of Mohammad Morsi. Where these protests are headed is uncertain, but it is important to know where they began.
Prashanth Kamalakanthan focuses on racism, imperialism, and student/worker activism.
“Austerity Agonistes,” by Mark Levinson. Dissent, Summer 2013.
“Austerity Agonistes” in this summer’s Dissent (ironically paywalled) offers a usefully-distilled account of the political history of austerity economics. In a review of two recent books on austerity—Mark Blyth’s Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea and Robert Kuttner’s Debtor’s Prison—Levinson traces how neoliberal policy recommendations fostered a “privatized Keynesianism,” where credit markets for regular people and derivatives/futures trading for the wealthy came to stand in for actual growth in living standards, cyclically inflating bursting bubbles that redistribute upward. It is a dense, historically grounded economic narrative that suggests we would be better served embracing human communities instead of economic models.
Eunji Kim focuses on gender, race, media and East Asian politics.
“Liberal Lawmakers Question Legitimacy of South Korean Election,” by Choe Sang-Hun. The New York Times, June 26, 2013.
The 2007 meeting between the late South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun and the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has been dominating South Korean politics lately. Since this New York Times report, Congress passed a bill requesting the release of the meeting’s original text, recording and other related files. Some politicians’ objection that the law protects foreign affairs related documents out of the public eye for 30 years did little to stop the process. Too bad Korea doesn’t allow filibustering.
Samantha Lachman focuses on reproductive justice, health care access and intersectionality.
“Independence Day Rings Hollow for D.C. Women,” by Kimberly Inez McGuire and Mari Schimmer. RH Reality Check, July 2, 2013.
Though there’s been much national scrutiny of recent restrictions upon reproductive heath access in Ohio and in Texas (and rightly so), a huge injustice has sustained less attention is in DC, where lower-income women are unable to have their abortions covered through Medicaid. As the authors explain, Congressional GOP legislators routinely block DC from using local funds to provide health coverage for abortion. “Home rule” is a phantom concept for the District.
Rebecca Nathanson focuses on social movements, student organizing and labor.
“Global Movement to End Death Traps Mobilizes Supply-Chain Solidarity,” by Jeff Schuhrke. In These Times, July 1, 2013.
After more than 1,100 workers died when Rana Plaza collapsed in April, many companies rushed to sign the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. But more than two months later, a few retailers still refuse to sign the accord that will help ensure safer working conditions for workers who produce American garments. Those remaining hold-outs, including Gap and Walmart, say that signing will leave them open to “unlimited liability,” but that explanation isn’t good enough—this past weekend, activists around the globe, including myself, marched and rallied outside of Gap and Walmart stores to pressure the companies into signing the binding agreement that could help prevent another tragedy like the Rana Plaza collapse from happening again.
Jake Scobey-Thal focuses on human rights and conflict in Asia and Africa
“Critics Question Karzai Choices for Human Rights Panel,” by Rod Nordland. The New York Times, July 2, 2013.
Rights activists have publicly criticized Karzai’s objectionable appointments to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. With coalition forces set to pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, many donors have attached human rights and good governance benchmarks to continued aid commitments. These appointments are a test case as to what extent foreign donors are willing to leverage their influence to push the Karzai government on rights.
Aviva Stahl focuses on Islamophobia in the US and the UK and its links to racism, homophobia/transphobia and the prison industrial complex.
“In Jail, ‘Bowl Phone’ Takes Edge Off Inmates’ Isolation,” by Chris Hedges. Truthdig via Truthout, July 1, 2013.
In this revealing yet humorous piece—which (warning) tends towards lasciviousness at the end—Hedges explores the lengths to which prisoners will go to communicate when they face extended periods of isolation.
John Thomason focuses on pieces that situate contemporary American political debates in historical and/or intellectual contexts.
“The Criminal N.S.A.,” by Jennifer Stisa Granick And Christopher Jon Sprigman. The New York Times, June 26, 2013.
We thought that having a former constitutional law professor as president would mean we didn’t need pieces like this. The authors note that the administration’s interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act relies on a definition of “relevance” that is so expansive it’s rendered meaningless. This has an obvious parallel in the administration’s justification for its foreign drone strikes, which, as Jeremy Scahill points out in his reporting, rely on a similarly inflated definition of the term “imminence.”