Members of the Republican Guards stand in line at a barricade blocking protesters supporting deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi near a Republican Guards headquarters in Cairo on July 9, 2013. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)
This week: Malaysia’s resource curse, racial indicators for breast cancer survival, and the destructive constellaton of defense contractors and diplomats in post-revolutionary Egypt.
— Darren Ankrom focuses on climate change.
“Climate change slowdown is due to warming of deep oceans, say scientists,” by Fiona Harvey. The Guardian, July 22, 2013.
Few climate change-denying arguments are more frustrating than the simplified narrative of “It’s colder, therefore it’s not happening.” This article notes that although warming has slowed of late, it’s likely because deep oceans are absorbing heat, not because climate change has suddenly stopped. A warming ocean brings up a whole host of environmental problems—thermal expansion and decimated marine life habitats, to name a few—and the point that temporarily slowed warming is expected by climate scientists, and in fact built into many models, is an important one.
— Humna Bhojani focuses on the “War on Terror” and the Middle East.
“Transforming Pornography: Black Porn for Black Women,” by Sinnamon Love. Guernica, February 15, 2013.
African-American porn star and adult film director Sinnamon Love strives to be a voice of sex-positive black feminism. Through her work she hopes to help transform the porn industry into a space where black women can take charge of their own sexuality. Love is not alone. Other female directors and performers are also challenging traditional portrayals and stereotypes of women of color in porn, carving out a space at the unlikely crossroads of feminism, pornography and race.
— Rick Carp focuses on media, psychology and environmentalism.
“‘Sometimes We Had A Brick’ An Interview With Former SHAC 7 Prisoners Jake Conroy And Josh Harper,” by Mike Klepfer. The Portland Radicle, July 22, 2013.
Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty was an animal rights activism group that ran a divestment campaign against Huntington Life Sciences, which tested products on animals for corporations like Procter & Gamble. They would attempt to get businesses with financial ties to HLS to quit working with them, which was often easy to do when a company had no large needs or interests directly related to animal testing. But as part of the ongoing Green Scare, the SHAC 7 ended up in prison via the Animal Enterprise Protection Act—a precursor to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. The SHAC 7 did not engage in terrorist activity or property damage, but ran a website that appeared to encourage it. The website posted personal information of HLS executives and employees. Activists—who were not directly connected to SHAC—would utilize this information and engage in acts of like mass phone calls, hacking computers, gluing ATMs, breaking windows and more. This is an interview with two of the members of the SHAC 7 reflecting on their time in prison.
— Keenan Duffey focuses on Middle East national politics.
“Partners in Profiteering: Defense Firms and Diplomats in Post-Revolutionary Egypt,” by Shana Marshall. Jadaliyyah, July 24, 2013.
Shana Marshall has uncovered a slideshow prepared by the US Commercial Service for distribution to American defense firms in May 2011. The slideshow touts the instability in Egypt as a golden opportunity to make security related sales to private firms in Egypt and to strengthen relationships with the Egyptian military. It demonstrates that the enduring relationship between the US and Egypt is not about developing democracy but subsidizing US defense export markets.
— Prashanth Kamalakanthan focuses on racism, imperialism, and student/worker activism.
“Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by Jonathan Crary: Sleep is a standing affront to capitalism,” by Steven Poole. New Statesman, July 18, 2013.
This is a review of what should be a fascinating and important new book, which I haven’t yet read: Jonathan Crary’s 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. Beginning with an account of current research (military, soon commercial) into removing the need for sleep through bioengineering and pharmaceutics, Crary’s argument, subjected to a balanced critique here, is a striking one. He compellingly links the shrinkage of sleep time from “ten hours in the early 20th century” to “eight hours a generation ago,” and finally “approximately six and half hours” today with the intensification of economic pressures, both productive and consumptive. It’s strange to think of sleep as a bastion of dissidence and anti-productivity, but certain forces are certainly taking it away.
— Eunji Kim focuses on gender, race, media and East Asian politics.
“Black-White Divide Persists in Breast Cancer,” by Tara Parker Pope. The New York Times, July 23, 2013.
About 12 percent of American women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. This translates to a woman born in 2012 having about a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer, according to National Cancer Institute. This could be you, your mother, aunt or daughter. And how many of these patients will be survivors? Well, it depends on a lot of things, such as family medical history or employment. A recent study suggests yet another addition to the list—race. This article shares the recent findings but also reminds us that race isn’t (always) political; it’s tied to so many things in our lives, starting with the basic needs and wants of a human being—good health.
— Samantha Lachman focuses on reproductive justice, healthcare access and intersectionality.
“We Pardon Spitzer, But Still Judge Former Sex Workers (Like Me),” by Melissa Petro. New York, July 23, 2013.
Petro scrutinizes the media’s gendered portrayal of both current and former sex workers. “I would be fine with Spitzer’s return to politics if sex workers were allowed the same dignity of returning to normalcy. But apologizing and getting my career back wasn’t exactly an option our society supports,” she writes. New York City fired her as a teacher after she wrote an op-ed arguing that not all sex workers are victims—yet we see Eliot Spitzer leading in the polls to serve as the City’s next comptroller. It’s an indicting piece about whom society redeems.
— Rebecca Nathanson focuses on social movements, student organizing and labor.
“Student loan debt should be treated like Detroit’s,” by Tim Donovan. Salon, July 24, 2013.
The numbers speak for themselves: over $1 trillion in student debt nationally, an average of $26,500 in student debt per student in 2011, a 1,120 percent increase in tuition since 1978 and a 7 percent decline in state and local funding for higher education in 2012. There’s no question that higher education in the United States is in crisis, and a large part of that is due to student debt. This article examines one of the reasons for that crisis—the fact that student debt is the only type of debt that cannot be forgiven through bankruptcy—while linking it to the problems of rising tuition and administrator salaries and rooting it in the bankruptcy deregulations of the late ’90s and early 2000s.
— Jake Scobey-Thal focuses on human rights and conflict in Asia and Africa
“Malaysia’s rich natural resources are standing in the way of an Arab Spring,” by Nithin Coca. Quartz, July 25, 2013.
Does any of this sound familiar? Country X has seen massive GDP growth due to extractive industry exports, accompanied by ever increasing inequality. Country X is a former British colony with deep ethnic divisions borne out of a history of the colonial ethnic hierarchies and neo-imperial racial politics. And Country X had an election where the opposition party won a clear majority of the vote, but—because of the gerrymandering of the party in power—retained only 40 percent of the seats in parliament.
Malaysia has all the ingredients for political unrest—so why hasn’t it had its Arab Spring moment?
— Aviva Stahl focuses on Islamophobia in the US and the UK and its links to racism, homophobia/transphobia and the prison industrial complex.
“Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex,” by Assed Baig. The Huffington Post, July 13, 2013.
Americans’ fascination with Malala isn’t simply a product of her story, or her formidable oratorical skills: her narrative has gained so much prominence because it shores up the narrative we’ve constructed about how Muslim men treat Muslim women. In this article, Assed Baig provides a brave, nuanced and necessary analysis of why Malala Yousafzai feeds our white saviour complex.
— John Thomason focuses on pieces that situate contemporary American political debates in historical and/or intellectual contexts.
“Revolutionizing Ethics,” by David Johnson. Jacobin, July 22, 2013.
This piece argues that popular appeals to morality are usually cynical attempts to place severe constraints on the potential demands of morality (broadly defined) and to foreclose political solutions to genuinely moral problems. However, it sidesteps one thorny issue, which is that in many traditions ethics does entail a kind of isolation and individualism: Ethics is how one leads a good life. Perhaps the real question, then, is if it is even possible to live a good life under present geopolitical conditions.