Senate majority leader Harry Reid. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
— Darren Ankrom focuses on climate change.
“We’re seeing catastrophic effects of climate change,” by Harry Reid.Las Vegas Sun, August 11, 2013.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid pulled no punches in his Sunday column for the Las Vegas Sun, imploring “us all…to stop acting like those who deny” climate change “have a valid point of view. They don’t.” This is the kind of direct, no-room-for-debate tactic that needs to be widely adopted. Climate change is no longer an argument, and coverage painting it as one disservices and misinforms viewers and readers. When 97+ percent of scientists agree, yet a dwindling, inaccurate minority of deniers exist, presenting them as a valid counterpoint isn’t objective reporting; it’s inaccurate reporting. A recent study that found watching Fox News makes viewers distrust climate scientists comes to mind.
— Humna Bhojani focuses on the “War on Terror” and the Middle East.
“The Faraway Nearby,” by Rebecca Solnit. Guernica, May 15, 2013.
I have often fallen into a story, tumbling out to the other side, bruised; scrapes and cuts in all the right places. So has Rebecca Solnit. And so have you. Before many start to tell their own stories, they step into the stories of others, escaping their own world to share somebody’s most intimate experiences. Only to share their own most intimate experiences later. With a stranger. Someone they have never met, will never meet. And so it goes. From one story-teller to the next.
— Rick Carp focuses on media, psychology and environmentalism.
“Slave and Slaveholder Descendants Break Free of History’s Trauma—Together,” by Lisa Gale Garrigues. Yes! August 2, 2013.
Cultural trauma is something that afflicts large groups of people, for examples, Americans after 9/11, Jews after the Holocaust, African-Americans after slavery or indigenous peoples after Western Civilization’s genocidal expansion. It produces internalized forms of alienation and humiliation, which people re-enact against themselves through addiction, depression, structural violence and other malignant emotional maladies. People may repeat these forms of trauma in cycles: children of alcoholics who grow up to marry alcoholics; Israeli militarism and the Occupation; Islamophobic Americans and the “War on Terror”; or even the more general phenomena of “history repeating itself.” This article discusses attempts to bring various disparate parties together in an attempt to heal these cultural divides and begin moving forward—as allies and friends.
— Keenan Duffey focuses on Middle East national politics.
“Peace talks: The perfect alibi for settlement expansion,” by Mairav Zonszein. +972, August 11, 2013.
The latest round of Israeli/Palestinian peace talks, initiated earlier this summer by Secretary of State John Kerry, are proving to be of little value to anyone outside of the Israeli settler community. While Abbas, Kerry and Netanyahu struggle to determine the parameters for the peace talks, Israel continues to change the facts on the ground. The “peace process” plays out in Washington, DC, over disinterested luncheons, while Israel continues to consolidate its position in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
— Prashanth Kamalakanthan focuses on racism, imperialism and student/worker activism.
“Kshama Sawant and the Socialist Politics of the Possible,” by John Halle. The North Star, August 12, 2013.
For the last week, a hopeful note. This piece in The North Star, a popular socialist blog, discusses Kshama Sawant’s socialist candidacy for the Seattle City Council—a long road whose first major hurdle she just overcame, securing a spot in the November run-off by receiving the second highest amount of votes, 43,000 (35 percent). Halle links Sawant’s success to the growing tide of sympathy toward socialism across the country, while also pointing out the troubling municipal-level constraints that a new crop of radical politicians will have to face.
— Eunji Kim focuses on gender, race, media and East Asian politics.
“Video Reignites Death Penalty Debate in China,” by Josh Chin. The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2013.
A graphic video reportedly spurred a debate on death penalty in a country where 75 percent of its people support capital punishment. According to TeaLeafNation, an e-magazine that covers various issues in China, an eye-for-an-eye point of view explains the “complex roots of death penalty support.” But given the history of international activists criticizing the China’s violation of human rights, one can hope that this may be a boost to the movement—this time, from inside the country.
— Samantha Lachman focuses on reproductive justice, healthcare access and intersectionality.
“Frisky Q&A: Laverne Cox From ‘Orange Is The New Black,’” by Avital Norman Nathman. The Frisky, August 13, 2013.
I just started watching Orange Is the New Black, and have mixed feelings about how the show deals with issues of race and socioeconomic status (for nuanced takes on the series, read Salamishah Tillet here and Yasmin Nair here). However, one storyline that has been garnering praise is that of transgender inmate Sophia Burset, played by Laverne Cox. In this interview, Cox discusses her role and the challenges facing trans communities, from unemployment to homicide. It’s exciting to see such a powerful representation of black and trans identity on a show that’s reaching so many viewers.
— Rebecca Nathanson focuses on social movements, student organizing and labor.
“Opting for Free Time,” by Sarah Jaffe. In These Times, August 12, 2013.
Since The New York Times published a piece on the wealthy women who chose to “opt out” of the workforce to stay at home with their children in the early 2000s, many have weighed in on the issue of work/family balance. But what few mention is life outside of work and family. Sarah Jaffe refutes the popular liberal version of feminism that claims that women get pleasure out of work and instead argues that leisure is a right afforded to both men and women.
— Jake Scobey-Thal focuses on human rights and conflict in Asia and Africa
“Indonesia wants to stop exporting its maids to the rest of the world,” by Lily Kuo. Quartz, August 13, 2013.
Indonesia has pledged to stop exporting maids to the rest of the world. While the industry is a source of income for many Indonesian families, maids have faced serious abuses abroad and reforms have done little to ensure protection against labor abuses, trafficking, and assault.
— Aviva Stahl focuses on Islamophobia in the US and the UK and its links to racism, homophobia/transphobia and the prison industrial complex.
“Truths behind the gay torture images from Russia,” by Scott Long. A Paper Bird, August 11, 2013.
Scott Long is known for his incisive (if controversial) critiques of Western human rights interventions in the Global South. This piece is long and a bit unwieldy, but it makes important points about what’s happening in Russia that aren’t being made elsewhere—namely, what the images mean, how they have circulated and how the current homophobic climate in Russia is linked to other rights violations. He stresses the problems in framing this as a “gay” issue, given the killings of racial minorities and Putin’s widespread suppression of civil society, and challenges the presumption that we in the West grasp the complexities of standing in solidarity with LGBT Russian communities.
— John Thomason focuses on pieces that situate contemporary American political debates in historical and/or intellectual contexts.
“The Drone Philosopher,” by Marco Roth. n+1, August 7, 2013.
For my last pick of the summer, I’ve chosen a piece that argues against my cause célèbre: providing intellectual context for political debates. Marco Roth argues that the very act of speculative contemplation about American military strikes—no matter how rigorous, no matter how informed—is obscene given the asymmetry of the conflict and the pervasive suffering involved. In this sense, the piece recalls Teju Cole’s excellent New Yorker post from February, “A Reader’s War,” which ended like this: “I believe that when President Obama personally selects the next name to add to his ‘kill list,’ he does it in the belief that he is protecting the country. I trust that he makes the selections with great seriousness, bringing his rich sense of history, literature, and the lives of others to bear on his decisions. And yet we have been drawn into a war without end, and into cruelties that persist in the psychic atmosphere like ritual pollution.” If the lives of others remain mere abstractions and objects of contemplation, as they too often are for armchair philosophers, presidents and pundits alike, then American imperialism and its attendant cruelties will certainly persist.