HomeUncategorized9/12-14 News Roundup and Open Thread
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Benny

orlbucfan

Big John is a screech! 😂 Pennsylvania is sooooo lucky.

Benny

Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death
Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death

WTF??? This is our legislative body? Lololol… What an effin joke!

orlbucfan

He’s outta his mind if he’s even got one. That sort of explicit sexual description was never seen in any school library I attended. Plus, with the smart phone tech, kids can access porn in a flash. Is this dimwit aware of that?!?💩😡

Benny

Difference is the kids’ parents pay for internet access themselves as opposed to the taxpayer paying for the book.

orlbucfan

I don’t know what your experience was with your school library growing up. I never saw sexually explicit books like that when I was a schoolgirl. I was a book fanatic who loved the library, and attended public schools.

Benny

Oh, I read my mom’s books by Jackie Susann, was exposed to Playboy as my older brother had a subscription, and my fellow students in junior high school passed around Mario Puzo’s The Godfather with page 27 earmarked. (sex scene between Sonny and one of his sister’s bridesmaids)

But did I see these kinds of books in school libraries? Not until I was in library school and worked at a high school library. Judy Blume’s Forever was on the back shelves, and parents were required to give their permission for their children to check it out. The school considered banning it (objections by teachers, not the community, but in a small community, they are pillars of the community). That was the compromise. It worked in a fashion, albeit I wanted to follow the American Library Association’s guidelines as much as possible.

One thing I did do at that school: I got rid of all of the 1950’s and early 60’s books on health education. According to library catalogs, sex is part of health education, and I hated seeing outdated information gathering dust on the shelves. The trick was to discard them out of town in a commercial bin. I doubt they were missed. This was in the mid-80’s.

orlbucfan

T and R x 3, and thanks, jcb!! 🙂

orlbucfan

Maybe the DNC is gaining some smarts. The comment thread was very interesting.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/11/us/politics/biden-campaign-age-approval.html

wi65

More BS from the GQP in WI; The block quote is the bottom line

Wisconsin’s Democratic governor rejects surprise GOP support for nonpartisan redistricting

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers shot down as “bogus” a surprise plan Republicans floated Tuesday that would use a nonpartisan redistricting process to implement new maps by 2024 and preempt the state Supreme Court from tossing the current GOP-drawn boundaries.

The Republican move comes as Wisconsin justices are considering two Democratic-backed lawsuits seeking to toss the current maps, first enacted in 2011, that are among the most gerrymandered in the country and have helped Republicans increase their majority.

Republicans have long opposed plans put forward by Democrats to enact a nonpartisan redistricting process. But now, faced with the likelihood that the liberal-controlled state Supreme Court was going to throw out their maps ahead of the 2024 election, Republicans proposed enacting a new system modeled after neighboring Iowa.

“If you’re sick of the arguing, if you’re sick of the vitriol, if you want people to work together, this is a better way for us to do it,” Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said at a news conference.

But minutes later, Evers came out against the plan that he would have to sign in order for it to become law.

“Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to retain legislative control by having someone Legislature-picked and Legislature-approved draw Wisconsin’s maps,” Evers said in a statement. “That is bogus.”

Under the bill, the maps would be drawn by the Legislative Reference Bureau, nonpartisan staff who work for the Legislature. Legislators would then vote up or down on the plan, and if passed it would then go to the governor for final approval.

The maps drawn could not favor a political party, incumbent legislator, or other person or group, according to the bill.

That is closely modeled after Iowa’s redistricting process, but that is not entirely devoid of politics.

Legislative staff there use nonpartisan criteria to draw districts that are then subject to an up or down vote by the Legislature and a potential gubernatorial veto. After the 2020 census, Iowa’s Republican-led Senate voted along party lines to reject the first maps produced by staff, sending them back for another try. The Legislature then accepted the second version, which resulted in Republicans winning all four of the state’s congressional districts in the 2022 elections. Democrats had held at least one district for the previous two decades.

Evers said the Wisconsin Legislature “cannot be trusted to appoint or oversee someone charged with drawing fair maps.”

“Wisconsinites deserve a redistricting process that’s free of partisanship and interference from politicians, and it’s never been clearer that today’s Legislature cannot be trusted with that important responsibility,” Evers said.

Democratic state Sen. Mark Spreitzer said it was disingenuous for Republicans to propose the plan after years of fighting nonpartisan redistricting.

“Speaker Vos doesn’t do anything unless it benefits him and his gerrymandered Republican majority,” Spreitzer said in a statement.

The Assembly was going to vote on the measure Thursday. It would then head to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 22-11 majority. If approved there, it would then go to Evers.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu did not respond to request for comment.

“This debate over the years has really undermined the respect of the people in the governing process and in the belief that we are truly being represented,” said Republican Rep. Joel Kitchens, who joined with Vos and dozens of other Republican lawmakers at the news conference. “So I think it really is the time to get it done.”

Vos said he preferred the current system for drawing maps — which gives full authority to the Legislature — but “sometimes you have to listen and you change your mind.” Vos said the proposal would also avoid wasting millions of dollars fighting the two pending redistricting lawsuits and a possible impeachment.

Vos and other Republicans have floated the possibility of impeachment if newly elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz doesn’t recuse from the redistricting cases because she called the current maps “unfair” and “rigged” and accepted nearly $10 million in campaign donations from the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Protasiewicz’s win in April flipped majority control of the court from conservative to liberal for the first time in 15 years.

Republican support for a nonpartisan redistricting plan came days after the Wisconsin Democratic Party announced a $4 million campaign to pressure Republicans to back down from impeaching Protasiewicz. A six-figure TV ad buy targeting 20 Republican lawmakers to run on Fox News was announced hours before Vos announced his plan.

___

orlbucfan

POX Propaganda to the rescue! What would the GOPukes do without it?? 😱🤪

wi65

And the idiots that believe it

Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death
Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death

Call to action in November to Stop Cop City. Watch the 1-minute rap video at this site. Yep, our young people got this.
https://blockcopcity.org/call-to-action

Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death
Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 12, 2023

CONTACT: media@blockcopcity.org Mariah Parker, Jamie Peck

Stop Cop City Activists Announce Mass Nonviolent Direct Action to Block Construction and Defend the Atlanta Forest

ATLANTA, GA – A broad group of activists and organizations are announcing a mass nonviolent direct action in November to block the ongoing construction of Cop City. The action aims to bring thousands of people to the forest from Atlanta and across the country to carry on this city’s rich legacy of civil disobedience. In the wake of fabricated RICO charges, and inspired by bold direct action by members of the faith coalition and the historic delivery of 116,000 petition signatures to the city clerk, the Block Cop City Coalition recognizes that mass action is necessary to enforce the People’s Stop Work Order. Cop City opponents near and far are mobilizing to take matters into their own hands through this collective action. In the lead-up to November, activists will visit over 70 cities around the continent in an expansive speaking tour to mobilize and prepare thousands of people for the action. The tour will provide updates from ground zero, share strategic intelligence on the pivot towards mass action, and invite folks to travel to Atlanta in November to #BlockCopCity.

The convergence is planned for November 10-13 and will feature two days of public direct action trainings, discussions, assemblies, and other events throughout the city, including a large concert and rally. These events will culminate in a march on the construction site, where forest defenders will shut down all ongoing construction operations and demand an end to the widely-opposed project.

“With shameless contempt for democracy, the APF is racing to build Cop City, a deeply unpopular project, before the people can cancel its lease at the ballot box,” said Mariah Parker, movement educator and Stop Cop City organizer. “This People’s Stop Work Order, standing firm in Atlanta’s legacy of militant, strategic non-violence, invites all people impacted by environmental injustice and police supremacy to have the final say in the matter of Cop City.”

Through an unprecedented juridical campaign of trumped-up felony charges underpinned by police violence and murder, law enforcement agencies and city officials have attempted to instill fear in all who are called to protect the Earth, defend the Weelaunee Forest, and prioritize communities over policing. Instead of intimidating us, these acts of repression have only energized the movement further. We look forward to the bold, decisive action in November, along with all of the other tactics that activists will deploy in the meantime.

Cop City will never be built!

Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death
Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death

AOC is getting into it too – (from an email with links)
Cop City is the Atlanta Police Foundation’s proposal for a sprawling police training facility in 85 acres of Atlanta forest, against the wishes of the working-class community nearby.

Organizers in Atlanta are working on a citywide referendum to halt Cop City by ordering a suspension of its lease. Now, they’re calling Atlanta residents to sign a petition to get the referendum on the ballot. They need 20,000 more signatures.

We can help them. Sign up for a Wednesday phonebank with Atlanta DSA to Stop Cop City →

Phonebank to Stop Cop City!
Wednesday, September 13
6PM & 8PM
Phonebank on Wed 9/13 →

Phonebank to Stop Cop City!
Wednesday, September 20
6PM & 8PM
Phonebank on Wed 9/20 →

In solidarity,

Team AOC

Benny

Thanks for the updates, Aint. It doesn’t make any sense why Dems would support this, especially the mayor.

orlbucfan

Ditto, Aint. This is TERRIFIC news. Remember: there are still 14 months until the elections.

Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death
Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death

Yes, especially the black mayor, and black council members like the son of Julian Bond. Money talks and bs walks.

orlbucfan

You have that right.

Benny

Benny

Naomi Klein

To Know Yourself, Consider Your Doppelgänger (part 1)

This past July, Merriam-Webster announced on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that “‘doppelgänger’ is currently one of our top lookups.”

The doppelgänger — defined by Merriam-Webster as a “person who resembles someone else, or a ghostly counterpart of a living person” — is suddenly unavoidable. Social media platforms are crowded with videos of “that moment when” a pair of uncanny look-alikes come face-to-face at a friend’s wedding, or in a Las Vegas swimming pool or on a plane. A Taylor Swift doppelgänger has collected 1.6 million followers on TikTok, while the real Ms. Swift performs multiple alter-ego versions of herself in the “Anti-Hero” video. Rachel Weisz doubles herself in the remake of Dead Ringers, and Netflix’s latest season of Black Mirror begins with an episode wherein computer-generated versions of celebrities impersonate ordinary people.

There has even been a burst of doppelgänger-on-doppelgänger violence. Last year, a woman in Germany was accused of murdering her glamorous beauty-blogger look-alike with the aim of using the body to fake her own death. And in February, a Russian-born New Yorker was convicted of attempted murder: She had fed poisoned cheesecake to her doppelgänger in hopes of stealing her identity.

Though doppelgängers reliably elicit feelings of vertigo, I find the sudden prevalence of doubles oddly comforting. For years I struggled privately with a problem I considered rather niche: being perennially confused and conflated with another writer and outspoken political analyst named Naomi, Naomi Wolf, even though I bear only a passing resemblance to her. (And I would see the same thing happening to her.) Once best known for best-selling feminist books like “The Beauty Myth” and for a controversial role advising Al Gore’s presidential run, Ms. Wolf has more recently distinguished herself as an industrial-scale disseminator of vaccine-related medical misinformation, as well as a fixture on pro-Trump shows like the one hosted daily by Steve Bannon.

I sometimes wondered what I had done to deserve my doppelgänger woes. With popular culture feeling increasingly like a house of mirrors with duplicated and simulated and similar selves endlessly refracted, many more of us may soon be dealing with versions of doppelgänger confusion. What role is this proliferation of doubles, twins and clones playing? Doppelgängers, which combine the German words for doppel (double) with gänger (goer), are often regarded as warnings, or omens.

In an attempt to better understand the warnings carried by my doppelgänger experience, I spent many evenings immersing myself in the rich repertory of doppelgänger films. One that proved particularly helpful was Jordan Peele’s “Us.” This 2019 horror film imagines a society much like our own, only sitting on top of a shadowy underworld, inhabited by warped doubles of everyone living aboveground. Every move above is mirrored below in darkness and misery. Until the underground doppelgängers get tired of the arrangement and wreak havoc.

Who are these underground people? one terrified character asks.

“We’re Americans,” comes the gut punch of an answer.

The film has been interpreted as an allegory for capitalism’s entanglements with racial and other forms of oppression, with the comforts of the few requiring the exploitation of a shadow world. That understanding landed particularly hard during the pandemic, when I watched the film. Those of us who were part of the lockdown class were able to shelter in place because we were being served by “essential workers,” many of whom did not have the ability to call in sick. Doubles often play this role, offering viewers and readers uncomfortable ways into their own story. By showing us a character facing her doppelgänger, we are exposed to parts of ourselves we can least bear to see, but at a slight angle, and through a warped mirror.

Perhaps that’s why representations of doubles seem to surge during moments of extreme violence and change. The first major piece of theoretical work on the subject was an essay, titled “Der Doppelgänger,” by the Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Rank, then a protégé of Sigmund Freud. Postulating that doppelgängers were tools to express sublimated desires and terrors, it was written in 1914, just as the First World War began. In a reissue of the essay in 1971, Rank’s translator, Harry Tucker Jr., wondered, “Is there some relationship between extensive disruptions of society, with their concomitant unsettling effects upon the individual, and the interest of the literate public in descriptions of doubles imaginatively portrayed?”

Benny

part 2

These changes are redrawing political maps, shifting parts of the traditional liberal and New Age left over to the hard right. Trucker convoys in Canada in January 2022. A conspiracy-fueled coup attempt in Germany at the end of that year. The war my doppelgänger keeps warning about in the United States.

Which brings me to the form of doppelgänger that preoccupies me most: the fascist clown state that is the ever-present twin of liberal Western democracies, perpetually threatening to engulf us in its fires of selective belonging and ferocious despising. The figure of the doppelgänger has been used for centuries to warn us of shadow versions of our collective selves, of these monstrous possible futures.

Have our doppelgängers overtaken us? Not yet, not all of us anyway. But the pandemic, layered on top of so many other long-repressed emergencies, has taken humanity somewhere we have not been before, a place close but different, a kind of doppelgänger world. This is what accounts for the strangeness so many of us have been trying to name — everything so familiar, and yet more than a little off. Uncanny people, upside-down politics, even, as artificial intelligence accelerates, a growing difficulty discerning who and what is real.

That feeling of disorientation — of not understanding whom we can trust and what to believe — that we tell one another about? Of friends and loved ones seeming like strangers? It’s because our world has changed, but, as if we’re having a collective case of jet lag, most of us are still attuned to the rhythms and habits of the place and selves we left behind. It’s past time to find our bearings.

Doppelgängers, by showing us the supremacist values and violent behaviors that pose the greatest threats to our societies, can spur us to more stable ground.

I have her new book, Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World but it didn’t arrive until yesterday, so I haven’t read it yet. This essay gives a taste of it.

orlbucfan

I always thought of doppelgangers as evil twin ghosts. Never paid much attention to them, and still don’t. A lot of people confuse the two Naomis–don’t know why.

Benny

Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf and the Political Upside Down

I’ve been raving about Naomi Klein’s “Doppelganger” since I read an advance copy this summer, and when I tell people about it, some of them are baffled: You mean Klein wrote a whole book about being confused with the writer Naomi Wolf? The central conceit of “Doppelganger” sounds more like the premise for a surreal Charlie Kaufman film than a work by an earnest lefty who usually writes about overweening corporate power. Klein herself is apologetic about it. “In my defense, it was never my intent to write this book,” she says in its first line.

We should all be glad she did, because I can’t think of another text that better captures the berserk period we’re living through. Only in a superficial sense is “Doppelganger” really about Wolf, the liberal feminist icon turned anti-vax Steve Bannon sidekick. Instead, it’s about the instability of identity in the virtual world and the forces pulling people away from constructive politics into a shadow realm where clout chasing and conspiracy theorizing intertwine.

Klein and Wolf, both brown-haired middle-aged Jewish women writers, are often mistaken for each other. That became a growing problem for Klein as her reputation was tainted by Wolf’s escalating lunacy. Trapped at home by the pandemic, Klein became increasingly obsessed by Wolf’s transformation into a heroine of Covid truthers.

That obsession, in turn, guides Klein into an examination of what she calls “the Mirror World,” the vertigo-inducing inversion of reality common to contemporary far-right movements. Think, for example, of Vladimir Putin claiming that he’s liberating Ukraine from fascism or Donald Trump howling that his multiple prosecutions are a racist plot to subvert a presidential election. When I spoke to Klein recently, she described how jarring it was to watch protests against Covid measures appropriating left-wing language — common slogans were “I can’t breathe” and “My body, my choice” — making them “this weird doppelganger of the movements that I had been a part of and supported.”

This idea of the doppelganger gave me a new way to think about the mix of malicious parody and projection that now dominates our public life. Sometime soon, for example, the House is likely to impeach President Biden on the pretext that he was involved in corruption in Ukraine — the same conspiracy theory Trump was trying to breathe life into when he got himself impeached for corruption in Ukraine. This coming doppelganger impeachment is hard to even discuss without getting pulled down innumerable rabbit holes, which is surely part of the point.

“How comforting it would be if Wolf were a fake we could unmask — and not a symptom of a mass unraveling of meaning afflicting, well, everything,” writes Klein. This unraveling, of course, was well underway before Covid, but the pandemic accelerated it by forcing people to live online, communicating on platforms seemingly algorithmically designed to reward rage and paranoia.

Wolf’s story is instructive. “The Beauty Myth,” her 1990 blockbuster about the toll taken on women by the upward ratchet of unreasonable beauty standards, made her famous. In retrospect, the seeds of her intellectual decline were already present in that book, which contained both major statistical errors and a conspiratorial subtext that painted the influence of patriarchy as a deliberate plot. In the ensuing years, her work grew increasingly sloppy and absurd, until her reputation collapsed altogether in 2019 with the publication of “Outrages.”

Wolf faced the singular mortification of being confronted, live on the radio, with evidence that her book’s central contention — that several dozen men in Victorian England were executed for having same-sex relationships — was based on a misreading of historical records. That October, her U.S. publisher canceled the release of “Outrages.”

“If you want an origin story, an event when Wolf’s future flip to the pseudopopulist right was locked in, it was probably that moment, live on the BBC, getting caught — and then getting shamed, getting mocked and getting pulped,” writes Klein. Klein had a front-row seat to the pile-on, since much of it was mistakenly directed at her. She writes with real empathy about how, coming only a few months after the death of Wolf’s father, this professional implosion meant that Wolf “went into the destabilizing period of the pandemic in an already highly destabilized state.”

But in channeling the fears of people similarly unmoored by Covid, Wolf seems to have found something like stability, gaining a new audience that accorded her the respect she’d lost. In “The Shock Doctrine,” Klein writes about how rapacious capitalists take advantage of disasters. Wolf peddled a bizarro-world version of that idea, describing the response to the virus as a ploy to impose global totalitarianism. I looked up her most recent book, “The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, Covid-19 and the War Against the Human,” on Amazon. A best seller, it features glowing endorsements from Bannon and Tucker Carlson. (Wolf told The New York Times Magazine that she hasn’t read Klein’s book.)

In “Doppelganger,” Klein offers a half-joking formula to explain onetime leftists or liberals who migrate to the authoritarian right: “Narcissism(Grandiosity) + Social media addiction + Midlife crisis ÷ Public shaming = Right wing meltdown.” As Klein emphasizes, Wolf’s journey into the Mirror World can’t really be described as a fall. She and others like her, says Klein, “are getting everything they had and more, through a warped mirror.” For Klein, the more important question is less about Wolf’s motivations than those of her followers. Somehow, Wolf’s apocalyptic pronouncements about sinister drug companies and imminent technological tyranny speak to these people in a way that the left does not.

“When looking at the Mirror World, it can seem obvious that millions of people have given themselves over to fantasy, to make-believe, to playacting,” writes Klein. “The trickier thing, the uncanny thing, really, is that’s what they see when they look at us.”

This is Michelle Goldberg’s essay about the book. I’m looking forward to reading it sometime soon.

Benny

Interview with Klein by Esquire Magazine(not conducted by Charlie Pierce) part 1

ESQUIRE: What was the moment when your doppelgänger trouble began to suggest a broader political framework?

NAOMI KLEIN: I think when it started to manifest where I live. During the pandemic, I moved to a remote community—it’s three hours from the nearest city, including a ferry boat ride. It’s called the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia. It’s beautiful here, but it was always a place where I went to hide. I wrote The Shock Doctrine and other books here. When I moved here, I I had been lightly following what was going on with my doppelgänger—much of it not by choice, but because my social media feed would fill with blowback whenever she would do things. Then I started to see more examples of it in this small rural community where I live. There was the largest protest I’ve ever seen here on the coast: a “medical freedom” protest outside the hospital, opposing vaccine mandates for hospital staff. I also started to see signs and graffiti. I thought, “If it’s showing up even here, then it’s worth examining, and it’s bigger than me.” The book is not about my doppelgänger; my doppelgänger is just the white rabbit leading me down the rabbit hole. It’s very much about what I find down there, who else I find down there, and what it says about us.

You write that doppelgängers have been understood as “warnings or harbingers” that suggest “something important is being ignored or denied—a part of ourselves and our world we do not want to see.” What are we hiding from?

When I say “we,” I mean people who consider ourselves “not them,” and by “them,” I mean conspiracy theorists and MAGA people who seem to have taken flight from reality voluntarily. We spend a lot of time feeling smug that we aren’t “like them” and defining ourselves against them in a way that’s quite flattering. Doppelgänger literature shows that we may think we’re confronting our doppelgänger, but in the end, we’re always confronting ourselves. What we’re not willing to look at is our own complicity in systems that are intimately connected with the genocides of the past, that are contributing our little bit of poison to the extinctions of the present and the future, that rely on Shadow Lands for our conveniences, our Amazon deliveries, our year-round fruit. Whatever it is, there is no them. We are in it. We are a part of it.

By projecting all of our worst selves onto others, we avoid looking at our own complicity. I’m not about making people feel bad about that—I’m about asking, “What do we do about it? How do we build a world that does not require these kinds of violences?” There are moments when it felt like that might be possible. Think about the racial justice uprising after the murder of George Floyd, or the huge numbers of people who participated in the climate strikes in 2019 before the pandemic. There are moments when it feels like we want to do better, but because we haven’t figured out how to sustain those movements and turn them into material policies that improve people’s lives, the need for distraction and projection remains.

At this point, many people have written off Steve Bannon as a fringe character, but you see him as someone with huge influence. Why do you see him as such a powerful figure?

Underestimating Steve Bannon’s influence is pretty much always a mistake. In general, I think there’s an impulse to dismiss people who aren’t present in mainstream liberal culture as basically of no importance. A lot of people responded to my doppelgänger that way—there was a lot of attention on her in the early pandemic because she was spreading misinformation, but once she was de-platformed, the attitude was basically like she’d been deleted from planet Earth. Because I was following where she was going, I was struck that she had a much larger following than she’d had in years. There’s a flattering comfort in pretending that we have the power to deny these people attention and therefore influence, but actually, their worlds are real. There are real people there, and they can change the real world that we all inhabit—as we saw with Trump’s election. But we’ve also seen strange new political formations in Italy with the election of Giorgia Meloni, another of these diagonal characters who combines parts of our new age with authoritarianism. There was also an attempted coup in Germany, which had conspiratorial elements to it. So these movements have real world impacts.

Bannon has a huge following. I’ve talked to so many people who say, “I can’t talk to my sister anymore.” Their uncle, their aunt—so many of us have people like this in their lives, who we don’t understand where they’re getting their ideas from. Chances are, it’s from one of these podcasts that are being dismissed as not important. Bannon broadcasts every single day—some of his shows are three hours long. These are intimate relationships. He really gets in people’s heads in a way that maybe traditional media doesn’t.

“How do we build a world that does not require these kinds of violences?”
How does your theory of the mirror world help us understand this moral panic about “cancel culture”? As you say, mainstream liberal culture considers people like Bannon and your doppelgänger “cancelled” or “deleted.” But as you point out in the book, “These people don’t just disappear because we can no longer see them. They go somewhere else.”

I don’t use the term cancel culture because I think it’s just become one of those terms that’s not particularly useful. I’m really just talking about something simpler, which is that we should treat each other with more generosity. I talk about the mirror world being separated by one-way glass in the sense that we don’t see them, but they’re looking at us. Bannon is studying us very closely, including the issues that used to be traditional issues of the left, like opposition to free trade deals, consolidating corporate power, and opposition to Big Pharma and Big Tech. He’s seeing that mainstream liberalism isn’t offering much on these issues, so he’s taking up these issues—not because he believes in it or cares about it, but because he sees that they are potent issues, in the same way he understood in 2016 that free trade was an issue that could bring a bunch of traditional democratic voters over to the MAGA side.

The other thing he notices when he looks at us is that a lot of people get discarded. A lot of people get excluded. He does this show of performative inclusion, saying, “We believe in debate.” Obviously these are the same people banning books. They don’t believe in debate; they don’t believe in free speech. But there’s an overperformance of it as a way to exploit a real feeling that a lot of people have: that they’re afraid of making a mistake, and there’s no leeway for screwing up. This is related to the way I write about the cost of personal branding. We create these online avatars or personal brands, which are sort of us, but not us. The problem with performing being a thing on a platform where countless other people are performing themselves as things is that we actually start to believe we aren’t real, and that other people aren’t real. And if we aren’t real, then all kinds of cruelties are possible.

You write that “many of us have begun to suspect that we are machine food,” as our private actions are “enclosed” and “extracted” by Big Tech. You warn how our digital selves are a kind of doppelgänger, partitioned off from the complete truth of who we are. Do you see any signs that people are waking up to these truths and pushing for change?

Benny

part 2, Esquire interview

I am seeing signs. My experience of teaching people in their twenties is that those people who have come to stand in for their generation are not representative of their whole generation. A lot of young people are very troubled, even the ones who are very online, by what this performed self is doing, and this idea of not knowing what’s performed and what’s real. This is anecdotal, but a lot of the young people who I talk to and who I teach have a very ambivalent relationship with the partitioning of the self required to be a good brand.

We’re never going to not care about ourselves. I’m not calling for an annihilation of the self or the ego. I don’t think that’s possible or even desirable. But I do think we live in a culture where the self takes up too much space, and given the scale of the crises we are up against and the fact that we will only have a hope of doing anything about it if we can band together and organize ourselves into political constituencies, the labor of perfecting, optimizing, and performing the self really does rob necessary hours in the day when we might be doing things with other people.

As I was reading the chapter about our digital selves and our personal brands, I lamented that the book was completed before this current AI panic really gripped the culture, because it seems so germane to the topics at hand. Is there a doppelgänger lens on AI?

Oh, absolutely. In the book, I write about the digital golems created with our data. There’s the double self we consciously create, but then there’s the self that the tech companies create by hoovering up our data trails and creating doubles that then target market to us. This also creates the possibility for AI doubles. AI is a mirroring and mimicry machine that seems to be creating something new, but all it can do is mirror ourselves back to us. I certainly have friends who are visual artists and musicians who have had that absolutely chilling, uncanny feeling of seeing doppelgänger versions of themselves that they did not create, that others created, that were trained on their art, who they now they have to compete with in order to make a living as an artist. It’s one thing to have to compete with other people, but it’s quite another thing to have to compete with a counterfeit copy of yourself, whipped up by someone else. We can have a debate about whether or not art should be commerce, but we live under capitalism, and this is really a frightening state of affairs. I believe it’s a form of theft. I don’t see why a private for-profit company should be allowed to train their algorithms on the work, the words, and the images of people, without their consent, then sell the tools to people who are going to use them to cut costs.

It very much relates to the drivers of conspiracy culture. We have malevolent actors like Bannon who want people not to believe what is right in front of them, because it’s very helpful to the Donald Trumps of the world if people don’t believe anything said about him is true. If you’re going to break a whole bunch of laws, that’s pretty helpful. That’s why conspiracy culture supports elite actors, even though the people spreading these theories position themselves as anti-elite. When you introduce AI into this mix, it’s not going to be helpful when it comes to sorting fact from fiction and trying to get ourselves to a shared reality. That’s the precondition for doing anything to combat the serious and very real things happening in the world today, including climate change.

The book arrives at an argument that to make systemic change, we have to work together and battle systems of uncare to build new systems of care. How do we start to think collectively and build these coalitions, especially the “uncomfortable coalitions,” as you call them? What does that look like in practice?

Part of the cost of social media is that it doesn’t create many coalitions. There’s a lot of talk and there are a lot of takes, but there aren’t many spaces where there’s strategic thinking about long-term strategy and goals. But there are attempts to create more of those spaces, like the work of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, who started this new online journal called Hammer & Hope, which is a space to think critically about coalition work from a Black perspective. It very clearly looks at identity politics as a position from which to enter into struggle that recognizes that our positions are not the same—that we come to coalition with very different experiences and very different levels of risk. That’s not a reason not to be in coalition, but it informs how we see the world, which is the original meaning of the term identity politics from the Combahee River Collective.

I think we need a higher threshold for disagreement and debate. We need not to see disagreement as cataclysmic. We also need to give each other a little bit more grace, which isn’t an argument for not holding each other accountable, but for more democracy within our movements. In organizing spaces, if you don’t like what somebody is doing and they’re in a position of seeming leadership, there has to be a way to hold them accountable other than just the callout. That’s so often not the case when there’s an organization and there are a few people at the top, but they’re not accountable to a base.

As I say in the book, most things are easier said than done, but some things are easier done than said. That’s building on the work of wonderful labor organizer and theorist named Jane McAlevey, who writes about union organizing particularly in the teaching and nursing sectors, where there’s a lot of racial diversity and status differences. When there’s a clear goal across the board, like raises or benefits, the ability to be in those uncomfortable coalitions becomes more possible. Whereas if all you’re doing is sharing opinions on social media, it isn’t clear what the goal is at all. If you don’t know what the point of the whole thing is, your differences are going to take you down. But if the point is clear and the strategy is clear, then your tolerance level for difference rises, because you understand why you’re tolerating it. If you don’t have a goal, then why tolerate anything?

What gives you hope that we’ll make it to this caring world you want to build?

I think it’s having been around for long enough to know that history can surprise you. For example: I wrote a book about the climate crisis that came out in 2014, called This Changes Everything. It called for a truly intersectional climate movement at a time when the mainstream climate movement was not interested in connecting the dots between racial justice, gender justice, disability rights, and Indigenous rights. When I wrote that book, I could not in a million years have predicted Greta Thunberg and the rise of the Climate Strike movement. In my wildest dreams, I could not have predicted The Squad and the Sunrise Movement doing so much on a Green New Deal that every presidential candidate felt they needed to stake out a position on it.

So history surprises you. Things happen that were not on your bingo card, for better and worse. I’m not somebody who’s hopeful all the time, but I guess I would say that I’m humble enough to know that I don’t know what’s coming. There will be another moment when people have just had enough, and we better be ready, because in the Mirror World, they’re ready with their plans, and their plans aren’t good. But I’m hopeful because I’ve been surprised enough times that I believe I will be surprised again. And I believe we have to be ready to sustain that moment and turn it into real action.

orlbucfan

Any female who cavorts around with human puke like Bannon and Carlson is no “Liberal Feminist.” I hope Klein gets into the gradual dumbing down and threats to public education in this country in her book.

Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death
Aint Supposed to Die A Natural Death

DemocracyNow! interviewed Naomi Klein on her book today for the hour. It included this video.

Benny

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/politico-pulse/2023/09/11/states-push-back-against-junk-health-insurance-00114936

As millions of people lose Medicaid, states are spending big by refining their outreach to prevent consumers from being duped into buying so-called junk health insurance plans, Kelly reports.

The plans offer limited benefits, fixed payouts or last less than 12 months — but don’t have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s coverage rules and have historically left people on the hook for medical bills.

As states unwind a pandemic-era law that allowed people to stay on Medicaid even if they were no longer eligible, many of them will need new coverage and could end up in a plan without understanding its drawbacks, some state officials told POLITICO.

Massachusetts has spent $1.5 million to expand its navigator program — which provides enrollment assistance — during the Medicaid unwinding period, an official told POLITICO.

The Washington, D.C., health insurance marketplace has taken a similar approach, shifting its navigator program to focus on Medicaid unwinding; typically at this time, the program’s staff would be working on special enrollment outreach and events, said executive director Mila Kofman.

Background: Short-term health plans and limited benefit products like fixed indemnity plans are sometimes marketed as comprehensive health coverage even though they often don’t cover all essential health services, according to a Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reforms secret shopper study.

People who lose Medicaid might be eligible for $0 premium plans on the ACA marketplace, meaning the vast majority of short-term plans and limited benefit products aren’t cheaper options, state officials said. But the Georgetown study found most limited-plan sales reps failed to mention the income-based marketplace subsidies or implied that subsidies were unavailable outside of the annual open-enrollment period.

But conservative policy experts say short-term health plans don’t undermine state marketplaces and states shouldn’t try to keep people from them.

“I don’t think the government should be saying there are some products out there that people can buy that are better than other products,” said Brian Blase, president of the right-leaning Paragon Health Institute and a former Trump policy adviser who worked on the 2018 rule expanding short-term health plans.

What’s next: The Biden administration is attempting to crack down on junk plans with a proposed rule that would limit short-term health plans’ duration to three months, scaling back the Trump administration’s 2018 expansion that allowed the coverage to last a full year and be renewed for an additional two years.

Surprise Team Bidenomics! and you wonder why Biden is behind in the polls. Bernie Sanders told you so.

orlbucfan

Try living in a state where you’ve got Medicare/Medicaid thieves holding public office. I’m talking Sick Rott and Matt Gaetz.