Atlas Mugged

Bipartisan politics at its best:

Bipartisanship, noun: when the “party of free markets” makes a point of initiating legislative intervention into the economy, and the “party of labor” makes sure that the intervention favors management.

The grotesque (and grotesquely ironic) Ayn Rand-inspired puns will continue as long as the strikebreakers continue their aggressions. No justice, no aesthetic peace.

“Life After Privacy”: Thoughts on Big Data (2)

In a post I wrote about a month ago, I promised a series on Big Data, focused on Firmin DeBrabander’s book, Life After Privacy. Here’s part (2), a response to what I regard as DeBrabander’s excessively victim-blaming account of Big Data’s hold over us. 

A quick recap of the relevant part of DeBrabander’s argument: 

The book begins with a well-documented fact that by now should be common knowledge: Big Data, meaning the data-harvesting and data-mining branches of the modern corporation and modern state, have within just a few decades subverted almost all of the norms of privacy that preceded the rise of the Internet, and have created a surveillance state of unprecedented scope and power.

How did this happen? On DeBrabander’s account, our predicament might be likened to that of the Biblical Esau: we sold our privacy for the digital equivalent of a mess of pottage. In other words, Big Data gave us an iterated series of trade-offs, over decades, of convenience or self-expression over privacy. We cultivated societies of unbridled preference-satisfaction subject to the imperatives of immediate gratification. So we chose convenience and self-expression over privacy, iterated across billions of mouseclicks, and divested ourselves by our own hands, of our birthright.

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“Started from the Bottom”

Started from the bottom, now we’re here
–Drake

The Democrats, setting the standards for the next election:

Asked about concerns some Americans have about Mr. Biden’s age, Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Biden had the “most successful legislative record of any president since Lyndon Johnson,” citing achievements on infrastructure and gun policy.

Most successful since LBJ. Does that include or exclude the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

The Obligation to Vote Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, on Election Day, I wrote a somewhat wordy and maybe convoluted post arguing that under certain circumstances, we have a moral obligation to vote–not a legally enforceable obligation, but an obligation nonetheless. It’s possible that the conditions that I set out in my post are never or rarely met, but my primary aim was to defend the conditional involved, and only secondarily to reach the consequent: if certain conditions are met, among them the imminent electoral advent of fascism, one has an obligation to vote (against fascism). Continue reading

Bras, Breasts, Feminism, and Life Support

Not long ago, while applying for hospital-based jobs, it occurred to me that I lacked a certification that I really ought to have, namely, Basic Life Support, or BLS. From the website of the American Red Cross:

Basic Life Support, or BLS, generally refers to the type of care that first-responders, healthcare providers and public safety professionals provide to anyone who is experiencing cardiac arrest, respiratory distress or an obstructed airway. It requires knowledge and skills in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using automated external defibrillators (AED) and relieving airway obstructions in patients of every age.

So I signed up for a class in my area, and decided to certify. It was relatively cheap, conveniently located, and scheduled to take all of four hours. A bargain. Continue reading

Fascism and the Obligation to Vote

Worried about the election? Ha, ha, me too! While we’re waiting to learn the fate of our country, I figured I’d kill some time by running a thought by you that I’ve been meaning to blog for awhile, but never had the chance to–until tonight. Oh, the irony. The question is whether the prospect of fascism for your polity gives you the obligation to vote. I kind of think it does. But you tell me.

Imagine that you have the right to vote, and that you care about the common good of the polity in which you have that right. Now suppose that, all things equal, fascism or the prospect of fascism would grievously subvert the common good. Presumably (all things equal), your caring about the common good gives you an obligation to promote it somehow. You would, I’d think, flout the demands of justice if you just sat there observing the real prospect of fascism, and did nothing about it–or even did something about it less efficacious in stopping its advent than some more efficacious option in your power. Continue reading

“The Settlers”: Voices from the Holy Land Film Salon

I’m pleased to announce that this Sunday, Nov. 13th at 3 pm ET, Voices from the Holy Land, in conjunction with Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago and Tzedek-Chicago, will be hosting a salon-style discussion of the documentary film “The Settlers.” It’s a public event, but requires free registration. The idea is to watch the film on one’s own time prior to the event, and then attend the discussion, featuring two veteran commentators, filmmaker Shimon Dotan and Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, with moderator Lara Friedman. Here’s a link to the meeting registration, as well as to the film.

THE SETTLERS is the first comprehensive look at Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the West Bank, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Radicals, idealists, messianic fanatics, true believers and political opportunists, living on the fault lines of an age-old conflict, come face-to-face with history. Today, the settlers threaten to destroy what little peace remains in the Middle East.

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Run It “Like a Business”

I worked at banks for 16+ years, and I would like to see our PPS finances run like a business.
Rita Rafalovsky, candidate for Board of Education, Princeton Public Schools (PPS)

A candidate for Board of Education in my town, a banker, is running on the age-old slogan that the local school system ought to be “run like a business.” There are many ambiguities in this claim, but no need to chase them all down. It seems a sufficient objection to the slogan, and to any campaign based on it, that the public schools aren’t a business. So it makes no sense to try to run them as if they were. The more sensible approach might be to identify the kind of institution they actually are, or should be, and run them that way. Imagine walking into a business establishment and announcing that it ought to be “run like a school.” That would  obviously be absurd, but it’s no less absurd if you turn things around. Continue reading

Free Speech in America

Elon Musk on free speech, when revenue is at stake:

“Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.”

“Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”

Elon Musk on free speech, when revenue is at stake:

On Thursday evening, employees received a companywide email that said the layoffs would begin on Friday. They were instructed to go home and not go to the offices on Friday.“This action is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward,” the email, which was signed Twitter, said. …

Laid-off workers were told not to publicly discuss their experience, according to a copy of the dismissal email seen by The Times.

It’s Already Happened There

A Facebook post (copy/pasted with permission) by Jeff Halper, Co-founder and Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, on the results of the recent Israeli election:

The most surprising thing about the Israeli elections is the surprise and “disappointment” expressed by liberal Zionists, in Israel and abroad. “How could this happen?” Shock at “the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.” As if anything has really changed except that Israelis no longer feel the need to dress up their settler regime in liberal, “democratic” terms. The fact that people are surprised means either that they have never grasped the meaning of Zionism – a case of mass self-delusion – or that they are embarrassed by the public exposure of their violent Judaization of Palestine.

In fact, the outcome of the elections was a natural consequence of the Zionist enterprise – indeed, the very culmination to which Israelis have aspired since 1948 (and well before). From its very beginning some 130 years ago, Zionism has been up-front over its intent to Judaize Palestine. To displace the indigenous population and replace it with Jews. To turn an Arab country into a Jewish one. To transform Palestine into Israel.

Casting Zionism as a settler colonial enterprise is not merely an academic exercise; it explains the necessary and ongoing the violence of conquest, displacement, land grabbing and ultimate repression, if not elimination, of another people whose very presence poses a challenge to exclusivist Jewish national claims to Palestine. Ben Gvir, odious as he may be, is simply the true face of Zionism that has been well hidden behind the suited and “moderate” politicians: Gans, whose election video a couple years ago featured him boasting of having killed 4000 “terrorists” in Gaza; Kohavi, the IDF Chief of Staff who just launched a billion dollar plan to boost the “lethality” of the IDF; Bennett, whose government oversaw an unprecedented peak of house demolitions; Labor and Meretz, the (Zionist) “Left” parties that never mention the occupation; and of course Netanyahu and all the others.

As long as people continue to view Israel as a normal country that just happens to be beset by a “terrorism” problem, they will continue to be surprised by election results and the heights of violence against Palestinians that Israel is capable of. Ben Gurion, Settler-in-Chief, would have been pleased by those results, but not surprised. Zionism’s supporters, American and European leaders at the head, might be less pleased because the unleashing of Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and Smotritch will expose their complicity in permitting Israel to carry out its settler agenda with impunity. They must reject the accusation of apartheid presented in painful detail by Amnesty, HRW, B’tselem and the UN.

Apartheid is today a fact. Zionism’s decades-old campaign of replacing Palestine by Israel has, in Israeli eyes, been accomplished. Israel is now in the process of mopping up. Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Bennett publicly support the annexation of the West Bank (not Gaza, God forbid). Only two things remain: breaking once and for all Palestinian resistance, a task Gans and Kohavi have readily accepted, the IDF and the settlers given a free hand; and the normalization of Israel’s apartheid regime over all of historic Palestine with the help of the international community, including the corrupt and repressive Arab regimes who rely on Israeli surveillance and technologies of repression to stay in power.

So let’s stop pretending that we didn’t know. Ben Gvir, Smotriych and their cronies are not an anomaly. The upcoming Netanyahu/Ben Gvir government is the “most right-wing” one only in its rhetoric, not in its policies. They are merely the product of Zionism’s 130 years of colonization. Only by formulating a program of decolonization, of thoroughly dismantling the structures of Israeli control and establishing a state of all its citizens (refugees included) can the Zionist project be defeated. The required intellectual honesty and political courage on the part of liberal Jews and “Left” Israelis is, however, totally lacking. It is incumbent upon Palestinians, supported by anti-Zionist Israelis, to mobilize the international grassroots towards the end of decolonizing Israel and liberating Palestine through an inclusive, shared civil democracy.

For a more decorous mainstream take, there’s always Thomas Friedman at The New York Times. But Friedman’s reaction is in a sense what Halper is referring to. Incidentally, note Friedman’s sly, subtle suggestion that Israeli settler violence is a problematic vigilante reaction to Palestinian violence.

Smotrich is known for, among other things, suggesting that Israeli Jewish mothers should be separated from Arab mothers in the maternity wards of Israeli hospitals. He has long advocated outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank and argued that there is “no such thing as Jewish terrorism” when it comes to settlers retaliating on their own against Palestinian violence.

Where and when was it established that the Palestinians were or are the initiators of violence? It doesn’t need to be established. That it doesn’t is the axiom that facilitates the Zionist enterprise in the first place.