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Blackstone, BlackRock or a Public Bank? Putting California’s Funds to Work

California has over $700 billion parked in private banks earning minimal interest, private equity funds that contributed to the affordable housing crisis, or shadow banks of the sort that caused the banking collapse of 2008. These funds, or some of them, could be transferred to an infrastructure bank that generated credit for the state – while the funds remained safely on deposit in the bank.

California needs over $700 billion in infrastructure during the next decade. Where will this money come from? The $1.5 trillion infrastructure initiative unveiled by President Trump in February 2018 includes only $200 billion in federal funding, and less than that after factoring in the billions in tax cuts in infrastructure-related projects. The rest is to come from cities, states, private investors and public-private partnerships (PPPs) one. And since city and state coffers are depleted, that chiefly means private investors and PPPs, which have a shady history at best.

2011 report by the Brookings Institution found that “in practice [PPPs] have been dogged by contract design problems, waste, and unrealistic expectations.” In their 2015 report “Why Public-Private Partnerships Don’t Work,” Public Services International stated that “experience over the last 15 years shows that PPPs are an expensive and inefficient way of financing infrastructure and divert government spending away from other public services. They conceal public borrowing, while providing long-term state guarantees for profits to private companies.” They also divert public money away from the neediest infrastructure projects, which may not deliver sizable returns, in favor of those big-ticket items that will deliver hefty profits to investors. A March 2017 report by the Economic Policy Institute titled “No Free Bridge” also highlighted the substantial costs and risks involved in public-private partnerships and other “innovative” financing of infrastructure.

Meanwhile, California is far from broke. It has over well over $700 billion in funds of various sorts tucked around the state, including $500 billion in CalPERS and CalSTRS, the state’s massive public pension funds. These pools of money are restricted in how they can be spent and are either sitting in banks drawing a modest interest or invested with Wall Street asset managers and private equity funds that are not obligated to invest the money in California and are not safe. For fiscal year 2009, CalPERS and CalSTRS reported almost $100 billion in losses from investments gone awry.

In 2017, CalSTRS allocated $6.1 billion to private equity funds, real estate managers, and co-investments, including $400 million to a real estate fund managed by Blackstone Group, the world’s largest private equity firm, and $200 million to BlackRock, the world’s largest “shadow bank.” CalPERS is now in talks with BlackRock over management of its $26 billion private equity fund, with discretion to invest that money as it sees fit.

“Private equity” is a rebranding of the term “leveraged buyout,” the purchase of companies with loans which then must be paid back by the company, typically at the expense of jobs and pensions. Private equity investments may include real estate, energy, and investment in public infrastructure projects as part of a privatization initiative. Blackstone is notorious for buying up distressed properties after the housing market collapsed. It is now the largest owner of single-family rental homes in the US. Its rental practices have drawn fire from tenant advocates in San Francisco and elsewhere, who have called it a Wall Street absentee slumlord that charges excessive rents, contributing to the affordable housing crisis; and pension funds largely contributed the money for Blackstone’s purchases.

BlackRock, an offshoot of Blackstone, now has $6 trillion in assets under management, making it larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China). Die Zeit journalist Heike Buchter, who has written a book in German on it, calls BlackRock the “most powerful institution in the financial system” and “the most powerful company in the world” – the “secret power.” Yet despite its size and global power, BlackRock, along with Blackstone and other shadow banking institutions, managed to escape regulation under the Dodd-Frank Act. Blackstone CEO Larry Fink, who has cozy relationships with government officials according to journalist David Dayen, pushed hard to successfully resist the designation of asset managers as systemically important financial institutions, which would have subjected them to additional regulation such as larger capital requirements.

The proposed move to hand CalPERS’ private equity fund to BlackRock is highly controversial, since it would cost the state substantial sums in fees (management fees took 14% of private equity profits in 2016), and BlackRock gives no guarantees. In 2009, it defaulted on a New York real estate project that left CalPERS $500 million in the hole. There are also potential conflicts of interest, since BlackRock or its managers have controlling interests in companies that could be steered into deals with the state. In 2015, the company was fined $12 million by the SEC for that sort of conflict; and in 2015, it was fined $3.5 million for providing flawed data to German regulators. BlackRock also puts clients’ money into equities, investing it in companies like oil company Exxon and food and beverage company Nestle, companies which have been criticized for not serving California’s interests and exploiting state resources.

California public entities also have $2.8 billion in CalTRUST, a fund managed by BlackRock. The CalTRUST government fund is a money market fund, of the sort that triggered the 2008 market collapse when the Reserve Primary Fund “broke the buck” on September 15, 2008. The CalTRUST website states:

You could lose money by investing in the Fund. Although the Fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it cannot guarantee it will do so. An investment in the Fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. The Fund’s sponsor has no legal obligation to provide financial support to the Fund, and you should not expect that the sponsor will provide financial support to the Fund at any time.

CalTRUST is billed as providing local agencies with “a safe, convenient means of maintaining liquidity,” but billionaire investor Carl Icahn says this liquidity is a myth. In a July 2015 debate with Larry Fink on FOX Business Network, Icahn called BlackRock “an extremely dangerous company” because of the prevalence of its exchange-traded fund (ETF) products, which Icahn deemed illiquid. “They sell liquidity,” he said. “There is no liquidity. . . . And that’s what’s going to blow this up.” His concern was the amount of money BlackRock had invested in high-yield ETFs, which he called overpriced. When the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates, investors are likely to rush to sell these ETFs; but there will be no market for them, he said. The result could be a run like that triggering the 2008 market collapse.

The Infrastructure Bank Option

There is another alternative. California’s pools of idle funds cannot be spent on infrastructure, but they could be deposited or invested in a publicly-owned bank, where they could form the deposit base for infrastructure loans. California is now the fifth largest economy in the world, trailing only Germany, Japan, China and the United States. Germany, China and other Asian countries are addressing their infrastructure challenges through public infrastructure banks that leverage pools of funds into loans for needed construction.

Besides the China Infrastructure Bank, China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), whose members include many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia. Both banks are helping to fund China’s trillion dollar “One Belt One Road” infrastructure initiative.

Germany has an infrastructure bank called KfW which is larger than the World Bank, with assets of $600 billion in 2016. Along with the public Sparkassen banks, KfW has funded Germany’s green energy revolution. Renewables generated 41% of the country’s electricity in 2017, up from 6% in 2000, earning the country the title “the world’s first major green energy economy.” Public banks provided over 72% of the financing for this transition.

As for California, it already has an infrastructure bank – the California Infrastructure and Development Bank (IBank), established in 1994. But the IBank is a “bank” in name only. It cannot take deposits or leverage capital into loans. It is also seriously underfunded, since the California Department of Finance returned over half of its allotted funds to the General Fund to repair the state’s budget after the dot.com market collapse. However, the IBank has 20 years’ experience in making prudent infrastructure loans at below municipal bond rates, and its clients are limited to municipal governments and other public entities, making them safe bets underwritten by their local tax bases. The IBank could be expanded to address California’s infrastructure needs, drawing deposits and capital from its many pools of idle funds across the state.

A Better Use for Pension Money

In an illuminating 2017 paper for UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute titled “Funding Public Pensions,” policy consultant Tom Sgouros showed that the push to put pension fund money into risky high-yield investments comes from a misguided application of the accounting rules. The error results from treating governments like private companies that can be liquidated out of existence. He argues that public pension funds can be safely operated on a pay-as-you-go basis, just as they were for 50 years before the 1980s. That accounting change would take the pressure off the pension boards and free up hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds. Some portion of that money could then be deposited in publicly-owned banks, which in turn could generate the low-cost credit needed to fund the infrastructure and services that taxpayers expect from their governments.

Note that these deposits would not be spent. Pension funds, rainy day funds and other pools of government money can provide the liquidity for loans while remaining on deposit in the bank, available for withdrawal on demand by the government depositor. Even mainstream economists now acknowledge that banks do not lend their deposits but actually create deposits when they make loans. The bank borrows as needed to cover withdrawals, but not all funds are withdrawn at once; and a government bank can borrow its own deposits much more cheaply than local governments can borrow on the bond market. Through their own public banks, government entities can thus effectively borrow at bankers’ rates plus operating costs, cutting out middlemen. And unlike borrowing through bonds, which merely recirculate existing funds, borrowing from banks creates new money, which will stimulate economic growth and come back to the state in the form of new taxes and pension premiums. A working paper published by the San Francisco Federal Reserve in 2012 found that one dollar invested in infrastructure generates at least two dollars in GSP (state GDP), and roughly four times more than average during economic downturns.

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This article was originally published on Truthdig.com. Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution. Her 300+ blog articles are posted at EllenBrown.com.

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OccupyForum Election Preview

OccupyForum Election Review, planning meeting, and potluck at Local 2

We will read aloud from the Pissed Off Voters Guide and discuss pros and cons of candidates, initiative and the rest of the ballot. Please come prepared if you can to add to the discussion!

215 Golden Gate at Leavenworth

May 28 6:45 – 9 pm

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Book: “Grunch of Giants” by Buckminster Fuller

Grunch of Giants

Front Cover

Richard Buckminster Fuller

St. Martin’s Press, 1983 – Civilization, Modern – 98 pages

Here Buckminster Fuller takes on the gigantic corporate megaliths that exert increasing control over every aspect of daily life. In the form of a modern allegory, he traces the evolution of these multinational giants from the post-World War II military-industrial complex to the current army of abstract legal entities known as the corporate world.

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9 questions for Dr. Harry Edwards

By Harrison Barnes

DALLAS MAVERICKS

DEC 14 2017 (theplayerstribune.com)

Basketball is my first love, but it’s not my only one. From the small town in Iowa where I grew up, to Chapel Hill for college, to the Bay Area and now to Dallas, I’ve been lucky in my life to get to meet a wide variety of people, each with their own beliefs, dreams, habits, and outlooks on the world. Interacting with different people with different stories sparked my curiosity about what makes people not only good at what they do, but good, period. I am drawn to leaders who set out to make positive change in their communities.In that spirit, I’m doing a series of interviews this season with people who I admire from afar. I want to get to know them better and share our conversations here.

For my first interview, I got to talk to Dr. Harry Edwards, the sociologist and civil rights activist who is maybe best known as the architect of the protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. But as I soon found out, there’s a lot more to learn, and admire, about the man.


Harrison Barnes

Dr. Edwards, it’s a real pleasure to talk to you. I can’t think of a better person to launch this interview series with. So let’s get right into it. You’re close with Colin Kaepernick. When’s the last time you and Colin talked?

Dr. Harry Edwards

We exchanged emails just this morning [Thursday, December 7]. And, you know, we discussed quite a few issues, some of which are confidential. But most of the time when people ask me that question they want to know how he’s doing and my response has been consistent: I’m not worried about Kaepernick, I’m worried about the rest of us. Kap knows exactly what he’s doing, where he is in his life, what he’s dedicated to, what’s important. He’s still in the greatest football shape that I’ve ever seen him in and he’s gonna be just fine. But I’m concerned about the rest of us. We are a society now that, to a substantial degree — and in no small measure as a consequence of who’s sitting up in the Oval Office — appears to have lost its way in terms of its fundamental decency, in terms of its commitment to forming that more perfect union. We’re now struggling to determine who and what we are as a society and where we are, where we should be headed, where we want to be headed as a nation. Kap doesn’t have that problem. He understands exactly and precisely who he is. He understands what he envisions as a more perfect union and he is committed to making the sacrifices, to making the statements, to doing what is necessary in order to get there — working from the ground up, beginning with the children and young adults that he meets with, the camps he holds, the conferences he attends.

Harrison Barnes

I hear some people say they just take issue with the kneeling — with Colin’s protest style. To me that feels like they’re kind of deflecting from the main point. What do you say about that?

Edwards

You know what I say? Go back and look at history. There has never been a protest by an oppressed minority in American society — not the Native Americans taking over Alcatraz, not Jewish people protesting neo-Nazis in this country, not African-Americans in any case in any era at any time — when mainstream America has stood up and said, “Amen, we agree with that protest.” When it comes to black people protesting, mainstream America was not for the March on Washington, it was not for the march across the Pettus Bridge in Selma, it was not for the Freedom Rides, it was not for the school integration protest, it was not for the sit-ins in the 1960s, it was not for the demonstrations in Mexico City in the 1968, it was not for Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the military to fight a war that he thought was immoral, illegal and unjustified. There has never been a protest movement for which America in the mainstream stood up and said, “Amen, we need this message.” So it doesn’t make any difference what Colin Kaepernick’s protest style is. If he took a knee on the sidewalk outside of the stadium before the game during the playing of “Chopsticks” and said, “I’m protesting injustice and racism in America, I’m protesting unconscionable incarceration rates, I’m protesting the fact that a black person has three times the chances of being shot by a police officer than a white person in America, I’m protesting what is happening in this society as far as black educational opportunities and the enforcement of black human and civil rights,” you would have an outcry. So when it comes down to people critiquing Colin’s protest style, I ask them one question: Name me one black protest that America has been in favor of. And you know what I get? Crickets. Nothing. They can’t come up with one, because there’s never been one. Therefore, it doesn’t make any difference what Colin’s protest style is. Just shut up and play football — that’s what they really want us to do. They want us to sit down and shut up. That is the reality of protest. And Colin’s not gonna do that.

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images

Barnes

Nor should he have to. Do you think there’s another sports story right now that isn’t getting enough attention?

Edwards

I think that the issue of African-Americans in sports’ higher positions really needs to be looked at. I look at Richard Lapchick’s quote-unquote report card on diversity in the NFL, for example. This year the NFL got an A because we have eight black head coaches — equal to the highest number ever in the league — and 43 African-Americans in high positions such as GM and vice president and so forth. But I look at that and wonder, How could one grade it at all? And secondly, What is the meaning of the grade? Because unless you are telling me that Kap is still on the street because those 43 VPs and GMs and eight head coaches all agree with Jerry Jones and Donald Trump that the players who are protesting the summary execution of black people in the streets of this country are “sons of bitches,” then I have to believe that they’re in position but they don’t have power.

You know, there’s a difference between change and progress. Eight head coaches and 43 presidents and GMs and vice presidents, and so forth, is change. But it’s not necessarily progress — unless there’s a carrying over of power and authority in those positions. I’m looking at Kaepernick on the street and that tells me something. It tells me that those people in those higher positions are not exercising authority and power.

We’re hearing, Well they got black coaches and they got black GMs, so if they are not bringing Kap in, then there must be something wrong in terms of his ability to play. You know what? That’s nonsense. You’re telling me that Kaepernick is the worst quarterback prospect that the NFL could call in? You’re telling me that Colin Kaepernick is not only worse than the 32 starters, the 32 backups and the 32 clipboard holders that are occupying quarterback positions in the NFL today, but that he’s so much worse than them that he doesn’t even deserve a tryout for a position? That’s nonsense.

And I’m not saying that getting Kaepernick back into the league is the whole answer to this situation. But I’m saying that by him being on the street — it’s an indication of where we are in terms of the state of diversity in the league. To argue that we could right this whole thing by a black GM or head coach giving Kaepernick a job would be the equivalent of saying that the whole struggle around the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956 would have been corrected if a bus driver was just willing to give Rosa Parks her seat back. Well no, it’s going way beyond that. We have to look at this thing in terms of its broader implications and understand the dynamics of how these circumstances are being put together and projected in the mainstream sports media.

So don’t tell me that the NFL gets an A for diversity. You have a lot of black people in positions of authority who for a fact have neither authority nor power. And if they tried to exercise it they would find themselves on the street with Kaepernick.

Barnes

You’ve spent most of your life following the evolution of activism in sports. Where do you think we’re at in that evolution?

Edwards

Well, first of all, I think social media has had the greatest influence on both the trajectory and the impact of activism. I think that without the social media, it would’ve taken years for the activist athletes of today to create that revelatory climate that we have today. At the end of the 1960s, we didn’t have social media where you hit one button — S-E-N-D  — and then all of a sudden you had direct connection with millions of people. Today, athletes have that. So Colin Kaepernick and Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin and LeBron James and Steph Curry and Eric Reid are in touch with more people instantly than Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Arthur Ashe, or Curt Flood were probably able to connect with directly throughout their entire activist lives.

The second thing that has happened, particularly among professional athletes, is that unlike the conventional wisdom, which states that the more money an athlete makes the less likely that athlete is to take a stand, because of what he or she has at risk, the reality is that the more money an athlete makes, the more a team is invested in an athlete, the more a product is invested in an athlete as an endorser, so the more latitude and power that athlete has. So, when the CEO of Under Armour came out with a statement that Steph Curry did not approve of, Steph got on the phone and that next day Under Armour took out a full page ad in a Baltimore newspaper essentially apologizing. When athletes determined that Donald Sterling was unacceptable as an owner, they made it very, very clear that they wanted him gone. Within two months, Donald Sterling was gone. That kind of thing was absolutely unimaginable back in the late 1960s.

But something that has changed for the worse, going back to social media, is that the sports establishment can go and find one big-name athlete, who they can either buy or bribe or who may legitimately disagree with the position of protesting athletes, put him on social media and all of a sudden that message goes out to three or four million people. The statement of a big-name athlete who has been bought, sold and paid for, carries the same weight and gravity in social media as an athlete who is putting everything on the line in an effort to contribute toward forming that more perfect union that the Constitution talks about. So we simply have to be aware of that. It’s not a one-sided, one-perspective situation we’re in. We always have to be thinking and analyzing, What is the impact of this? What is the source of it? In whose interests is it being done?

Jed Jacobsohn/The Players’ Tribune

Barnes

Absolutely. So I saw that you spoke on a panel with Jim Brown last year. Can you tell me a little bit about how that went?

Edwards

It went very well because it gave me an opportunity to express the seminal impact and enduring contribution of black athletes to American society. People forget that W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey were debating over whether blacks should accommodate to segregation, or rely on talent and tests to lead and lift the masses of black people into mainstream competency or whether, in Marcus Garvey’s words, black people should pack up and leave America altogether. While those three brilliant minds were debating those issues, black athletes from Jack Johnson to Jesse Owens to Joe Louis to Paul Robeson were taking on the world. Jack Johnson beat Tommy Burns for the heavyweight championship of the world. Jesse Owens took on the world at the 1936 Olympics along with 17 other black Olympians. Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling, a German who was representing white Aryan superiority. So while these debates were going on within the American context of whether we should accommodate Jim Crow, or whether we should put our talent to the test to raise us into integration, or whether we should separate and leave the country altogether, black athletes were taking on the world. Even the Negro Leagues won 60% of the All-Star exhibition games that they played against white All-Stars from the major leagues. Those white All-Stars knew that not only were black baseball players competent and capable, but in many instances they were superior.

When you move up to Jackie Robinson, he had already engaged black people in nonviolent direct actions 10 years before Dr. King took on the Montgomery bus boycott with nonviolent direct action in 1956, the year Jackie retired. He talks about it in his autobiography. Black people attending Jackie’s games were being trained by clergy and lay community organizers on how to behave when they heard the racial slurs hurled at Jackie by white fans. And how to react when they threw black cats on the field, or when they saw opposing players sliding into second with their spikes up trying to hurt Jackie. How do you behave in the face of that? Well, you do what I do on the field, Jackie was saying. You turn the other cheek because if Jackie got into a fight on the field maybe there’d be dugout-emptying brawl. Or if fans got into a fight in the stands it could spill over into the streets and cause an all-out race riot — and the next thing you know the town is burning and nobody else wants to play the Dodgers. So Jackie Robinson was our Gandhi.

The same with regard to athletes in the late 1960s. Muhammad Ali, Smith and Carlos, Arthur Ashe, Curt Flood, Jim Brown and Bill Russell were talking about a demand for dignity and respect — not just desegregation and access, but dignity and respect in the positions that they were in long before you had Barack Obama running for president. If Ali doesn’t demand respect for his name — Muhammad Ali … I mean he literally got in the ring and beat guys and said, “Call me by my name!” — if he doesn’t demand that, there’s no way that the American people vote into the White House a man with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. So the black athlete has always been a trailblazer in terms of where we needed to go and the process by which we needed to get there.

Barnes

As an athlete, I’m always thinking about habits and goals and how to achieve the things I want to achieve. What principles and habits have guided you?

Edwards

My entire life’s pursuit has been to learn to dream with my eyes open — to understand the terrain that I’m moving over, the price to be paid in pursuit of those dreams, those goals, and then to maintain at all costs the courage to continue that pursuit. And one gets to that space through study. Malcolm X said that history is the discipline that best rewards study. Rage is not enough. Anger will not get it done. You have got to be a student of life. You cannot allow your life to be something that just happens to you while you’re doing something else. And from that study will emerge clear paths that you can take to achieve the goals that you set for yourself. A life without goals and awareness and commitment is empty. And I see a lot of empty lives around me. I see lives that have been empty for years and people unfortunately sometimes don’t see it until they get up into my neck of the woods. I was fortunate enough to wake up, to become committed, to understand the dynamics of what needed to be done if my life was going to be meaningful when I was in my 20s. When I organized the Olympic Project for Human Rights I was 24 years old. I literally believed that I could change the world and was fearless. And I didn’t expect to live to my 30s, but that did not moderate one bit my commitment to doing what I did in the late 1960s. My late friend, Maya Angelou, who wrote the forward to my 1980 autobiography, used to tell me all the time that courage is the greatest of all virtues because without it no other virtue is possible. And so I think that athletes and others should keep that in mind. I mean, these are the things that Kap and I have discussed during and after his time with the 49ers — and I’m so proud of him in this fourth wave of athletes carrying out that tradition of athlete contribution.

Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

Barnes

That is really powerful. Before I let you go, let’s switch gears a bit here for a lighter question. If you could have dinner with anyone, who would you choose and what would you ask?

Edwards

Oh boy. That’s a tough one. You know who I would love to have dinner with? Michelle Obama. I donated to work as a supporter of Barack both times that he ran for office. But I told him I made it clear that I didn’t vote for him. I told him I voted for the one whose name begins with an M because I knew that as long as Michelle was there he was gonna be all right. And because of the women’s things that are going on right now, which is long overdue, because of the racial issues that are going on now, of all of the political figures in this country today, including Barack, I think she has greater power and potential than any of them. And she’s probably also smart enough not to ever run for office. So if I could sit down and have dinner with anybody, I would want to sit down and have dinner with Mrs. Obama. But of course I would have to get that past Mr. Obama and I don’t think he’d say yes ever since I told him I didn’t vote for him — I voted for her. [Laughs.]

Barnes

What do you do when you’re not teaching, speaking or writing?

Edwards

You know, I have a place up on the Mendocino Coast in Northern California. And I go up there and I put on John Coltrane and Miles Davis — I grew up in East St. Louis, literally about a mile from Miles Davis. So I grew up with the music. Sometimes I just go up there and lay back for two or three days and do absolutely nothing. Just listen to jazz and maybe sip some Hennessy, some Rémy Martin, though I generally don’t start that until about 4:30 or five o’clock in the evening. At some point, you have to have a space where you can kind of walk away from it all. Otherwise you will find yourself beaten down by the burden of your own commitments. At some point you have to get into your car and drive away, and I was smart enough and well-positioned enough early on to create that space for me and my family. You’d be surprised that even in the most difficult times how much a walk along the ocean with a pair of headphones on, listening to Kind of Blue, will do for your soul. And a lot of times that is what you have to nurture. Not your brain, not your business, not your calls, but you have to nurture your soul in order to be able to get back to where you need to be and deal with all the other things.

Barnes

Absolutely, I agree with that. So my last question for you is your advice for young athletes like myself, across all borders, all sports, who want to get involved, who wanna do more. What is your advice for the best ways to get involved and to make a lasting impact — not just do something temporary?

Edwards

What I would tell young athletes today, especially in the power position that you’re in today — unprecedented in black athlete history — do you homework, study, be careful of who you align yourself with. But when you align yourself with somebody, be able to articulate the entirety of the challenge and explain why you are taking the stand that you are. That has been something that I have struggled to do for the last half century. And I think that to whatever extent I’ve been able to make a contribution, that would be a major part of it. Do your homework, dream with your eyes open, and try to make a contribution beyond the box scores.

I’m often asked, “Are you disappointed that more athletes are not speaking up?” And my response is always no. I’m surprised that the athletes who are speaking up have done their homework so well. Because that’s a hard one to get people to wrap their minds around — that before you step out there, make sure you know how deep the pool is. Before you step out there, make sure you look both ways for oncoming traffic. Before you step out there, realize that you may not be able to step back in the same spot that you left. So do your homework, understand the history, the dynamics, and the trajectory of the issues that you are dealing with. Look around and study what has been done around those issues, especially historically and in the near past. And then try to figure out, How does my voice move things ahead most progressively and most responsibly? Sometimes that’s a matter of joining with other athletes who are making statements, even if it’s a statement such as “I understand what Colin Kaepernick and Malcolm Jenkins and Michael Bennett and these athletes are protesting about because I come from a neighborhood where we have issues with the police.” And by the way, the police are not the issue — the issue is treatment at the hands of the police. Police have a difficult job. They are putting on that uniform, that badge and that gun and going out there every day with a pledge to protect and serve knowing that there’s a certain number of people out there who they’re committed to protecting and serving who want to kill them. That’s a crude description of the job, but that’s the definition of the job. And that can lead to the kind of problems that police lead the nation in: alcoholism, divorce, suicide, mental issues and so forth. And you understand all of that, but you also have to understand that a police officer in South Carolina literally shot a black man in the back running away from him. That’s what we have to correct. So you have to understand all sides of the problem, but you still have to come down on the right side of history and that requires study.

Barnes

I know you’ve gotta run. It’s been really great to hear your perspective, and I hope we can talk again soon. Thank you very much.

Edwards

I appreciate your interest, and you can call me any time. And I just want to say, I love your game. We miss you out in Oakland but I love watching your game and I’ll be following you.

Harrison Barnes

DALLAS MAVERICKS
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Build a public bank in S.F.

The Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force has met twice since it formed and will submit a report outlining its recommendations for San Francisco following a sixth meeting in July. (Courtesy photo)

By  on May 17, 2018 (SFExaminer.com)

San Franciscans deserve a public bank, one that invests The City’s money into local projects that reflect our values. San Francisco has nearly $10 billion we store on the balance sheet of big banks that could go to capitalizing a public bank.

The decisions of where we put our money fall to elected Treasurer Jose Cisneros. Cisneros should actively push for the creation of a bank, and for storing as many of our dollars as possible there. The Treasurer’s Office has repeatedly pointed to state laws around safety, stability and soundness to avoid moving money out of U.S. Bank and Citibank, and it is looking to those rules now to avoid building a public bank. This interpretation of state law is improper and overly constrained. A carefully constructed and well-governed public bank will be safe.

Last fall, nearly 10 years after the financial crisis, the treasurer launched an initiative that could lead to up to a mere $80 million worth of investments in San Francisco-based financial institutions over the course of a year. Impacting less than one percent of The City’s portfolio, this step is much too timid for a city as forward-thinking as San Francisco.

A public bank would serve San Francisco in many ways; first and foremost as a place to ethically store our public dollars. With a public bank, we can ensure that our deposits do not go toward fossil fuel emissions, gun manufacturing or purchases or support of unfair labor practices. We also provide that any profits made off our deposits don’t go to the bottom lines of big banks but rather get reinvesting into our community.

More pointedly, a public bank would save The City money we pay directly to big banks. We currently pay upward of $2 million each year in banking fees just related to The City’s bank accounts. With a public bank, these taxpayer dollars wouldn’t contribute to Wall Street profits, and would instead be invested in San Francisco. Similarly, the bank could also issue city bonds so we don’t have to pay investment bank fees, while the interest earned from public bank loans could be continually reinvested into projects that benefit The City.

With a public bank, we can decide where our dollars go. A public bank could start by helping to fund public infrastructure, provide a stable lending based toward affordable housing and to serve as a “banker’s bank,” which is just a fancy way of saying it could provide low-cost deposits to great local banks and credit unions that would provide bank accounts to local unbanked residents and personal loans and small business loans to folks who can’t access credit at large institutions. This lending to community banks would spur local economic growth and ensure that our pooled investment accounts go to benefit San Franciscans first.

Built on earlier efforts by former Supervisor John Avalos, supervisors Sandra Fewer and Malia Cohen stepped up and advocated for a public bank. Fewer went ahead a requested a detailed policy analysis. The report, delivered in November 2017, concluded that San Francisco had the legal authority to charter a public bank and outlined five key steps involved in setting up and funding an independent bank.

Under pressure, the Treasurer’s Office launched the Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force, which has met twice.

The task force’s stated policy goals are worthy: to fill gaps in banking for equitable community development; to serve the under-banked, including individuals, small businesses and cannabis businesses; to invest in infrastructure and affordable housing; and to create an environment that confers public benefits related to banking.

After the task force’s sixth meeting, scheduled for July, it will submit a report outlining its recommendations. There are already strong indications that the task force is backpedaling away from a public bank structure and instead considering half-measures, such as a Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. While CFDIs have their place, such an institution wouldn’t begin to leverage the power of San Francisco’s public funds. We deserve better.

Modern technology tools make it possible to build, scale and maintain a bank more efficiently. We should establish an ethical, future-looking bank that reflects our values and benefits our city rather than focusing on how banks have been built in the past.

San Francisco can and should lead the charge in creating a public bank that operates with full transparency, in alignment with community values and in a way that reinvests in its residents. Too frequently, I have seen some elected officials choose the more comfortable, more conservative path rather than doing the more difficult but more publicly minded one. The Bay Area is known for disrupting industries, and it’s time the Treasurer’s Office took part in that disruption by building a public bank rather than serving the national ones.

Zac Townsend is the former chief data officer of California, the former co-founder of open-banking startup Standard Treasury and is currently a partner at Deciens Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm focused on early stage financial technology.

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British Royals Rebrand with Royal Wedding, but Critics Say White, Neoliberal Monarchy Needs to Go


GUESTS
Priya Gopal, university lecturer in the faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married Saturday at Windsor Castle in a ceremony that many heralded for celebrating black culture and history. Markle is biracial, divorced and a self-proclaimed feminist. The wedding featured a sermon about slavery, poverty and the enduring power of love by Bishop Michael Curry, the first African American to preside over the Episcopal Church. The British royal family is a “celebration of wealth, of elitism, of privilege in the hands of the few, of all the resources concentrated in the hands of a very small percentage of the country. In that sense it very much represents the current economic order in which we all live,” says Priya Gopal, a university lecturer in the faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s “Ave Maria,” performed by 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason at Saturday’s royal wedding. He was the first black British musician to win the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year award in its almost 40-year history. This is Democracy Now!. I’m Amy Goodman with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We now turn to Britain, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married Saturday at Windsor Castle in a ceremony that many heralded for celebrating black culture and history.

KINGDOM CHOIR: [singing]
The night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we see
No I won’t be afraid
No I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand
Stand by me

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That’s the Kingdom Choir, a British Christian gospel group, singing civil rights anthem “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. The rousing sound was one of a series of performances by Black artists at the wedding, which welcomed Meghan Markle to the royal family. Markle is biracial, divorced and a self-proclaimed feminist. She walked herself down the aisle on Saturday during the tradition-busting ceremony that led many to claim the wedding ushered in a new era for the royal family.

AMY GOODMAN: Bishop Michael Curry, the first African American to preside over the Episcopal Church, also delivered a sermon about slavery, poverty and the enduring power of love.

BISHOP MICHAEL CURRY: The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said—and I quote—“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love, love is the only way.” There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved.”

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bishop Michael Curry, the first African American bishop to preside over the Episcopal Church in the United States. For more, we’re joined in Cambridge, England, by Priya Gopal, a university lecturer and faculty of English at the University of Cambridge. Here in New York City, we welcome Gabrielle Bruney, an editor for Esquire, her recent article headlined The Royal Wedding Celebrated the Contributions of Black Britons, but it comes amid a scandal rooted in the British government’s mistreatment of Caribbean people. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

We’re going to begin in England where the royal wedding was, Priya Gopal. It was described as a tradition-busting ceremony, but many say the traditions weren’t busted enough, that the monarchy should be abolished. You live tweeted the whole thing. Can you talk about your feelings about what happened this Saturday? What, a quarter of Britain watched?

PRIYA GOPAL: Tradition-busting is probably a bit of a stretch. I think that there were important symbolic iconographic changes. The royal family is a deeply white institution, rooted in Britain’s history of imperialism and empire. It’s a deeply patriarchal institution. And given that history, to have a strong black presence in the church, to hear a gospel choir, to hear a black bishop give an address—these were all changes that are, I think, symbolic, and they make some difference.

I think it is a stretch to call them tradition-busting. It is still an extremely white institution. The ceremony remains patriarchal. Ms. Markle walked down the aisle by herself because her father was unable to make it, and then she was taken to the alter by Prince Charles. So I think we need to acknowledge that there were certain important changes, but to call them tradition-busting I think is a stretch. The monarchy remains a deeply reactionary, patriarchal and frankly white institution.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Priya, why do you think that so many Britons still cling to this total anachronism of a monarchy nowadays? Why do they feel so invested in the royal family?

PRIYA GOPAL: I think there are two things to say there. One is that the royal family is deeply entrenched in Britain’s mythology about itself. There is a huge investment in pomp and circumstance. Throughout the wedding, the commentary on the media spoke about how no other country does tradition, does pomp, does circumstance as well as Britain does, and of course the monarchy is the epitome of pomp and circumstance. And I think that that’s very deeply rooted in the mainstream Britain sense of itself as more traditional and more elegant than everybody else.

But I also think it’s slightly a mistake to call the monarchy an anachronism. I think that it seems like an anachronism, but in fact, its name for itself is “the firm,” which really tells us how much the monarchy is actually very rooted in corporate capitalist culture, how will it has kept up with that. The monarchy in Britain is a celebration of wealth, of elitism, of privilege in the hands of the few, of all the resources concentrated in the hands of a very small percentage of the country. And in that sense, it very much represents the current economic order in which we all live. And there’s nothing anachronistic about the fact that the one percent have much more than the rest of us do.

AMY GOODMAN: The wedding itself cost something like $45 million dollars. Can you talk about the finances of the royal family, how they are supported?

PRIYA GOPAL: Right. So in British terms, the wedding cost an overall £32 million. That’s about the sum that you just mentioned in dollars. Only £2 million of that £32 million was actually spent by the royal family’s so-called private finances. This is money that they have accrued over decades, over centuries, and that has gone into private hands.
But actually £30 million of that £32 million was borne by the taxpayer, and that is a shocking figure at a time when there have been swingeing cuts to public services, when the number of homeless on Britain streets has been increasing. These were homeless people who were cleared off the streets of Windsor for the royal wedding.

And I think again, this is a shocking example of how much money, how much public money, how much rare public money goes into funding this family. And it is done on the basis that this family brings in a lot of money to the country because of tourist dollars and so on and so forth. But I think that really what it is an example of is how much the public purse subsidizes private privilege. Thirty million pounds went into policing and into security—at least that is what we’re told—and it seems to me an unconscionable figure at a time when so many people are suffering from cuts to public services.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you comment also about this merger of celebrity with the class A elite? Obviously, the promotional value that having an Oprah or a George Clooney or a David Beckham at this private wedding has in terms of marketing this whole affair?

PRIYA GOPAL: Yes. It’s very much part of a constant rebranding that the royal family does. And it goes back to what I was saying about not merely looking at the institution as an anachronism. It is a firm. It is a corporate firm. It relies on corporate strategies. PR is very central to its survival and to its flourishing.

In fact, someone connected to the court said at some point that Meghan Markle is a PR department stream, and she absolutely is. Like any company, it has to be seen to be keeping up with society. It has to be seen to be being more multicultural than it has been, to be bringing women in, to be giving women more of a role. So in that sense, we need to look at the kind of merger between the royal family and Hollywood, between the feudal institution of monarchy and the corporate institutions of public relations, as precisely what you would expect any functioning corporate firm to do: to be keeping an eye on PR, to be making sure that it satisfies its customer base and that it is seen to be quote unquote “modern.”

And in that sense, Meghan Markle and the kind of racial dimension that she brings, the multicultural dimension she brings to the royal family, is very much part of a PR exercise. And I would say that in a sense, Meghan Markle brings more to the royal family than the royal family brings to British people of color.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it true, Priya Gopal, that the Queen and Prince Charles have had the power of veto, vetoing legislation? The Queen delivering a pro-austerity speech with her £1,000,000 hat? I think one comic headline from UK HuffPost said Woman In £1,000,000 Hat Tells Britain To ‘Live Within Its Means’, referring to her crown.

PRIYA GOPAL: I think that constitutionally the Queen does have that power, but it is not ever really exercised. And so what we have here is a constitutional figurehead who does what the government of the day tells her to. Now, the mythology around the royal family also holds that they’re not allowed to be political, by which is meant they are not actually allowed to intervene in political decisions made by the government of the day.

I also understand that the Queen does have the power to veto legislation. I have never known of it being used. Perhaps it has been; I’m not enough of a constitutional scholar to know. But again, here is a bit of a mythology. We have a monarchy, which actually shores up the political and economic order of the day. It is a deeply political institution, but the nation and the world is invited to buy into the mythology that there is nothing political about people who wear, as you just said, £1,000,000 hats and represent the bidding of the government of the day. They are a very political institution, but everything here relies on the mythology that they are not political.

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In Defense of Political Extremism: ‘Us Versus Them’ Versus Neoliberal Ideology

May 22, 2018 (John Laurits.com)

US Versus Them: How Neoliberal Ideology Is Subverted by Political ExtremismThe term ‘black and white’ is often used to label ways of thinking that are considered dismissive, narrow-minded, or simplistic. Informing someone that “the world isn’t split into black and white” is often used to suggest a person has failed to think outside of the box or is trapped in a false dilemma. Though black-and-white, ‘us versus them,’ and similar labels can certainly be used as handy substitutes for pompous-sounding terms like causal-reductionism, they also prop up one of the core delusions of the neoliberal ideology.

The Meaning of ‘Neoliberalism’ & ‘Ideology

First, a few words about a few words. Because the words ‘liberal,’ ‘neoliberal,’ and ‘ideology’ are all used in a few different ways, it seems worthwhile to clarify how each is being used here to avoid confusion.

The Meaning of ‘Ideology’

A lot of people nowadays use ‘ideology’ to mean ‘worldview’ or ‘belief-system.’ In this post, however, it refers to traditions, philosophies, conventions, ‘common sense,’ and customary beliefs that justify how a society functions.​ For example, people in one society enjoy stories about the present ruler’s heroic ancestors and people in another society feel a sense of honor in upholding a tradition of obeying their elders. Each idea offers a way to make sense of the particular ways their society does things — that is ideology. Like the genes copied by living organisms to reproduce themselves, ideology is a set of notions that leads members of a society to replicate its particular social and organizational patterns. Whether obedience to elders is a good system or not, the notion of it being the basis for collective honor helps to ensure that tradition continues.

Base & Superstructure Info-Graphic, Dialectical Materialism, Karl MarxIdeology can show up almost anywhere but it is often found masquerading as ‘common sense’ and lurking under popular ideas. ‘Bigger is better’ may be common sense in societies fueled by consumerism but it would seem like nonsense in a nomadic society. Components of ideology that are central to one system may be incompatible with or even toxic to another.

Neoliberalism in a Nutshell

The central idea of liberalism is that government’s main role is to ensure the liberty of the individual by upholding (more-or-less) free markets, free trade, and rights like the freedom to own property, free speech, religious freedom, free association, etc. Notice a pattern? While classical liberalism at least recognizes a need for limited government, the neoliberal ideal is to basically let the private sector run everything, including government. Neoliberalism replaces public schools with private-voucher systems, lets private firms run public infrastructure for profit, grants ‘rights’ to non-human corporations — that sort of thing.

In a nutshell, neoliberalism sees reality itself as a big market.

Black & White & Us Versus Them:
How Extremism Subverts Neoliberal Ideology

“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral”
— Paulo Freire

Returning to the topic at hand — the notion that extremist politics are bad is widely accepted as common sense in the technically-advanced, capitalist USA. This is particularly true among the rich white intelligentsia usually hired by media to referee the nation’s political discourse. But this anti-extremist bias is problematic, to say the least.

‘Black & White Thinking’ in Science, Philosophy, & Art

“Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony” — Heraclitus

yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7 - In Defense of Political Extremism: 'Us Versus Them' Versus Neoliberal IdeologyOne of the more glaring issues with assuming black-and-white views are less valid is the fact that scientists observe binary, either/or, and zero-sum phenomena in the natural world all the time. Physical reality is built from opposing forces — electric current arises from opposite charges, the elements are all configurations of the same two positive and negative particles, and atomic properties depend on whether the number of nucleons is even or odd. Deductive logic (the thing Sherlock Holmes uses to solve mysteries) depends on a binary notion that statements have truth values, i.e. that statements like ‘Egypt is in Africa’ are either true or not and that nothing is both in-Africa and not-in-Africa at the same time.

yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7 - In Defense of Political Extremism: 'Us Versus Them' Versus Neoliberal Ideology

Science also shows the cosmos is full of continua, spectra, and shades of grey, of course — the point is that both kinds of thinking are useful. Some stuff is clearly a spectrum — color, gender, electromagnetism, and so on — and other stuff can only be grasped in binary terms. Artists use both all the time, melding binaries like foreground-background and center-periphery with spectra like hue, shade, tint, and tone to form a unified meaning. Each mode has its uses in art, logic, and science.

And then, there’s politics.

The Political Taboo of Extremism

“The question is not whether we will be extremists but what kind of extremists we will be”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

While no one is blasted for overly-gradated opinions or excessive nuance, people are flayed left and right for views seen as polarizing or divisiveblack-and-white thinking, using terms of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ and extremism. These kinds of views are unwelcome in politics. The political realm appears to be ruled by special laws that differ from those of logic, science, and art.

When a person is told she has an ‘us versus them’ mindset, it implies that the idea of ‘us’ opposing ‘them’ is unreasonable or unwarranted. By stating the critique as a matter of fact, the critic also implies that such a view itself is evidence that she failed to grasp ‘the real issue’ — or, even worse, that she is too stupid to grasp it or too churlish to care. The exasperated sigh that “things aren’t so black and white” is meant to rebuke a person for refusing to compromise with the implied shades of grey, all of which are apparently presumed to be equally valid.

As a result of this broad dismissal of extremist or uncompromising views, those who hold them also learn to hold their tongues while moderates and other grown-ups bravely hold the lines on either side of every trivial shade of reform imaginable.

A Brief Look at ‘Extremism’ in History

“It is a world of clashing interests – war against peace, nationalism against internationalism, equality against greed, and democracy against elitism – and it seems to me both impossible and undesirable to be neutral in those conflicts”
— Howard Zinn

But why is framing an issue in terms of us-versus-them automatically wrong? Is history not full of examples of one group being oppressed by others with greater power and did the oppressed not often find justice only in open conflict and uncompromising opposition to the interest of groups who benefited by their oppression?​ Martin Luther King Jr seemed to think so — in his Letter From Birmingham Jail, King reflected on being called an ‘extremist’ for his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s:

“…though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ Was not Amos an extremist for justice: ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.’ […] And [was not] Abraham Lincoln [an extremist]: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’”

130 years before King sat in that cell, the radical abolitionist and writer William Lloyd Garrison was labeled an extremist in the 1830s for stubbornly insisting that enslaved Black people should be freed immediately. To his critics, Garrison replied: “I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity?” Activists who struggled for women’s suffrage and opponents of Jim Crow were also criticized for extremism in their day.

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How Extremist Politics Subvert Neoliberalism

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”
— Albert Einstein

These false critiques are all rooted in the ideological heart of neoliberalism — : unshakable faith in the market. From within the neoliberal framework, ‘the market’ is not just the free market or even market-economics generally but an idealized market-principle more akin to a law of nature than to a human artifice. Of all liberties, the most holy is the liberty for private individuals to partake in the market with as little oversight as possible. The underlying ideological premise is that a perfect free market — that is, a perfectly unregulated market– produces the best result possible and that intervening always has a negative effect in spite of any noble intention.

yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7 - In Defense of Political Extremism: 'Us Versus Them' Versus Neoliberal IdeologyThis also applies to other ‘markets’ like the marketplace of ideas where any censure of free speech presumably harms the debate. Liberal notions of ‘diversity’ also approach culture as a market with the ideal “melting pot” being an imagined result of differing ways of life, religions, and customs freely competing.​ This neoliberal logic requires every individual, private enterprise, and political view to be treated as equally valid or, at least, with equal respect. Since intervention always favors some individuals over others, intervening is an abomination to the neoliberal commentariat, which is why they become so upset with people who punch literal Nazis. Beneath the concern for free speech is an ideological fear — if people can intervene in the market of ideas against Nazism for ethical reasons, why not intervene in private enterprise against fossil fuel or insurance companies for ethical reasons?

How Extremism Contradicts the Market’s Logic

This is where extremist views and refusals to compromise come to an impasse with the neoliberal ideology. Ex-President Obama put it well by saying, “America is the union leader and the CEO who put aside their differences to make the economy stronger.” This is about as neoliberal as rhetoric can get. If a person takes the view — as many US Americans do — that the right of workers to the fruits of their labor and to decent living-standards are more important and valid than an already-wealthy CEO’s right to profit, it conflicts with the CEO’s ‘liberty.’ Telling this CEO to get stuffed is not only uncompromising — it is ‘un-American.’ Also uncompromising is the position that the health of the environment is always 1,000% more important than all investors’ portfolios put together. Or the idea that the bosses and the Wall Street investors — ‘them’ — really do share interests that are fundamentally opposed to the interests of workers, aka ‘us.’

Non-Extremist Resistance Will Always Be Bullshit

“When you are right, you cannot be too radical”
— MLK

Oppression never grows from nothing. Each instance of oppression expresses a relation of power arising from conflict between social classeswith opposing interests. All of that — class, power, conflict — depends on the specific forms of social and economic architecture that presently exist in the society. It depends, in other words, on all that ideology exists to preserve and replicate — that, and your consent to the status quo.

“Neutral” Politics & a Parable About Flowers

Each particular thing depends on forces outside itself to exist. A flower, for example, depends on water and light in certain amounts, a specific type of soil, insects to pollinate it, and other forces that cannot be separated without destroying the flower. All of it – water, soil, light – is as much a part of a flower as its petals and those who disagree should try removing one. But each of these in turn depends on its own set of forces– water, for instance, may increase or decrease due to irrigation, climate change, and many other factors. Flowers do not grow from soil alone but in the center of a cosmic tug-of-war between multitudes of forces. Even slight disturbances to this web might alter what types are able to grow or make their growth impossible altogether.

Now, rather than flowers, think of society, its institutions, and all the various forms they take. Replace water, sun, pollinators, and other component-forces with you, me, our neighborhoods and apartment buildings, investors, workers, bosses, cops, and every other cell that makes up the body of society. The institutions of oppression that have grown up around and inside us — mass incarceration, economic exploitation, the terror of the police state — all depend on this social configuration staying the way it is. Conditions of oppression ever depend on our neutrality — on our non-intervention. And so ideology whispers — be neutral. And if being neutral is impossible, then at least act neutral — no interventions. What, are you some kind of extremist?

Political Extremism Is Good, "We don't want a bigger piece of the pie, we want the whole fluffing bakery!" Communist bunnies, protest marching

Be an Extremist!

“Indeed, it is impossible to be neutral. In a world already moving in certain directions, where wealth and power are already distributed in certain ways, neutrality means accepting the way things are now”
— Howard Zinn

Today’s politicians would probably say that people like King were mis-labeled as extremists but the truth is that King was not just an extremist — he was an open and unrepentant extremist. The worst kind. Neoliberal doctrine, however, requires extremists to be bad and MLK was clearly good, which forces politicians to devise a story that resolves the contradiction. But no matter how many times they say 2 + 2 = 5, the sum is 4, was 4, ever will be 4, and Rev. Dr. King remains the same unapologetic extremist he told us he was in that cell.

He knew that some things are black and white and that every position is not equal — that sometimes it really is us versus them.

In solidarity,
John Laurits

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