A Soundtrack for a Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of All Hallows Eve, we're sharing a not-your-typical-Halloween-soundtrack compiled by our friend at mightyjoecastro.com, Mad Monster Party. Enjoy!

Click here to listen.

Happy Hauntings!

Views from the ANThill: Prisons for Profit - It's the Law!

by douglas reeser on 10.29.2010

The Arizona immigration law that was passed earlier this year had many around the country in a tizzy. The bill (Arizona Senate Bill 1070) has its share of supporters, while many find it discriminatory and racist. The spectrum of reactions is such that in Florida, Rick Scott is running for governor on a platform that includes a call "Arizona-style immigration law" for the state. On the other end, businesses threatened to boycott Arizona if the law was put into effect. Immigration is a contentious issue in the US - or at least our politicians and news outlets would lead us to believe.

A piece from NPR reveals the true motives behind the anti-immigration rhetoric that is bubbling up in the politics and news reports around the nation - corporate profits. NPR has spent the last several months researching the origins of the bill, and found that the executives from the private (for-profit) prison industry had a direct hand in drafting the bill. From a business stand-point, it makes sense that the more people you can imprison, the more money you can make if you're in the business of imprisonment. Thus, the birth of new legislation designed to bring into the prison system the latest of the marginalized and despised groups in the US - Latin American immigrants.
While the origins of the bill are certainly disturbing, the details may be downright shocking to some. The bill was drafted during meetings of the Washington group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Members of ALEC include state legislators and corporate heads, who come together with at least one goal of writing legislation together. ALEC staff director Michael Hough said of the group: "It's a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together." In the case of SB 1070, the partnership included board members from top private prison companies and Arizona law makers. They drafted the bill at the meetings in Washington, and a nearly identical bill became the unanimously passed SB 1070 - although not without some more grease from the prison industry, which NPR found had made donations to nearly all the Arizona legislators involved in the passing of the bill.
This is a beautiful model really. A powerful for-profit industry looking for its next big windfall identifies a despised group (illegal immigrants) to attack and manipulate to increase earnings. This during the worst economic times since the Great Depression, along with the support of politicians and some media outlets, and the public follows the lead. Public outcry has led the Arizona bill to be held up in the courts, so this whole plan may never get off the ground. Still, according to NPR: "Corrections Corporation of America executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market."
A recent report from Sasha Abramsky of Slate helps explain why a further increase in imprisonment is problematic. Abramsky reports that the increasing division of wealth inthe US - fewer people have more money, while more people have less money - can be linked to the policy shift that introduced mass incarceration and more prisons. Her discussion of a report in the journal Daedalus shows "that once a person has been incarcerated, the experience limits their earning power and their ability to climb out of poverty even decades after their release. It's a vicious feedback loop that is affecting an ever-greater percentage of the adult population." After nearly 40 years of such extreme imprisonment policies, this feedback loop is not just affecting individuals, but entire demographic groups.
The demographic groups most affected? Minorities. Reports of the incarceration inequalities of the US prison system are coming out more and more frequently. For instance, Truthout recently ran an article on the topic revealing minorities in California are jailed for marijuana offenses at higher rates than other ethnic groups, despite lower use rates. "African-Americans and Latinos use marijuana at lower rates than whites, yet they are prosecuted for minor cannabis possession offenses in California's largest cities at rates two to twelve times higher than Caucasians, according to a pair of just-released reports commissioned by The Drug Policy Alliance, the California NAACP and the William C. Velasquez Institute." As details about the unjust and unequal prison system continue to emerge, for-profit prisons need to find new populations to keep their bankrolls fat. Enter our friends from Latin America. Our farm workers. Our domestic workers. Our construction workers. Our neighbors.

A Literary Shit List

With all of the finger-pointing and fault-finding in the news lately, how about some literary trash-talking too? The folks at librarysciencedegree.org came up with a list of the 50 most hated characters in literary history.

There are some surprises -- Holden Caulfield -- and some giveaways -- the Devil -- plus some that just make you appreciate a lot of great books -- Humbert Humbert, Cholly Breedlove, Daisy Buchanan, Scarlett O'Hara...

Check out the Literary Shit List, and feel free to share any of your love/hate characters here with us!

Tethered Together: A Marxist Look at Racism and Capitalism

Strange and disconcerting threads of racism are woven into the fabric of political conversations these days. Equally troubling is some people's desire to return to the unchecked power of corporations comparable to Industrial-era capitalists. With these thoughts swirling all around, it was nice to come across Lance Selfa's essay, "The Roots of Racism," on socialworker.org, which gives insight into the relationship between racism and capitalism through a Marxist lens.

Selfa begins the journey by looking back to how Roman's perception of slavery was not cut along racial lines. In fact, up through the end of the 17th century, even in North American colonies, much of the slave labor that existed followed suit. It wasn't until the price of an African slave became cheaper than a white indentured servant that slavery took on its now-inextricable association with race. With the "first bourgeois revolution," the American Revolution, an ideology of white supremacy came into being, as the leading thinkers of the time had to delineate who they meant by "all men" when creating equalities.

From there, slavery became a boon to 18th century European economies and launched the Industrial Revolution:

From the start, colonial slavery and capitalism were linked. While it is not correct to say that slavery created capitalism, it is correct to say that slavery provided one of the chief sources for the initial accumulations of wealth that helped to propel capitalism forward in Europe and North America.

The clearest example of the connection between plantation slavery and the rise of industrial capitalism was the connection between the cotton South, Britain and, to a lesser extent, the Northern industrial states. Here, we can see the direct link between slavery in the U.S. and the development of the most advanced capitalist production methods in the world. Cotton textiles accounted for 75 percent of British industrial employment in 1840, and, at its height, three-fourths of that cotton came from the slave plantations of the Deep South.

Further on, Selfa talks about how present-day anti-immigration attitudes are spun from the same cloth:

Because racism is woven right into the fabric of capitalism, new forms of racism arose with changes in capitalism. As the U.S. economy expanded and underpinned U.S. imperial expansion, imperialist racism--which asserted that the U.S. had a right to dominate other peoples, such as Mexicans and Filipinos--developed. As the U.S. economy grew and sucked in millions of immigrant laborers, anti-immigrant racism developed. But these are both different forms of the same ideology--of white supremacy and division of the world into "superior" and "inferior" races--that had their origins in slavery.

To read the entire article, click here.

Monsanto in the News: Crowding the Plate

What a tangled web Monsanto has woven with its wonder-drug, Round-Up. While the agri-giant has spent decades touting its job of improving crops and saving farmland from erosion with its ubiquitous pesticide, danger lurked in the shadows. Round-Up resistant weeds sprung up in the void left by the pesticide, and now, Monsanto must back peddle.

Unfortunately, a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable path is not what they have in mind. Instead, they are offering soybean and cotton farmers who use Round-Up seeds a rebate of up to $6 per acre for applying two other herbicides to try to kill the Round-Up resistant weeds. Ironically, the same argument that Monsanto used to sell their brand originally -- increased yield and decreased erosion -- is being used for this latest mission, even though the additional herbicides can be from their competitors.

Read Tom Philpott's piece about it on Grist, and the Des Moines Register's original piece about it here.

Image courtesy of Dropstone Farms

A Web of Your Peers

We've been meaning to post this article from the New York Times for awhile to see what you all think. To the long list of mixed emotions produced by the internet, we can now add changes to the peer review process of scholarly journal publishing. According to some humanities scholars, having a small cadre of experts deciding the merit of a submission no longer holds up in our digital age. Instead, they argue, submissions should be aired openly to a wider internet audience. Some traditional journals have already decided to try it.

The change seems radical to some. To others, the way knowledge is viewed and valued is completely different from their older counterparts. The definitions and perceptions of originality and intellectual rigor have changed and continue to weave together with the traditional.

An open-forum-type submission process versus the behind-closed-doors process falls in line with other binaries the internet has produced: newspapers v. news feeds, youtube/hulu/etc v. TV, and the list goes on and on. Of course, these things aren't mutually exclusive, and, like most other evolutions in society, people will marry the new and the old, for better or for worse.

Consumption Junction: Join the Revolution

by Lana Lynne on 10.17.2010

Check out this interesting essay from 1983 on advertising and global culture. As consumerism became an increasingly popular field of study in the 'seventies and 'eighties, critics turned from its effects on the U.S. and other western cultures to look at the bigger picture.

Author Noreen Janus looks at why a Brazilian advertising executive chose "Join the Pepsi Revolution" over "Join the Pepsi Generation" for ads in Brazil, and the implications of the ad man's insight: "most people have no other means to express their need for social change other than by changing brands and increasing consumption."

Janus also looks at the way western products are depicted in global television advertising. In 'eighties transnational marketing, Janus found these products were most often associated with modernity, whiteness, and progress. And as for the impact on economically poor areas, Janus argues, "the impact of transnational culture is greater among the poor - the very people who cannot afford to buy the lifestyle it represents."

It's interesting how television was once almost synonymous with consumerism. Now, although the choices have expanded a hundredfold and (the illusion of?) agency has come into the picture, much of what Janus wrote about the TV generation holds true today. Read the essay in our Scribd Library here.

World Habitat Day

The first Monday in October marks World Habitat Day, a day designated in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly to recognize decent shelter as a basic human right and as a collective responsibility. Many World Habitat events have been organized by Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating worldwide poverty housing and homelessness. Find out about these events here, many of which extend to the end of the year. More information and resources can be found here, including the Carter Work Project and the World Habitat Day Photo Wall.

Check out a video from the World Habitat Day website chronicling some of the participants in the "Build Louder" program in Guatemala, which took place in January of 2010.