Category Archives: Read This

Ivy: Homeless in San Francisco – a YA novel

In this empathetic tale of hope, understanding, and the importance of family, readers face the difficult issue of poverty and the many hardships of being homeless through an inspiring young heroine named Ivy. Ivy is the story of a young girl who finds herself homeless on the streets of San Francisco when she and her father, Poppy, are evicted from his artist loft.

Struggling to survive day to day, Ivy and Poppy befriend a dog who takes them to the ramshackle home of quirky siblings Eugenia and Oscar Orr, marking the start of some amazing adventures. Blending a spoonful of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist with a dash of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and a few pinches of the Adventures of Lassie, Ivy’s tale will appeal to young readers as well as give adults material to discuss with children.

“Lolitas, Oliver Twists and Huckleberry Finns live on, and now, Ivy’s tale of hope lives right alongside them.” —Robin Clewly, San Francisco Chronicle

Available from PM Press, Powell’s or Amazon.com.

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Rebel Cities by David Harvey

Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
by David Harvey

Manifesto on the urban commons from the acclaimed theorist.

Long before the Occupy movement, modern cities had already become the central sites of revolutionary politics, where the deeper currents of social and political change rise to the surface. Consequently, cities have been the subject of much utopian thinking. But at the same time they are also the centers of capital accumulation and the frontline for struggles over who controls access to urban resources and who dictates the quality and organization of daily life. Is it the financiers and developers, or the people?

Rebel Cities places the city at the heart of both capital and class struggles, looking at locations ranging from Johannesburg to Mumbai, and from New York City to São Paulo. Drawing on the Paris Commune as well as Occupy Wall Street and the London Riots, Harvey asks how cities might be reorganized in more socially just and ecologically sane ways—and how they can become the focus for anti-capitalist resistance. (via VersoBooks.com.)

Read This: Robert Reich, “The rich get richer, then buy elections” (updated)

Robert Reich has a powerful piece in this Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle on what he terms a “perfect storm” that is threatening democracy in America. It should be required reading.

Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley – but he’s also a former US secretary of labor, so it’s not so easy to dismiss him as another looney Berkeley lefty or an ivory tower intellectual.

So maybe people will actually pay attention to the alarm call he issues at the end of the article:

We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.

The headline positions this article as about the increasing influence of the wealthy over the US electoral process – a very pressing topic in this election season, when you have some many extremely wealthy individuals trying to use that wealth to buy their way into high office.  It’s a real problem in California, where two tech sector businesswoman are trying to step straight from Silicon Valley into the halls of power: Carly Fiorina, former head of computer maker Hp, running for congress against Barbara Boxer; and Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, as Republican candidate for governor of California.

One of Reich’s key concerns is with the increasing lack of transparency and openness in campaign financing:

Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into advertisements for and against candidates – without a trace of where the dollars are coming from. They’re laundered through a handful of groups. Fred Malek, whom you might remember as deputy director of Richard Nixon’s notorious Committee to Reelect the President (dubbed “Creep” in the Watergate scandal), is running one of them. Republican operative Karl Rove runs another. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a third.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission made it possible. The Federal Election Commission says only 32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors. By comparison, in the 2006 midterm election, 97 percent disclosed….

We’re back to the late 19th century, when lackeys of robber barons literally deposited cash on the desks of friendly legislators. The public never knew who was bribing whom.

But while the influence of wealth on the political process is a key concern of Reich’s, the facts and figures he lays out in the article speak to a larger notion of plutocracy and to a fundamental shift in American socity:

income in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it has been in 80 years

The top one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million of us.

The marginal income tax rate on the very rich is the lowest it has been in 80 years. Under President Dwight Eisenhower (whom no one would have accused of being a radical) it was 91 percent. Now it’s 36 percent…. Much of the income of the highest earners is treated as capital gains, anyway – subject to a 15 percent tax. The typical hedge-fund and private-equity manager paid only 17 percent last year. Their earnings were not exactly modes. The top 15 hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion.

We have to pause there to consider that: an average of $1 billion in annual income.  What is the average annual income of everyone you know? For that matter, what is the COMBINED income of everyone you know? Now, how many times would you have to multiply that to get to $1 billion?

Or what about that 17 percent tax – how much income tax did you pay last year? Those billionaires pay much less in income tax than you do – and these are the guys (almost always male) who gave us the global financial crisis.

But don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying you paid too much, but rather that they paid too little.  I don’t like some of the things the government does with my tax dollars – but then I take the bus, or go to the library or a park, or use my public school education and I remember what other things taxes get used for. And then I look at how bad the public transit and public schools and public parks and public hospitals are getting and I worry.  Unlike those hedge-fund managers, I can’t afford private health care, private schools, private parks, and even private transit is perilous these days.

And as he points out, all this enormous shift in the distribution of wealth and massive increase in wealth at the top is coming at a time when “[most] Americans are in trouble. Their jobs, incomes, savings and even homes are on the line.”

You can check out what else Reich has to say on his blog at www.robertreich.org. His book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, is currently riding high on nonfiction bestseller lists.

A footnote: It’s not strictly true that no one would have accused Eisenhower of being a radical. In a recent New Yorker article on Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement, the founder of the right wing John Birch Society is quoted attacking President Dwight D. Eisenhower as “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy” who had been serving the plot “all of his adult life.” See: Glenn Beck, the Tea Party, and the Republicans : The New Yorker.

Update:

Persuant to Reich’s concern with stealth campaign funding:

Pro-Republican Groups Prepare Big Push at End of Races: “Anonymously financed groups are starting a coordinated final push to deliver control of Congress to Republicans.” (via NYTimes.)

Rove keeps on spinning to defend the secret donations to his GOP slush funds: “Media Matters – Oct. 24 (News Analysis) – On CBS’ Face the Nation, Karl Rove continued to defend his GOP-aligned political group from criticism that it does not disclose its donors by using falsehoods and obfuscation.” (via NewsTrust.)

Media Debates Anonymous Donors, Ignores Deceptive Ads: “care2.com – By Aaron Pendell – Oct. 24 (News Analysis) – The secret financing of thousands of television ads and other media by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and other 501(c)(4) PACs will be debated long after Nov. 2 has come and gone, but there is a related matter of supreme and immediate importance that is going largely unnoticed: The content of the ads range from deceptive to objectively false.” (via NewsTrust.)

 

 

Read This: DIY Urbanism in the San Francisco Bay Area

Fascinating and encouraging reading for all Bay Area residents, and for people interested in just and sustainable cities:

DIY Urbanism: “The current economic crisis has proven to be more than a challenge to our wallets: it has tested our faith in personal agency and our optimism in the future. But this malaise has met its match in the Bay Area, where a spirit of fierce independence has always thrived. Here the bad economy has a silver lining: it has reinvigorated and mobilized the community of do-it-yourself urbanists….”

read the whole article here: SPUR | DIY Urbanism.

SPUR = San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association, a member-supported nonprofit organization

Resist those who would rewrite the history of civil rights

Resist those who would rewrite the history of civil rights: “I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten… ” — lyric from “Dixie”

Actually, old times there are forgotten quite a bit.

For 145 years, ever since a grim-faced Robert E. Lee rode away from Wilmer McLean’s house in Appomattox, Va., where he had surrendered his army, apologists for the South have been trying to induce the rest of us to forget the causes of the Civil War, to imbue an act of treachery and treason with a nobility of purpose it did not, in fact, possess.

“States’ rights,” they say. “States’ rights to maintain a system of human slavery,” they do not say…. (via Seattle Times Newspaper.)

Read This: Downhill With the G.O.P.

Paul Krugman – Downhill With the G.O.P.: “the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”… (via NYTimes.com.)

Read This: Anger is sweeping America…

Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens. But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away….

These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again.

Yet if you want to find real political rage … you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

read the rest from Paul Krugman: The Angry Rich and Taxes – NYTimes.com.

Read This: Tea Party rhetoric twists the language of emancipation

Tea Party rhetoric twists the language of emancipation: “Tea Party rhetoric uses the language of civil rights to manipulate America’s white working class…” (via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

Read This: Through Islamic Center Debate, World Sees U.S.

even though many in the United States have framed the future of the community center [Park51, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”] as a pivotal referendum on the core issues of religion, tolerance and free speech, those outside its borders see the debate as a confirmation of their pre-existing feelings about the country, whether good or bad.

“America hates Islam,” said Mohaimen Jabar, the owner of a clothes shop in Baghdad, Iraq.

“If America loved us, it would help the Palestinians and stop the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “It would stop Iran and Israel from distorting the image of Islam.”

read the whole article: Through Islamic Center Debate, World Sees U.S. – NYTimes.com.

Kim Stanley Robinson on Science and Religion

Pursuant to my recent post on Kim Stanley Robinson’s Galileo’s Dream:

Kim Stanley Robinson at Duke, 1.29.10: Kim Stanley Robinson’s outstanding talk at Duke last week, “Science, Religion, and Ideology,” is now up at YouTube…. It’s truly essential viewing, not only for his fans but for anyone interested in either science fiction or the Utopian possibilities of scientific practice… (via Gerry Canavan.)

Seven Secret Lives

I’ve just finished Kim Stanley Robinson’s most recent book, Galileo’s Dream. It’s many things – including a very satisfying historical novel, and an attempt to grapple with the role of science in society. In this latter, it is part of a project that Robinson has been engaged in for a long time – through the Mars Trilogy and the more recent “Science in the Capital” series (Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, Sixty Days and Counting, and perhaps Antarctica as well.)

It’s a profound issue, and Robinson also makes a compelling case in these books for its vital importance – in particular as a way to confront and confound the processes of what he once called “Götterdämmerung capitalism” that are behind climate change/global warming as well as much of the poverty and misery that still torments the world, despite our enormous technical and scientific achievements and the immense wealth and power humanity has at its disposal.

But while Robinson is a great “big picture” writer, a writer of ideas and often of an epic scope, what makes him such a rewarding and poweful writer, so pleasurable to read, is his humanity, and his grounding in the lives and feelings of his characters. How alive Galileo becomes for us reading this book (and also how like Sax from the Mars books).

And there are moments when Robinson is just writing about what it means to be human, to be alive, when he strikes a real chord with me – when, like Galileo, I feel as if I am a bell that has been wrung:

We all have seven secret lives. The life of excretion; the world of inappropriate sexual fantasies; our real hopes; our terror of death; our experience of shame; the world of pain; and our dreams. No one else ever knows these lives. Consciousness is solitary. Each person lives in that bubble universe that rests under the skull, alone. (p. 280)

Read This: Socialism in the US?

t r u t h o u t | Nine Myths About Socialism in the US.

“Glenn Beck and other far right multi-millionaires are claiming that the US is hot on the path toward socialism. Part of their claim is that the US is much more generous and supportive of our working and poor people than other countries. People may wish it was so, but it is not.”

read the rest here

Read This: Who’s afraid of the nuclear bomb?

Who’s afraid of the nuclear bomb? | Richard Rogers: Just shy of my sixth birthday when the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989, I have no memory of ever being aware of the danger of imminent nuclear attack. For my oldest brother Seb, born in 1968, things were very different… (via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

Read This: Hello, Has Anybody Seen Our Idea of Governance in Afghanistan?

Hello, Has Anybody Seen Our Idea of Governance in Afghanistan?: Mr. Obama needs to find advisors who haven’t already drunk the Kool-Aid. And / or get his own meds checked.

Here’s why . . .

(via Foreign Policy In Focus.)

Read This: April ‘Earth Month’ our worst ever

Danny Westneat | April ‘Earth Month’ our worst ever: April was “Earth Month,” a time to show our love for the planet. Surely no one is more relieved this observance has come to an end than Earth.

It’s as if we decided to celebrate by setting the guest of honor on fire.

We began Earth Month by grounding a coal ship on the Great Barrier coral reef. We ended Earth Month by dumping an untold number of gallons of light sweet crude into the Gulf of Mexico, our worst ecological catastrophe since the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

In between, Earth Month was one coal-mining disaster, refinery explosion and dead, garbage-filled whale after another.

Thanks, Earth, for all you do! Here are some children and politicians planting tree seedlings. Now excuse us, please, while we torch the place….

(via Seattle Times Newspaper.)