Daily Archives: June 29, 2020

The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite: Daniel Markovits

A revolutionary new argument from eminent Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits attacking the false promise of meritocracy

It is an axiom of American life that advantage should be earned through ability and effort. Even as the country divides itself at every turn, the meritocratic ideal – that social and economic rewards should follow achievement rather than breeding – reigns supreme. Both Democrats and Republicans insistently repeat meritocratic notions. Meritocracy cuts to the heart of who we are. It sustains the American dream.

But what if, both up and down the social ladder, meritocracy is a sham? Today, meritocracy has become exactly what it was conceived to resist: a mechanism for the concentration and dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations. Upward mobility has become a fantasy, and the embattled middle classes are now more likely to sink into the working poor than to rise into the professional elite. At the same time, meritocracy now ensnares even those who manage to claw their way to the top, requiring rich adults to work with crushing intensity, exploiting their expensive educations in order to extract a return. All this is not the result of deviations or retreats from meritocracy but rather stems directly from meritocracy’s successes.

This is the radical argument that Daniel Markovits prosecutes with rare force. Markovits is well placed to expose the sham of meritocracy. Having spent his life at elite universities, he knows from the inside the corrosive system we are trapped within. Markovits also knows that, if we understand that meritocratic inequality produces near-universal harm, we can cure it. When The Meritocracy Trap reveals the inner workings of the meritocratic machine, it also illuminates the first steps outward, towards a new world that might once again afford dignity and prosperity to the American people.

Trump Retweets Video Of Supporters Chanting ‘White Power’ At Protesters, Deletes After Backlash


Jun 28, 2020

President Trump retweeted a video of an apparent supporter in a golf cart chanting “white power” at protesters. The tweet was removed from his feed hours later. The video was taken at a Florida retirement community known as The Villages.

John Bolton says Trump turned ‘blind eye’ to Covid-19


Jun 24, 2020

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton told CNN Wednesday that he does not have confidence in President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his former boss was “turning a blind eye” at the onset of the outbreak because he did not want to hear “bad news” about his “friend,” Chinese President Xi Jinping. “I think there is an empty chair in the Oval Office, because the President did not want to hear bad news about Xi Jinping, his friend. He did not want to hear bad news about the cover-up of the virus in China, or its potential effect on the China trade deal that he wants so much. And he didn’t want to hear about the potential impact of a pandemic on the American economy and its effect on his reelection. Turning a blind eye to all these early signs I think hampered the country’s ability to deal with this, and continues to do so,” Bolton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”

Asked if he had confidence in Trump’s handling of the pandemic, Bolton responded: “I do not.”

John Bolton says Trump source of chaos in White House


Jun 24, 2020

Former Trump administration National Security Adviser John Bolton describes the chaos behind the scenes at the White House that he says was caused by President Trump.

Coronavirus – Covid-19: ‘South Africa’s poor population is at high risk’

FRANCE 24 English

Apr 6, 2020

With over 55,000 tests completed, the coronavirus has so far infected over 1500 people and killed around a dozen in South Africa, but the authorities fear that this is only the calm before the storm. President Cyril Ramaphosa has imposed a 3-week lockdown and told people to practice social distancing.

Coronavirus in Lagos: Enforcing lockdown in Africa’s biggest city – BBC News

BBC News

Apr 6, 2020

Africa’s most populated city has gone into lockdown. Lagos in Nigeria is the latest place to tell all its citizens to stay at home for two weeks as officials try to stop the spread of coronavirus. Our correspondent there is Chi Chi Izundu

A Chapter in an Ongoing Crisis | Tim Weiskel


Tim Weiskel, “A Chapter in an Ongoing Crisis,” a contribution to the forum After the Pandemic: Which Future?, Great Transition Initiative (July 2020), https://greattransition.org/gti-forum/pandemic-scenario-weiskel [PDF Version of essay]

GTI Forum – A Chapter in an Ongoing Crisis   [from] —  Forum (Round 1) on After the Pandemic: Which Future?

Tim Weiskel,   July 2020

There will be no “post-COVID” world simply because we are all now in a global disease pool. We always have been, of course, but we did not fully realize this because our common anthropocentrism blinded us to the fallacy of our underlying belief in hominid exceptionalism.

Somehow—we told ourselves—we would be exempted from the destruction of one ecosystem after another around the world. We would remain—we thought—“exceptions” to the system-wide degradation of habitats and the extinction of all other life-forms. We were, after all, an “intelligent” species, an “inventive” species, and for that reason a “privileged” species above all others in our capacity to foresee and plan with scientific insight and technical skills. Surely, these capacities would save us and our civilization.

Well, perhaps not. This comfortable and widely shared narrative is now seen to be what it was all along: a grand illusion. As biologists have long pointed out, in evolutionary terms, intelligence may not prove to be “adaptive.” It is no guarantee of survival, especially when our capacity for intelligence is deployed to kill ever greater numbers of our own species and fundamentally destroy the key elements of our species-wide life-support systems (topsoil, biodiversity, potable water supplies, sustainable agriculture, etc.)

As we learn more about COVID-19, it appears that it will not go away. It may well settle into a pattern of behaving like a “seasonal flu,” but largely because it will migrate between the Southern and Northern Hemisphere as the seasons change. In addition, there are a range of coronaviruses to which humans are exposed, each of which can mutate and thereby change its virulence in reference to the human populations in the future. For this reason, there is not likely to be a post-coronavirus period in human history from now onward. We will have to adjust in radically new ways, shifting our understanding about ourselves, our behavior, and our assumptions about our role from that of a “dominant species” to that of a “participant species” in a complex ecosystem.

This is not a trivial matter. The reason is that although we know this is necessary, we do not believe it. Our knowledge systems are far out of sync with our operative belief systems. This is frequently the case in human history—especially under conditions of radical systemic transformation. Belief systems drive our behavior—not, generally speaking, our knowledge systems. We will need to transform some of our core beliefs if we expect to change our behavior in ways that can help us survive beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

…(read more).

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Donald Trump’s re-election playbook: 25 ways he’ll lie, cheat and abuse hi s power | Opinion | The Guardian


Sun 28 Jun 2020 01.00 EDT Last modified on Sun 28 Jun 2020 01.02 EDT

From now until November, opponents of the most lawless president in history face a fight for democracy itself Here’s Trump’s re-election playbook, in 25 simple steps:

1) Declare yourself above the law.

2) Use racist fearmongering. Demand

“law and order” and describe protesters as “thugs”, “lowlife” and “rioters and looters”. Describe Covid-19 as “kung-flu”. Retweet posts from white supremacists. In your campaign ads, use a symbol associated with Nazis.

3) Appoint an attorney general more loyal to you than to America, and politicize the Department of Justice so it’s lenient on your loyalists and comes down hard on your enemies. Have it lighten the sentence of a crony convicted of lying under oath. Order investigations of industries you dislike.

4) Fire US attorneys who are investigating you.

5) Fire independent inspectors general who are looking into what you’ve done. Crush any whistleblowers you find.

6) Demean and ignore the intelligence community. Appoint a director of national intelligence more loyal to you than to America. Demand that the head of the FBI pledge loyalty to you.

7) Pack the federal courts with judges and justices more loyal to you than to the constitution.

8) Politicize the Department of Defense so generals will back whatever you order. Refer to them as “my generals”. Have them help clear out protesters. Order the military to surveil protesters. Tell governors you’ll bring in the military to stop protesters.

9) Purge your party of anyone disloyal to you and turn it into a mindless, brainless, spineless cult.

10) Get rid of accumulated experience and expertise in government. Demean career public servants. Hollow out the state department, the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and public health.

11) Reward donors and cronies with

bailouts, tax breaks, subsidies, government contracts, regulatory rollbacks and plum jobs. Put their lobbyists in charge of your agencies. Distribute $500bn in pandemic assistance to corporations in secret, without any oversight.

12) Coddle dictators. Don’t criticize their human rights abuses. Refuse to work with the leaders of other democracies. Withdraw from international treaties.

13) Create scapegoats. Demonize migrants and lock up asylum seekers at the border, even if they’re children. Put a white nationalist in charge of immigration policy. Blame Muslims, Mexicans and Chinese.

14) Denigrate and ridicule all critics. Describe opponents as “human scum”. Attack the mainstream media as purveyors of “fake news” and “enemies of the people”.

15) Conjure up conspiracies supposedly led by your predecessor and your opponent in the last election. Without any evidence, accuse your predecessor of “treason”. Fabricate a “deep state” out to get you.

16) Downplay real threats to the nation, such as a rapidly spreading pandemic. Lie about your utter failure to contain it. Muzzle public health experts. Urge people to go back to work even as the pandemic worsens in parts of the country.

17) Encourage armed supporters to “liberate” states from elected officials who disagree with you.

18) Bribe other nations to investigate your electoral opponent and flood social media with lies about him.

19) Use rightwing propaganda machines like Fox News and conspiracy-theory-peddling One America News to inundate the country with your lies. Ensure that the morally bankrupt chief executive of Facebook allows you to spread your lies on the biggest media machine in the world.

20) Suppress the votes of people likely to vote against you. Intimidate voters of color. Encourage Republican governors to purge voter rolls, demand voter ID and close polling places.

21) Seek to prevent mail-in ballots during the pandemic. Claim they will cause voter fraud, without evidence. Threaten to close the US postal service.

22) Get Vladimir Putin to hack into US election machines, as he did in 2016 but can now do with more experience and deftness. Promise him that in return you’ll further destabilize America as well as Nato. Let him even place a bounty on killing US troops in Afghanistan.

23) If it still looks like you’ll be voted out, try to postpone the election.

24) If you’re voted out of office notwithstanding all this, refuse to leave. Contest the election, claim massive fraud, say it’s a conspiracy, get your cult of a political party to support your lies, get your propaganda machine to repeat them, get your justice department to back you, get your judges and justices to affirm you, get your generals to suppress any subsequent rebellion.

25) Declare victory.

Memo to America: beware Trump’s playbook. Spread the truth. Stay vigilant. Fight for our democracy.

See related video episodes.

Her Ancestors were nation’s largest slaveowners: Springside alumna’s film reveals her family’s history – Chestnut Hill Local Philadelphia PA


alumna and documentary filmmaker Katrina Browne and a Ghanaian child look out over the ramparts of Cape Coast Castle in the West African nation of Ghana, a fortress from which slaves were shipped to the U.S. and elsewhere. (Photo by Elly Hale)

by Len Lear

Many of us have family members or even ancestors with which we are not too proud. But for Katrina Browne, it goes way beyond that. Browne, 50, graduated from Springside School (now Springside Chestnut Hill Academy) in 1985. Her mother, Elizabeth (“Libby”) Sturges Browne, grew up in Chestnut Hill, as did Libby’s father, the Rev. Philemon Sturges, who was rector of St. Martin-in-the- Fields Episcopal Church. (Elizabeth and her sisters also went to Springside.)

Browne’s grandmother, Rosalind Howe Sturges, a renowned artist, created the Chestnut Hill Local masthead drawing in the early or mid-1960s that is still used today. She also did many drawings and pictorial maps of the area. The Chestnut Hill scenes of places she memorialized before they were destroyed can be found at the C.H. Historical Society.

Browne earned a degree from Princeton University in Anthropology in 1990 and an M.A. in Theology from the Pacific School of Religion, where she wrote a thesis on film and democratic dialogue. “I wasn’t pursuing ordination (to the ministry),” she told us last month, “but I was seeking my next ‘calling’ after having worked really hard in my early 20s co-founding one of the first national AmeriCorps programs called Public Allies. It is still going strong, and Michelle Obama was the founding director of the Chicago office/program site.”

In 1995, however, Browne’s grandmother, who was then 88 (she died in 1999), wrote a short booklet summarizing their family history for all of her grandchildren. What she wrote was a virtual stick of dynamite that blew up Browne’s world and set it on a totally different path that has continued to this day. “I am so grateful that she didn’t fail to include this horrible part of our story,” said Browne. “It was a sacred act on her part as an elder.”

What the booklet revealed was that the Sturges’ ancestors, the DeWolfs, were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history! Given the myth that the South is solely responsible for slavery, family members were shocked to learn that their ancestors, Northerners from Rhode Island, were so deeply involved in the slave trade. Browne and her relatives learned that while the DeWolfs were one of only a few “slaving” dynasties, the network of commercial activities that they were tied to involved an enormous portion of the Northern population.

…(read more).

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How Europe’s agricultural policy hurts Africa | DW Documentary

DW Documentary

Mar 13, 2018

[Documentary removed for unexplained reasons . See related topics covered.]

European wheat exports to Africa: a contribution against hunger and misery or obstructing development aid?

African farmers can’t compete against cheap European wheat with their domestic produce. In the Senegalese capital Dakar, reporter Katharina Schickling almost exclusively discovers products made from imported wheat, such as baguette, in the bakeries. Bread made of wheat flour was largely unknown in Africa until the beginning of colonial rule. Instead, porridge or pancakes were consumed from cereals such as sorghum or millet, which thrive even in hot climates. Bread made from wheat flour became the staple food of the European colonial rulers. Since wheat does not grow well in Africa’s climate, a deadly dependency began: in Senegal, for example, millet consumption per capita decreased from 80 kilograms in 1961 to 25 kilograms in 2010. During this period, German wheat exports quadrupled to the West African country. What bothers many Senegalese is that wheat from expensive German acreage can only be offered so much cheaper because German farmers receive subsidies from tax revenue. “It’s like putting someone on a 4WD bike to the start line, and then they say, ‘On your marks, get set, go! The SUV will always win,'” explains Baba Ngom of the Senegalese Rural Development Association. German experts such as Stefan Liebing from the Africa Association of German Business also see the development skeptically. Subsidies in European agriculture would destroy a lot, it would be better to protect the emerging industries in Africa. A Marshall Plan for Africa is currently being widely discussed. There would be a very simple measure: an end to the EU trade policy in the agricultural sector. Exports to Africa – which at first glance look like positive action against hunger and hardship – actually destroy sources of income for native and drive people out of the country.