News 01.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 01.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

To Paul Amuzie, it seemed like a life-changing opportunity. He was 16 and living in temporary accommodation with his mother and three siblings, having moved from home to home since his parents divorced. The east London borough where he lived, Newham, was home to some of the most deprived and overcrowded wards in the country. Now, it was being proposed as the location of the Olympic village in London’s bid to host the 2012 games.

As a politically active student at St Bonaventure’s school, just east of the designated site, Amuzie had become involved in local campaigns to reduce street violence after a spate of local stabbings, earning his place as an ambassador on the council’s young mayor’s team. When the Olympic bid was announced in 2003, he directed all his energies towards boosting local support for the games, on the basis that it would bring jobs, safer streets and the chance, one day, for someone like him to rent or even buy their own home. “This wasn’t just going to be a sports event, with developers making lots of money,” Amuzie told me. “It was about our future.”

When London won the bid in July 2005, its backers billed it as a groundbreaking moment. Previous Olympics had done so much damage to host cities, leaving behind useless venues, unleashing property speculation and social displacement. But London’s bid was different. It vowed to be “a model for social inclusion”. Its legacy would be “the regeneration of the area for the direct benefit of everyone that lives there”. Sebastian Coe, chair of London’s organising committee, promised that the regeneration of the area in and around the Olympic park would produce 30,000-40,000 new homes, “much of which will be ‘affordable housing’ available to key workers such as nurses or teachers”.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 01.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Here’s a bit of esoterica I think about from time to time: Mark Zuckerberg has a mortgage.

Or at least, he had one. A decade ago, the Facebook founder refinanced his loan on a $6 million Palo Alto mansion. He was worth $16 billion at the time, meaning he could have bought that house and a hundred more outright, no mortgage necessary. But First Republic Bank offered him an adjustable-rate loan with an initial interest rate of just 1.05 percent—below the rate of inflation, meaning the financier was paying him for the privilege of lending him money. Zuckerberg got to preserve his Facebook holdings, load up with tax-advantaged debt, and benefit from rising Silicon Valley real-estate prices. Why not take the loan?

“Why not take the loan?” has been a pretty good summary of American wealth building and class dynamics in the past few decades. An extended period of low interest rates has translated into surging asset values. That has made the small share of Americans capable of investing in homes, farmland, stocks, bonds, commodities, art, patents, water rights, start-ups, private equity, hedge funds, and other assets breathtakingly rich, fostering astonishing levels of wealth inequality. Given low labor-force participation and sluggish wage growth, the United States has come to look like what the theorists Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper, and Martijn Konings have termed an “asset economy”—in which prosperity is determined not by what you earn but by what you own.

The “why not take the loan” days are at least on hold. The Federal Reserve is hiking interest rates as it struggles to tamp down on inflation. That has pushed equities into a bear market (because corporate profits are at risk and investors are pulling back to safe assets), the housing market into a correction (because mortgages have become much more expensive), and the tech sector into free fall (as many companies are being asked to deliver profits, for once). Financing for mergers, acquisitions, and start-ups has dried up. And the economy might be on the verge of its second recession in two years, particularly if gas prices remain high. Animal spirits and a few hundred additional basis points have erased colossal sums of paper wealth in the past half year: $2 trillion and counting in crypto, $7 trillion and counting in stocks, uncalculated sums of home equity.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

Heaven Down Here

Stephan Jones went to the movies the night his world died. That’s how he, one of three of Jim Jones’s children to survive the massacre, described it in an essay titled “Death’s Night,” published by an archival project at San Diego State University called Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple. He and his friends—teammates on a Jonestown boys’ basketball team—were enjoying themselves at a movie theater in the capital of Georgetown when a shadowy figure appeared to tell them Stephan’s father wanted revenge. That was the night Congressman Leo Ryan and a cohort of journalists and relatives of Peoples Temple members were shot on the Guyanese airstrip outside Jonestown and Stephan’s father gave his infamous order for revolutionary suicide.

A few years ago, a close friend of mine was working on a piece about Jonestown, which I only knew about at the time from the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid.” She outlined the basic beats of the Jonestown narrative for me, and I became fascinated with the idea of Jonestown, especially the racial dynamic within Peoples Temple. Though integral to Jonestown’s history, this dynamic seemed to be pushed to the background of the popular memory of the event. My friend mentioned that she was in touch with Stephan. I asked if she thought Stephan might be willing to speak to me. She said yes, an answer I was ill-prepared for, given that I had no authorized reason to be so curious about him or the circumstances he and his family and friends faced. It wasn’t until I actually spoke with Stephan that I learned how unwieldy and dark the enterprise of digging through someone’s past could be. My questions were deflected by his habit of casting his selfish personality as a teenager in aggrieved, slightly pitying language. “I don’t know how much you know about the Temple, but we were a very controlled group,” he told me, offering a little context. “The idea of enjoying a film was really taboo. I mean, we did it, but we always felt guilty while doing it. My father liked to go to films. But, if we had movies in the Temple, they always had to have some kind of social conscience. Usually, they were disturbing to a sensitive kid. They were disturbing to me because they always touched on or were about dictatorships or man’s inhumanity to man and, you know, really dark horrors that were a little hard to hold for a kid.” The rest of the conversation played like a crash course in the broad brushstrokes of Peoples Temple and Jonestown, with Stephan’s personal viewpoint adding a voyeuristic sense of immediacy: an “apostolic socialist” group started by Jim Jones in Indiana, which espoused proudly left-wing, anti-racist views, Jonestown recruited from all over the country, amassed a large following, became increasingly involved in local and state politics, and eventually relocated to Guyana to avoid the attention of the media, which was drawing unwelcome scrutiny from the U.S. government. Though touted by Jones as an exemplary coalition of inclusive do-gooders led by a selfless champion of the common man, internally Peoples Temple was rife with abuse, manipulation and racist bigotry, most of it stemming from or fomented by Jones himself. In November of 1978, 913 members of Peoples Temple in Guyana died by mass suicide, or as it came to be known, mass murder.

Read the rest of this article at: The Point

News 01.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 01.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, a quote attributed to Simone de Beauvoir quickly circulated on French social media. “Never forget that all it takes is a political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be called into question,” it said. “These rights are never fully acquired. You must remain vigilant your whole life.”

The French are feeling vigilant in part because, historically, they moved in near-lockstep with the U.S. on abortion and related reproductive rights. In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling granting married couples access to birth-control medication; France authorized free access to the pill, for anyone, two years later. The U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on Roe in 1973; two years later, France decriminalized abortion by passing what became known as the loi Veil, after Simone Veil, the celebrated postwar politician who, as health minister, spearheaded the effort to enact the legislation.

But the two nations are now diverging. In March, with a possible reversal of Roe on the horizon in the U.S., France’s National Assembly, or parliament, expanded the loi Veil to allow abortions up to 14 weeks (measured from the estimated date of conception, which approximates in practice to 16 weeks after a woman’s last period). The lawmakers were acting also on a 2020 parliamentary report estimating that as many as 4,000 Frenchwomen travel abroad every year for abortions because their pregnancy had exceeded the then-legal limit of 12 weeks. And last Saturday, the day after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, legislators from President Emmanuel Macron’s party—backed by his prime minister—introduced a measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the French constitution.

They did so even though abortion no longer faces any significant political opposition in France. A left-wing coalition quickly proposed a similar constitutional change. On the center right, a party seen as representing traditionalist Catholics, Les Républicains, has shriveled in political significance. Even Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally party, who made some noises against abortion in the past, now sees no advantage in doing so. When asked if she herself would support a constitutional amendment on abortion, Le Pen groused about how France isn’t the U.S. and no party envisions changing the abortion law, but conceded, “Pourquoi pas?” Why not?

How did the United States and France, which started out on roughly the same path, end up in such different places?

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 01.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Sometime after Jay-Z wore a Che Guevara T-shirt for his MTV Unplugged performance in 2001, the “urban” clothing store in my local mall—the place where I bought all my Enyce, Sean John, Ecko, and Marithé+François Girbaud—started carrying them. Not too long after that, they had some Malcolm X tees. Then there were Black Panther Party ones. There was no name brand behind any of them, just screen-printed shirts with radical icons on the front. They cost maybe $20. Soon enough, these personal billboards made up approximately 90 percent of the T-shirts in my wardrobe.

Everyone else in my high school was wearing them, too, but I dismissed them as fad chasers. I didn’t believe they had knowledge of self. Their third eye wasn’t open. They couldn’t possibly overstand. They didn’t even listen to dead prez.

If you’re (God help me) “woke” now, back then you were “conscious.” Part of being conscious meant choosing to listen to “conscious rap,” as opposed to “mainstream” or “gangsta” or “bling bling” rap. Conscious rap constituted the “real,” while everything else was an abdication of the artist’s responsibility—to hip-hop and Black people altogether.

Around the turn of the century, listening to conscious rap granted you an identity, one that stood in contrast to the materialist and self-serving culture my generation was constantly accused of perpetuating. It meant something to us, to me, beyond ideas of “knowledge of self.” To embrace being conscious meant defining yourself as different, or providing an explanation for never fitting in: All of the maladies of adolescent life surely had everything to do with the fact that I preferred listening to Mos Def and learning about the hypocrisies of America’s war on drugs, and nothing to do with my own social awkwardness. It wasn’t the fact I couldn’t dance (and therefore, that no girls would dance with me) that caused my disdain for Lil Jon—it was because I was operating on a higher level of consciousness that saw “getting crunk” as a distraction from the political project of Black liberation.

But that joyless commitment to being “conscious” was never accompanied by any trenchant political analysis or deep historical reading—it mostly involved believing in conspiracy theories about the purported slave owner Willie Lynch and wearing a red, black, and green wristband. I was “conscious” in scare quotes while lacking any consciousness about the world I was supposed to be changing.

I’m thinking about conscious rap right now for two reasons: the return of Black Star and Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Black Star’s Mos Def and Talib Kweli helped define conscious rap as a subgenre in the late ’90s, and Kendrick has been one of the most successful inheritors of that legacy. As much as those rappers meant to a past version of me, the thrill is now gone. Maybe that has more to do with my own personal growth than theirs, but there is the fact that I have grown, while the conscious rappers who used to have some measure of influence on me have remained stagnant.

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s 1982 classic “The Message” was the first big conscious rap record, in that it was a major departure from hip-hop’s partying roots and opted to describe the destruction and despair rampant in early Reagan-era ghettoes. It spawned a number of imitators, such as Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Like That” and “Hard Times,” as well as the Furious Five’s own “New York, New York.” You could include Kurtis Blow’s “If I Ruled the World” in there as a more optimistic take on this theme: “If I ruled the world, was king on the throne/I’d make peace in every culture, build the homeless a home.”

KRS-One and Public Enemy then introduced a militancy to the idea of rap as social commentary that drew from the Black Power movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s. On the cover of Boogie Down Productions’ 1988 album By All Means Necessary, KRS-One recreated the iconic photo of Malcolm X staring out of his window while holding a shotgun, this time while holding an Uzi (the street weapon of choice at the time). P.E.’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back had Chuck D and his crew being explicit about their reverence for The Black Panther Party: On “Party for Your Right to Fight” Chuck and Flavor Flav harmonized, “This party started right in ’66/With a pro-Black radical mix.”

In the ensuing years, acts like Poor Righteous Teachers, X Clan, Paris, Brand Nubian, Queen Latifah, Arrested Development, and others followed suit, also bringing in Afrocentric vibes and Five-Percenter teachings. This is the era Common pined for on 1994’s exercise in extended metaphor, “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” where he rapped, “She was on that tip about stoppin’ the violence/About my people she was teachin’ me/By not preachin’ to me but speakin’ to me.”

Read the rest of this article at: Pitchfork

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.