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Natasha Lennard interviews Harry Levine on a scandal that has damaged millions of Americans’ lives.
Harry Levine has often described what reform of marijuana arrest policies should look like in this country: Everyone should be treated like white, upper-middle class people already are (“they don’t get arrested, ticketed, or fined”). The Queens College, CUNY sociology professor has published reports and articles about marijuana arrests in New York City, California, Colorado, Washington, and other states and major cities. His research, compiled with attorney Loren Siegel, has served as a key resource for those urging recognition that pot arrests in the United States are, as Levine tells TNI, racist to the point of national scandal.
a scandal that has damaged millions of Americans’ lives.
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By 56 Up, Apted’s filmmaking has retained its lucid, personal quality, but lost its critical edge. Instead of making a political point, 56 is an emotional, existential film about family, aging, and fulfillment. Bruce, the series’ only self-professed socialist, tones down his rhetoric as he gets older. John, the token Tory, talks mostly about his charity work in Bulgaria, where his mother’s family were once part of the ruling class. This doesn’t diminish the quality of the films or make them any less enjoyable, but it does alter their intended message somewhat.
Why do my FB friends think it’s important or constructive to constantly reinforce our collective dislike for Romney and the GOP? Is it helpful in some way I’m missing? The America we have wrought has brought us to the current state of things; in a way, Romney is just the tip of an ugly iceberg, and while I will be pulling the lever for Obama tomorrow (said that so friends and loved ones won’t despise me, i’m not secure enough to claim otherwise) the reality is that, though there’s water between them, Obama is a part of the same iceberg. There’s more to democracy and activism than pulling the lever.
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ERIC BEEN talks to THOMAS FRANK
about his new book, Pity the Billionaire.Photo: Lisa Jane Persky
When Thomas Frank co-founded The Baffler in 1988, according to the introduction of the recently relaunched opinion journal’s first anthology, Commodify Your Dissent, its crucial mission was to “restore a sense of outrage and urgency to the Literature of the Left.” [Click here to read an interview with John Summers, the Baffler’s new editor, on our staff blog.] And, over the past fifteen years, Frank has continued to follow this ethos in his own work, publishing one progressive-leaning barrage after another on America’s political and cultural contradictions. In his first book, 1997’s The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, Frank made the convincing case that some of the most iconic signifiers and artifacts of the counterculture were concocted by Madison Avenue rather than as a reaction against it. Next, in One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy, he gave a scathing account of how America’s business elite used the dot-com bubble of the 1990s to make a case that the free market is the perfect mode for organizing society. In 2004, Frank published his best-known work, What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. There, he charged Republicans with duping the working class by using cultural issues to get them to vote against their economic interests, a critique sustained in The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, a survey of how conservatives have financially prospered from intentionally dilapidating Washington.
In his latest investigation, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, Frank fleshes out how and why the recent economic meltdown has inexplicably revitalized the Right when it should have led, in his mind, to the reevaluation of “conservative dogma” and the “laissez-faire utopia.” It’s a rejoinder, according to Frank, that doesn’t have a precedent in American history. “Before 2009,” he writes, “the man in the bread line did not ordinarily weep for the man lounging on his yacht.” I spoke with Frank about Pity the Billionaire on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while he was visiting family in Kansas in between dates on his book tour.
— Eric Been
The Evolution of ConservatismWhile earlier forms of conservatism emphasized fiscal sobriety, the backlash mobilizes voters with explosive social issues — summoning public outrage over everything from busing to un-Christian art — which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends. And it is these economic achievements — not the forgettable skirmishes of the never-ending culture wars — that are the movement’s greatest monuments.
— from What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of AmericaBut the conservative flowering that has taken place since early 2009 is different. For the first time in decades, the Right wants to have the grand economic debate out in the open. The fog of the culture wars has temporarily receded … When I first started writing about market populism many years ago, it was almost exclusively a faith of the wealthy. To write about it was to write about propaganda … But then came a near-catastrophic failure of the economic system, and market populism, the sole utopian scheme available to the disgruntled American, went from being a CEO’s dream to the fighting faith of the millions.
— from Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
Thomas Frank: Market populism — which I defined in my 2000 book, One Market, Under God, as the belief that markets were a popular system, a far more democratic form of organization than (democratically elected) governments, and which I viewed as primarily a faith of the wealthy — is now all over the place. When I wrote about it 12 years ago, it was a phenomenon that you saw in management theory and things like investment books. It wasn’t something that rallied the masses the way it does today. We should be more precise than that: It’s a movement that looks populist, that talks populist, that acts populist. And to all appearances, that’s what it is: a hard-times protest movement. Only the content of the populism is this free-market ideology. That’s very strange for all sorts of reasons. The most obvious is that free-market ideology is an experiment that was a colossal failure. And to have people rally to it in a moment of complete breakdown? That’s just bizarre.
The use of public health and medical rationales to justify dehumanizing tactics by the government against its citizens as a substitute for legal analysis should be deeply disturbing to the public, whose Fourth Amendment rights have been demoralizingly eroded.
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