"There can be no mistaking what Zero Dark Thirty shows: torture plays an outsized part in Maya’s success. The first detainee she helps to interrogate is Ammar. He is tortured extensively in the film’s opening sequence, immediately after we hear the voices of World Trade Center victims. Ammar’s face is swollen; we see him strung up by ropes, waterboarded, sexually humiliated, deprived of sleep through the blasting of loud music, and stuffed into a small wooden box. During his ordeal, Ammar does not initially give up reliable information. After he has been subdued and fooled into thinking that he has already been cooperative while delirious, however, he gives up vital intelligence about the courier over a comfortable meal."
None of this sort of argument [against torture] is available to viewers of Zero Dark Thirty. It would hardly have undermined the film’s drama to have included such strong dissents, even in passing, in the interest of journalism that was more complete. The only qualms any of the CIA characters in the film express about torture are oblique and self-protecting. Dan, an interrogator portrayed by the actor Jason Clarke, laments wearily, as he rotates back to headquarters, that he has seen too many men naked, and that he fears the political environment in Washington that once created a permissive atmosphere for his dark arts may now be turning against them.
The film’s torture scenes depart from the historical record in two respects. Boal and Bigelow have conflated the pseudoscience of the CIA’s clinical, carefully reviewed “enhanced techniques” such as waterboarding with the out-of-control abuse of prisoners by low-level military police in places such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Dan puts Ammar in a dog collar and walks him around in an act of ritualized humiliation, but this was never an approved CIA technique.
More importantly, Zero Dark Thirty ignores what the record shows about how regulated, lawyerly, and bureaucratized—how banal—torture apparently became at some of the CIA black sites. A partially declassified report prepared by the CIA’s former inspector general, John Helgerson, indicates that physicians from the CIA’s Office of Medical Services attended interrogation sessions and took prisoners’ vital signs to assure they were healthy enough for the abuse to continue. Agency officers typed out numbingly detailed cables and memos about the enhanced interrogation sessions, as the available outline of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s classified investigation makes clear. Videotapes were recorded and logged. This CIA office routine might have been more shocking on screen than the clichéd physical abuse of prisoners that the filmmakers prefer.
The best critique on ZDT so far. Read this.
"I think she has a traditional way of thinking about America’s role in the world, more Jeffersonian than Teddy Roosevelt — that the shining light of America ought to mean something in the world, be an example and model, but it shouldn’t be a heavy hand to force people to follow our model[.]"
Retired Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, on Michele Flournoy, who is on the shortlist of appointments for Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration’s 2nd term cabinet. Flournoy would be the first female U.S. Secretary of Defense if she is appointed. (via letterstomycountry)
That image genuinely made me flinch in fear.
Did A California Company Just Prove Marx Right?
Morning Star is a California company that is responsible for processing 40% of California’s tomato crop. They also have no management. (Via Reason.tv):
Morning Star has many of the usual positions that one would expect at an ordinary company: there are floor workers, payroll personnel, folks that handle the mail and outside communications, and so on. The difference is that, from a bird’s eye view, no single person at Morning Star is anybody else’s boss. The entire operation appears to thrive on the power of collective expectations, and by giving workers a direct stake in the success of the company. Workers at Morning Star make their own decisions about how to perform their job, what tools they need to keep the machines running, and how to structure their work day to keep production running smoothly. As one employee put it, there is no bureaucracy that he has to fight through if he needs something for his lab. He just goes out and purchases it.
To some, this may seem like a frightfully inefficient way to run a business. If employees can make instantaneous discretionary purchases of lab equipment on the company dime, then where is the cost control? Such a system seems doomed to failure without a hierarchy of some sort to check potentially unwise exercises of indiscretion.
The answer is that these checks are built into the system of collective expectations. As another Morning Star employee put it, Morning Star’s business model presumes that employees who are closest to a particular business process are the most qualified to make decisions about how to keep that process running efficiently. Thus, one would expect an unwise purchase to be met with scrutiny by one’s peers on the factory floor. Morning Star’s firm model thrives by ensuring that one individual is never and uncontested decision-maker solely responsible for decisions related to a business process at the company. Every worker has a stake in the outcome of everybody else’s labor. The threat of discipline from management is unnecessary to achieve desired outcomes.
Morning Star is not the first company to adopt this business model. Valve Corp., a wildly successful Video Game company that currently dominates the Video Game industry through it’s Steam platform, also has no formal management. Gore Inc., the makers of Gore-Tex, are an 8,500 strong company that has no company organization chart. Though Gore does retain a few corporate officer titles for various purposes within the company, those officials have little direct power over other employees in the corporation. Those same officers are also not unilaterally chosen by the Board of Directors, but rather, in a more democratic fashion:
In Gore’s self-regulating system, all the normal management rules are reversed. In this back-to-front world, leaders aren’t appointed: they emerge when they accumulate enough followers to qualify as such. So when the previous group CEO retired three years ago, there was no shortlist of preferred candidates. Alongside board discussions, a wide range of associates were invited to nominate to the post someone they would be willing to follow. ‘We weren’t given a list of names – we were free to choose anyone in the company,’ Kelly says. ‘To my surprise, it was me.’
Other firms have shown that “non-management management” approach is feasible. At IDEO Corp., a Palo Alto engineering company responsible for such ubiquitous inventions as squeezable toothpaste tubes, or the mouse you are using to point & click things on your computers, there are no bosses, and no management structure. Sun Hydraulics is a $170 million dollar manufacturing firm with no job titles, no organization chart, and even lacks job performance criteria for its employees. There is a Plant Manager, but their job is not to supervise employees: it’s to water the company’s plants.
How are so many companies, in areas as diverse as tomato farming, hydraulics production, and video game production, running successful businesses without traditional management? In a society built on Capitalism, the common wisdom is that productive firms require managers with coercive authority to motivate people to do their jobs. Most ordinary people are shocked when they learn that there are companies who stay profitable with no bosses. How can this be an efficient way to run a company?
As it turns out, there’s a lot of evidence that top-down management is an inefficient form of firm organization. Gary Hamel, writing for the Harvard Business Review, noted several reasons to abandon traditional management hierarchies, one of which is the fact that managers add both personnel costs and unnecessary complexity to a firm:
A small organization may have one manager and 10 employees; one with 100,000 employees and the same 1:10 span of control will have 11,111 managers. That’s because an additional 1,111 managers will be needed to manage the managers. In addition, there will be hundreds of employees in management-related functions, such as finance, human resources, and planning. Their job is to keep the organization from collapsing under the weight of its own complexity. Assuming that each manager earns three times the average salary of a first-level employee, direct management costs would account for 33% of the payroll.
Top-down management also centralizes risk-taking in the hands of fewer decision-makers, which increases the likelihood of a disastrous event:
… As decisions get bigger, the ranks of those able to challenge the decision maker get smaller. Hubris, myopia, and naïveté can lead to bad judgment at any level, but the danger is greatest when the decision maker’s power is, for all purposes, uncontestable. Give someone monarchlike authority, and sooner or later there will be a royal screwup. A related problem is that the most powerful managers are the ones furthest from frontline realities. All too often, decisions made on an Olympian peak prove to be unworkable on the ground.
The personal whims of managers can also kill or disincentivize ideas that are good for the company, especially when ideas have to be filtered through multiple levels of management:
…[A] multitiered management structure means more approval layers and slower responses. In their eagerness to exercise authority, managers often impede, rather than expedite, decision making. Bias is another sort of tax. In a hierarchy the power to kill or modify a new idea is often vested in a single person, whose parochial interests may skew decisions.
Then there’s “the cost of tyranny:”
The problem isn’t the occasional control freak; it’s the hierarchical structure that systematically disempowers lower-level employees. For example, as a consumer you have the freedom to spend $20,000 or more on a new car, but as an employee you probably don’t have the authority to requisition a $500 office chair. Narrow an individual’s scope of authority, and you shrink the incentive to dream, imagine, and contribute.
The success of these business models demonstrate one of the fundamental criticisms of traditional Capitalist modes of production that Marx attempted to illustrate when he was writing Das Kapital. While Marx was wrong (in my opinion) about quite a few things, the success of the companies above demonstrates that Marx was correct to point out that divorcing employees from management decisions related to their own labor is an inherently inefficient means of production. Divorcing employees from the product of their labor separates them from one of the primary motivating forces to perform that labor. This process of alienation itself is what creates the necessity for “bosses”—employees whose primary purpose is to oversee & discipline other employees in their assigned tasks.
Thus, what we really see in Marx’s Theory of Labor Alienation was, inter alia, an argument about firm management: the need for “bosses” in the workplace only arises when employees are completely divorced from the means of production. When workers have a direct stake in the final product of their labor, they no longer need the threat of coercion from superiors to do their job. An employee’s direct interest in the outcome, combined with the power of collective expectations of their peers in the workplace, replaces the threat of, and need for, discipline from above.
With all this being said: I am not attempting to argue here that the success of non-managed firms proves that stateless socialism is viable, or validates Marxism writ large. Indeed, I’m sure that the folks at Reason have a much different view on Morning Star’s success than I do—and moreover, I remain, as I have always been, a fan of mixed economies.
What I think is clear, however, is that Marxist theorists are right to point out that there is nothing inherently “natural” or “necessary” about the way the workplace is organized in most Western societies today. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that top-down hierarchies in the workplace are neither necessary for profitability, nor an extension of natural human activities. Indeed, if Gary Hamel’s observations about the inefficiency of management are true, we appear to have been doing it wrong for quite some time. Though perhaps we could have come to the same conclusion more easily by just reading Dilbert comics:
"Senator, you ever heard of Chicago? You know what happens in Chicago every night? What has happened in Chicago cumulatively makes what happened in Newtown look like chump change. I’m not kidding, folks."
Rush Limbaugh, calling the Newtown massacre of 20 CHILDREN “chump change.” And he says so himself—he’s not kidding. (via thisgingersnapsback)
See this right here was the shit I was talkin about when I mentioned that I was slightly suspicious of folks all of a sudden caring about Black and Brown babies in light of the Sandy Hook shooting. Everybody knows that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t give two fucks about the Black and Brown kids that are killed every damn day in the South Side of Chicago (and let’s be fucking real for a moment, that’s where most of the murders are taking place, in the neighborhood that’s 93% African American).
He has made it abundantly clear that he gives no fucks about black people. Look at the racist shit he’s done over the entirety of his career. Do you really believe that he cares that our children are dying in the streets? But now that 20 innocent white babies have been killed, he feels that he has something to make the Black president from Chicago look bad and he wants to exploit that. If he has to make light of the 20 babies that were slaughtered and pretend to care for Black and Brown children, well that’s just a sacrifice he has to make.
Fuck you Rush Limbaugh. You ain’t bout shit. If there is a/are god(s) out there, I hope they send your ass to the deepest, hottest pit of Hell with gasoline soaked drawers on.
Reblogging for commentary.
This…is playing the race card.(via invisiblelad)
December 17, 1944: Internment of Japanese-Americans Comes to an End.
On December 17th, 1944 the United States under the direction of U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt issued Public Proclamation No. 21 stating that on January 2nd, 1945 all Japanese-Americans “evacuees” from the West Coast could return back to their homes.
The internment of Japanese-Americans began exactly ten weeks after the Empire of Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave authorization for the removal of any or all people from military areas. As a result the military defined the entire West Coast, home to a majority of Japanese-Americans as military area. Within a couple of months over 110,000 Japanese-Americans were relocated to internment camps built by the US military scattered all over the nation. For the next two years Japanese-Americans would live under dire living conditions and at times abuse from their military guards.
Throughout World War II ten people were found to be spies for the Empire of Japan, not one of them was of Japanese ancestry. Forty-four year would pass until Ronald Reagan and the United States made an official apology to the surviving Japanese-Americans who were relocated, and were given $20,000 tax-free.
"The so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws — they don’t have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."
President Obama • During a speech in Michigan today, clearly laying out his views on a new law that will make Michigan the 24th “right to work” state in the country. Michigan’s House of Representatives is expected to review the bill on Tuesday, and Gov. Rick Snyder could sign it into law by the end of the day. Massive protests took place at the capital building, and union workers opposed to its passage say they’ll be back tomorrow. source (via shortformblog)
NOW YOU HAVE TOUCHED
THE WOMYN YOU HAVE
STRUCK A ROCK
YOU HAVE DISLODGED A BOULDER
YOU WILL BE CRUSHED
You Have Struck a Rock
Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now
“This poster was created for Women’s Day, a South African national holiday commemorating a 1956 demonstration in Pretoria. Thousands of women gathered to protest the apartheid government’s pass laws, which required black South Africans to carry documents authorizing their presence in racially restricted areas. The text is based on a song that became the anthem of women’s struggle against apartheid and that today represents the strength of South African women in general. The poster was printed by Medu Art Ensemble, a collective of South African exiles and activists formed in 1978 in Gaborone, Botswana, eight miles across the South African border.”
that’s beautiful and powerful, even the rhythm of it.
"Keynesian stimulus used to be uncontroversial in Washington; every 2008 presidential candidate had a stimulus plan, and Mitt Romney’s was the largest. But in early 2009, when Obama began pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan, the GOP began describing stimulus as an assault on free enterprise—even though House Republicans (including Paul Ryan) voted for a $715 billion stimulus alternative that was virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s socialist version. The current Republican position seems to be that the fiscal cliff’s instant austerity would destroy the economy, which is odd after four years of Republican clamoring for austerity, and that the cliff’s military spending cuts in particular would kill jobs, which is even odder after four years of Republican insistence that government spending can’t create jobs."
Why Whites Hate Affirmative Action
Lack of knowledge on the actual policies. Very few people actually understand the original executive orders, subsequent judicial decisions and legislation beyond sound bites via “news” that is insistent upon painting this as “taking stuff” from Whites for Black people (as if it is “just” about Black people). Honesty, how many White people have reviewed the actual history of why this is needed? It’s almost as rare to find as anyone who calls themselves “patriotic” who has actually read the Constitution or a Christian who has read the Bible. Media soundbites shaped by bigotry (in a White supremacist capitalist patriarchal society) absorbed by many Whites whose life ideologies have been shaped by bigotry is not going to produce the nuance and thought necessary to understand affirmative action. (Even so, these two simple, non in-depth cartoons explain this almost as well as the complex legalese: 1 and 2.)
Anti-intellectualism. Piggybacking on the first point, the current culture of anti-intellectualism doesn’t encourage most White people (and Americans at large) to actually investigate things they are “for” or “against.” It’s much simpler to decide to be “for” anything shaped by a legacy of White supremacy and White privilege and against anything that appears to be contrary to the former. Whites are used to being a “baseline,” the “norm,” or not considered a group at all, but those whom other groups are compared to. Sociopolitically, many Whites are having a “day of reckoning” moment by even being classified as a “group,” or a “race” as Tom Scocca pointed out so well in a recent article about Romney’s overwhelming support from Whites. These factors contribute to the resistance to affirmative action.
Ahistorical views on race. If a White person takes the “why isn’t there a White history month” and “why isn’t there a White Entertainment Television station” stances on Whites and the media, it can be safely assumed that they are either uneducated or being willfully ignorant about the role of race in America and why certain spaces exist for Black people amidst the media, public discourse and culture itself. By pretending that the tide of history has no racial element, they can then infer that if everyone “is equal” (as if being equal means being treated equally) Black people are “unfairly” getting “goodies” through affirmative action. This also ignores the fact that even with said theoretical ”goodies,” unemployment, health care, finances, real estate, and more is markedly worse for Black people (and other people of colour) versus White. The latter is written off as Black “character failures” in the ever so common victim blaming ideologies such as American “exceptionalism” and even “patriotism” at times. This is where LIES about “poverty culture” come about as a way to praise greed, wealth and Whiteness and demonize suffering, poverty and Blackness.
The concept of what “greatness” is. The inherent racism involved in assuming that someone White is always “more” qualified, as if being White is a skill itself, is common in everything from college admissions to employment applications. The idea is that some “stupid” minority “stole” a slot from the perfect White knight on a horse who deserved things because he “worked” for them prevails. Further, the idea that perhaps a series of advantages afforded by White privilege is “hard work” would be even more humorous if it wasn’t despicable. Said privileges often place Whites ahead in spaces by sheer virtue of the luxury of Whiteness, not any actual work. The myth of meritocracy is a plague on the American psyche. (Christopher Hayes wrote about this oh too well in his book Twilight Of The Elites - America After Meritocracy. Also, I recently read a fascinating study about the REALITY of financial aid versus the myth that “stupid” minorities “take all of the college monies,” and other assorted lies.)
A zero/sum view of racism. Ultimately, many Whites feel that any joy, success or progress in Black life means misery, failure and regression in White life. Period. This tunnel vision view is rooted in racism and fear. Research has revealed that many cisgender heterosexual White men feel like the “real” victims in America. Even if they are victims, would that not be at the hands of men just like them, except of a higher social class? Not to them. Racist social narratives involve the worship of “job creators” (the same ones who fire these men) as heroes because after all, they share Whiteness even if they don’t share class, status or cash. Other research has revealed that while some Whites view past times (during and pre-Civil Rights era) as a time more racist against Blacks, they view today as “more racist” against Whites. Of course this is false and has more to do with the idea of some Black people not suffering and Barack Obama’s existence more than any in-depth study of how race is a primary factor to consider when examining socioeconomic status. The enlightened exceptionalism involved in some who even choose to praise Oprah or Beyonce or LeBron James is what allows them to pretend that life for the average and for most Black people has dramatically changed, when for many, it has not. Claims of “reverse racism,” which doesn’t exist, are more common now than ever.
People who benefit from affirmative action also want it destroyed. While more than anyone else, White women have benefited from affirmative action, many of them stand with White men against affirmative action while simultaneously benefiting from it. Most people now know the name Abigail Fisher and know it well. Further, many older Black people (primarily men from what I’ve seen) want it dismantled despite the fact they benefited from it in the past. They clearly knew that in their time especially, being qualified was not enough. Assumed inferiority blocked their way.