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What Ph.D. college students really have to fear

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 by Jeff

Duh, it's the job market!

March of the sanguine

Sunday, May 28, 2006 by Jeff

Today the Zapatistas marched on the Mexican capitol. Three weeks ago 3,000 police descended on San Salvador Atenco, a small town 15 miles northeast of Mexico City. The Chicago Tribune reports, "The riots erupted after local police tried to remove eight flower vendors from an Atenco street. The town's land-rights activists came to the vendors' defense, blocking roads. Then clashes broke out with the police, one of whom was kicked and beaten bloody while cameramen in helicopters broadcast live images to the nation. Other wounded officers were held hostage." The events in Atenco sent 200 to jail, sparked accusations of rape by police, and left one 14 year-old boy dead. (Read the incredible and moving account of a Chilean student who was beaten, arrested, molested and deported.) Rumors are circulating the internet that the event began when flower venders resisted eviction from the local market to make way for a Walmart. In the weeks since the attack, protests have been organized in Mexico and around the world (including Tucson) at local Mexican consulates and WalMart stores. Zapatista spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos, who was wrapping up a six-month tour of Mexico timed to coincide with the presidential campaign season, vowed to remain in the capitol until all detainees from the conflict were freed. The entire incident has thrust him and the Zapatista's anti-neoliberal "Other Campaign" into the electoral spotlight, which he uses to roundly criticize all three candidates as "mediocre." The march today is a wise use by the Zapatistas of a political opportuntity. The impending elections, international attention generated by the Atenco disaster, and subsequent protests have forced divisions among political elites and make repression a costly option for the government. Don't forget, the Zapatistas are capitalizing on six months of careful and laborious mobilization. Expect their ranks to swell in the short-term and the speeches of candidates to re-frame the Zapatista "threat" to their respective advantages. International support for the movement has helped sustain it in the past and it's a damned shame we don't see more of it in this country. In solidarity...

Tear-gassing Santa

by Jeff

If you've never been to a protest event, you might imagine that they rage with passionate indignation and political righteousness. Or, maybe you have an image of firey protest drawn from top-stories and front-pages full of color, impassioned speeches, and swarms of people as far as the eye can see. It would be understandable then if you've accepted the false assumption that protest is always powerful and inspiring. Well, typically it's not. It's often none of these things. Of course it can be passionate and fun and awesome and empowering! That's when it works. Unfortunately, though, these are a tiny fraction of all protest events. More often, protest is small, low-key, disappointing and dull. I appreciate creative protest. Humor. Fun. This is one thing that many activists - and almost all sociologists who study activism - overlook. Political organizers could and should take a page or two from Hollywood or Madison Ave. (the major political parties certainly have!). It's no secret that social movements must craft public images for themselves just as much as any shoe or auto company. What makes this difficult is that the competition is continually trying to spoil our image (just as we try to spoil theirs). In the spirit of creative protest I want to share a great little piece written by Seattle activist Kirsten Anderberg who publicly airs her creativity at Eat the State, a self-described "forum for anti-authoritarian political opinion, research and humor." I think it's worth quoting at length:

A funny thing happened in Seattle after Bush declared war on Iraq. Martial law was begun in Seattle streets. Even though peaceful protesters had obtained a permit to protest the war at the Federal Building, and these protesters have a good track record for peace, police flanked the crowd with snipers, riot police, machine guns, and billy clubs the size of baseball bats. Riot police followed the protesters' every move downtown, standing in rows, pounding their billy clubs anxiously in their palms, badges and nametags hidden. These Robocops refused to talk or interact with peaceful protesters, and instead enjoyed intimidating them for their political views for days on end, relentlessly...I have started rethinking my peace protest tactics.... Why not come dressed as Santa Claus to protests? Santa Claus has padding and it is bad for police to be seen on the news beating and arresting Santa. Nuns and priests are not easy for police to beat either...What if kids bought those clown props that are endless scarves? So police search them and endless scarves keep coming out of their pockets. Or maybe keep a pair of gigantic underwear or a rubber chicken from Archie McPhee's in your pocket. Or how about something sticky or gooey in your pocket? We must get creative now, and make street theater out of scary police psychodrama for our own sanity.... I challenge the peace community to find creative yet responsive street theater alternatives to put the spotlight on what the police are doing to peaceful protesters. Let's dance around them like clowns. Let's make them arrest Santa. Let's coordinate ourselves into football teams in the streets...Don't give up. Don't give up your free speech that easily. Instead be more creative. Let's make it a good show and fun for all!
She's got some great ideas here and I couldn't agree more. Let's make it a good show!

Me & Ben

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 by Jeff

The kid's growing...

...and pooping.

The view from Seattle

Friday, May 19, 2006 by Jeff

I made it to Seattle! West Seattle, to be precise. The first five days were (I'm told) the most gorgeously sunny and warm that the city has seen this year, and people kept asking me if I was adapting to the heat (mid-80s). I was carrying a sweater. I'm absolutely loving the city, the water, the greenness, the bustle, and of course my old friends (Ian, Jenn, and Robert, so far - more to come!). In a couple days I'll be visiting with my sister, father, and step-ma in good ol' Bellingham, my old college town. For now though I'm trying to buckle down and do what I came here to do - work. It's tough, but more on the work and the toughness later. If you want to send me a postcard, send it here. I'm living in the basement of a great big house that houses a so-far-fantastic family of four. It sits atop a hill overlooking Puget Sound - even the basement has a view of the water! Looking down the street I can see the blue, blue water and the two Bainbridge Is. ferries shuttling people and cars back and forth throughout the day - the limits of my camera don't do it justice. Heather and Maxine (the pooch) are driving up at the end of the month, despite the foul price of gas. She'll be spending her time studying for the GRE and coveting the variety of shoes available here in the big city. Max, for her part, will be chumming around with the resident poodle of the house, and I hope they'll both help keep me on task. When we're not working, studying, or chumming, we'll be sipping margaritas by the pool. Honestly, we're more likely to spend our time chugging coffee on the shores of Alki Beach, which is a 10 minute walk down the street. It's a popular place for families and joggers, I've noticed, and it's full of seafood restaurants, which do me no good at all. Can you can see the Space Needle peeking out in the distance? The angle of this shot is a little deceiving. The Needle is actually a good swim past the northern tip of W. Seattle which you're looking at here. If you go around that tip to the east side of W. Seattle you get a better view of the city - like this (Space Needle to the left): You could take that "water taxi" there to downtown for three bucks. I haven't done that yet, but believe me I will. Despite all appearances here W. Seattle is not an island. In fact, it's closer to a penninsula. To give you a better sense of it, the picture above was taken from here. Since arriving, the Sociology department at the University of Washington has generously given me an office to share with another graduate student. Because it's a 1 1/2-hour busride away, I haven't yet spent much time there...but I will. This is Savory Hall, home of the Sociology department: And this is my little corner of the world: I've spent the past few days settling in, catching up with friends, and trying to find contact information for the organizations I'll be interviewing. Of course that's easy to do from any coffeeshop with wi-fi and there are lots of 'em here. In the coming days I'm going to look into other sources - besides newspapers - for names of social movement organizations (police records and IRS rosters) and then I'll start making phone calls. Poco a poco - bit by bit.

To the barricades!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 by Jeff

Immigrants catch a ride to the fence moments before crossing into Arizona.
The headlines today are ringing with G.W.'s call for more American troops to head south to the border. An army of humanitarian groups and human rights activists rushes south to provide aid, and private militias follow with camoflage gear and guns to fill the gaps left by the government. Meanwhile, coming north, an estimated half-million people annually from Mexico to Brazil successfully evade this politico-military frontline. One journalist described the absurdity of the situation:
The desert suddenly seemed like an M.C. Escher drawing, with successive layers of groups watching each other - the Border Patrol, the ACLU, the Samaritans, the Minutemen, the journalists, and, at the center, the immigrants.
Sending thousands of members of the National Guard south to play backup to the Border Patrol is but one part - albeit a central one - of the U.S. government's attempt to stem the tide of immigration (conservatives, by the way, aren't hiding their disappointment with the President's plans). Other parts of the proposal include various versions of a temporary work visa program, some of which allow workers to later apply for residency and others that require that they return home for a year. Some lawmakers loathe the idea. Others support imposing fines on those already in the country when they apply for these visas, increasing penalties for illegal immigrants and their employers, introducing manditory jail time for those caught, streamlining (aka reducing) judicial review, and upping the use of military surveillance equipment along the border.
" I want a wall like this to keep those Mexicans out."
All eyes are on the southern border. While politicians in the U.S. keep their minds on internal economic and military policies, some are looking elsewhere.
The current flows of immigration into the United States are a result of the actions of the US government and US-based corporations...These flows are...due to US military intervention, direct foreign investment by US corporations, and the presence of people from those countries already residing in the United States.
Unfortunately, these much stated claims from the Left ring hollow when not followed by alternative proposals to those now being debated in Congress. The strength of the Left's critique, however, lies in its recognition that immigration doesn't need to be reformed, trade policies do. Sadly, the major political parties, for all intents and purposes, agree over U.S. trade policies and thus leave this important part of the debate untouched. Conservatives alone appear to fill this gap. For the Left, is this a missed opportunity or simply a pragmatic necessity? Why has the Global Justice Movement, for one, been so quiet on this front? Stephen Steinberg, a Berkeley sociologist is insistant:
Progressives have to ask themselves how they can rail against neoliberal trade policy, and fall into silence when it comes to a neoliberal immigration policy that is designed to crowd labor markets, depress wages, and undercut unions, and that exacerbates the problems of African Americans and other marginal groups, including immigrants themselves.
Guest worker programs won't solve the problem of illegal immigration, nor will they prevent the exploitation of foreign workers or the declining wages of American citizens. What this country needs, if I may sound a progressive tone, is a more equitable distribution of wealth and power on both sides of the border. The immigration debate as it now stands is too narrow, too politically cautious, and is illustrative of the perversities of institutionalized politics. Call out the troops, but not those troops. Mobilize the masses. Organize, organize, organize!

To the field!

Thursday, May 11, 2006 by Jeff

Next week I'll be in the thick of data collection in Seattle, WA, beginning to interview representatives of all of the social movement organizations I can find. I have a preliminary list of organizations culled from The Seattle Times, but I'll also be looking into IRS lists, police records, and asking the interviewees themselves to finger additional organizations. It's going to be a long, hard road but my self-imposed off-ramp comes on July 25th when Heather and I return to Tucson. I'll post more here in the coming months about this research and hope to inspire comments and critical suggestions from you, my vast, silent audience. In the meantime, you can skim my dissertation proposal for a description of the project.


Jeff A. Larson
Sociologist, Arizona.


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