Frann Michel's blog

On the Chicago Teacher's Strike

For the Old Mole Variety Hour 17 Sept 2012

Joanne Barkan in Dissent Magazine notes that,

Yes, schoolchildren in Chicago are victims, but not of their teachers. They are victims of a nationwide education “reform” movement geared to undermine teachers’ unions and shift public resources into private hands; they are victims of wave after wave of ill-conceived and failing policy “innovations”; they are victims of George Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which turned inner-city public schools into boot camps for standardized test prep; they are victims of Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program, which paid states to use student test scores—a highly unreliable tool—for teacher evaluations and to lift caps on the number of privately managed charter schools, thus draining resources from public schools. Chicago’s children are victims of “mayoral control,” which allows Rahm Emanuel to run the school system, bully parents and teachers, and appoint a Board of Education dominated by corporate executives and political donors.

Heist and other movies about the financial crisis

On the 6 August 2012 Old Mole Variety Hour, Hyung Nam and I discuss Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?, a documentary directed by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher, narrated by Thom Hartmann, and based in part on the book The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future—and What It Will Take to Win by Jeff Faux, founder of the Economic Policy Institute, and one of those who appears in the film. Heist is one of a number of recent documentaries about the current financial crisis. Movie moles have previously reviewed the documentaries Inside Job and Capitalism is the Crisis.



For the Old Mole Variety Hour, July 2, 2012

The term "healthism" is used in two different ways. In the more neutral or positive sense, it just refers to self-care, and if you do a web search for "healthism," some of the sites you'll find simply offer information about nutrition, exercise, home remedies, things like that. But the term also has a more negative sense, that arises from reflection on the very pervasiveness, but also narrowness and coerciveness, of that information about personal health.

Overaccumulation: Capital and Fat


[audio here] The economic crisis that we face today, and that we are battling in Wisconsin, in Portland, and in occupations and activism around the world, is just an acute phase of one of the regular crises that capitalism faces.

Capitalism always needs to grow, to find new sources of profit, and regularly faces crises of "overaccumulation" when there are too few opportunities for generating profit. That leads to stagnation, and since the 1970s, capital has been battling stagnation and scrambling for new places to make money.


[For the 21 May 12 Old Mole] We all know money in politics is a problem.  As Marx noted, "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." One of the strongest links between capital and the state came to greater public visibility last year when a trove of documents was leaked from the archive of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC; the Center for Media and Democracy has made those documents and a great deal of related information available on the website alec exposed dot org.

Battle Royale with Cheese

For the Old Mole 16 April 2012  Jan Haaken and I review The Hunger Games, the first movie based on the first book in the popular Young-Adult trilogy by Susanne Collins, and still number one at the US box office.

the spook who sat by the door


[for the Old Mole 3/26]  The Spook Who Sat by the Door is a film released in 1973 about the first Black CIA agent, who, like so many of those trained by the Agency,  turns his skills against the US government. Directed by Ivan Dixon, it was based on the 1969 novel of the same title by Sam Greenlee, and is the subject of a recent documentary, Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door, scheduled to be aired on the Documentary Channel next month.

The title is a triple pun: the term "spook" is an epithet for black people, a term for an espionage agent, and an evocation of the haunting of white America's imagination by the specter of black rebellion and revolution.

stealing an education


[for the 3/12/12 Mole] What does it mean to steal an education? According to several school districts, it means providing questionable address information, at least if you're Black.

let's race for the revolution, instead


[audio here] The Komen Foundation's recent decision to pull its funding from Planned Parenthood was not an aberration, and not unrelated to the recent conflict over the need for health insurance plans to cover contraception. Both, of course, constitute attacks on women's reproductive rights. But we can also understand those attacks, and the other problems with the Komen Foundation's approach to breast cancer, as part of a larger wave of neoliberalism.

They Live


For the Nov 7 Mole, Joe Clement and I will be discussing They Live, the 1988 cult classic directed by John Carpenter. The movie has been the subject of a full monograph by Jonathan Lethem, commentary by Slavoj Zizek, and a source of inspiration for Shepherd Fairey and other artists. 

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