Come join me for Conscious Activism Documentary Series

web_tile_docseriesI’ll be taking part in a panel around a screening of #Chicago Girl at Hart House as part of the Hancock Lecture Series on February 9th from 6-9pm.

Come witness the new kind of revolution manifested in recent years through computer technology and social media with #ChicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator. This documentary tells the story of teenager Ala’a Basatneh who helps to coordinate the Syrian revolution from her Chicago home through Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Google maps, and camera phones. Through these means Ala’a helps to network activists on the ground in Syria to gain momentum in facing a dictator and to gather evidence through camera technology to inform the world of the human rights atrocities occurring.

This documentary illuminates how technology and media that have become part of everyday living for many young people can be used as tools for activism and solidarity with causes occurring all over the world.

Watch the trailer: http://www.chicagogirlfilm.com/#!trailer/c1aol

For more info: http://harthouse.ca/events/documentary-series-chicagogirl-the-social-network-takes-on-a-dictator/

My Mayor, the High-Functioning Alcoholic

fall“I’m not a drug addict. I’m not an alcoholic.” Rob Ford, the mayor.

Say what you want about his politics but there is no denying that the mayor of Toronto is a colorful person. He also is a very polarizing figure as the current media frenzy affirms. Admittedly, my outsider status has allowed me some distance from the full impact of both his politics and the current controversy. Still, it is hard not to be amazed at the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the mayor and the city. There is the video that purportedly shows the mayor smoking a crack pipe. There is the infamous photo of the mayor posing with alleged gang members outside of a crack house. There is the police surveillance of phone calls and surreptitious meetings with an accused drug trafficker behind a school and at a gas station. And, of course, there are the numerous accounts of public intoxication. Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America behind only Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles. How is it even possible that the mayor of such an important city could be this out of control? Welcome to the absolutely insane world of alcohol and drug addiction.
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Radical Labor History in San Francisco

I spent this week at the Union for Democratic Communications conference in beautiful San Francisco where I gave another presentation about my work on the UFCW and the Walmart strikes. In addition to catching up with old friends at the conference I managed to carve out a little time to learn more about the city’s amazing history of class struggle. Click the photos below for larger versions.

Vesuvio Cafe and Jack Kerouac—where beat poetry was invented.


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Some passing thoughts on the materialist conception of history

I like the way the snow crunches under my feet in the night. There is no echo but the sound is anything but dead. I also like the way the old buildings of the St. George campus peer down at me in the dark. They feel Old World though they fall far short of the mark. I am on my way to teach a grad seminar. However, I am lost—on purpose. I still get a thrill ambling around this campus. I wonder to myself, how did this happen? How did I end up here? Why do I feel so different? The crisp air bites at my cheeks and I relish the sensation.

I have been revisiting Marx’s The German Ideology these past few weeks. Written sometime around 1845, Marx and Engels failed to find a publisher for their manuscript. In fact, it would not appear for public consumption until the 1930s, having been abandoned “to the gnawing criticism of the mice…” Continue reading

Walmart petitions NLRB to prohibit picketing ahead of Black Friday Strike


The giant retailer accused the UFCW of creating ”an uncomfortable environment” and of placing “undue stress on Wal-Mart’s customers, including families with children.” No word yet from Walmart’s general counsel on the uncomfortable environment caused by the gutting of small town businesses, poverty wages, and their attempts to deny collective bargaining for the 1.4 million U.S. workers responsible for the company’s enormous financial success. This is a desperate attempt by the retailer to deny workers the rights of free speech and public demonstration and has little support in the law. For more see the link below.

Walmart takes legal action in labor battle

Smiley and West deflate the “Obama as progressive” narrative

One thing I learned in 2009 was that “candidate Obama” and “President Obama” are two different individuals. I realize some good things came as a result of last Tuesday’s election…women’s reproductive rights are likely secure for the time being, women have more representation in the Senate, and the LGBT community “may” have an ally in the White House. Still, my enthusiasm is dampened by the fact that while we avoided a far right turn in our politics we still have a Rockefeller Republican in the office of the president. This is a man wedded to austerity vis-à-vis his promise to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion and who will likely strike a grand compromise with Republicans in the weeks ahead to avoid falling off the so-called “fiscal cliff”–a potential outcome which true deficit hawks should be yearning for I might add. This interview with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West is one of the few critiques from the left of the Obama Administration to get any airplay and it is worth a listen.