Political economy of alcohol

Finally…a little political economic analysis of the alcohol industry. After enduring the boring misery of excessive drinkers in my personal life I decided that at some point in my academic career I would target this industry in my own research. Typically considered beyond reproach, the alcohol industry is particularly predatory. I am happy to see that some critical scholarship is already occurring on the topic. From Hefferman’s article: “Horizontal integration of alcohol production. Vertical integration of distribution and retail. Loosened local regulations. National chain stores. Streamlined marketing. Volume pricing. Alcohol as an ordinary commodity. ….How do you like them apples?” For more see the following link.

The Alcohol Industry’s Plan to Give America a Giant Drinking Problem

Suicide and the promise of a soft landing

There is a ledge in my life. A high ledge. Most days I walk by this ledge and think nothing of it. The other day, however, something curious happened. The ledge spoke to me in a clear and cold voice. Why don’t you jump Brett? It won’t hurt a bit. I promise. Come here. Give it a try. It stopped me dead in my tracks. My mind reeled as I stood at the precipice. What the fuck did you just say to me? How dare you?!? What makes you think you can talk to me that way? I’ve healed. My life is good now. Leave me alone! 

This is a rumination on suicide—not a contemplation of suicide. This is not a cry for help. It is a consideration of something that, for me, is very difficult to talk about. I can count on one hand the number of insightful conversations I have had about suicide. It’s partly my own fault. I don’t like discussing it. I also find that it is a subject a good many people are uncomfortable with. Some people find it too morose to talk about. Others find it alarming. There’s no politic approach to the subject. Nevertheless, I want to talk about suicide in a subjective manner without being either morose or alarming. I want to acknowledge it without feeling shame or fear. 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

NCA in Florida


My last vacation to Florida was an excruciating and miserable affair. Moreover, the last couple of times I have done this conference I have come away underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good stuff going on at NCA. It’s just that it’s a huge conference and my panels and presentations have been weak in the past. This time around I am on a really great panel with some awesome people. So hopefully things will be better this time. I am presenting on the labor of distribution in the context of online gift economies. My general assertion is that by relying on the formalist framing of rational economic actors, many critical scholars and neoclassical economists have missed the social dimensions of this particular mode of exchange. On the other hand, if we understand economics as a cultural category, rather than a behavioral category, we begin to see the ways in which transactions are recursively conditioned by a host of social structures having little to do with individual rationality or conservation. This is especially true with regard to the online pooling of informational and cultural goods. Continue reading

It’s not fraud if you’re married

Lisa Arends provided me with motivation at every point along the way in my own divorce. She is a fantastic person and I am so happy to count her among my Internet friends. Her ex-husband left her a colossal financial mess when he left Lisa so that he could run off and commit bigamy. Watching Lisa confront her own divorce with strength and integrity has been inspiring. She has another article today over at HuffingtonPost explaining the potential financial liability incurred by innocent spouses because, well, it’s not fraud if you are married. Read more at the link below.

It’s not fraud if you’re married

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.

Black Friday worker action against Walmart

Walmart is the world’s largest private employer and is absolutely vicious in its hostility toward labor. Resistance to abysmally low pay and poor working conditions has been fomenting for months as workers have spontaneously gone on strike at several Walmart locations. Now workers are attempting to harness the potential of online social media to facilitate a much larger mobilization of labor. Organizers are calling for a US nationwide strike this Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving which is one of the most popular shopping days of the year). This Black Friday support the 2 million plus workers who have made Walmart one of the most financially successful companies in history as they fight for their fair share of the value which they produce. To learn more and find out what you can do to support these workers see below.

Making Change At Walmart
Making Change at Walmart Facebook page

Jezebel showcases teens’ racist post-election tweets

I had my fair share of racist commentary coming across my newsfeed in the immediate aftermath of the election. Sadly, I expected no less. As someone who uses online social networks for very public performances of self I often marvel at others who are seemingly oblivious to the public and permanent nature of these systems. Here’s an interesting example of a potential consequence of free speech in the age of online social networking. It certainly begs the question why don’t we have media literacy courses as a required component of our education system? See the link below for more.

Racist Teens Forced to Answer for Tweets About the ‘Nigger’ President

Pfizver’s Viagra patent struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada

Canada’s Patent Act gives patent holders who filed after October of 1989 a 20 year monopoly and includes a disclosure obligation requiring patentees to make available information regarding the production process. This was done so that other parties may copy the process once the patent expires. In this particular case Teva Canada challenged the legitimacy of Pfizer’s patent based on Pfizer’s alleged obfuscation of the key ingredient(s) in the drug Viagra. See the link below for more.

Supreme Court ruling could lead to cheaper versions of Viagra

What’s all this about?!?

The genesis of this blog can be found in a stretch of time beginning in September of 2011 and ending in September of the following year. This period was both the worst and best year of my life. Set in motion by the downfall of a brief and disastrous marriage and culminating with a relocation to Canada as I left Austin, Texas to take a job at the University of Toronto, I embarked on a sometimes-painful-but-always-satisfying journey of self-exploration. As I confronted enormous life changes I reached out by way of online social networking to loved ones for assurance and support. I have re-posted a number of these communiques here under the moniker of seedbeds. I use this term to refer to an area which has been carefully cultivated to promote future growth. This is how I have come to define this year-long period of personal transformation. I am no longer the person I was when this process initiated. The seedbed entries give a glimpse into this period of personal growth for anyone who may be so inclined to read them. Continue reading