The End of Voyager, Right Where it Began

Last night I watched the final episode of Star Trek: Voyager. It was a fine tear through space and time. It also felt like it came out of nowhere, much as Voyager emerges out of nowhere at the very end of the episode (and the series) right where it began its journey in the alpha quadrant orbiting Earth. The final scene encapsulated the show and the series. The final touch being the sound of a newborn baby over the communication system. The birth of a baby is, as everyone on Voyager continually reminded Belana and Tom, a major development in the life of the parents. Repeatedly they are told, “if you think it is hard now, just wait until the baby is born.” The fact that the baby is born off-camera, that this major development communicates to Tom from elsewhere in the ship, is key to understanding the show. Continue reading


Strike Debt, the Debt Collective, and the #Corinthian15 Strike

I contributed in a very small way to this excellent post providing some background to the #Corinthian15 strike that launched yesterday. It was originally posted at Occupy the Social.


By Joan Donovan and Kelly Nielsen

The Debt Collective begins with the #Corinthian15 student strike, but will flourish when debtors of all kinds organize their power as a network to own the commons. Together, we can make debt history.

All In for Education!

Today, Strike Debt announced another action in the Rolling Jubilee, which included a $13 million student debt buy and a new project: The Debt Collective—a platform by debtors and for debtors to organize, resist, and reimagine their debts. By building and maintaining infrastructure for a debtor’s union, Strike Debt believes that debtors can effectively organize into blocs and leverage their collective power to contest unjust debt. Continue reading

Spinoza Reviews American Sniper


The joy which arises from our imagining that a thing we hate is destroyed, or affected with some other evil, does not occur without some sadness of mind.

For insofar as we imagine a thing like us to be affected with sadness, we are saddened.

For as often as we recollect a thing–even though it does not actually exist–we still regard it as present, and the body is affected in the same way as if it were present. So insofar as the memory of the thing is strong, the man is determined to regard it with sadness. While the image of the thing still remains, this determination is, indeed, restrained by the memory of those things that exclude its existence; but it is not taken away. And so the man rejoices only insofar as this determination is restrained.

So it happens that this joy, which arises from the misfortune occurring to the thing we hate, is repeated as often as we recollect the thing. For as we have said, when the image of this thing is aroused, because it involves the existence of the thing, it determines the man to regard the thing with the same sadness as he used to before, when it existed. But because he has joined to the image of this thing other images which exclude its existence, this determination to sadness is immediately restrained, and the man rejoices anew. This happens as often as the repetition occurs.

This is also the cause of men’s rejoicing when they recall some evil now past, and why the enjoy telling of dangers from which they have been freed. For when they imagine a danger, they regard it as future, and are determined to fear it. This determination is restrained anew by the idea of freedom, which they have joined to the idea of the danger, when they have been freed from it. This renders them safe again, and so they rejoice again.

When the Day-To-Day is Fictionalized

I started reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain this week. Robinson earned both his B.A. and his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego and he sets his bi-coastal novel partly in San Diego and partly in Washington, D.C. From the start, he describes a day-to-day routine that is incredibly familiar. A professional woman and mother of two small children goes through the motions of getting ready for work and leaving her husband to thaw the breast milk, feed the infant, get the toddler dressed, take the kids to daycare, and other minutiae managed as the day begins. Robinson captures perfectly the awfulness of leaving your kid at preschool for the day and the incredible fact of personality differences that you notice in your children almost the instance your second kid is born. My wife and I have lived this over the past five-and-a-half years, but it’s general enough that reading it wasn’t unsettling in any way. But when he describes another morning routine–this time involving Leo Mulhouse’s drive from his home on top of a beach side cliff in Leucadia, California to his office at a biotech startup between the Torrey Pines golf course and UCSD–the similarities are too local, too irregular. Continue reading

Race, Class, Gender, Punk, and the Double Bind for Minority Women in Science

I recently watched the documentary afro-punk about the experiences of black punks. In the film, black men and women recount how they got into the scene, confronted its near-total whiteness, and used it to both exist in a fucked up system and push back on the erasure of their blackness. At the same time that it perfectly captures the punk/hardcore scene I grew up in during the 90s, it exposes the major blind spots that whiteness produces even when it places anti-racism and social justice near its center. Continue reading

Reading Block and Somers’ The Power of Market Fundamentalism (Part 5)

In my last post on Block and Somers’ The Power of Market Fundamentalism, I discussed chapters four and five together. Looking first at free market utopianism and second at the case of Speenhamland, I noted that these chapters serve as complementary lenses to examine the concept of social naturalism that lies at the heart of market fundamentalism. In chapter six, Block and Somers return to the idea of social naturalism but as part of a broader process they refer to as “ideational embeddeding.” They explain how market fundamentalist ideas have persisted into the present despite their intellectual poverty, apparent failure in terms of policy (even if the metaphysical character of market fundamentalism provides a thin yet stingy shield from empirical verification and criticism), and temporary fall from grace following World War II. Continue reading

Reading Block and Somers’ The Power of Market Fundamentalism (Part 4)

In chapter three, Block and Somers examined some of the contradictions that appear in The Great Transformation. Of particular importance was Polanyi’s tendency to write as if market autonomy was a real possibility as opposed to a utopian construct of both economic liberals and (some) Marxists. This tendency created enough of an appearance of belief in an autonomous market that market fundamentalists later used large selections of his text to support their positions. Yet Polanyi’s argument was fundamentally opposed to the idea of market autonomy, and his view that markets are always embedded in social institutions led him to focus on the case of Speenhamland and the system of poor laws.

Chapters four and five take up these two topics–free market utopianism and Speenhamland–in greater detail. At the center of both chapters is the idea of “social naturalism,” which assumes that society is governed by the same laws that govern natural phenomena. Continue reading