Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

Archive for October 2020

Podcasting, again (again)

leave a comment »

Forgot to post this when it happened. Talked with Left Anchor about abolition and political education.

You can hear our conversation here.

Written by David Kaib

October 24, 2020 at 10:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Nothing is a Panacea

leave a comment »

A rather common rhetorical move is the announce that some action that others wish to take is “no panacea.” This move has the upside of literally being true, all the time. The downside is that this, alone, isn’t very useful.

‘Panacea’ is defined as “a remedy for all ills or difficulties.” The point is that nothing is. There is no cure-all. Many of courses of action are helpful, or even necessary, without being a panacea.

That doesn’t make the word useless. But it requires us to use it with more care. The issue is not whether a thing is a panacea (it’s not!) but rather whether someone is acting or talking as it if is.

Unlike the statement “X is not panacea” which requires not evidence (because it is definitionally true), “you are treating X as a panacea” requires some evidence or argument. Ideally, this evidence would go beyond pointing that someone has talked about or even started to take a course of action, or simply assertions of what we believe the other person believes. The latter is a fairly common trope in political arguments, despite being largely unknowable. To the extent that it is knowable, it is usually because of a pattern of behavior, which is observable. We might best skip the middleman and focus on the patterns of observable activity over unobservable mental states.

This shift encourages more productive conflict. It is no panacea, of course, but it tends to increase thinking that is more rooted in the facts.

Written by David Kaib

October 22, 2020 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The point is to attack the whole foundation

leave a comment »

Here then lies the final significance of a mass political movement to expose the prisons and free the prisoners. The issue is not only reform, but also to mount a struggle to abolish the present functions and foundations of the prison system, an effort which can finally succeed only with the abolition of capitalism. For, as Engels observed more than a century ago, the prison system under capitalism is overwhelmingly a repressive institution, an appendage of its state apparatus employed to maintain exploitative and oppressive social conditions. Of course, what reforms can be won in day-to-day battle on the legal and political front will be important concessions. But the point is to attack the whole foundation–all the assumptions–involved in maintaining a rehabilitative prison system which must assume the moral and mental defectiveness of its victims, in the midst of a morally bankrupt, racist, defective and generally deteriorating social order.

– Bettina Aptheker, The Social Functions of the Prisons in the United States

Written by David Kaib

October 20, 2020 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Podcasting, Again

leave a comment »

Recently I had a chance to be interviewed by my friend Chris Oesteriech on the Wicked Problems and Circular Systems podcast. We talked about the dumpster fire that is US politics, police and prison abolition, political education and socialism.

You can hear our conversation here.

Written by David Kaib

October 17, 2020 at 1:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Her Emails

leave a comment »

In 2016, many prominent Clinton supporters kept repeating the word ‘emails’ thereby focusing on emails and reinforcing the idea that something bad was in ‘her emails.’ They simultaneously decried all the attention paid to something they insisted was a non-story, and that was getting in the way of the “real issues,” without actually talking about something else. I remain unclear on what the issues were they wanted to talk about.

You could instead object to coverage that gives credibility to those who spectacularly lack it. You could challenge the coverage without the reinforcement. You could simply talk about other things. And yet.

People are still doing it. The repetition of “but her emails” continues. Today it’s used to rebuke the media. We also see it in the discourse around the mystery Biden computer. It seems often paired with the exasperated claims “the media didn’t learn anything.”

I am skeptical of ‘the media didn’t learn anything’ frame. They got ratings, they got attention. The people who own and run major news outlets got tax cuts. The better question is did “we” learn anything?

Written by David Kaib

October 16, 2020 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: