Call for Papers: Working Class Studies Conference in Chicago in June

The 2011 conference of the Working-Class Studies Association will be June 22-25 at the University of Illinois’ conference center in Chicago, just southwest of the Loop at 750 S. Halsted Street.  Dormitory rooms will be available nearby and public transportation, readily available from both airports.  The conference will open with a special event Wednesday evening, June 22, followed by three full days of panels, workshops, and plenaries.

Though plans are still developing, the Call for Papers is attached below, with a January 10 deadline for submissions.  Please circulate the Call widely in your various academic disciplines and to anyone you think will be interested.

See you in June in Chicago,

Jack Metzgar for the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies


The Chicago Center for Working Class Studies

Hosts the 2011 conference of the

June 22-25

University of Illinois-Chicago


Conference Theme: Working-Class Organization and Power

As an academic field, Working-Class Studies premises that the working class lacks sufficient power in all aspects of modern life – from financial means to means of expression – and that universities and their scholarly disciplines can help redress inequalities of class power by paying consistent attention to working-class life and experience in all its messy diversity.  While including all the traditional themes of previous Working-Class Studies Association conferences, the 2011 Chicago conference will highlight working-class organizations, old and new, and will encourage participants to think about organizational means to enhance working-class power over daily life at work and in the community, in democratic politics and public policy, and in cultural expression.

Plenaries will be organized to draw on current working-class organizational forms with a robust presence in the Chicago area:

  • The immigrant rights movement
  • The living wage movement
  • Union organizing & workers centers
  • Traditional community organizing
  • Churches and working-class spiritual life
  • Workers’ voices and artistic expression

But against this background, we encourage the wild diversity of topics, themes, presentations, and panels that have characterized previous Working-Class Studies conferences.   Please try and place your proposal within one of the categories below, as this will help us organize individual presentations into more coherent groups.  But as long as your proposal relates to working-class life and experience, don’t hesitate to use the “Other” category at the bottom of our list.

Class in the classroom: teaching about class, students as workers, teaching working-class and middle-class students, working-class academics, class and K-12 education, labor education

Intersections of race, class and gender: race/whiteness studies, gender and class, class and ethnicity, class and sexuality, immigration/migrant workers

Representations of work and workers: class and the arts, working-class history, working-class literature, labor and the body, working-class film, the future of work, working-class humor, media studies/criticism

Class, politics and public policy: inequalities of wealth and voice, working-class political theory, class and electoral politics, class and health care, class and the environment, urban and rural class issues, social movements and class, resistance and transformation, working-class economics

Transnational perspectives on class: war, class and the military, class in a global economy, organizing across borders, labor rights/human rights

Class cultures: the anthropology of class; middle-class, working-class and poverty-class cultures, cross-class alliances, straddlers and cognitive dissonance

Conference theme: working-class organization and power


Guidelines for Proposals

Sessions will be 75 minutes, and we will ask presenters to limit their remarks to 15 minutes each so that there is ample time for Q&A and discussion.  Proposals may be for one of three forms:

  • Individual presentation, paper, or talk.
  • Panel session or workshop, featuring multiple presenters, proposing jointly.
  • Performance, reading, or screening of creative work.

Proposals should include:

  • Proposed title and a brief (150-word) description
  • Suggested topic category (see list above)
  • Brief biographical statement and contact information, including mailing and e-mail addresses.
  • Technology needs, if any.

Proposals for papers, presentations, and sessions are welcome until January 10, 2011.  Notification of acceptance will be made by March 1.  Submit proposals electronically to Inquiries and special requests should be directed to Jack Metzgar at the same e-mail address.

Closer to the event a web site will be available with full information on registration, travel, lodging, and the program as it develops.  The site will include information about how to apply for low-income travel grants and reduced registration fees.  The Working Class Studies Conference Site is here.


School of Labor & Employment Relations, University of Illinois

Illinois Council 31, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees

Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives, Michigan State University

Labor Education Center, DePaul University

Center for Working-Class Studies, Youngstown State University

Mansfield Institute for Social Justice & Transformation, Roosevelt University

American Studies & History, Dominican University

Labor & Working-Class Studies, University of Wisconsin at Madison

China and the New World Order – Noam Chomsky in In These Times



Views » October 5, 2010 » Web Only

China’s Growing Independence and the New World Order

By Noam Chomsky

  • Chinese leaders are unlikely to be impressed by such [U.S. warnings], the language of an imperial power desperately trying to cling to authority it no longer has.

Of all the “threats” to world order, the most consistent is democracy, unless it is under imperial control, and more generally, the assertion of independence. These fears have guided imperial power throughout history.

In South America, Washington’s traditional backyard, the subjects are increasingly disobedient. Their steps toward independence advanced further in February with the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which includes all states in the hemisphere apart from the U.S. and Canada.

For the first time since the Spanish and Portuguese conquests 500 years ago, South America is moving toward integration, a prerequisite to independence. It is also beginning to address the internal scandal of a continent that is endowed with rich resources but dominated by tiny islands of wealthy elites in a sea of misery.

Furthermore, South-South relations are developing, with China playing a leading role, both as a consumer of raw materials and as an investor. Its influence is growing rapidly and has surpassed the United States’ in some resource-rich countries.

More significant still are changes in Middle Eastern arena. Sixty years ago, the influential planner A. A. Berle advised that controlling the region’s incomparable energy resources would yield “substantial control of the world.”

Correspondingly, loss of control would threaten the project of global dominance. By the 1970s, the major producers nationalized their hydrocarbon reserves, but the West retained substantial influence. In 1979, Iran was “lost” with the overthrow of the shah’s dictatorship, which had been imposed by a U.S.-U.K. military coup in 1953 to ensure that this prize would remain in the proper hands.

By now, however, control is slipping away even among the traditional U.S. clients.

The largest hydrocarbon reserves are in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. dependency ever since the U.S. displaced Britain there in a mini-war conducted during World War II. The U.S. remains by far the largest investor in Saudi Arabia and its major trading partner, and Saudi Arabia helps support the U.S. economy via investments.

However, more than half of Saudi oil exports now go to Asia, and its plans for growth face east. The same may be turn out to be true of Iraq, the country with the second-largest reserves, if it can rebuild from the massive destruction of the murderous U.S.-U.K. sanctions and the invasion. And U.S. policies are driving Iran, the third major producer, in the same direction.

China is now the largest importer of Middle Eastern oil and the largest exporter to the region, replacing the United States. Trade relations are growing fast, doubling in the past five years.

The implications for world order are significant, as is the quiet rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes much of Asia but has banned the U.S.—potentially “a new energy cartel involving both producers and consumers,” observes economist Stephen King, author of Losing Control: The Emerging Threats to Western Prosperity.

In Western policy-making circles and among political commentators, 2010 is called “the year of Iran.” The Iranian threat is considered to pose the greatest danger to world order and to be the primary focus of U.S. foreign policy, with Europe trailing along politely as usual. It is officially recognized that the threat is not military: Rather, it is the threat of independence.

To maintain “stability” the U.S. has imposed harsh sanctions on Iran, but outside of Europe, few are paying attention. The nonaligned countries—most of the world—have strongly opposed U.S. policy toward Iran for years.

Nearby Turkey and Pakistan are constructing new pipelines to Iran, and trade is increasing. Arab public opinion is so enraged by Western policies that a majority even favor Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

The conflict benefits China. “China’s investors and traders are now filling a vacuum in Iran as businesses from many other nations, especially in Europe, pull out,” Clayton Jones reports in The Christian Science Monitor. In particular, China is expanding its dominant role in Iran’s energy industries.

Washington is reacting with a touch of desperation. In August, the State Department warned that “If China wants to do business around the world it will also have to protect its own reputation, and if you acquire a reputation as a country that is willing to skirt and evade international responsibilities that will have a long-term impact … their international responsibilities are clear”—namely, to follow U.S. orders.

Chinese leaders are unlikely to be impressed by such talk, the language of an imperial power desperately trying to cling to authority it no longer has. A far greater threat to imperial dominance than Iran is China’s refusing to obey orders—and indeed, as a major and growing power, dismissing them with contempt.

This is the second of two columns by Noam Chomsky about China. In These Times published the first, “China and the New World Order,” in September.

© The New York Times News Service/Syndicate

10th Annual Teaching for Social Justice Curriculum Fair November 20, 2010

[Go to this site to find out more about TSJ, the annual fair, to exhibit curriculum that you use in your classroom, or to reserve a table to present resource materials that will be useful for teacchers in classroom situations or elsewhere.  Register to attend and also figure out how you can volunteer. This is a fantastic opportunity that brings hundreds of teachers, parents and students together every year to learn from and inspire each other. Note that the deadline for applications has been extended to November 7 for curriculum exhibits and resource tables. — Lew Rosenbaum]


10th Annual Teaching for Social Justice Curriculum Fair, Nov. 20, 2010!

October 16, 2010 

We are very excited that this November 20, 2010 will be the 10th Annual Teaching for Social Justice Curriculum Fair, sponsored by Teachers for Social Justice (Chicago) and co-sponsored by Rethinking Schools. This year’s theme is “Another Education is Possible, Another World is Necessary!”

In “science fair” format, and completely grassroots volunteer-organized, the Curriculum Fair will provide over 600 educators, activists, parents, youth & community members with a space to share curricula, ideas & resources. We’ll be making friends & building relationships, exploring ideas & projects, connecting our histories & struggles. All in a spirit of social justice and education for liberation.

K-12 Teachers will be on hand with poster-board visuals to discuss their favorite curriculum (please sign up!), local & national organizations will have tables to share relevant resources & books, and community leaders will be facilitating dialogue through a number of workshops on various & vital issues.

And don’t forget the always-uplifting keynote speakers… to be announced soon!

Lunch is provided for all, to sustain us as we move through our day. Live art, paintings & banners from local movement artists will inspire & amaze, and there’s even word (or rumor!) of a raucous after party in the mix…

We hope you’ll help us shape this space to be accessible for people with disabilities, accommodating to folks with language & dietary needs, and safe for all folks to be their full selves.

Register, volunteer, come to a meeting! We’ll appreciate you dearly! Click here for more!

Is This Election Any Different?

[The article below, sent to us by Andy Willis, may, in his words, be short on economic theory but is a passionate argument for getting ourselves together for a future worth seeing.

It is hard, however, to make an argument that the choices we have at the ballot box will  get us closer to that world.  The disenchantment with the change promised by the Democrats 2 years ago is striking, and for good reason. To counter this alienation, President Obama, Michele Obama, Joe Biden and assorted other Democratic leaders are out in the hinterlands trying to enthuse the voters by saying it could have been a whole lot worse if we weren’t in power.  Meanwhile the Republicans — the Republicans!! — are faulting the Democrats for the Wall Street bailout and health care legislation that bails out the health care industry.  And the “tea party” is banking on anger and confusion throughout America.

Massive infusions of money deluge the campaign funds, to spend millions of dollars on a legislative seat for which the salary is . . . $100,000?  The money goes toward adverts that produce no new information while bordering on slander and innuendo. “XYZ lied about his war record. . . What else is he lying about?”  Well, yeah, what else?  Or “After 2 corrupt governors, why do we need a third?”  — and, by the way, when did you stop beating your wife? Which one of the corporate manipulated candidates with varying years of political experience is the real . . . outsider?  It’s not a circus;  clowns are entertaining.

If we have learned anything, the Democrats have shown us in the last two years that you can’t get anything  done (through the legislative procedure) to benefit the people when you control the presidency and the Congress .  In other words, if the Republicans seize control of the House (and in the unlikely possibility they will also gain control of the Senate), they will need the complicity of Democrats to wreak havoc.  If experience in the Reagan and Bush years means anything, we can guess they will find that complicity. Perhaps that is the true meaning of the “bipartisanship” that has been so highly touted in Washington.

It’s a bleak prospect we face on the eve of the elections this year  (and I’m not talking about loss of Democratic seats, as should be obvious now).   This is not a plea to vote, nor is this a plea to stay at home.  It is a plea to consider all the creative ways we have to use this electoral season and the ones to follow to help consolidate a working class alternative to what exists. — Lew Rosenbaum]

Fascist America: Is This Election The Next Turn?

Sara Robinson's picture

By Sara Robinson

October 22, 2010 – 12:34am ET

In August 2009, I wrote a piece titled Fascist America: Are We There Yet? that sparked much discussion on both the left and right ends of the blogosphere. In it, I argued that — according to the best scholarship on how fascist regimes emerge — America was on a path that was running much too close to the fail-safe point beyond which no previous democracy has ever been able to turn back from a full-on fascist state. I also noted that the then-emerging Tea Party had a lot of proto-fascist hallmarks, and that it had the potential to become a clear and present danger to the future of our democracy if it ever got enough traction to start winning elections in a big way.

On the first anniversary of that article, Jonah Goldberg — the right’s revisionist-in-chief on the subject of fascism — actually used an entire National Review column to taunt me about what he characterized as a failure of prediction. Where’s that fascist state you promised? he hooted.

It’s funny he should ask. Because this coming election may, in fact, be a critical turning point on that road. Click here to read the rest of this story.

Automation & Robotics News for Oct. 24

Tony Zaragoza’s very popular biweekly feature:

Automation and Robotics News–Oct. 24, 2010

Highlights: DARPA, DARPA crazy; Robotics Rodeo; Call Center Automation; Robotic Teachers; Reports on robot job displacement; positive ways of looking at robot job displacement; piano bot; bowler bot; babies and robots; and antarctic exploration.

Click here for Archives:

Click here to go directly to this issue:


DARPA Seeking to Revolutionize Robotic Manipulation

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, October 18, 2010

50 Leading Robotics Organizations are Set and Ready to Demo during U.S. Army “Robotics Rodeo” at Fort Benning

RIA, 10/18/2010

For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Army has invited prominent robotics technologists from across the country to display their …

Feds Plot ‘Near Human’ Robot Docs, Farmers, Troops

Katie Drummond, October 22, 2010

Robots are already vacuuming our carpets, heading into combat and assisting docs on medical procedures. Get ready for a next generation of “near human” bots that’ll do a lot more: independently perform surgeries, harvest our crops and herd our livestock, and even administer drugs from within our own bodies. Those are only a few of the suggested applications . . .

Friends Made in Low Places: Swat Teams Adopt Tiny Reconnaissance Robots

JOE BARRETT, 10/18/10

For years, military and police bomb squads have used large robots to help investigate suspicious objects without putting…

Boeing to Offer A160T Hummingbird in Response to NAVAIR RFP

By Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Oct 15, 2010

Robot weapons creating human enemies

ABC Online – Lisa Millar – Oct 18, 2010




Robot milks cows for all they’re worth

3News NZ – Oct 20, 2010 By Dave Goosselink


Call centre automation could save economy £23bn a year

Computing – Nicola Brittain – Oct 22, 2010

. . . the automation of customer service as a way to cut costs.

Robot teachers invade South Korean classrooms

CNN – Susannah Palk – Oct 22, 2010

A student practices her English pronunciation with a robot as part of South Korea’s robot-learning program.

Toyota and Fujita Health University Testing Robot to Aide Stroke Patients

SlashGear – Evan Selleck – Oct 18, 2010


David Autor, Inequality and Technological Change

Excellent econ reports on tech impacts on the US economy.

Automation Insurance: Robots Are Replacing Middle Class Jobs

Andrew Price, October 13, 2010

The middle class is disappearing and the problem is deeper than politics. How will we understand work in the coming age of robotics?

Last April, the MIT economist David Autor published a report that looked at the shifting employment landscape in America. He came to this scary conclusion: Our workforce is splitting in two. The number of high-skill, high-income jobs (think lawyers or research scientists or managers) is growing. So is the number of low-skill, low-income jobs (think food preparation or security guards). Those jobs in the middle? They’re disappearing. Autor calls it “the polarization of job opportunities.” These days, all of us, from President Obama on down, are thinking about jobs. The unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent, we’ve watched the ground disappear from under Detroit and Wall Street, and there’s a pervading sense that other industries might be next. It’s not that the issue isn’t getting attention. The Princeton economist Paul Krugman is out there telling Congress to spend more money to create jobs. The former secretary of labor Robert Reich is arguing for tax breaks for the bottom brackets so people can buy stuff again. Here’s the thing, though: The erosion of the middle class is a phenomenon that’s bigger than the Great Recession. Middle-range jobs have been getting scarcer since the late 1970s, and wages for the ones that are still around have remained stagnant.

Robots the Best Way to Keep Jobs in America

October 22, 2010,

Anti-robot sentiments are on the rise. There’s a lot of chatter online right now about a study published by MIT economist David Autor. In a nutshell, Autor states that while American manufacturing is strong, middle class jobs are dying out and robots are to blame. . . . A closer look at the issue doesn’t have to result in a doom and gloom response. Ultimately, robots offer opportunities to keep and create new and better jobs for Americans.

Will robots replace doctors? It’s already happening – Oct 22, 2010

Recent studies by Duke University researchers show that robots performing medical operations may be part of our future. In studies conducted by Duke …


Piano player bot tickles the ivories in Taiwan

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 Posted by Tim Hornyak

Robot can bowl a perfect strike every time

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 Posted by Matt Hickey

Hey robots, census wants to know all about you

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 Posted by Leslie Katz

Study Shows That If a Robot Acts Like a Human, A Baby Will Think It’s Human

Switched – Amar Toor – Oct 20, 2010

Underwater robot studying ice-covered Antarctic Ocean – Oct 23, 2010

Diane Ravitch to/from Deborah Meier: The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting For Superman

This is from a regular conversation between Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier in the Bridging Differences columns of Education Week.

A Manifesto by the Powerful

Diane Ravitch

By Diane Ravitch on October 19, 2010 8:40 AM

Dear Deborah,

I am sure that you must have seen the “manifesto” published in The Washington Post and signed by 16 school superintendents. It was titled “How to Fix Our Schools: A Manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders.”

The responses to this article have been fascinating. Some have criticized the use of the term “manifesto,” because a manifesto is usually a declaration of belief by those who are out of power, not by those who hold power. Think, for example, of the Declaration of Independence as a manifesto, though certainly it outclasses the superintendents’ manifesto in gravity and significance! Then there is the Communist Manifesto, which sought to rally the workers of the world to take power. Then there was the Unabomber Manifesto, a screed against technology by deranged mathematician Ted Kaczynski, who managed to kill three people and maim 23 others. In 1962, student activists issued the Port Huron Statement, the manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society, which called upon the youth of their generation to act against social injustice.

The superintendents’ manifesto does not come from the powerless. It was written by men and women who are in charge of major school systems and who certainly have far more power than parents, teachers, principals, or ordinary citizens.

What are their basic principles? The superintendents want the public schools to operate according to market principles. Their manifesto is a companion piece to the film “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” Like the film, the authors of the manifesto want to be free of the rules governing the hiring and firing of teachers. They believe that teachers alone are responsible for whether students do well or poorly in school. They believe that poverty has no bearing on student achievement: Only the teacher matters. They want merit pay. They want more data by which to judge teachers and students. They want more online instruction. And they want more charter schools so that more children can escape the inadequate schools for which they are responsible as superintendents.  Read the rest of this article by clicking here.

Why ‘Convenient’ Lies Won’t Set Us Free

Deborah Meier

By Deborah Meier on October 21, 2010 8:51 AM

Dear Diane,

You offer the perfect response. The fact that some of the usual suspects are divided on the “bash the teachers” agenda is good news. It gives us new sources of hope. And I remember that even in a flawed democracy like ours (and is there an un-flawed one?), neither “we” nor “they” can ever declare a total victory.

When I came to New York City in the fall of ’65 my friends and acquaintances (like the real estate agent who was helping me locate an apartment) told me that “no one sends their kids to the public schools.” Of course, 1.2 million children couldn’t all have been orphans, but I understood the code. I hadn’t taken it for granted, since my kids had been OK at their prior public schools in Chicago’s South Side and Philadelphia’s West Mount Airy. So my children spent their pre-college years in NYC’s public schools. I grew accustomed to the guilt trips I listened to from folks like Davis Guggenheim, who tells us that “Waiting for Superman” was made to assuage his guilt.

Guggenheim—who also made the film “An Inconvenient Truth”—doesn’t explain in plain language what it was he couldn’t tolerate in the public schools in his neighborhood (or exactly what that neighborhood was). He seemed to have some concern about tracking in public schools. But apparently he was not uncomfortable with the fact that the school where he sent his child was not (probably) open to just anyone who could afford it, but had its own way of pre-sorting the kids: money—and high scores.

This background helps me understand the animus of his attack on teachers and unions. It’s perhaps too much to ask him why there are even worse results in the many states in which there are no teachers’ union contracts! He doesn’t tell us, either, whether he’d send his daughter to the schools he highlights, or the ways in which they do and do not resemble his children’s private schools. But I do know how different Washington’s Sidwell Friends (which Malia and Sasha Obama attend, and apparently Guggenheim did, as well!) is from the charter schools he glorifies in his film.  Read the rest of this story by clicking here.

Bono Endorses Scrapping the Minimum Wage

from Rock & Rap Confidential comes this report . . .

Bono Endorses Scrapping the Minimum Wage

The September 13 issue of Forbes, the business magazine owned by Bono, has an article by Rhodes College professor Art Carden entitled “Scrap the Minimum Wage.” Carden claims that the minimum wage, which is in itself almost impossible to live on, “has only destroyed jobs.” Surprisingly, Carden doesn’t volunteer to work for less than the minimum wage himself. According to his theory, this would create several new jobs in the poverty-stricken city of Memphis where he lives.

When Bono bought Forbes he said he liked the magazine because “it has a consistent philosophy.” Little noted when he made the acquisition, this may have been the only time in the 21st century Bono has told the truth (e.g. his “African” clothing line is made in China). The “consistent philosophy” of Forbes may be summed up as “It is glorious to be rich.”

The same issue of Forbes which calls for eliminating the minimum wage has a handy little list of suggestions for the world’s wealthy people. A few highlights:

  • “Commit to extreme wealth. For the super-rich, personal wealth creation is a top priority.” [Bono and his U2 bandmates put their already considerable fortunes in a Dutch tax shelter to prevent the Irish government from collecting some of it to distribute to the poor]
  • “Engage in enlightened self-interest. The super-rich are focused on obtaining their goals and objectives, culminating in great wealth.” [Bono’s handler, Paul McGuinness, has proposed that music fans pay U2 each and every time they listen to one of the band’s songs]
  • “Connect for profits and results. The super-rich are masters at nodal networking.” [from Arnold Schwarzenegger in California to Dmitry Medvedev in Russia, if there is a politician doing harm in the world Bono is there. Aside from starfucking, the purpose is photo ops which keep Bono’s products and get-poor-quick schemes in the public eye]


The Billionaire Boys Club and Waiting for Superman — Barbara Miner





by Barbara Miner

This article, written expressly for, explores the money behind the movie, its promoters, and those who will benefit from the movie. As author Barbara Miner writes, “In education, as in so many other aspects of society, money is being used to squeeze out democracy.” After examining the role of hedge funds, foundations and other players, she asks, “Should the American people put their faith in a white billionaires boys’ club to lead the revolution on behalf of poor people of color?” Click here for the answer . . .

‘Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture’ — Aram Sinnreich in Truthdig

‘Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture’

Posted on Aug 27, 2010

By Aram Sinnreich

“The distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character. The difference becomes merely functional; it may vary from case to case.”

—Walter Benjamin

“The line between artist and audience is pretty much gone. I remember when I got my first digital production rig, I was like, ‘My god, man, this is like communism—the means of production are in the hands of the people.’ ”


The line separating artists from their audience has always been a bit blurry. From that moment during the Renaissance when someone first decided that a painter was more than just a craftsman with an easel, the whole idea of the Artist-with-a-capital-A has required an entire mythology just to make it seem plausible.

The biggest myth of all is the Romantic notion that artists somehow create their work uniquely and from scratch, that paintings and sculptures and songs emerge fully-formed from their fertile minds like Athena sprang from Zeus. Running a close second is the myth that only a handful of us possess the raw talent – or the genius – to be an artist. According to this myth, the vast majority of us may be able to appreciate art to some degree, but we will never have what it takes to make it. The third myth is that an artist’s success (posthumous though it may be) is proof positive of his worthiness, that the marketplace for art and music functions as some kind of aesthetic meritocracy.

Of course, these myths fly in the face of our everyday experience. We know rationally that Picasso’s cubism looks a lot like Braque’s, and that Michael Jackson sounds a lot like James Brown at 45 RPM. We doodle and sing and dance our way through our days, improvising and embellishing the mundane aspects of our existence with countless unheralded acts of creativity. And we all know that American Idol and its ilk are total B.S. (very entertaining B.S., of course!). Each of us can number among our acquaintance wonderful singers, dancers, painters or writers whose creations rival or outstrip those of their famous counterparts, just as each of us knows at least one beauty who puts the faces on the covers of glossy magazines to shame.

And yet, we believe the myths. How could we not? Who among us has the time, the energy, or even the motivation to buck the overwhelming support the myth of the Artist receives from the institutions that govern our society – to dispute our schools, our churches, even our laws? What is copyright, after all, but the legal assertion of an individual’s sole ownership over a unique artifact of creative expression? These laws, sometimes enforced at gunpoint, require us to believe the myths, or face the consequences.

Of course, there’s a reason the myths exist. Our economy runs on the privatization of hitherto public goods. Our legal system is premised on the individual as the locus of all rights, all liability, all blame. Our society’s profound inequalities are only acceptable because we believe ourselves to live in a meritocracy, a world where a person’s success is de facto proof of his or her inherent worthiness. In short, the myth of the Artist-with-a-capital-A allows us to believe in America-with-a-capital-A.

Read more of this book excerpt by clicking here.

Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture

By Aram Sinnreich

University of Massachusetts Press, 240 pages

Four to Fifteen Years For Recording Your Own Arrest? – Chris Drew

Chris Drew in the Chicago loop, with his portable screen printing apparatus and some of the art patches he has printed

Report On A Motion To Suppress —  Chris Drew

The outcome of this motion will determine if I go to trial on a 1st class felony, one step below attempted murder, 4-15 years in prison, for audio recording my own arrest for selling art for $1 on State Street in Chicago.

In his opening arguments the prosecutor began around 12:30pm by claiming that he should be allowed to bring in evidence from our Youtube video postings and my blog to prove I intended to be arrested for selling art in public. He had a huge digital TV standing ready. He contended somehow that if I intended to be arrested that this would allow the police to violate my real privacy rights to review the contents of my audio recorder without my permission.

If they arrest you for selling art on the train while you have a laptop in your possession, they are not allowed to search your files and e-mails on your laptop for incriminating evidence of other crimes without a search warrant from a judge.

My lawyer, Josh Kutnick, brought the arresting officer to the stand and questioned him. The prosecutor cross examined him. The objections flew back and forth from each in turn and the hearing dragged on. At 2:30 the judge called recess for lunch. During this portion of the hearing it came out that the prosecution not only had the two officers my lawyer wanted to question waiting in another room but three of the four female officers who ticketed me on November 13th. We have the answer from Anita Alvarez to the ACLU suit. The State is making every effort to apply the eavesdropping charge against me. Why does Anita Alvarez and the State hate art in public to this extent? Or is it they want to keep you from attaining your basic rights? It is your First Amendment right to use your cell phone to protect yourself with audio evidence that she is attacking.

Then Josh Kutnick took over. His stated the obvious. The State needs a warrant before searching the recorder or they must forfeited the evidence they found when they violated my privacy rights. He contradicted the points made by the prosecution. He summarized our case and tossed it up to the judge to decide by pointing out that there are unique and interesting aspects to this case to be considered seriously. The Judge smiled and agreed it was interesting and worthy of his study. He gave himself until November 22nd to rule and our hearing was over around 4:00 in the afternoon.

This is more about you than it is about me. It is about your rights. No one came to this hearing in my support. However, it is better that you are watching from the sidelines than not watching at all. Although my lawyer performed to an empty court room we will buy the transcript and post it for the world to read. This case has national implications and international interest.

What can you do? Forward this message or the link to my blog or to my facebook page  to your friends and tell them about this struggle for their rights. Stay tuned to hear what Judge Stanley Sacks decides on November 22nd. Prepare to attend my trial. That is when I will need your support. Talk with your state reps and senators about changing this eavesdropping law. Everyone should be able to use their cell phones to record what police say to them in public. Contact your US congressman and your senators about H.Con.Res.298 – the sense of Congress resolution that waits in committee for their support. Donate to the Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center which supports the Art Patch Project that helps to educate the public about First Amendment rights. We are the artists who are fighting for your rights. Help us. Thanks again if you have read this far for continuing to make yourself aware. Your voices are powerful.

[Click this link to get to Chris Drew’s blog and an extensive list of resources.  While many of us have watched carefully as the FBI has conducted its rapid strike raids across the country, this storm has also been brewing in Chicago for some time.  For any who may have doubted the significance of Chris’s concerns before, this is a wake up call.  — Lew Rosenbaum]