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Patrick S. O'Donnell
Adjunct Instructor, Department of Philosophy, Santa Barbara City College
Interests: philosophy of law and legal theory, philosophy of mind, ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of science, religious worldviews, psychoanalysis, psychology
Recent Activity
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The power of states to intervene in the operations of contemporary globalized capitalism is severely constrained in a world of deregulated capital markets: states no longer have the same degree of power they once held in the period of “national capitalism” (a term that reminds us of the diminished power of Keynesian-inspired states to robustly ‘steer’ the economy, as well as the prescient arguments made by Claus Offe in Contradictions of the Welfare State and Disorganized Capitalism). The current round of globalization is a conspicuous “combination of deregulated capital movements, advances in information/communication/transport technologies, and a shift in ideology away from social democracy [as well as the ‘Liberal’ capitalist ideologies that buttress liberal or corporatist welfare policies] and statism towards neoliberalism and libertarianism.” “One consequence of this new phase,” writes Meghnad Desai, “is that the state no longer controls the economy, but is one player (a major one of course)... Continue reading
Posted 10 hours ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Books, and especially very good books, deserve as much publicity as they can garner in our world, so … Zed Books (London) has a series of publications under the rubric, “African Arguments,” that I enthusiastically recommend to those with even the slightest interest in what has (recently) happened, is happening, and might happen on the African continent. I have several books in the series and plan on getting more (provided my dear wife will indulge me!). They are published in conjunction with the International African Institute, the Royal African Society, and the World Peace Foundation. There is a diverse and stellar group of editors. The webpage for books published to date is here. What follows below is a taste of the argument from one of the books pictured above. “The overarching question in the economic growth literature has been about why Africa has grown relatively slowly. This question has overshadowed... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Drying cocoa beans in rural Ghana (Photo: Elke de Buh) “Before you eat that chocolate Easter egg, think about the people who produced it” By Simran Sethi for the Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2017 Just after Valentine’s Day, prices for cocoa plummeted. Days later, media outlets erupted in a collective hurrah. ‘Your chocolate is getting cheaper,’ headlines proclaimed. ‘Easter will be sweet.’ What wasn’t factored into the celebration is the deep suffering of the subsistence farmers who grow cacao, the seeds of a pod-shaped fruit that, once harvested, become the cocoa traded on the commodities market and destined for the chocolate eggs and bunnies that fill most Easter baskets. Cacao’s origins trace to the rainforests of the upper Amazon, and the seeds are believed to have been transformed into a drink in Mesoamerica at least as early as 400 BC. Once used as medicine, currency and a stand-in for... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I do not think the following is generally true: “Economists who follow Karl Marx in adopting a labor theory of value or in other ways but do not share the political ideology of communism typically call themselves ‘Marxians’ to distinguish their views from the views of political ‘Marxists.’” This remark was but a small if not incidental part of a larger blog post by Michael Dorf (‘Advice to Conscientious Originalists: Rebrand’) and is probably not crucial to its main argument. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to respond both to this and a few related comments by Professor Dorf. The Marxist economists I am familiar with, by and large, are at the same time “political Marxists” (and there are economists who are not afraid to learn and cite from Marx who are not avowedly ‘Marxist’ or ‘Marxian,’ like Amartya Sen), and those same (at once economic and political) Marxists do not believe... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“In his famous treatise on politics, diplomacy, and political economy called Arthaśāstra (roughly translated as ‘instructions on material prosperity,’ in contemporary terms, perhaps best translated as ‘political economy’), Kautilya, the ancient Indian political theorist and economist … included among his famine relief policies the possibility of raiding the provisions of the rich. In fact, he wrote with some eloquence on ‘the policy of thinning the rich by exacting excess revenue [karśanam], or causing them to vomit their accumulated wealth [vamanam].’”—Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford University Press, 1989): 4. The Moral & Political Economy of Poverty, Hunger, and Famine: Suggested Reading Anrée, Peter, et al. Globalization and Food Sovereignty: Global and Local Change in the New Politics of Food. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014. Aoki, Keith. Seed Wars: Controversies and Cases on Plant Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2008. Bardhan,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Shepard Fairey painting Workers’ Rights/Cesar Chavez Mural in San Francisco, California My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers … and the Struggle of Farm Workers in the U.S. is here. Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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From The Guardian yesterday: The South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, one of Nelson Mandela’s closest colleagues in the struggle against white rule and a fellow Robben Island prisoner, has died aged 87. Kathrada, who was affectionately known by his nickname ‘Kathy,’ was among those jailed alongside Mandela after the Rivonia trial in 1964. The case drew worldwide attention and highlighted the brutal legal system under the apartheid regime. He died in hospital in Johannesburg following a short illness after brain surgery. Kathrada spent 26 years and three months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island. After the end of apartheid, he served from 1994-99 as parliamentary counsellor to President Mandela in the first African National Congress (ANC) government. In recent years he was highly critical of President Jacob Zuma and the ANC government. Nevertheless, the ANC said South Africa had ‘lost a titan.’ ‘His life is a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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On this date in 1969, the first national Chicano youth conference was held in Denver, Colorado by Crusade for Justice, the civil rights organization founded by former boxer Corky Gonzáles. “Rodolfo ’Corky’ Gonzáles (June 18, 1928 – April 12, 2005) was a Mexican American boxer, poet, and political activist. He convened the first-ever Chicano youth conference in March 1969, which was attended by many future Chicano activists and artists. The conference also promulgated the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, a manifesto demanding self-determination for Chicanos. As an early figure of the movement for the equal rights of Mexican Americans, he is often considered one of the founders of the Chicano Movement.” According to Carlos Muñoz, Jr., “[The conference] brought together for the first time activists from all over the country who were involved in both campus and community politics. The conference was also significant because it brought together young people of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Today is the 106th anniversary (March 25, 1911) of the fire at the Triangle Waist (often ‘Shirtwaist’) Company in New York City in which 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men – died. Most of these workers were young Jewish and Italian immigrant women. “Because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a then-common practice to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to [ostensibly] reduce theft – many of the workers who could not escape from the burning building simply jumped from the high windows.” The owners of the factory were prosecuted for the fire but won an acquittal, “thanks to the exceptionally effective representation of legendary attorney Max Steuer” (Steve Lubet). There is a wonderful website with primary and secondary sources and sundry helpful stuff about this industrial disaster at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Professor Marcia L.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is an international direct action advocacy group working to impact the lives of people with AIDS (PWAs) and the AIDS pandemic to bring about legislation, medical research, and treatment and policies to ultimately bring an end to the disease by mitigating loss of health and lives. ACT UP was effectively formed in March 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York. Larry Kramer was asked to speak as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended speech focused on action to fight AIDS. Kramer spoke out against the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), which he perceived as politically impotent. Kramer had co-founded the GMHC but had resigned from its board of directors in 1983. According to Douglas Crimp, Kramer posed a question to the audience: ‘Do we want to start a new organization devoted to political action?’ The... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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March 24, 1977: On this date Rodolfo Jorge Walsh (January 9, 1927 – March 25, 1977) an Argentine writer, journalist and revolutionary of Irish descent, published his “Open Letter from a Writer to the Military Junta” (excerpts from which are below) accusing them of disappearing thousands of Argentines. The next day he was murdered. “In 1976, in response to censorship imposed by the military dictatorship, Walsh had created ANCLA, (Clandestine News Agency), and the ‘Information Chain,’ a system of hand-to-hand information distribution whose leaflets stated in the heading: Reproduce this information, circulate it by any means at your disposal: by hand, by machine, by mimeograph, orally. Send copies to your friends: nine out of ten are waiting for them. Millions want to be informed. Terror is based on lack of communication. Break the isolation. Feel again the moral satisfaction of an act of freedom. Defeat the terror. Circulate this information.”... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Alphonse Maddin “Watch Al Franken shut down Gorsuch’s cruel decision in the ‘Frozen Trucker’ case” “I had a career in identifying absurdity. And I know it when I see it.” Al Franken’s questioning crystallizes the haughty contempt and condescension Republicans generally and Judge Gorsuch in this instance often have—patriotic populist rhetoric notwithstanding—toward the everyday lives of working people, their “lived experience” as the phenomenologist would say. Gorsuch claims to have “empathy”* for the trucker but, as he forthrightly admits, he refused at the time, and refuses here once more, to imaginatively put himself in the shoes of Alphonse Maddin** on the day in question. See the decision in TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board (2016). (Click on the video in the link for the full transcript of this portion of the confirmation hearing.) * “I empathize with him entirely.” ** “I don’t know, I wasn’t in the man’s shoes.” Meaning:... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Painting of the Sharpeville massacre, which took place 21 March 1960, Sharpeville, South Africa, currently located in the South African Consulate in London. Godfrey Rubens (painter and photographer) The shootings at Sharpeville marked a turning point. Not only did it highlight the wanton violence of the oppressors, but it removed any belief of the possibility of making a dent in the system by means of protest politics alone. Following so quickly after the crushing of the Pondo Revolt by purely military action, the Sharpeville and Langa shootings broke the belief that a nonviolent revolution was possible. Furthermore, the mass arrests and detentions that followed the declaration of a State of Emergency, and the holding of thousands of people without trial, destroyed any hope that the legal system could be used to halt police repression. It was evident that the long chain of legal victories in the courts had been broken... Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
First, for your consideration: “The current period [this was written in the early 1980s, although it’s even more apt today] … is the first moment since the 1920s in which owners of capital have openly rejected a compromise that involves public influence over investment and the distribution of income. For the first time in several decades, the Right has an historical project of its own: to free accumulation from all the fetters imposed on it by democracy. For the bourgeoisie never completed its revolution. Just as it freed accumulation from the restraint of the feudal order, the bourgeoisie was forced to subject it to the constraint of popular control exercises through universal suffrage. The combination of private property of the means of production with universal suffrage is a compromise, and this compromise implies that the logic of accumulation is not exclusively the logic of private actors. What is involved in... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Bullshit ideological euphemisms run amok in VP’s marketing (yes, that’s the right word) of the Trump administration’s “health care” legislation: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence “promoted the administration’s health care plan heavily on Twitter, sending out more than 20 messages from his official account, @VP, with messages such as: “Freedom, personal responsibility and state flexibility—that’s what works, and that’s what our plan will do. #VPinFL”[emphasis added] This is the same crypto-fascist who repeatedly and erroneously proclaims, like John Boehner before him, that we have “the best healthcare system in the world,” as he did recently in Kentucky: “We’re going to make the best healthcare system in the world even better.” Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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This list goes a bit beyond “promises and contract theory,” strictly speaking, but where that occurs, the material is thought to have some bearing on the subject. Please let me know of any conspicuous omissions, as I’m relying on this material to revise an introductory essay on promises and contract theory. * Atiyah, Patrick S. “Contracts, Promises and the Law of Obligations,” 94 Law Quarterly Review 193 (1978), reprinted in Linzer (below): 78-91. Atiyah, P.S. Promises, Morals, and Law. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, revised ed., 1983. Atiyah, P.S. Essays on Contract. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Atiyah, P.S. An Introduction to the Law of Contract. New York: Oxford University Press, 5th, 1995. Austin, J.L (J.O. Urmson and Marina Sbisà, eds.) How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2nd, 1975. Ayres, Ian. And Gregory Klass. Insincere Promises: The Law of Misrepresented Intent. New Haven, CT:... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The way people, particularly young people, live now resembles in its economic instability the situation of the nineteenth century workers and artisans who made the Commune, most of whom spent most of their time not working but looking for work. After 2011, with the return virtually everywhere of a political strategy grounded in taking up space, seizing places and territories, turning cities — from Istanbul to Madrid, from Montreal to Oakland — into theaters for strategic operations, the Paris Commune has become newly illuminated or visible, it has entered once again into the figurability of the present. Its forms of political invention have become newly available to us not as lessons but as resources, or as what Andrew Ross, speaking about my book, called “a useable archive.” The Commune becomes the figure for a history, and perhaps of a future, different from the course taken by capitalist modernization, on the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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At Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller brings us news that the Trump administration is “demand[ing] that Cambodia pay back $500 million it owes the US for providing support to Lon Nol’s unpopular regime.” As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of days ago: “The debt started out as a US$274 million loan mostly for food supplies to the then US-backed Lon Nol government but has almost doubled over the years as Cambodia refused to enter into a re-payment program. William Heidt, the US’s ambassador in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia’s failure to pay back the debt puts it in league with Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe. ‘To me, Cambodia does not look like a country that should be in arrears … buildings coming up all over the city, foreign investment coming in, government revenue is rapidly rising,’ Mr. Heidt was quoted as saying by the Cambodia Daily.” Let’s recall some... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Below is a substantial excerpt from the Introduction to David A. Cleveland’s Balancing on a Planet: The Future of Food and Agriculture (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014). I hope it entices you to read the book, for while I have yet to finish, what I have read thus far and what I’ve peeked at in what’s to come, is very good. In brief—and for what it’s worth—I highly recommend it. Cleveland is Professor of Environmental Studies and Geography at my alma mater, the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), although I’ve never taken a course from him nor do I personally know him. (I have left out the embedded references for the notes.) “The mainstream industrial agrifood system has been remarkably successful over the long run in increasing food production at a rate faster than population growth, with the promise of continuing to do so in the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“Jason Chaffetz’s iPhone comment revives the ‘poverty is a choice’ argument” By Philip Bump, The Washington Post, March 7, 2017 “It’s much easier to deal with poverty if you can convince yourself that the impoverished brought it on themselves. Nearly everyone would concur that those who suffer from poverty through no fault of their own deserve support from others, either through nonprofit or public sector assistance. But if they’re poor because of their own bad decisions? They have to fend for themselves. Coupled with guilt about the struggles of poor Americans, that instinct leads to an awkward place. There’s a psychological reward to looking for reasons that the poor aren’t really poor: It allows you to then more easily leave those less fortunate to their fate. For those disinclined to want the government to spend resources addressing poverty, the same reward is in effect. Drug-testing welfare recipients, stories about those... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Today we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day. “It commemorates the movement for women’s rights.” “The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. On March 8, 1917, in the capital of Russian Empire, Petrograd, a demonstration of women textile workers began, covering the whole city. This was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. March 8 was declared a national holiday in the Soviet Russia in 1917. The day was predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.” From The Guardian: Today, women in more than 50 countries “will go on strike from paid and unpaid labour…while millions more will be... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Huda Sha‘rawi meeting with women from various Arab countries. On March 6, 1923, the Egyptian Feminist Union is established: “The Egyptian Feminist Union [EFU] was founded at a meeting on 6 March 1923 at the home of activist Huda (or Hoda) Sha‘rawi, who served as its first president until her death in 1947. The Union was affiliated to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. The EFU published the fortnightly periodical L’Egyptienne from 1925, and from 1937 the journal el-Masreyyah (The Egyptian Woman). The group reformed as a non-profit, non-governmental organization under the same name but with a different goal and team in 2011. The union supported complete independence from the United Kingdom, but like the upper class male leaders of the Wafd Party, promoted European social values and had an essentially secular orientation. The objective of the feminist movement was symbolized by the well publicized gesture of social freedom made by... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Virgin’s Seed, by Paul Botello, Hazard Ave. at Hammel St., Los Angeles “L.A. faces a moral test: How will we respond to deportation threats?” By Harold Meyerson,* the Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2017 “‘Since election day, children are scared about what might happen to their parents,’ says Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles. [CHIRLA] ‘And parents for their children. We fill out at least 10 guardianship letters every day for [undocumented] parents who fear for their [U.S. citizen] kids if they — the parents — are deported.’ Los Angeles has rarely been a more fearful place than it is today. L.A. and Orange counties are home to roughly 1 million immigrants in the country illegally — more than any region except greater New York. That’s not counting the U.S. citizens in mixed-status families — like those American-born children losing sleep at... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“The Wall that Speaks, Sings, and Shouts” (La Pared Que Habla, Canta y Grita): Paul Botello with Adalberto Ortiz, Agerardo Herrera, Gustavo Sanchez (2001) Ruben Salazar Park: 3864 Whittier Blvd., East Los Angeles “How Immigrants Make Communities Safer” By Chiraag Bains,* The Marshall Project (non-profit journalism about criminal justice), February 28, 2017 Immigrants may actually bring down crime in areas where they live. “President Donald Trump campaigned promising a return to ‘law and order.’ Since taking office, he has attempted to fulfill that promise through policies that have been criticized as being thin on substance and out of touch with crime statistics. The president’s approach is misguided for another reason, however: he is targeting immigration as a driver of violent crime when it just might have the opposite effect. Most recently, Trump’s secretary of homeland security issued memos providing for the expanded use of detention, wide-scale deportation and the immediate... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Toward Socialism: A preliminary and therefore provisional diagnosis of symptoms—i.e., what ails us—including a brief etiology of the principal causal variable and a proposed therapeutic regimen. A fairly large number of working class folks who voted for Trump appear to think that populist economic nationalism (granted, this may in some measure be merely a rhetorical smokescreen) and protectionist (or mercantilist) trade policies will perform an economic miracle, bringing about socio-economic security and the realization of middle-class dreams. (Ironically, or not, if one examines the early history of capitalism, protectionist policies and state intervention can—and have—work(ed) for emerging polities dedicated to economic development.) This demonstrates the remarkable effectiveness of being socialized into political and economic ideologies that refuse to historically and analytically conceptualize capitalism in its latest global incarnation. People simply don’t understand (or have succumbed to a colossal state of denial about) the “big-picture” consequences of the frenzied pursuit of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com