SIO63: Dangers of Neoliberalism with Michael A. Wood Jr.

Joining me for some lively debate about the harms of neoliberalism is Michael A. Wood Jr. Michael ended his service in the USMC in 1998, and joined the Baltimore Police Department where he served as a narcotics detective until retiring as a patrol Sergeant medically in 2014. In 2015 Michael turned to twitter to reveal the culture of law enforcement and authored several essays and books on reforms. Interest went wild. In 2016 Michael led a veterans group to Standing Rock where they protested the pipeline. Michael has since also focused on civilian led policing as a national grassroots form of action. He is currently a PHD candidate and a criminal and social justice activist.

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13 Replies to “SIO63: Dangers of Neoliberalism with Michael A. Wood Jr.”

  1. I think Michael has too much confidence in his analysis of “the system”. He concludes that the system can’t be changed/fixed by working within it but he can’t possibly know this is true. And even if he is correct on that point, he can’t know that a better system will actually arise from the ashes of this one.

    At the same time he has such confidence that a better system can be built from scratch, he has zero confidence that the system can be fixed internally. To me this is the hallmark of ideological thinking.

    To me, you need people working both strategies and we need to recognize that both approaches are legitimate. Michael comes awfully close to labelling within-the-system people as virtual uncle toms for most of the podcast, although thankfully he sounded like he was backing off that extreme at the end.

  2. I applaud Mr. Wood’s work with Civilian-Led Policing and Vets, but for the first hour he was making a meta argument that Thomas just didn’t get. When all is said and done, I think I like the deck chairs better the way you had them before.

  3. When the episode started, I felt like I generally agreed with a lot of Woods’s broader points, but struggled to connect with his arguments. As the episode continued, I feel like at least one of us was losing the plot. I’m not sure how much of the latter points are worth engaging beyond what was said in the episode, but I had a few thoughts.

    1. I don’t find the arguments about Bill Maher’s joke “proving” he harbors some kind of hidden racism to be that compelling. In contrast, I do think there’s a lot of validity to the critique Symone Sanders made, on Maher’s show, of the joke itself (i.e., it trivialized the severity of certain kinds of slavery disproportionately experienced by women), as well as others I’ve heard online (e.g., the joke makes light of imposed class distinctions cultivated by slave-owners that still impact black communities to this day), and in tandem with a more specific interpretation of the “reclaiming words” argument (i.e., it is different for a white person to make a joke about a horrifying injustice which has caused lingering intergenerational trauma than for a black person to make the same joke).

    And, as much as I would love to think that Maher was brilliantly undercutting some kind of covert erasure of slavery on the part of Senator Sasse, this felt like a real stretch. I think Sasse was exploiting a folksy, “real Americans get their hands dirty,” “gosh, aren’t I so humble?” kind of thing, and Maher leapt at the chance to make a joke partially at his own expense, and partially playing up the perceptual distinctions between broader “liberal” and “conservative” cultures, failing to appreciate that his joke co-opted an aspect of another culture, to which he does not belong, as well as the metatextual significance of a white person taking something from black culture, ignoring its significance, and presenting it as comedy.

    2. In the same way that I think it’s dangerous to be a self-appointed alli in name only, I think there is a danger to the way Woods rejects changes that can be made within a system.

    For instance, President Obama responded to cultural shifts by overturning specific laws that continued hundreds of years’ worth of oppression and disenfranchisement for LGBTQI individuals. Trump responded to personal controversy by attempting to pointedly undo some of that progress. Advocating from a privileged place that “progress within a system isn’t good enough, therefore there’s no difference between Trump and Clinton” has had a demonstrable and negative effect on those people for whom he claims such radical alliship.

    More still, as easy as it is to dismiss giving to pro-LGBTQI groups and having difficult conversations with friends and loved ones, there is important societal benefit to doing both these things. Let’s not confuse advocating an “all or nothing” approach to activism with calling out the indifference of the white moderate.

  4. I applaud Mr. Wood’s work with Civilian-Led Policing and Vets, but for the first hour he was making a meta argument that Thomas just didn’t get. When all is said and done, I think I like the deck chairs better the way you had them before.

  5. It’s nice that there is a white SJW out there to set us all straight as to which black guys are worthy to have a valid view on another white guy’s insensitive racial remarks. And then he disregards the opinions of the only black female on the panel. Why are all their comments rejected? Because apparently, black people can’t make money without being corrupted. I can’t figure out if Wood is a racist, a misogynist, a classist, or all the above.

  6. I could only get about half way through this episode before giving up, Wood’s repeated insistence that Obama was bad because he should have just changed sweeping aspects of policy by dictat was juvenile at best and delusional at worst.
    He would appear to be just like all those anarchists out there who think that the whole world burning is better than having to live within a system he disproves of, most people realize that the reason you change within a system is because violent uprising is not good for anyone.
    I am sorry but the suggestions that things would be worse under a Hillary administration than a Trump one is so laughable as to be comedy piece, not a political position.

  7. Listened on a plane so
    I made notes and forgot to drop them;

    Great episode Thomas. A tad frustrating but a really good guest. I feel like his time spent deep in activism has radicalised his political views a bit too far past pragmatic, practical reality.

    I used to think I lived in a very progressive nook of Australian subculture. But come the campaign and my friends start spouting the “but hillarys going to start ww3” bullshit equivocation fucking RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA.

    Seems like this guy really has absorbed that belief, which shows an appalling lack of self reflection, after criticising Maher and atheism for having no self-awareness.

    I agree philosophically, like yeah fuck the two party system and the illusion of choice that maintains the status quo, but fucking really? Voting third party BRO?!? Wake up to the impracticality of your position, and listen to your tone of voice before you say “bro” to imply superiority. Sorry but it makes you sound like a real douche. Keep in mind your own goddamn fallibility. Two years as an activist doesn’t mean you see the world for what it truly is. Actually I’d wager it would make you more likely to have some radically ignorant beliefs.

  8. That was really interesting. It sounds like neo-liberalism is pretty analogous to White Feminism. Better than nothing, but still not very good.

    I especially liked Michael advocating for local change first. A third candidate can’t get anywhere nationally, but if a new party starts to spring up in many locations it has a chance to grow in to a national one.

  9. It would be great to have Andrew and Michael on a three-way to discuss what powers a president does and doesn’t have RE: rescheduling marijuana and forcing state and local police to report to federal governments. I’m not a lawyer but I believe he was patently wrong on his understanding of both, and was basing his equivocation on a false understanding of what a president can do “with the stroke of a pen.”

  10. I find that a lot of anti-Hillary people don’t remember Dubya’s presidency very well. See, it all started when Florida went for Bush. He was certified as the winner with less than 1,000 more votes than Gore, in a state where Ralph Nader of the Green Party won more than 90,000 votes.

    As usual, when a Republican president takes office, you had things like preventing certain international aid groups we fund from providing condoms and sex education in places suffering from high rates of HIV and AIDS, and all the usual stuff you get from a GOP president. Then 9/11 happened. And when it did, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld discussed how they could tie this back to Saddam Hussein of Iraq, despite him having nothing to do with any of it.

    So after awhile of warring in Afghanistan, the Bush administration stops giving that one as much support while they make up stuff about Iraq having WMDs. “Don’t let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud,” they so famously said. Colin Powell even went before the UN with their “proof” of Iraq still having facilities and equipment to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

    We all know how it went. The President wanted a quick war that didn’t involve securing the country, and that’s what he got. Loss of law and order, infrastructure, and control. All of a sudden, radical Islamists flood the place since they can now fight Americans there. They conquer huge swaths of land. Some of these groups get into infighting, and one of them winds up calling itself ISIS.

    But we were too busy with a recession. The Great Recession, caused by deregulation of the banking industry. Some of it was started under Clinton, true, but not all. And the agency tasked with watching for warnings was too busy following the Republican party line that corporations are the government’s friends no matter what. They did nothing to stop it, until it came to the point where they had to bail them out.

    And instead of the kinds of measures economists recommended to fix the failing economy, President Bush followed Republican doctrine and didn’t bother with as much intervention as needed.

    Meanwhile, American horror stories were piling up about bad healthcare that the Bush presidency didn’t address. Gay rights? Bush’s 2004 campaign is considered to have been won on the strength of him campaigning against gay people. And as far as politicians went, the main one bothering to address global warming was some fellow named Al Gore.

    Look at the difference a President makes, and that’s not even counting issues like torture, the PATRIOT act, and extraordinary rendition. Dubya had a grudge against Saddam Hussein going into office; Gore was worried about the environment.

    And afterward, Obama spent an incredible amount of political capital in his first couple of years working on the ACA, fixing the economy, trying to drag us out of overseas wars, and repairing our reputation with other countries. Then the country forgot about the Bush presidency and elected back in a series of Republican-dominated legislatures that consistently outdid themselves in not getting anything done other upping the last one’s ACA repeal attempt count.

    So, where are we eight years later, when the economy, healthcare, international relations, and civil rights are all improved to the point where we might actually start making some progress toward the liberal side of things? The country throws it all out so we can try to fix the same issues again whenever the Republicans leave office again.

  11. That’s a very cogent recounting of the halcyon Bush years that now evoke almost as much nostalgia as Happy Days, but you left out the main driver and the very grease upon the wheels of our war-driven economy. While Bush and Rumsfeld and Powell and Rice were acting out the political Kabuki of “bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East,” the Chaney/Rove administration, the one with the actual power, was diverting monumental sums of money to their cronies in the “defense” biz.

    Depending on which loosey-goosey intentionally unverifiable estimate you go with, the US dropped two to five trillion dollars, give or take a few hundred billion, on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the faucet’s still dripping a few $billion a week). Where did that money go, do we suppose? The salaries of the military personnel involved in such operations constitute about 3% of the total expenditure. What about the rest of it? Was it spent “in country” in Iraq or Afghanistan? Surely some was. The point is that the vast majority of the vast sums of money spent on these two wars (like at least 90%) went to “suppliers” and “contractors” in the US and the UK, friends and associates, former colleagues and employers of Dick Chaney and crew.

    Remember, none of this money was ever “budgeted.” It was all “off the books” emergency funding. What Mitt-Romney-types call this is “harvesting” the “value” of a situation. Huge amounts of “value” end up in the hands of the harvesters, with the shorn not knowing where it came from or where it went until it’s far, far to late to recover any of it or bring the “harvesters” to accountability.

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a master stroke state craft, just not the way anyone thinks.

  12. Some of that money was simply wasted in idiotic rebuilding efforts overseen by young Republicans all picked because of their political ties. They were known as the Brat Pack, in charge of $13 billion, and with no experience in anything related to what they were doing.

    Then there were the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, or PRTs, that wasted money on projects that didn’t help, like a chicken factory only used when they showed it off to visiting diplomats. Just a chicken factory for $2.5 million, but no logistics network, electricity, or refrigeration in most people’s homes.

    And, as you stated, a lot of it was spent on stuff like PMCs. These fair weather warriors got us into some problems with some war crimes they committed, and without any of that pesky responsibility or duty like soldiers have. Then again, the actual soldiers had their problems too, since the government could afford mercenaries, but not proper armor for vehicles, body armor for soldiers, batteries for night vision goggles, or even lubricant to keep heavy guns from jamming in Iraq’s dry climate.

    And the amazing thing is that none of it ever had to happen. All it would have taken is a different President and the Iraq war never would have occurred. None of those wasted lives, though they might have found some way to waste the money. Those are the kinds of opportunities that get lost when someone thinks you might as well vote for Nader because Gore is somehow just as bad as Bush.

    Now let’s see pay attention and see if our generals are still worried they’ll turn around to find Trump declaring war on North Korea on Twitter without consulting anyone else first.

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