Kshama Sawant: America’s Newest Socialist City Council Member. Seattle voters made history last week when they elected social activist and economics professor Kshama Sawant to the city council. The India-born Sawant was part of Occupy Seattle in 2011 and unsuccessfully ran for legislative office in 2012 against the state’s House speaker. In the city council race she ran against 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin, taking 50.3% to his 49.4% of the vote. The race is technically non-partisan, though Sawant made it clear that she was a socialist and campaigned on a platform that called for rent control, a millionaire tax to fund public services and raising minimum wage to $15. In an interview with Salon she describes how she became a Socialist.
When did you become a socialist and what brought you to socialism?
Consciously, I became a socialist when I came to Seattle, and I just happened to attend a meeting where somebody from Socialist Alternative gave a speech. And for me, there was — that was exactly what I was looking for. And I haven’t looked back since then.
But I would say more accurately that I have always been a socialist, but less consciously. From my very childhood, it was just the experience of growing up in Mumbai, India, and seeing just the ocean of poverty and misery all around me. And for me, it was not simply a question of outrage or fellow-feeling. Of course that’s the starting point, but for me it’s a logical question as well. Which is: How is it possible that there is so much wealth in society, and you can see that there are so many wealthy people who are just wealthy beyond measure, and you have such unimaginable poverty and misery, and just absolute horrendous conditions that human beings are living in …
It just seemed very, just unacceptable to me logically that that situation was a natural one. I mean, I could see that it had nothing to do with resources or productivity. It was clearly a political obstacle to eliminating poverty.
View video of Councilmember Sawant’s victory party speech below. Seattle’s city archivist tells Al-Jazeera that the win “marks the first time a socialist will hold a city-wide post in roughly 100 years.” [Angry Asian Man, Salon]
Kal Penn & Barack Obama: Together Again. On Monday, President Obama nominated actor Kal Penn as one of five people to be appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The White Castle star is a White House regular — he previously served in the White House’s Office of Public Engagement and campaigned extensively for the president in both 2008 and 2012. Penn also attended the White House’s Science Fair earlier this year, observing student science projects and trying out eight-grader Jessika Baral’s project on strengthening eye muscles. [Washington Post]
A Blogger Apologizes. Caryn D. Riswold, blogger and feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition, followed up her “Maybe You Shouldn’t Marry Him” post about Simone Jhingoor’s Today show proposal with a tweet of regret for the snarky title of her initial post. Riswold also published a post yesterday acknowledging the effect her words had on Jhingoor. [Patheos]
— Caryn Riswold (@feminismxianity) November 16, 2013
Aziz Ansari at Power of Comedy Benefit. Comedians roasted late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel at Variety’s Power of Comedy gala to benefit the Noreen Fraser Foundation, which raises funds to research cancer. Ansari thanked Kimmel as the first late-night host to invite him early on in his career and made it clear that he is not one of those “people that do comedy that are really pro cancer” — phew! [Variety]
Sachal Jazz Ensemble’s U.S. Debut. The New York Daily News reports on the collaboration between The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Pakistan’s Sachal Jazz Ensemble. The ensemble’s master musicians came from Lahore’s “Lollywood” movie system, the “closest thing the country had to a music conservatory.” Their interpretations of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” have become viral sensations. November 22-23, Rose Theater at JALC. [NY Daily News]