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Topic: Social IdeasThe new items published under this topic are as follows.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Capitalism's march toward global collapse: Failure of "climate summit" model is driving us to the brink
The Warsaw conference demonstrated that the "climate summit" model is broken and, more importantly, that capitalism itself is driving us to the brink. Protests are not the solution -- it's time to fight the system using its own weapons. Harald Welzer, 55, teaches social psychology at Flensburg and St. Gallen Universities. He is director of the "FUTURZWEI" foundation in Berlin, an international affiliate of which will shortly be launched under the name of "FUTUREPERFECT". His most recent book is Selbst denken. Eine Anleitung zum Widerstand ("Think for yourself: A Handbook for Resistance").Posted at: Monday, December 09, 2013 - 01:31 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Climate summit trap: Capitalism's march toward global collapse
Harald Welzer (Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein) SPIEGEL ONLINE Germany December 6, 2013
This article originally appeared in German in issue 49/2013 (December 2nd, 2013) of DER SPIEGEL.
The municipal utility company in the city of Potsdam is currently wooing new customers with a special "BabyBonus" offer. The slogan reads, "We value little energy robbers! Welcome to the world!" Every newborn receives a credit of 500 kilowatt hours of electricity, allowing him or her to revel from the start in a world where everything, especially energy, will always be available in abundance. These babies may later find they're in for a surprise.
When the United Nations Climate Change Conference wrapped up in Warsaw the weekend before last, it did, despite what most observers and disappointed NGO representatives believe, yield a result. It just wasn't officially announced: the termination of the at-least symbolic general agreement that urgent action must be taken to counter global warming. In other words, climate change has been definitively removed from the global policy agenda.
The intense concern over climate change triggered by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports in 2007 and widely popularized by Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" -- a concern that led even Angela Merkel to make an appearance in the Arctic as the "climate chancellor," decked out in a red all-weather jacket -- actually dissipated a while ago, but no one wanted to say so out loud.
The United States' lack of interest in an international treaty is dressed up by its argument that gas extracted by fracking is more climate-friendly than coal, while in Japan, the Fukushima disaster and resulting phase-out of nuclear power has provided those responsible with an excellent argument for why the country now needs to burn more coal in order to stay economically competitive. Hannelore Kraft, governor of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, feels much the same way about her own state. And Australia, Canada, Poland and Russia have never really grasped why global warming should stop anyone from burning everything the oil rigs, mines and pipelines have to offer in the first place.
To put it another way: The primacy of economics has prevailed. It no longer seems to matter how we're supposed to get through the rest of this century if the world grows warmer by three, four or five degrees Celsius. National economies require an ever-growing dose of energy if their business models are to continue functioning, and, in the face of this logic, all scientific objections to the contrary are just as powerless as the climate protest movements, which are, in any case, marginal.
Jim comment" There are many provocative comments appended to Welzer's essay. Arguments both pro and con.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
A shot of Tao
... The space between Heaven and Earth
- From Tao Ching Chapter 5. Source: www.Taoism.net and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006
The unheralded virtues of absence
Geoff Olson Common Ground magazine British Columbia Canada December 2013
It was a warm summer night on Salt Spring Island. The wine flowed freely as wasps flew reconnaissance missions over dessert dishes. Our host held up her glass and offered us a shot of Tao – a concept, not a drink. “The hollowness of the vessel is as important as the glass itself,” she said, explaining how Taoists appreciated the value of things absent.
When I got home, I plucked a dog-eared copy of the Tao Te Ching from a bookshelf, to sharpen my recollection of Lao Tzu’s original words. “The utility of the cart depends on the hollow centre in which the axle turns,” wrote the Chinese sage in sixth century BC. “Clay is moulded into a vessel; the utility of the vessel depends on its hollow interior. Doors and windows are cut out in order to make a house; the utility of the house depends on the empty spaces.
“Thus, while the existence of things may be good, it is the non-existent in them which makes them serviceable.”
This truism may make perfect sense to Taoists, but such notions fit uneasily in westernized brainpans. For most of us, the word “nothing” conjures up a void, an absence, a lack. Nothingness is shorthand for failure, meaninglessness or just plain nihilism. In the secular, scientific mindset, nonexistence is our final destination after a few decades of putzing around on Earth. The slim volume of one’s life is bracketed by twin eternities of nada, like monstrous bookends. To believe otherwise is supposedly superstitious, pseudoscientific or shame-facedly sentimental.
In this view, we make our ways from the crib to the coffin in an eyeblink of geological time, and that’s it. You get only one shot to make the best of it, although from the perspective of a 13 billion-year-old cosmos, you might as well have never existed at all. Good times.
“Nothing is an awe-inspiring yet essentially undigested concept, highly esteemed by writers of an existentialist tendency, but by most others regarded with anxiety, nausea, or panic,” wrote P.L. Heath for his tongue-in-cheek entry on Nothing for the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Nobody seems to know how to deal with it (he would, of course) and plain persons generally are reported to have little difficulty in saying, seeing, hearing, and doing nothing.”
“Emptiness” comes off even worse than “nothing” in western lingo. According to Wikipedia, it is “a human condition is a sense of generalized boredom, social alienation and apathy. Feelings of emptiness often accompany dysthymia, depression, loneliness, anhedonia, despair, or other mental/emotional disorders, including schizoid personality disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizotypal personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.” That’s a lot of baggage for one word to carry.
Not surprisingly, “emptiness” has different shades of meaning in Asian cultures, particularly Buddhism. The Sanskrit term Śūnyatā is commonly translated into English as emptiness, but the meanings branch out – depending on the doctrinal context – to voidness, openness, spaciousness and “thusness.” In Mahayana Buddhism, it commonly means that no person or object has an independent phenomenal existence. All things depend on other things and come into being through ‘mutual arising.’ This idea of mutual interdependence, in different language, is now a fixture in present-day ecology, social sciences and physics. The measurer and the measured are forever entangled, dancing an ontological tango that weaves the world into being.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
The militarization of liberalism
You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. - German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (Part Three), first published in April 1884. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (German: Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen) is a philosophical novel Nietzsche composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885.Posted at: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 01:36 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Nietzsche long ago diagnosed the problem, in the form of the psychodynamics of the bully, one whose inner fears make him aggressive, spiteful, vindictive, principal characteristics—although he does not say this—for election to the American presidency. - Norman Pollack
This leaves us with a few, more critical questions to ponder. I will not answer these here, but please do ruminate on them. First, is a universal application of law possible without law emanating from the State? Second, is a universal application of law actually a good? Or, is it a remnant of a euro-centric era, excluding societies whose history is not tied to liberalism? Lastly, in terms of the legal framework as it now stands, is it possible to retrieve our personal privacy from the ever encroaching national security State? Troublesome and yet pointing to a new opening for the multitude. - Andrew Smolski, "The NSA and the emancipatory limits of legal liberalism", October 10, 2013
Below: Norman Pollack is the author of The Populist Response to Industrial America (Harvard) and The Just Polity (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University. His new book, Eichmann on the Potomac, will be published next month. The book investigates Obama's armed drone warfare and its role in maintaining unilateral US dominance. Pollack's ire is directed at Obama and the CIA's veil of secrecy in its program of targeted assassination. He argues that an out of sight, out of mind approach to drone warfare indicates a general moral decay and a desensitization toward death and destruction. A searing indictment of the Barack Obama administration and the unchecked growth of executive power, Eichmann on the Potomac is a political and psychological profile of the contemporary imperial mindset. Pollack's book places Obama's drone warfare program and targeted assassination plan into historical and legal context, showing how the routinization of assassination, aerial surveillance, and undeclared warfare shreds the constitutional limitations on unrestrained executive power.
The militarization of liberalism
Norman Pollack CounterPunch USA October 10, 2013
Democracy, Liberalism, Militarism: Capitalist Vitalization
In a previous article, I suggested the three-legged stool –surveillance, assassination, teleprompter –as basic elements of Obama’s presidency thus far, which, in creating a unitary framework of repression, characterize a stage in America of incipient fascism, one that, as the police-state dimensions of the first, the flagrant violation of international law, via drone warfare in vaporizing human beings, of the second, and the decorative rhetorical flights to facilitate a cosmetic persona in contradiction to actual policy of the third, become more firmly entrenched, as presently appears likely, incipiency will develop further into the structural-psychological-military foundations of authoritarianism, probably not on the European model of fascism, but uniquely America’s own. I have no illusions about liberalism in its modern guise: essentially motivated by the rejection of radicalism and offering minor social-welfare legislation as the means of obviating the Left democratization of class, power, and political culture of society, all the while activating and protecting capitalism as it assumes monopolistic proportions. Things were obviously simpler in the time of John Locke, where the antecedent property right was transparent and social traits of covetousness were presumably sanctioned by a higher law. One knew where one stood and why in the total social order, with ownership of property the defining point about Lockean liberalism. Mention here of that is necessary, because modern liberalism has been so gussied up through propaganda and layers of obfuscation (hence, the teleprompter as shorthand for a brigade of speechwriters on message delivering calculated deception) that its commitment to corporate wealth and, in foreign policy, the National-Security State recedes in the background or is simply taken for granted.
Thus when I refer to the militarization of liberalism, I mean its predisposition to global hegemony, the dedication to Cold War policies, in part, for proving its nonradical credentials, in part, because, in its haste to ward off suspicions of un-Americanism and adopt a posture of super-patriotism, it actually has the conviction that freedom and capitalism are synonymous if not identical, and finally, the gullible belief and pride that capitalist expansion is America’s duty to the world. In all of these cases, militarism is the ratifying condition for their respective realization: militarism, however, sanitized, in keeping with the philosophic image of liberalism as a vehicle of progress (to which militarism now conjoined basks in its prestige). And as the ratifying condition, it, in Cold War terms, provides for successfully mounting an offensive against the Left. In terms of political-ideological respectability, liberalism is enabled to ride the coattails of militarism as the sine qua non of Americanism beyond reproach, while in terms of capitalist expansion, militarism, coupled with the exportation of America’s ideas and institutions, which it has been assigned the task of facilitating, implies liberalism’s moral dimension rooted in exceptionalism, as America’s obligation to share its ideological bounty. Liberalism, without its military underpinnings in America, would lose its utilitarian value for rationalizing financial-market penetration and political-ideological global hegemony, not to say, the current mode, humanitarian interventionism. Otherwise, liberalism would be a toothless tiger, America then requiring a realpolitik inviting greater opposition in pursuit of hegemonic goals.
But what, then, of the liberalization of militarism? Most of the foregoing applies, the militarization of liberalism, except that here, where liberalism directly enters the picture as primarily causal, militarism changes not an iota—yet appears other than itself, a righteous force harnessed to a democratic America (and therefore above reproach), while even the semblance of liberalism as popularly conceived has been utterly disemboweled. Its endorsement of militarism confers goodness on the latter while vitiating the former. ...
Liberalism, Militarism, Capitalism: Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse
In the Obama Era (if we can dignify the period with his name), perhaps more than ever in America, one finds liberalism, militarism, and capitalism marching in lockstep, an integrated framework awaiting the necessary cohesion precisely when, now circumstances having dictated their convergence, the US is losing its superpower status in a newly developing multi-polar world, and avidly seeking its restoration. I noted in the previous article that these “global circumstances [chiefly, the political-economic-military rise of China, but also a reinvigorated Russia under Putin, autonomous currency and trading blocs (EU), and emerging, no longer merely Third World, industrializing nations in their own right, notably Brazil] point to America’s asymmetrical posture, declining financial-industrial power, ascending militarism as a way of arresting that decline, the sum of which is measures to postpone or cushion the fall.” America is feeling the pinch—Obama, from the standpoint of rejuvenating a by-no-means terminally ill, but still in declining health on all fronts (not least, obviously, the economic) patient, is, although most conservative power-wielders don’t realize it—YET, the right man, in the right place, at the right time: yes, Our Servant of the Vested Interests.
Liberalism, Militarism, Capitalism, the three horsemen of the apocalypse, galloping into the future, work so well together, are so mutually compatible, in the American setting, that it is difficult to distinguish at times which of these is the decisive or motivating force driving the presumed engine of progress. ...
Sunday, October 6, 2013
From biology to spirituality: Sir Alister Hardy’s quest
I must admit that I was myself in my heart of hearts, convinced that telepathy was real; at the same time I knew that my account was not scientifically good evidence and could not convince others. - Sir Alister HardyPosted at: Sunday, October 06, 2013 - 07:14 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
The living stream. Soul biology: Science meets spirit
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada September 25, 2013
Five links. Here from one of those links"
Sir Alister Clavering Hardy, FRS, (1896 – 1985) was an English marine biologist, expert on zooplankton and marine ecosystems. ... Hardy discussed his evolutionary ideas in his book The Living Stream (1965), he had written a chapter titled "Biology and Telepathy" in the book where he explained that "something akin to telepathy might possibly influence the process of evolution". His views on evolution have been described as vitalist. Hardy also suggested that certain animals share a "group mind" which he described as "a sort of psychic blueprint between members of a species." He also speculated that all species might be linked in a "cosmic mind" capable of carrying evolutionary information through space and time. ...
From biology to spirituality
Article and photo illustation by Geoff Olson Common Ground British Columbia Canada October 2013
Two women, two entirely different stories of spiritual loss and renewal. The first woman was recovering from “a very distressing love affair” while staying with some friends and their children at a beach cottage. Months earlier in London, the mother of the family had given her suffering friend a book on Chinese philosophy: the I Ching. Although the book “quite impressed” her, the woman did not give it much more thought due to her preoccupations.
“Quite by chance – how important and strange that factor is – someone else gave me a copy of the very same book, just as I was about to leave for my holiday… For the next few days, I gave the book [my] fully, undivided attention and gradually I became aware that I had an explanation for the previously inexplicable, that there was an order in the intangible world of emotions, relationships and ‘happenings’ which followed a similar kind of order to things in the physical world. I realized that the natural (the nurturing of each in reference to the other) could produce harmony of being, or ‘serenity’ if you like, and that God was overseer of this. This insight made Christianity comprehensible to me and I realized that contact with God had to be reinforced and strengthened as it was vital to achieving the desired harmony. The ritual of religion now had a meaning which is why I decided to go regularly to church.” (Church of England). *000463
Another woman was nearly 40 when she became “aware of having finally shaken off all the dreadful Christianity that pervaded everything in those times….” She contrasts her “delight with Nature” with her “completely phony” religion.
“Nothing I was given to read at school or at home helped at all; my real educational reading only began when I left school and could choose to read comparative religion, philosophy and science… I have entirely thrown off and repudiated my early religious feelings and ideas, thank goodness, and only when I had finally done so did I feel that I could be an honest, guiltless, socially poised person. The life of deceit and double talk/think which I led as a child was miserable… If Prime Cause there be, I’m very sure it will be found to be a part of universal nature, not something ‘outside’. This belief is so reassuring because it removes God or whatever you call IT, from those damp distant clouds and brings it right here and all around. We are of one substance with the Universe and it won’t stop to let us get off whether alive or dead.” *000493
These two accounts seem to come from opposite poles of belief. Yet these women shared at least one thing in common. Years ago, they responded to a question posted in British newspapers by Sir Alister Hardy: “Have you ever experienced a presence or power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday self?”
The first woman found solace in the Church of England after reading an Eastern philosophical text. The second, as Hardy wrote in his 1979 book, The Spiritual Nature of Man, was a “person who might at first sight be thought by some to have changed against religion; it is clear, however, that she has moved from one form which was meaningless to her to another which provided her with a deep sense of spiritual reality.”
A marine biologist by training, Oxford professor Sir Alister Hardy was brilliant enough – or quixotic enough – to see common ground between the two stories. His famous “Hardy question” netted thousands of stories of religious, spiritual and pararnormal experiences from men and women across the world, which are now archived at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Lampeter, Wales.
Lampeter, known to locals by its Welsh name Llanbedr Pont Steffan, is a Lilliputian market town nestled in the Kryptonite-coloured hills of West Wales. The small bakeries, restaurants and shops bracketing its winding streets are defiantly human-scale. As I wandered about the town square, I saw very few patrons and pedestrians with their noses stuck in digital devices. The most notable landmark in Lampeter is the university – the oldest campus in both Wales and England, apart from Oxford and Cambridge. I arrived here on a typical spring day in Wales, wet and overcast. The grey skies didn’t seem to bother the birds calling from the trees on the campus grounds. As I rolled my suitcase into the university’s front office, I heard a choir performing a madrigal in the concert room across the hall. Wales is renowned as a nation of singers, which is echoed in the people’s musical dialect.
The international reputation of the university for studies in philosophy and theology belies its small scale. This may be the reason it became home in 2000 to the world’s largest archive of religious, spiritual and psychic experiences, following the relocation of the Religious Experience Research Centre (RERC) from Oxford.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
The living stream. Soul biology: Science meets spirit
Alister Hardy Biologist of the soulPosted at: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 08:22 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Article and photo illustation by Geoff Olson Common Ground British Columbia Canada September 2013
Sir Alister Hardy was an unusual combination of nature mystic and rigorous scientist.
A 33 year-old woman is in pain, struggling to give birth. The hospital staff hands her a mirror to watch the child’s emergence. “She looked so small, this perfectly formed being with tiny finger and toe nails and little eyelashes,” the woman recalled after the storm had passed and the baby lay next to her on a cot. “I could hardly believe that I was responsible for producing such a creature and that she was mine. It was the moments that followed I call my ‘religious experience’. I remember saying, ‘This is what is happening all over the world at this very moment.’ As I said this, I felt a tremendous sense of both wonder at the present moment and unity with humanity. I felt totally and deeply absorbed and immersed, just for a few moments, in a momentous event, a universal but unique experience, giving birth.”
Her identity, as an individual female in a particular hospital at a specific time, evaporated. “I was a woman in India, Africa or China or as a part of history. I had taken part in the universal cycle of birth and death and in the struggle for life. It was a totally self-forgetting experience, as I felt part of the immediate whole. I was caught in an intense timeless moment in which I lost my own sense of self identity.” (004664)*
A man on a train passing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa finds himself spontaneously “melting and slipping into the landscape, becoming one with the delight of it all. It was as if I had left my body in the train corridor, but the essence of myself, who I really was, had moved out and become one with everything I had seen, which did not exclude the train itself…” The entire countryside alters in his perception and “everything in it, without exception, simply glowed with numinous light; it seemed no longer to be lit by the sun but by its own internal radiance. Sunlight was not reflected from it, but I myself and everything else seemed to have become light which now interpenetrated and shone through our previously dense physical forms…
“I now saw my life had become a mystery to be expressed, rather than an intellectual/materialistic ‘cause and effect’ riddle to solve,” he wrote of his extraordinary experience, unmediated by drink or drugs. He knew that he could never tell his friends about it, but could he give credence to this “extraordinary energy of love,” or would he continue life in his “normal pro-active manipulative way?” (100003)*
These two stories and thousands of other stories of spiritual experiences from religious and non-religious people across the world were elicited by a simple question from a remarkable man. More than 40-years-ago, retired marine biologist Sir Alister Hardy and a team of researchers at Oxford’s Manchester College posted notices in national newspapers, asking readers, “Have you ever experienced a presence or power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday self?” There are now over 6,000 accounts from newspaper readers, radio listeners and others who have learned of Hardy’s quest, archived at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Alister Hardy was born in 1896, the third son of a successful Nottingham architect. The lanky boy couldn’t participate in team sports because of an eye defect that left him bereft of binocular vision, so teachers sent him for long walks in the Northamptonshire countryside to improve both his fitness and his understanding of natural history.
“There was a little lane leading off the Northampton road to Park Wood as it was called and it was a haven for the different kinds of brown butterflies,” Hardy recalled in his unpublished autobiography. “I especially liked walking along the banks of various streams watching, as the summer developed, the sequence of wildflowers growing along their brims… I wandered along the banks at times almost with a feeling of ecstasy. There is no doubt that as a boy I was becoming what might be described as a nature mystic. Somehow, I felt the presence of something that was beyond and in way part of all things that thrilled me – the wild flowers and indeed the insects too… Just occasionally, when I was sure no one could see me, I became so overcome with the glory of the natural scene that, for a moment or two, I fell on my knees in prayer – not prayer asking for anything, but thanking God, who felt very real to me, for the glories of his kingdom, and for allowing me to feel them. It was always by the running waterside that I did this, perhaps in front of a great foam of meadowsweet or purple loosestrife.”
Related: Alister Hardy
Wikipedia Last modified on September 15, 2013
Sir Alister Clavering Hardy, FRS (10 February 1896 – 22 May 1985) was an English marine biologist, expert on zooplankton and marine ecosystems. He founded the Religious Experience Research Centre in 1969, after retiring as a professor at the University of Oxford.
Hardy discussed his evolutionary ideas in his book The Living Stream (1965), he had written a chapter titled "Biology and Telepathy" in the book where he explained that "something akin to telepathy might possibly influence the process of evolution". His views on evolution have been described as vitalist. Hardy also suggested that certain animals share a "group mind" which he described as "a sort of psychic blueprint between members of a species." He also speculated that all species might be linked in a "cosmic mind" capable of carrying evolutionary information through space and time.
Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre
University of Wales, Trinity Saint David Wales n.d.
Visit this page for its embedded links.
Have you ever had a spiritual or religious experience or felt a presence or power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your every day life?
Are you curious about such experiences - to know what they are, whether people have had them, and what they might be telling us? Would you like to communicate with others of like mind - and / or contribute your own experience to the growing accounts of these experiences?
Are you interested? If so, then read on, this page is for you - or contact us for a brochure and further information.
Dr Bettina Schmidt
Bronwen, Viscountess Astor
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr
The Revd. Dr John A. Newton
His Eminence Supreme Primate, Koken Otani
Sir Jonathon Porritt
Chief Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks
The Alister Hardy Society for the Study of Spiritual Experience
Copyright, AHSSSE, 2013 Registered Charitable Trust No. 286682.
Visit this page for its embedded links.
The Living Stream: A Restatement Of Evolution Theory And Its Relationship To The Spirit of Man, Harper and Row, New York, NY, 1965. Search Google Scholar
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Eye on the USA: A new book casts light on America's 'managed democracy'
With a second term president showing signs of kicking over the traces of America's oligarchy's foreign policies and whistleblower Edward Snowden exposing that oligarchy's global panopticon, things just may be looking up for the world. Now, a new book may help American citizens understand how their 'democracy' is managed.Posted at: Sunday, September 15, 2013 - 06:20 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the information that the NSA collects on average Americans. According to The Nation's John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, politicians and political campaigns have been data mining the electorate for years. In their new book, Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America, they analyze how data mining is used not only to manipulate voters but also to maximize fundraising and attract donors.
Fresh from the first $10 billion election campaign, Dollarocracy makes clear how unbridled campaign spending defines America's politics and, failing a dramatic intervention, signals the end of the Grand Old Republic's democracy. Below is an excerpt.
Dollarocracy. Special interests dominate Washington and undermine our democracy
John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney The Nation USA Webposted September 11, 2013
“We’ve found through our experience that timid supplications for justice will not solve the problem,” declared the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 as he announced the civil rights movement’s pivot toward the economic justice message of the Poor People’s Campaign. “We’ve got to massively confront the power structure.”
With those words, King spoke a language every bit as American as his “I Have a Dream” message of four years earlier. There are times for optimism and hope, and there are times for acknowledgment of an overwhelming challenge and the radical demand that it be addressed. Often they merge, and in these moments, great movements fundamentally redirect the nation. Tom Paine knew that. So did Frederick Douglass, and Jane Addams, and A. Philip Randolph. There is a rich American tradition of recognizing that some crises cannot be answered by tinkering at the edges of the problem. At such times, the people have responded with a boldness that ushered in new political parties or a New Deal, new understandings of the rights of citizens and the responsibilities of governments. And they have amended the Constitution, not once or twice but twenty-seven times.
After the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, we began what would become a three-year survey of the state of American democracy, using the 2010 and 2012 election cycles as touchstones but focusing on a range of electoral, governmental and journalistic measures of democratic decay. The experience forced us to recognize the futility of timid supplications in pursuit of reforming politics and the media. We did this not as critics of the reform impulse, but as co-founders of a media reform organization who have maintained a long-term faith in the power of organizing and the potential of electoral politics to achieve consequential change. We retain that faith, along with a deep understanding of the value of continual prodding at the local, state and national levels. But we concluded that mild reforms are no longer sufficient to address a political crisis as far-reaching as any the nation has known. ...
Friday, September 13, 2013
Recuerdo. Je me souviens. Student movements South (Chile) and North (Quebec)
Chileans for free educationPosted at: Friday, September 13, 2013 - 03:22 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Dustin Ferretti Canadian Dimension Canada September 11, 2013
The movement that erupted in Chile in 2011 has maintained its strength into the 2013 academic year, and now the student leaders hold some decisive cards. In the last few months, on several separate occasions, supporters have taken to the streets in major cities by the hundreds of thousands in nationwide marches. As I write, 24 Chilean universities and 35 high schools are “en toma” or have at least an entire faculty on strike, and have declared an indefinite continuation of these occupations and demonstrations.
They are demanding free and quality education for all Chileans, claiming it as a universal social right. With elections just five months from now and campaigns well underway, the popularity and influence of the student movement have made it an inescapable concern for any presidential contender.
Former President Michelle Bachelet of the Socialist Party is the only likely candidate according to polls, and she is already looking for redemption from her first encounter with student mobilizations in 2006 known as the “March of the Penguins.” However, Andrés Fielbaum, President of the Student Federation of the University of Chile (FECh) and voice of the movement, has rejected her recent promise to implement free education by 2019. “What matter in politics are deeds and not promises,” Fielbaum says. “Such great offers come in electoral years, but we have seen that promises in electoral years mean very little.” (My translation.)
The “Maple Spring” in Québec emerged very much in parallel with what has been dubbed the “Chilean Winter,” temporally speaking. It could be the opportunity of upcoming elections in Chile that explains the revived movement activity this year, perhaps suggesting that next year its Canadian counterpart might reignite as well. If that is to be the case, then we to the north have a wonderful opportunity to learn from Chile and prepare to have our student issues be a top priority in the political campaigns that have already begun.
On the other hand, these two movements at opposite ends of the hemisphere seem to resonate at different frequencies. What is it about the circumstances in Chile that can explain such strong and resilient support for the students’ demands? How is the Chilean movement able to organize and orchestrate such pressure on the state on a national, and not just provincial, scale?
The answer is multifaceted, but primarily it has to do with the political history of Chile and the framing processes that the movement has carried out. ...
Quiet streets, emboldened hearts
Aaron Lakoff Canadian Dimension Canada September 12, 2013
Francis Grenier lost sight in his right eye after being hit by a police sound grenade during the tumultuous Quebec student strike. Photo: Aaron Lakoff
’m standing with Francis Grenier in downtown Montreal, just blocks away from the spot where his life took a drastic turn. On March 7, 2012, Grenier, a 23-year-old visual arts student at Cégep de Saint-Jérôme, was attending one of his first demonstrations of his life, part of the growing Québec Student Strike. Without warning, riot police rushed in to disperse Grenier and his fellow students, who were engaged in a peaceful sit-in outside a university administration office. One police officer threw a sound grenade that exploded just above Grenier’s head. A piece of shrapnel tore into his eye, creating permanent damage. It would become the first of many serious injuries caused by police during the Québec student strike, the largest of its kind in North American history.
“I’ve been seen 5 or 6 doctors, and none of them has found a solution. I basically see nothing with my right eye,” Grenier says with a sombre look on his face. In September 2012, he filed a lawsuit with the city of Montreal and the Montreal police service for $350 000 in damages, alleging that the police misused their tools of dispersal. He is still awaiting a date for a hearing at the Quebec superior court.
“Because of my experience with police brutality during the strike, today I don’t see a police officer as a trustworthy person,” Grenier continues. “I see them as an armed person. A person who can be potentially dangerous.”
One year after the ending of the historic student strike that shook the fabric of Québec society and inspired people across Canada and around the world, many students, including Grenier, are still living with the scars of an intense mass movement, quite literally.
Much has changed since the September 2012 provincial elections that ousted the Liberal Jean Charest government and brought a minority Parti Québécois (PQ) government under Pauline Marois, effectively killing the student strike. During the election campaign, the PQ campaigned on the premise that it was the party closest to the student movement’s interests. Marois and other high level PQ members donned the emblematic red square of support for the student movement in the National Assembly, and attended some of the demonstrations.
One of the very first acts of the PQ government in power was to repeal Charest’s 75 per cent tuition hike, as well as the infamous Bill 78, which many saw as a major curtailment on the right to protest. However, in February, 2013, the new government held a summit on higher education, at which point they announced they would continue to index tuition fees to the cost of inflation, amounting to roughly a 3 per cent increase every year.
Needless to say, debate continuous at a furious pace within Québec’s youthful and radical student movement. Some elements of the movement see the election of the PQ government and the lesser tuition increase as a significant victory, while others don’t see much change between the new government and the old one.
“On the surface, nothing much has changed,” says Jeremie Bedard-Wien, sipping a coffee on a patio in downtown Montreal. Bedard-Wien is a student at University of Québec in Montreal (UQAM), and the former spokesperson of the student federation ASSE during the strike. “The same cronies are in the National Assembly, but this time they say ‘sorry’ when they cut into people’s livelihood or raise tuition.”
Student protest in the province has been relatively slow since last year’s elections, which Bedard-Wien attributes to the movement taking a much-needed break for reflection. “The student movement is undergoing a period of re-structuring,” he says. “We as a movement have reached the upper-limits of what we could do regarding the tuition increase by the Liberals. What that means is that for the next year, you won’t see us that much. There won’t be periods of great mobilizations.
But that is not to say all hope is lost.
“It’s simply a period of looking back, learning from what we’ve done during the strike, making adjustments, consolidating our bases on campuses, and making ASSE a stronger vehicle to be prepared for the next great moment of mobilization.” ...
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Apocalypse then, apocalypse now. Revelation of the destructiveness of our social order and the need for a new economics
Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 apocalyptic events. We thought it worthwhile to revisit these thoughts Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry published at that time. Even today, 12 years on, we still have not fully incorporated Berry's wisdom. The imperative for us to recognize the climax that day foretold grows more urgent.Posted at: Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 12:04 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
One of the gravest dangers to us now, second only to further terrorist attacks against our people, is that we will attempt to go on as before with the corporate program of global “free trade”, whatever the cost in freedom and civil rights, without self-questioning or self-criticism or public debate. - Wendell Berry, the 13th point of the 27 contained in the link below.
Thoughts in the presence of fear
Wendell Berry Orion Magazine USA Autumn 2001
I. The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.
II. This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a “new world order” and a “new economy” that would “grow” on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be “unprecedented”.
III. The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity was limited to a tiny percent of the world’s people, and to an ever smaller number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly prosperous.
IV. The “developed” nations had given to the “free market” the status of a god, and were sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands, and communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal costs of doing business.
V. There was, as a consequence, a growing worldwide effort on behalf of economic decentralization, economic justice, and ecological responsibility. We must recognize that the events of September 11 make this effort more necessary than ever. We citizens of the industrial countries must continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our mistakes.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
In support of the warriors battling throat-cutting, market-minded, mercenary university administrators, an 'Academy Fight Song'
Every aspect of higher education has been corrupted by monopolies, cartels, and other predators. Ours is the generation that stood by gawking while a handful of parasites and billionaires smashed higher ed for their own benefit. A classic example of what Thomas Frank decries is Canada's current Governor General, David Johnston. Its all in his CV.Posted at: Sunday, September 01, 2013 - 06:44 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Academy fight song
Thomas Frank The Baffler USA Issue No. 23
This essay starts with utopia—the utopia known as the American university. It is the finest educational institution in the world, everyone tells us. Indeed, to judge by the praise that is heaped upon it, the American university may be our best institution, period. With its peaceful quadrangles and prosperity-bringing innovation, the university is more spiritually satisfying than the church, more nurturing than the family, more productive than any industry.
The university deals in dreams. Like other utopias—like Walt Disney World, like the ambrosial lands shown in perfume advertisements, like the competitive Valhalla of the Olympics—the university is a place of wish fulfillment and infinite possibility. It is the four-year luxury cruise that will transport us gently across the gulf of class. It is the wrought-iron gateway to the land of lifelong affluence.
It is not the university itself that tells us these things; everyone does. It is the president of the United States. It is our most respected political commentators and economists. It is our business heroes and our sports heroes. It is our favorite teacher and our guidance counselor and maybe even our own Tiger Mom. They’ve been to the university, after all. They know. ...
Go back to the beginning, back to the days when people first understood a character-building college diploma to be the ticket to middle-class success. We would forge a model republic of citizen-students, who would redeem the merit badges of academic achievement for spots in the upper reaches of corporate capitalism. The totems of the modern American striver were to be the University Credential and the Corner Office, and prosperity would reward the ablest.
And so the story remains today, despite everything that has happened in the realms of the corporation and the university. We might worry from time to time about the liberal professors who infest the academy, but school is still where you go to “write your destiny,” to use President Obama’s 2010 description of education generally. Go to college, or else your destiny will be written by someone else. The bachelor’s degree that universities issue is a “credential” that’s “a prerequisite for 21st century jobs,” says the White House website. Obama himself equates education with upward mobility—more schooling equals more success—as well as with national greatness. “The kinds of opportunities that are open to you will be determined by how far you go in school,” he declared a few years ago. ...
We don’t pause to consider that maybe we’ve got the whole thing backwards—that the big universities expanded in their heyday to keep up with industry demand, not to build the middle class. Instead, what everyone agrees on is this: higher education is the industry that sells tickets to the affluent life. In fact, they are the only ones licensed to do this. Yes, there are many colleges one can choose from—public, private, and for-profit—but collectively they control the one credential that we believe to be of value. Everything about them advertises it. The armorial logos, the Gothic towers, even the names of the great colleges, so redolent of money and privilege and aristocracy: Duke and Princeton and Vanderbilt. If you want to succeed, you must go to them; they are the ones controlling the gate.
What they sell, in other words, is something we believe to be so valuable it is almost impossible to measure. Anyone in her right mind would pay an enormous price for it.
Another fact: This same industry, despite its legal status as a public charity, is today driven by motives indistinguishable from the profit-maximizing entities traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The coming of “academic capitalism” has been anticipated and praised for years; today it is here. Colleges and universities clamor greedily these days for pharmaceutical patents and ownership chunks of high-tech startups; they boast of being “entrepreneurial”; they have rationalized and outsourced countless aspects of their operations in the search for cash; they fight their workers nearly as ferociously as a nineteenth-century railroad baron; and the richest among them have turned their endowments into in-house hedge funds.
Now, consider the seventeen-year-old customer against whom this predatory institution squares off. He comes loping to the bargaining table armed with about the same amount of guile that, a few years earlier, he brought to Santa’s lap in the happy holiday shopping center. ...
The system can’t go on this way. It is too obviously a rip-off on too many levels, with too many victims. One of these days a breaking point will come, just as it did with Enron and the dot-coms and the housing bubble, and all the fine words spoken by our thought leaders will once again be recalled to make them look like imbeciles. The means by which cosmic justice will make itself felt is not clear just yet: free online courses, maybe, or a national tuition strike, or the debt-driven failure of a prestigious U or two, or maybe a right-wing backlash that finally figures out how the university’s economic logic corrodes its social liberalism.
It’s easy to understand what ought to be done about the higher-ed situation; there is a huge literature on this subject. The scandal has been understood, to varying degrees, for decades. Every example I have used here, every argument I have made, has been made or used by someone else already; after all, the people who have seen this go down are people who can write. The country was up in arms about tuition inflation in the late 1980s. Bill Readings published his depressing prediction, The University in Ruins, back in 1996. The Wall Street Journal ran a shocking page-one story on enrollment management that same year. The proletarianization of the PhD has been a subject of countless exposés since the days of a teaching-assistant strike at Yale in the mid-nineties; I own two books of essays on the subject; no doubt there are a dozen more. Chris Newfield’s account of managerialism and higher ed appeared in 2003, and Jennifer Washburn’s University Inc. in 2005. Stanley Aronowitz predicted the slow demise of the professoriate in 1997, and Frank Donoghue told us exactly how the end was coming in The Last Professors, published in 2008.
Ours is the generation that stood by gawking while a handful of parasites and billionaires smashed higher ed for their own benefit.
What ought to happen is that everything I’ve described so far should be put in reverse. College should become free or very cheap. It should be heavily subsidized by the states, and robust competition from excellent state U’s should in turn bring down the price of college across the board. Pointless money-drains like a vast administration, a preening president, and a quasi-professional football team should all be plugged up. Accrediting agencies should come down like a hammer on universities that use too many adjuncts and part-time teachers. Student loan debt should be universally refinanced to carry little or no interest and should be dischargeable in bankruptcy, like any other form of debt.
But repeating this feels a little like repeating that it will be bad if newspapers go out of business en masse. Of course it will. Everyone who can think knows this. But knowing it and saying it add up to very little.
Despite the academy’s noisy radicalism, its endangered meritocracy simply cannot summon the will to reverse the market tide. Despite the extreme prominence of the highly educated—the only members of President Obama’s first-term cabinet to have no advanced degrees were the secretaries of transportation and education—virtually no one in politics has proposed taking the obvious steps that are needed to solve the problem.
What actually will happen to higher ed, when the breaking point comes, will be an extension of what has already happened, what money wants to see happen. Another market-driven disaster will be understood as a disaster of socialism, requiring an ever deeper penetration of the university by market rationality. Trustees and presidents will redouble their efforts to achieve some ineffable “excellence” they associate with tech and architecture and corporate sponsorships. There will be more standardized tests, and more desperate test-prep. The curriculum will be brought into a tighter orbit around the needs of business, just like Thomas Friedman wants it to be. Professors will continue to plummet in status and power, replaced by adjuncts in more and more situations. An all-celebrity system, made possible by online courses or some other scheme, will finally bring about a mass faculty extinction—a cataclysm that will miraculously spare university administrations. And a quality education in the humanities will once again become a rich kid’s prerogative.
And so we end with dystopia, with a race to the free-market bottom. What makes it a tragedy is that President Obama is right about education’s importance. Not because college augments our future earning power, or helps us compete with Bangladesh, but because the pursuit of knowledge is valuable in its own right. This is why every democratic movement from the Civil War to the 1960s aimed to bring higher ed to an ever widening circle, to make it more affordable. Ours is the generation that stood by gawking while a handful of parasites and billionaires smashed it for their own benefit.
The only way out is for students themselves to interrupt the cycle. Maybe we should demand the nationalization of a few struggling universities, putting them on the opposite of a market-based footing, just as public ownership reformed the utilities in the last century. Maybe the college-aged should forgo the annual rituals and turn their eyes to German or Argentinian universities, in the same way that their grandparents use Canadian pharmaceuticals to hitchhike on a welfare state that hasn’t yet been completely compromised. Maybe it’s time for another Free Speech Movement, a nationwide student strike for tuition reform and debt relief. Whatever we do, it’s time to wake up from the dream.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
The meek have not inherited very much of the earth: Why violence works
Political power, said Mao, “grows out of the barrel of a gun.” His fondness for bloodshed should not blind us to the accuracy of his observation.Posted at: Sunday, August 18, 2013 - 12:21 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Those willing to use violence to achieve their goals will generally overcome their less bellicose adversaries—overturning the results of elections, negating the actions of parliamentary bodies, riding roughshod over peaceful expressions of political opinion, and so forth. Indeed, the mere threat of violence is often enough to compel acquiescence. Violent groups can usually be defeated only by enemies who use superior force against them. ... The United States-dominated international system is, like its predecessors, in large part a product of wars and other violent episodes that created some nations, eliminated others, and determined the balance of power among the survivors. Today forces intent on changing the shape of that order are working assiduously to develop military capabilities that will allow them to challenge the United States or whatever regional powers stand in the way of their ambitions. ... In the United States, we are aware of the petty forms of criminal violence often committed by the poor. These are cataloged each year as "crimes known to the police" in the statistics reported by the FBI. Yet we are less attuned to what might be called "coercion committed by the state." ... East Germany kept the peace by a program of surveillance, intimidation, and punishment that enrolled nearly a quarter of its populace in the regime's various security forces or as informers. Violence lurked behind the orderly facade. - Benjamin Ginsberg, a professor of political science and chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. This essay is adapted from his book The Value of Violence, forthcoming from Prometheus Books in September.
Why violence works
Benjamin Ginsberg The Chronicle Review USA August 12, 2013
Syrian rebels launch a rocket-propelled grenade against an army position in Aleppo. Photo: Franco Pagetti
Humans, and perhaps their prehuman ancestors, have engaged in murder and mayhem, as individuals and in groups, for hundreds of thousands of years. And, at least since the advent of recorded history, violence and politics have been intimately related. Nation-states use violence against internal and external foes. Dissidents engage in violence against states. Competing political forces inflict violence on one another. Writing in 1924, Winston Churchill declared—with good reason—that "the story of the human race is war."
Some writers see violence as an instrument of politics. Thomas Hobbes regarded violence as a rational means to achieve such political goals as territory, safety, and glory. Carl von Clausewitz famously referred to war as the continuation of politics by other means. A second group of writers view violence as a result of political failure and miscalculation. The title of an influential paper on the origins of the American Civil War by the historian James Randall, "The Blundering Generation," expresses that idea. A third group, most recently exemplified by the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, regards violence as a pathological behavior that is diminishing in frequency with the onward march of civilization. Some proponents of that perspective have even declared that violence is essentially a public-health problem. Whatever their differences, each of these perspectives assigns violence a subordinate role in political life.
But there is an alternative view, one that assigns violence a primary role in politics. This outlook is implied by Mao Zedong's well-known aphorism that political power "grows out of the barrel of a gun." Violence, in other words, is the driving force of politics, while peaceful forms of political engagement fill in the details or, perhaps, merely offer post-hoc justifications for the outcomes of violent struggles. Mao corrected Clausewitz by characterizing politics as a sequel to or even an epiphenomenon of violence—a continuation of violence by other means.
Unfortunately, Mao seemed to have an inordinate fondness for bloodshed. After all, he suggested that the quality of a revolutionary should be judged by the number of people he has killed. Yet our revulsion at Mao's practices should not blind us to the accuracy of his observation. Violence and the threat of violence are the most potent forces in political life.
People say that problems cannot be solved by the use of force, that violence, as the saying goes, is not the answer. That adage appeals to our moral sensibilities. But whether or not violence is the answer depends on the question being asked. For better or worse, violence usually provides the most definitive answers to three major questions of political life: statehood, territoriality, and power. Violent struggle—war, revolution, terrorism—more than any other immediate factor, determines what nations will exist and their relative power, what territories they occupy, and which groups will exercise power within them. ...
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
A living faith: On Salt Spring Island, efforts to recognize Buddhism's female ancestors has had a remarkable ripple effect
As emptiness is form, any realization of our true nature includes form.Posted at: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 - 08:18 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Women of Zen
Mary Fowles TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada August 3, 2013
Right: Women have always struggled for inclusion in this ancient religion. Photo by Klemen Misic via Shutterstock.com
Rowan Percy carefully unfolds a sheet of crisp, white rice paper and spreads it out onto the carpeted floor of her Salt Spring Island home.
"This is a women's lineage paper," she says. Rowan keeps hers on the altar where she meditates, wrapped in a scarf her mother used to wear.
The unfolded paper reveals the names of about 80 of Zen's most important female ancestors, beginning with the mythical Prajnaparamita, regarded as the mother of all Buddhas.
A thick brush stroke in red ink sweeps across the top of the page and encircles the names that jet out from the centre like sunrays. Percy's dharma name, Kokushin Kugen, given to her by her teacher, is carefully handwritten in a space at the bottom, closing the circle.
This paper obviously holds special meaning for Percy, who received it when she was ordained as a Zen Buddhist practitioner five years ago, but it holds great significance for Zen practice in the West as well.
For the first time in history, Zen's female ancestors and what they brought to Buddhism's long and varied trajectory are being acknowledged and honoured at ceremonies in the West with this official document. Percy, and her small grassroots Zen community on Salt Spring Island were instrumental in spurring it into existence.
When Percy began practicing at The Salt Spring Zen Circle in 2002 there was no such thing as a women's ancestor document -- though the traditional male lineage papers had been in use in Zen since its beginning.
Broadly speaking, lineage papers show the unbroken link between the head teachers of each lineage of Zen, akin to how a family name is passed from grandfather to father to son.
Called a "blood line" in Japanese, they are thought to have emerged from the Confucian tradition of ancestor veneration and show the continuous transfer of spiritual teachings -- known as dharma transmission -- from a teacher to his disciple, or dharma heir, over the centuries.
Traditionally, it includes names that stretch back to the Buddha himself; "the awakened one" who founded Buddhism upon his enlightenment in India approximately 2600 years ago.
Historically, these names have always been men's.
Until the 20th century, Zen had been defined as primarily a male monastic tradition. Its scriptures, literature, poetry and art for the most part exalt exclusively male stories. Few female names emerged in its far and wide transmission through the countries where it took root (notably China, Japan, Korea and areas of South East Asia) and the many cultures and eras in which it thrived.
Yet women were always practicing alongside men, albeit often in fewer numbers. They mostly practiced in women-led communities, and had not only been nuns but also founders of temples, heads of large monasteries, abbots and even dharma heirs, receiving authorization to teach directly from their male teachers. Some even risked their lives and livelihoods in order to practice.
"But these women always struggled for survival," says Zen priest and author Grace Schireson "while the monasteries for men received the official support of the kings and emperors."
"There were women in Japan and China," Percy explains, "who were raised in a patriarchal society who had the courage to leave the palace or leave their merchant family or their poverty stricken hovel where they lived, and go wandering through the country, looking for teachers to study with."
Zen practice in the West isn't even 100 years old but its arrival here has marked the first time in history that men and women have practiced side by side in the same monasteries. In Japan, even today, the genders are often strictly segregated.
It's also the first time in history that women have been heads of monasteries where women and men practice together, and share an equal status in every domain. And it is here in the West that practitioners are wrestling with the often oppositional forces of progress and tradition; that is, with what we leave behind and what we take with us when we adapt spiritual traditions that are multiple centuries old to new cultural values.
The women’s lineage papers have occurred with this upwelling of interest in Buddhist women’s presence in its history across the western world. Their creation ultimately relied on years of research and scholarship that has taken place in the West.
"Buddhism is like water," says Schireson. "It pours into a culture and gradually, after about 500 years, it becomes acculturated." She notes that it adopted elements of Confucianism and Taoism in China, then picked up the Samurai tradition and Shinto's love of nature in Japan.
"Now that it's come to America, psychology and feminism are forces that are strongly influencing it." ...
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Developing a coastal consciousness: Where the seashore is, history begins. Never turn your back on the ocean
"Historians connect all these dots, across the Atlantic, and they get to feel they've gone beyond America's shores," he says. "But they don't really have to do so, or have any apt way, as many critics have started pointing out, to address the degree to which [the Atlantic] is connected to other bodies of water." Gillis thinks the rise of maritime history has helped correct that—but suffers from the opposite problem: "It turns out to be sea-locked," he says. "It has its jaunty sailor out there, but he never really comes ashore. And so again the shore, and coastal people, end up betwixt and between. They don't have a history, or a geography, to call their own." - Joshua Jelly-Schapiro reporting.Posted at: Sunday, August 04, 2013 - 12:53 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
And just then, in a moment of Akvavit epiphany, I think I know a secret reason that Benny doesn’t eat oysters. It can’t be the texture. With all that flavor, who could hold the softness of an oyster against it? No, rather, I think Benny’s real problem is this: for a fisherman, the whole trick is to maintain your identity as a creature of land even as you spend your life on the water. DVDs, pork sandwiches, pictures of family: his cabin is filled with reminders that even three hours into the middle of the fjord, we are all creatures of carpets and grass and homes and hills. ... But to eat this oyster, the Limfjord oyster, is to give in to the water, to have what writer Eleanor Clark called a “piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes.” To eat Ostrea edulis, as she wrote in 1964, is to eat the sea. Benny Andersen lives the sea enough as it is; he does not need to eat it as well. - Nathan Thornburgh, "Benny Andersen, Oysterman", June 4, 2012
Below: Where the seashore is, history begins. John Gillis's scholarly advice: Never turn your back on the ocean. Author/interviewer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is a lecturer in geography and American studies at the University of California at Berkeley. His book Island People will be published by Alfred A. Knopf.
The coastal consciousness of John Gillis
Joshua Jelly-Schapiro The Chronicle Review USA July 29, 2013
The historian John Gillis has spent almost half a century of summers at Great Gott Island, off the coast of Maine. Photo: Richard Howard for The Chronicle Review
Clamorous and gusting, Superstorm Sandy blew ashore last fall with a force that felt at once scarily new and, in this, our own Age of Disaster, quite familiar. Watching its frigid waters gushing into Manhattan's subways and overtopping seawalls in the Rockaways and Atlantic City, we were reminded of other storms, like the monster that inundated the citizens of New Orleans—and then turned their plight into a touchstone of our politics. Katrina's aftermath helped torpedo a blustering president's second term, but the images of Sandy, looping past on YouTube and CNN, carried even more-far-reaching impacts. They brought urgency to a climate-change debate finally ready, it seemed, to make all of us envision a world where oceans will be several feet higher than those of today.
As Tropical Storm Andrea began the 2013 hurricane season, many of us were grateful for the warning calls. But as the conversations prompted by those calls grow increasingly suffused with hyperbole and guff, many of us commit that sin, anathema to historians, of condescending to the past. Was it really so, what New York's governor said in Sandy's wake—that "we had never seen a storm like this"? Sandy brought rain and high waters, yes, but Nor'easters have been buffeting America's Atlantic shores for centuries. It wasn't even close to the strongest storm to hit New York during the century that precise wind speeds and rainfall have been recorded. Climate change is real and serious, but was not last fall's "natural disaster," like Katrina and like all the rest to come, as much about human failures—in infrastructure, planning, and our proclivity for building homes on shifting sandbars—as it was natural catastrophe?
Those questions aren't new. But their new urgency may account for the feeling of providence that accompanied the arrival of the historian John Gillis's latest book. Reaching back into the days when early hominids became human, The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History (University of Chicago Press, 2012) also looks forward to what will happen if we don't change how we relate to seacoasts. The book represents a fitting capstone to the career of a remarkable historian whose arc of interests has anticipated two key, entwined strands in his discipline—the rise of environmental history and global history—and whose work has long exemplified how, in our changing present, the ways we imagine the past can and must change as well.
Gillis well understands the age-old human urge to find our way back to what Rachel Carson called "the great mother of life." He's less sanguine, however, about what most people do when they get there. "Never," he writes, "have shores been so rich in property values and so impoverished in what once had made them the first home of humankind." One of his book's guiding motifs, borrowed from a signpost that had stopped him short on a cliff-top hike in Northern California, is a simple admonition he thinks readers of Coastal Living magazine, and all those who'd love to inhabit the glossy million-dollar views it features, would do well to heed: Never turn your back on the ocean.
Gillis doesn't want us to just remember that. He wants us to understand why we must, as he said this spring when I called to ask him what he hoped readers might take from The Human Shore. Gillis—who divides his time between two shores: San Francisco Bay and an island off Maine where he and his wife, the writer Christina Marsden Gillis, have summered for decades—was direct. "The first step is to start imagining our coasts as less a 'natural' artifact than the product of hundreds and thousands of years of human creation. If we do that, then I think we'd be a long way toward saving them, and ourselves, from utter destruction." ...
Finding evidence in newly discovered ruins of homes along the marshy coasts of Wales and the huge shell-mounds, built by Ohlone Indians, that still line San Francisco Bay, Gillis argues that it was early humans' engagement with the sea, not their activities on the savannah, that led to their divergence from primates. Echoing the Berkeley geographer Carl Sauer's famous view that "the shore is the primitive home of man," Gillis reminds us that on the shores of Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas alike, aquaculture predated agriculture. Long before our forebears planted wheat, they were setting aside areas for cultivating clams and shellfish. Scholars may disagree about what all this means. But Gillis shows how our historical underplaying of those muddy margins where land and water meet is manifested in the difficulty that our intellectual traditions, like our laws, have had in contending with places that don't definitely belong to either land and sea. ...
Describing the varied mythological traditions by which people everywhere came to distill their views about the sea, he notes the commonality of belief in land symbolizing order and sea chaos. Coasts, accordingly, were looked on as shifting zones of sharp rocks and deadly sirens: scary sites that belonged more to the realm of the god Oceanus than to the land. It was only as the old maritime empires became modern states (and tamed Oceanus, at least in mind, by dividing its contiguous mass into "seas" with their own names) that the modern urge to transform our shores' terra infirma into territory, and thus to fix the frontier between order and chaos, grew ascendant.
Gillis describes how the "water people" of such marsh-and-island landscapes as England's vast Fens looked on helplessly as their coastal-wetland home was filled in—a drama that was replayed, again and again, from Holland to Boston to the shorelines of the South China Sea, as such projects came to represent harbingers of progress. Recounting how Europe's seamen stitched together a new world in their old one's image, Gillis explains that, at the end of that continent's great Age of Exploration, in the late 18th century, the word "coastline" entered our vocabulary. That moment, he writes, marked the start of a new phase in the life of the shore—typified by ever-expanding human efforts to fix our coasts in place, but also suffused with a new Romantic interest in the sea. The ocean became not merely a terrifying abyss but also a vision of beauty, to be admired.
This conception of the sea, which spread throughout Western culture in the 19th century, is nowhere more visible than in the uniquely modern mania for the beach—for lazing about on the shore three-quarters naked as a form of recreation. It was only at the end of the 1800s that visiting the "beach" (a neologism derived from an English word for coastal stones, Gillis tells us) became common as a leisure activity; it took a few decades more for the beach to grow, in Europe and beyond, into the destination par excellence for another modern invention: the vacation. Gillis reads those developments in terms of the larger social history of leisure and of work. But his discussion of the beach's changing meaning is also a means of examining the far more worrisome effects of its shifting uses, in literally concrete terms.
Whether made of sand or pebbles, beaches are formed by the movement of water. They are, by their nature, ever-changing. "No wonder our ancestors had no name or affection for them," Gillis writes. Few examples so starkly illustrate our changing relationship to the shore as the fetishization of a once-worthless substance—white sand—and the billions of dollars we pour, each year, into keeping the stuff in place. Such efforts, along with the billions more spent on "fixing" coastlines in general (half of New Jersey's shore is engineered in place) bespeak a larger contradiction of our era: that even as more of us than ever settle near the sea—some three billion people now live within 100 miles of its edge—we grow only more ignorant of its protean ways.
A similar disconnect is visible in the ways that our cities' working waterfronts, once the haunt of stevedores and sailors, have been turned into maritime theme parks—New York's South Street Seaport, San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Once working wharves, these sites are now for shopping and wave-gazing, mirroring our once-industrial cities' evolution from sites for labor into shrines to conspicuous consumption.
Reconceiving our relationship to the shore in the way Gillis recommends is plainly sensible; translating that reconception into large-scale shifts in our behavior and policies is daunting. ...
Friday, August 2, 2013
Labor's battle for the public mind and the crucial social role of unions
Today they barely exist in the public mind. A few decades ago, if you asked people to free-associate with “union” you’d get many responses: .... Now, at least among the young, you’d probably get mostly blanks. Nothing. On the other hand, a blank slate isn’t the worst place to start. Rick SalutinPosted at: Friday, August 02, 2013 - 06:43 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Unions could pay a vital role in today’s political debates but are strangely absent, says Rick Salutin.
The diplomats hit the bricks
Rick Salutin Toronto Star Ontario Canada August 2, 2013
t’s always diverting when an apparently effete workforce, like foreign service workers at Canadian embassies, hit the bricks — a hopelessly out-of-date term — i.e., go on strike. It’s your basic fish-out-of-water scenario, as they say at the fall TV launches. In this case, embassy employees are refusing to issue visas to foreign students coming here, or tourists travelling to family weddings etc. That causes inconvenience, anger, sorrow as well as financial loss to strapped universities. The union is demanding pay raises to lift them to the same level as other government employees doing similar jobs. As usual, the employer — the Harper government — holds almost all the cards.
They can simply hold their line as the anger and pain mounts. They don’t care so much if people get angry, or how long it lasts, as they do about who gets the blame — which will be the union. Meanwhile they posture about being on everyone’s side. The minister involved, Tony Clement, says he wants a solution that “respects the interests of both taxpayers and foreign service union members.” There you go, union: he’s put you in check, possibly checkmate.
Why doesn’t the union protest loudly that they’re taxpayers, too? Or that fairness in pay is something anyone who has a job can identify with and support. Plus: higher wages lead to more demand in the economy, therefore more jobs and taxes paid, lowering deficits, etc.
In other words, why don’t they contest the battle for the public mind? I don’t know why but they don’t, or rarely do. They seem to have lost track of that tactic. ...
This matters not just because it would be smart for unions. It’s because they, for about a century, have been central to general social improvement. They provided inspiration, resources, organization: without them there would not have been public health care, universal pensions, health and safety laws, the whole panoply of the (now disputed) welfare state. It’s hard to imagine today how central they recently were to the electoral and legislative calculations of all political parties, not just Democrats in the U.S., or Liberals and NDP here.
But wait a minute. Am I languishing nostalgically in the past? If unions don’t play that “progressive” role as publicly as they once did, there’s now the Internet. Organizations like Avaaz, Change.Org, MoveOn.Org, Leadnow in Canada: they appeal to the public, in the public interest, to sign petitions, donate money, sometimes even get out in the street. I’m not sure why I feel these initiatives can’t fill the union role, maybe I am just nostalgic. ...
Related: July jobs report masks real problems in U.S. labor market
Mark Gongloff Huffington Post USA/Canada August 2, 2013
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Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has said the official U.S. unemployment rate could mask the real problems in the labor market. He got proof of that in July's jobs report.
The unemployment rate dipped to 7.4 percent in July, the lowest rate since December 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, down from 7.6 percent in June.
But payroll growth was anemic, wages dropped and more discouraged workers headed for the sidelines, continuing the slowest job-market recovery since World War II.
"The U.S. job market appears to be stuck in the slow lane," Adam Hersh, economist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, wrote in a statement. "Despite the modest gains in this report, we’re still not moving fast enough to repair the unemployment hole or to deliver a pay raise for the majority of workers in America."
Employers added just 162,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, down from 188,000 in June, which was revised lower from an initial reading of 195,000. Together, revisions to May and June figures subtracted 26,000 jobs from payrolls, another sign of weakness.
Economists, on average, had expected 185,000 new jobs in July and an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, according to a Bloomberg survey.
The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell in part because 37,000 workers dropped out of the labor force, meaning they gave up looking for work. The labor-force participation rate, which measures the percentage of working-age Americans who are working or looking for work, fell to 63.4 percent in July, near a 35-year low.
The civilian employment-population ratio, which measures how many working-age Americans actually have jobs, was flat at 58.7 percent, near the lowest in 30 years and down from more than 63 percent before the recession. ...
Average hourly wages fell 0.1 percent in July and are up just 1.9 percent in the past year, barely enough to keep up with inflation. The majority of the jobs that have been created during the recovery have been low-paying jobs, worsening income inequality and keeping the economy sluggish.
"Really we have become a nation of hamburger flippers, Wal-Mart sales associates, barmaids, checkout people and other people working at very low wages," Daniel Alpert, managing partner of New York investment bank Westwood Capital, told Yahoo Finance's Daily Ticker. That's why job growth is "not increasing consumption or the ability to go out and buy stuff." ...
Still, the job market is a long way from being fully healed of the damage done by the Great Recession. The total level of non-farm payroll jobs is still about 2 million below its peak in January 2008. Adding in the number of jobs that should have been created in a healthy economy, we could have a "jobs deficit" of more than 8 million jobs, estimates the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.
The right-leaning Hamilton Project, another think tank, estimates the jobs gap at nearly 10 million. At this year's pace of job growth, 192,000 jobs per month, it will take 7 years and 9 months to close that gap, according to a calculator on Hamilton's web site. ...
Sunday, July 28, 2013
A good social Darwinism: A challenge to conventional economics and public policy. A first step solution for our contemporary problem of multiple failures?
Or, if you want the positive but somewhat callous view, you might wish to describe Christianity as the gateway drug to supply-side capitalism. - Thomas King, from The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. King also wrote (in The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative), "The truth about stories is, that's all we are. ... You have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told."Posted at: Sunday, July 28, 2013 - 11:54 AM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Below: Evolution has changed how we think about how humans behave, compete and co-operate. Can evolution illuminate the mysteries of economics? David Sloan Wilson on the new social Darwinism. "Today a new kind of social Darwinism is emerging, and it actually favours co-operation. ... The evolutionary paradigm challenges assumptions that are so deeply embedded in orthodox economic theory that they aren’t even recognised as assumptions. ... The evolutionary paradigm provides a means for steering an intelligent middle course between extreme laissez-faire and ham-fisted regulation." David Sloan Wilson is President of the Evolution Institute (evolution-institute.org). His most recent book is The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time (2011).
A good social Darwinism
David Sloan Wilson Aeon UK July 4, 2013
In 2008, as it was becoming clear that a once-in-a-generation financial crisis was upon us, a friend of mine who is a senior corporate executive asked me a peculiar question. Might evolutionary theory have something to say about what caused the crisis? Those of us who labour away in the biological sciences are unaccustomed to fielding questions from corporate executives, but I had founded a think tank called the Evolution Institute and my friend was an early supporter. These were desperate times; the financial crisis had exposed grave weaknesses in our basic understanding of economic systems. The reigning theoretical paradigms in economics had run out of credibility, having, at best, failed to predict the crisis and, at worst, helped to exacerbate it. Could evolutionary theory do better?
Of course, economics has been crying out for interdisciplinary intervention since its inception. The field is caught in a tug-of-war between two ideas: the idea that we need market processes to proceed unhindered and the idea that a healthy economy requires regulation. The 18th-century pioneer of political economy Adam Smith observed that economies have a way of running themselves when left to their own devices. Without the meddling of overseers, Smith argued, a benevolent ‘invisible hand’ would emerge from the workings of the market itself. Yet Smith also knew that naked self-interest is often very bad for society as a whole. The industrial revolution and the great depression would demonstrate this danger best. Communism demonstrated the opposite danger, that too much regulation dooms an economy to stagnation. What the economic landscape lacks is an adequate theory to navigate the enormous middle ground between these two insights. Instead, policy is drawn from a hodge-podge of perspectives pulled from philosophy, the social sciences, and practical experience.
Some thought a formal mathematical theory could fill this yawning theoretical void. In the late 19th century, the French mathematical economist Léon Walras aspired to invent a physics of social behaviour that would be comparable to Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. If the behaviour of human actors in an economic system could be explained with the same precision as Newtonian mechanics, it would be an achievement of the first rank. In 1874, Walras devised just such a theory, which became known as the general equilibrium model, but it was fatally flawed. His model made so many assumptions about human preferences and abilities that it required economists to think about humans too restrictively. Walras’s theory was based upon an imaginary creature that is often labeled Homo economicus, rather than the complex, flesh-and-blood Homo sapiens. The model also required restrictive assumptions about the environment inhabited by H. economicus. This complicated, assumption-heavy theoretical apparatus allowed Walras to posit mathematical proof of the invisible-hand conjecture. Individuals striving to maximise their absolute utilities would also maximise the utility of the society as a whole — without any regulation at all. ...
Most social scientists agree that H. economicus bears almost no relation to H. sapiens, and yet, to this day, the general equilibrium model enjoys a dominant position in economic thought and policy. In the classic essay ‘The Methodology of Positive Economics’ (1953), Milton Friedman confidently assured his readers that the predictions of the orthodox model could be correct even if its assumptions were wrong. Walras’s theory prescribed an extreme laissez-faire approach to economic policy, and gave license to Friedman to argue, tirelessly, that just about anything would work better if government got out of the way — and presidents and prime ministers listened.
The current economic paradigm owes its dominance in part to its prestige as a formal mathematical theory. Everything else in economics seems like a mish-mash of ideas by comparison. The strongest challenge to the dominant model comes from behavioural economists, who call for economic theory and policy based on H. sapiens, not H. economicus. But, so far, behavioural economists have merely compiled a list of ‘anomalies’ and ‘paradoxes’ that are anomalous and paradoxical only against the background of the general equilibrium model, like satellites that cannot escape the orbit of their mother planet. They have not put forth a general theory of their own.
Evolution might have a role to play in filling this theoretical vacuum but, first, it’s important to acknowledge that evolutionary theory is not at all like Newtonian physics. Newton could provide a complete mathematical description for the movement of physical bodies because their properties and interactions are relatively simple. When interactions become more complex, our ability to describe them mathematically breaks down. You can see this dynamic at play in complicated, non-living systems such as the weather, which can be very difficult to predict. But it is even more the case in biological systems or economic systems, which are not only complex but change their properties and interactions over time. No matter how alluring to the 19th-century imagination, the project of devising a ‘physics of social behaviour’ was doomed from the start. But that’s OK; a theory needn’t resemble Newtonian mechanics to be successful.
Indeed, evolutionary theory achieves its generality in a very different way. ...
In pursuit of this new paradigm, the Evolution Institute has teamed up with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre, one of the National Science Foundation’s largest evolution-related centres, to hold a conference and series of workshops engaging dozens of experts from a melting pot of academic disciplines. The project has reached fruition in the publication this year of a special issue of the Journal of Economic and Behaviour Organisation entitled ‘Evolution as a General Theoretical Framework for Economics and Public Policy’. The articles in the special issue substantiate this claim that evolution can and should be used as a general theoretical framework for economics and public policy by addressing topics that have always been at the heart of economics and public policy, such as the efficacy of groups, the nature of institutions, self-organization, trust, discounting the future, and risk tolerance. The 13 articles in the special issue lay the groundwork for a paradigm shift that is long overdue.
Of course, one reason to reserve judgment on the evolutionary paradigm is because it is so new. No theory immediately provides all the answers to the questions that plague its field, and no infant theory could possibly hope to explain a phenomenon as complex as the 2008 financial crisis. And yet, with more time and refinement, economists might find themselves agreeing with the biologist Thomas Huxley, who said, upon encountering Charles Darwin’s theory for the first time in 1859: ‘How stupid of me not to have thought of that!’
Visit the online evolution magazine This View of Life for a special issue on economics from an evolutionary perspective.
Visit the Evolution Institute website for free downloads of the thirteen articles comprising the special issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.
Curiously related: From economic crisis to failed democracy: How anthropology explains our own society. The strength of anthropology is its analysis of our own society as just another tribe trying to make sense of its experience.
The hour of anthropology may have struck
Rick Salutin Toronto Star Ontario Canada July 26, 2013
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I keep encountering anthropologists (mostly but not only in print) who help more in understanding how the world works today than other experts do, even in their own fields. For example, Debt: The First 5,000 Years by young U.S. anthropologist David Graeber, who did fieldwork in Madagascar, illuminates more about the current economic crisis than anything I know by economists. It even points to ways out. U.K. anthropologist Sir Jack Goody, who’s 93 and studied tribal cultures in West Africa, has expanded the idea of democracy far beyond a thing invented in Athens, and then perfected in the U.S. and U.K. In the volatile area of fundamentalist religion, U.S. anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back clarifies that arena more than most of what we see from theologians to new atheists. Has the hour of anthropology struck? If so, why now?
Most of us think of anthropology as the study of human culture done mainly through fieldwork among “primitive” tribal groups that still survive. That’s how the classics of the field were created. But it’s always had a broad range and expanded into many subcategories. My own intellectual touchstone as a youth was German-Jewish thinker Martin Buber: Bible translator, collector of mystical Hassidic tales, author of the existentialist classic, I and Thou. What a range he covered. But he billed himself as a “philosophical anthropologist.”
The strength of anthropology at the moment, I’d say, comes when it turns its eye to our own society as just another tribe or collection of humans trying to make symbolic sense of their experience — rather than looking back on other collectivities as if we alone have reached some satisfying, inevitable progress toward which those primitive versions are striving. It’s less about making sense of the past than casting an anthropological gaze on the present. This seems to unbewitch the level of “achievement” we’ve reached. We start looking like just another weird bunch of human creatures trying to make sense of their odd predicament, like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes when he finally gets it. ...
The end of the Cold War meant that the intellectually impressive Marxist vision of inevitable progress toward a socialist society lost some of the appeal it once had for academics. The pathetic capitalist imitation of it — “The End of History” — imploded during the Crash we’re still in. It’s become easier to see ourselves as primitives too: animals wearing clothes or tribalists scared of others and the dark. In the future, Indiana Jones (an archeologist but kin to anthropologists) may be confronting The Temple of Debt or The Curse of Failed Democracy.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Natives, Nature and Islam: The truth about stories is, that's all we are
The truth about stories is, that's all we are. ... You have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told. - Thomas King, from The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Thomas King (born 1943) is a noted novelist and broadcaster who most often writes about North America's First Nations. He is an advocate for First Nations causes. He is of Cherokee and Greek descent. In 2003, King was invited to give the Massey Lecture, the first person of aboriginal descent to be chosen. Thomas King is a "Member of the Order of Canada". The Order of Canada (French: Ordre du Canada) is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honor for merit. It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is within the personal gift of Canada's monarch.Posted at: Monday, July 22, 2013 - 02:42 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
We had the habit of saying: The Palestinians are the Israelis’ Jews. But what if, in reality, they were their Redskins? - Elias Sanbar, an historian, poet and essayist. Born in Haifa, Sanbar is currently Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO ( United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ).
We do not worship nature. We are part of it. - Beth E. Brant (Mohawk: Degonwadonti) (born 1941 Melvindale, Michigan or in the Tyendinaga reservation in Ontario) is a Mohawk writer. She grew up with her father’s family on the Bay of Quinte Mohawk in Ontario. Most of her life she stayed in the border region of Ontario, Canada and Michigan, USA. (Between 1989 and 1990 she lectured at the University of British Columbia, and in 1993 at the University of Toronto.) She is known as a theorist ("writing as witness") who has had a profound effect on literary activism in the Americas, as the producer of a substantial body of work in short fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and as editor of groundbreaking anthologies. Her anthology A Gathering of Spirit: A Collection of Writing and Art by North American Indian Women (1983) was the first published collection of Indigenous women's writing in North America, as well as the first anthology edited by an aboriginal woman. Brant did not begin writing until 1981, when she was forty years old. The story of how Brant came to begin writing is significant to another theme found in all her writings: Being Native. It speaks to her Mohawk heritage and, on a larger scale, her respect and beliefs in the connectedness of land, spirit, people and animals. In her fiction and poetry, Brant creates a sense of possibility and empowerment for the ordinary person to give voice to experience, to the world experienced and witnessed, and to honor the voices of both self and other.
Or, if you want the positive but somewhat callous view, you might wish to describe Christianity as the gateway drug to supply-side capitalism. - Thomas King, from The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America
Like Hegel’s Christian vision, Islam similarly posits an immanent God, where subject and object are one, and where through devout religious practice, the object (man) can strive to find spiritual truth, to unite with the subject (God)—by following the path laid out in the Quran. Through revelations from Allah via the Archangel Gabriel, Muhammad critiqued both past religious practices and past economic and political practices, positing a way of life where the contradictions of the real world are resolved, through faith and reason. - Eric Walberg, From Postmodernism to Postsecularism
They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah refuses except to perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it. - Qur'an 9:32
Below: Eric Walberg is a Canadian journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s. He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. His articles appear in Russian, German, Spanish and Arabic and are accessible at his website ericwalberg.com. Widely published in diverse periodicals, Walberg presently is a columnist for the Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram. He was a moderator and speaker at the Leaders for Change Summit in Istanbul in 2011. Walberg is the author of Postmodern Imperialism Geopolitics and the Great Games (2011) and From Postmodernism to Postsecularism (2013). Of From Postmodernism to Postsecularism, Ramzy Baroud (Palestinian-American journalist, author, editor-in-chief of Palestine Chronicle) wrote the book "is a compelling representation of the current state of the Muslim world, positioned within a most illuminating historical exposé. In this sequel to his equally authoritative Postmodern Imperialism, Walberg attempts to bridge the East-West gap, not through a reconciliatory discourse, but through a critical reading of history. He juxtaposes religion and ideology using a methodological and epistemological critique—a style that is both crucial and in some ways, incomparable. This volume should serve as a gateway to understanding Islam, and its location in the emerging new political dynamics, resulting from the bankruptcy of capitalism, and the lack of any other convincing alternatives."
Natives, Nature and Islam in Canada
Eric Walberg Press TV Iran July 21, 2013
Ramadan is a good time to reflect on what Islam has something to say about two of Canada’s burning problems-our penchant for environmental destruction and Prime Minister Harper’s attempt to return to a blatant assimilation policy for Natives.
Canada has become an international embarrassment from an ecological point of view. One of Harper’s most shameful acts was formally withdrawing from the Kyoto Accord in 2011. The greatest ecological crisis facing Canada is without a doubt the Conservative’s relentless pursuit of the tar sands project and the accompanying massive Keystone, Northern Gateway and Transmountain Pipelines. The environmental damage from the insane project to ‘wash’ oil from sand deposits is indescribable, poisoning land, air and water-a crime by any standards, subsidized and promoted by ‘our’ government.
The usually timid EU labels such oil extraction as “highly polluting” and has threatened to boycott any Canadian oil extracted from the tar sands. But the Canadian government takes well-meaning Euro-criticism, intended to help Canadians, as an affront, and works closely with the oil lobby, whose sole interest is in making profit, come hell or high water, to promote the project.
What does Islam say about how humans should relate to the environment? Even if the valiant campaign against the tar sands, which has been taken up by people around the world, miraculously succeeds, the American writer Abdul-Matin argues in Green Deen (2010) that the environmental movement today, restricted by its secular, legalist approach to problems-pass enough laws and you can curb the negative practices of business and consumers-is still lacking. He interprets Islam’s focus on one Creator as giving “humankind the opportunity to be one and to have a common purpose”, to bring back ethical principles into our daily lives.
He points to six principles which underlie Islam and shows how they relate to our relationship to the environment: understanding the Oneness of God and His creation (tawhid); seeing signs of God (ayat) everywhere; being a steward (khalifa) of the Earth; honoring the trust we have with God (amana) to be protectors of the planet; moving toward justice (adl); and living in balance with nature (mizan).
For Abdul-Matin, there is no conflict between religion and science-as stewards blessed with intelligence and reason, we have a responsibility towards the rest of God’s creation. He points to the verse, “Corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought,” as proof that God warned people about their possible harmful impact on the planet, “a taste of the consequences of their misdeeds that perhaps they will turn to the path of right guidance”. (30:41)
These are all principles by which the native peoples lived for thousands of years on the continent we now call North America (named to honour Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci). Comparing the Old Testament and Native creation stories in The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative (2012), Thomas King notes:
*Genesis creates a particular universe governed by a series of hierarchies-God, man, animals, plants-the celebrated law, order and good government, while in our Native story, the universe is governed by a series of cooperations-an array of spirits, animal helpers and humans-that celebrate equality and balance.
King sees in the Genesis story the source of the West’s hierarchical, martial religion, the triumph of egotism and self-interest. ...
In King’s telling, the Native vision of creation has much more in common with the Quran than with Genesis. ...
This strong parallel between Native religions and Islam has been recognized by Islamic scholars such as the Swiss Frithjof Schuon (1907--1998), who wrote extensively about the parallels between Indian and Muslim religious outlooks-which he called ‘primordial religions’. Schuon and his wife were adopted into the Sioux family of James Red Cloud, and in 1980, they emigrated to the US to live with the Sioux. ...
As depicted by James Fenimore Cooper in the Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 (1826), the Indian is either friendly (assimilated) or savage, instinctual, the view that lies behind imperialism over the centuries, and that is justifying Canadian policy towards the Natives today (and towards Muslims as well, who are, in the eyes of Western governments such as Canada’s, either compliant with the West’s agenda or are savage and must be fought and subdued). The Native belief in the spirituality of Nature, and the need to leave it as pure and inviolate as possible, as in the Quran, fundamentally contradicts the belief that producing profit and exploiting man and Nature is the supreme goal of government, to which all other considerations must bow.
The ongoing Idle No More movement of Canada’s Natives was sparked last year by a new stage in the government’s ‘final solution’ of assimilation of the Natives, the Harper government’s omnibus bill C-45, which abrogates the Indian Act, ending Native sovereignty.
Canada’s Natives desperately need a genuine ‘new deal’ to overcome centuries of abuse to reconstruct some semblance of the multicultural nation that ‘North America’ once was. But twisting compliant Native leaders’ arms to allow corporations to build, say, liquefied natural gas terminals on the west coast, chromite mining and smelting projects in the James Bay “Ring of Fire”, not to mention the horrendous tar sands, paying off Natives with dollars, is not the answer. What ‘benefits’ are there for people who revere Nature in oil exploration, coal mining, dam construction, clear-cut logging, and nuclear waste storage?
Related Great Game items: The overthrow of a moderate Islamist government [in Egypt] will send a message to the Muslim world that compromise with the Western powers is impossible and only violent resistance can shake the status quo. - Eric Margolis. Margolis is an American-born journalist and writer. For 27 years, ending in 2010, he was a contributing editor to the Toronto Sun chain of newspapers, writing mainly about the Middle East, South Asia and Islam. Margolis is the owner of Canadian manufacturer Jamieson Laboratories. Jamieson Laboratories is Canada’s oldest and largest manufacturer and distributor of natural vitamins, minerals, concentrated food supplements, herbs and botanical medicines. As a columnist and author, Eric Margolis is a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East.
So much for Mideast democracy
Eric Margolis LewRockwell.com USA July 8, 2013
The real story behind the military coup in Cairo led by General al-Sissi is much more complex than the western media is reporting. Far from a spontaneous uprising by Egyptians, – aka “a people’s revolution” – what really happened was a putsch orchestrated by Egypt’s “deep government” and outside powers – the latest phase of the counter-revolution against the so-called Arab Spring.
A year ago, Egyptians elected Mohammed Morsi president in their first fair democratic election. Morsi came from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, an eight-decade old conservative movement of professionals dedicated to bringing Islamic principals of public welfare, politics, education, justice, piety and fighting corruption.
But the deck was stacked against Morsi and the Brotherhood from day one. ...
Morsi should have purged the “deep government,” notably the police, secret police, judges, and media who were sabotaging the democratic government. But Morsi was too soft, and the entrenched powers arrayed against him too strong. He never managed to grasp the levers of state. Ironically, after all the media hysteria in North America over the alleged dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood, it turned out to be a dud.
The Brotherhood stumbled from one crisis to the next as Egypt’s economy, already in terrible shape before the 2011 revolution, sank like a rock. Tourism, that provided 17% of national income, evaporated. Unemployment soared over 13%, and over 50% among angry urban young. We have recently seen this same phenomena in Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Pakistan, and Western Europe. Severe shortages of fuel and electricity sparked outrage.
Egypt’s curse is that it cannot feed its surging population of over 90 million. So Cairo imports huge quantities of wheat and subsidizes retail prices for bread. The US sustained the Sadat and Mubarak regimes with boatloads of wheat discounted 50%. This vital aid tapered off when Morsi took power. Food prices in Egypt rose 10%.
Equally important, ever since Anwar Sadat invited in the US to rearm his outdated military, Egypt’s armed forces have become joined at the hip with the Pentagon. Just as Turkey’s 500,000-man armed forces were, until eleven years ago, and Pakistan’s so remain today.
Armies of many Muslim states are designed to control their populations, not defeat foreign enemies. The only Arab military force in recent memory to beat an invader has been the guerilla forces of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The US provides Egypt’s military $1.5 billion annually, not counting tens of millions of “black” payments from CIA to leading generals, police chiefs, commentators and bureaucrats. Egypt’s military has been totally re-equipped with US F-16 fighter-bombers, M-1 heavy tanks, armored vehicles, radars, electronic systems, and artillery.
Washington has supplied Egypt with just enough arms to control its population and intimidate small neighbors, but not enough to wage war against Israel. Further, the Pentagon sharply limits Egypt supplies of munitions, missiles and vital spare parts. Many of Egypt’s generals have been trained in US military colleges, where they formed close links with US intelligence and the Pentagon. CIA, DIA, and NSA have large stations in Egypt that watch its military and population. ...
Noted: Margolis points out: "The only Arab military force in recent memory to beat an invader has been the guerilla forces of Lebanon’s Hezbollah." Indeed. And how does the Western Axis respond? Foreign Policy Mideast brief reports today:
EU foreign ministers approved adding the military wing of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah to the EU terror list on Monday. The EU's 28 foreign ministers reached the unanimous decision to blacklist the Iranian-backed group, which will mean imposing sanctions that likely include travel restrictions and asset freezes on people and organizations associated with the group. Some EU member states have been hesitant to blacklist Hezbollah saying the move could fuel instability in Lebanon, where the political arm of the group dominated the last cabinet, which resigned in March. Additionally, they argued it would be difficult to distinguish between the military and political wings of Hezbollah when imposing sanctions. However, Britain led a campaign over recent months to sway opponents, and the increased involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict in addition to evidence it was involved in a 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a bus driver convinced opponents to approve the measure. Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said, "It is good that the EU has decided to call Hezbollah what it is: a terrorist organization."
All credible evidence suggests Hezbollah was not involved in the Bulgarian bus bombing.
Below: Margolis is best known from his coverage of Palestine and Kashmir. Margolis' mother, Nexhmie Zaimi, was also a journalist who spent a long time in the Middle East documenting the plight of the Palestinians during the 1950s. Her influence, plus Margolis's role as a foreign correspondent in the Mideast and travelling with the mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War, invested Margolis with a strong interest in the Muslim World. In a January 2009 column entitled "Eradicating Hamas", Margolis called the Gaza War a "final solution campaign" on the part of Israel, and called Hamas a popular revolutionary movement that had stood up for the rights of Palestinians "ethnically cleansed" in 1948.
The road to nowhere – Kerry Mideast journey
Eric Margolis Common Dreams USA July 20, 2013
Last week the Israeli daily Ha'aretz called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry "a naive and ham-handed diplomat who has been acting like a bull in the china shop".
Here we go again, another round of Mideast peace talk kabuki.
A process in which Washington, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization hold intense talks over holding talks, a ritual as stylized as the traditional Japanese dance. In the end, it’s the same empty, cynical ritual, year after year.
This past week, US Secretary of State John Kerry has been leading the dance in the latest attempt to restart peace talks between Israel and the Mahmoud Abbas’ PLO. As of this writing, the talks appear off. But they may be on again just as quickly. It depends on how much Washington offers its feuding clients, Israel and the PLO.
Watching this annual charade is both painful and exhausting. It makes cynics of the most idealistic hopers for Mideast peace. ...
President Barack Obama’s feeble efforts to press Israel into real peace negotiations with the Palestinians were quickly squashed by the pro-Israel lobby and its partisans in Congress. Netanyahu probably exerts more influence over the US Congress than President Obama.
Moreover, Israel is “negotiating” with a PLO that has become a sock puppet for the US and Israel after its former leader, Yasser Arafat, was very likely assassinated to make way for the compliant Mahmoud Abbas. The PLO is run and financed by the US and Israel, its security forces trained and directed by CIA, its intelligence agency an arm of Israel’s Mossad. Its elected rival, Hamas, remains jailed in Gaza. ...
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Is urbanization both benign and inevitable? No. Its not benign and the trend to cities is not irreversible
Once interest rates return to normal levels, much urban real estate will become completely unaffordable as capital gains will turn into losses. In wealthy countries at least, big cities will suffer a loss of population and status similar to London in 1939-91 - and the world will be a happier place.Posted at: Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - 03:30 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Giant cities are NOT the future
Martin Hutchinson The Prudent Bear USA July 1, 2013
China is reportedly planning a city of 250 million people within the next ten years, hoping it will spur economic growth. The United Nations' population estimates for 2100 have Lagos, Nigeria with a population of about 150 million in that year. The Financial Times recently had a snooty editorial asserting that the 21st Century will be "the century of the city." Needless to say, all this 1950s Marxist determinist utopianism raised my hackles, so I thought it worth exploring whether the 21st century really will be the "century of the city" and if so, how we can ensure that this unpleasant development would be reversed in the 22nd.
Cities have always had a certain popularity. John Milton in "L'Allegro" (about 1630) wrote:
Tower’d cities please us then,
We should however be aware that Milton's understanding of cities differed from our own. At the time of "L'Allegro" he had not been outside England, so his experience of cities was limited to London, in which he grew up, which in 1630 had a population of around 250,000. The next largest cities in England would have been Norwich and Bristol, each with a population of about 20,000. While London would just about qualify as a city by modern standards, though its center was hardly Times Square, Norwich would barely have managed a "busy hum" even on Market Day. Of other pre-industrial cities, ancient Rome may have managed a population of 1 million at its peak, though Rome was around a tenth of that size when Milton saw it in 1638.
London itself had a population of 959,000 at the 1801 census, but modern cities of multi-million people are a product of the Industrial Revolution and the pathological increase in global population to which it led. With global population projected to multiply tenfold by 2100, it's not surprising that some clumping would occur. London itself suffered its clumping early on: its population peaked at 8.6 million in 1939, around nine times its 1801 figure, a considerably greater increase than the approximate doubling in world population to that date.
The move from agriculture to manufacturing also caused cities to grow, although as I shall argue later that growth will not necessarily continue now the global economy has become largely devoted to services. London illustrates this: since 1939 it has lost manufacturing steadily and its population declined by almost 20%, to 6.8 million, between 1939 and 1991. Since then it has rebounded (though still below its 1939 figure) because of Britain's economically damaging, politically-driven immigration policy, which has both introduced to London a vast rootless proletariat and driven its house prices to infinity.
At this point therefore the further agglomeration of cities depends crucially on global population. In poor countries, where population is still increasing by 1.5% or 2% annually and manufacturing is growing rapidly, massive further urbanization is inevitable. Conversely in Japan, where population has begun to decline and the country maintains an admirable reluctance to dilute its estimable culture with large supplies of cheap foreign labor, urbanization is even declining. For example the Tokyo subway system is beginning to phase out the "pushers" squeezing in additional commuters, as its peak hour usage declines from 200% of capacity towards 150%.
If global population soars through 10 billion and continues toward 20 billion, we will all be living in gigantic, polluted, diseased slums in the 22nd century—the vision of a Lagos with a population of 150 million will be repeated worldwide. If, to take the other extreme, the post-Industrial Revolution population blip fully reverses and we return to a global population around 1 billion, then we may achieve a Nirvana in which we all live like Henry Fielding's Squires Allworthy and Western, in country houses surrounded by rolling parkland, albeit with robots instead of menials to handle the domestic chores. For the remainder of this piece, I shall assume the more optimistic mainstream current population projections are correct, with global population peaking a little above 9 billion in mid-century and beginning a modest decline thereafter. ...
Related: China, a new equality and the world: A conversation with Wang Hui
Gabriele Battaglia Asia Times Online Hong Kong July 3, 2013
GB: What about urbanization, so called chengzhenhua?
WH: It's difficult to say if generally speaking it is right or wrong. Maybe here is good and there is bad. For instance in some areas a large amount of urbanization means a high ecological price but somewhere else it fits. So you need to allow some experiments to go on, and according to our past experience these are the real driving force for the reforms. In China, most of the general macropolicy has always been a recognition of an earlier local process, not the beginning of it. For instance, rural reform started in Anhui and then spread out. So you need an even bigger space for these experiments.
GB: Isn't chengzhenhua an egalitarian process? It looks like an attempt to create the biggest middle-class in the world.
WH: I'm afraid chengzhenhua is too much of a top-down process, so why not allow the people to try some practical experiment from the lower level and gradually make it more and more sophisticated?
For instance in Chengdu and Chongqing, they have already had discussions about integration, how to deal with the population and their citizen status. But we have another big problem, which is that everywhere there is no longer any difference among the cities. This is a big loss of diversity.
Nobody can reverse the process, so we have to think about it. Sometimes the choice between slow and fast is not an easy one. I think it's not necessarily good to have fast Internet in every single village and China has this problem: it's too fast.
Once you have urbanized, how do you guarantee enough land for cultivation, who can you guarantee food for the huge Chinese population? So we have Monsanto's shares booming in the stock market. Why? Because China made an agreement with Argentina to allow and import their OGM [genetically modified] products. And you know these kind of products are unpredictable but at the same time you need to guarantee food for a huge and dense population while economic growth means more land. Everybody knows the secret of Chinese growth is a land policy carried on by local governments: without grabbing land and selling it to developers there is no way to get enough taxes.
There are limits, and nobody can guarantee a success and even the creation of a middle-class, which is shrinking everywhere. How can we guarantee a middle-class instead of slums, as happened in India or Latin America? Without land, people become "unemployed without land" in an urban area.
So now we have some scholars who even argue that slums are good because the slum system is based on private property of land and "freedom of migration": slums are "human rights", you see? This is the reason why I feel like writing something about "the equality of what?".
Please note that in the last few weeks the rhetoric of the government on chengzhenhua has changed. They now speak of wentuo chengzhenhua, which means "safe urbanization". Zhang Gaoli [first-ranked vice premier of the PRC and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party] was the first to speak in these terms.
What does it mean? I guess something like this. Almost 10% of the Chinese population is a migrant population, which for example is a huge problem for domestic transportation, like you see during the Spring Festival. But in these past few years the situation has improved because of the [global financial] crisis, which pushed many migrants back to their villages and to cultivate the land. This probably means that migration should not necessary be so fast and so long-distance. People don't lose contact with their hometown, and we could have migration at the local level. This is a positive development, and the government probably thinks now in these terms. But if the process is too fast it is still dangerous. ...
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Moral ecology? There are at least two ecologies extant: One rational, the other nonsensical; one that broadens our outlook while the other narrows it; one democratic, the other totalitarian
Jim comment: Like Pacal Bruckner I was brought up in "the fortress of the Catholic Church" and I am a conservative liberal. Regarding the environment, since my university days, I have had a sympathetic interest in deep ecology—a movement or a body of concepts that considers humans no more important than other species and that advocates a corresponding radical readjustment of the relationships between humans and nature. And since I first discovered him, I have had a sympathetic interest in the thought of Pascal Bruckner.Posted at: Sunday, June 23, 2013 - 04:51 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Baudelaire said that civilization is the abolition of the original sin. In fact, it's not true; we haven't abolished original sin but rather spread it all over. - Pascal Bruckner in conversation with Emily Eakin, a writer living in New York. Eakin writes:
In Bruckner's scenario, Marxism transposed the idea of Christ onto the working class; paradise would come after the revolution. Then, with third-worldism, colonized peoples became the embodiment of virtue. Now, he says, it's Mother Earth: "She is suffering, the metaphor of all victims."
Marxists blame capitalists; third-worldists blame the West, environmentalists blame, well, all of humanity. Eco-guilt is the new original sin, says Pascal Bruckner. He warns: "There are at least two ecologies: one rational, the other nonsensical; one that broadens our outlook while the other narrows it; one democratic, the other totalitarian." Pascal Bruckner is the author of many books, including The Paradox of Love (Princeton University Press, 2011) and The Tyranny of Guilt (Princeton, 2010). This essay is adapted from his new book, The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse, published by Polity Press.
Against environmental panic
Pascal Bruckner The Chronicle Review USA June 17, 2013
Caricature: Steve Brodner for The Chronicle Review
In Jesuit schools we were urged to strengthen our faith by spending time in monasteries. We were assigned spiritual exercises to be dutifully written in little notebooks that were supposed to renew the promises made at baptism and to celebrate the virtues of Christian love and succor for the weak. It wasn't enough just to believe; we had to testify to our adherence to the Holy Scriptures and drive Satan out of our hearts. These practices were sanctioned by daily confessions under the guidance of a priest. We all probed our hearts to extirpate the germs of iniquity and to test, with a delicious thrill, the borderline separating grace from sin. We were immersed in an atmosphere of meditative reverence, and the desire to be good gave our days a special contour.
We knew that God was looking down on us indulgently: We were young, we were allowed to stumble. In his great ledger, he wrote down each of our actions, weighing them with perfect equanimity. We engaged in refined forms of piety in order to gain favors. Regarded from an adult point of view, these childish efforts, which were close to the ancients' spiritual exercises, were not without a certain nobility. They wavered between docility and a feeling of lofty grandeur. At least we learned the art of knowing ourselves, of resisting the turmoil of puberty.
What a surprise to witness, half a century later, the powerful return of this frame of mind, but this time under the aegis of science. Consider the meaning in contemporary jargon of the famous carbon footprint that we all leave behind us. What is it, after all, if not the gaseous equivalent of Original Sin, of the stain that we inflict on our Mother Gaia by the simple fact of being present and breathing? We can all gauge the volume of our emissions, day after day, with the injunction to curtail them, just as children saying their catechisms are supposed to curtail their sins.
Ecologism, the sole truly original force of the past half-century, has challenged the goals of progress and raised the question of its limits. It has awakened our sensitivity to nature, emphasized the effects of climate change, pointed out the exhaustion of fossil fuels. Onto this collective credo has been grafted a whole apocalyptic scenography that has already been tried out with communism, and that borrows from Gnosticism as much as from medieval forms of messianism. Cataclysm is part of the basic tool-kit of Green critical analysis, and prophets of decay and decomposition abound. They beat the drums of panic and call upon us to expiate our sins before it is too late.
This fear of the future, of science, and of technology reflects a time when humanity, and especially Western humanity, has taken a sudden dislike to itself. We are exasperated by our own proliferation and can no longer stand ourselves. Whether we want to be or not, we are tangled up with seven billion other members of our species. Rejecting both capitalism and socialism, ecologism has come to power almost nowhere. But it has won the battle of ideas. The environment is the new secular religion that is rising, in Europe especially, from the ruins of a disbelieving world. We have to subject it to critical evaluation in turn and unmask the infantile disease that is eroding and discrediting it: catastrophism. ...
If a generous defense of the environment is to develop in the course of the next century, it will exist only as the servant of humans and nature in their mutual interaction and not as an advocate speaking through an entity called "the planet."
The friends of the earth have for too long been enemies of humanity; it is time for an ecology of admiration to replace an ecology of accusation.
Save the world, we hear everywhere: Save it from capitalism, from science, from consumerism, from materialism. Above all, we have to save the world from its self-proclaimed saviors, who brandish the threat of great chaos in order to impose their lethal impulses. Behind their clamor we must hear the will to demoralize us the better to enslave us. What is at stake is the pleasure of living together on this planet that will survive us, whatever we do to it. We need trailblazers and stimulators, not killjoys disguised as prophets.
Related: The Gallic gadfly
Emily Eakin The Chronicle Review USA June 17, 2013
In the 2011 French comedy L'Amour dure trois ans (Love Lasts Three Years), Pascal Bruckner perches on a red sofa next to his friend and fellow nouveau philosophe Alain Finkielkraut. With a sad smile, he offers his diagnosis: "Today we love love more than we love people. And this love of love is, in my opinion, deadly."
Bruckner's cameo lasts less than a minute, but, as French film audiences know, he has been playing the part for years: pronouncing on the nation's social ills in a series of lean, learned, idiosyncratic books that climb the best-seller lists even as they aim to deflate the moral pretenses of their readers. He's a gadfly and a goad, a self-declared man of the left who considers the influence of leftist ideology on contemporary France to have been, by and large, disastrous. In Bruckner's view, Europe is "wallowing in shame and self-loathing," and France "embodies the illnesses of Europe to excess." As a general rule, the more virtuous-seeming the liberal belief—about love, marriage, minorities, Muslims, the third world, and the West—the more contradiction, hypocrisy, and defeatism he finds corroding its name.
"I am like an epidemiologist of the disease of French democracy," Bruckner, 64, said by phone from his home, in Paris. "I try to sort out the symptoms of French psychological distress." The latest outbreak he's detected is environmentalism. The green movement is being hijacked by extremists, he writes in The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings, just released in the United States by Polity Press. In place of scientific fact, environmental crusaders spread guilt and fear, terrorizing citizens and undermining their own cause. Surveying images of planetary cataclysm proffered by activists like Al Gore ("Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb"), the former NASA climatologist James Hansen (who has called for trying climate-change deniers for "crimes against humanity"), and an array of European science writers and Green Party delegates, Bruckner complains that "all catastrophist discourses suffer from a twofold contradiction: If the situation is as serious as they claim, why fight against it? Why not sit back and await the deluge? But the proposed solutions are ludicrous in view of the perils. ... Let's be clear: a cosmic calamity is not going to be averted by eating vegetables and sorting our rubbish."
Bruckner has said that the book was written in a fit of pique—"People make you feel guilty if you take baths, drive a car, take airplanes. Greenwashing is everywhere."—and it has received mixed reviews in France. (The newspaper Libération's was headlined "Bruckner or the fanaticism of denial.") His argument may be a tougher sell in the United States, where public indifference to climate change poses a far greater challenge for the environmental movement than do extremists within its ranks. (According to a 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center, the proportion of Americans who believe that the earth is warming has declined by 10 percentage points in the past decade.) Bruckner is no doubt right that we are awash in "apocalyptic propaganda"; as the novelist Nathaniel Rich put it, in a recent essay in The New York Times's Sunday Book Review, "there has never been a generation in the history of human civilization with more access to bad news than ours.... No Ebola flare-up or near-miss asteroid goes unpublicized." Yet it's a big leap from the media's fixation on disaster to Bruckner's notion that the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident "merely confirms a concern that preceded it and was looking for something to justify itself." That sentiment registers dangerously close to denialism.
Nevertheless, in its calmer passages, The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse displays the aphoristic eloquence and affinity for paradox that are the hallmarks of Bruckner's style. In France he is credited with reviving the office of the moraliste, or self-appointed social conscience, a position more or less invented by Montaigne and occupied with varying degrees of immodesty and zeal by many of the country's leading lights, from Voltaire to Camus. The term applies as much to form as to content; if the moraliste's intellectual terrain is necessarily vast, his art depends on catchy concision, on enveloping provocation in irony and wit. Thus, for example, Bruckner's formulation: "Multiculturalism is a racism of the anti-racists: it chains people to their roots." The philosopher Tzvetan Todorov, singling out Bruckner's essays for praise amid French literature's "generalized decline," has called him "a disabused observer of our miseries, a pitiless analyst of our mythologies, and a master of paradoxical, highly imaged expression." ...
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Redemption by perception: Our ways of seeing are what shape all else
Redemption by perception. Everyday objects may not hold our interest, but – in art as well as in life – our ways of seeing are what shape all else.Posted at: Sunday, June 16, 2013 - 03:13 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Das große Rasenstück (The Large Piece of Turf), a watercolor by Albrecht Dürer, 1503
Idealism and Blindness: Of flaking paint and blemishes
Leon Wieseltier The New Republic USA June 10, 2013
Many years ago, as I was leafing through a book in which I had no interest, I found one of the saddest stories in the world. It was a new edition of a textbook on visual perception, the psychology and physiology of the eye, and there I discovered “the case of S.B.” S.B. was an Englishman who was blind from infancy to middle age, when, at the age of 52, he received a successful corneal transplant. “All his life he tried to picture the world of sight,” Richard L. Gregory wrote. “He longed for the day when he might see. ... But though the operation was a success his story ended tragically.” With his sight recovered, S. B. managed to identify animals and objects correctly on the basis of the prior knowledge that he had gained from touch and the reports of sighted people, “but he found the world drab, and was upset by flaking paint and blemishes.” I will let Gregory complete the tale: “[He] said that he noted more and more the imperfections in things, and would examine small irregularities and marks in paintwork or wood, which he found upsetting, evidently expecting a more perfect world. He liked bright colours, but became depressed when the light faded. His depression became marked and general. He gradually gave up active living, and three years later he died.”
I never forgot S.B., the man whose heart was broken by the ugliness of the world. In my unceasing and unsuccessful attempt to work out the relations between idealism and realism, he exemplified most purely the disappointed idealist, and also the chronic connection between idealism and blindness. How much can an idealist know about the world and still not be defeated by it? Consider love: blind love is surely an inferior sort of love—the expression of the fear that the object of love may not be sufficient to justify it; but hope, too, must face the problem of ignorance. With too little knowledge, hope may be a delusion; with too much knowledge, hope may be destroyed. To some extent, idealism is always a defiance of the facts—but defy too many of the facts and you court disaster. People who wish to change the world have a special responsibility to acquaint themselves with the world, in the manner of scouts or spies. The realist, by contrast, has no conscience about being complicit with the world. For the realist, the world is all there is to work with. He sees no virtue and no glamour in adopting a standpoint outside reality: it would only diminish his efficacy, which is his highest wish. He does not promote his goals into ideals. Aspiring to less, the realist may accomplish more. Aspiring to more, the idealist may accomplish less.
And yet even the failed idealist adds to the store of the world’s sense of possibility. Idealism is futural: it is never completely defeated because it is never completely satisfied. The aspirations of the realist nourish only his own time: they are premised on the actualities of the present, and so they bequeath nothing to those who will live in a different present with different actualities. But idealism is an activity of the imagination, which is less than vision but more than blindness. It is visionary, in that it beholds what is not yet there. The facts surpass only the poor imaginations. The world may thwart our efforts to improve it, but it cannot thwart our conceptions of it improved; and that is our advantage over it. We can always resume the struggle. ...
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
In a surveillance state, is resistance is futile? Even Winston, after all, learns to love Big Brother in the end
Intro: The PANOPTICON was proposed as a model prison by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a Utilitarian philosopher and theorist of British legal reform.Posted at: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 02:48 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
The Panopticon ("all-seeing") functioned as a round-the-clock surveillance machine. Its design ensured that no prisoner could ever see the 'inspector' who conducted surveillance from the privileged central location within the radial configuration. The prisoner could never know when he was being surveilled -- mental uncertainty that in itself would prove to be a crucial instrument of discipline.
French philosopher Michel Foucault described the implications of 'Panopticism' in his 1975 work Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison:
Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so. In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so. In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow, Bentham envisaged not only venetian blinds on the windows of the central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but zig-zag openings; for the slightest noise, a gleam of light, a brightness in a half-opened door would betray the presence of the guardian. The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen. - Excerpt from 'Panopticism' in Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison
(NY: Vintage Books 1995) pp. 195-228 (translated from the French by Alan Sheridan)
Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed— would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper— the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you. - George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, lines from Part One, Chapter 1. (In the novel, "Thoughtcrime" is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party. The Thought Police use surveillance and psychological monitoring to find and eliminate members of society who challenge the party's authority and ideology.)
But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. - George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, lines from Part Three, Chapter 6.
Sales of '1984' spike amid NSA spying scandal
Michael Winter USA TODAY USA June 11, 2013
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The revelations about government surveillance have introduced a new generation of readers to Nineteen Eighty-Four, as sales of George Orwell's dystopian classic soar.
Sales of the "centennial edition" on Amazon.com had skyrocketed more than 5,800% as of Tuesday night. The novel that introduced the world to the all-seeing, all-knowing "Big Brother" had climbed from No. 7,397 to No. 125 on Amazon's best-seller list, the fifth-best performance.
Sales of the "Signet Classics" edition had risen 287% -- moving from 810 to 209 and rounding out the top 20.
Barnes & Nobles has also seen a "significant spike in sales" of the book, which is a perennial top seller, a company executive told Bloomberg.
The book was published 64 years ago Saturday.
A book buyer for the Strand Book Store in New York reported a 50% increase in sales (from an average of about 12 copies a week). In addition to the reports of snooping by U.S. intelligence services, he said interest may also be driven by the novel's inclusion on schools' summer reading lists.
Several 1984 newbies on Amazon opined, "This should be required reading in high school." (News flash: "Back in the day" it was ...) ...
So are we living in 1984?
Ian Crouch The New Yorker, Page-Turner blog USA June 11, 2013
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Since last week’s revelations of the scope of the United States’ domestic surveillance operations, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was published sixty-four years ago this past Saturday, has enjoyed a massive spike in sales. The book has been invoked by voices as disparate as Nicholas Kristof and Glenn Beck. Even Edward Snowden, the twenty-nine-year-old former intelligence contractor turned leaker, sounded, in the Guardian interview in which he came forward, like he’d been guided by Orwell’s pen. But what will all the new readers and rereaders of Orwell’s classic find when their copy arrives? Is Obama Big Brother, at once omnipresent and opaque? And are we doomed to either submit to the safety of unthinking orthodoxy or endure re-education and face what horrors lie within the dreaded Room 101? With Orwell once again joining a culture-wide consideration of communication, privacy, and security, it seemed worthwhile to take another look at his most influential novel.
Nineteen Eighty-Four begins on a cold April morning in a deteriorated London, the major city of Airstrip One, a province of Oceania, where, despite advances in technology, the weather is still lousy and residents endure a seemingly endless austerity. The narrator introduces Winston, a thirty-nine-year-old man beset by the fatigue of someone older, who lives in an apartment building that smells of “boiled cabbage” and works as a drone in the Ministry of Truth, which spreads public falsehoods. The first few pages contain all the political realities of this future society: the Police Patrol snoops in people’s windows, and Thought Police, with more insidious power, linger elsewhere. Big Brother, the totalitarian figurehead, stares out from posters plastered throughout the city, and private telescreens broadcast the Party’s platform and its constant stream of infotainment. Everyone simply assumes that they are always being watched, and most no longer know to care. Except for Winston, who is different, compelled as if by muscle memory to court danger by writing longhand in a real paper journal.
Thinking about Edward Snowden on Sunday, it wasn’t much of a leap to imagine him and his colleagues working in some version of Oceania’s Ministry of Truth, gliding through banal office gigs whose veneer of nine-to-five technocratic normality helped to hide their more sinister reality. ...
Audio: Are we living in 1984?
"The Current" CBC Radio One Canada June 14, 2013
You can listen to this segment of the program (27:30) from a pop-up link on the page.
Sales of George Orwell's novel 1984 spiked following revelations of the U.S. domestic surveillance program. Writer Joyce Carol Oates isn't surprised. She believes 2013 is the new 1984 -- with a little Brave New World thrown in. We speak with Joyce Carol Oates and other dystopians and ask if 1984 is really relevant or if Orwell is an oracle.
Items: Meet the contractors analyzing your private data
Tim Shorrock Salon.com USA June 10, 2013
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Amid the torrent of stories about the shocking new revelations about the National Security Agency, few have bothered to ask a central question. Who’s actually doing the work of analyzing all the data, metadata and personal information pouring into the agency from Verizon and nine key Internet service providers for its ever-expanding surveillance of American citizens?
Well, on Sunday we got part of the answer: Booz Allen Hamilton. In a stunning development in the NSA saga, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald revealed that the source for his blockbuster stories on the NSA is Edward Snowden, “a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.” Snowden, it turns out, has been working at NSA for the last four years as a contract employee, including stints for Booz and the computer-services firm Dell.
The revelation is not that surprising. With about 70 percent of our national intelligence budgets being spent on the private sector – a discovery I made in 2007 and first reported in Salon – contractors have become essential to the spying and surveillance operations of the NSA.
From Narus, the Israeli-born Boeing subsidiary that makes NSA’s high-speed interception software, to CSC, the “systems integrator” that runs NSA’s internal IT system, defense and intelligence, contractors are making millions of dollars selling technology and services that help the world’s largest surveillance system spy on you. If the 70 percent figure is applied to the NSA’s estimated budget of $8 billion a year (the largest in the intelligence community), NSA contracting could reach as high as $6 billion every year.
But it’s probably much more than that.
“The largest concentration of cyber power on the planet is the intersection of the Baltimore Parkway and Maryland Route 32,” says Michael V. Hayden, who oversaw the privatization effort as NSA director from 1999 to 2005. He was referring not to the NSA itself but to the business park about a mile down the road from the giant black edifice that houses NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. There, all of NSA’s major contractors, from Booz to SAIC to Northrop Grumman, carry out their surveillance and intelligence work for the agency.
With many of these contractors now focused on cyber-security, Hayden has even coined a new term — “Digital Blackwater” – for the industry. “I use that for the concept of the private sector in cyber,” he told a recent conference in Washington, in an odd reference to the notorious mercenary army. “I saw this in government and saw it a lot over the last four years. The private sector has really moved forward in terms of providing security,” he said. Hayden himself has cashed out too: He is now a principal with the Chertoff Group, the intelligence advisory company led by Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of Homeland Security. ...
But how did NSA, long considered the crown jewel of U.S. intelligence, become so privatized in the first place?
In the late 1990s, faced with a telecommunications and technological revolution that threatened to make the NSA’s telephonic and radar-based surveillance skills obsolete, the agency decided to turn to private corporations for many of its technical needs.
The outsourcing plan was finalized in 2000 by a special NSA Advisory Board set up to determine the agency’s future and codified in a secret report written by a then-obscure intelligence officer named James Clapper. “Clapper did a one-man study for the NSA Advisory Board,” recalls Ed Loomis, a 40-year NSA veteran who, along with Binney and two others, blew the whistle on corporate corruption at the NSA.
“His recommendation was that NSA acquire its Internet capabilities from the private sector. The idea was, the private sector had the capability and we at NSA didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Hayden, who was the NSA director at the time, “put a lot of trust in the private sector, and a lot of trust in Clapper, because Clapper was his mentor,” added Loomis. And once he got approval, “he was hell-bent on privatization and nothing was going to derail that.” Clapper is now President Obama’s director of national intelligence, and has denounced the Guardian leaks as “reprehensible.” ...
It's a no-brainer how a young IT wizard came to release ultra-sensitive secrets of the US intelligence-national security complex in the biggest leak in American history. Gung-ho privatization of spying has created a "Digital Blackwater" industry around the National Security Agency headquarters in Maryland. It took only one private contractor to bring the rules of state discipline out of the shadows.
Digital Blackwater rules
Pepe Escobar Asia Times Online Hong Kong June 11, 2013
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The judgment of Daniel "Pentagon Papers" Ellsberg is definitive; "There has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material". And that includes the release of the Pentagon Papers themselves. Here is the 12-minute video by The Guardian where Snowden details his motives.
By now, everything swirling around the US National Security Agency (NSA) points to a black box in a black hole. The black box is the NSA headquarters itself in Fort Meade, Maryland. The black hole is an area that would include the suburbs of Virginia's Fairfax County near the CIA but mostly the intersection of the Baltimore Parkway and Maryland Route 32.
There one finds a business park a mile away from the NSA which Michael Hayden, a former NSA director (1999-2005) told Salon's Tim Shorrock is "the largest concentration of cyber power on the planet".  Hayden coined it "Digital Blackwater".
Here is a decent round up of key questions still not answered about the black hole. But when it comes to how a 29-year old IT wizard with little formal education has been able to access a batch of ultra-sensitive secrets of the US intelligence-national security complex, that's a no-brainer; it's all about the gung-ho privatization of spying - referred to by a mountain of euphemisms of the "contractor reliance" kind. In fact the bulk of the hardware and software used by the dizzying network of 16 US intelligence agencies is privatized.
A Washington Post investigation found out that US homeland security, counter-terror and spy agencies do business with over 1,900 companies.  An obvious consequence of this contractor tsunami - hordes of "knowledge" high-tech proletarians in taupe cubicles - is their indiscriminate access to ultra-sensitive security. A systems administrator like Snowden can have access to practically everything.
"Revolving door" does not even begin to explain the system. Snowden was one of 25,000 employees of Booz Allen Hamilton ("We are visionaries") for the past three months.  Over 70% of these employees, according to the company, have a government security clearance; 49% are top secret (as in Snowden's case), or higher. The former director of national intelligence Mike McConnell is now a Booz Allen vice president. The new director of national intelligence, the sinister-looking retired general James Clapper, is a former Booz Allen executive.
At least US - and world - public opinion may now have a clearer idea of how a Pashtun girl in Waziristan is obliterated by a "targeted strike". It's all a matter of this privatized NSA-collected meta-data and matrix multiplication leading to a "signature". The "terrorist" Pashtun girl of course may eventually morph in the near future into a dangerous tree-hugger or a vocal political protester.
True to form, as soon as Snowden revealed his identity US corporate media privileged shooting the messenger instead of poring over the message. That included everything from cheap character assassination to the usual former CIA asset spinning that in Washington many were looking at Snowden as an agent in a potential Chinese espionage plot.
Much has also been made of the John Le Carre-esque plot twist of Snowden leaving his tranquil life in Hawaii and flying to Hong Kong on May 20, because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent". Hong Kong-based blogger Wen Yunchao memorably described it as Snowden having "left the tiger's den and entered the wolf's lair". Yet Snowden's visa stamp at Chek Lap Kok airport lasts for 90 days - plenty of time to ponder the next move.
Since 1996, before the British handover to China, an extradition treaty applies between the tiger and the wolf.  The US Department of Justice is already surveying its options. It's important to remember that the Hong Kong judicial system is independent from China's - according to the Deng Xiaoping-conceptualized "one country, two systems". As much as Washington may go for extraditing Snowden, he may also apply for political asylum. In both cases he may stay in Hong Kong for months, in fact years.
The Hong Kong government cannot extradite anyone claiming he will be persecuted in his country of origin. And crucially, article 6 of the treaty stipulates, "a fugitive offender shall not be surrendered if the offence of which that person is accused or was convicted is an offence of a political character." Another clause stipulates that a fugitive shall not be surrendered if that implicates "the defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy" of - guess who - the People's Republic of China.
So then we may have a case of Hong Kong and Beijing having to reach an agreement. Yet even if they decided to extradite Snowden, he could argue in court this was "an offence of a political character". The bottom line - this could drag on for years. And it's too early to tell how Beijing would play it for maximum leverage. A "win-win" situation from a Chinese point of view would be to balance its commitment to absolute non-interference in foreign domestic affairs, its desire not to rock the fragile bilateral relation boat, but also what non-pivoting move the US government would offer in return. ...
Why is Edward Snowden in Hong Kong?
Dave Lindorff CounterPunch USA June 12, 2-13
A lot of people in the US media are asking why America’s most famous whistleblower, 29-year old Edward Snowden, hied himself off to the city state of Hong Kong, a wholly owned subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China, to seek at least temporary refuge.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, they say. And as for China, which controls the international affairs of its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, while granting it local autonomy to govern its domestic affairs, its leaders “may not want to irritate the US” at a time when the Chinese economy is stumbling.
These people don’t have much understanding of either Hong Kong or of China.
As someone who has spent almost seven years in China and Hong Kong, let me offer my thoughts about why Snowden, obviously a very savvy guy despite his lack of a college education, went where he did.
First of all, forget about Hong Kong’s extradition treaty. When it comes to deciding whether someone will be extradited, particularly for a political crime, as opposed to a simple murder or bank heist, the decision will be made in Beijing, not in a Hong Kong courtroom. Second, Hong Kong has a long history of providing a haven to dissidents — even to dissidents wanted by the Chinese government. Consider, for example, the Chinese labor movement activist Han Dongfang, who was the subject of a massive dragnet after the Tiananmen protests, but who successfully fled to Hong Kong before the handover of the place from Britain to China, and is continuing to monitor Chinese labor strife and protest from his home on Hong Kong’s Lamma Island. Hong Kong also has a public that is very supportive of democratic values — certainly more so than the majority of American citizens. Hong Kong people may not be paying too much attention to Snowden’s situation right now, but if the US were to actively seek to extradite him, I am confident that the place would erupt in support for him, including the local media.
As for China, while the issue that has Snowden on the run — exposing an Orwellian spying program targeting the American people and run by the super-secret National Security Agency — is certainly not one that the Chinese government likes to discuss in terms of their own locked-down society, you can bet that the folks in the Propaganda Bureau in Beijing, and in the inner circle of the government, are rubbing their hands with glee both at the incredible embarrassment their harboring of Snowden causes the hypocritical US, and at the trove of intelligence information he has, which they may be able ultimately to lure him into disclosing if they treat him well.
Then too, there is the matter of the Confucian concept of gift-giving and mutual obligations. It was, I am sure, no accident that Snowden chose the weekend that President Obama was hosting a summit in California with China’s new president Xi Jinping to disclose his identity as the NSA whistleblower who exposed the national spying program to the Guardian and the Washington Post. In doing that, he gave President Xi an incredible gift — the chance to hold the upper hand in his negotiations with a hugely embarrassed and compromised Obama over issues like Chinese computer hacking of US corporate and government secrets, and theft of intellectual property. For of course it is clear that the NSA is at least as active in hacking Chinese computers and spying on Chinese communications.
Such a gift as that is not easily ignored or forgotten in Chinese culture. President Xi owes Snowden a lot, and I believe he will honor that debt by seeing that Snowden is protected from any threat that might be posed to him by a vindictive or frightened US government.
But Snowden isn’t relying solely on Chinese cultural values to protect himself. ...
It would be a relatively easy matter for the high-tech spooks at the NSA to retrace Snowden’s electronic trail to see if he really did download all that super-secret information and really could blow up the entire US spy machine. If they find out that he really has that information, he’s basically untouchable.
The real question is not what they are going to do to Snowden. It’s what we Americans are going to do now that we know how truly insane and totalitarian our government has become.
Will we go back to watching our sports teams and our reality TV programming, and forget about the fact that we no longer have any privacy in our lives, that our elected leaders and our judges are operating on the assumption that if they get out of line the fascist machine at the NSA that works in service of the corporate elite will blackmail or destroy them with its access to all their communications. Or will we rise up and demand an end to this high-tech tyranny in the name of a fraudulent “War” on Terror?
Snowden exiled himself and gave up a great job in Hawaii in the hope that we would rise up when we learned that our democracy has been hijacked.
Let’s hope he’s right.
Edward Snowden to South China Morning Post: Let Hong Kong 'decide my fate'
Katherine Fung Huffington Post USA/Canada June 12, 2013
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Edward Snowden spoke out for the first time since revealing his identity as the source of information about the National Security Agency's secret surveillance programs, telling the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that he plans to stay in Hong Kong until he is "asked to leave."
The newspaper published its exclusive interview with Snowden on Wednesday night local time. He told Post reporter Lana Lam, "I'm neither traitor nor hero. I'm an American."
The Post did not report how it contacted Snowden or provide information about his current whereabouts. The paper said that Snowden spoke to Lam from a "secret location in Hong Kong." Lam has been a reporter for the Post for nearly three years.
Snowden addressed why he fled to Hong Kong during the interview. “People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions," Snowden told the Post. "I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality." He added that he had "faith" in Hong Kong's justice system, and that his "intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide [his] fate."
Snowden has been on the run since the NSA story broke, and fled to Hong Kong from Hawaii on May 20. The revelation set off journalists in Hong Kong scrambling to find him. The Guardian's Ewen MacAskill reported that Snowden checked out of Hong Kong's Mira Hotel on Monday, fearing that he would be found. "It is thought he is now in a safe house," MacAskill said on Tuesday.
Snowden has not made any requests for asylum, though he told the Post that he would fight any attempts by the United States to have him extradited in the Hong Kong court system. Russia's government has also said that it would consider granting Snowden asylum if he requested it. ...
Related: Smear brigade goes after Snowden
Justin Raimondo Antiwar.com USA June 11, 2013
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When whistleblowers expose government wrongdoing and abuses, the procedure is always the same: the regime’s defenders focus on the whistleblower’s alleged personality defects and smear him within an inch of his life. They did it with Dan Ellsberg, they did it with Julian Assange, they did it with Bradley Manning, and that all too familiar modus operandi is unfolding pretty quickly in the case of Edward Snowden, the heroic libertarian who exposed Washington’s massive and unconstitutional spying operation against American citizens. The pundits who take seriously their job as the power elite’s Praetorian Guard are going after Snowden hammer and tongs, and in these dark times their polemics provide a rich source of humor. ...
As we’ve been warning in this space for some time, the past decade or so has witnessed a silent slow-motion coup in the US, in the course of which the apparatus of a police state has been quietly assembled on the rather good chance our wise rulers will soon be needing it. With the Snowden revelations, the veil is lifted on their already well-advanced plans. As the above demonstrates, they’re doing their best to change the subject, or, when that doesn’t work, resorting to hedging by arguing: heck no, we aren’t listening in on your phone conversations, we’re just storing them in a safe place – for later reference. And as far as scooping up your emails, and other internet content, it’s only foreigners we’re collecting dossiers on – anything we collect on Americans is just an “accident.”
They are lying. As Snowden put it:
“Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector. Anywhere. I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email.”
They lied us into a series of wars in the Middle East: now they are trying to lie us into accepting a police state. Will they get away with it, as they have in the past? While the Smear Brigade and their employers are pretty complacent, and even smug in the face of these revelations, there is an undertone of fear, and even panic, in their voices. As if they know the jig is up, and it’s time to start making plans for a getaway.
Slow to anger, but dangerous once aroused, the American people are stirring. After the long night of the “war on terrorism,” and years of being cowed by an unreasonable fear, they are finally beginning to show signs that they’ve had enough. Brooks, Foxton, and McArdle (sounds like a law firm specializing in bankruptcy proceedings) are the Regime’s last attempt to save face and recover some shred of credibility. We’ve only just seen the beginning of the smear campaign about to be unleashed on Snowden – but I have news for these character assassins: it isn’t going to work.
It isn’t going to work because Snowden isn’t a Washington insider, he’s never held an official position – and, yes, like millions of uncredentialed non-insiders, he never took to college and his high school education was a rocky road, to say the least. Up against the Ivy Leaguers of the Washington-Georgetown cocktail party set, and the denizens of Washington’s royal court where loyalty to the State is assumed, Snowden is “weird,” as McArdle put it. Who else but a weirdo would give up a lucrative career, a gorgeous girlfriend, a wonderful life in paradisaical Hawaii, for the cause of liberty? Why, he’s got to be crazy – a nut, an extremist, a “solitary naked individual” up against “the gigantic and menacing state.”
Which is precisely why Americans – that is, all those Americans who remember what it is to be an American – will rally and are rallying to his cause. As the groundswell demanding his pardon – and also demanding some accountability from our previously unaccountable rulers – continues to rise, it’s going to be fun watching the David Brookses of this world go into panic mode. So sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the show – because it’s going to a long and very enjoyable one. ...
Mika Brzezinski accuses Glenn Greenwald of 'misleading' coverage (VIDEO)
Huffington Post USA/Canada June 12, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links and video (7:09). A glimpse inside the Hive near the top. Mika Brzezinski is the daughter of Polish-born foreign policy expert and former United States National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough is a former Republican member of the US House of Representatives and Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mika's brother Mark served on President Clinton's National Security Council and is currently US ambassador to Sweden. Her brother Ian served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO, 2001-2005, under President George W. Bush and was a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton, Edward Snowden's now former employer. In the parlance of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Mika and Scarborough are members of the Outer Party while Haass is a member of the Inner Party, composed of less than 2% of the American population.
On Tuesday, Mika Brzezinski accused the media of "misleading" coverage on Edward Snowden and the NSA's surveillance programs.
Her comments came during a discussion about Snowden, the source who leaked information about the NSA's secret programs to the Guardian and the Washington Post, on "Morning Joe." Scarborough remarked that Snowden looked like a "weasel," while contributor Richard Haass cautioned against calling the former NSA contractor a "whistleblower" — a debate that news outlets have been engaged in.
"That's right," Brzezinski agreed. "That I think is an intellectual true analysis of what he is and he's not a whistleblower."
“He's not a whistleblower, okay?” she stressed to Scarborough. "And it’s actually been very misleading the way this story's been covered, even by the reporter himself... who’s super, super close to the story, okay?”
"The government's been misleading us all along," Scarborough responded.
"Okay, but let's also make sure we analyze everyone involved, including the press, which isn't perfect either," Brzezinski said. ...
Sunday, June 9, 2013
On being an octopus: Diving deep in search of the human mind
An octopus experiences the world as bright and tasty. Or so we think. Does imagining yourself as an alien creature reveal something about your own mental life? Peter Godfrey-Smith writes "Getting a sense of what it feels like to be another animal—bat, octopus, or next-door neighbor—must involve the use of memory and imagination to produce what we think might be faint analogues of that other animal’s experiences."Posted at: Sunday, June 09, 2013 - 03:56 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
On being an octopus
Peter Godfrey-Smith Boston Review USA June 3, 2012
Photo: Peter Godfrey-Smith
If octopuses did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. I don’t know if we could manage this, so it’s as well that we don’t have to. As we explore the relations between mind, body, evolution, and experience, nothing stretches our thinking the way an octopus does.
In a famous 1974 paper, the philosopher Thomas Nagel asked: What is it like to be a bat? He asked this in part to challenge materialism, the view that everything that goes on in our universe comprises physical processes and nothing more. A materialist view of the mind, Nagel said, cannot even begin to give an explanation of the subjective side of our mental lives, an account of what it feels like to have thoughts and experiences. Nagel chose bats as his example because they are not so simple that we doubt they have experiences at all, but they are, he said, “a fundamentally alien form of life.”
Bats certainly live lives different from our own, but evolutionarily speaking they are our close cousins, fellow mammals with nervous systems built on a similar plan. If we want to think about something more truly alien, the octopus is ideal. Octopuses are distant from us in evolutionary terms, have a nervous system of very different design, and bodies with no bones and little fixed shape at all. What is it like to be an octopus? The question is intrinsically interesting and, beyond that, provides a good way to chip away at the problem Nagel raised for a materialist understanding of the mind.
How do we approach questions about “what it’s like” to be something or someone? One way of asking these questions makes them impossible to answer regardless of what minds might be made of. In this interpretation, to ask what it’s like to be a bat or an octopus is to ask for a description, given from a third-person point of view, that encapsulates the animal’s experience itself. But having an experience will always be different from having a description of it. This will be true if we are biochemical machines and true also if there is a soul-like extra ingredient in the world. A gap between a first-person and a third-person point of view arises either way.
Descriptions are not completely powerless, though, in helping us get a grip on what the experience of another might be like. What a description can do, often very effectively, is prompt memories and guide the imagination—it can elicit memories of experiences that one has actually had and guide the construction of variations on these memories. Whenever one person describes an important experience to another, we rely on this sort of use of memory and imagination. It is more difficult if someone or something cannot talk, cannot offer a usable description in their own words. Then if we want to get a sense of what their experience might feel like, we must draw on information about their other forms of behavior and about how their senses and nervous systems work. If what is going on in them can be mapped onto what is going on in us when we have an experience that we know firsthand, we can say something about what an experience is like for them. Doing this does rely on the assumption that there is a systematic relation between how things feel and what goes on in the nervous system—just as listening to what someone says requires the assumption that real experiences lies behind her words. ...