Partly cloudy. 60 percent chance of flurries this evening. Wind northeast 20 km/h increasing to 40 to 60 late this evening. Low minus 6. Wind chill minus 15 overnight.
There are 21 unlogged users and 0 registered users online.
You can log-in or register for a user account here.
Topic: ArtsThe new items published under this topic are as follows.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
The girl: Real or imagined
A "Lili Marleen" and Lale Andersen memorial in Langeoog.
Jim comment: Every soldier away from home—no matter the war, no matter the side or cause—has a girl, real or imagined. Anthony Holland, a friend and mentor, tells a story from his experience in WWII, North Africa. His British army unit was marching captured German soldiers away from the front when a New Zealand armoured unit heading toward the front came upon them. The captured Germans were singing "Lili Marleen". According to Holland, the New Zealand armoured unit halted alongside the Brit and German column. In response to "Lilli Marleen", they sang "Lily Marlene", the English-language version.
It was not a Hollywood Casablanca clash of songs. It was a shared sentiment amongst the Allied and Axis troops. After the interlude, the captured Germans advanced to the rear away from battle; the New Zealanders to the front and into battle.
(The poem that inspired the song was written in 1915. The poem was published under the title "Das Lied eines jungen Soldaten auf der Wacht" [German for "The Song of a Young Soldier on Watch"] in 1937, and was first recorded by Lale Andersen in 1939 under the title "Das Mädchen unter der Laterne" ["The Girl under the Lantern"].
After the occupation of Belgrade in 1941, Radio Belgrade became the German forces' radio station under the name of Soldatensender Belgrad (Soldiers' Radio Belgrade), with transmissions heard throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. While on leave in Vienna, a lieutenant working at the station was asked to collect some records for broadcast. Amongst the pile of second-hand records from the Reich radio station was the little known two-year-old song "Lili Marleen" sung by Lale Andersen, which up till then had barely sold around 700 copies. For lack of other recordings, Radio Belgrade played the song frequently. Its popularity quickly grew. The transmitter of the radio station at Belgrade was powerful enough to be received all over Europe and the Mediterranean. Soldiers stationed around the Mediterranean, including both German Afrika Korps and British Eighth Army troops, regularly tuned in to hear it.)
To me, the original German lyric by Hans Leip and the English translation that was most popular with Allied troops are different in sentiment and understanding. A cultural distinction, perhaps? Judge for yourself.
An audio performance of the original
English translation of the original German lyric
Right next to the barracks by the main gate
there stood a lantern and stands there up to date
We're going to meet there again
Next to the lantern we will remain
Like then, Lili Marleen
Like then, Lili Marleen
Our casted shadows appearing as one
and the love we had, clear to everyone
and to all people that was quite plain
when by the lantern we were stayin'
Like then, Lili Marleen
Like then, Lili Marleen
Already says the sentry, lights-out's being called
that can cost you three days, comrad let's not get stalled
We said goodnight right there and then
How I would love be with you again
With you, Lili Marleen?
With you, Lili Marleen?
It knows your nice walking, as you come along
every night it's burning, but it forgot me long
And if it comes and I'll be slain
Who by the lantern will be coming then
With you, Lili Marleen?
With you, Lili Marleen?
Off the lands of silence, off the earthly ground
in a dream it lifts me, your kiss leaves me astound
When the mist of night swirls into reign
There by the lantern I will be again
Like then, Lili Marleen?
Like then, Lili Marleen?
English translation as recorded by Vera Lynn
Underneath the lantern
By the barrack gate
Darling I remember
The way you used to wait
'Twas there that you whispered tenderly
That you loved me
You'd always be
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene
Time would come for roll call
Time for us to part
Darling I'd caress you
And press you to my heart
And there neath that far off lantern light
I'd hold you tight
We'd kiss good night
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene
Orders came for sailing
Somewhere over there
All confined to barracks
'Twas more than I could bear
I knew you were waiting in the street
I heard your feet
But could not meet
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene
Resting in our billet
Just behind the line
Even though we're parted
Your lips are close to mine
You wait where that lantern softly gleamed
Your sweet face seems
To haunt my dreams
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Lest we forget: In the USA Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, not just the killed. A new book dedicated to remembrance of the suffering of the not killed
November 11: Armistice Day (observed by New Zealand, France, Belgium and Serbia), Remembrance Day (observed by the Commonwealth of Nations), Veterans Day (observed by the United States of America) is an annual holiday marking the anniversary of the end of World War I which killed more than 9 million combatants. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. (While this official date to mark the end of the war reflects the ceasefire on the Western Front, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire.)Posted at: Friday, November 08, 2013 - 01:29 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Unlike Remembrance Day, which remembers armed forces personnel who have died in the line of duty, Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. (In the United States, it is Memorial Day that is dedicated to remembering the men and women who died while serving. Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May.)
As I followed the sad trail of damaged veterans to write my new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- the Untold Story, I came to see how much they and their families have suffered, like Afghans, from the delusions of this nation’s leaders -- many running counter to international law -- and of other influential Americans, in and out of the military, more powerful and less accountable than themselves. Like the soldiers, the country has changed. Muted now is the braggadocio of the bring-‘em-on decider who started the preemptive process that ate the children of the poor and patriotic. Now, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, Washington scrambles to make the exit look less like a defeat -- or worse, pointless waste. Most Americans no longer ask what the wars were for. - Ann Jones, in her essay linked to below, "They Didn’t Know What They Were Getting Into: The Cost of War American-Style"
They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars—The Untold Story by Ann Jones. Published by Haymarket Books, November 2013, 191 pages. ISBN-10: 1608463710; ISBN-13: 978-1608463718
Ann Jones shines a much-needed light on the dead, wounded, mutilated, brain-damaged, drug-addicted, suicidal, homicidal casualties of our distant wars, taking us on a stunning journey from the devastating moment an American soldier is first wounded in rural Afghanistan to the return home. Beautifully written by an empathetic and critical reporter who knows the price of war.
"This is a painful odyssey. Ann Jones’s superb writing makes it possible to take it in without sugar coating.… Read this book. You will be a wiser and better citizen.” — Jonathan Shay, MD, PhD, author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1995) and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming (2003)
Ann Jones is a journalist, photographer (Getty Images), and the author of eight books of nonfiction, including Women Who Kill, Next Time She’ll Be Dead, Kabul in Winter, and War Is Not Over When It’s Over. She has reported on the impact of war in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and embedded with American forces in Afghanistan. She regularly writes for The Nation and TomDispatch.com.
Item: Silent soldiers, the losers from our lost wars
Tom Englehardt and Ann Jones TomDispatch USA November 7, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Here’s your chance to support TomDispatch in a new venture. Today, we’re officially publishing our first original Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story. (To see the first stunning review, click here.) At 73, having spent years focusing on the civilian toll from Washington’s Afghan War, Jones embedded on an American forward operating base to experience what that war was like for the U.S. troops in the field. The next year, she began following grievously wounded American soldiers from the moment they came off the battlefield all the way back home. Her journey proved to be nothing short of an odyssey. Despite all the talk in this country about our “wounded warriors,” no other media outlet has offered anything like this or given us a more powerful sense of the genuine cost of war to Americans.
You’re going to hear a lot more about They Were Soldiers in the coming weeks, but I urge you, this very day, to help TomDispatch make this book a genuine success. Buy it now. If you’re an Amazon customer, click here and get it in its paperback or ebook form. In the process, we receive a tiny cut of your purchase at no cost to you. Or tell your local independent bookstore to stock it (and while you’re at it, order a copy yourself). Buy it for friends. Use it as a tool to speed the end of America’s perpetual war policies. Whatever you do, help us by giving the book a publication day lift, and do yourself a favor at the same time. If you really want to offer this site extra (and deeply appreciated) support, send us a donation of $100 (or more) and in the next 10 days, while Jones is in this country, she will sign a personalized copy of the book for you and I’ll send it your way. Check out the offer at our donation page. Tom]
When, in 1976 at age 32, I first became an editor at a mainstream publishing house, I had just one urge: I wanted to bring new voices, as young as I was, into the world; I wanted, as I used to say at the time, to publish “voices from elsewhere,” even when that elsewhere was right here in the U.S.A. (Back then, I also proudly and only half-jokingly used to brag of being publishing’s “editor of last resort,” a claim that would now undoubtedly get an editor fired.) Generally speaking, I think I reached that goal both in the books I helped to birth and, in more recent years, at TomDispatch, which is, I hope, regularly a voice from “elsewhere,” even though firmly located here. Nearly four decades after my publishing career began, however, I find it strangely appropriate that the first voice Nick and I bring you isn’t youthful at all, but that of the vibrant Ann Jones, who, when she dons her combat boots and body armor, may actually be the oldest war correspondent on the planet.
It turns out that it takes an old lady with guts, someone who has long known the suffering that the Afghan War brought down on Afghans, to follow the trail and the lives of young American soldiers horribly wounded in that war. Hers, like theirs, has been a harrowing journey, reported in her remarkable new book with striking bluntness by a woman who is herself something of a veteran of the catastrophes of our world and who, in the wake of her Afghan experiences, has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder herself. As it happens, she also writes like an angel, even as she brings us, up close and personal, the true costs to the young Americans she calls “kids” of our post-9/11 war-making.
You don’t have to believe me. Consider what psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, author of the award-winning book Achilles in Vietnam, has to say about the way They Were Soldiers portrays the American wounded:
“This is a painful odyssey. Ann Jones’s superb writing makes it possible to take it in without sugar coating. Her scene painting takes you there with compassion and without flinching -- no sentimental bullshit here, no lofty pity. We fly with her in the belly of a C-17 medical evacuation from Bagram [Air Base in Afghanistan], into operating rooms of the Landstuhl European way station, more surgeries at Walter Reed, into the gymnasium for the long, determined work with prosthetics, with the physical and occupational therapists. We go with her to the homes of the families receiving the brain-injured and the psychologically and morally injured. We hear firsthand accounts by families of service members who died of their war wounds in the mind and spirit, after making it back in one piece... physically. Her breadth of vision includes even contractors, whom most dismiss from their minds and forget. Read this book. You will be a wiser and better citizen.”
And when you’re done, you won’t for a second doubt the high price some Americans have paid for Washington’s folly.
It’s with great pride, then, that I announce the official publication today of this first original offering from Dispatch Books. To introduce it at the site, TomDispatch regular Jones offers an overview of what might be called her American experience in Afghanistan. Read it and then buy her book. I guarantee you one thing: when you’re done with it, as with the best of books, you’ll see our world differently. Tom
They Didn’t Know What They Were Getting Into
The Cost of War American-Style
By Ann Jones
The last time I saw American soldiers in Afghanistan, they were silent. Knocked out by gunfire and explosions that left them grievously injured, as well as drugs administered by medics in the field, they were carried from medevac helicopters into a base hospital to be plugged into machines that would measure how much life they had left to save. They were bloody. They were missing pieces of themselves. They were quiet.
It’s that silence I remember from the time I spent in trauma hospitals among the wounded and the dying and the dead. It was almost as if they had fled their own bodies, abandoning that bloodied flesh upon the gurneys to surgeons ready to have a go at salvation. Later, sometimes much later, they might return to inhabit whatever the doctors had managed to salvage. They might take up those bodies or what was left of them and make them walk again, or run, or even ski. They might dress themselves, get a job, or conceive a child. But what I remember is the first days when they were swept up and dropped into the hospital so deathly still.
They were so unlike themselves. Or rather, unlike the American soldiers I had first seen in that country. Then, fired up by 9/11, they moved with the aggressive confidence of men high on their macho training and their own advance publicity.
I remember the very first American soldiers I saw in Afghanistan. It must have been in 2002. In those days, very few American troops were on the ground in that country -- most were being readied for Iraq to fulfill the vainglorious dreams of George W. Bush and Co. -- and they were not stationed in Kabul, the Afghan capital, but in the countryside, still supposedly searching for Osama bin Laden.
I was in the north, at the historic Dasht-i Shadian stadium near the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, watching an afternoon of buzkashi, the traditional Afghan sport in which mounted men, mostly farmers, vie for possession of a dead calf. The stadium was famous not only for the most fiercely contested buzkashi games in the country, but also for a day during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when local people invited 50 Soviet soldiers to enjoy the spectacle at Dasht-i Shadian and slaughtered them on the spot.
I was seated with Afghan friends in the bleachers when a squad of Americans in full battle gear barged into the dignitaries’ box and interrupted play. Some of them insisted on riding the horses. At a sign from the local warlord presiding over the games, Afghan riders helped the Americans mount. They may also have cued their horses to bolt, race away, and dump them in the dirt.
A little stiffly, the soldiers hiked back to the grandstand, took up their rifles, and made a great show of laughing off the incident -- of being loud and boisterous “good sports.” But a large audience of poker-faced Afghan men had taken their measure. A friend said something to me that I never forgot in years after as I watched the “progress” of the war unfold: “They didn’t know what they were getting into.”
“Follow the money,” a furious Army officer, near the end of his career, instructed me. I had spent my time with poor kids in search of an honorable future who do the grunt work of America’s military. They are part of the nation’s lowliest 1%. But as that angry career officer told me, “They only follow orders.” It’s the other 1% at the top who are served by war, the great American engine that powers the transfer of wealth from the public treasury upward and into their pockets. Following that money trail reveals the real point of the chosen conflicts. As that disillusioned officer put it to me, the wars have made those profiteers “monu-fuckin'-mentally rich.” It’s the soldiers and their families who lost out.
Review of the book: How to help such suffering?
Got his gun -- lost his legs, arms, and penis
David Swanson War Is A Crime.org USA October 27, 2013
Ann Jones' new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story, is devastating, and almost incomprehensibly so when one considers that virtually all of the death and destruction in U.S. wars is on the other side. Statistically, what happens to U.S. troops is almost nothing. In human terms, it's overwhelming.
Know a young person considering joining the military? Give them this book.
Know a person not working to end war? Give them this book.
Jones presents the choice before us in the clearest terms in the introduction:
Contrary to common opinion in the United States, war is not inevitable. Nor has it always been with us. War is a human invention -- an organized, deliberate action of an anti-social kind -- and in the long span of human life on Earth, a fairly recent one. For more than 99 percent of the time that humans have lived on this planet, most of them have never made war. Many languages don't even have a word for it. Turn off CNN and read anthropology. You'll see.
Jones begins her book with that distinguishing feature of war: death. The U.S. military assigns specialists in "Mortuary Affairs" to dispose of the dead. They dispose of their own sanity in the process. And first they dispose of their appetite. "Broiled meat in the chow hall smells much the same as any charred Marine, and you may carry the smell of the dead on a stained cuff as you raise a fork to your mouth, only to quickly put it down." Much of the dead is -- like the slop at the chow hall -- unrecognizable meat. Once dumped in landfills, until a Washington Post story made that a scandal, now it's dumped at sea. Much of the dead is the result of suicides. Mortuary Affairs scrubs the brains out of the port-o-potty and removes the rifle, so other troops don't have to see.
Then come, in vastly greater numbers, the wounded -- Jones' chapter two. A surgeon tells her that in Iraq the U.S. troops "had severe injuries, but the injuries were still on the body." In Afghanistan, troops step on mines and IEDs while walking, not driving. Some are literally blown to bits. Others can be picked up in recognizable pieces. Others survive. But many survive without one or two legs, one or two testicles, a penis, an arm, both arms -- or with a brain injury, or a ruined face, or all of the above. A doctor describes the emotion for a surgical team the first time they have to remove a penis and "watch it go into the surgical waste container."
"By early 2012," Jones writes, "3,000 [U.S.] soldiers had been killed by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 31,394 wounded. Among the wounded were more than 1,800 soldiers with severe damage to their genitals." Doctors treat an injured soldier's limbs first, later their genitals, later still their brains.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Netherland Who's Who. You need to watch this video of Miley Cyrus narrated by David Attenborough. (Mating in birds can be a very quick business)
What it means to be Canadian has often been demonstrated through people’s attachment to wildlife and wilderness. This is most evident in the iconic role that wildlife plays in Canadian currency, the popularity of wildlife art, and the billions of dollars that are spent annually on wildlife-related activities in Canada.Posted at: Friday, November 01, 2013 - 06:58 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
This connection to wildlife was introduced to many Canadians through the popular Hinterland Who’s Who television announcements, or vignettes. First created in the early 1960s, Hinterland Who’s Who made bold use of a relatively new medium — black and white television — to reach the Canadian general public. The vignettes, produced by the Canadian Wildlife Service, brought native wildlife into living rooms using excellent film footage and simple narration. They became, and remain, an enduring part of Canadian culture.
You need to watch this video of Miley Cyrus narrated by David Attenborough
Holly Richmond Grist USA November 1, 2013
The embedded narrated video of Cyrus and Thicke rune 1:07. Mating in birds can be a very quick business.
Put aside your Miley Cyrus fatigue for ONE MINUTE and watch this amazing version of Miley’s VMA performance — narrated by everyone’s favorite wildlife voiceover guy, David Attenborough: ...
According to Attenborough, Robin Thicke has “spectacular wattles” and twerking is “the most intimate act of all.” Sounds about right. Or at least, sounds more tolerable to listen to than anyone else’s commentary on the event.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Concerning Jesus: Sifting through centuries of one religion's mythmaking
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. Published by Random House, July 2013. 336 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4000-6922-4Posted at: Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 07:32 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
From the internationally bestselling author of No god but God comes a fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched biography that challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth.
Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the “Kingdom of God.” The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal.
Within decades after his shameful death, his followers would call him God.
Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God. This was the age of zealotry—a fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy.
Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and ultimately the seditious “King of the Jews” whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime. Aslan explores the reasons why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity.
Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus of Nazareth’s life and mission. The result is a thought-provoking, elegantly written biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel: a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time, and the birth of a religion.
Audio: "Reza Aslan on Jesus the Revolutionary"
"Tapestry". Interview by Mary Hynes CBC Radio One Canada October 25, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links, the infamous Fox TV interview (9:58) with Aslan, and to an excerpt from the book. You can listen to Mary Hynes interview with Reza Aslan (53:59) from a pop-up link on the page.
You may have seen the infamous appearance Reza Aslan made on Fox News when the interviewer challenged him about why a Muslim would write a book about Jesus. On this episode, the religion scholar and author Reza Aslan tells the story of the man he calls "the most interesting person who ever lived."
Reza Aslan writes about religion. His book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for several months. The book is an attempt to trace the man - the carpenter - who would become a deity. In Aslan's eyes, Jesus is a political activist; a revolutionary.
Click Read More below to see an except of the book.
The embedded video is here.
We'll touch on Aslan's own faith: how as a teen, he was an evangelical Christian who converted his mother to Christianity, then chose to follow Islam. How did mom react? And what is his advice for how to raise children in a multi-faith household? Reza Aslan answers those questions for Mary Hynes.
The Marquess of Queensberry, a caricature of masculinity, destroyed Oscar Wilde's life but—unlike Queensberry—Wilde believed in the soul. Wilde’s fairy tales continue to fill a need
"Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird. - The penultimate line of "The Happy Prince" by Oscar Wilde. Jeanette Winterson writes, "Reason and logic are tools for understanding the world. We need a means of understanding ourselves, too. That is what imagination allows."Posted at: Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 05:33 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Oscar Wilde’s prophetic fairy tales. Newly a father, the writer composed stories for his kids. In the end, the tales foretold his downfall.
Why we need fairytales: Jeanette Winterson on Oscar Wilde
Jeanette Winterson Guardian October 16, 2013
Love transfigured by imagination … 'The Selfish Giant' by Oscar Wilde. Illustration: Grahame Baker-Smith. Oscar Wilde's magical stories for children have often been dismissed as lesser works, but as examples of how important imagination is to us all – young and old alike – they are a delight.
"Far off, like a perfect pearl, one can see the city of God. It is so wonderful that it seems as if a child could reach it in a summer's day. And so a child could. But with me and such as I am it is different. One can realise a thing in a single moment, but one loses it in the long hours that follow … "
– Oscar Wilde, De Profundis
Oscar Wilde wrote De Profundis in Reading gaol where he was serving two years hard labour for being himself; he was homosexual. He was sent to prison in 1895 after one of the most notorious trials in English history. Wilde's fatal amour, Lord Alfred Douglas, was son of the Marquess of Queensberry, who was a bully, womaniser, gambling addict, cycling bore and amateur boxer (to him we owe the Queensberry rules). In his personal life there was no such thing as fair play. Queensberry was a vicious pugilist detested by his family. A caricature of masculinity, he loathed the cult of art and beauty that Wilde championed, and under the guise of saving his son from sodomy, he set about bringing down Wilde at the height of his fame.
The tragedy is that he succeeded. Wilde became the most infamous man in Britain. Queensberry bankrupted him. Even his copyrights and his library were sold. On release in 1897 he was forced to live abroad, separated permanently from his wife and children, who changed their name. Three years later he was dead.
Wilde loved his sons and had been a devoted father. He loved his wife, Constance Holland, too; in his domestic affairs, and perhaps only there, Wilde was unexpectedly conventional. He liked women, but in common with Victorian men of his class, heterosexual and homosexual alike, his interests and his excitements happened outside of the home – with other men.
Unlike other men, Wilde was flamboyant, outspoken and provocative. The all-male environments of school, university, the army, gentlemen's clubs and public life operated on a tacit code of concealment – whether of mistresses or misdemeanours. The "love that dare not speak its name" was a crime, yet in the eyes of society, Wilde's real crime was being found out. The Victorians didn't invent hypocrisy, but in an era of industrious taxonomy, they were the first to reclassify that sin as a virtue.
Disgraced and imprisoned, sleeping on a plank bed, his health broken, Wilde wrote a long letter to Alfred Douglas, later published as De Profundis. It is a meditation on faith and fate, suffering and forgiveness, love and art. The strange thing is that in this, his last real piece of work, Wilde takes us back in tone and spirit to his first authentic work – the fairy stories or children's stories he wrote immediately after the birth of his two boys, Cyril and Vyvyan.
The work Wilde is remembered for was written over a period of less than 10 years. The Happy Prince and Other Tales was published in 1888. That volume marks the beginning of Wilde's true creativity. He had lectured extensively in the US – but that would not have won him any lasting legacy, any more than his journalism or his poems. ...
Related: Potted bio: Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (b. 1854, d. 1900) was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest. As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labor after being convicted of "gross indecency" with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain, and died in poverty.
A new collection of Oscar Wilde's fairy tales in available.
The Selfish Giant and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde. Introduced by Jeanette Winterson. Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith. Published by The Folio Society, 2013. 192 pages.
Novelist, playwright and satirist Oscar Wilde was also an incomparable teller of fairy tales. In these stories, written for his two sons, he takes the elements of faerie since time immemorial – giants and princes, fishermen and mermaids –and creates enchanting, heartfelt fables that rank amongst his best-loved works.
This complete collection sparkles with Wilde’s characteristic wit. In ‘The Remarkable Rocket’, a vain and self-important firework declares: ‘I am always thinking about myself, and I expect everybody else to do the same. That is what is called sympathy.’ Like all the greatest fairy tales, these contain sorrow and heartbreak as well as love and redemption. In ‘The Selfish Giant’, the Giant drives the children out of his garden, and is punished by a perpetual winter until he lets them play there again. Sacrifice is a recurring theme: in ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, the nightingale gives her heart’s blood to create a red rose for a student, who ends by throwing it away. In ‘The Happy Prince’, a royal statue allows himself to be stripped of gold and jewels to provide for the poor people of his town, with the aid of a swallow who delays his migration to Egypt to help the prince. In the end, the denuded statue is melted in a furnace, its leaden heart thrown on a rubbish-heap – until an angel claims it for heaven.
They have everything: love, betrayal, selflessness, purity, evil, sacrifice, beauty, brutality and truth’
Grahame Baker-Smith is one of the leading children’s book illustrators working in Britain today, winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of several Folio Society editions. For this collection he has created enchanting mixed-media images including several that incorporate the face of Wilde himself. Award-winning author Jeanette Winterson has contributed a new introduction, placing these stories at the heart of Wilde’s career and describing how ‘fairy stories tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not’.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Decision based fact making: Is there a 'War on Science' in Stephen Harper's Canada, a 'War' that is "absolutely unforgivable”?
Protesters take part in an Evidence for Democracy demonstration in Vancouver, Sept 16/13. The group is protesting recent federal government cuts in scientific work and rules regarding releasing of information to the public. Photo: Andy Clark/Reuters
The key message unstated in this week’s throne speech is that Canadian citizens are willing to accept the diminished role of passive consumers and accept this narrow vision of their country in exchange for marginally smaller cellphone bills and a bill of rights to accompany their airplane tickets. The lab-coated scientists in the streets have already rejected this lousy bargain. They have taken to protest, against their every instinct as scientists, because whatever else, the government must not be allowed to mess with the basic facts. - Chris Turner, Toronto Star, October 13, 2013
The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada by Chris Turner. Published by Greystone Books, 176 pages, September 2013. ISBN-10: 1771004312; ISBN-13: 978-1771004312 (An ebook edition is also available.)
Harper's war on science continues with a vengeance
Chris Turner Toronto Star Ontario Canada October 13, 2013
This week, after another tumultuous summer of scandal and the third prorogation of his tenure as prime minister, Stephen Harper will deliver his throne speech to Parliament to be read by the Governor General. The advance word has it that the focus of the speech and the legislative agenda it ushers in will be the protection of consumers.
The choice of words is telling. This is a government interested mainly in what Canadians use and spend, and only passionate about those parts of Canada it can develop and sell off. It cares little about Canadians as citizens and even less about protecting Canada’s shared public goods and standing on guard for its natural capital.
Harper’s true agenda, pretty much all along, has been to dismantle the government’s great traditions of natural science and environmental stewardship, which until recently made Canada a world leader in both fields. This is a government waging a quiet legislative and administrative war on science — especially those fields of science dedicated to gathering and analyzing data on the health of Canada’s natural environment — and it has undone a century of good work with alarming efficiency since the passage of its sweeping omnibus budget bill in June 2012. Whatever is in this week’s throne speech, that budget remains the government’s most forceful statement of intent and clearest articulation of its overarching agenda.
Christopher Plunkett, the government’s U.S. spokesperson, explained the aim of the bill to the Washington Post at the time with refreshing candour. “The idea is simple and straightforward: to make Canada the most attractive country in the world for resource investment and development.”
Plunkett added that the bill would “enhance our world-class protection of the environment today for future generations of Canadians.” But this was rhetorical window-dressing, a bit of finery to provide the illusion of balance. And it was laughably transparent stuff at that, given that the government was in the process of slashing funding to numerous research facilities and programs, crippling many of the agencies responsible for monitoring environmental health and responding to environmental crisis, and rewriting the Fisheries Act so recklessly that four former Fisheries ministers (including two Tories) publicly campaigned against it.
The government’s war on science was well underway by the time of the omnibus budget bill — the long-form census long gone, a crime bill passed with little recourse to the data gathered by criminologists, scientists publishing papers on environmental topics already being muzzled — but the bill was its full-scale launch. It has proceeded apace since — and inspired the unprecedented scene of lab-coated scientists marching through the streets of Canadian cities in protest from Ottawa to Victoria.
So what is the nature of this war on science? Above all else, it is a sustained campaign to diminish the government’s role in evidence-based policy-making and environmental stewardship in three simple ways: reducing the capacity of the government to gather basic data about the status and health of the environment and Canadian society; shrinking or eliminating government agencies that monitor and analyze that evidence and respond to emergencies; and seizing control of the communications channels by which all of the above report their findings to the Canadian public.
The ultimate goal is equally clear: to induce in the federal government a sort of wilful blindness, severely limiting its ability to see and respond to the impacts of its policies, especially those related to resource extraction.
Reviews: Below: Jessica Warner is on the graduate faculty of the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. She says, "The War on Science is a tremendously important book and you owe it to your country to read it." But James Munson challenges the claim that the Harperites are "waging a war on science".
Book Review: The War on Science, by Chris Turner
Jessica Warner National Post Canada October 11, 2013
A few weeks ago, speaking to a friendly audience in New York, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he would not “take no for an answer” should the U.S. reject the Keystone XL pipeline. This was not, as some have speculated, a mere slip of the tongue: It was part of a larger pattern of steamrolling over any and all opposition to developing the Alberta oil sands.
That pattern is the subject of The War on Science, the latest book by Calgary author Chris Turner. It cannot be called groundbreaking, as the individual facts, from pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol to gutting the Environmental Assessment Act, have long since been laid before the Canadian public.
But put all the facts together, as Turner does so ably in this important and necessary book, and you start to appreciate just how far back the clock has been set on Canada’s environmental protections.
Simplified, Turner’s argument is that the Harper government has abused both its authority and our trust in four basic ways.
Is Harper really waging a ‘war on science’?
James Munson iPolitics Canada October 21, 2013
Science is fast gaining a mantle as the be-all-and-end-all of good governance in some opposition circles, a clear reaction to Stephen Harper’s reforms to Canadian resource and environmental policy.
But a recent expert panel at the University of Ottawa was quick to dissect the myth of a Conservative ‘war on science’ as a rush to judgement that fails to appreciated the complexity of democratic politics.
Turner comes to this theory a number of ways. The so-called muzzling of publicly-funded scientists by media minders, the defunding of several research programs, the retreat from aggressive climate change policy and the increasingly commercial aim of public science all bring Turner to believe that the Harper government has it out for science writ-large.
But despite the importance of these stories, the notion that some conspiratorial ‘war on science’ is taken place is jumping to conclusions, said panelist Patrick Fafard, a University of Ottawa professor and former public servant of 25 years.
“It’s entertaining,” said Fafard, of Turner’s book. “It’s a good rant, it’s entertainingly-written. But it gets kind of fuzzy on the details.”
“If scientists can’t talk to each other, can’t review each other’s work and can’t disseminate it freely with other people interested in their work,” said Turner. “Then it’s not really science in the Enlightment tradition.”
But that doesn’t mean all public science should always be available, said the panelists.
“If only life were so simple,” said Fafard.
Another piece of the ‘war on science’ theory is this notion that Harper is promoting commercially-directed science to help his friends in the private sector, while reducing basic science done for the public good.
“The trend for governments across the OECD to emphasize the use of science spending for commercialization purposes is a long-term trend that goes back to the ’90s if not before,” said Fafard. “And in fact it goes back to much of what was done in the Chrétien government if not before.”
And the National Research Council lab that does oilsands research in Alberta pre-exists the current government, said Fafard.
“The idea that it’s new is wrong,” he said.
“Promoting resource development and economic growth is in the public interest,” he said. “What we’re in right now is with a government that has shifted the balance. It’s definition of the public interest is way more around resource development and potentially less on health protection and you can make the argument for the environmental side.”
In 2008, Fafard was asked to write a report for the Canadian Policy Research Networks on why governments don’t always use the evidence when making policy, he said.
“But then I asked — why would you ask this question in the first place?” he said. “For a political scientist, the proposition that the government would or should do what the evidence suggested is a rather odd proposition.”
While the Harper government’s focus on economic growth and tight communications are debatable, jumping to the conclusion that science is an unquestionable good in policy-making is not helpful, said Fafard.
“We get this rhetorical flourish that somehow the only good policy is evidence-based policy,” he said. “I just think that idea is crazy. ..."
Print interview: A new book by Chris Turner lays bare Stephen Harper's stifling war on science
Travis Lupick Georgia Straight British Columbia Canada October 9, 2013
Chris Turner didn’t think he would find much that surprised him when he began researching Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “war on science,” as he calls it. For years, he’d watched the Conservatives defund environmental programs and prevent scientists from speaking freely to the press. But Turner tells the Straight he was shocked by the scope of the narrative that was revealed as his work progressed.
“More than anything, it was when you put all the pieces together, how vivid a picture emerges of a very clear and very malicious agenda,” Turner says in a telephone interview from Calgary. “It is to facilitate rapid resource extraction by dismantling an entire century’s worth of environmental regulations, environmental monitoring, and basic science. I was amazed by the extent of it and how deliberate it is.”
How can a government behave so irresponsibly? Similar policies enacted by former U.S. president George W. Bush were in part attributed to evangelical beliefs and an ideologically based skepticism of scientific methods. But Turner suggests that with Harper and the Conservatives, it’s simply all about business.
“Government should view as its top priority making industry run smoothly,” Turner says, describing the Conservatives’ approach. “Everything else is secondary, and anything that systematically gets in the way of that—particularly on the environmental front—should be diminished in capacity as quickly as possible.”
A quote in the book attributed to David Schindler, a scientist at the University of Alberta credited with cofounding Canada’s renowned Experimental Lakes Area, another victim of Bill C-38, suggests that ignorance has also played a role in shaping government policy.
“The kindest thing I can say is that these people don’t know enough about science to know the value of what they are cutting,” Schindler says.
Related audio: Is there a War on Science in Canada?
"The Current" Interview by Anna Maria Tremonti CBC Radio One Canada October 21, 2013
You can listen to the conversation (27:29) from a pop-up link on this page.
A sign during a 'Stand Up for Science' demonstration calling on the federal government to support and fund scientific research, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 16, 2013. Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters
Prime Minister Harper's critics say he has been swatting down science with political criteria in a slow and steady erosion for years. From the defunding of scientific research, to the rewriting of legislation, to take away the need for scientific evidence. Author Chris Turner calls it The War on Science.
The author of a new book suggests the Canadian government treats science in a unique way -- it dismantles it
A mass of white coats on Parliament Hill protested during the summer of 2012 was part of a protest that made headlines around the world. Scientists said they were mourning what they called the "Death of Evidence" in Canada.
According to our next guest, the scientists had been in mourning for some time before they went on their march. Chris Turner is a Calgary writer and the author of a new book called The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Willful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada. He also ran as the Green Party's candidate in a Calgary by-election in 2012. Chris Turner was in Toronto.
Tim Powers is Vice-Chair of Summa Strategies and Conservative commentator. He says [there] is no war on science in Canada because the government is still funding research. Tim Powers was in Ottawa.
We requested interviews with the Prime Minister's Office, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq and The Minister of State for Science and Technology, Greg Rickford. No one was available.
If you live in or near Vancouver, B.C., Continuing Studies in Science and Environment at Simon Fraser University invites you to a free public talk, presented by Chris Turner, November 21, 2013. For more information go to this announcement.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Seeking to explain and to understand: "The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam"
The steamroller of state power, with its formidable technologies, has been steadily advancing in the West at least since the thirteenth century, when the English forged their kingdom by systematically destroying the Welsh, Irish, and Scottish clan systems. Drones, for all their horror, are just the latest instruments by which powers based in urban centers (and not just those linked to the United States) beat into submission the peripheries—what Morocco’s rulers used to call the “Land of Insolence.” For most of the past three centuries, the power of the state was represented by infantry. In the early twentieth century air power took over, with the British RAF bombing the Somali pastoralists or South Arabian tribes who dared to challenge the colonial Pax Britannica. The drone-driven Pax Americana may seem noisier—though less brutal—than its British, French, and Dutch colonial predecessors, but it hardly differs in fundamentals. - Malise Ruthven, the author of Islam: A Very Short Introduction, Islam in the World: The Divine Supermarket (a study of Christian fundamentalism), A Fury for God: The Islamist Attack on America, A Satanic Affair: Salman Rushdie and the Wrath of Islam, and several other books. His latest book is Encounters with Islam: On Religion, Politics and Modernity.Posted at: Monday, October 14, 2013 - 02:09 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam by Akbar Ahmed. Published by Brookings Institution Press, March 2013, 424 pages. ISBN-10: 0815723784; ISBN-13: 978-0815723783
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the United States declared war on terrorism. More than ten years later, the results are decidedly mixed. Here world-renowned author, diplomat, and scholar Akbar Ahmed reveals an important yet largely ignored result of this war: in many nations it has exacerbated the already broken relationship between central governments and the largely rural Muslim tribal societies on the peripheries of both Muslim and non-Muslim nations. The center and the periphery are engaged in a mutually destructive civil war across the globe, a conflict that has been intensified by the war on terror.
Conflicts between governments and tribal societies predate the war on terror in many regions, from South Asia to the Middle East to North Africa, pitting those in the centers of power against those who live in the outlying provinces. Akbar Ahmed's unique study demonstrates that this conflict between the center and the periphery has entered a new and dangerous stage with U.S. involvement after 9/11 and the deployment of drones, in the hunt for al Qaeda, threatening the very existence of many tribal societies.
American firepower and its vast anti-terror network have turned the war on terror into a global war on tribal Islam. And too often the victims are innocent children at school, women in their homes, workers simply trying to earn a living, and worshipers in their mosques. Battered by military attacks or drone strikes one day and suicide bombers the next, the tribes bemoan, "Every day is like 9/11 for us."
In The Thistle and the Drone, the third volume in Ahmed's groundbreaking trilogy examining relations between America and the Muslim world, the author draws on forty case studies representing the global span of Islam to demonstrate how the U.S. has become involved directly or indirectly in each of these societies. The study provides the social and historical context necessary to understand how both central governments and tribal societies have become embroiled in America's war. Beginning with Waziristan and expanding to societies in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere, Ahmed offers a fresh approach to the conflicts studied and presents an unprecedented paradigm for understanding and winning the war on terror.
Reviews: The Thistle and the Drone
The Brookings Institution USA March 5, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links, audio interviews with the author and related video clips.
The use of drones as a leading counterinsurgency weapon against Muslim tribal groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, has morphed into a campaign against tribal peoples. In The Thistle and the Drone, world-renowned author, diplomat, and scholar Akbar Ahmed draws on forty current case studies to reveal a tremendously important yet largely unrecognized adverse effect of campaigns on the war against terror. These campaigns have actually have exacerbated the already-broken relationship between central governments and the tribal societies on their periphery.
As this groundbreaking study demonstrates, it is the conflict between the center and the periphery and the involvement of the United States that has fueled the war on terror. No one is immune to this violence—neither school children nor congregations in their houses of worship. Battered by military or drone strikes one day and suicide bombers the next, people on the periphery say, “Every day is like 9/11 for us.”
In the third volume of his trilogy that includes Journey into Islam (2007) and Journey into America (2010), the United States, dominated by ideas of a “clash of civilizations” and “security,” has become directly or indirectly involved with these societies. Although al Qaeda has been decimated, the U.S. is drifting into a global war against tribal societies on the periphery of nations. Beginning with Waziristan in Pakistan and expanding to similar tribal societies in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere, he offers an alternative and unprecedented paradigm for winning the war on terror.
The Thistle and the Drone: The real story behind the War on Terror
Joe Wolverton, II, J.D. The New American USA September 18, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
In a remark to the pop group the Jonas Brothers, President Barack Obama told the young men to stay away from his daughters, lest he unleash “Predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”
That seemingly insignificant and arguably comedic comment reveals the indifference of the White House to the invisible aspect of these deadly weapons and the cavalier attitude of the current occupant to the disturbing fact of their fatal power.
In his new book, The Thistle and the Drone, renowned author, diplomat, and scholar Akbar Ahmed reveals a largely unreported and misunderstood, although critical aspect of the “War on Terror": the creation of enemies and the further marginalization of Middle Eastern tribal societies.
Of all the insights in Ahmed's masterful study of this worrisome world issue, perhaps the most troubling is the highlighting of the callousness of the United States to the devastating effects of the drone war being waged in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, North Africa, etc. The following narrative is illustrative:
A U.S. drone operator in New Mexico revealed the extent to which individuals across the world can be observed in their most private moments. ‘We watch people for months,’ he said. ‘We see them playing with their dogs or doing their laundry. We know their patterns like we know our neighbors’ patterns. We even go to their funerals.
The sound of drones buzzing above the bodies of those being laid to rest in tribal funerals is commonplace. So are the so-called “signature strikes” that send missiles into the procession in case their are any “terrorists” attending the service.
The Party of Power (be they Republicans or Democrats) needs al-Qaeda or some other bogeyman to exist in order to justify the growth of the military-industrial-intelligence complex. The corresponding need for increased security permits the legal plunder of the American people.
“As security gained precedence [over liberty],” Ahmed explains, “the use of the drone was almost a logical next step for nations equipped with the tools of globalization.”
In fact, globalization becomes less a foreign policy trajectory and more of a marketing tactic of the immense (and every expanding) military-industrial-intelligence complex and the corps of congressmen that act as salesman staking out new territories for the deadly inventory manufactured by the defense contractors. This expansion of the market makes money, much of which finds its way into the campaign coffers of dozens of influential lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Finally, Dr. Ahmed offers hope from an unexpected source for how to end the War on Terror.
In the section entitled “America’s Founding Fathers and Tribes,” Ahmed describes the successful efforts of the Republic’s early leadership to co-exist peacefully with a racially distinct, tribal culture.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are offered by Ahmed as noteworthy examples of American presidents who eschewed militarism and combat as a way to deal with Native Americans. Both men argued against “an augmentation of military force.” Jefferson, after the Louisiana Purchase, exposed thousands of Native Americans to interaction with American settlers, pushed for a “moderate enlargement of the capital employed in that commerce, as a more effectual, economical, and humane instrument for preserving peace and good neighborhood with [the Indians].”
Ahmed adds, “If the United States declined to use the military and had this ‘humane’ policy toward the tribes, Jefferson declared, the safety of Americans among the Indians 'will become their interest and their voluntary care.'”
It seems, then, that in this as in so many other ways, America is being guided away from the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.
And what do we get in return for this inhumane treachery?
Terror: The hidden source
Malise Ruthven The New York Review of Books USA October 24, 2013 Issue
The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam by Akbar Ahmed.
A tribesman near a building damaged by a US drone strike that targeted suspected al-Qaeda militants last year, Azan, Yemen, February 2013. Photo: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters
Tolstoy’s novella Hadji Murad opens with the image of a beautiful thistle flower, wrenched from a ditch, that the narrator seeks to add to his bouquet. His effort to pluck it, however,
proved a very difficult task. Not only did the stalk prick on every side—even through the handkerchief I wrapped round my hand—but it was so tough that I had to struggle with it for nearly five minutes, breaking the fibres one by one; and when I had at last plucked it, the stalk was all frayed, and the flower itself no longer seemed so fresh and beautiful…. But what energy and tenacity! With what determination it defended itself, and how dearly it sold its life!
This late masterpiece, written in 1904 but never published in Tolstoy’s lifetime, was based on a real-life episode. In 1851 the Avar warlord Hajimurad al-Khunzaki, a confederate of the Imam Shamil, who led the resistance to Russia’s annexation of the Caucasus, betrayed his ally and went over to the Russians. In Tolstoy’s story he is driven by ambition, hoping to govern the Caucasian tribes under the “white tsar.”
The most telling portrayals in the story—apart from Hadji Murad himself, with his thistle-like mix of bravery, integrity, cunning, confusion, and childlike candor—are the complementary, almost symmetrical descriptions of Tsar Nicholas I and the Imam Shamil, both of whom are depicted as cold-eyed, ruthless autocrats who represent opposing forces of absolutism. As Tolstoy himself explained:
It is not only Haji Murad and his tragic end that interest me. I am fascinated by the parallel between the two main figures pitted against each other: Shamil and Nicholas I. They represent the two poles of absolutism—Asiatic and European.
The reality, however, was a great deal more complicated than a clash of absolutisms. Far from being the cold and ruthless autocrat depicted by Tolstoy, Shamil, as the murshid, or spiritual guide, of the orthodox Muslim Khalidiyya-Naqshbandiyya order, was a leader who sustained the loyalty of the warring Caucasian tribes by diplomacy rather than force. A Russian source described him as “a man of great tact and a subtle politician.” His charismatic appeal was underpinned by his reputation for piety and evenhandedness in dispensing justice in accordance with Islamic sharia norms. These had been severely tested when the Russians introduced alcohol into the region, corrupting, by sharia standards, the tribal chiefs who became their clients.
As a renowned warlord and tribal leader, Hadji Murad had been a Russian loyalist, defending Avaristan in the eastern part of Daghestan against Shamil’s encroachments. It was only after the Russians had replaced him as their client in Avaristan by a rival who had him arrested and abused that Hadji Murad responded to Shamil’s overtures and joined the jihad.
The result of his defection in January 1841 had been dramatic: by April Shamil ruled an area three times as large as at the beginning of 1840, with a cascade of formerly compliant clans joining the jihad. Hadji Murad’s rift with Shamil was a classic example of hubris. Hoping to be named his successor as imam, he refused to recognize the nomination of Shamil’s eldest son, Ghazi Muhammad. Faced with this challenge to his authority, Shamil convened a secret council that charged Hadji Murad with treason and sentenced him to death. Warned by friends, he redefected to the Russians in November 1851.
As an anthropologist with deep knowledge and direct experience of tribal systems, Akbar Ahmed demonstrates in The Thistle and the Drone how richly Tolstoy’s thistle metaphor applies to contemporary conditions in regions, distant from urban centers, where clans resist the writ of government while also engaging with it. He points to their “love of freedom” to act without external constraints, as well as
egalitarianism, [and] a tribal lineage system defined by common ancestors and clans, a martial tradition, and a highly developed code of honor and revenge—these are the thistle-like characteristics of the tribal societies…. Moreover, as with the thistle, there is a clear correlation between their prickliness, or toughness, and the level of force used by those who wish to subdue these societies, as the Americans discovered after 9/11.
Related: Malala confronts Obama, says drone strikes are fueling terrorism
Jason Ditz Antiwar.com USA October 13, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
During her Friday meeting with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai confronted the president about ongoing US drone strikes against Pakistan.
Malala said she “expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.”
That fact was conspicuously absent from the White House statements on the meeting, which portrayed it as beginning and ending with a call for more support for education. Malala has been pushing education as a top priority, but the drone strikes have played a major factor in garnering sympathy for Taliban factions across the tribal areas, and those factions have launched anti-education strikes across the nation.
The issue of drones, and especially of the civilian deaths they have caused, has been a thorny one for the Obama Administration, which continues to insist in vague terms that they are “legal” and disputing the claims of civilian deaths, while refusing to offer any real details to support their position.
Malala also hit out at charges from the Taliban that she is “a Westerner now” insisting that she is a proud Pakistani and that education is neither a Western nor Eastern ideal.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
A new biography, "Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life": Shadowy revolutionary or quiet theorist? We misrepresent Karl Marx when we fail to consider the vibrant disorder of his world
Sperber reveals how fulsomely Marx supported the laissez-faire, pluralist politics of the Rhineland bourgeoisie: "the system of commercial liberty hastens the social revolution. It is solely in that revolutionary sense, gentlemen, that I vote in favour of free trade." This helps to explain that remarkable paean Marx and Engels offer up to the bourgeoisie at the start of The Communist Manifesto – the iconoclastic merchants transforming markets and destroying the old "society of orders". - Tristram HuntPosted at: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 02:56 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life by Jonathan Sperber. Published by Liveright, 672 pages, March 2013. ISBN-10: 0871404672 ISBN-13: 978-0871404671
Karl Marx is a magisterial and defining biography that vividly explores not only the man himself but also the revolutionary times in which he lived.
Between his birth in 1818 and his death sixty-five years later, Karl Marx became one of Western civilization’s most influential political philosophers. Two centuries on, he is still revered as a prophet of the modern world, yet he is also blamed for the darkest atrocities of modern times. But no matter in what light he is cast, the short, but broad-shouldered, bearded Marx remains—as a human being—distorted on a Procrustean bed of political “isms,” perceived through the partially distorting lens of his chief disciple, Friedrich Engels, or understood as a figure of twentieth-century totalitarian Marxist regimes.
Returning Marx to the Victorian confines of the nineteenth century, Jonathan Sperber, one of the United States’ leading European historians, challenges many of our misconceptions of this political firebrand turned London émigré journalist. In this deeply humanizing portrait, Marx no longer is the Olympian soothsayer, divining the dialectical imperatives of human history, but a scholar-activist whose revolutionary Weltanschauung was closer to Robespierre’s than to those of twentieth-century Marxists.
With unlimited access to the MEGA (the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe*, the total edition of Marx’s and Engels’s writings), only recently available, Sperber juxtaposes the private man, the public agitator, and the philosopher-economist. We first see Marx as a young boy in the city of Trier, influenced by his father, Heinrich, for whom “the French Revolution and its aftermath offered an opportunity to escape the narrowly circumscribed social and political position of Jews in the society.” For Heinrich’s generation, this worldview meant no longer being a member of the so-called Jewish nation, but for his son, the reverberations were infinitely greater—namely a life inspired by the doctrines of the Enlightenment and an implacable belief in human equality.
Contextualizing Marx’s personal story—his rambunctious university years, his loving marriage to the devoted Jenny von Westphalen (despite an illegitimate child with the family maid), his children’s tragic deaths, the catastrophic financial problems—within a larger historical stage, Sperber examines Marx’s public actions and theoretical publications against the backdrop of a European continent roiling with political and social unrest. Guided by newly translated notes, drafts, and correspondence, he highlights Marx’s often overlooked work as a journalist; his political activities in Berlin, Paris, and London; and his crucial role in both creating and destroying the International Working Men’s Association. With Napoleon III, Bismarck, Adam Smith, and Charles Darwin, among others, as supporting players, Karl Marx becomes not just a biography of a man but a vibrant portrait of an infinitely complex time.
Already hailed by Publishers Weekly as “a major work . . . likely to be the standard biography of Marx for many years,” Karl Marx promises to become the defining portrait of a towering historical figure.
*Note: In deutscher Sprache: Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), veröffentlichte 1972.
In English: Marx/Engels Collected Works (MECW). Translated by Richard Dixon and others (50 volumes), compiled and printed between 1975 and 2005, this is the most complete collection of the work by Marx and Engels published to date in English but it is not their complete works.
Reviews: Below: Begun in 1986, Tikkun is a progressive Jewish magazine
Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life
Tikkun USA n.d.
Karl Marx remains one of the most influential thinkers of the past two hundred years. This new biography is startling in part because it roots Marx so squarely in his own time, neither as a prophet nor a devil, but as another flawed human being like the rest of us: “patriarchal, prudish, bourgeois, industrious, independent (or trying to be), cultured, respectable, German with a distinct patina of Jewish background.” Sperber portrays Marx as largely conventional, with a private life that hardly reflected his revolutionary views, but he notes that “the demonstration of public commitments in private became a measure of individual authenticity in the twentieth century, as it never was during Marx’s lifetime.” Sperber’s presentation of Marx’s anti-Semitism as a conventional nineteenth-century attitude understates the way that German Jews had systematically sought to distance themselves from their own heritage. It forgives Marx too quickly for formulations that were at best disrespectful if not outright hate-filled—formulations in which he identified Jews with selfishness and a hunger for money. Yet Sperber offers a real service by bringing readers more fully into the context of Marx’s nineteenth-century reality, rather than letting communists and anti-communists’ twentieth-century appropriations and distortions of Marx’s message cloud his biography.
Below: This biography by Jonathan Sperber is a brilliant embedding of Marx in his times says Tristram Hunt.
Karl Marx: a Nineteenth-Century Life by Jonathan Sperber – review
Tristram Hunt Guardian UK June 26, 2013
"Great passions, which, due to the closeness of their object, take the form of small habits, grow and once more reach their natural size through the magic effect of distance," wrote Karl Marx to his wife Jenny in 1856, as she journeyed from London to Trier. "My love of you, as soon as you are distant, appears as a giant … the love, not of Feuerbach's human being, not of Moleschott's metabolism, not of the proletariat, but the love of the beloved, namely of you, makes the man once again into a man."
Typical Marx: Romantic, charismatic, cosmopolitan, and at once able to combine the workers' revolution with protestations of uxoriousness. But also disingenuous, since it was during one of these absences that Marx managed to impregnate the family maid, Helene Demuth. Such are the personal and intellectual complexities that Jonathan Sperber pursues through 600 pages of tightly argued text in this profoundly important biography of "The Moor".
In contrast to Francis Wheen's raucous account of Marx's life as hack, brigand and rapscallion, Sperber places the history of ideas at the heart of his study. And it is a refreshingly anti-populist take. According to Sperber, not only is Marx's critique of capitalism of very limited applicability to the modern world, it was barely relevant when first published. Even in the 1860s his was the old world of Robespierre, Hegel, Adam Smith and the Spinning Jenny. Indeed, "Marx is more usefully understood as a backward-looking figure, who took the circumstances of the first half of the 19th century and projected them into the future, than as a sure footed and foresighted interpreter of historical trends."
This biography is first and foremost a "nineteenth-century life" and Sperber, whose previous works have focused on the Rhineland during the 1848 revolutions, successfully positions the young Marx within the bourgeois world of Trier, as it existed under Napoleonic and then Prussian rule. At every stage of this book there is a new insight into what is usually familiar Marx territory – the complicated relationship with his beloved father Heinrich; the family's tradition of Judaism; the relative poverty of Jenny's family. And, most important, the origins of Marx's lifelong disgust for the "society of orders", the authoritarian and absolutist monarchies of pre-revolutionary Germany peopled with aristocrats, bureaucrats and military officers.
Sperber plays down the role of the Young Hegelian Ludwig Feuerbach in shaping Marx's understanding of alienation, and plays up the previously under-represented impact of Eduard Gans and Bruno Bauer. Stressing Marx's time in both Berlin and Paris, he frames Marxian communism as an elemental response to the incredible productive forces unleashed by the industrial revolution.
What is certainly surprising is a new account of Marx's time in Cologne, when he edited a liberal newspaper. Rather than regarding this as an awkward but financially necessary period of sacrifice, Sperber reveals how fulsomely Marx supported the laissez-faire, pluralist politics of the Rhineland bourgeoisie: "the system of commercial liberty hastens the social revolution. It is solely in that revolutionary sense, gentlemen, that I vote in favour of free trade." This helps to explain that remarkable paean Marx and Engels offer up to the bourgeoisie at the start of The Communist Manifesto – the iconoclastic merchants transforming markets and destroying the old "society of orders".
But the failings of Sperber's approach are also apparent. Part of his ambition in placing Marx within his 19th-century milieu is to allow us to understand a man in his times, but also distance him from present controversies about globalisation and capitalism. Yet this risks a predominantly Atlanticist perspective. In the rest of the world, where capitalism is exhibiting exactly the same kind of energies it did in early-19th-century Britain, the relevance of Marx's critique retains its potency. In Mumbai and Shenzhen, Nairobi and Rio, Marx is surely more than just a staid Rhenish intellectual with no purchase on the present. Which is why, of course, we remain interested in his life – as brilliantly recounted in this work.
Below: By refusing to treat Marx as our contemporary, Jonathan Sperber has brought him back to life says Sam Stark.
Sam Stark The Nation USA Webposted October 8, 2013
Trier, the small town in southwest Germany where Karl Marx was born in 1818, is a former Roman capital still littered with ruins, in a Catholic part of the Rhineland known mostly for its wine. When Mary Shelley passed through in 1840, she was exhausted by the long carriage ride over bad roads, horrified by the miserable peasants she saw along the way, and frustrated that there was no steamship on the winding Moselle River to take her to the Rhine. How could such a backward, remote place have shaped an author of The Communist Manifesto? The way Jonathan Sperber answers this question in the first chapter of Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life illustrates and vindicates the historical method suggested in his subtitle, showing just how badly we needed a new life of Marx and why it needed to be written by a historian.
Other biographers turn quickly from the town to the Marx family, attempting to explain why Marx became a revolutionary by focusing on his Jewish roots. “Thoroughly Jewish in their origins, Protestant by necessity yet living in a Catholic region,” the Marx family “could never regard their social integration as complete,” writes David McLellan, in Karl Marx: His Life and Thought, the last major biography of Marx in English, published forty years ago and still the standard today. The first chapter of Francis Wheen’s more recent Karl Marx is called “The Outsider,” and opens with an allusion to the Holocaust.
In his first sentence, Sperber underscores a crucial fact about Marx’s birth that McLellan and Wheen ignore: the year. Marx was born “at the end of three decades of revolutionary upheaval and counterrevolutionary response that shaped the lives of his parents, strongly influenced his upbringing and education, and created political passions and political enemies that would remain with him throughout his life.” The Rhineland was affected earlier and more deeply by the French Revolution than anyplace else in Central Europe. In Marx’s parents’ lifetime, the ancient Electorate of Trier and most of the weird old pieces of the Holy Roman Empire around it were wiped off the map. Trier and other German territories west of the Rhine were annexed by the French Republic in 1797, and then, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, ceded to Prussia, a faraway Protestant kingdom that treated its new and mostly Catholic territory in the west as something of a colony. If the Marxes’ “social integration” was incomplete, it may have been because their entire society had recently disintegrated.
But all things considered, the Marx family adapted to change fairly successfully. Unlike previous biographers, Sperber notes that Marx’s father, Heinrich, also known as both Heschel and Henri, served as secretary to the Trier Consistory, representing local Jewish interests under French rule, and that Heinrich’s brother, the rabbi Samuel Marx, was a delegate to the “Grand Sanhedrin,” an 1806 assembly of Jewish leaders invited by Napoleon from across the empire to replicate the Jewish court of antiquity. Sperber describes in detail how Trier experienced the less than altruistic French “liberation,” and how it challenged the identity of the Jews as a nation apart, dividing their community and often making them scapegoats for anti-Napoleonic sentiment. This was a social revolution, too, he reminds the reader; the French expropriated property and transformed whole ways of life. It evidently frustrated and changed Heinrich Marx, who converted and became a loyal subject of the Prussian absolutist monarchy while retaining a strong personal faith in Enlightenment values.
Early nineteenth-century Trier, then, was not the remote and sleepy hamlet that a tourist may take it to be. It was on the fault line dividing the five great powers of Europe into a liberal west—France and England—and a conservative east: Prussia, Austria and Russia. Abandoning crypto-racial origin myths, Sperber turns outsiders into fellow citizens; he also begins to map the international terrain of Marx’s career as a whole. It is as if Trier has been airlifted from the land of the lost to a place at or near the hot center of modern European history: instead of just “backward,” it is full of conflicts of values that define the new century and might incline a young person to rebellion or reflection, or both.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Canada's own: Essential, elemental Alice Munro
Alice Munro in Dublin in 2009. Photo: Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images. If anyone can lay claim to being the heart of Canada's national literature, it's our Nobel laureate, argues Michael LaPointe. Michael LaPointe is a writer and literary journalist in Vancouver. He contributes to the Times Literary Supplement, a leading international forum for literary culture.
"Essential, Elemental Alice"
Michael LaPointe TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada October 11, 2013
Alice Munro is Canada's first recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The 82-year-old short story author was awakened with the news at 4 a.m. in Victoria, B.C. yesterday, where she is visiting her daughter. "It just seems impossible," she told the CBC. "It seems just so splendid a thing to happen, I can't describe it, it's more than I can say." Words have rarely failed Munro.
The selection signals a welcome change from how the Nobel has been awarded in recent years. The jury has lately bestowed the prize less for writers' aesthetic qualities than for their extra-literary significance. The last laureate, Mo Yan, was commended in the award ceremony speech as "a poet who tears down stereotypical propaganda posters, elevating the individual from an anonymous human mass" -- a clear rebuke of Chinese Communist Party ideology. Although the jury has only decorated very fine and distinguished writers, the award's politicization has resulted in exasperating oversights and widespread distrust of the jury.
But though her work, being serious, naturally contains political qualities, Munro is a pure literary artist. Her stories are never didactic, never conveniently reduced. If she tears down any "stereotypical propaganda," it is the stereotyping of the everyday, the propaganda of cliché. The Nobel jury is surely right to cite Munro's "fantastic portrayal of human beings," for her characters thwart each story's easy resolution, elevating her work to an art that will endure even when her context has long faded. Munro's personalities are always elusive, always out ahead of us, always breaking through a political frame.
Below: A round-up of TLS reviews of Alice Munro’s inimitable body of work.
Alice Munro – winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 2013
Times Literary Supplement UK October 10, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded and related links.
The TLS has always paid serious attention to Alice Munro’s work, starting with her first book, Dance of the Happy Shades, in which Diana Basham found evidence of a “hidden talent for hope”; in 1983, Alan Hollinghurst reviewed The Moons of Jupiter, praising her writing for its “penetrating concision, at once watchfully spare and lyrically intense, which contradicts or refuses the too facile satisfaction of accounting for everything”. Here are our reviews of her work, including pieces by John McGahern, Joyce Carol Oates, Adam Mars-Jones, and Michael Gorra. Her most recent book – which she announced as “possibly” her last – Dear Life, was reviewed by Michael Lapointe last year.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
"When love and strength are united, God’s grace is bestowed upon Man." A brief history of a musical failure
The "Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra", Op. 80, was composed in 1808 by Ludwig van Beethoven. The text concludes "Wenn sich Lieb und Kraft vermählen, lohnt den Menschen Göttergunst." (English: When love and strength are united, God’s grace is bestowed upon Man.) Here is a 2011 video of the full-length work (21:13) performed by the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony Orchestra. The KBS Symphony Orchestra is one of the most famous symphony orchestras in South Korea. It was founded in 1956 as the radio orchestra of the Korean Broadcasting System.Posted at: Sunday, October 06, 2013 - 07:12 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
As a violinist, Catherine Tice never had the makings of a prodigy. Later, upon hearing a rehearsal of Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy," she wept.
A brief history of a musical failure
Catherine Tice Granta UK October 2, 2013
One August morning, at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, I sat in on a rehearsal of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy – a piece I didn’t know well at the time, which is traditionally performed to close Marlboro’s summer season. It was gray and humid and some friends and I trekked up a grassy hill slick with rain to the great barn of an auditorium, where we were treated to Richard Goode on the piano, a group of young singers, and the Choral Fantasy itself, which Beethoven conceived as something of an experiment: a layering of musical forms. The piece begins with the rising chords of a solo piano, which are joined by the strings after the first theme is introduced, followed by the winds, and then a chorus and the rest of the orchestra. The Choral Fantasy is the kernel of the Ninth Symphony, an abbreviated pastiche of that much longer work, keyed in C Minor, which in 1808 was thought to be ‘emotionally stormy’. The performers rehearsed the piece twice and, through all of it, I wept.
Why? My friends wanted to know. I was puzzled myself.
It had something to do with my relationship to music, to the violin, which I studied seriously for fourteen years, and, to my parents, my teachers and the friends with whom I played chamber music – simply an acute sense of loss for the music that had been the focus of my childhood.
Music was central to my parents’ marriage. They met, as students, at some sort of musical event. Or was it that one happened upon the other playing the organ after midnight in the university chapel? They both sang in various groups on campus. Both played the piano; my father played the cello as well. A year or so after graduating from college, my mother received a Fulbright scholarship and went to Paris to study musicology at the Sorbonne. Six months later, well before the end of her stint, my father proposed marriage, but with an expiring option tied to an acceptance deadline. In 1958, and at twenty-five, my mother thought she had better accept. She was too ‘old’ to be unmarried, and, besides, Paris was overwhelming, her first cosmopolis. More importantly, she believed she was a woman madly in love. She abandoned the fellowship and moved to Chapel Hill to marry my father.
With complete obliviousness to my passion for all things pianoforte, my father decided that I should be a violinist. From the dustiest corner of our apartment he spirited out a dreadful little violin sporting a lonely E-string, which had belonged to a great-grandfather who had owned a grocery store in Western North Carolina. The idea was that we would have a family trio: my mother on the piano, my father on the cello, and I was to have lessons in a Suzuki group at the university until I learned to sight read. And then? We were to be the very picture of familial bourgeois bliss; add this to the Saturday afternoon Met Opera broadcasts with Milton Cross and you’ve got the outline of a perhaps typical, mid-century American musical education.
But I was having none of it.
[Henryk] Szeryng’s teaching, because it was novel, made me see how well I might fare under a new wing. After dinner and cake, he addressed me warmly as his ‘potential student,’ and invited my parents to bring me to Paris to study with him. He said that I was musical, and that he would enjoy teaching me. There was no artifice in his manner to suggest mere politeness. He reiterated this invitation to my teacher. It could be arranged.
I would do all of this and learn from a working concert musician, who appreciated my technical facility. He had an idea of where I might be led, educated, and formed musically, as well as intellectually. It was a marvellous opportunity. But Szeryng’s invitation was summarily refused. ‘She ought to have a normal life,’ my mother said.
At thirteen, I studied all of the Bach A Minor Concerto, another pillar of the violin’s baroque repertoire and played the first movement for another New Orleans Symphony audition, this time judged by the very same concertmaster who had conducted when I played the Vivaldi. I failed to win, largely because he felt that I demonstrated little technical progress since he’d last heard me. ...
Eventually I learned to play chamber music and, at fourteen, transferred to a fancy northeastern prep school on a scholarship. ...
By the time I was sixteen, I had an ever diminishing sense of purpose, but that summer I went with my father to Innsbruck for a summer course he was teaching, and we spent a weekend in Munich where we met up with his old friend, the American composer Russsell Smith. He had to sing a few bars for me, but anyway was the kind of pianist who liked to sing the first few bars of the violin part just to get things moving. I knew the piece by ear, having heard it many times. He accompanied me on the piano, and somehow everything seemed to fall into place on the second reading. I flew. It was a tremendous high. ...
The summer between high school and college I practised as little as possible, and had no lessons to speak of. ...
By the time I arrived in New York, I had technical problems. My left hand had become inflexible – practically arthritic, atrophied, in fact. Consequently, I played very badly, so badly I couldn’t recognize myself in an audition for the college philharmonia. ...
My old friend with whom I had shared the first chair in high school stopped by, and we read the double Bach violin concerto together for a rousing bit of late-evening excitement. My father was also in evidence for the weekend, and in a particularly grim and cruel moment, stormed out as we were playing, announcing at the top of his lungs that I had lost all my technique, and that I had disgraced my younger self, the ‘real’ violinist. An abusive turn. I saw that my arrival at a point of enjoyable mediocrity was an even and terribly disappointing match for his own as a pianist. We were both musical failures.
I never had the makings of a prodigy. I had something else. Easy to say that I have this in common with thousands of others who took up, or were persuaded to take up, and eventually to put down, perhaps with some relief, a musical instrument. The ‘something else’ is what is sometimes called musicianship, which I am too inexpert to define, but at the time when it was just shy of full flower, I nearly gave myself over to the violin completely. I became musically exceptional for a child, but I lacked an essential psychological immunity to the dark side of self-criticism. When essential support was withdrawn by degrees it became increasingly difficult for me to do and be what I initially had no intention whatsoever of doing and being. Moreover, it simply isn’t enough to be good.
There is still regret. I miss very much the feeling that I might express something beautifully in music, and I suppose when I listen to others play or sing, the experience is sometimes tinged with both envy and remorse. I realize now that a performance becomes all the more poignant when I see and hear young musicians in a place I might even have gone to myself. So it was at Marlboro last summer, when in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy they sang:
Hat ein Geist sich aufgeschwungen
Friday, October 4, 2013
"Let The Fire Burn": A powerful new documentary about a confrontation between Philadelphia and black radicals that claimed an entire neighborhood
Attention MOVE, this is America. - Philadelphia Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor addressing, through a bullhorn, the fortified house in 1985—cited by Emily BazelonPosted at: Friday, October 04, 2013 - 06:25 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Wikipedia entry for MOVE (last modified October 4, 2013). Currently Ramona Africa acts as a spokesperson for the group and has given numerous talks at events throughout the US and in other countries. The struggle goes on.
Philadelphia, city officials ordered to pay $1.5 million in MOVE case
CNN USA June 24, 1996
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- Eleven years after police dropped a bomb on a row house occupied by the anti-government group MOVE, a jury has ordered the city of Philadelphia and two former city officials to pay $1.5 million to a survivor and relatives of two members of the group who died in the subsequent fire.
The jury found that the city, former Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor and former Fire Commissioner William Richmond used excessive force and violated the MOVE members' constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure in the May 13, 1985 incident.
Let the Fire Burn is a 2013 documentary film about the events leading up to and surrounding a stand-off between the black liberation group MOVE and the Philadelphia Police Department.
Let the Fire Burn
Emily Bazelon Slate USA October 4, 2013
Still from Jason Osder's Let the Fire Burn. Screenshot courtesy of Zeitgeist Films/George Washington University. Visit this page for its embedded links.
Let the Fire Burn, Jason Osder’s powerful debut documentary, opens with period footage of a soft-spoken boy with two names: Michael Moses Ward and Birdie Africa. Michael was known as Birdie as a child—he was one of several kids raised by a small black liberation group that occupied a Philadelphia row house on Osage Avenue. They called themselves MOVE, and they wanted to live without technology and without government interference. But the group and the city were constantly at odds.
On May 13, 1985, the enmity between MOVE and city officials erupted into one of the worst days in Philadelphia history. Years of demonstrations, clashes, and arrests had finally culminated in a mass eviction order and an hours-long shootout. When the shooting ended in a stalemate, the city made the unthinkable decision to drop a bomb on the MOVE row house. It ignited a raging fire. Michael and one other MOVE member escaped, but 11 others were killed, and 61 homes burned down—a working-class black neighborhood turned to ash.
’m a year older than Michael Ward, and I also grew up in Philadelphia. I remember watching that terrible fire burn, though I was seeing it on TV, safe in my house in a different part of the city. I remember feeling sad, scared, and confused. My father had campaigned hard for Wilson Goode, who’d been elected as Philadelphia’s first black mayor a year and a half earlier. How could Goode have stood by while the police dropped that bomb, and as that fire burned?
It’s to the credit of Osder’s film that it answers these questions by gradually zeroing in on them. Let the Fire Burn offers an even-handed depiction of the racial conflict that led to the conflagration on Osage Avenue. A 1976 re-election ad for Frank Rizzo, the previous mayor, who had built his reputation by raiding the Black Panthers, called Philadelphia “tortured” and complained that “abandoned homes pockmark the ghetto.” The racism was barely below the surface. MOVE’s extremist views are fully aired in the film, too. In one piece of old tape from the 1970s, a group of small MOVE children, naked and dreadlocked, chant mantras like “Our religion is non-compromising to the conception of insane speculation.” The adults also come across as caring, though. “They didn’t believe in spanking,” Michael says in a deposition taken five months after the fire.
During Rizzo’s tenure, the police department made nearly 200 arrests of MOVE members, often for small street demonstrations. In 1976, six cops were injured in a scuffle with the group that somehow—the details are hazy—caused the death of a 3-week-old baby, Life Africa. After that, it was war. ...
At the time of the MOVE fire, my father, Richard Bazelon, was chair of the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia (a volunteer position he got as a lawyer who represented Goode’s campaign on voter registration and Election Day issues and did other community work). I called my father to talk about Osder’s film, and he reminded me that the aftermath of that awful night was also sad, though in a different way.
Related: Gregore J. Sambor, police commissioner
David Gambacorta Philly.com USA May 6, 2010
On May 16, three days after the bombing and fire that destroyed a neighborhood and left 11 people dead, Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor listens to Mayor Wilson Goode at a City Hall news conference. Photo: Michele Tranquilli\
Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor, a square-jawed military veteran, was ordered by Mayor Goode to develop a tactical plan for a possible confrontation with MOVE members. Sambor put three cops in charge of developing the plan.
Their strategy called for tear gas to be fired into MOVE's Osage Avenue headquarters on May 13, 1985, and for a satchel of explosives to be dropped on a fortified bunker atop the building. Sambor later admitted that he had no backup plan if the tear gas didn't work. When the bomb sparked a fire, he allowed it to burn, ultimately leading to a calamity that claimed the lives of 11 people and dozens of homes. He retired six months later.
1985: MOVE Commission investigators concluded that as a result of Sambor's orders, "the three officers responsible for developing the tactical plan did so hastily and without sufficient information or adequate intelligence."
Quote: "I was told any possibility for injury or death inside the bunker was minimal."
2010: There have been no tell-all books or teary-eyed interviews from Sambor in the decades since the MOVE disaster. He has spoken about his involvement in the fatal confrontation only when he had no other choice - namely, when the case was before a federal court in 1996.
Now 82, Sambor and his wife, Mary, live in a handsome stone property on a quiet, winding street in Drexel Hill.
When a reporter visited their house recently, Mary Sambor said her husband "won't talk to you about that [case]," as she smiled apologetically and closed the front door. (The Sambors were touched by personal tragedy 10 years ago, when a group of teenage robbers fatally shot their son, Nicholas, 40, outside his home in Overbrook.)
Within the police community, some now look at Sambor simply as a man who was in over his head.
"How many times had we handled that kind of thing?," said Upper Moreland Police Chief Thomas Nestel, whose law-enforcement career started with the Philadelphia police in 1985.
"You had a fortified house that was firing at police. That only happens in Fallujah [Iraq]," Nestel said. "There was almost a military-like response, and that's his background. He was using what he knew."
Thursday, October 3, 2013
"Shopping for Votes": Is Canadian policy consensus past its best before date? Why Stephen Harper's government has no cohesive public policy vision
Intro: By the time a politician knocks on your door, he may know more about you than most of your friends do. - Sasha Issenberg, a journalist who spent the last few years researching the data-mining techniques of U.S. campaigns for a new book, The Victory Lab, cited by Tamsin McMahonPosted at: Thursday, October 03, 2013 - 04:12 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
In Canada, campaign spending limits and privacy laws mean parties have less access to the expensive private consultants and warehouses of consumer data that have become central to American politics. But that doesn’t mean parties here aren’t diligently building vast databases on individuals that can be used to solicit for donations and mobilize voters on election day. - Tamsin McMahon
Elect Big Brother
Tamsin McMahon Maclean's Magazine Canada October 13, 2012
Photo illustration by Taylor Shute. This item contains two short video interviews on how our personal data is, and will be, used.
Canadians were rightly alarmed earlier this year when details of a secretive ﬁgure named Pierre Poutine first came to light. Using an auto-dialing service in Quebec, an anonymous partisan operative allegedly sent voters identified as non-Conservatives to the wrong polling stations during the 2011 federal election. But while the so-called “robocall affair” exposed the underbelly of today’s political campaigns, it also opened a door into a world where political parties exploit our ever-growing webs of personal data.
Mobilizing your supporters and discouraging your opponents, the bread and butter of any election campaign, was once a matter of recruiting enough volunteers to canvass neighbourhoods and drive people to the polls. These days, it’s increasingly the work of data analysts and behavioural scientists who collect reams of publicly available personal information and use computer algorithms to exploit it. Their goal: nothing short of pinpointing the fears and hopes that motivate individual voters, and using that information to target them for donations and votes on election day.
How you vote may seem like the last bastion of individual agency, but political campaigns say they can predict what messages will move you with unnerving accuracy by studying everything from your home address, to your magazine subscriptions, to what you like to watch on TV on a Saturday night—or even whether or not you own a TV in the first place. Dubbed “microtargeting,” these new techniques promise to have profound implications for the political process. “The idea of Pierre Poutine, it was funny,” says Carleton University professor and former Reform party pollster André Turcotte. “But the real story is in what parties are doing and not doing with their data and about how that technique is hijacking the political process.”
[Canadian] Parties regularly scan obituaries to weed out deceased voters and scrutinize letters to the editor to flag voters who are passionate enough about certain issues to write to their local newspaper. They use networks of volunteers to canvass neighbourhoods and call voters, and hire pollsters to conduct detailed daily polls measuring the impact of an attack ad or a campaign promise. But where those political volunteers were once armed with pens and clipboards, they now have mobile apps to record the answers you give at the door and feed them into centralized databases.
Need a ride to the polls? Care about health care more than the economy? Want a lawn sign? All of that is recorded next to the barcode assigned to each individual voter. “If you write a letter to a political party or show up at an event or register your opinion in some form or another, they can track you,” says journalist Susan Delacourt, who has researched the marketing techniques parties use during elections for a book, Shopping for Votes, due out in March. “If I’ve somehow communicated with the Liberal party that my cable bill is bugging me, they can log that. It’s just this rolling database of contact and information and anything else they can accumulate.”
For instance, parties could use the information they’ve gathered to contact voters for telephone town halls on issues believed to be important to them. Once you’re on the phone, the party will track how long you stay connected as a measure of how engaged you are with the campaign and the core issues. Increasingly they’re also tracking the words you may use during question-and-answer sessions and monitoring them for keywords that will indicate your views.
Already, the Liberal database tracks about 150 different voter issues, says Delacourt. It has room to log 260 different answers to questions beyond just “yes” and “no” and can tell a volunteer before they even pick up the phone whether a voter has already hung up on past canvassers, or whether they spent 20 minutes talking about their passion for the environment.
Capitalizing on the growing demand for data on voters, private sector firms are rushing to help parties sort through the mountain of personal information Canadians post about themselves on the Internet. ...
Even so, the growing use of technology to identify and target voters has alarmed federal privacy advocates. Both Elections Canada’s chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand and the federal privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, have raised serious concerns about high-tech political campaigns, which are neither government departments nor private corporations and therefore aren’t covered by existing privacy rules governing what information can be collected and whether it must be disclosed.
“I can go to the Bay and demand to see all the information they have on me and I can go to Revenue Canada and demand to see all the information they have on me,” says Delacourt. “I can’t do that with the Liberals.”
Parties argue that their data analysis makes governments more responsive to the electorate, their policies more grassroots. But it also means they focus on the interests of only a small slice of the population since they can accurately identify whom those swing voters are and where to find them. Out of 23 million eligible voters, says Carleton University’s Turcotte, the Conservative voter-tracking software enabled the party to identify just 500,000 that could hand them a majority.
Item: Ottawa insider Susan Delacourt takes readers into the world of Canada’s top political marketers, explaining how parties slice and dice their platforms according to what polls say voters’ priorities are in each constituency, and how parties control the media. Provocative, incisive and entertaining, Checked Out is The Age of Persuasion [subtitle: How marketing ate our culture] meets The Armageddon Factor [subtitle: The rise of the religious right in Canadian politics]. - From the Amazon USA site. Shopping for Votes was released in the USA this month, October, 2013. (We added the links for the two books referenced.)
Jim comment: The NDP under Jack Layton tried to emulate the Harperites' marketing savvy and database mining skills but, just as in the 2011 election, Layton's party finished second best. The Liberal Party of Canada tended to relatively eschew such practices. The Liberals finished third for the first time ever in a Canadian federal election. (Founded July 1, 1867, the Liberal Party of Canada dominated federal politics for much of Canada's history, holding power for almost 69 years in the 20th century—more than any other party in a developed country—which resulted in its being sometimes referred to as Canada's "natural governing party". In April of this year, the Liberals chose a new leader. Can young Justin Trudeau—age 41—lead them back to the forefront again in this increasingly dystopian 21st-century?)
Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them by Susan Delacourt. Published by Douglas & McIntyre, September 2013, 320 pages ISBN-10: 192681293X ISBN-13: 978-1926812939
An insightful and provocative look at the inside world of political marketing in Canada -- and what this means about the state of our democracy in the twenty-first century -- from a leading political commentator.
"Never mind what you may have heard about Canadians being hewers of wood and drawers of water. Forget all those endearing and enduring rural symbols that are supposed to bind the country together -- the beavers, the moose, the Great White North. Canada is now a nation of shoppers…We may want to ask whether it’s time to draw some clearer lines between our civic life and our shopping pursuits." -- Susan Delacourt
Inside the political backrooms of Ottawa, the Mad Men of Canadian politics are planning their next consumer-friendly pitch. Where once politics was seen as a public service, increasingly it's seen as a business, and citizens are the customers. But its unadvertised products are voter apathy and gutless public policy.
Susan Delacourt takes readers into the world of Canada's top political marketers, from the 1950s to the present, explaining how parties slice and dice their platforms for different audiences and how they manage the media. The current system divides the country into "niche" markets and abandons the hard political work of knitting together broad consensus or national vision. Little wonder then, that most Canadians have checked out of the political process: less than two per cent of the population belongs to a political party and fewer than half of voters under the age of thirty showed up at the ballot box in the last few federal elections. Provocative, incisive, entertaining and refreshingly non-partisan, Shopping for Votes offers a new narrative for understanding political culture in Canada.
Reviews: Below: Dan Rowe is a professor of journalism in Toronto. He is the program coordinator of Humber College's Bachelor of Journalism program.
Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them
Review by Dan Rowe Quill and Quire Canada September 2013
The problem with political advertising – from television commercials to micro-targeted get-out-the-vote efforts – is that, when properly applied, it works. As Toronto Star senior political writer Susan Delacourt’s new book makes clear, the success of marketing innovations in Canadian political campaigns ensures that such tactics will be even more prevalent in the future, especially as a smaller percentage of the public pays attention to traditional forms of news.
Much like Sasha Issenberg’s The Victory Lab, the engaging Shopping for Votes provides a compendium of the latest vote-courting techniques used by political operatives from all parties, but especially the federal Conservatives and New Democrats. Delacourt’s findings will not come as a massive surprise, but her vision is different from the one espoused by political pundits. Delacourt shows readers that the process of getting people to commit to one party or another is complex, and election coverage often lacks the sophistication of the campaigns being covered.
The strongest section, which draws on Delacourt’s talents as a reporter, focuses on recent efforts by the Conservatives and NDP to target voters interested in their policies. The early chapters, by contrast, provide useful historical context for the role of advertising in politics, revisiting trailblazers like Dalton Camp, Keith Davey, and Martin Goldfarb. This history comes at the expense of a greater exploration of why voters and politicians have come to see their relationship as so transactional. Delacourt shies away from confronting this topic.
At one point, she writes, “It’s probably not an accident that marketing-style politics were pioneered by market-friendly politicians.…” Of course it isn’t an accident. It may be the most important development in politics in this country in the last 40 years, and it should have played a greater role in this otherwise admirable book.
We may sell our votes, but our civic culture still abides
John Ivison National Post, Full Comment Canada September 4, 2013
Visit this page for its related links.
If Stephen Harper needs some light relief after reading the latest disappointing polling numbers, he could do worse than leaf through a new book by Ottawa journalist Susan Delacourt: Shopping for Votes — How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them.
It is something of a counterpoint to the thesis put forward by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson in their book, The Big Shift — namely, that the Conservatives will be “perpetually dominant” this century because of the increasing influence of the West and Ontario’s suburbs, where the party is strong.
Ms. Delacourt downplays the idea of an ideological shift — in fact she all but eschews ideology among Canadian voters in the 21st century. She points out that in the last 50 years, the percentage of voters who change their vote choice between elections has grown from 10-20% to 30-40%.
The good news for Mr. Harper is that the Conservatives remain best placed to take advantage of “shopping” voters because of the party’s enthusiasm for tailoring its message for specific sections of the electorate.
As this exhaustively researched book makes clear, political marketing is not new. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Prime Minister Mackenzie King set up the Bureau of Public Information to monitor public opinion.
In the 1957 federal election, Allister Grosart and Dalton Camp pioneered a number of advertising techniques new to the political world, including customer testimonials.
In the 1970s, Martin Goldfarb conducted “sensitivity sessions” — what we’d now call focus groups — and compared selling politicians to selling tomatoes.
But, it was the Harper Conservatives who perfected the art of reaching people who don’t particularly care about politics.
Audio: Chosing a politician is like chosing a product in a store. If you are good at influencing people's product choice, chances are you should be good at influencing their political choice. - Susan Delacourt
Susan Delacourt on Shopping For Votes
"The Current" CBC Radio One Canada October 3, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links and a short video "Conservative ad: Harper on tax cuts 2005" ((0:30). You can listen to this interview with Susan Delacourt (24:00) from a pop-up link on this page.
Journalist Susan Delacourt believes Canadians' relationship with their politicians has changed since the consumer boom of the 1950s. Consumers have wants, she says. Citizens have needs. Susan Delacourt joins us to talk about Shopping For Votes.
The production values may have been a little threadbare, but the political ads for Stephen Harper's 2006 election campaign were carefully tailored to speak to Canadians --- as consumers. The campaign rolled through the Christmas season, and the Conservatives won a minority.
Long-time political reporter Susan Delacourt suggests we've become a nation that shops for its politicians, and they're returning the favour. ...
Susan Delacourt has captured this shifting relationship in her new book Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them. She was in our Toronto Studio.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Seeking nature: A new book, "The Once and Future World", is about our great forgetting. In restoring the living world, we are also restoring ourselves
Henry David Thoreau warned us, in 1862, that not in wilderness but in wildness is the preservation of the world. There’s a difference. In The Once and Future World, J.B. MacKinnon brings this distinction up to date. Wilderness may be gone forever, but wildness can be recovered, and it is time to get to work. - George Dyson, an American historian and philosopher of science. His parallel interest in science and the future has brought Dyson to the fore of contemporary social debate.Posted at: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - 02:18 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
In essence, the book is a love story, maybe the oldest one: between humankind, conscious and curious, and the stuff that grows around us, invoking and sustaining our desires, informing our ideas of who we are. McKinnon puts it thus: “The lone person on a wild landscape is a baseline of human liberty, a condition in which we are restrained only by physical limits and the bounds of our own consciousness.” - J.R. McConvey, producer the nature documentaries The National Parks Project and Northwords.
Author J.B. MacKinnon has won numerous national and international awards for journalism. As the originator of the 100-mile diet concept, he appears regularly in Canada and the USA as a speaker and commentator on ecology and food. His book, The 100-Mile Diet, co-authored with Alisa Smith, was a national bestseller and inspired a TV series in which the small town of Mission, BC, learned to eat locally. He was also the co-author, with Mia Kirshner and artists Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons, of I Live Here, a groundbreaking "paper documentary" about displaced people that made top 10 lists in media as diverse as the Bloomsbury Literary Review and Comic Book Resources, as well as becoming a Los Angeles Times bestseller. His first book, Dead Man in Paradise, in which he investigated the assassination of his uncle, a radical priest in the Dominican Republic, won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction. His latest book, The Once and Future World, is a 2013 finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction.
The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be by J.B. MacKinnon. Published by Random House Canada, September 2013, 272 pages, ISBN 9780307362186
From one of Canada's most exciting writers and ecological thinkers, a book that will change the way we see nature and show that in restoring the living world, we are also restoring ourselves.
The Once and Future World began in the moment J.B. MacKinnon realized the grassland he grew up on was not the pristine wilderness he had always believed it to be. Instead, his home prairie was the outcome of a long history of transformation, from the disappearance of the grizzly bear to the introduction of cattle. What remains today is an illusion of the wild—an illusion that has in many ways created our world.
In 3 beautifully drawn parts, MacKinnon revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and 20 times more whales swim in the sea. He traces how humans destroyed that reality, out of rapaciousness, yes, but also through a great forgetting. Finally, he calls for an "age of restoration," not only to revisit that richer and more awe-filled world, but to reconnect with our truest human nature. MacKinnon never fails to remind us that nature is a menagerie of marvels. Here are fish that pass down the wisdom of elders, landscapes still shaped by "ecological ghosts," a tortoise that is slowly remaking prehistory. "It remains a beautiful world," MacKinnon writes, "and it is its beauty, not its emptiness, that should inspire us to seek more nature in our lives."
The Once and Future World : Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be by J.B. MacKinnon. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2013, 240 pages, ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544103054 ISBN-10: 054410305X
An award-winning ecology writer goes looking for the wilderness we’ve forgotten
Many people believe that only an ecological catastrophe will change humanity’s troubled relationship with the natural world. In fact, as J.B. MacKinnon argues in this unorthodox look at the disappearing wilderness, we are living in the midst of a disaster thousands of years in the making—and we hardly notice it. We have forgotten what nature can be and adapted to a diminished world of our own making.
In The Once and Future World, MacKinnon invites us to remember nature as it was, to reconnect to nature in a meaningful way, and to remake a wilder world everywhere. He goes looking for landscapes untouched by human hands. He revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and ten times more whales swim in the sea. He shows us that the vestiges of lost nature surround us every day: buy an avocado at the grocery store and you have a seed designed to pass through the digestive tracts of huge animals that have been driven extinct.
The Once and Future World is a call for an “age of rewilding,” from planting milkweed for butterflies in our own backyards to restoring animal migration routes that span entire continents. We choose the natural world that we live in—a choice that also decides the kind of people we are.
Related: Paradise lost? Our memory of nature is in tatters
J.R. McConvey Globe and Mail Canada September 20, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded and related links.
Reviewed here: The Once and Future World, By J.B MacKinnon (Random House Canada, 272 pages, $29.95) and Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life, By George Monbiot (Allen Lane, 256 pages, $30).
A few weeks ago, I noticed a bee clinging to the screen of my bathroom window. It was dusted with yellow pollen, drunk on the stuff, and I brought my face in close to look. But I was busy, just taking a quick break, so after a few seconds I blew gently on the screen; the bee buzzed away. Immediately, I wished I’d watched it for longer.
Human beings are shortsighted by nature. We experience our brief lives as vast expanses of time, even with a knowledge of history measured in billions of years. Our attention spans are in tatters because of smartphones and tidbit media, and it’s harder and harder to find sustained moments to just look at the world beyond our screens.
The shortsightedness, and the bee thing: Both figure into Vancouver writer J.B. MacKinnon’s new book, The Once and Future World. MacKinnon likes to keep nature close. With Alisa Smith, he co-wrote the bestselling 100-Mile Diet, which helped to launch the local eating movement. He also wrote the narrative for the NFB’s online wildlife surveillance documentary, Bear 71.
Here, he advocates for an even deeper connection to the land we live on, and a longer knowledge of what we take from it. The Once and Future World argues that, when it comes to natural ecosystems, we are continuously forgetting what the Earth really looks like, and as such have forgotten what it is capable of. It is one of those rare reading experiences that can change the way you see everything around you, recommended for anyone interested in anything that lives and breathes.
MacKinnon’s book has a place in a wider movement called “rewilding.” The term is a slippery fish. It can refer to a conservation approach that favours restoring large-scale wilderness areas and connecting them, to protect the habitats of so-called keystone species – animals, like elephants or beaver, which play a role in engineering their ecosystems. It can mean the reintroduction of native species to an area from which they have disappeared, such the return of grey wolves to Yellowstone National Park. It hints even further, toward human efforts to resurrect long-extinct creatures such as the dodo, using preserved DNA.
In the recent book, Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life, British writer George Monbiot defines it (in part) as a passive movement, an attempt to let ecological processes resume. In other words, to stand back a bit and watch what happens. MacKinnon keeps it similarly vague, but adds poetry in his description of efforts “to give nature fuller expression in a world in which it is muted.”
Perhaps what MacKinnon and his fellow rewilders are addressing transcends precise definition.
Of course, there is plenty of science involved. A lot of it is packed into The Once and Future World.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
The domestic war—First Nation voices: A new book, a celebration of the thoughts and hopes of young First Nations people living Canada
We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us: Lives and Stories of First Nations People in British Columbia by Katherine Palmer Gordon. Published by Harbour Publishing, September 2013Posted at: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 - 10:06 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
First Nations are the fastest growing population in the country. There are thousands upon thousands of young First Nations people growing up today who, together with the kind of individuals whose stories are told in this book, represent a future for this country that is brighter than it has been for a long, long time. —from the foreword by Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us
Since 2004, journalist Katherine Palmer Gordon has interviewed dozens of young First Nations people living in British Columbia—artists and community leaders, comedians and consultants, musicians and lawyers, people who are household names and those known only within their own communities. We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us collects sixteen candid stories gleaned from those interviews, stories of people who share an unshakeable belief in the importance of their cultural heritage to their well-being, to their success at what they do, and to their everyday lives.
Included are Kim Baird, former chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation; Lisa Webster-Gibson, spoken word artist and rock-and-roll drummer with Delaware-Mohawk and Scottish-Canadian heritage who lives and works on Gabriola Island as an Environmental Assessment Professional; and John Marston (Qap'u'luq), an artist and storyteller from the Chemainus First Nation who learned to carve from his father. "What I put into each piece," he says, in his interview with Gordon, "is 100 percent me."
Shattering stereotypes, We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us gathers the thoughts and hopes of young native people living in twenty-first century Canada. Each has a compelling, meaningful story that deserves to be told, understood and, above all, celebrated.
Monday, September 30, 2013
From Canada "A Modest Proposal" even as the USA continues its slide toward the annals of former empires: "The Merger of the Century"
"A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick"" is Jonathan Swift's satirical essay from 1729, where he suggests that the Irish eat their own children. Swift's satire addresses social evil through scorn, outrage, and savage ridicule. Diane Francis' new book does not. While recognizing some of the folly in American structure as it operates today, she does not see theses structural failures as evil and is sympathetic. Living as we are now under the authoritarian powers and diktats of Stephen Harper's PMO, all Canadians should consider Francis' proposal. The two—Francis' and Harper's visions— are related. Do we want an alternative world view to the corporatist ideology or are we willing to concede? And if we want an alternative, what are we as individuals prepared to do?Posted at: Monday, September 30, 2013 - 07:04 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
If Canada is going to be the target of a creeping takeover from a big player, we may as well manage the process. - Diane Francis
... Canadians have few choices but to park their prejudices and figure out how to meet the future together with the Americans. - Diane Francis
Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country by Diane Francis. Published by Harper Collins, October 2013, 336 pages
Diane Francis’ plan to merge Canada and the United States has many, many problems
Jonathan Kay National Post Canada September 28, 2013
Photo: Fotolia. Visit this page for its related links.
Veteran National Post columnist Diane Francis has written 10 books. Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country is easily her most ambitious.
Perhaps a little too ambitious, many readers might conclude.
It is also, in a way, her most personal. As an American-born dual citizen, Ms. Francis writes passionately about the many historical and cultural ties that bind her ancestral and adopted countries. Merger of the Century makes the case for erasing the formal distinction between the two entirely. “After all, we’re both melting-pot societies,” she says. So why not turn the whole continent north of the Rio Grande into the world’s biggest pot?
But Merger of the Century is not just a stew of touchy-feely geopolitical metaphors: Ms. Francis is a business writer, and her book is full of numbers.
Much of Merger of the Century is written up like a business plan, with Ms. Francis demonstrating how the benefits of a union outweigh the costs. It’s an analogy that feels clunkier and clunkier as the chapters march on. Corporations exist to make money. But nations exist principally to give expression to some guiding ethno-religious identity or creed.
Ms. Francis’ faith in the fundamental sameness of Americans and Canadians is touching. But the fact is that the two countries are divided by real and important differences in culture, politics and even Christian religiosity. Merging our two legal systems alone would seem to be an impossibility.
Plus, what would happen to the CFL? Would we still be permitted to play with three downs?
When I raise such concerns, Ms. Francis warns me that I am missing the big picture. In her book, she argues that a “new cold war” is being fought between the U.S.-led west and the Chinese-led east — a war that “divides the world into players who are open and those who are secretive.”
She believes that the increasing Chinese ownership of Canadian resource companies shows that we’re losing this struggle. (Indeed, much of the book is dedicated to raising awareness of Chinese “economic aggression” within Canada’s borders.) And unless we Canadians embrace a full-fledged union with the United States, she argues, we are destined to become “neo-colonial” vassals of Beijing, and victims of Russian gunboat diplomacy in the Arctic Ocean. ...
The merger of the century
Diane Francis National Post Canada September 30, 2013
In her new book, National Post columnist Diane Francis makes the case for the U.S. and Canada forming a united North America. Visit this page for its related links.
The 9/11 attacks and the financial crisis that started in 2008 damaged the economies of Canada and the United States, and accelerated the decline of most wealthy democracies. Throughout it all, emerging economies, led by China and India, did not skip a beat. Between 2000 and 2010, they grew by an average of 6% per year, while developed nations posted an average of only 3.6%, according to The Economist’s “Power shift” report. By 2030, Brazil, Russia, India and China could overtake the U.S., Japan, Germany, Italy, Britain, France and Canada in economic size. And these seven nations, the original G7, cannot catch up because of debt, demographics, resistance to change and an inability to recognize and counteract the strategies of their rivals.
This unprecedented transfer of wealth, from richer to poorer nations, will only escalate because the free-market/free-trade/free-enterprise model does not work as well as controlled and planned economic models such as China’s. The methods employed in such countries will beat developed economies to resources and economic growth. In his book Losing Control: The Emerging Threats to Western Prosperity, Stephen D. King, the global chief economist of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, said the pursuit of scarce resources such as energy or food may lead to war, hoist prices and impose a “redistribution of wealth and power across the globe [that] will force consumers in the U.S. Europe to stop living beyond their means.”
Nations in distress, and facing uncertainty, must behave like businesses and weigh all options; they must also think laterally and outside the box. The problem for Americans as well as Canadians is that foreign governments, and their vassal corporate entities, have established themselves in Canada and are nibbling away at resource assets or using Canada as a backdoor entry to make direct foreign investments in the United States, sometimes without detection. Their targets include resources, farmland, market access and iconic corporations, assets that they do not allow Canadian or American individuals, corporations or governments to acquire in their own countries. This non-reciprocal and sly strategy is aimed at acquiring assets, undermining competitors and gaining political influence in host countries.
The best option for the U.S. and Canada to survive the new economic reality would be to alter course by devising protective policies and to merge into one gigantic nation. This book, a thought experiment, details the economic benefits of joining forces, the way a deal could be structured in fairness to both nations, the political obstacles littering its path and, lastly, strategies if a merger is impossible. This book is written from my viewpoint, as a dual citizen and business writer, that the interests and values of the two nations are aligned and that a merger makes good business sense.
Audio: Diane Francis on a Canada-US merger
"The Current" CBC Radio One Canada September 30, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links. You can listen to the interview with Diane Francis (24:00) from a pop-up link on this page.
Business columnist Diane Francis has a plan for a new country. She feels the NAFTA deal didn't go far enough and in her new book she argues Canada and the US should form one country.
"John Turner: I happen to believe that you sold us out...I happen to believe that once you ... (interrupted)
Liberal Leader John Turner and Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sounded ready to roll up their sleeves in the debate heading into the 1988 Federal Election. Mr. Turner's worries about Canadian independence helped detonate arguments across the country.
The then Prime Minister may have thought that argument a little over-wrought. But Diane Francis believes Canadian political independence should follow.
You can guess what her argument is from the title of her new book: Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country. It is her 10th book and it hits store shelves just as the United States faces a government shutdown over health care legislation or Obamacare ... arguably not the most attractive time to be talking about cozying-up to Washington.
Diane Francis is a dual American and Canadian citizen and she' was in Toronto.
Related: Toward a theory of Canadian exceptionalism
Conrad Black National Post, Full Comment Canada September 28, 2013
The Canadian answer to the problems in the United States must not be sniggering; it must be to do better here. Photo: Bill Kay/PNG. Visit this page for its related links.
Last week, an eminent American industrialist who is an old friend, a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy, a patriotic but very reasonable and moderate citizen and a respecter of all other serious nationalities (including Canada), visited me and volunteered that he is in a state of despair about his country.
He referred to a recent debate at the Aspen Institute, which he attended, between historian Niall Ferguson and former presidential aide David Gergen over the now almost faddish subject of American “decline.” Ferguson, who is virtually an itinerant industry of opinion and scholarly advocacy unto himself, spoke of an imminent and very steep dip in America’s fortunes. David Gergen, who makes no claim to as broad an academic background, but was a close adviser to the last U.S. presidents who could be described as successful (Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton), made the case that the United States is still by some margin the most powerful country. Both men are both substantially correct, and were not really debating the same issue at all, just soliloquizing on related subjects.
My visitor lamented that “We don’t have a president. We have a resident in the president’s house.” I am afraid he underestimates the capacities of the incumbent to continue to squander his country’s position in the world. Of course, these are themes that have been much bandied about, including in this space, but the Syrian shambles, the naïve handling of relations with Iran and the acute contentiousness over Obamacare’s formal launch have all brought the discussion to a new and more hoary head.
The evidence of the collapse of American prestige is everywhere, in the failures of its diplomacy, the retrenchment of its military, in its unending mountainous budgetary deficits, and in the anecdotal indications of how absurd and insane daily life is becoming, with frequent random massacres of people and a completely divided political culture reduced to the most sterile and intemperate repetitions of irreconcilable differences.
And American exceptionalism was reduced to nauseating claptrap when it asserted that, in its superiority, the United States had absolutely nothing to learn from any other country. All that is exceptional today about the United States in a positive sense is its scale; it still operates at a level that the world has not seen before or elsewhere, and is magnificent in its way.
The United States rose to the heights required to lead the free world to victory against the Nazis; and then, relatively bloodlessly, and without a shot being exchanged between the superpowers, against Soviet Communism. And then, at the moment of its greatest triumph, it suddenly became a purposeless and progressively more silly country. This latter development is aberrant and will not continue. But those of us accustomed to sheltering in the shadow of America, while carping almost inaudibly about its relatively insignificant shortcomings, are going to have to do better.
"Dilip Hiro, The Mystery of Washington's Waning Global Power"
Tom Englehardt and Dilip Hiro TomDispatch USA September 29, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
Among the curious spectacles of our moment, the strangeness of the Obama presidency hasn’t gotten its full due. After decades in which “the imperial presidency” was increasingly in the spotlight, after two terms of George W. Bush in which a literal cult of executive power -- or to use the term of that moment, “the unitary executive” -- took hold in the White House, and without any obvious diminution in the literal powers of the presidency, Barack Obama has managed to look like a bystander at his own funeral.
If I had to summarize these years, I would say that he entered the phone booth dressed as Superman and came out as Clark Kent. Today, TomDispatch regular Dilip Hiro, author most recently of the invaluable A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle East, points out that, as far as Obama’s foreign (and war) policy, it’s almost as if, when the American president speaks, no one in the Greater Middle East -- not even our closest allies or client states -- is listening. And true as it may be for that region, it seems, bizarrely enough, no less true in Washington where the president’s recent attempts to intervene in the Syrian civil war were rejected both by Congress (though without a final vote on the subject) and by the American people via opinion polls.
It should be puzzling just how little power the present executive is actually capable of wielding. He can go to the U.N. or Kansas City and make speeches (that themselves often enough implicitly cast him as a kind of interested observer of his own presidency), but nothing much that he says in Washington seems any longer to be seriously attended to. In the foreign policy arena, he is surrounded by a secretary of defense who ducks for cover, a secretary of state who wanders the world blowing off steam, and a national security advisor and U.N. ambassador who seem like blundering neophytes and whose basic ideological stance (in favor of American -- aka “humanitarian” -- interventions globally) has been rejected in this country by almost any constituency imaginable. Unlike previous presidents, he evidently has no one -- no Brent Scowcroft, Jim Baker, or even Henry Kissinger -- capable of working the corridors of power skillfully or bringing a policy home.
Domestically, who ever heard of a presidency already into its second term that, according to just about all observers, has only one significant achievement -- Obamacare (whatever you think of it) -- and clearly hasn’t a hope in hell of getting a second one? Just as he’s done in Syria, Obama will now be watching relatively helplessly as Republicans in Congress threaten to shut the government down and not raise the debt ceiling -- and whatever happens, who expects him to be the key player in that onrushing spectacle? America’s waning power in the Greater Middle East is more than matched by Obama’s waned power in this country. In our lifetime, we’ve never seen a president -- not even the impeached Clinton -- so drained of power or influence. It’s a puzzle wrapped in an enigma swaddled by a pretzel. Go figure. Tom
A World in Which No One Is Listening to the Planet’s Sole Superpower
The Greater Middle East’s Greatest Rebuff to Uncle Sam
By Dilip Hiro
What if the sole superpower on the planet makes its will known -- repeatedly -- and finds that no one is listening? Barely a decade ago, that would have seemed like a conundrum from some fantasy Earth in an alternate dimension. Now, it is increasingly a plain description of political life on our globe, especially in the Greater Middle East.
counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the Syrian chemical weapons crisis will be viewed as a watershed moment when it comes to America’s waning power in that region. In the aptly named “arc of instability,” the lands from the Chinese border to northern Africa that President George W. Bush and his neocon acolytes dreamed of thoroughly pacifying, turmoil is on the rise. Ever fewer countries, allies, or enemies, are paying attention, much less kowtowing, to the once-formidable power of the world’s last superpower. The list of defiant figures -- from Egyptian generals to Saudi princes, Iraqi Shiite leaders to Israeli politicians -- is lengthening.
The signs of this loss of clout have been legion in recent years. In August 2011, for instance, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ignored Obama’s unambiguous call for him “to step aside.” Nothing happened even after an unnamed senior administration official insisted, “We are certain Assad is on the way out.” As the saying goes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
politician Washington installed in office, on the corruption and administrative ineptitude of his government. It was coupled with a warning that, if he failed to act, a cut in U.S. aid would follow. Instead, the next month the Obama administration gave him the red carpet treatment on a visit to Washington with scarcely a whisper about the graft and ill-governance that continues to this day.
In May 2009, during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama demanded a halt to the expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in occupied East Jerusalem. In the tussle that followed, the sole superpower lost out and settlement expansion continued.
These are among the many examples of America’s slumping authority in the Greater Middle East, a process well underway even before Obama entered the Oval Office in January 2009. It had, for years, been increasingly apparent that Washington’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with several lesser campaigns in the Global War on Terror, were doomed. In his inaugural address, Obama swore that the United States was now “ready to lead the world.” It was a prediction that would be proven disastrously wrong in the Greater Middle East.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Overpopulation: Why ingenuity alone won't save us. The first of a new set of Four Questions ((think Passover haggadah): How many people can their land really hold?
Passover commences on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan and lasts for either seven days (in Israel) or eight days (in the diaspora). Nisan typically falls in March or April of the Gregorian calendar. Passover is a spring festival, so the 15th day of Nisan begins on the night of a full moon after the northern vernal equinox. To ensure that Passover did not start before spring, the tradition in ancient Israel held that the first day of Nisan would not start until the barley was ripe, being the test for the onset of spring. In Exodus Chapter 12 שְׁמוֹת verse 12 reads: "For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD."Posted at: Sunday, September 29, 2013 - 06:00 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
I met a traveller from an antique land
"Ozymandias", a sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley, published in the 11 January 1818 issue of The Examiner ("A Sunday paper, on politics, domestic economy, and theatricals") in London.
Intro: In his earlier book, The World Without Us (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007), Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: He asks us to envision our Earth, without us. Look anywhere and you can see the mark humanity has left on the planet. From the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China, to more modern structures like the CN tower or the Sydney Opera House, the Earth is covered in monuments to civilization. But how permanent is the landscape we've created? If all the humans were to suddenly leave, would visiting archaeologists from other planets in the future find any evidence of our existence? That's the question posed by Alan Weisman in his book, The World Without Us. Alan Weisman travelled the world speaking with engineers and scientists about how long our cities would last if humans didn't maintain them. He discovered that our mark isn't as permanent as we might think, which, he says, is actually good news. And if we want to avoid the eventual collapse of human society, the tools are available to reverse our current environmental crisis.
... As ever more of us expel carbon, our overloaded atmosphere overheats the planet. Grains have temperature thresholds; for every 1º C of warming, the National Academy of Science reports, harvests drop 10%. With our world now headed beyond a 2º C increase at present emission rates, population will be up, food production down, irrigation water scarcer — and coastal dikes may have to protect much of the world's rice production from encroaching sea water. All in all, an expensive scenario. Rosy predictions that northern Canada and Siberia will be breadbaskets in a warmer world neglect that their conifer-covered, acidic soils will take millenniums to adapt to the needs of crops. ...- Alan Wiseman, "Overpopulation: Why ingenuity alone won't save us", Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2013
Item: Countdown: Our Last Best Hope For A Future on Earth? by Alan Wiseman. Published by Little Brown, USA, September 2013 (524 pages)
A new book by the author of The World Without Us . “A riveting read….a major work…rigorous and provoking.” —Booklist (starred review)
With a million more of us every 4½ days on a planet that's not getting any bigger, prospects for a sustainable human future seem ever more in doubt. For this long awaited follow-up book, Alan Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were the probably the most important questions on Earth-and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth's ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth?
The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful. By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative presence, Countdown by Alan Weisman reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance.
About Alan Wiseman
Visit this page for its embedded links.
Alan Weisman is the author of several books, including The World Without Us: An international best-seller translated in 34 languages, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Wenjin Book Prize of the National Library of China. His work has been selected for many anthologies, including Best American Science Writing. An award-winning journalist, his reports have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Discover, Vanity Fair, Wilson Quarterly, Mother Jones, and Orion, and on NPR. A former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, he is a senior radio producer for Homelands Productions. He lives in western Massachusetts.
Related: Overpopulation: Why ingenuity alone won't save us
Alan Wiseman Los Angeles Times USA September 22, 2013
Children at Dadaab receive a supplemental meal in an effort to give them caloric intake they need to grow and survive. Photo: Los Angeles Times. Visit this page for its embedded links.
It's easy to grasp that in a national park, balance must be maintained between predators and prey, lest the ecosystem crash. But when we're talking about our own species, it gets harder. The notion that there are limits to how much humanity this parkland called Earth can bear doesn't sit easy with us.
The "nature" part of human nature includes making more copies of ourselves, to ensure our genetic and cultural survival. As that instinct comes in handy for building mighty nations and dominant religions, we've set about filling the Earth, rarely worrying that it might one day overfill. Even after population quadrupled in the 20th century, placing unprecedented stress on the planet, it's hard for some to accept that there might be too many of us for our own good.
A recent essay in the New York Times by University of Maryland geographer Erle C. Ellis, argued that population growth is actually the mother of invention, that it inspires new technologies to sustain ever more humans and to coax more from the land. And as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his 2009 encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," "On this Earth there is room for everyone … through hard work and creativity."
In 2011, I visited the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which had warned in 1994 that it was "unthinkable to sustain indefinitely a birthrate beyond 2.3 children per couple…. The contrary demographic consequences would be unsustainable to the point of absurdity." Nevertheless, the church still encouraged population growth.
With a billion humans already malnourished, I asked the academy's director where would we get food for nearly 10 billion by midcentury? Clearing more forests for farming would be disastrous. Beset by floods and erosion, China alone has been spending $40 billion to put trees back. And force-feeding crops with chemistry has backfired on us, with nitrogen runoff that fouls rivers, deadens New Jersey-sized chunks of the oceans and emits large quantities of two greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
The answer, I was told, would be through increased yields using new genetically modified crops from the centers of the Green Revolution: the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Texcoco, Mexico, and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.
The Green Revolution's high-yield, genetically selected strains more than doubled grain harvests during the 1960s. It is often cited as having triumphed over dire predictions of famines caused by population growth outpacing food production, which were famously made by economist Thomas Robert Malthus in "An Essay on the Principle of Population" and echoed by his latter-day analogues, Paul and Anne Ehrlich, who wrote "The Population Bomb."
However, when I went to the maize center in Texcoco and to the rice institute in the Philippines, I found no food scientists who agreed with that triumphalist scenario. Instead, I learned, Green Revolution founder Norman Borlaug had warned in his 1970 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that his work essentially had only bought the world time to resolve overpopulation.
"There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort," Borlaug said.
So what are we facing now? ...
Audio: September 28: Countdown - Are There Too Many People on the Planet?
"Quirks & Quarks" CBC Radio One Canada September 28, 2013
Our planet is not getting any bigger, and we're not making any more land. But we are adding a million more people every 4-and-a-half days. So how many people can the Earth reasonably hold, with proper food, housing and energy for each of us? And is there an acceptable, non-violent way to convince the world to limit our population growth? Or even reverse it? Award-winning science writer Alan Weisman poses these difficult and controversial questions in his new book, Countdown.
Plus - we'll have an on-the-scene report from Stockholm from one of the Canadian co-authors of the new IPCC climate report.
Scroll down this page to the heading "Population Countdown". You can listen to Bob McDonald's interview with Alan Wiseman (19:34) from a pop-up link. The item contains related links also, including a previous interview (September 8, 2007) with Wiseman.
How many people can our planet hold? After all, we aren't making any more land, we're running out of cheap energy and arable soil, we're destroying our oceans and our atmosphere - but we are increasing our numbers at an alarming rate. Every 4-and-a-half days, we add another million humans to the mix. Our planet is literally bursting at the seams. So just what is the optimal human population for the world? How many people can we sustainably feed, clothe and keep warm - without destroying the environment? And if that number is lower than where we are headed, then how do we reverse the population trend - before Nature does it for us? Those are some of the provocative questions posed in Alan Weisman's new book, Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth?
Publisher's page for Countdown
Mr. Weisman previously on Quirks, discussing The World Without Us
Friday, September 27, 2013
The G20 in Toronto: New play by an imprisoned playwright shows Harper government at its worst
This is a moving account of one man's resilience and determination to illuminate a troubling weekend in Canadian history. - Roberta McDonaldPosted at: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 07:02 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
'You Should Have Stayed Home: A G20 Romp'
Roberta McDonald TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada September 27, 2013
Up until two years ago, Tommy Taylor didn't give much thought to activism or demonstrations. He was a model citizen, renting a basement suite with his girlfriend and pursuing a career in the arts.
Then he found himself seized in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. It was a taste of oppression he would never forget.
"Afterwards, people would say 'just be happy you don't live in North Korea or Syria," says Taylor. "Well that's not the bar at which I measure my own country. That's not good enough. We have to do our best.
"The G20 was us at our worst."
Minutes before curtain on the opening night of 'You Should Have Stayed Home: A G20 Romp' (playing at the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver) Taylor, sitting amongst the audience wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word "Freedom," describes this turning point with passion.
The show is an adaptation of an exhaustive Facebook note he penned after arriving home from his imprisonment, "How I Got Arrested and Abused by the G20 in Toronto." Written over the course of two days, it quickly went viral and Taylor realized he needed to elevate awareness about what happened beyond the alarming photos of anarchists torching police cars and smashing windows.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
The past was prologue: War, deceit, imperial folly and the making of the modern Middle East
Suffering is overwhelming Syrian land. There is no place for joy in any corner of the country in the absence of security and stability. I look at the eyes of Syria's children and I don't see any happiness. - Syrian President Bashar Assad, January 6, 2013Posted at: Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 05:47 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
We are now in a state of war in every sense of the word. This war targets Syria using a handful of Syrians and many foreigners. Thus, this is a war of defending the nation. - Syrian President Bashar Assad, January 6, 2013
The feeling that the future of whole states is in doubt is growing across the Middle East – for the first time since Britain and France carved up the remains of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. ‘It is the end of Sykes-Picot,’ I was told repeatedly in Iraq; the reference was to the agreement of 1916 which divided up the spoils between Britain and France and was the basis for later treaties. ... There is virtually no state in the region that hasn’t got some stake in the [Syrian] conflict. - Patrick Cockburn, June 2013
Jim comment: George Santanya taught: “Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.” Shakespeare as usual, was more succinct: ”What’s past is prologue.”
Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson. Published by Doubleday Canada, August 2013, 592 pages. ISBN 978-0-385-53292-1
A thrilling and revelatory narrative of one of the most epic and consequential periods in 20th century history – the Arab Revolt and the secret “great game” to control the Middle East
The Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War One was, in the words of T.E. Lawrence, “a sideshow of a sideshow.” Amidst the slaughter in European trenches, the Western combatants paid scant attention to the Middle Eastern theater. As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power.
Curt Prüfer was an effete academic attached to the German embassy in Cairo, whose clandestine role was to foment Islamic jihad against British rule. Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and committed Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor of Syria. William Yale was the fallen scion of the American aristocracy, who traveled the Ottoman Empire on behalf of Standard Oil, dissembling to the Turks in order gain valuable oil concessions. At the center of it all was Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist excavating ruins in the sands of Syria; by 1917 he was the most romantic figure of World War One, battling both the enemy and his own government to bring about the vision he had for the Arab people.
The intertwined paths of these four men – the schemes they put in place, the battles they fought, the betrayals they endured and committed – mirror the grandeur, intrigue and tragedy of the war in the desert. Prüfer became Germany’s grand spymaster in the Middle East. Aaronsohn constructed an elaborate Jewish spy-ring in Palestine, only to have the anti-Semitic and bureaucratically-inept British first ignore and then misuse his organization, at tragic personal cost. Yale would become the only American intelligence agent in the entire Middle East – while still secretly on the payroll of Standard Oil. And the enigmatic Lawrence rode into legend at the head of an Arab army, even as he waged secret war against his own nation’s imperial ambitions.
Based on years of intensive primary document research, Lawrence in Arabia definitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed. Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present.
In his review of Anderson's book, war correspondent and documentary film maker Sebastian Junger wrote in part: "Lawrence of Arabia is said to have reinvented warfare, and Scott Anderson has now reinvented Lawrence. By placing him alongside the other adventurers and spies who roamed the Arabian war theater, Anderson brilliantly illuminates how the modern Middle East came to be."
Audio: Lawrence of Arabia: Lasting legacies of the First World War
"The Current" CBC Radio One Canada September 26, 2013
Visit this page for its appended and embedded links. You can listen to the interview with Scott Anderson (24:00) from a pop-up link on this page.
Actor Peter O'Toole brought Lawrence of Arabia to life and war correspondent Scott Anderson is bringing him back, researching the war, deceit and folly that shaped what we now know as the modern Middle East. If the politics of Syria upsets you, if Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia perplex you, there are modern answers in the century-old stories.
How the world is dealing with the consequences of foreign meddling in the Middle East that took place during the First World War.
"Prince Feisal: The English have a great hunger for desolate places, I fear they hunger for Arabia.
That was Hollywood's take on a meeting between T.E. Lawrence and Prince Faisal Ibn Hussein from the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.
What happened in the Middle East during those bloody years of the First World War detonated turmoil that continues to play out in Syria, Gaza, Egypt and Jerusalem.
Scott Anderson is a veteran war correspondent and he looks back at that dramatic and fateful time, in his new book Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
Scott Anderson was in Toronto.
Related: Is it the end of Sykes-Picot?
Patrick Cockburn London Review of Books UK Vol. 35 No. 11 · 6 June 2013 pages 3-5 | 3170 words
Cockburn's analysis is dated May 23, 2013. You can link to a podcast on this subject (12:16) from this page.
For the first two years of the Syrian civil war foreign leaders regularly predicted that Bashar al-Assad’s government would fall any day. In November 2011, King Abdullah of Jordan said that the chances of Assad’s surviving were so slim he ought to step down. In December last year, Anders Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general, said: ‘I think the regime in Damascus is approaching collapse.’ Even the Russian Foreign Ministry – which generally defends Assad – has at times made similar claims. Some of these statements were designed to demoralise Assad’s supporters by making his overthrow seem inevitable. But in many cases outsiders genuinely believed that the end was just round the corner. The rebels kept claiming successes, and the claims were undiscriminatingly accepted.
That Assad’s government is on its last legs has always been something of a myth. YouTube videos of victorious rebel fighters capturing military outposts and seizing government munitions distract attention from the fact that the war is entering its third year and the insurgents have succeeded in capturing just one of the 14 provincial capitals. (In Libya the insurgents held Benghazi and the whole of the east as well as Misrata and smaller towns in the west from the beginning of the revolt.) The Syrian rebels were never as strong militarily as the outside world supposes. But they have always been way ahead of the government in their access to the international media. Whatever the uprising has since become it began in March 2011 as a mass revolt against a cruel and corrupt police state. The regime at first refused to say much in response, then sounded aggrieved and befuddled as it saw the vacuum it had created being filled with information put out by its enemies. Defecting Syrian soldiers were on television denouncing their former masters while government units that had stayed loyal remained unreported and invisible. And so it has largely continued. The ubiquitous YouTube videos of minor, and in some cases illusory, victories by the rebels are put about in large part to persuade the world that, given more money and arms, they can quickly win a decisive victory and end the war.
There is a striking divergence between the way the Syrian war is seen in Beirut – just a few hours’ drive from Damascus, even now – and what actually appears to be happening on the ground inside Syria. On recent trips I would drive to Damascus, having listened to Syrians and non-Syrians in Beirut who sincerely believed that rebel victory was close, only to find the government still very much in control. Around the capital, the rebels held some suburbs and nearby towns, but in December I was able to travel the ninety miles between Damascus and Homs, Syria’s third largest city, without any guards and with ordinary heavy traffic on the road. Friends back in Beirut would shake their heads in disbelief when I spoke about this and politely suggest that I’d been hoodwinked by the regime.
Some of the difficulties in reporting the war in Syria aren’t new. Television has a great appetite for the drama of war, for pictures of missiles exploding over Middle Eastern cities amid the sparkle of anti-aircraft fire. Print journalism can’t compete with these images, but they are rarely typical of what is happening. Despite the iconic images Baghdad wasn’t, in fact, heavily bombarded in either 1991 or 2003. The problem is much worse in Syria than it used to be in Iraq or Afghanistan (in 2001) because the most arresting pictures out of Syria appear first on YouTube and are, for the most part, provided by political activists. They are then run on TV news with health warnings to the effect that the station can’t vouch for their veracity, but viewers assume that the station wouldn’t be running the film if it didn’t believe it was real. Actual eyewitnesses are becoming hard to find, since even people living a few streets from the fighting in Damascus now get most of their information from the internet or TV.
Not all YouTube evidence is suspect. Though easily fabricated, it performs certain tasks well. It can show that atrocities have taken place, and even authenticate them: in the case of a pro-government militia massacring rebel villagers, for instance, or rebel commanders mutilating and executing government soldiers. Without a video of him doing so, who would have believed that a rebel commander had cut open a dead government soldier and eaten his heart? Pictures of physical destruction are less reliable because they focus on the worst damage, giving the impression – which may or may not be true – that a whole district is in ruins. What YouTube can’t tell you is who is winning the war.
The reality is that no one is. Over the last year a military stalemate has prevailed, with each side launching offensives in the areas where they are strongest. Both sides have had definite but limited successes. In recent weeks government forces have opened up the road that leads west from Homs to the Mediterranean coast and the road from Damascus south to the Jordanian border. They have expanded the territory they hold around the capital and trained a militia of sixty thousand, the National Defence Force, to guard positions once held by the Syrian army. This strategy of retrenchment and consolidation isn’t new. About six months ago the army stopped trying to keep control of outlying positions and focused instead on defending the main population centres and the routes linking them. These pre-planned withdrawals took place at the same time as real losses on the battlefield, and were misinterpreted outside Syria as a sign that the regime was imploding. The strategy was indeed a sign of military weakness, but by concentrating its forces in certain areas the government was able to launch counterattacks at vital points. Assad isn’t going to win a total victory, but the opposition isn’t anywhere close to overthrowing him either. This is worth stressing because Western politicians and journalists so frequently take it for granted that the regime is entering its last days. A justification for the British and French argument that the EU embargo on arms deliveries to the rebels should be lifted – a plan first mooted in March but strongly opposed by other EU members – is that these extra weapons will finally tip the balance decisively against Assad. The evidence from Syria itself is that more weapons will simply mean more dead and wounded.
The protracted conflict that is now underway in Syria has more in common with the civil wars in Lebanon and Iraq than with the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya or the even swifter regime changes in Egypt and Tunisia at the start of the Arab Spring. The civil war in Lebanon lasted 15 years, from 1975 to 1990, and the sectarian divisions which caused it are as marked as ever. In Iraq, 2006 and 2007 are usually described as being the worst years of the slaughter – three thousand people murdered every month – but sectarian killings began immediately after the US invasion in 2003 and haven’t stopped since. ...
Monday, September 23, 2013
"The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan": Confronting the noble aims and aching failures of the Western Axis engagement in Afghanistan
All Canadian troops to be home from Afghanistan by MarchPosted at: Monday, September 23, 2013 - 02:10 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
David Pugliese Ottawa Citizen Ontario Canada September 4, 2013
Major-General Dean Milner. Photo: Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Canada will begin pulling out troops from Afghanistan starting in October, with the last soldiers leaving that country in March.
Canadian Major-General Dean Milner said Wednesday that the plans for the withdrawal have now been completed.
There are just under 800 Canadian troops left in Afghanistan, conducting training of Afghan security forces, he noted. The first phase of the withdrawal will take place in October when that number will drop to around 650 soldiers, Milner said in a telephone conference with journalists.
By Christmas the number will drop to around 375 and by January there will be fewer than 100 Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. All Canadian Forces personnel will be home by March, he added.
The Canadian military has been involved in Afghanistan since late 2001. One hundred and fifty-eight Canadian Forces personnel have died and more than 1,800 were injured.
The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan by Graeme Smith. Published by Knopf Canada, September 2013, 320 pages, ISBN 9780307397805
For readers of War by Sebastian Junger, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch, and The Forever War by Dexter Filkins: The Dogs Are Eating Them Now is a raw, uncensored account of the war in Afghanistan from a brilliant young reporter who for several years was the only Western journalist brave enough to live full-time in the dangerous southern region.
The Dogs are Eating Them Now is a highly personal narrative of our war in Afghanistan and how it went dangerously wrong. Written by a respected and fearless former foreign correspondent who has won multiple awards for his journalism (including an Emmy for the video series "Talking with the Taliban") this is a gripping account of modern warfare that takes you into back alleys, cockpits and prisons—telling stories that would have endangered his life had he published this book while still working as a journalist.
From the corruption of law enforcement agents and the tribal nature of the local power structure to the economics of the drug trade and the frequent blunders of foreign troops, this is the no-holds-barred story from a leading expert on the insurgency. Smith draws on his unmatched compassion and a rare ability to cut through the noise and see the broader truths to give us a bold and candid look at the Taliban's continued influence—and at the mistakes, catastrophes and ultimate failure of the West's best intentions.
“Graeme Smith eschews the ‘official version’ of the war in Afghanistan and instead shows us life on the ground for the soldiers, insurgents, politicians, warlords, and—most importantly—the civilians caught between all sides.” — Louise Arbour, president of the International Crisis Group, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
“Very few foreign journalists have lived and told the story of southern Afghanistan like Graeme Smith. This is reportage that is both brilliant and brave, written in the dust and danger of a country that fades from global view. From the very first line of this book, you understand how much he cares about Afghanistan, and wants all of us to do the same. Written with great authority and affection, this book confronts the noble aims and aching failures of international engagement. It offers us a searing critique and a sober assessment of the world’s ability to do good in difficult places. Graeme admits his heart was broken by a war that drew in all of us. His book may break your heart too.” — Lyse Doucet, BBC Chief International Correspondent
Audio: Graeme Smith on how the war in southern Afghanistan broke his heart
"The Current" CBC Radio One Canada September 23, 2013
He was a war correspondent who wanted to know more about the people our troops were fighting in Afghanistan so Graeme Smith went to great lengths and into great danger to start talking to the Taliban. He tells us what he thinks went right and wrong. You can listen to the interview (41:45) from a pop-up link on this page.
Graeme Smith in Kandhar in 2005. Visit this page for its embedded links and slideshow of some images Smith captured during his time in southern Afghanistan.
"He turned to the driver and said, you can tell the foreigner. He said, you know, we would never kill you. We might kidnap and sell you, but we would never kill you. He laughed and the driver laughed and I tried to laugh." - Graeme Smith, Foreign Correspondent
The Canadian military has been breathing the dust in Afghanistan since 2001... first with special forces JTF2, then with combat troops and later as trainers for Afghan police and soldiers... the groups that will soon take responsibility for Afghan security.
As Canada prepares for the final withdrawal of its troops next month, we're joined by a Canadian journalist who's closely watched Afghanistan's progress and destruction.
Graeme Smith is a senior analyst in Afghanistan for the International Crisis Group --- a non-profit, non-governmental organization. For years he was a Globe and Mail foreign correspondent, winning three National Newspaper Awards for his war coverage and taking home an Emmy for his video interviews with Taliban fighters.
Last March, Graeme Smith hosted a special edition of "The Current" from Kabul. He brought us insights into the lives of typical Afghans and spoke about their hopes -- and worries.
Graeme Smith is still living in Kabul, but was in Toronto to talk about his new book, The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan. It chronicles his experiences as a correspondent for The Globe & Mail in the country's south. It has been shortlisted for this year's Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which will be awarded next month.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Books reviewed: Two paths to occultism during the Enlightenment era
Alchemy, astrology, Egyptian magic. The occult was more than pseudoscience during the Enlightenment. It promised self-transcendence.Posted at: Sunday, July 28, 2013 - 11:56 AM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Book World: Two paths to occultism during the Enlightenment era
Michael Dirda Washington Post USA July 17, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
The psychologist C.G. Jung — who was deeply interested in alchemy and astrology — might label the simultaneous appearance of these two similar-sounding books as an instance of what he called “synchronicity.” In truth, though, John V. Fleming’s The Dark Side of the Enlightenment and Paul Kleber Monod’s Solomon’s Secret Arts: The Occult in the Age of Enlightenment are surprisingly different, even though they both survey what we usually, and rashly, dismiss as pseudoscience from the mid-17th to the early 19th century. ...
Throughout, Fleming consistently views the occult — i.e., the “hidden” — in spiritual terms. One early chapter, for instance, discusses “enthusiasm,” the emotional, impulsive side of religion that we associate with snake handlers and Holy Rollers. In “The Convulsionists” chapter, he interlaces accounts of miracles attributed to a saintly Francois de Paris with a precis of the antagonisms between the worldly Jesuits and the more austerely devout Jansenists. Speaking of a Bishop Massillon’s alarming sermon “On the Smallness of the Number of Those to Be Saved,” he writes:
“Massillon was no Jansenist, but it would be hard to distinguish his view of a Heaven with a population density roughly that of the Gobi Desert from the views of Augustine at his gloomiest.”
That’s neatly phrased, but sometimes Fleming comes across as offhand and flippant. When discussing magic, cabala, astrology and other recondite “sciences,” he tends to paraphrase and seldom conveys a sense of actual historical practice. Still, in a chapter on alchemy, he forcefully underscores that “the project of purification, amelioration, and transformation externally manifested at the forge betokened an inner transformation of the alchemist’s spirit.” In effect, the turning of base metal into gold (the technical term is spagyria) or the search for an elixir of life is secondary to true alchemy; what matters is self-exploration and self-transcendence. Just so, the Freemasons and Rosicrucians — whatever the actual origins of these secret societies — were initially churchlike sodalities devoted to the spiritual advancement of their members.
As Fleming reiterates about this period, “The mainstream of European thought was not materialist but sacramental. In the sacramental view, the material and visible world paralleled another that was immaterial and invisible.” Science, magic, religion — they are all attempts to understand what is hidden from us, and sometimes the three blur together. Isaac Newton, as is well known, left hundreds of pages of notes on alchemy and astrology. Benjamin Franklin was a member of an elite Freemason Lodge called “The Nine Sisters.”
If Fleming’s book, despite much interesting material, feels slightly rambling and inconclusive, Monod’s impresses by its scholarly detail. This is a serious yet lively work, chockablock with facts, anecdotes and original research. Its focus, however, is restricted to Britain and, as such, is both an extension of, and correction to, Keith Thomas’s classic Religion and the Decline of Magic. Monod doesn’t focus on folk practices or beliefs, however; instead, he studies written texts and how they were used.
Moreover, he early on makes clear a point similar to Fleming’s controlling theme: “The basic premise of occult knowledge is that a search for hidden causes in nature may lead towards something higher than nature: absolute wisdom, supernatural power or the divine.” Naturally such an ambition can readily verge on the heterodox, not to say the diabolical, given its echo of the serpent’s insidious promise, “You shall be as gods.” ...