Saturday, September 15, 2018

Book review: Andersen-Damle book helps RSS perpetuate convenient myths // Shridhar Damle: Modi Gave Idea For RSS Book; Promotions Deliberately Focused On White-Skinned Andersen

Instead of offering objective analysis, Andersen-Damle book helps RSS perpetuate myths 
By Dhirendra K Jha

Every organisation needs a little make-believe sometimes, but the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, it would appear, simply cannot do without it. With its contentious past and dubious present, the RSS has always found it difficult to capture the imagination of India’s Hindu majority. Which is perhaps why it has found it necessary to create and perpetuate myths in its quest for legitimacy. One would expect research by serious scholars to explode such myths. But the book under review, The RSS: A View to the Inside, by Walter K Andersen and Shridhar D Damle, disappoints on this score. This should, however, not be such a surprise for those familiar with the 1987 book by the same authors, The Brotherhood In Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh And Hindu Revivalism. In fact, one could go so far as to say that for the RSS, the new book is as important a milestone in its elaborate public relations campaign and outreach programme as the earlier one was.

This raises a question: Have the authors played into the hands of the RSS? Although Andersen and Damle purport to offer readers a solid analysis of the RSS’s growth and expansion during the last three decades, their new book falls short of exploring several aspects of the episodes it has based its conclusions on. Far from questioning the organisation’s many problematic assertions and examining them threadbare, the authors actually present them as conclusions arrived at after thorough research and objective analysis. In many cases, they provide no source for their material, or use dubious sources.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Oxford University's Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme comments on Venkat Dhulipala

I will open this comment with an anecdote. Some months ago, whilst exercising in the gym I visit, the senior trainer was talking politics with someone. He is a friendly individual and I normally do not converse whilst exercising. He happens to be an admirer of Narendra Modi. On this occasion, Modi was in election mode and the communal signalling quite blatant. I felt compelled to interject and say that it was unacceptable for the PM to spread hatred amongst Indians. He paused a bit and then (with a hint of shame) said, “Yeh toh politics hee hai sir.’ (‘But this is only politics, sir’).

Oxford University's Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme (CSASP) has circulated  a comment on Venkat Dhulipala's attendance at a seminar in Chicago organised by the World Hindu Congress; which to the best of my knowledge is an RSS front. The comment has been endorsed by others; and seeks to re-circulate Faisal Devji's review of Dhulipala's book Creating a New Medina (2014). The innuendo is that Dhulipala's attendance at the seminar proves his sympathy with Hindutva ideology; and underlines the correctness of Devji's criticism in that review. 



In 2014, I spoke at a seminar on fascism organised by the Jamaat-i-Islami Hind at their campus in Abul Fazal Enclave in Delhi. In my view, the Jamaat represents an important strand in Islamo-fascist ideology. In March 2013 it joined mass demonstrations in Kolkata in support of the Bangladeshi war crimes accused, who were members of its Bangladeshi counterpart. Vicious statements were made against Sheikh Hasina. It has organised hateful demonstrations against Taslima Nasrin , curtailed her right to speak at public events; and hosted homophobic seminars. To my mind, its ideals and activities are as reprehensible as those of the RSS. Nonetheless, if the Jamaat invites me to speak my views, I will do so. In 1988 the ABVP (another RSS front) invited me to speak on the Tamas serial. I asked them to invite my friend Purushottam Agrawal instead, which they did - here's a report on the repercussions of that seminar.

My attendance at meetings organised by the Jamaat or the RSS - or various left-wing bodies, for that matter -  does not make me an ideologue or sympathiser of either. It is the content of the ideas expressed by me in writing or verbally, that should be the criterion of judgement. Dhulipala's scholarship has been praised and endorsed by intellectuals such as Sumit Sarkar and Ashis Nandy; not to mention several other scholars - do they too, in the view of the CSASP, qualify as apologists for the RSS world view?

Betwa Sharma - 90-Year-Old Won't Give Up Until Yogi Adityanath Faces Trial For The 2007 Communal Violence In Gorakhpur

"The law is above all else," said Rashid Khan who, on Tuesday, finally saw some progress in his nearly decade-long battle to hold Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath accountable for the communal violence that hit Gorakhpur in 2007.  After nearly ten years, the Supreme Court directed 
the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Gorakhpur to pass the appropriate order with respect to Khan's complaint accusing Adityanath of giving a provocative speech that led to a Hindu mob attacking the Sayid Mir Hassan Qadri dargah on January 27, 2007.

Khan, who was then the caretaker of the dargah, is now 90 years old and partially paralysed. Adityanath is a five-time Member of Parliament (MP) for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Gorakhpur. The partial paralysis and a recent fracture made it hard for Khan to speak with HuffPost India for long, but he framed short sentences over the phone. "I'm doing this for my religion, I'm doing this for the Koran which was burnt, and I'm doing this because every person should be equal before the law. If someone does something wrong then he should be held accountable no matter how powerful," he said.

Recalling the terrifying events of January 2007, Khan said that he watched rioters loot and burn the dargah which he had guarded since he was 12 years old. "I was hiding behind a very old peepal tree inside the dargah. They burnt the Koran, they burnt the sheets inside the dargah...," he said.
In 2007, an FIR was registered against several persons including Adityanath on charges of rioting, trespassing on burial places, defiling a place of worship and promoting enmity between groups. After the Uttar Pradesh police said they had sanction from the government to prosecute under Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code for promoting enmity between groups, one of the accused convinced a revisional court that there was a problem with a signature on the order. The Allahabad High Court did not set aside the order of the revisional court. Khan then challenged the Allahabad High Court's order in the Supreme Court. Reacting to the Supreme Court order, Khan said, "I will not give up on this until I am alive."


In a separate case related to the 2007 communal violence, the Supreme Court has directed the Adityanath government to explain why the chief minister should not be prosecuted for allegedly inciting communal violence in Gorakhpur. In May 2017, shortly after the BJP swept to power in UP, the Adityanath government refused to grant sanction to prosecute five BJP leaders including Adityanath on charges of inciting communal violence in 2007. Earlier this year, it also began the process of withdrawing cases in connection with the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. In 2013, while appearing in the popular television programme Aap Ki Adalat, Adityanath admitted 
making a  provocative speech in 2007. On Adityanath becoming chief minister, Khan said, "He has become powerful and he can hurt us if he wants to, but I'm not afraid.
https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/09/12/this-90-year-old-wont-give-up-until-yogi-adityanath-faces-trial-for-the-2007-communal-violence-in-gorakhpur_a_23524721/?utm_hp_ref=in-homepage

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Jackson Lears: Aquarius Rising

Revisiting the Sixties leads to a sobering conclusion: everything has changed, and nothing has changed.
Certain years acquire an almost numinous quality in collective memory - 1789, 1861, 1914. One of the more recent additions to the list is 1968. Its fiftieth anniversary has brought a flood of attempts to recapture it - local, national, and transnational histories, anthologies, memoirs, even performance art and musical theater. Immersion in this literature soon produces a feeling of déjà vu, particularly if one was politically conscious at the time (as I was).

Up to a point, repetition is inevitable. Certain public figures and events are inescapable: the tormented Lyndon Johnson, enmeshed in an unpopular, unwinnable war and choosing to withdraw from the presidential stage; the antiwar candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy; the intensifying moral challenges posed by Martin Luther King; the assassinations of King and Kennedy; the racially charged violence in most major cities; the police riot against antiwar protesters (and anyone else who got in their way) at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; the emergence of right-wing candidates - George Wallace, Richard Nixon - appealing to a “silent majority” whose silence was somehow construed as civic virtue. And the anticlimactic election: the narrow defeat of Hubert Humphrey by Nixon, who promised to “bring us together” without specifying how.
What togetherness turned out to mean was an excruciating prolongation of the war in Vietnam, accompanied by an accelerating animosity toward dissent. The effort to satisfy the silent majority by exorcising the demons of 1968 would eventually lead to the resurgence of an interventionist military policy, the dismantling of what passed for a welfare state, and the prosecution of a “war on drugs” that would imprison more Americans than had ever been behind bars before.

Revisiting this story is important and necessary. But difficulties arise when one tries to identify who those demons actually were. The conventional accounts of radical protest all feature the usual suspects: Tom Hayden, Mark Rudd, Abbie Hoffman, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Black Panthers, the Maoists, the Yippies, the devotees of Che. According to this narrative, nearly all the white protesters are privileged draft dodgers from a northern tier of universities that stretched from Cambridge and New York through Ann Arbor and Madison to Berkeley. As hopes for electing an antiwar president fade, they descend into pseudo-Marxist posturing and self-destructive fantasies of violent revolution. A few hapless Weathermen, sectarian spinoffs from the SDS, provide a coda to this story by blowing themselves up in a Greenwich Village townhouse in 1970.

This account provides a comforting balm for supporters of status quo politics, but it misses the larger meanings of radical protest—its pervasiveness, its heterogeneity, above all its religious roots and significance. The religious dimension of American radicalism was what separated it from the student uprisings in Paris and other European cities during the spring of 1968. American radicals lacked the anticlerical animus of Europeans; priests, rabbis, and ministers enlisted in the front ranks of the civil rights and antiwar movements. King’s decision to bear witness against the war was central to legitimating resistance to it, while provoking government counterattacks as well as denunciations from both liberals and conservatives.

“Religion” may be too solemn a word for many 1960s radicals, but it helps to capture the depth of their motives: above all their longing for a more direct, authentic experience of the world than the one on offer in midcentury American society. What made radicals mad, what drove their deepest animus against the war, was their sense that it was a product of the same corporate technostructure—as John Kenneth Galbraith called it in The New Industrial State (1967)—that reduced everyday life to a hamster cage of earning and spending. The tribunes of the technostructure were men like Robert McNamara, who shuttled from the Ford Motor Company to the Defense Department to the World Bank, and who seemed to know everything about managerial techniques but nothing about their ultimate purpose, if indeed there was one. Elite managers were the high priests of an orthodoxy with a blankness, a vacancy, at its center... read more:




Monday, September 10, 2018

PRESS RELEASE - Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti - September 10, 2018


PRESS RELEASE

Subject: Life of Pandits of living in Kashmir Valley is put on risk to divert attention from Article 35-A and Article 370

Right now State of Jammu and Kashmir is facing political instability and amid this political chaos the news item telecasted by National Media about the so called threat to the Kashmiri Pandits living in Kashmir Valley is aimed to increase the trust deficit among the population living in the Valley.

KPSS strongly believe that the religious minuscule minority (Kashmiri Pandit) who so ever is living in Kashmir Valley is living of his own and the kind of relationship maintained within their respective neighborhood. It seems that the news item about life threat to the religious minuscule minority (Kashmiri Pandit) in Kashmir Valley is a hoax pre-planned conspiracy and is aimed to sacrifice the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir Valley to gain some vested interest political mileage and to distract people’s attention from the issues related to Article 35-A and Article 370. It also seems that by sacrificing the religious minuscule minority (Kashmiri Pandit) in Kashmir Valley, the vested interest agencies who are planning to do this heinous crime, want to justify the removal of Constitutional Articles, which give special status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, before the world bodies.


Since the news items was flashed in the National Media, at some places in Kashmir Vallley, some un-scuplous elements who belongs to the local Majority Community are creating communal tension and are causing harrasment and threat to the local Kashmiri Pandit population while these elements openly telling the people that if these Kashmiri Pandits would not had continued to live in the Valley, the Security Forces would not had come during the night hours to disturb the Majority Community living in the area. Now, the onus also lie on the local Majority Community who always claim tall to say that the Kashmiri Pandits should return to their native places but on the contrary are unable to stop these un-scruplous elements with vested interests who want to permanantly damage and dislodge the Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley.

The religious miniscule minority (Kashmiri Pandits) have full faith in the masses and more particularly on their respective neighborhood, who always stand at the hour of need and will not allow past mistakes to happen again which can permanently damage the social fabric of Kashmir Valley. We believe in unity against those trying to destroy our existence in Kashmir Valley.

It is impressed upon all the Kashmiri Pandit residents living in Kashmir Valley to remain cautious and if they see or feel anything untoward in their respect areas of residence, they should beat their roof tops to inform their immediate neighborhood about the security issue. Also we request the majority Community to attend the call of distress after hearing the noise created by beating of roof tops by their immediate Kashmiri Pandit neighbor.

Sanjay K .Tickoo
President (KPSS)
9906564741

Mansoor Anwar on Comrade Abdul Sattar Ranjoor (1917-1990)



Sunday, September 9, 2018

Karl Marx: Letter to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America; 1865

Address of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America Presented to U.S. Ambassador Charles Adams January 28, 1865

The workingmen of Europe... consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world. 

Sir:
We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery. From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?

When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, "slavery" on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding "the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution", and maintained slavery to be "a beneficent institution", indeed, the old solution of the great problem of "the relation of capital to labor", and cynically proclaimed property in man "the cornerstone of the new edifice" — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.

While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world. 

Signed on behalf of the International Workingmen's Association, the Central Council:
Longmaid, Worley, Whitlock, Fox, Blackmore, Hartwell, Pidgeon, Lucraft, Weston, Dell, Nieass, Shaw, Lake, Buckley, Osbourne, Howell, Carter, Wheeler, Stainsby, Morgan, Grossmith, Dick, Denoual, Jourdain, Morrissot, Leroux, Bordage, Bocquet, Talandier, Dupont, L.Wolff, Aldovrandi, Lama, Solustri, Nusperli, Eccarius, Wolff, Lessner, Pfander, Lochner, Kaub, Bolleter, Rybczinski, Hansen, Schantzenbach, Smales, Cornelius, Petersen, Otto, Bagnagatti, Setacci; George Odger, President of the Council; P.V. Lubez, Corresponding Secretary for France; Karl Marx, Corresponding Secretary for Germany; G.P. Fontana, Corresponding Secretary for Italy; J.E. Holtorp, Corresponding Secretary for Poland; H.F. Jung, Corresponding Secretary for Switzerland; William R. Cremer, Honorary General Secretary.
18 Greek Street, Soho.

Ambassador Adams Replies
Legation of the United States
London, 28th January, 1865

Sir:
I am directed to inform you that the address of the Central Council of your Association, which was duly transmitted through this Legation to the President of the United [States], has been received by him. So far as the sentiments expressed by it are personal, they are accepted by him with a sincere and anxious desire that he may be able to prove himself not unworthy of the confidence which has been recently extended to him by his fellow citizens and by so many of the friends of humanity and progress throughout the world.

The Government of the United States has a clear consciousness that its policy neither is nor could be reactionary, but at the same time it adheres to the course which it adopted at the beginning, of abstaining everywhere from propagandism and unlawful intervention. It strives to do equal and exact justice to all states and to all men and it relies upon the beneficial results of that effort for support at home and for respect and good will throughout the world.

Nations do not exist for themselves alone, but to promote the welfare and happiness of mankind by benevolent intercourse and example. It is in this relation that the United States regard their cause in the present conflict with slavery, maintaining insurgence as the cause of human nature, and they derive new encouragements to persevere from the testimony of the workingmen of Europe that the national attitude is favored with their enlightened approval and earnest sympathies.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant, Charles Francis Adams

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Fahad Chaudhry: Imran govt removes Ahmadi economist from advisory council under pressure from Islamists // Zarrar Khuhro: Atif Mian and the kingdom of clowns

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government has asked Princeton University economist Atif R. Mian to step down from the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Economic Advisory Council (EAC), PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan announced on Friday. The decision follows mounting pressure from religio-political parties against the appointment of Dr Mian, who is an Ahmadi. According to a tweet by Senator Javed, Mian has agreed to give up his position on the council. A replacement will be announced later, he added. Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhary later confirmed the development, saying the government has decided to withdraw the nomination of Dr Mian from the EAC because it wants to avoid division.


"The government wants to move forward alongside scholars and all social groups, and it is inappropriate if a single nomination creates an impression to the contrary," he tweeted. In a second tweet, Chaudhry said the ideal state, according to Prime Minister Khan, is of Madina and that the premier and members of his cabinet hold Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in high esteem. "Khatm-i-Nabuwwat [belief in the finality of the prophethood] is a part of our faith and the recent success achieved by the government in the matter of blasphemous sketches is reflective of the same connection," he wrote.

Fresh surge in arrests of human rights activists in Iran, say advocates

When Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotuoudeh was arrested at her home and hauled away to Evin prison in June, her husband, Reza Khandan, did what he’s always done when his outspoken wife gets into hot water: publicly agitate for her release. Then on Tuesday, he was arrested, too. 

“Someone called me on my mobile and said he’s from the intelligence ministry,” he wrote on his Facebook a day before his arrest. “He said I have to go there tomorrow. I reminded him that within the limits of the law nobody – no agency other than the judiciary – has the right to seek the arrest of individuals. In response to my objection, he said: ‘Then you will be arrested.’”

Iranian authorities are yet to comment on the arrest.


Human rights monitors have detected a fresh surge of political repression targeting lawyers like Ms Sotoudeh and their families. In recent weeks, at least 14 human rights lawyers and other civil society activists have been arrested by Iranian authorities and charged with vague national security offences, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, an advocacy group, and Amnesty International...
read more:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-arrests-nasrin-sotuoudeh-reza-khandan-crackdown-protest-amnesty-international-a8528211.html

Joseph Stiglitz on artificial intelligence: We're going towards a more divided society

It must be hard for Joseph Stiglitz to remain an optimist in the face of the grim future he fears may be coming. The Nobel laureate and former chief economist at the World Bank has thought carefully about how artificial intelligence will affect our lives. On the back of the technology, we could build ourselves a richer society and perhaps enjoy a shorter working week, he says. But there are countless pitfalls to avoid on the way.

The ones Stiglitz has in mind are hardly trivial. He worries about ham-fisted moves that lead to routine exploitation in our daily lives, that leave society more divided than ever and threaten the fundamentals of democracy. “Artificial intelligence and robotisation have the potential to increase the productivity of the economy and, in principle, that could make everybody better off,” he says. “But only if they are well managed.”

On 11 September, the Columbia University professor will be in London to deliver the latest lecture in the Royal Society’s You and AI series. Stiglitz will talk about the future of work, an area where predictions have been frequent, contradictory and unnerving. Last month, the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, warned that “large swathes” of Britain’s workforce face 
unemployment as AI and other technologies automate more jobs. He had less to say about the new positions AI may create. A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers in July argued that AI may create as many jobs as it destroys – perhaps even more. As with the Industrial Revolution, the misery would come not from a lack of work, but the difficulty in switching from one job to another.

A distinction Stiglitz makes is between AI that replaces workers and AI that helps people to do their jobs better. It already helps doctors to work more efficiently. At Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, for example, cancer consultants spend less time than they used to planning radiotherapy for men with prostate cancer, because an AI system called InnerEye automatically marks up the gland on the patients’ scans. The doctors process patients faster, the men start treatment sooner and the radiotherapy is delivered with more precision... read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/sep/08/joseph-stiglitz-on-artificial-intelligence-were-going-towards-a-more-divided-society

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

We Cannot Fight Climate Change With Capitalism, Says Report

As access to cheap, plentiful energy dries up and the effects of climate change take hold, we are entering a new era of profound challenge ― and free market capitalism cannot dig us out. This is the conclusion of a report produced for the United Nations by Bios, an independent research institute based in Finland. Signs of a world in turmoil are not hard to find.

People are increasingly feeling the effects of rapid climate change. Cities boil in more than 120-degree heat, California burns and the Arctic thaws. Meanwhile, biodiversity loss is reaching terrifying levels, with animals going extinct at about 1,000 times the natural rate. In addition, as societies, we’re facing increased inequality, unemployment and soaring personal debt levels.
Faced with these interconnected crises, says the report, our economies are woefully underprepared: “It can be safely said that no widely applicable economic models have been developed specifically for the upcoming era.” The paper, commissioned by the U.N. to feed into its 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report, looks specifically at the next 20 to 30 years as a key transition period during which the world must radically cut emissions and consumption to have a hope of stopping climate change.  Traditional ways of economic thinking have been based on the assumption we will continue to have access to cheap and plentiful sources of energy and materials, says the report, but the “era of cheap energy is coming to an end.”

The thrust of the authors’ argument is that, for the first time, economies are moving to sources of energy that are much less efficient ― meaning more and more effort is needed to get smaller amounts of energy. There are plenty of fossil fuels that can still be pulled from the ground but doing so would shoot through climate commitments and accelerate global warming. In addition, we have used up the planet’s capacity to handle the waste generated through all our material and energy use. 

In other words, we are at an ecological crunch point and we don’t have the economic tools to deal with it. “Trusting that the free market capitalist dynamics will get us there, that of course is not going to happen,” report co-author Paavo Järvensivu, an academic who specializes in economics and culture at Bios, says in a phone call with HuffPost… read more:

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Myanmar: Reuters reporters investigating Rohingya crisis jailed for seven years / 'A blow to press freedom': world reacts to jailing of Reuters journalists

Two Reuters journalists have each been sentenced to seven years in prison after they were found guilty breaching the official secrets act in Myanmar, prompting outcry from the international community.. Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested in December whileinvestigating the killings of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. They have been held in prison in Yangon ever since.
As he was led to a police van in handcuffs, Wa Lone said: “I have no fear. I have not done anything wrong … I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.”

Reuters said the verdict was “a major step backward” for Myanmar. “Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” Reuters editor in chief Stephen Adler said in a statement. Adler called for Myanmar to review the decision urgently.
Defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said the verdict was “bad for our country”. Press freedom advocates, the United Nations, the European Union and countries including the United States, Canada and Australia had called for the men to be acquitted. Knut Ostby, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, said the UN was “disappointed by today’s court decision.” "Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should be allowed to return to their families and continue their work as journalists,” he said.

Rachel A. Bortnick: Spain's Golden Age and La Convivencia


Spain's Golden Age and La Convivencia are a milieu in Spanish history when Jews, Muslims and Christians had a tacit truce with each other and the arts and architecture flourished. A Sephardic Jew raised in the multicultural Izmir, Turkey, Rachel Amado Bortnick discusses this fascinating era.

Please see the list of previous issues of Ektara here. http://ektara.org/magazine/list.html 

In surveillance valley

‘Everything that we’ve been sold about the democratic nature of the internet has always been a marketing pitch.’ Yasha Levine on the military origins of the internet, on data modelling and technocratic government, and why the Cambridge Analytica scandal was good for Facebook.

You can’t start with the internet, you have to start deeper: politics, culture. It’s a brutal analysis, sorry. Our conception of politics today is so crude. We are restricted to thinking that ‘we need to regulate something’, ‘we need to pass some laws’. We shouldn’t start with that, we need to start with principles. What does it mean to have communication technologies in a democratic society? How could they help create a democratic world? How does this democratic world take control of these technologies? How can we stop simply taking a defensive position? What does it mean to have an active pose? To have a political culture that says, ‘This is what we want technology to do for society’.

Everything that we’ve been sold about the democratic nature of the internet has always been a marketing pitch grafted on to the technology. To sell the internet as a technology of democracy when it’s owned by giant corporations is ridiculous. The only answer that I have is that we have to figure out what kind of society we want to have, and what kind of role technology can play to that end.

Olivier Jutel: How have you found the reception to your book Surveillance Valley and its central thesis that the internet is essentially a surveillance weapon?
Yasha Levine: My book has come at a really good time, right as people are becoming aware of the ‘dark side’ of the internet. Before Trump it was all good things: Facebook manipulation was a good thing when Obama used it. Surveillance Valley came out two months before the Cambridge Analytica story hit and everything I talk about is a preface to how personal data manipulation is central to our politics and economy. It’s sort of the whole point of the internet, going back 50 years to ARPANET. I hope the book fills some gaps in our knowledge because, as strange as it seems, we have forgotten this history.

The way the internet gets discussed, it’s often as if it were some immaterial phenomenon. What your book does is to explain the material, political and ideological origins of the network. Can you talk about the military imperatives it served?
One thing we have to understand about the internet is that it came out of a research project that started during the Vietnam war, when the US was concerned with counterinsurgencies all around the world. It was a project that would help the Pentagon manage a global military presence.

At the time there were computer systems coming online like ARPANET that functioned as the first early warning radar system in America to alert to a potential Soviet bombing raid. It connected radar arrays and computer systems to allow analysts to watch the entire US from a screen thousands of miles away. This was novel, as all previous systems relied on manual calculation. Once you can do that automatically it’s a totally new way of thinking about the world, because all of sudden you can manage airspace and thousands of miles of border from a computer terminal. This is in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The idea was to expand this technology beyond airplanes to battlefields and societies.

One of things that ARPA was involved with in Vietnam in the ’60s was ‘bugging the battlefield’, as they called it. They’d drop sensors into the jungle in order to detect troop movements hidden from aerial view. These sensors were wireless and would ping back information to a control centre with an IBM computer taking that information, mapping troop movements to help select bombing targets. This became the basis of electronic fence technology that was exported to the US and used on the border with Mexico. It’s still used today.

The internet came out of this military context and the technology that could tie different types of computer networks and databases together. At the time, every computer network was built from scratch in terms of network protocols and the computers themselves. The internet would be a universal networking language to share information... read more
https://www.eurozine.com/in-surveillance-valley/

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Ajai Sahni: ‘If the accused have set up an anti-fascist front, they’re, in fact, acting in defence of democracy’ // Arrested lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj says letter read out to media by police is ‘concocted’


As three of the five activists – Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai and Varavara Rao in Hyderabad – arrested across the country on August 28 were produced in a Pune court on August 29, public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar claimed that they were members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) and constituted an “anti-fascist” front that aims to overthrow the government.
Two activists detained on August 28 – Sudha Bharadwaj in Haryana and Gautam Navlakha in Delhi – had petitioned the High Courts and had been placed under house arrest. Scroll.in posed some questions to Ajai Sahni, executive director of Institute for Conflict Management, about the case. 

Excerpts:
What do you make of the prosecution’s arguments against the activists arrested on August 28?
If I had read these excerpts without knowing the context, I would have thought them the work of a satirist or comedian. Obviously, not a single charge will actually stick, but that is clearly not the intention. The case will drag on in what I have described as a process of “punishment by trial”. The judicial system is slow, and is willing to pretend that it does not notice the utter silliness of the prosecution’s submissions. The accused will either continue to languish in jail or, even if enlarged on bail, will be harassed for years by the judicial process. This alone is the objective. In any civilised country, this would be regarded as malicious prosecution, and the people responsible would be severely penalised. In India, however, officers putting up such cases face no consequences beyond a rare dressing down by a conscientious magistrate.

The prosecutor claimed that Arun Ferreira “recruited” Maoists through photo exhibitions on mob lynching which created an anti-government opinion. Does opposing the government constitute an offence under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act? Are photo exhibitions of mob lynchings evidence of Maoist recruitment?
If their offence is protesting against mob lynchings, half this country would be in jail. There is no such offence. Unless the specific charge of recruitment can be proven – and mere claims that “two students were specifically radicalised by him” will not suffice – the case will eventually be thrown out of court. Further, “radicalisation” is not an offence under UAPA; terrorism is. Unless direct involvement in recruitment for terrorism is proven, nothing will hold.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Statement by People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) against arrest of Human Rights Activists // Open Letter from civil servants about recent events

Statement by People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) against arrest of five Intellectuals and Human rights Activists on 28 August, 2018

Press Release
30 August, 2018

Pune police under BJP government in Maharashtra arrested five well known left leaning intellectuals and activists under UAPA on August 28.  Eighty years old Varvara Rao is a famousTelegu poet.Sudha Bhardwaj is general  secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and a leader of Chhatisgarh Mukti Morcha. Gautam Navlakha is a journalist and has been associated with Economic and Political Weekly and People’s Union for Democratic Rights. Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves are lawyers.
They were arrested by Maharashtra police years ago for being associates of banned CPI(Maoist), but were acquitted by courts of all charges as there was no evidence against them. Arun Ferreira has been an active campaigner for the rights of people detained under black laws like POTA and UAPA. Police also raided house of Prof Satyanarana, the son in law of Varvara Rao in Hyderabad, and of Dalit scholar Prof Anand Teltumbde in Goa, and eighty year old Father Stan Swamy in Jharkhand. Police claims these arrests to be a follow up of the arrests of Prof Rona Wilson, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, civil rights activists Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut, and lawyer Surendra Gadling, on June 6. For the time being the Supreme Court has stayed the police custody of the accused, and ordered their house arrests till September 6.

All of the people arrested have been active in public life for many decades. Their ideas, political ideology, and activities have been in public domain all these years. Pune police has accused them of being urban contacts of the CPI (Maoist), of being part of a conspiracy to spread caste violence at the Bheema Koregaon gathering of Dalits in January, and of the plot to kill ‘high political functionaries’ in the  style of ‘Rajiv Gandhi assassination’ . These charges would be laughable, but for the sinister intent of the BJP government.

Prashant Bhushan: Worse than Emergency // Former CJI RM Lodha: Arrests undermine basics of democracy

On Tuesday, the Maharashtra Police arrested some of India’s finest human rights activists from five cities across the country on completely fabricated charges under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the IPC. The activists arrested are Sudha Bharadwaj, a civil rights activist and labour lawyer from Chattisgarh, presently teaching at the National Law University, Delhi, Gautam Navlakha, former president of the People’s Union for Democratic Reforms, Varavara Rao, a poet-activist, Vernon Gonsalves, human rights activist, and Arun Ferreira, a civil rights activist and lawyer based in Mumbai. Residences and offices of other activists were raided, and laptops and mobiles seized. These include pro-democracy activists who have been leading peoples’ resistance movements for several years, such as Father Stan Swamy, an Adivasi rights activist based in Ranchi, Anand Teltumbde, a management expert, intellectual and writer, and Susan Abraham, civil liberties lawyer and a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights.

The arrests and raids are outrageous attempts to stifle voices of dissent and curb peaceful struggles against this government’s anti-people ideology. Democracy is under siege in India... read more:
https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/worse-than-emergency-activists-arrest-elgar-parishad-sudha-bhardwaj-indian-express-columns-5331634/

Former CJI RM Lodha: Arrests undermine basics of democracy
Former jurists, including former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha, have come out strongly against the arrest of five civil rights activists and lawyers by police probing an alleged Maoist link to the Elgaar Parishad meeting in Pune a day ahead of the January 1 violence in Bhima Koregaon. Justice Lodha told The Indian Express that the government’s actions are “an attempt to suppress the dissenting voice” He said the arrests were “an attack on freedom of speech… and an act to undermine the fundamentals of Constitutional democracy”.


Justice P B Sawant, former judge of the Supreme Court and one of the organisers of the Elgaar Parishad meeting on December 31, 2017, said: “I don’t know why these persons have been arrested. The police are alleging they are connected to the Naxalite movement and are also organisers of the Elgaar conference on December 31 last year. Did they realise this after eight months? I have never seen them. Only one of them, a lady advocate, visited me earlier for some legal advice some time back…. when some other arrests were made, the police had then said that nothing was found to connect them to Naxalites. Now, they are organising another spate of arrests.”.. read more:
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/elgar-parishad-event-arrests-undermine-basics-of-democracy-says-former-cji-rm-lodha-5331839/


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

'We ​can’t go back': Syria's refugees fear for their future after war

Each day for as long as he can remember, Abu Ahmed, a Syrian merchant, has hawked Qur’anic pamphlets in central Beirut, one eye out for a buyer and another for the police. He has been in the Lebanese capital for the past six years, as war consumed his homeland, casting more than a million refugees like him into near permanent exile. Now, however, as the seven-year conflict approaches what many believe to be an endgame in Syria’s north-west, Abu Ahmed fears his meagre, but so far safe existence is in jeopardy.

The blazing guns of insurgency have largely been silenced in central and southern Syria, and politicians in Damascus, Beirut and Amman are claiming with increasing vehemence that a ruined country from which at least 6 million people have fled is now a safe for them to return. Few Syrians in Lebanon seem convinced. “I’ll serve my country proudly and shed my blood for it with a smile on my face, but not like this,” said Abu Ahmed, 41, who hails from the former opposition stronghold of Ghouta. “But not for this chaos. We can’t go back because of [the risk of] neighbours’ petty revenge. They snitch on you and call you a traitor and the next thing you know you’re languishing in prison, for nothing. My town is filled with regime forces and thugs. How do they expect me to return?”


International donors, aid workers and diplomats are also wary of the insistence that postwar Syria is safe, and of the motives behind the claims. Senior representatives of all three say the relative quiet in Syria should not be confused with enduring order, and that entreaties from the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, are unlikely to mean a warm homecoming... read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/30/we-cant-go-back-syrias-refugees-fear-for-their-future-after-war

Michael Safi - Demonetisation drive that cost India 1.5m jobs fails to uncover 'black mone

More than 99% of the currency that India declared void in a surprise announcement in 2016 was returned to the country’s banks in subsequent weeks, according to a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) report. The figures suggest prime minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation policy, which likely wiped at least 1% from the country’s GDP and cost at least 1.5m jobs, failed to wipe significant hordes of unaccounted wealth from the Indian economy — a key rationale for the move.

Modi shocked Indians in November 2016 when he announced on live television that all 500 and 1000-rupee notes, equivalent to about £6 and £12, would be banned in four hours’ time. People were given several weeks to exchange their demonetised currency for new notes at banks. But new notes could not be printed fast enough, and the policy sparked a months-long currency crunch that left tens of millions of Indians cashless or standing in line for hours each day to retrieve small sums of cash.

As India’s massive informal economy reeled, Modi implored the country to give the policy time to work, arguing it would flush out un-taxed wealth being hoarded by wealthy Indians, help to digitise the economy — one of the most cash-based in the world — and starve terrorists and criminal gangs of cash. The RBI’s annual report on Wednesday found 99.3% of the money withdrawn from circulation had been returned to banks, indicating either there was less “black money” than expected, or that schemes to launder money were more successful than thought... read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/30/india-demonetisation-drive-fails-uncover-black-money

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Pune police conduct raids on human rights activists all over India, Sudha Bhardwaj arrested

NB: A government that protects lynchers; covers up the mysterious death of the judge hearing the case against Amit Shah; indulges in the blatant sabotage of the justice system, is now engaged in intimidating its critics. We should all resist the newest malevolent actions of the BJP government: DS

Pune police on Tuesday conducted searches in various cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Goa, Haryana and Chhatisgarh in connection with the recent arrests of five persons allegedly linked with Maoists activities. The searches are being conducted at the residences of the persons having Maoists links and who were directly or indirectly connected with the organizers of 'Elgaar Parishad', said sources. According to the sources in Pune police, the police have arrested left-wing activist and poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad. They are being produced in a local court in respective cities and will be brought to Pune after getting transit remand.

Police shielding Hindutva accused?
Police Disobeying High Court Orders In Arrest of Sudha Bharadwaj 
Meanwhile, searches are being conducted at the residences Vernon Gonsalves who was arrested under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2007, activist Arun Ferreira in Mumbai and human rights activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi and other persons in other parts of the country. Varavara Rao's name was mentioned in one of the letters allegedly written by fugitive Maoist Milind Teltumbde which was seized from Rona Wilson who was arrested from Delhi along with Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut and Shoma Sen earlier in June this year in connection of Elgaar Parishad held in Pune on December 31, 2017. According to police, today's searches are in connection with the earlier arrests. "While investigating the case pertaining to Elgaar Parishad, the names of some persons were cropped up. While probing further, we have found that they are closely associated with the banned organisation CPI (Maoist). 

Their activities such has conspiring and participating in movements with an intention of creating violence clearly falls under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and therefore, the searches are being conducted at various places," senior police officer of Pune police told DNA on the condition of anonymity. Pune police had claimed that they had seized 25,000 GB data from the five arrested persons and they are currently going through the each and every detail of that data. "While scrutinizing the data, the names of the persons surfaced who were closely associated with the arrested persons and they are active in Maoists activities in various parts of the country. Since very strong links have been found of the arrested persons with the other persons, the searches are being conducted at their residences," the officer said. 
https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-pune-police-conduct-raids-on-prominent-human-rights-activists-all-over-india-including-sudha-bhardwaj-2655898


see also


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Pratap Bhanu Mehta - A blasphemous law

NB: The proposed law is a disgrace. It shows how our political leaders' first instinct is to appease the most base features of public mentality; instead of upholding the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Pandering to 'hurt sentiment' is a means of empowering goondas, nothing less. How does one 'injure' a book? Suppose I claim that the contents of such and such holy book are questionable, or not to be taken literally (something Mahatma Gandhi often observed); or that claims to speak divine wisdom are unconvincing, do I therefore deserve to be put to death? In a country where lynchers enjoy impunity, is the avowal of atheism now to become a crime? The Punjab Congress government must be forced to withdraw this poisonous proposal. The Almighty God can look after himself or herself without the assistance of political hypocrites. DS
The Punjab government’s proposal to amend Article 295 of the Penal Code is deeply regressive and will have deep ramifications beyond Punjab. The proposed amendment gives life imprisonment for whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to the Guru Granth Sahib, the Bhagwad Gita, the Quran and the Bible. As we have seen in the case of neighbouring Pakistan, the progressive strengthening of anti-blasphemy laws during the Seventies was a sign of a toxic combination of greater intolerance and authoritarianism. Does India want to traverse the same road?


Holy books like the Adi Granth are sacred. They are sacred not just for their content. They express the highest truths about Ultimate Reality. The “Sat” in “Ek Omkar Sat Nam” brilliantly combines both Truth and Existence. But in the Sikh tradition, the Book is also treated iconically, with elaborate rituals around its sacred treatment, often to the point where it is not easily disseminated. But using state power to enforce the sacred, both defiles the sacred and messes with the secular. The article defiles the sacredness of the Book, the eternity of the Word because the status of the Book now becomes an artefact of state power. It is if the song of Krishna, or the word of Mohammad, or the teaching of the Gurus, now need the imprimatur of state violence to secure their sacredness.

Rather than being luminous, potent and transcendent texts, their status is now reduced to a section of the Indian Penal Code. It also gives defilers of these texts more power: It is in effect saying these books can, in fact, be defiled by some rearrangement or even a burning of a copy. So much for the indestructible Word. The greatest heresy is to think that the word of God needs protection from the mortal state. The sacrilege to the book is not its burning, it is this law.

Roland Barthes: A double grasp on reality

Andy Stafford considers Barthes’s analysis of how we create a world of meaning, and how it creates us  
Towards the end of Mythologies (1957), Roland Barthes’s study of contemporary myths, he claimed: “I have tried to define things, not words” – surprising perhaps, given the philosopher’s popular association with language, communication and meaning. It is not that words are not also things; but the comment suggests an important corrective to the understanding of his work. Barthes was not (simply) an aesthete interested in forms, but a theorist who tried to understand how these forms constructed our imagination.

As an early theorist and user of semiology, the science of signs and meanings, he offered analyses that attempted to find the intelligible in almost all human activities. Barthes was a Houdini, using the essay form to wriggle his way out of (but not necessarily, away from) the tight constrictions of post-war Hegelian thought. The essay, by being both literary and scientific, allowed Barthes to apply and, at the same time, to question Hegel’s philosophy of history as well as the tight master–slave dialectic that informed it. Thus existentialism, Marxism, phenomenology, sociology, Brechtian theatre, all slowly gave way in Barthes’s work to semiology, structuralism and semiotics.

Barthes was born in 1915 in Cherbourg into a middle-class family, beset by tragedy when his father was killed the following year in a naval battle off France’s northern coast. Brought up by his mother in Bayonne and then in Paris, the young Barthes experienced further personal difficulty: his career was delayed by tuberculosis, which began in his late teens. This resulted in a lengthy stay in a sanatorium in the Alps in his mid-twenties, thanks to which he missed the Second World War. But his closeness to his mother and what he called his “Alpine Oxford”, where he spent the war (alongside Elias Canetti’s brother, Georges, for example), allowed him to develop a wide range of interests, including Ancient History (during these years he read the work of the nineteenth-century romantic historian Jules Michelet avidly), existentialist philosophy and the literary modernism of André Gide. 

Barthes emerged from the Second World War believing that we can explain everything in our human world – except, perhaps, the mysteries of human interaction which, involving the inter-subjectivity of at least two human beings, opened out onto a world of infinite (and thereby, unknowable) possibilities… read more:

ALOMA RODRÍGUEZ: The feminist moment


Feminism maintains that one half of the population should have the same rights and opportunities as the other half. This affects many areas of life, and develops in different ways in different places. Obviously, the situation of women in Europe is infinitely better than that of women in Saudi Arabia – even though they can now drive a car. However, it is not the same for an immigrant in France as for a senior executive, nor is it the same whether someone is transgender, homosexual or heterosexual. 

Differences of degree exist, but, despite all the possible nuances, the goal is to advance towards the most egalitarian society possible, in which all individuals are protected whatever their gender, ethnicity or other origin. This may seem an obvious truism but it is the goal of the Enlightenment and of liberalism, and of feminism in the most global sense. The marches of women against Donald Trump, the publication of the allegations against the film producer Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement (with its emulators such as the French #BalanceTonPorc or #Cuéntalo in Spain) have finally forced a taking of sides regarding feminism. 

A climate of cultural war has taken shape, at least on social networks. All of us find ourselves obliged to take up rigid, fixed positions, and books or films are put in question by being interpreted through a gender perspective – which sometimes leads to erroneous readings, as in the case of Lolita, which is above all a terrible story of abuse, as Nabokov himself thought. More extreme postures have also been aroused on the other side, as, for example, in the emergence of Jordan Peterson and his machista discourse with an intellectual patina. We are in a feminist moment.

There are good reasons why women are angry: in the majority of advanced democracies there is still a salary gap – generally directly related to maternity. Few women succeed in breaking through the glass ceiling, and consequently few women take major decisions. Quotas continue to be necessary. In other parts of the world things are much worse. In many countries abortion remains illegal, women’s rights are limited and restricted, and there are still forced marriages. In the war in Syria rape has been used as one more weapon in the conflict. In western democracies, there is still a long way to go to achieve full equality, even if the advances made in only a few decades have been impressive, from the incorporation of women into the labour force to the generalized use of contraception, or from the right to vote to the acceptance of homosexual marriages. 

All such changes are steps towards a more egalitarian and just society. The new government that took office in Spain in June, for example, has eleven women ministers in a cabinet of seventeen members, and, with a composition thus made up 64.7 per cent by women, is the government with the highest female representation in Europe and the world. This representation in government would possibly not have come about without the sustained effect of the marches each 8 March which made the rise of feminism visible, as the political analyst Sílvia Claveria pointed out in an article in El País, although the previous governments of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero from 2004 to 2011 already had equal representation of men and women. Women have for some time also headed governments in a range of countries, as in the case, today, of Angela Merkel in Germany, Theresa May in the United Kingdom or Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand.. read morehttps://www.eurozine.com/the-feminist-moment/

Friday, August 24, 2018

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: The Age of Cretinism

NB: A good characterisation of our time. In her first reflections upon Nazism’s death factories, Hannah Arendt called them ‘the organized attempt to eradicate the concept of the human being.’ We live in their shadow, and the shallowness of our moral sensibility is witnessed every day. Benedetto Croce, the Italian philosopher who defied Mussolini and called fascism a 'moral illness', believed that liberty is not a natural right but an earned right that arises out of continuing historical struggle for its maintenance. Croce defined civilization as the continual vigilance against barbarism.. DS

IN AN ERA WHERE LANGUAGE HAS LOST ALL STABLE REFERENTS, it is difficult to find a word that describes the tenor of our times. But if, at the pain of gross simplification, one were to choose a word to characterise the times, ‘cretinism’ might not be a bad candidate. This is an age of both moral and political cretinism. The term ‘moral cretinism’ was perhaps first used by Alan Bullock in his biography of Hitler. It referred to a peculiar immunity that fascists had to any moral considerations or motivations. Bullock was not entirely clear whether this was simply a deep incapacity, a pathological trait, or a willed condition. But what the term captured quite startlingly was the idea that one could imagine a politics which was increasingly immune to any of the normal moral sensibilities. 

It referred to a condition where our ordinary sense of compassion and decencies get immobilised. They get immobilised to the point where a total inversion of values becomes possible: those who lynch get more political support than those who are lynched; those who indulge in extraordinary brutal sexual violence are protected; the ‘other’ is demonised to the point where their basic humanity disappears from plain sight. The ordinary moral terms that should be positively valued - pity, compassion, sympathy, civility - become terms of contempt, supplanted by new virtues like pitilessness, indifference, antipathy and incivility.

In some ways, all societies have elements of moral cretinism built in. At various points, even the most morally progressive individuals can act like cretins: incapable or unwilling to be moved in the face of manifest moral demands. Radical inequality, where our fellow citizens almost seem like some other species, whose existence places no moral demands on us, can also produce a quotidian kind of cretinism. Collective identities can sometimes abstract our thoughts away from the humanity and individuality of others, and make us particularly prone to cretinism. We are immune to the moral values at stake beyond the fulfilment of our own collective narcissism. Our morality is defined by the need to seek new enemies. Nationalism can sometimes lead to a profound moral regression in just this sense. Caste identities can sometimes combine both of these features, making the privileged immune to any moral considerations.

But what is distinctive about our times is that cretinism itself becomes a high moral standard. It is hard to imagine a time in recent history where political leaders openly support a culture of violence without compunction or any trace of self-consciousness, public discourse routinely carpet-bombs fine distinctions with a view to making any nuanced moral responses impossible, and sympathy is routinely so partitioned along partisan lines that the possibility of any human response to tragedy and atrocity seems like a distant gleam. There is an instrumentalism to every argument, such a relentless unmasking of motives that the very possibility of having a moral motive seems like an oxymoron, and the language of outrage is now so tired and wearied by being made to repeat itself that there is no language left to register the next moral horror: yet another lynching or a newer form of sexual violence. The danger is not the existence of cretinism; it is its routinisation and elevation: a stunting of our moral imagination and the supplanting of it with an aggressive coarseness... read more:



The Double Standard for Black Athletes Began Long Before Trump. Just Ask Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

President Trump keeps lashing out at black athletes, trying to change the subject from his inner circles’ guilty pleas and verdicts back to NFL players protesting the anthem, calling Colin Kaepernick, who wouldn’t kneel for the anthem, a “son of a bitch” and LeBron James dumb for good measure. The insults seem at once pointed but almost generic, as if he sees these athletes as inter-changeable parts, devoid of their own will. He seems easily shocked when they prove that they aren't.

Tommy Smith (307) (1st place) and John Carlos (259) (3rd place) of the US raise their fists in the "Black Power Salute" during the playing of the national anthem at the Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico; 1968 NCAA PHOTOS/GETTY

Trump is a very new kind of president, but he’s tapped into a long tradition of black athletes using their prominent platforms to speak up about American injustice, and powerful fans then telling them to keep quiet and just play. In 1968, the same year our future commander in chief’s bone spurs saved him from serving his country and fighting in Vietnam, two African American men about his age, U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos, made a statement at the summer Olympic Games in Mexico city. After Smith won the gold medal and Carlos the bronze in the 200 meter race, they and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman all had human rights badges on their jackets. When the U.S. anthem played and the men turned to face the flag, Smith and Carlos raised black-gloved hands in the black power salute to protest in perhaps the most potent political gesture of a tumultuous time.

The men had prepared for the moment, with both of them in black socks with no shoes to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf to represent black pride and Carlos had a necklace of beads “for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.".. read more:


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Trump is the alpha con man. Rick Wilson


Is it dangerous to be friends with Donald Trump?  Duh.

If yesterday didn’t prove to you my theory that Everything Trump Touches Dies, I have to presume you were locked somewhere deep in an underground bunker, submerged in a warm-water sensory deprivation tank while tripping balls on some high-quality hallucinogens. You certainly weren’t watching now-wrecked lives of two of Trump’s former confidants, fixers, business associates, wives, girlfriends (compensated and otherwise), and political allies join the long, long line of people who have learned that it’s dangerous to be friends of Donald Trump.

The associative property of Trump’s reality-TV glamour, his crude fame, his various blandishments, and his seductive promises of fame, wealth, and empowerment have long lured in suckers. Don’t be ashamed if you’re one of them; from major international banks to the thousands of people who bought into his low-rent, ersatz “university” multilevel vitamin marketing schemes, shoe-leather prison-meat steaks, jug-wine, assorted dead-on-arrival real estate branding projects, and of course, his objectively ludicrous presidency, Trump is the alpha con man.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018, will stand as one of the more terrible days in a catalog of terrible days in the era of this terrible president. All cons fall in the end, and there are always marks, victims, and collateral damage left holding the fecal end of the stick. Yesterday, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen felt the cruel, hot pain of reality’s hardest bitch slap; both men are going to prison either because of crimes in service to Donald Trump or because their association with him drew their malfeasance into the baleful glare of the law.

Trump watched as his former personal attorney stood in a Manhattan courtroom and began the process that will amount to a beautiful, brutal, and richly deserved betrayal of his former friend and client, the president of the United States. Cohen, as I’ve written before, has the keys to the Trump Kingdom. He was the keeper of a gigantic pyramid of evidence, experience, and inside-the-Tower knowledge. He’s the sticky-fingered archivist of emails, text messages, documents, contemporaneous notes, recordings, NDAs, contracts, medical records, and who knows what kind of sketchy bank paperwork, used pregnancy test kits, DNA swabs, and Hefty trash bags full of crusty hotel sheets that would glow vividly under UV light.

For outside observers, it was a thing of karmic beauty. For years, victims of Trump’s utter lack of loyalty to anything but his monstrous ego, rapacious greed, and whatever caused his last erection felt almost entirely powerless. They were victims of a man with a corporate organization designed from the ground up to fuck over his latest partners, contractors, wives, and hoochies-du-jour.
Now, no matter how many snide tweets Trump throws to further humiliate and demean Cohen, his ex-fixer is in a position to rip the veneer off of Trump’s finances, business practices, personal life, and taxes.  Cohen has testified that he acted to violate the law on Trump’s direction and can point to the greasy financial snail-trail of Trump’s payoffs to Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and others. (Over at the professional evangelical headquarters, they’ve laid on a second shift for the mulligan machine.)

No matter how much Trump’s media enablers want to downplay Cohen’s admission of guilt, the facts stand. He is now drawing a direct implication that the president of the United States, while still a candidate for office, used Cohen to illegally silence two of the candidate’s most recent sexual conquests. The fear emanating from the Trump’s tweets about Paul Manafort is an entirely different flavor… read more: