Friday, 30 November 2018

Robert Fisk: Middle East dictators always end up bringing their western allies down – now they've got their coils in the White House

Trump, like his dangerous Middle Eastern allies, doesn’t want to live in heaven. He craves the pleasures of leadership. He enjoys risk. He believes not in history or morality. He believes in himself. That is why a lot of Arab despots rather like Trump. They have much in common.. Except for understanding. And here’s the problem. Arab dictators, delusional though they may be, have got us taped. They see through our lies and our arms sales and our lust for oil and our fraudulent desire that Jeffersonian democracy embrace the Muslim world. But we simply do not comprehend the Middle East. 

Middle East dictators, we like to believe, live in heaven. They have palaces, servants, vast and wealthy families, millions of obedient people and loyal armies who constantly express their love for their leader, not to mention huge secret police forces to ensure they don’t forget this, and masses of weapons to defend themselves, supplied, usually, by us. These tyrants – autocrats or “strongmen” if they happen to be our allies – exist, we suppose, in a kind of nirvana. Their lawns, like their people, are well-manicured, their roses clipped, their rivers unsullied, their patriotism unchallenged. They wish to be eternal.
But this is our Hollywood version of the Middle East. Having not suffered our own dictators for a generation, we suffer from mirages the moment we step into the sand. Real dictators in the Middle East don’t behave or think like this. It is power and the risks of power and the love of ownership that obsesses them. The possession of untold wealth or an entire nation, and their own form of patriotism – and the challenges they have to face to sustain this way of life: that is the attraction. Their countries -- and their countries’ histories – are their personal property, to dispose of as they wish. They may lock up their opponents by the tens of thousands or drop barrel bombs upon them or chop up an unruly journalist. But they know – and it is true – that there must be residual support for the beloved dictator from all those millions who swear that they will sacrifice themselves – “our blood, our soul” – rather than allow harm to come to them.

How else would the majority of Egyptians go on supporting their field marshal-president when he has abandoned all forms of freedom? How else could the Syrian government survive if its army had not fought on for its country – and saved the regime – after tens of thousands of deaths? Attribute this to patriarchy, tribalism, minority fears or – in the case of Egypt – infantilism. Or straightforward love of country. But dictators cannot survive without some measure of genuine fealty from their populations.
This provides the thrill of power, the excitement of domination – or “responsibility”, as they would call it. It is about personal gratification. The people are not just loyal. The dictator is their father. Did not Mubarak, in his very last speech as president in 2011, address Egyptians as “My children! My children!”?.. read more:

Anna Stavrianakis - History won’t look kindly on Britain over arms sales feeding war in Yemen

The war in Yemen has killed as many as 57,000 people since March 2015, left 8.4 million people surviving on food aid and created a cholera epidemic. The British government claims to have been at the forefront of international humanitarian assistance, giving more than £570m to Yemen in bilateral aid since the war began. Yet the financial value of aid is a drop in the ocean compared with the value of weapons sold to the Saudi-led coalition – licences worth at least £4.7bn of arms exports to Saudi Arabia and £860m to its coalition partners since the start of the war. Relatively speaking, aid has been little more than a sticking plaster on the death, injury, destruction, displacement, famine and disease inflicted on Yemen by an entirely manmade disaster.

Britain and the US have been the key supporters of the Saudi-led coalition, providing arms, intelligence, logistics, military training and diplomatic cover. This has provoked criticism: in the US, a Democrat congressional resolution invoked the 1973 War Powers Act to end US involvement in the war in Yemen, but was blocked by a Republican procedural rule change to a resolution wolves. More recently, an attempt to push through a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire was stalled by the US and other countries, reportedly after a lobbying campaign by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In the UK, parliament’s committees on arms export controls (CAEC) fell into disarray in 2016, unable to agree on whether or not to recommend a suspension of arms exports to Saudi Arabia pending an international investigation into alleged war crimes. Britain’s own rules state that it cannot sell weapons to countries where there is a clear risk they might be used to violate international humanitarian law. The UK government claims to have one of the most rigorous arms control regimes in the world, yet evidence of attacks on medical facilities and schoolchildren in Yemen is clear.

War is the primary cause of death, injury, famine and disease in Yemen; and the coalition is causing twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces fighting in Yemen – including the Houthis... 
read more

Richard Wolffe - The threads of Trump Inc are fraying

We now live in a world where America’s truly worst president ever insists that cash is king. 

The great unraveling has begun. Between the latest guilty plea by Donald Trump’s fixer and the breakdown of a guilty plea by his campaign chairman, the threads are fraying on the scheming enterprise that is Trump Inc. The man pulling at the many loose ends of this loosey-goosey business is working methodically in ways that are only clear in hindsight. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is a strategic mastermind cornering a gang of simpletons watched by a peanut gallery of gawkers and hecklers. The spectacle is both fascinating to watch and essential to the rebuilding of the rule of law. 

The United States urgently needs to resume its role as a global example of good government. Especially when its own government is rotten to the core. Republicans in Congress may refuse to investigate the Trump administration, but Mueller and the courts are reaffirming that it matters when people break election laws, tax laws, lobbying laws, or lie under oath. It matters when foreign agents conspire to attack the United States by hacking into the computers of one of its main political parties. Meanwhile our simpleton-in-chief can only sputter on the sidelines of Twitter about the many ways Mueller is plainly driving him nuts.

“Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime,” Trump tweetedwhile he should have been prepping for another world summit. As a matter of fact, investigations are supposed to search for crimes, but that’s beside the point for the man who can fire and hire an attorney general. He would much prefer an investigation into anyone else right now: the Grinch who stole Christmas, Hillary Clinton, the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. Anyone will do.

“After wasting more than $40,000,000 (is that possible?), it has proven only one thing – there was NO Collusion with Russia,” he tweeted barely an hour later, still stewing in his own resentment. “So Ridiculous!” To answer the president’s questions: yes, it’s possible to spend a lot of federal dollars (see: corporate tax cuts, Trump administration). No, Mueller hasn’t cost the taxpayer a dime after all the property he seized from Trump’s campaign chairman. The only Ridiculous Thing about this is pretending that the Question of Collusion has been Answered. But since you mentioned Collusion, Mr President, let’s yank a little more on this thread, shall we? ... read more:

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Farmers’ protest in Delhi: Traffic disrupted as thousands march to Parliament

Thousands of farmers from across India are marching from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament, in demand for an end to the agrarian crisis in the country as well as a special sitting to discuss the situation. Farmers, who have banded together under All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), had gathered in New Delhi on Thursday.

Farmers from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh came in trains, buses and other modes of transport converging at the Ramlila ground to join the protest. The AIKSCC claims that this rally is “one of the largest congregations of farmers” in the national capital in recent times... read more:

Purushottam Agrawal - Nehru's Spectacularly Indian Vision and the Wrath of the RSS

The Modi government's efforts to 'democratise' the Nehru Memorial and Museum and Library (NMML) by embarking on, among other things, building a 'Museum of Prime Ministers' on the Teen Murti premises is seen by many as an effort to "dilute" the memory of India's first Prime Minister in popular consciousness. In this essay, former Chairperson, Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Nehru scholar Purushottam Agrawal explains why the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the current government, bears such a deep hatred for Nehru.... Fundamentally uncomfortable with democratic institutions and intellectuals, the RSS, he says, would like to obliterate the memory of Nehru who was a great institution-builder and intellectual himself. Not just that, the first Prime Minister of India, though a rationalist and moderniser, was also deeply rooted in his tradition, which helped him connect with the people: this connect later became "the greatest hurdle in the way of the emergence of any politics of religion, including political Hindutva" for many years.

Nothing requires greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of  non-thought. 
Milan Kundera [Czech-born French writer]

Kundera's philosophical generalisation of his own anguished experience of the Communist regime repeatedly re-validates itself in diverse places, with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) being the latest such instance. The current government and its supporters are making vigorous ‘thought efforts’ to convince the academic community and others of the innocence of their intentions and the nobility of their designs.

But the facts indicate otherwise. Their stated 'intention' is to rectify the imbalance by giving leaders and public figures of the national movement, other than Nehru, their 'due'. The implication here is obvious. And yet, NMML Director Shakti Sinha recently told journalist Sheela Bhatt in an interview that as of now, 'Nehru occupies only 25, may be 35 per cent, of the museum'.

The NMML has seen controversies earlier as well, but those did not involve subjecting the institution to a sort of 'de-Nehruisation'. A mature government would have drawn the right lessons from these episodes which preceded 2014, when a government with an unambiguous mandate for change was voted to power. For the NMML was on the right track when the Modi government took charge. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Scientist in China defends human embryo gene editing

The Chinese scientist who claims to have altered the DNA of twin girls before birth – without going through the usual scientific channels – said he was proud of his work, and claimed another woman enrolled in his trial was pregnant with a similarly modified baby. The scientist, He Jiankui, spoke to hundreds of colleagues and journalists on Wednesday at the International Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong. He said details of the first births from the trial, which used gene-editing technology known as Crispr-Cas9, had been submitted to a scientific journal, which he did not name. Nor did he say when the results might be published.

In a planned presentation, He, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology, in Shenzhen, described how he used Crispr-Cas9 to modify a gene called CCR5 in a number of embryos created through IVFfor couples with HIV-positive fathers. The modification was intended to mirror a natural mutation found in a small percentage of people which makes them resistant to the virus. Two girls named Nana and Lulu were born with the genetic changes, he said.

The researcher’s 40-minute Q&A offered a charged forum for scientists to publicly question a colleague caught in controversy. The Nobel laureate David Baltimore, an organiser of the summit, who is professor emeritus of biology at the California Institute of Technology, called He’s work irresponsible. “I think there has been a failure of self regulation by the scientific community because of a lack of transparency,” Baltimore said.

David Liu, a biologist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, challenged He on how the girls might benefit from having their DNA altered. The children were not at risk of contracting HIV at birth and he said there were many ways to avoid HIV infection later in life. “What was the unmet medical need for these patients in particular?” Liu asked... read more:

'He's a black man with a gun': Emantic Bradford's shooting divides city of civil rights. Is American policing a racist murder machine?

Local police in Birmingham, a city whose name remains deeply symbolic of the civil rights struggle and fight against racial segregation, shifted their narrative multiple times about how Bradford had died. First, he was identified as the suspect in the shooting. Then they said he wasn’t the suspect but had brandished a gun. Then police backed off that claim too. The real shooter, meanwhile, remains at large. The entire incident is resonant of many recent cases of police shootings of young, black men, reinforcing a notion that they must behave differently than other races in America’s public spaces – merely to avoid being shot by law enforcement. As late night TV comic Trevor Noah noted in a passionate commentary on the case: “The second amendment is not intended for black people.”
The shooting has left many beyond Bradford’s friends and family traumatised, especially those who witnessed the shooting. Rashad Billingsley, 18, an employee of the National Guard, had passed two police officers after walking up the stairs to Footaction shortly after 9pm. He was focused on a recently released pair of red sneakers. Before he could turn his attention to the shoes, he heard two gunshots, just 25 feet away from where he stood. Seconds later, he heard more, but is unsure how many. The teen ushered dozens into the back hallway of the Footaction, eventually helping tend to a 12-year-old girl shot in the back until paramedics showed up.

Rick Wilson - Sensing Defeat, Trump Cries 'Witch Hunt'

For two years, Donald Trump had fun amidst the mess. He reveled in stage-managing a reality-television version of an executive branch staffed by weak-willed and morally vacant appointees selected more for their ass-kissing skills than for any remote talent in governing or even any talent at all. He consumed every ounce of scenery, and his every desire, whim, and impulse were carried out by White House minions unable to say no. Republican Members of Congress may as well have sported “Property of Donald Trump” forehead tattoos.

During those halcyon days, the power of the Republican House was used to obstruct justice, block the Mueller probe into Russia’s pro-Trump efforts, and to attack the intelligence community in order to protect Team Putin. They were a blocking force against investigations into his taxes, finances, and his administration's misdeeds. Trump has never displayed even the most cursory interest in governing or leadership, but he loves the roar of the crowd, the high-fructose smell of the MAGA set jammed into arenas, his long-running pissing match with the media, and trolling the known universe on Twitter. A supine House was his shield.

Donald Trump, a princeling who was raised in luxury, never held accountable for any of his countless personal and business betrayals and failures, and who literally lived in a golden tower for most of his life, is not good with stress. His rage-tweeting shows us that he knows he can’t juggle all the crises steaming toward him, that he knows his astounding power to distort reality for his followers won’t shield him from the political, legal, and personal perils closing in on him.  

Playtime is over, and Donald doesn't like it.

The electoral beat-down of the midterm elections left him on political terrain that’s a lot less fun than it was in his first two years. He’s never, ever getting his precious Wall. His legislative agenda just crashed and burned. He’s going to face actual congressional oversight, not a daily foot massage from do-boys like Devin Nunes. The investigatory jackboot is on the other foot now, with subpoenas and reports that can’t be tweeted away or dismissed with a Hannitean roar of “But her emails!”.. 

ARI BERMAN - The United States Is Becoming a Two-Tiered Country With Separate and Unequal Voting Laws

Phoebe Einzig-Roth, an 18-year-old freshman at Atlanta’s Emory University, moved to Georgia in August and was excited to vote in her first election. But when she went to her polling location near campus on Election Day, election officials told her she’d been flagged as a noncitizen. Even though she’d brought three forms of identification - her Massac­husetts driver’s license, passport, and student ID—she was forced to cast a provisional ballot.

Three days later, she went to confirm her citizenship at the local election office, where she was assured her vote would be counted. But she kept checking Georgia’s online “My Voter Page” and there was no record it had been. She posted a picture of herself on Facebook wearing an “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker and wrote, “The thing that infuriates me the most about voter suppression is not that it happened to me, but that it happened, and is continuing to happen to thousands of people all over the country, and most of the time, nothing is done to stop people from being turned away at the voting polls.” She told me a few days later, “I don’t believe my vote will count.”

Einzig-Roth was right that she was far from alone. Voters in Georgia and other states faced onerous barriers to performing their civic duty this year….

The stories are now familiar: In Georgia, more than 750,000 voters were purged from the rolls over the past two years by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was also the Republican candidate for governor. Some voters near Atlanta waited more than four hours to cast ballots. In Florida, more than 20,000 absentee ballots were rejected, disproportionately from voters of color. In June, North Carolina’s Republican Legislature passed a law that contributed to a 20 percent decrease in early voting locations. Under Texas’ voter ID law, people could vote with a gun permit but not a student ID.

Voter suppression wasn’t limited to Southern states with a history of disenfranchising voters. In North Dakota, 5,000 Native Americans living on reservations were initially barred from voting because a new law wouldn’t accept their P.O. boxes as valid addresses. Iowa instituted a new voter ID law and reduced early voting. In Kansas, the lone polling place in Dodge City, which is 59 percent Hispanic, was moved outside town, a mile from the nearest public transportation… read more:

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

RSS and Modi brazenly intimidating the Supreme Court

NB: Now that the CJI is not doing their bidding, the Sangh Parivar is abusing judges who in their eyes refuse to assist the RSS plan to instigate communal frenzy prior to the 2019 elections. The RSS' commitment to justice is a joke: who caused the crucial file in the Aseemanand case to disappear, and the trial court judge to resign in disgust? These people are shameless and brazen in their threats of disorder. Who is Indresh to instruct SC judges to resign? How can the Prime Minister make demands of the SC? The whole world should note the RSS' utter contempt for the Indian constitution and lawful governance. They talk and behave as if the entire country and all state officials are their bonded slaves. We must not be silenced, nor allow this hooliganism to triumph. DS

Claiming that the Centre plans to bring a law on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute but has been silent in view of the Model Code of Conduct for the ongoing Assembly elections, RSS leader Indresh Kumar Tuesday attacked the Supreme Court’s “three-judge bench… known to the public” for “delaying” a decision on the Ayodhya title suit. He said if someone goes to the Supreme Court against the law that the government plans to bring, “it is possible that the Chief Justice will issue a stay (Ho sakta hai aadesh laane ke khilaf koi sarfira Supreme Court jayega, toh aaj ka Chief Justice usey stay bhi kar sakta hai)”.

Referring to the CJI-led bench’s decision to defer hearing on the Ayodhya matter to January, Indresh said: “I haven’t taken names because 125 crore Indians know their names… the three-judge bench… they delayed, they denied, they disrespected”. He then went on to say “will the country be so handicapped” that it lets “two-three” judges “throttle its beliefs, democracy, Constitution and fundamental rights.” Speaking at a seminar titled ‘Janmabhoomi mein anyay kyun’, organised by the Joshi Foundation on the campus of the Panjab University, Indresh said: “Will you and I watch helplessly? Why, and for what? Jo aatankwad ko ardh raatri mein sun sakte hain, woh shanti ko apmaan aur uphas kar de (Should those who hear cases against terror at midnight insult and ridicule peace)… Even the English did not have the courage to perpetrate such atrocities on the judicial process.”

“Is it not so serious? We saw the black day of the Indian judicial system when justice was delayed and denied by disrespecting the beliefs of people. Supreme Court did not do it. Judges did not do it. Judicial system did not do it. Justice did not do it. But a few persons,” he said. He claimed there was growing anguish against “two-three” judges. “All are looking forward to justice. They still have belief… but the judiciary, judges and justice have been disrespected because of two-three judges… It should be heard early. What is the problem? Otherwise, a question arises: if they are not ready to deliver justice, they should think if they want to remain judges or resign,” he said...

Domestic Violence Is The Most Common Killer Of Women Around The World

The most dangerous place for women is in their own homes, a new report from the United Nations concludes. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the “Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related Killing of Women and Girls” on Sunday to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The report analyzed the violence perpetrated against women worldwide in 2017, looking at intimate partner violence and family-related killings such as dowry- and honor-related murders. Last year, 87,000 women were murdered around the world, and more than half (50,000 or 58 percent) were killed by partners or family members. Over a third (30,000) of those intentionally killed last year were murdered by a current or former intimate partner. This means that, globally, six women are killed every hour by someone they know. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described violence against women as a global pandemic in a Sunday statement marking the international day of recognition. “It is a moral affront to all women and girls, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development,” he said. “At its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect ― a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women. It is an issue of fundamental human rights.”

The U.N. report also highlighted that women are much more likely to die from domestic violence than men are. According to the study, 82 percent of intimate partner homicide victims are women and 18 percent are men. “While the vast majority of homicide victims are men, women continue to pay the highest price as a result of gender inequality, discrimination and negative stereotypes. They are also the most likely to be killed by intimate partners and family,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said.   The study suggested that violence against women has increased in the last five years, drawing on data from 2012 in which 48,000 (47 percent) of female homicides were perpetrated by intimate partners or family members.

Geographically, Asia had the most female homicides (20,000) perpetrated by intimate partners or family members in 2017, followed by Africa (19,000), North and South America (8,000), Europe (3,000) and Oceania (300). The U.N. does point out that because the intimate partner and family-related homicide rate is 3.1 per 10,000 female population, Africa is actually the continent where women are at the greatest risk of being murdered by a partner or family member. 

Head over to the U.N. study to read more. 

Monday, 26 November 2018

Power of the sun – how solar is improving community life in Africa. By Beetle Holloway

As everyday activities go, flicking a switch barely even registers. But when Ibrahima Ciss pushes the small plastic lever by his door, a broad smile rises on his face. The 61-year-old is chief of Khaye Sérère, a rural Senegalese village in the western Thiès region, but he’s also the proud owner of a personal solar system, which is providing his home with electricity for the first time in his life.
Due to their remote location and low incomes, only 10% of rural households in west Africa have access to electricity. Most rely on an unhealthy concoction of candles, kerosene lamps and battery-powered torches, but new solar initiatives are providing an alternative.

In December 2015, Dakar-based Oolu Solar came to Khaye Sérère offering a solar home system (SHS) that allowed households to charge small electrical items and power lamps; Ciss was one of its first clients. “Before Oolu, I used to use one or two candles every night,” Ciss explains, sitting on a low, wooden bed, a lens-shaped lamp above his door brightening the room. “Each candle cost 1500 CFA (£2), but now I only spend around 110 CFA (£0.15) per day.”

Recurring costs add up: the World Bank estimated that sub-Saharan Africans were spending $10.5bn each year on non-renewable light sources. With solar power costing him just 3,500 CFA (£4.70) per month, Ciss now has more funds for daily activities, such as feeding the chickens and goats that totter in his courtyard. Here are six more ways solar is benefiting Senegalese homes and communities. read more:

This is what Trump’s caravan 'invasion' really looks like

Those walking to the US to seek asylum have been demonized by Trump, who sent more than 5,000 soldiers to await them at the border. Bryan Mealer traveled with the most vulnerable among them

By the time I reach the migrant caravan in late October, they’d been traveling for two weeks since leaving Honduras, having covered over 600 miles. Leaving from San Pedro Sula, one of the deadliest cities on Earth, they’d set out over mountains, through forest and rivers, and along the way became both an international menace and a symbol of hope. Most days, they tell me, afternoon rains had soaked their belongings. Ants had bitten them where they slept. Crossing into Mexico, riot police had attacked them with clubs and teargas.

But for the most part, they say, people had displayed extraordinary kindness. Farmers had greeted them on the roads with sliced oranges and bags of water and strangers had given them rides. Every day brought these tiny, unexpected miracles: a plate of beans when their children were crying, a pickup when their legs could go no further. And for that reason, they believe that God is traveling with them on this journey to America.

I discover them in San Pedro Tapanatepec in the southern state of Oaxaca, traveling along the Pan-American Highway, on what turned out to be the toughest day of the journey. The towns had been small, and few vehicles had passed along the country roads. Most of all, it had been hot, with temperatures reaching 95F (35C). Families with children had walked over nine hours and, once arrived, had collapsed into every nook and crevice of the town.

A caravan of 4,000 people doesn’t simply visit a town, it swallows it whole, figuratively if not physically, and takes it hostage with its energy and chaos. Migrants move through the streets stalling traffic. Their bedrolls occupy every open porch and sliver of shade. Near the market, lines of them spill out from the internet cafe and the Western Union. A crowd overwhelms the merchant selling cellular plans, and for about two hours they bring down the network. Along the streets, residents peer out though closed shades and many businesses have closed... read more:

Not heeding 'advice' of Constitution will result in 'descent into chaos', warns CJI Gogoi

It is in "our best interest" to heed the advice of the Constitution, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said on Monday and asserted that not doing so would result in "sharp descent into chaos". The Constitution is the voice of the marginalised as well as the prudence of the majority and continues to be a guide in moments of crisis and uncertainty, the CJI said at the inaugural function of Constitution Day Celebrations here."It is in our best interest to heed the advice of the constitution. If we do not, our hubris will result in sharp descent into chaos," he said. 

Constitution Day, also known as Samvidhan Divas, is celebrated on November 26 to commemorate the Constitution being adopted. The Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949. It came into effect on January 26, 1950."The constitution has become an integral part of the lives of the Indian people. This is not an exaggeration, one need only to look at the astounding variety of issues that the courts hear daily," Gogoi said.

"Our Constitution is the voice of the marginalised as well as the prudence of the majority. Its wisdom continues to guide us in the moment of crisis and uncertainty," he said. When the Constitution was brought into force, it was "widely criticised", the CJI noted. But time has weakened the criticism and it is a matter of great pride that it has been referred to with great vigour in the last several decades, he stated.

He said the Constitution is "not a document frozen in time" and today is not an occasion to celebrate but to test constitutional promises."Are we Indians existing in conditions of freedom, equality and dignity? These are questionsthat I ask myself. Undoubtedly, great advances have been made but there is a lot left to be done. Today, we need just not a celebration but also to chalk out a road map for the future," Justice Gogoi said. PTI PKS LLP

For RSS, VHP, target is Supreme Court, goal is temple

Hell on Earth for an Activist Murdered With Acid in Ukraine

The deputy mayor of Kherson was a tireless opponent of corruption. Then some thugs were hired to pour sulfuric acid on her. It took her more than three months to die.

Ever since Handziuk entered politics in 2006 to become the youngest elected deputy mayor of her hometown of Kherson, she stood out: blonde, round-faced, jolly, fearless, passionate, unstoppable. She was always ready to crack a sarcastic joke or two, always owning up to her decisions. She dressed informally, comfortably, never looking like an ordinary bureaucrat. In private life, she still had her little girl’s habits. She asked friends to bring her peanuts in chocolate from Poland, and her favorite sweets had a clown on the yellow package. She brought stuffed teddy bears in her backpack on her trips abroad with her husband.

At work she was a natural team builder, gathering a community of revolutionaries around her. Together they took part in the Orange Revolution in 2004, then in the Revolution of Dignity centered on Kiev's Maidan square in 2013 and 2014. In the spring of 2014, Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula, just 300 kilometers, or about 180 miles, from Kherson. After that, Handziuk was part of the vibrant community of pro-European Maidan activists who were struggling to stop the pro-Russian rebel movement, also known as the Russian Spring.

“Distinguishing criminality from politics has become very hard here.”

Handziuk kept up the fight over the last year, even as billboards for pro-Russian politicians went up along the highway from her downtown office to the two-room apartment where she lived together with her father and husband. In her biting Facebook posts, Handziuk denounced illegal seizures of property and illegal logging in the region, which often was organized by dangerous thugs and local officials. Thousands of her followers read and shared her posts on social media. Kherson knew Handziuk for her aggressive criticism of the local police and regional government, and for a word she often used, “musora,” humiliating slang for Soviet-style policemen.

To reach out to a bigger audience Handziuk, together with the journalist Sergiy Nikitenko, founded a news website called “Most,” or the Bridge. Local elites read articles that detailed corrupt schemes, and watched the documentary made by Nikitenko about the regional administrator, Vladislav Magner. “A bandit from the 1990s,” they called him. On June 18, two bearded men attacked Nikitenko for his journalism. “I am convinced that the attack on me was revenge for my film about Magner,” he told The Daily Beast... read more:

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Vivek Deshpande, Lalmani Verma: For RSS, VHP, target is Supreme Court, goal is temple

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat regretted that “Ram temple was not a priority for the Supreme Court” as speakers at VHP meetings in Ayodhya and Nagpur on Sunday criticised the court for putting off the Ayodhya case till January, and called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enact a law to end the delay. Speaking at the VHP’s ‘Humkar Sabha’ at Nagpur, Bhagwat said, “It has become obvious that Ram temple is not a matter of priority for the Supreme Court.” Adding that “Hindus have always abided by the law and shown enough patience”, he said, “Though law is necessary, can society run only on the basis of law? Can any question be raised against matters of faith? Will you continue to evade the truth and the feelings of people?” (NB: He means law is subject to the will of the RSS. DS)

Bhagwat added that the time for “patience” was over. “About one year ago, I had said dhairya rakho. Today I say let’s create public awareness, andolan nirnayak ho (what’s needed is a decisive struggle). We have to take up the task of organising whole Hindu society for it.” Calling upon the Modi government to think about “how it can bring a law to build the temple”, Bhagwat urged society to put pressure for this. “Sometimes, such pressure can lend strength to the government.” Incidentally, the BJP has avoided direct reply to the demand for a legislation on Ram temple, referring to the Supreme Court hearing, while adding that the issue was a matter of faith for it and not political... read more:

See also

Chicago hospital shooting: Police officer, 2 employees and gunman dead

Woman who heard the Chicago hospital shooting: "You can't go to the hospital, you can't go to school, you can't go to church, you can't go to the grocery store. You cannot go anywhere...You just never know when you walk into a place if you're going to come out alive"

 An officer and three others, including the gunman, are dead after a shooting at Chicago's Mercy Hospital, police said Monday. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said a doctor and a pharmaceutical assistant were the other victims. Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman, identified the slain officer as Officer Samuel Jimenez

Guglielmi said the gunman was killed, but it's unclear if he took his own life or was killed by police. In a later tweet, Guglielmi called it a "domestic-related active shooter." Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the incident began in the parking lot with an argument between a man and a female hospital employee he was in a relationship with. A friend of the woman tried to intervene, and police said that is when the gunman lifted up his shirt and showed a gun. The friend fled into the hospital.

Johnson said they received a 911 call about the altercation in the parking lot, and within seconds, they received a second call about shots fired in the parking lot. Johnson said the gunman shot and killed the woman. The suspect then fired several shots at responding officers before they could exit the squad car, and several of those shots caused damage to the car. Johnson said the gunman then ran into the hospital while being chased by officers.

Once inside the hospital, the gunman and the officers exchanged gunfire for several minutes, Johnson said. A female employee was shot and killed in the exchange of gunfire, Johnson said. Jimenez was shot and killed by the gunman. A massive law enforcement presence was seen on the campus and medical staff were seen being evacuated after the first reports of the shooting. Guglielmi had urged citizens to avoid the area. The hospital tweeted the shooting is over and said Chicago Police Department has secured the facility and the patients are safe...

Saturday, 24 November 2018

DAHLIA LITHWICK: Trump Is Finally Small

The final factor in Trump’s diminution had to be the appalling (!) White House (!) statement 
defending the Saudi Arabian royal family from his own CIA’s finding that they had been complicit in the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That document has been widely read 
and deconstructed for its lies, exaggerations, and untruths, but it should also be briefly celebrated as the perfect distillate of Trump’s moral reasoning: By the president’s own ethical lights, no criminal who might make us wealthy can ever be condemned.

The holidays can be tricky when one has begun to reflexively assume the posture of being pinned under the breakfront as the crazy racist grandpa shrieks year round. For many of us, the echo of Donald Trump’s voice, his tweets, his boasts and threats, are what wake us up at 4 a.m. and what makes us afraid to contemplate summer plans or even buy green bananas. But after two deeply destabilizing and in fact traumatic years of soaking in the president’s ugliness and invective, of absorbing the sound and sight of the sneering and the scowling and the fury, there is much to be thankful for this year. Because this year, by dint of miracle or magic or human endeavor, Donald Trump has been reduced to his actual size. He isn’t everything anymore. He is barely anything at all. He becomes smaller every single day, and for that, we have America to thank.

It is no secret that Trump himself is sliding further and further off the rails. The tweets are cruder and materially less coherent, and the public performances are more frightening still. The White House staff is in turmoil, and the president seems to have aligned himself with the Saudi murderers of a Washington Post reporter. None of this offers holiday solace, save for the fact that, as support for the president peels off among members of the militaryconservative lawyers, and women, he finds himself ever more shrilly attacking them all. And as the president finds himself shunned and largely ignored internationally, he is left more and more alone to watch television, tweet hectically, and attempt to rewrite his own story to his satisfaction. At least we can, as Matt Yglesias smartly observes, be grateful that he can’t manage to be effective and pissed off at the same more:

Friday, 23 November 2018

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: Away from the spectacle

The nature of the 26/11 attack, its reach and scale, its televised vividness, and its subsequent political significance, makes it a pivotal event in the politics of the Subcontinent. It is constantly remembered to mourn the victims, and to acknowledge the city that bears the scars of this national humiliation.

Yet in a strange way, the remembrance of 26/11 has itself produced a different kind of amnesia. Bombay lost its identity twice. Its renaming to Mumbai was a sign of its politics becoming parochial. The renaming of its iconic film industry “Bollywood” was a sign that this increasingly vernacularised politics paradoxically took cultural referents from America; Indian culture could be measured only in the context of globalisation. In a way, the designation 26/11, with its constant allusion to 9/11, was understandable: Both were acts of terrorism that inflicted suffering in a politics of spectacle. But the consequence of this iconic remembering has been that the history specific to the Subcontinent is in the danger of being lost.

26/11 was an event of its times. But it was also an event in the continued and tragic aftermath of our own history: Partition. Partition may have been inevitable. But its scars continue to destroy Pakistan and still inflect the politics of self-esteem in India. To own 26/11 in our own history, and not as some simulacrum of globalisation, will require the Subcontinent to come to terms with the lingering effects of Partition — a discourse of nationhood and politics that is still being played out, in different ways, in Pakistan and India. If we want no more victims, that politics will have to confronted.

The attack did three things. First, it, almost forever, seemed to destroy the possibility of a sensible rapprochement and modus vivendi between India and Pakistan. The Manmohan-Musharraf framework was the closest the Subcontinent came to putting forward sensible ideas to mitigate rather than deepen the tragedy of Partition. 26/11, in some ways, put an end to those kind of efforts, for more than a decade now. It accomplished what it hoped: That talk of peace becomes nearly impossible. Second, it was also an important moment in laying bare the emerging character of the Pakistani state... read more:

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Bethan McKernan - Who are the Houthis and why are they fighting the Saudi coalition in Yemen?

The Saudi- and United Arab Emirates-led coalition fighting in Yemen is under unprecedented pressure from the international community to end its involvement in the war after the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Since the coalition intervened in 2015, Yemen has become the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN. Rights groups say up to 56,000 people have been killed, half of the 28 million-strong population are starving and the country is suffering the worst cholera epidemic in modern history.

But who are the coalition fighting, and why has the war descended into a stalemate? Yemen’s Houthi rebels are a decades-old resistance movement, born in opposition to Saudi Arabia’s religious influence. Although they cannot hold out forever against the coalition’s air power and blockades, they say they are determined not to give up.

The Houthi movement was founded in the 1990s by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a member of Yemen’s Zaidi Shia minority, which makes up about one-third of the population. Hussein was killed by Yemeni soldiers in 2004, and the group is now led by his brother Abdul Malik. The Zaidis, once a powerful force in north Yemen, were sidelined during the 1962-70 civil war and then further alienated in the 1980s as Salafist Sunni ideals gained prominence across the border in Saudi Arabia, which exported the ideology to Yemen. In response, Zaidi clerics began to militarise their followers against Riyadh and its allies.

The intermittent insurgency gained support from Shia Yemenis fed up with the corruption and cruelty of the long-time authoritarian president and Saudi ally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, particularly during the aftermath of 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq… read more:

KumKum Dasgupta - The murderous attack on green activists in Meghalaya is an assault on our collective future

Social activist Agnes Kharshiing is a well-known name in Meghalaya. Along with being a human rights activist, she is also an environment defender of repute. On November 8, Kharshiing and another activist, A Sangma, were in the East Jaintia Hills district to track and document cases of illegal mining. (In 2014, the National Green Tribunal imposed a blanket ban on coal mining, once the driver of Meghalaya’s economy.) While the two activists were conducting their investigations, a group of 30-40 people encircled their car and attacked them brutally. 

Both are in hospital with severe injuries. Sources, a Hindustan Times report said, point towards coal mafia being involved in the attack as Kharshiing had shared several pictures of trucks ferrying coal illegally and their dumping grounds. However, authorities are yet to confirm the identity of the attackers. According to ‘Defenders of the Earth‘, a report released by international NGO, Global Witness, in 2017, being an environmental activist in India is a dangerous occupation. While Brazil tops the 2017 list with 49 deaths, India is ranked at fourth with 16 deaths. India got a special mention in the 2017 report as one of the countries where the situation is getting progressively worse, along with Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But those who follow environmental issues will argue that the number of deaths (16) does not reveal the true picture: In the recesses of this large and diverse country, many cases of attacks, harassments and threats go undocumented, and attackers go unpunished. Unlike the police firing on people protesting against Sterlite in Tamil Nadu or, for that matter, the protests of Dongria Kondhs against Vedanta in Odisha, the attacks on Kharshiing and Sangma went unnoticed on prime time.

But what is happening in Meghalaya is a story that applies to all of the country... read more:

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

NORMAN BIRNBAUM - Modes of denial: On the legend of US liberal hegemony

For all its loathing of Trump, the US liberal elite shares with him a common delusion: that US hegemony can persist in the 21st century. Trump is not the cause of the disruption but a consequence of it

At the memorial service for the late John McCain, our divided political elite came together to voice their apprehensions about our democracy. Better late than never; having indulged in an increasingly preposterous American moral imperialism for decades, it is indeed time for them to reconsider. A good place to begin would be with the cliché, common both here and abroad, that Trump is undermining or has already destroyed a ‘liberal world order’. But what ‘liberal world order’ are we talking about?

When NATO was founded in 1949, it included Portugal and Turkey, hardly exemplary democracies. Franco’s Spain was a de facto member since its military alliance with the US in 1959. The UK fought a bitter war in the early fifties in a futile attempt to keep Kenya, and France vainly defended its hold on Indo-China and later Algeria. The US hardly concentrated on exporting democracy, since it was busy with installing compliant dictatorial regimes around the globe. No doubt, the domestic institutions of the western nations provided for freedoms unimaginable in the Soviet bloc, but the comparison is facile. Move to the recent past and include in the recent version of order the oil kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the indispensable power, China – neither of these regimes bear the imprint of John Stuart Mill or John Dewey.

The collapse of democracy in the eastern members of the European Union is recent, but it preceded the advent of Trump. To what extent the economies of the US and the EU generate optimal conditions for the development of a liberal culture is a large question to which the voters for the UK Independence Party, the Front National and the Alternative for Germany, as well as those attending Trump rallies in our own country, offer rather depressing answers. Trump is not the cause of the disruption or even the decomposition of what went before, but a consequence of it... read more:

A different way to fight: For Gandhi, satyagraha was the only way to stop terrorism. By David Hardiman

Do Mahatma Gandhi and his legacy have anything to offer us in the face of attacks by terrorists? Gandhi himself was deeply concerned with the question as to how non-violence could displace violence in political life. In his own day, he was faced with revolutionary nationalists who believed that imperial rule in India could best be fought through targeted violence against British officials and institutions. Gandhi was strong in his condemnation of such a strategy.

We can see this in his reaction to the assassination by an Indian student called Madan Lal Dhingra of a retired Indian civil servant, Sir Curzon Wyllie, when he came to speak to a group of Indian students in London in 1909. Vinayak Savarkar, who was a friend of Dhingra, argued that he acted as a Hindu patriot. Gandhi was horrified by the killing. He stated that Dhingra acted in a cowardly manner, and that he had been “egged on by this ill-digested reading of worthless writing”. Wyllie had gone as a guest of the Indian students, and he had been betrayed. If the British left India because of such acts, murderers would become rulers.

Gandhi sought to provide a different way to fight British rule — namely through nonviolent satyagraha. He argued that if the established nationalist leaders failed to provide a nonviolent outlet for the nationalist fervour of young Indians, they might well be attracted to violent methods. In other words, his form of protest would provide an outlet for radicalised Indians to protest against what Gandhi projected as the “terrorism” of the state as well as provide a counter to the violence of revolutionary nationalists. In a letter of 1919, he maintained that: “The growing generation will not be satisfied with petitions etc. Satyagraha is the only way, it seems to me, to stop terrorism.”
He wrote, similarly, in the same year: “If you do not provide the rising generation with an effective remedy against the excesses of authority, you will let loose the powers of vengeance and… violence will spread with a rapidity which all will deplore… In offering the remedy of self-suffering which is one meaning of satyagraha, I follow the spirit of our civilisation and present the young portion with a remedy of which he need never despair.”

According to Gandhi, means determine ends. He held that unleashing violence was like letting a genie out of a bottle; once released, it was not easy to put back. Revolutionaries who had learned to settle matters using violence frequently found it hard to adapt to more peaceable means after a change of power has occurred... read more:

see also

Monday, 19 November 2018

Aarti Tikoo Singh: Sabarimala and the Liberal Regression // Keerthik Sasidharan - The churning of tradition

Several secular liberal intellectuals in India are conflicted over the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. Their main argument is that a secular state and judiciary must refrain from intervening in religious matters. First of all, India is not secular in the Western sense. Secularism in India means equality of and respect for all religions, as conceived by our Constitution. That is why in India, you can’t jest about religion, let alone, draw cartoons and paintings without risking serious consequences. 

You try satirizing religion and you will end up getting arrested like my “Hindu Right wing” friend was for cracking a joke on a Hindu temple, last week. Now in this scenario, religion remains deeply embedded in the state and the state remains attached to religion in both peace times and conflict too. The very nature of politics, hence, revolves around religious identity. This is no secularism; it is no separation of religion and state, of the European Enlightenment kind. 

Therefore, this absolutist position that the Supreme Court should have stayed away from intervening in religious practices of the Sabarimala temple, is wrong. Because, the noninterventionist position assumes that India is a secular state in the normative framework, where the state and religion leave each other alone to do whatever they want. Religion, for example, in the US, does not get the right to feel offended and the right to prosecute offenders for hurting religious sentiments. There is no such parity in India. As of now, there is slim possibility of getting rid of blasphemy laws and replacing it with a law on the lines of the First Amendment in India.

Be that as it may, what’s troubling here is that the liberals are taking a regressive line that the state and the judiciary should turn a blind eye to the customs, traditions and rituals which violate fundamental rights like the right to equality and the right to constitutional remedies. This non-
interventionist argument not only encourages the superficial secularism of India but also keeps India stuck in perpetual misogyny and other kinds of bigotry.

If it were left to the absolutists and noninterventionists, Dalits would have been still persecuted by not just upper castes but by a retrograde jurisprudence too. The Indian state cannot and should not let the tyranny of the male-dominated clergy and priests prevail in the name of religion. It would be travesty of justice if the Supreme Court of India had chosen to stay silent on the patriarchal notion that menstrual women are impure, and from a religious point of view, not eligible to pray to a god or deity. Such parochial beliefs sustain the culture of gender discrimination and disrespect for women even if it is forbidden by law. 

Most importantly, the Indian Constitution and law cannot treat menstruating women “impure” and lesser humans as considered by certain religious codes and cultural practices. Any religious or cultural practice that violates an individual’s fundamental rights, needs state and judicial intervention. Religion cannot and should not have unlimited autonomy and that too, at the expense of other fundamental rights. The Indian state and the judiciary must intervene in religious matters even if it is just one petitioner seeking justice on the grounds that a religious or cultural practice violates his/her fundamental rights. Nothing is more sacrosanct than an individual, as a unit of justice.

Keerthik Sasidharan - The churning of tradition
In the absence of explicit harm to any group of persons, the wisest course of action in matters of religion is to let communities of believers evolve norms on their own

Midway through a documentary (Kettukazcha) by the filmmaker and scholar, Madhu Eravankara, a deep truth emerges: “The most obscure history is the history of the obvious”. Few social relations are more commonplace in Kerala, or much of India, as a temple and its devotees. Fewer histories are more obscure than that relation, the evolution of ritual, and the source of its vitality. In his methodically documented film, Professor Eravankara traces the life cycle of a temple festival in Chettikulangara, deep inside southern Kerala. Early on, we see men and women, young and old, across castes, work under the fierce tropical sun to construct large sized wooden structures on wheels. There is a physicality to this worship of the goddess, where human bodies struggle and sweat, where there is no reward but the very labour of ritual itself.

It is hard not to be moved by this — ordinary craftsmen, traders and housewives in service of an ideal. For much of urban India, these rituals/ festivities are indistinguishable from chaos, exotica, and, ultimately, a form of mania. What is lost in this distancing is the recognition that these festivities and rituals are lived manifestations of answers to a question rarely asked: what is the ultimate aspiration that governs a Hindu’s world view? These rituals are the bedrock on which the edifice of Hinduism as a living practice stands.

Asking similarly about the ultimate philosophical value of Western societies, we learn that their thought returns time and again to the question of the greatest social Good using Reason. Who is eligible to this Good has changed over time, but the preoccupation has remained consistent. From Plato’s Republic to John Rawl’s ‘veil of ignorance’, the question of maximal good has found frequent expressions. Over millennia, the resultant institutional manifestation of an answer to this question has taken various forms: from the cruel Spanish Inquisition to Hobbes’s Leviathan to social democracies, and so on. 

In Jewish and Islamic societies, the answer to the question about the ultimate value leads us to their steady commitment to manufacture, sustain, and regulate group solidarity. The great Maghrebi historian of the medieval era, Ibn Khaldun, calls this asabbiyah. This solidarity is not for solidarity’s sake, but rather a preparatory groundwork for the arrival of what Biblical scholars call eschaton, the Muslims call qiyamat, or the end of time. Thus we find institutions in these societies making efforts to regulate identities through circumcision, prayer laws, marriage, even death. The goal is to demarcate clearly who is within and who is outside the sphere of commitment and affiliation. 
read more: 

Arun Kumar - Two Years after Demonetisation, the Nightmare Continues for India's Informal Economy // With due respect, Finance Minister

Demonetisation is like a bad dream etched in our memories. Weddings were postponed and medical treatment was curtailed for lack of money. Long queues formed outside banks. Small businesses 
closed due to lack of working capital and their workers returned to their villages. Indians who never generated black money were the worst affected. Yet, the narrative that demonetisation would destroy the wealth of the corrupt was widely accepted.

This was because of the misperception that ‘black means cash’. If cash was squeezed out, the black economy would disappear at one stroke – justice being meted out to the corrupt. The Prime Minister said that for long-term gain one had to bear short-term pain. He likened it to ‘ahuti’ in a ‘yagya’. If the pain does not end in 50 days, Modi said, the public could give him any punishment and he would accept it. Two years later, the pain persists but the government only continues to justify its error. It has refused to admit to the long-term damage to the economy, especially to marginalised Indians in the unorganised sectors. Instead, data from the organised sector is used to claim that the economy has recovered to a 7-8% rate of growth. This is treated as evidence that the pain was temporary.
The government did not survey the unorganised sectors to find out what was happening there. The underlying assumption is that the shock to the economy did not require a change in the old methodology for calculating growth. In that methodology, the organised sector is more or less the proxy for the unorganised sector. But the shock to the economy changed the ratio between the organised and the unorganised sectors. So, the ratio used prior to November 7, 2016, was no more valid after November 8, 2016. Data from private surveys showed that the unorganised sector was hit hard. Surveys were conducted by Punjab Haryana Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), All India Manufacturers Organization (AIMO), State Bank of India (SBI) and many others including NGOs. The RBI survey released in March 2017 showed a sharp decline in deremand for consumer durables and so on.

Agriculture faced a crisis due to notes shortage. Produce could not be sold, the sowing of crops was delayed and the demand for the perishables like vegetables collapsed. Prices fell sharply, thereby impacting incomes of farmers. Banking also went into a crisis since normal banking operations stopped for months. With industry, trade and agriculture facing a crisis, the problem of NPAs only increased. According to the Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE), investment fell sharply during that quarter. In effect, output, employment and investment declined, sending the economy into a tailspin from which it has not yet recovered. The impact of the goods and services tax (GST) from June-July 2017 again impacted the unorganised sectors and deepened the crisis. So, now the twin impact of demonetisation and GST is being felt in the economy. .. read more:

Saturday, 17 November 2018

RONALD ARONSON - The Philosophy of Our Time: Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential Marxism

You don't arrest Voltaire: President Charles de Gaulle in May 1968, ordering Sartre to be released after he was arrested for civil disobedience

Nearly forty years after his death in 1980, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is best remembered as the father of existentialism. We are most familiar with him as the theorist of freedom, authenticity, and bad faith in philosophical treatises such as Being and Nothingness (1943) and literary works such as Nausea (1938) and No Exit (1944). But eclipsed in this popular image is an appreciation of the staggering range of his dozens of volumes of published work, especially the fruit of his political activity from the end of World War II until his death - a period marked most notably by a rich and sustained engagement with Marxism.

Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir with Che Guevara in Cuba, 1960
(wikipeda commons)

Far from being consigned to the ash heap of history, the mid-century encounter between Marxism and existentialism remains vital today. As we seek political and philosophical bearings in this time of renewed calls for a socialist alternative to capitalism, postwar efforts to bring Marxism and existentialism together have much to teach us - not only because of the continuing importance of each mode of thought to political thinking and organizing, but also because their interaction in Sartre’s work deepens our understanding of how we exercise agency under conditions we do not control.

Existentialism’s Marxist Turn: The brilliant young Sartre began publishing in 1936 at age thirty-one. Over the next decade he would produce a stream of groundbreaking psychological, philosophical, and literary works and develop strong working relationships with other formidable young Parisian intellectuals including Simone de Beauvoir (who would become his lifelong partner) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Initially he showed little theoretical interest in either activism or Marxism. Instead he was passionately attracted to U.S. films and fiction, and he took his theoretical bearings from the German phenomenological philosophers Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger.