Showing posts from January, 2019

Robert Fisk: As the UN jabs nervously at the truth about Khashoggi, remember how often journalists’ deaths are brushed aside

It’s encouraging to hear that Agnes Callamard, the UN’s execution expert, is at last in  Istanbul  to lead the “independent international inquiry” into the killing of  Jamal Khashoggi . Better late than never, perhaps, but the old UN donkey clip-clops upon the world stage according to the politics and courage of the panjandrums beside the East River in New York. Thus Callamard arrived all of four months after Khashoggi was butchered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. And she is now politely asking the Saudis themselves – “respectfully”, she tells us – to give her access to the  murder  scene “at some stage”.  As we all know, Khashoggi wrote the truth about  Saudi Arabia , was lured to his country’s consulate in Istanbul, got strangled, chopped up and secretly buried. And if we’re going to come down hard on those who kill members of our journalistic profession – alas, we’ll have to put aside for the moment all those Turkish journos banged up in their own country – Callamard h

Hindu Mahasabha "Recreates" Mahatma Gandhi's Assassination In UP

NB: The gang known as Sangh Parivar was doing much the same thing in 2014-15:celebrating Gandhi's assassination. And Golwalkar's threat  to Gandhi are part of the historical record.  Now they are 'tactically' silent, or found singing Gandhi's praises. What a bunch of vicious hypocrites. DS LUCKNOW: Even as the nation celebrated ( Could NDTV's editors kindly consult the dictionary to learn the difference between 'celebrate' and commemorate'? ) the 71st death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a right-wing group shockingly re-enacted his assassination in Uttar Pradesh's Aligarh today. The Hindu Mahasabha - of which the assassin, Nathuram Godse, was once a member  also garlanded his statue and distributed sweets to hail what they claimed was a watershed moment in Indian history. The Abolition of truth  (on the 'parivar's celebration of Gandhis murder) 1948: Supreme Court, RSS and Gandhi Delhi Police Archive on RSS activity in Oct

Poland’s democratic spring: the fightback starts here. By Christian Davies

From air quality to sex education and corruption, citizens across the country are taking on the authorities – and winning  Back when Anna Gryta and Elżbieta Wąs started a local campaign to preserve a town square in south-east  Poland , they had no idea it would turn them into potent symbols of democratic revival. But almost 10 years since their success in Lubartów, the sisters have become figureheads for thousands of Poles determined to secure the clean, democratic governance promised to them in the wake of the collapse of communism 30 years ago. It’s a surprising revelation. Poland has become a byword for nationalist populism in recent years as the ruling  Law and Justice party  defies European democratic norms with its assault on the media and the courts. But away from the limelight, there is a flourishing grassroots movement against the flaws in the country’s democratic culture on which the populists feed. Tight groups of civic activists are notching up success after success

Martin Farrer - Historian berates billionaires at Davos over tax avoidance

A discussion panel at the  Davos  World Economic Forum has become a sensation after a Dutch historian took billionaires to task for not paying taxes. In a video shared tens of thousands of times,  Rutger Bregman, author of the book Utopia for Realists , bemoans the failure of attendees at the recent gathering in Switzerland to address the key issue in the battle for greater equality: the failure of rich people to pay their fair share of taxes. Noting that 1,500 people had travelled to Davos by private jet to hear David Attenborough talk about climate change, he said he was bewildered that no one was talking about raising taxes on the rich.  “I hear people talking the language of participation, justice, equality and transparency but almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share,”  Bregman tells the Time magazine panel on inequality. “It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to

Betwa Sharma: UP Cop Booked Yogi Adityanath Under NSA, Spent 20 Years In The Wilderness

NB: Our 'patriotic' leaders treat upright policemen like dispensable objects. His treatment at the hands of various elected representatives shows that corruption is not merely a financial matter, but refers more grievously, to the ongoing perversion of the Constitution.  Jasvir Singh deserves our thanks and a salute from all conscientious offices and citizens.   D S " I am an IPS officer, it should stand for something" LUCKNOW: In 2002, Jasvir Singh took over as the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He was 34-years-old, unafraid and an idealist, so the young Indian Police Service (IPS) officer looked into the criminal cases pending against Yogi Adityanath, then Member of Parliament (MP) from Gorakhpur, and booked him under the National Security Act (NSA). Singh said he refused to withdraw his case for preventive detention against the sitting MP despite pressure from politicians of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),

Asia Bibi: Pakistan’s top court upholds blasphemy acquittal

Asia Bibi, the Christian farm labourer who spent eight years on death row in  Pakistan  for blasphemy, is expected to leave the country after the supreme court upheld her acquittal. The court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to  October’s ruling  brought by an extreme Islamist party, which led violent protests across the country in the autumn and called for Bibi to be killed. Bibi, who has been held at a secret location since her death sentence was overturned, could be flown out of the country within hours. Two of her children  are reportedly already in Canada , which has offered Bibi asylum. After the ruling, Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, suggested that she could leave Pakistan imminently. “I think at this time she is here [in Pakistan] – but by tonight, I don’t know,” he told reporters outside the court. Extremists had “said they would kill her despite the judgment of the supreme court. Therefore, I think she should leave the country.” The supreme court’s decision was welcomed

William Astore: The U.S. Military’s Lost Wars // Chris Hedges: The American Empire Will Collapse Within a Decade, Two at Most

One of the finest military memoirs of any generation is Defeat Into Victory , British Field Marshal Sir William Slim’s perceptive account of World War II’s torturous Burma campaign, which ended in a resounding victory over Japan. When America’s generals write their memoirs about their never-ending war on terror, they’d do well to choose a different title: Victory Into Defeat. That would certainly be more appropriate than those on already published accounts like Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez’s Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story (2008), or General Stanley McChrystal’s My Share of the Task (2013)...  U.S. forces are engaged in an open-ended war on terror in  80 countries , a commitment that has cost nearly $6 trillion since the 9/11 attacks ( Costs of War Project ) William J. Astore: The U.S. Military’s Lost Wars Overfunded, Overhyped, and Always Over There Had there ever been an imperial power at the ostensible height of its glory that proved quite so incapable of effectively a

Chinese activist Liu Feiyue given five years' jail for 'inciting subversion'

The founder of a prominent Chinese civil and human rights website has been sentenced to five years in prison for inciting state subversion, according to human rights organisations. Liu Feiyue created and ran the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website, which covers a range of rights issues including protests, police abuses and government corruption – sensitive topics that are scrubbed from most Chinese media sites. The Suizhou intermediate people’s court in central Hubei province sentenced him on Tuesday after he was found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power”, according to Human Rights Watch.  “The sentence … once again shows how the Chinese government abuses the judicial system to silence dissidents,” said Patrick Poon, a  China  researcher at Amnesty International. There were “serious flaws in the procedure of this case, without due process in line with international standards”, he added. Liu’s sentence came one day after human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang was  han

Yuval Noah Harari extract: ‘Humans are a post-truth species’

NB: This is the first bit of YNH's writing that I've read, and it is good. I must add that if humans were indeed essentially given to deception at all times, then Yuval would not have been able to make this observation. As  Stanley Rosen  wisely observes: 'If there is no human nature that remains constant within historical change, and so defines the perspectives of individual readers as  perspectives upon a common humanity, then reading is impossible.... If the contingent is intelligible, that is, if it is amenable to judgement, then the basis of intelligibility or judgement cannot itself be contingent. It is true that the wise decision under present circumstances may be foolish under other circumstances, but the wisdom of the decision under present circumstances is not arbitrary. To judge is to understand, not to create  ex-nihilo..' -   Hermeneutics as Politics   (1987), p 146, 149. DS A cursory look at history reveals that propaganda and disinformation are nothi

Elites Gather In Davos To Rich-splain Poverty As The World Spirals Into Crisis. By Louise Roug

"The plutocrats who shattered the world order are gathering to make out in the mountains." DAVOS, Switzerland ― This week, thousands of business leaders, lawmakers and activists will convene in Davos to discuss the greatest challenges facing the world.  At the yearly gathering hosted by the World Economic Forum, there is much talk of “worrying  geopolitical and geo-economic   tensions.” But, to its critics, Davos embodies everything that’s wrong with the current moment. “They gather to talk about making the world a better place. But instead they commandeer our conversation,” said Anand Giridharadas , author of  Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,  who will not be attending. The U.S. government is in its longest  shutdown  on record. Britain is spiraling out of control over Brexit. Flames of rage engulf France. But “the plutocrats who shattered the world order are gathering to make out in the mountains,” Giridharadas said. According to a  repo

Intellectual paths in central Europe - By SAMUEL ABRAHÁM

The position of the intellectual in central Europe today is quite marginal and muted. One way to understand it is to examine the legacy of two towering figures, Václav Havel and Viktor Orbán, who represent diametrically opposed reactions to the post-communist politics which followed 1989. The choices and legacies of both figures leave contemporary intellectuals in a quandary when addressing the politics of their respective countries. I propose an alternative, illustrated by the deeds of an Austrian intellectual and editor, Walter Famler.  But first, let us compare the status of intellectuals in the west and in central Europe and then, quoting from a 1996 debate in  Kritika & Kontext , define the concept of the intellectual and the options available during and after the communist era. In the West, the term ‘intellectual’ has been viewed with suspicion since Julien Benda’s damning book  La Trahison des Clercs  (1927) blamed intellectuals for all the ills of the modern world. De

A kind of revolution Some thoughts on solidarity. By LEONARD NEUGER

When strikes broke out across Poland the autumn of 1980, it was difficult to find a name for the new phenomenon. The story is simple enough. In August 1980, a strike broke out at the shipyard in Gdansk. The workers, who were among the fairly well paid, wanted a raise. In the People’s Republic of Poland, such a matter was not difficult to resolve. Either one agreed to the demands of the workers, or one called in the police, the military; this had been done before and claimed victims. The workers demanded a meeting with high-ranking politicians in order to solve the conflict, and the politicians agreed to it.  But they were in for a surprise. The negotiations took place in public: apart from the strike committee, other workers also participated (through the internal radio at the shipyard). And the workers moved between the room where the negotiations took place and other places in the shipyard. Every decision made by the strikers’ committee was a joint decision. Among other th

Civil rights 'under serious attack' across the globe

Nearly six in 10 countries are seriously restricting people’s freedoms, according to a new report that warns of a growing repression around the world. According to the study, there is little or no space for activism in countries such as Eritrea and Syria, and also worrying signs in countries where democracy is considered well established, such as France, the US, Hungary and India. The  report by Civicus Monitor , an alliance of civil society groups, found that fundamental rights – such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – were under attack in 111 of 196 countries. Countries were also found to be passing repressive laws and using new technologies to control public debate. In China, censorship using new technologies had reached unprecedented levels since President Xi Jinping took power, the report warned. Cathal Gilbert, civic space research lead at Civicus, said such measures were only the tip of the iceberg, with states more frequently resorting to harassment a

‘We've dug ourselves a really deep hole’ – David Neiwert on the rise of the far right // One in 20 Britons does not believe Holocaust took place, poll finds

David Neiwert has lived in his Seattle neighbourhood for decades. But it, like the US, has changed beyond recognition around him. Once upon a time, the  journalist and author of the book Alt-America  explains , “most of the houses were older, but they were cheap. They were places where working-class people who work on these fishing boats out here” – he gestures towards the docks at Salmon Bay – “could live, right? You know, 500 bucks a month. It all got torn down during the gentrification phase and replaced with multistorey condos that cost $1,500 or $2,000 a month.” Amazon, whose headquarters are in Seattle, “changed the city”, he says. “All the folks who work on those fishing boats are still in the neighbourhood, but they’ve got no place to live. They’re all living on the street.” He offers a characteristic wry grin. “We’ve got a lot of motor homes around the neighbourhood now.” Neiwert has spent his career studying far-right movements. Alt America analyses their growth over t

Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber review – the myth of capitalist efficiency

I had a bullshit job once. It involved answering the phone for an important man, except the phone didn’t ring for hours on end, so I spent the time guiltily converting my PhD into a book. I’ve also had several jobs that were not bullshit but were steadily bullshitised: interesting jobs in the media and academia that were increasingly taken up with filling out compliance forms and time allocation surveys. I’ve also had a few shit jobs, but that’s something different. Toilets need to be cleaned. But to have a bullshit job is to know that if it were to disappear tomorrow it would make no difference to the world: in fact, it might make the world a better place. When I read David Graeber’s essay On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs in Strike! magazine in 2013, I felt somehow vindicated. I had sat in the pub on many a Friday evening moaning to colleagues about data entry and inefficient meetings. But with the Martian gaze of the anthropologist, Graeber managed to articulate my plight in

What Workers Can Learn From “the Largest Lockout in U.S. History”

NB: All those who had forgotten about working class movements and workers rights, may please consider this: what just happened in the US was a lock-out called by the highest executive official in the country - all to blackmail his own political system. Millions of people - workers and their families were made to pay the cost of this rascal's egotistical blackmailing tactics - and they will continue to pay, since the interest on debts will not be reimbursed by the employer. DS An interview with Sara Nelson, the US flight attendant union head who called this week for a general strike.   Flight attendants work for airlines, and so they have, of course, been getting paid for the past five weeks, setting them apart from airport colleagues like TSA screeners, air traffic controllers, and customs agents. But it was Sara Nelson, the head of the flight attendants’ union, who made the most forceful call for worker solidarity in the face of the shutdown. At an award dinner on Sunday,

What Citizen Pranab Mukherjee said, and didn't say, at the RSS headquarters

I rarely watch television news anymore, because it makes my brain try to eat itself. But I made an exception to watch ex-President  Pranab Mukherjee  at the  RSS  headquarters, trying not to fall asleep during the worst parade and drill ever put up in independent India.  No offence, I’m just kidding! He was actually wide awake. People are wondering what Mr Mukherjee, a staunch Congressman, was doing playing footsie with the  RSS .  What was he thinking? Well, you know how the Prime Minister’s translator recently ‘translated’ a paragraph that the Prime Minister had not actually said, during a question and answer session in Singapore? I’m also going to translate things that Citizen Mukherjee didn’t actually say, but hopefully less embarrassingly. Here goes: Dear god, do these people really claim they can mobilise for war in three days? They can’t stand in a straight line, can’t march for nuts, and that chap with the whistle would have to go with them. Having yourself broadcast all ov

Book review: The Mushroom at the End of the World review – life in capitalist ruins

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins  Written in “a riot” of short chapters, “like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after rain”, Anna Tsing’s highly original study explores ruined industrial landscapes and precarious livelihoods in this age of economic decline and globalisation. She travels the world in search of matsutake mushrooms and the people who forage for them in the forests of Oregon, Yunnan, Lapland and Japan, where they have become “the most valuable mushrooms on earth”, prized as gourmet treats and exclusive gifts. It’s said that after Hiroshima was obliterated by an atomic bomb, “the first living thing to emerge from the blasted landscape was a matsutake mushroom”. They only grow in forests disturbed by humans and were first mentioned in an eighth-century Japanese poem celebrating “the wonder of autumn aroma”. The smell is unique, though Tsing admits most Europeans can’t stand it: “It’s not an easy smell. It’s disturb

John F. Harris - Davos Elites Fear They're on a Toboggan Ride to Hell // 26 Billionaires Own The Same Wealth As The Poorest 3.8 Billion People

DAVOS, Switzerland—Populist movements around the world, left and right, disagree in detail but are united around one big idea: The political and economic elites running modern societies are very powerful people who know what they are doing. What they are doing is often bad: greedy, exploitative, short-sighted - but they are doing it with purpose and confident control. A different possibility, however, hung in the alpine air this week at the annual convening of elites here at the World Economic Forum: These alleged masters of the universe came off nearly as perplexed and anxious about the future as the populist forces inveighing against them. They have money. They have entourages. They have commanding views, both   literal (from mountain chalets here) and metaphorical (from government offices and CEO suites back home).  That doesn’t mean they have a clue. Another review of Adults in the Room, by Yanis Varoufakis - PAUL TYSON Foreboding about the future was a prevailing the

'Our house is on fire': Greta Thunberg, 16, urges leaders to act on climate

Swedish school strike activist demands economists tackle runaway global warming. Read her Davos speech here Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire. According to the  IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) , we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. In that time, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50%. And please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity, which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale. Nor does it include  tipping points  or feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas released from the  thawing Arctic permafrost . At places like  Davos , people like to tell success stories. But their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. And on climate change, we have to acknowledge we have failed. All political movements in their present f

Reflections on Fault-lines of Partition Historiography: Venkat Dhulipala responds to critics

NB : The essay below contains a detailed rebuttal of the critical reviews of Venkat Dhulipala's seminal book Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India ; Delhi, 2015. The book was the product of meticulous research and received critical praise as well as much criticism. (Some reviews may be read here ). The author's response is thorough and speaks for itself; however, given the tone and content of some of the criticisms levelled at him and his work, I have the following observations to make. I have commented on the overall bent of this hostile reception in a prefatory note to this review . A more recent attack ('attack' is the right word for it, unfortunately) on his work was made by some academicians who seized upon his attendance at a recent conference in Chicago. I have commented on this at length here . Finally let me add that since the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 has been for many years the most oft-cited l