Saturday, 31 August 2019

PADS Statement in Solidarity with Shri Kumar Prashant, President of Gandhi Peace Foundation // Press statement by Shri Kumar Prashant

I would like to remind my friends of the other side that its nothing but sin to poison the minds of innocent youths completely unaware of historical facts and lies. In fact, we actively bring them under our influence to spread lies and hatred. It’s unholy act of ours. This is an attempt to dehumanise the younger generation. And by doing so, we are dehumanising them, their families and the Indian society as a whole. Mahatma Gandhi was killed by this venom. We should refrain from getting into this vicious circle once again. May god bless us and let a good sense prevail 
From Kumar Prashant's letter to friends.
NB: I salute Kumar Prashant for his courage, for speaking the above words. Dilip

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism
Press Release

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) expresses its concern over the two FIRS being filed in Odisha (Kandhmal and Katak) against Shri Kumar Prashant, president of Gandhi Peace Foundation, allegedly for hurting sentiments of local RSS members, spreading lies about RSS and instigating people against the actions taken by the Union Government in Kashmir. 

Instead of proving Kumar Prashant wrong by publishing or speaking their refutation of his views, the RSS have taken recourse to court. The role of RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League during our India's independence movement is well documented and is still being debated. Historical controversies cannot be resolved or put to rest in courts of law. They are academic and political matters. The RSS leadership, must be well aware of this fact but it has chosen to take recourse to intimidation and threats to suppress a democratically expressed opinion by Kumar Prashant.

This is nothing other than an attempt to police public opinion by threats. It is an example of the totalitarian habit of mind of the RSS. On this matter we are in solidarity with Kumar Prashant. We trust in our judiciary and are confident that  the Kandhmal and Katak courts will do justice to the veteran Gandhian. We also expect of the Naveen Patnaik government to intervene and prevent the Odisha Police from taking any unlawful action against  him.

Released by People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)

Battini Rao, Convenor PADS (95339 75195,

Friday, 30 August 2019

Hong Kong protests: Joshua Wong and other pro-democracy figures arrested

Several prominent pro-democracy figures have been arrested in Hong Kong in an apparent crackdown on protests that have plunged the city into its worst political crisis in decades. The democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, former student leaders of pro-democracy protests in 2014, were arrested on Friday and Andy Chan, head of a now banned pro-independence party, was detained by police on Thursday.

The arrests come before a rally planned for Saturday that has now been called off out of concern that police will arrest participants en masse. On an online forum, some have called for demonstrators to come out anyway. Many expect the arrests will only generate more public anger and clashes with police in the days ahead.

On Friday morning, Wong was bundled into a van on the street while he was talking to a subway station, according to Wong and Chow’s political organisation, Demosisto. Chow was arrested at home, while Chan, in a separate incident, was detained at Hong Kong airport. Chow and Wong were arrested on suspicion of participating and inciting others to participate in an unauthorised assembly during protests outside police headquarters on 21 June. Wong has also been accused of organising an unlawful assembly... read more:

see also

How the prison economy works. By Richard Davies

Today there are almost 2.3 million prisoners in the US – by far the highest number of any country in the world. Louisiana today has the second-highestincarceration rate in the US (after Oklahoma overtook it in 2018), with a male incarceration rate that far exceeds the national average, and Angola is the state’s only maximum-security jail. It is also the country’s largest, covering an 18,000-acre site that is larger than Manhattan. On a mission to investigate the world’s most extreme economies, I set out for Angola. My hunch was that I would find examples of simplistic barter; what I discovered was an innovative, complex and modern system of hidden trade that offers an important lesson about the way economies work.

Serving prisoners and ex-convicts say the first law of prison economics is unsatisfied demand and the innovation that it stimulates. Cut off from the outside, prisoners find themselves lacking staples and unable to make choices that they had previously taken for granted. The urge to get hold of simple material goods is strong, and prisoners I met described the first few weeks inside as a shock during which time they learn the rules of their new world and adapt to the reality that they have lost not only their freedom but also their possessions. Today in Louisiana new inmates receive basic supplies: standard-issue clothing, a bar of soap and some lotion. But there are lots of day-to-day items they lack and want: deodorant, decent jeans, better sneakers. It was the same in the 1960s, Rideau told me when we met in Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital: while you got simple provisions, a lot of effort went into getting hold of extra comforts.

Some goods are available via official channels, but getting hold of them takes a long time. When a prisoner in Angola orders a book or is sent one, it can take six months, or longer, to reach them, since censors need to check the content. The delay is an example of a general theme in the Louisiana prison economy: it operates in a time warp… read more:

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Vineet Khare: Chinese man prevented from visiting Indian family

In 1963, a former Chinese army surveyor crossed into India and was captured weeks after a war between the two countries. Wang Qi was then left in a central Indian town for more than five decades before he was allowed to travel back home to China in 2017. The BBC reported his story at the time and videos of the emotional family reunion in China were watched by millions.

But now, more than 30 months later, his story has taken an unexpected turn - Mr Wang is stuck in China and unable to return to India. He has been waiting for more than four months for officials to renew his Indian visa so that he can travel back to India where his children and grandchildren live.
"Why are they doing this? I've been fighting for such a long time. How much longer can I fight?" Mr Wang told me over the phone from his home city of Xianyang. The BBC has emailed the Indian embassy in Beijing and is yet to receive a response.

Born to a farmer family in Shaanxi with four brothers and two sisters, he studied surveying and joined China's People's Liberation Army in 1960. Mr Wang says he was "tasked with building roads for the Chinese army" and was captured when he "strayed erroneously" into Indian territory in January 1963. "I had gone out of my camp for a stroll but lost my way. I was tired and hungry. I saw a Red Cross vehicle and asked them to help me. They handed me over to the Indian army," he said.

John Bercow is itching to stop Brexit – and there isn’t much the government can do to get in his way

NB: He has a bit more spine than our Speakers, doesnt he? DS
When Charles I arrived in the chamber of the House of Commons in January 1642, armed guards in tow, to arrest a group of MPs for treason, it was the speaker who stood in his way. Instead of giving up the so-called traitors, speaker William Lenthall rebuked the King and reasserted the power of the Commons, telling Charles, “I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this House is pleased to direct me.” The struggle for power between executive and legislature is not a new one. But the possibility of John Bercow taking the lead in the battle to stop Brexit offers the prospect of a modern-day stand-off, every bit as compelling as the one that took place in the months before the Civil War. It’s not Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper or Ken Clarke who’s best-placed to stop Brexit, but Bercow himself.

It’s an opportunity that Bercow plans to exploit to the full. The reaction from Bercow today to Boris Johnson’s plan to hold a Queen’s Speech in mid-October, with parliament not sitting for a period of almost five weeks beforehand, was telling. He took time out from his holiday with his family to fire off a vicious message, saying that the PM’s plan is a “constitutional outrage” and an “offence against the democratic process”... read more:

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

'Why Did You Have 'War And Peace' At Home?': Bombay HC's Bizarre Question To Arrested Activist

NB: "Why were you having (sic) these books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court,” said Justice Sarang Kotwal. Wouldn't it be more pertinent to ask why a person of this intellectual level is sitting on the Bombay High Court? DS

MUMBAI — The Bombay High Court hearing a bail plea of Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case accused Vernon Gonsalves on Wednesday questioned his motive behind keeping copies of some books and CDs whose titles prima facie indicated they contained material against the State. 

The books and CDs the high court referred to included copies of Marxist Archives, a CD titled ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ released by Kabir Kala Manch, and Leo Tolstoy’s literary classic War and Peace 
among others. “The title of the CD ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ itself suggests it has something against the State while War and Peace is about a war in another country. Why were you (Gonsalves) having these books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court,” said a single-judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal. The judge made these observations while hearing the bail plea of Gonsalves, an academic, and other accused persons. Gonsalves was arrested by the Pune police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after raids at residences and offices of several activists in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.

The police had claimed provocative speeches made at the Parishad on December 31, 2017 were responsible for the caste violence around Bhima-Koregaon village in Pune district the next day during an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. One person was killed and others were injured in the violence. Police are probing the alleged naxal links in organising the Parishad, which was held at historic Shaniwarwada in Pune… read more:

More posts on Bhima-Koregaon

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Antony Dapiran: The Hong Kong Way protest shows enchantment is a powerful weapon

The feeling of “enchantment”, according to political theorist Jane Bennett of Johns Hopkins University, is something that stops you in your tracks, leaving you transfixed and spellbound – a suspension of time and movement. Places or moments of enchantment can inspire a sense of wonder or awe, even fill us with overwhelming feelings of generosity and love for the world. But enchantment can also serve a political purpose.

It almost felt like magic. A few people standing on the street were joined by a few more; people 
lining the footpath of one block connected to those on the next block. And suddenly, there they all were. Hand in hand, chanting slogans and singing songs. On 23 August, the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way – a human chain linking the capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to demand the Baltic republics’ independence from the Soviet Union – more than 200,000 people came out on to the streets of Hong Kong to form the “Hong Kong Way”. From the crowded streets of Wan Chai on Hong Kong island, to the famous waterfront of Tsim Sha Tsui, to the suburbs of the New Territories, to the peak of Lion Rock, people linked hands in a continuous human chain that some said measured 60km 
in total.

This was just the latest action in Hong Kong’s ongoing anti-government protest movement calling for democratic reforms. As a protest action, it was incredibly effective: entirely peaceful, a striking visual spectacle, and a very physical manifestation of the broad support for the movement from across the community. People of all ages and from all walks of life, families with young children, the elderly – all joined the chain and put paid to any suggestion that these ongoing protests were just a few hot-headed young student agitators. But perhaps most importantly, the Hong Kong Way created a moment of enchantment.

It was a sharp contrast to the scenes of the weekend that followed: violent clashes between protesters and police on two consecutive days, which culminated in police deploying water cannon for the first time on Hong Kong’s streets and one officer firing a warning shot from his service revolver to fend off an angry mob police said threatened their lives. As the city continues to reel from months of protests, moments of enchantment such as Friday night’s Hong Kong Way offer a reprieve from the escalating cycle of violence and rays of hope for the protest movement... read more:

Scott Denning: The Amazon Fires Aren’t Depleting Earth’s Oxygen Supply

Fires in the Amazon rainforest have captured attention worldwide in recent days. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019, pledged in his campaign to reduce environmental protection and increase agricultural development in the Amazon, and he appears to have followed through on that promise.

The resurgence of forest clearing in the Amazon, which had decreased more than 80% following a peak in 2004, is alarming for many reasons. Tropical forests harbor many species of plants and animals found nowhere else. They are important refuges for indigenous people, and contain enormous stores of carbon as wood and other organic matter that would otherwise contribute to the climate crisis.

Some media accounts have suggested that fires in the Amazon also threaten the atmospheric oxygen that we breathe. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Aug. 22 that “the Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire.” The oft-repeated claim that the Amazon rainforest produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen is based on a misunderstanding. In fact nearly all of Earth’s breathable oxygen originated in the oceans, and there is enough of it to last for millions of years. There are many reasons to be appalled by this year’s Amazon fires, but depleting Earth’s oxygen supply is not one of them.... read more:

The kindest thing I ever saw ...

Last year my daughter and I were on the train from Carlisle to Manchester. There was a stag party, loud and pretty annoying, and getting cross looks from some passengers. Then along comes an older lady, who couldn’t find her case. She was going from compartment to compartment, desperately searching. One of the lads stands up, puts a hand on her shoulder and says: “Don’t worry love, I’ll help you find it.”

The pair of them set about searching. Her station comes, and goes, and still the case isn’t found. She starts to cry. He takes her in his arms, gives her a soft hug and tells her that he’s not leaving her. He’ll stay with her till the case is found and until she’s gets to where she is going, even if it takes all day. She asks him about his plans and says that she can’t ruin his day. He says that it doesn’t matter. He won’t leave her. He tells his mates that he’ll see them tomorrow and then the pair of them go off to find the conductor.

Over the next hour or so we watched as the case was found, and the two worked out a plan for how to get her back to her station. The lad had found a double seat in front of us and they spent the rest of their journey having the loveliest chat about her family, his family and the silly things they had both done in their lives. .. It was the sweetest thing I have ever experienced. And I wished it had been me who had jumped up to help. That lad sacrificed a stag night to help someone who could have been his Nan, and I think everyone in that compartment wished we were him, and we all had a smile on our face and a tear in our eye... read more:

Alex Kotch - Death and destruction: this is David Koch's sad legacy

For all his adult life, he’d led Koch Industries, a diversified manufacturing conglomerate, with his older brother Charles. Now taking in around $110bn per year, the company creates chemicals and fertilizers; it produces synthetic materials such as Lycra; it sells lumber and churns out paper and glass products; it makes electronics components used in weapons systems. But first and foremost, Koch Industries mines and refines petroleum and operates pipelines to spread it throughout North America.

Koch Industries, a private company, is the United States’ 17th-largest producer of greenhouse gases and the 13th-biggest water polluter, according to research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst - ahead of oil giants Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum and Phillips 66. The conglomerate has committed hundreds of environmental, workplace safety, labor and other violations. It allegedly stole oil from Indian reservations, won business in foreign countries with bribery, and one of its crumbling butane pipelines killed two teenagers, resulting in a nearly $300m wrongful death settlement. The dangerous methane leakage, carbon emissions, chemical spills and other environmental injustices enacted by Koch’s companies have imperiled the planet and allegedly 
brought cancer to many people. But it took Koch’s own struggle with the disease for him to care about cancer and fund research to combat it... read more:

Suketu Mehta - Immigration panic: how the west fell for manufactured rage

The west is being destroyed, not by migrants, but by the fear of migrants. In country after country, the ghosts of the fascists have rematerialised and are sitting in parliaments in Germany, in Austria, in Italy. They have successfully convinced their populations that the greatest threat to their nations isn’t government tyranny or inequality or climate change, but immigration. And that, to stop this wave of migrants, everyone’s civil liberties must be curtailed. Surveillance cameras must be installed everywhere. Passports must be produced for the most routine of tasks, like buying a mobile phone.

Take a look at Hungary, where Viktor Orbán has forced out the Central European University and almost destroyed the country’s free press and most other liberal institutions, using immigrants and George Soros as bogeymen. Or Poland, whose ruling party purged the judiciary, banished political opponents from government media, greatly restricted public gatherings and passed a law, modified only after an international outcry, making it a crime to accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust. 

Or Austria, where the neo-Nazis in the governing coalition want to fail kindergarteners for not knowing German. Or Italy, where a fanatically anti-immigrant coalition that won power is now going after the Roma. All these rode to power, or intensified their grip on it, like Orbán, by stoking voters’ fear of migrants, promising to ban new immigrants and to take away the rights of immigrants already in the country. Once in power, they energetically set about depriving everyone else of their rights, migrants or citizens.

It is a successful strategy for the fearmongers. Driven by this fear, in country after country voters are electing leaders who are doing incalculable long-term damage. And some liberal politicians blame not the fearmongers or the people who vote for them – but the migrants. “Europe needs to get a handle on migration,” declared Hillary Clinton in November 2018. It “must send a very clear message – ‘We are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”

The economist Jennifer Hunt tells a story about visiting Germany recently and listening to people making the liberal argument against letting in refugees: “If we let these people in, we’ll have the far right in government.” Hunt’s response: “If you don’t let these people in, you’ve already become a far-right government.”.. read more:

Monday, 26 August 2019

Tom Phillips: Mexico's 'glitter revolution' targets violence against women

Sandra Aguilar-Gomez remembers an atmosphere of camaraderie and celebration when thousands of Mexican women took to the streets for the “violet spring” protests of 2016. Three years later and the demonstrators are back to demand an end to violence against women – but this time the mood has soured.  “What I saw on the streets was rage and desperation,” Aguilar-Gomez, 28, a postgraduate student and feminist activist, said of the recent rallies in Mexico City. “Because things haven’t changed a bit.” Aguilar-Gomez is one of thousands of women who have joined the so-called revolución diamantina” (glitter revolution) in Mexico’s sprawling capital. 

The movement earned its name after protesters showered Mexico City’s security chief with pink glitter during their inaugural demonstration on 12 August. That protest was a reaction to the alleged rape of a teenage girl by four police officers in Azcapotzalco, to the north of Mexico City, in the early hours of 3 August. The demonstrators, who marched with placards saying, “All Women Against All Violence” and, “If you violate women we will violate your laws”, are also demanding broader changes in a country where an average of 10 women are murdered every day and virtually all such crimes go unpunished.

“It is an unsustainable, femicidal situation,” said Yndira Sandoval, a campaigner whose group, Las Constituyentes, is among those that has joined the movement. “Every day girls are going missing, women are going missing, women are being violated and raped … and we want a political response that reflects the scale of this national emergency,” added Sandoval, who said she had been the victim of a sexual assault in 2017. When Mexico’s leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, took office last December promising a new era of social justice, many activists, Sandoval included, hoped positive change was finally on the horizon... read more:

see also 

Masood Saifullah - Afghan Women Cry For Help After Journalist Mina Mangal's Killing

Nicholas Shakespeare: Novel explosives of the Cold War

Readers put perhaps not more trust but a different kind of trust in the perception of writers they know as novelists… What we can do, perhaps better than the next man, is smell a rat... 

Written to undermine Stalinism and the rabid purges that Orwell witnessed in Spain — ‘the special world created by secret police forces, censorship of opinion, torture and frame-up trials’ — Animal Farm was completed in three weeks. Nineteen Eighty-Four took three years longer. Published in 1949, and set, not in Russia, but in a future Britain which, White nicely reminds us, had become a mere colony of the US, renamed ‘Airstrip One’, it was immediately recognised as ‘the most powerful weapon yet deployed in the cultural Cold War’.

Behind the Iron Curtain, Stalin’s chief cultural propagandist, Andrei Zhdanov, insisted that Soviet literature was ‘the most advanced literature in the world’ because ‘it does not and cannot have other interests besides the interests of the state’. In pursuit of ‘socialist realism’, brigades of writers were encouraged to write collective novels about the factory to which they had been assigned. The penalty for not doing so was in general as dire as the result. The poet Anna Akhmatova, who, like Solzhenitsyn, had to tear up and swallow or bury her work, reckoned that ‘not a single piece of literature’ was printed under Stalin’s poisonous rule.

One of myriad mediocre talents hitched to communism’s disintegrating band-wagon was the Russian novelist Alexander Fadeyev. Co-founder and chairman of the Union of Soviet Writers, he had signed letters which led to his fellow authors being arrested, and sometimes worse: an estimated 1,500 writers lost their lives in Stalin’s purges, among them Mandelstam, Isaac Babel and Boris Pilnyak. But the price of selling his soul to ‘the satrap Stalin’ became too high, and on 13 May 1956 Fadeyev shot himself. His suicide note mourned how literature had been ‘debased, persecuted and destroyed’, and the best writers ‘physically exterminated’.

Dissident writers were treated less barbarically in America. One famous leader of the communist cause was Howard Fast, who at a protest against anti-communists was observed ‘fighting with a Coke bottle in each hand’. Still, his books were burned and removed from libraries in Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch-hunt, and Fast was sent to prison at Mill Point where he conceived his novel Spartacus, which became a self-published bestseller and Hollywood movie.

Nor was the US spared its enemy’s hypocrisies and complicities. America’s declared pre-war wish to champion self-determination lost out to the stronger impulse to contain the spread of communism and find new resources, as in oil-rich Iran, where a joint CIA–SIS coup toppled the elected leader. Elsewhere, America propped up repressive right-wing dictatorships in South Vietnam (as fictionalised in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American), Cuba (Our Man in Havana) and South and Central America, the supreme act of hypocrisy being the Iran-Contra Affair... read more:

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Bharat Bhushan - How will Modi's New India look?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed in Paris recently that the “New India” he is ushering in, will target corruption, nepotism, loot of public resources, and terrorism like never before. As his tenure is still an essay in writing, only history will judge his claims. India, under the Modi regime, is being redefined in other ways as well. The noose also seems to be tightening around what was once a dynamic, vibrant and plural society, a culture that embraced rather than discriminated, the assurance of justice and freedom of expression. Instead, Indian society’s most violent and intolerant impulses have been let loose with impunity.

The sudden dismemberment of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, its surprisingly smooth legitimation in Parliament and the overwhelming public support for locking up an entire population of the state suggests that India was never the secular, democratic, federal utopia that many imagined it to be. It will not be easy to undo the Constitutional, legal and other structural changes wrought by the Modi government. Its task was made easy by the electoral ouster of the left-of-centre parties from legislatures. The remaining “mainstream” political parties have became hostage to the Hindutva agenda and afraid to challenge its hard, religious and centrist definition of nationalism.

The concept of “New India” however will not take the path of military dictatorships as happened in many failed democracies in Asia and Africa, most notably under Zia-ul-Haq’s regime in Pakistan. 
Rather, the academic Sumantra Bose points out in a recent article in “The Conversation”, Hindu nationalism will be “pursued, and accomplished, in a way compatible with democratic polity.” The comparison here will be with an “ethnic democracy” like Israel and, to some extent, with Sri Lanka and Croatia.

Quality of education in UK universities falling as institutions focus funds on marketing

The quality of education in universities is falling as institutions invest in marketing rather than on their staff and students, the new president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has said. 
In one of her first interviews since taking up her post, Zamzam Ibrahim warned of over-stretched academics teaching classes of more than 150 students, who pay up to £9,250 a year on tuition fees. 

The removal of the student numbers cap has increased the competition between universities to recruit, she said, forcing them to prioritise “the bottom dollar” over student experience. Ms Ibrahim warned that some universities could have to close down in the near future amid financial pressures, which she argues are a result of the “marketisation of education”. Speaking to The Independent, Ms Ibrahim said universities are spending money on marketing and making sure their offers are “more attractive” in a fight for survival...

Nicole Karlis: Why Trump is obsessed with buying Greenland // Can humanity survive without the Amazon rainforest?

What exactly is this so-called economic potential? For one, Greenland’s vast mineral and energy resources include iron ore, lead, zinc, diamonds, gold, rare earth elements, uranium and oil, to name a few. As the Arctic ice continues to melt due to global warming, these minerals and natural resources will become more accessible for extraction.

In other words, instead of trying to preserve what sea ice is left in the Arctic Ocean, Trump and the Republican party want to capitalize on its demise. That the majority of the Republican party, Trump included, publicly deny climate change makes this irony even richer.

Can humanity survive without the Amazon rainforest?
the farmers who have started the fires were encouraged by Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, a climate skeptic.  In July alone, the Amazon lost 519 square miles of rainforest, an area more than twice the size of Tokyo, due to deforestation.

As Salon has previously explained, sea ice in the Arctic Ocean can be compared to ice cubes in a glass of water. As the ice melts, it does not directly change the water level in your glass because the ice was already there — but at some point, it ceases to keep the glass cold. In the case of Earth, the glass of water is the world’s oceans. Scientists have warned that, as the sea ice melts, this will investiably raise the temperature of the ocean faster.

In 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) annual Arctic Report Card noted that only five percent of the Arctic Ocean’s old sea ice remains, and part of that is in Greenland. This summer, ice sheets in Greenland have been melting faster in the last decade. Greenland also experienced two of the biggest melts since 2012.

Greenland has long been considered a frontier for oil, gas, and minerals, but conditions have been too harsh to be economically feasible. Exactly how mineral-rich the land beneath the ice sheets really are is unknown, as it has not been possible to explore these depths... read more:

The business elite still believe the ‘greed is good’ fallacy — but this dark philosophy has brought them to the brink

Gordon Gekko found religion this week. Gekko, the lead in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” about capitalism gone corruptly amok, is most famous for his phrase: “greed is good.” On Monday, real-world Gekkos - 181 corporate CEOs who belong to the Business Roundtable - signed a pledge saying they think greed isn’t so good, after all. Instead of bowing at the altar of larger corporate profits to hand out to executives and shareholders, these CEOs declared that corporations must demonstrate some reverence for other stakeholders as well: workers, customers, suppliers, communities and the environment. 

If corporations actually devoted themselves to achieving this goal, it would be a return to the decades of the 20th century between 1930 and 1970 when many corporations did, in fact, abide by these values. The American middle class was more robust then, as pay rose in tandem with productivity. Unions held a stronger position in the economy. And the disparity between CEO and worker pay was dramatically smaller. But believing the country will revert to those economic times without force is naïve. The Roundtable’s announcement is nothing but a stunt.

Though the 181 Roundtable CEOs signed the stakeholder capitalism document, practicing the principles is an entirely different thing. And not even every member of the Business Roundtable came around and endorsed the document. The “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” says those who did sign “share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders.” They underlined the word all. And they wrote in the present tense, as if they were already operating their corporations this way.

That, frankly, is ridiculous. Take, for example, these signers of the document: Amazon, General Motors, Duke Energy, Chevron and Honeywell. In 2018, they not only paid no taxes, they demanded taxpayers give them money. Or take these signers: Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and McKesson. They all face lawsuits alleging they contributed to the opioid crisis that still kills 40 Americans every day. Or how about signatory National Gypsum, one of four companies that agreed to pay $190 million to settle a price fixing case? And there’s signer Duke Energy, which paid $102 million in fines and restitution after pleading guilty to polluting 70 miles of the Dan River... read more:

Sam Dresser: How Camus and Sartre split up over the question of how to be free

They were an odd pair. Albert Camus was French Algerian, a pied-noir born into poverty who effortlessly charmed with his Bogart-esque features. Jean-Paul Sartre, from the upper reaches of French society, was never mistaken for a handsome man. They met in Paris during the Occupation and grew closer after the Second World War. In those days, when the lights of the city were slowly turning back on, Camus was Sartre’s closest friend. ‘How we loved you then,’ Sartre later wrote.

They were gleaming icons of the era. Newspapers reported on their daily movements: Sartre holed up at Les Deux Magots, Camus the peripatetic of Paris. As the city began to rebuild, Sartre and Camus gave voice to the mood of the day. Europe had been immolated, but the ashes left by war created the space to imagine a new world. Readers looked to Sartre and Camus to articulate what that new world might look like. ‘We were,’ remembered the fellow philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, ‘to provide the postwar era with its ideology.’

It came in the form of existentialism. Sartre, Camus and their intellectual companions rejected religion, staged new and unnerving plays, challenged readers to live authentically, and wrote about the absurdity of the world – a world without purpose and without value. ‘[There are] only stones, flesh, stars, and those truths the hand can touch,’ Camus wrote. We must choose to live in this world and to project our own meaning and value onto it in order to make sense of it. This means that people are free and burdened by it, since with freedom there is a terrible, even debilitating, responsibility to live and act authentically... read more:

 see also

The fish are destroying the sushi: Twitter Wits Go Bonkers Over ‘Trump Gibberish’ That ‘Media Is Destroying The Free Press’

President Donald Trump’s latest head-banging attack on the press served as sweet inspiration for Twitter critics Saturday when he declared in a tweet that “The Media is destroying the Free Press!”
Trump apparently took time out from concentrating on the G-7 summit to watch right-wing radio and Fox News host Mark Levin bash the media and plug his book “Unfreedom of the Press” on “Life, Liberty & Levin” Saturday. Trump’s single message was enough to launch thousands of mocking just-as-confounding - and snarky - statements under the viral hashtag “Trump gibberish.”

IAS Officer Kannan Gopinathan Resigns Over Denial Of Fundamental Rights To People In Kashmir // 'It Felt Like George Orwell's 1984': Mehbooba Mufti’s Daughter Iltija

NEW DELHI—IAS Officer Kannan Gopinathan resigned from government service on August 21 citing denial of fundamental rights to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, and his own inability to speak freely about it, The Hindu reported.  “We got into the service thinking that we can provide voice to people, but then we ended up with our own voice being taken away from us. In a democracy, let’s say Hong Kong or any other democracy, if the Government takes a decision, that is their right. But the response to that decision is the people’s right. Here, we have taken a decision and then we have detained everybody. They are not even allowed to respond to that decision. That is dangerous,” the 33-year-old bureaucrat told the newspaper on Saturday

In a separate interview to the same day, the 2012 batch IAS Officer from Kerala said, “I want my freedom of expression back. I want to live like me, even if its for a day.”
Government servants are prohibited by service rules to criticise government policies publicly. 
Further, in the same interview, he explained at some length why resigning was an important moral step for him. “If you ask me what you were doing, when one of the world’s largest democracies announced a ban on the entire state, and even violated the fundamental rights of the people, I should at least be able to reply that I resigned my job,” he said. 

In an other interview with NDTV, he clarified that, ”...Article 370 or its abrogation is not the issue, but denying citizens their right to respond to it, is the main issue. They could welcome the move or protest it, that’s their right.”  The secretary of Power, Urban Development and Town and Country Planning departments of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli administration was also disturbed by a “lack of response” from India’s civil society to the detention of IAS officer-turned activist from Kashmir Shah Faesal. “Even when a former IAS officer was detained from the airport, there was a complete lack of response from civil society. It seems like most in this country are okay with this,” he rued.. 
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Forget Article 370, there will be a debate about it for years and years to come — whether it was legal, whether it was constitutional. I believe people have already filed petitions in the Supreme Court. But what followed after that… this curfew is unprecedented in terms of restrictions. Kashmir was not normal to begin with and now you have taken away whatever semblance of normalcy Kashmiris had. As I’m talking to you right now, it’s tough for me to decide where I need to begin from. 

You ask anyone from my generation, Kashmiris have seen nothing but bloodshed for the past 30 years, with these very short periods of peace. Our lives are broken but Kashmiris have still tried to build a life. You have these entrepreneurs who have set up these amazing restaurants, beautiful coffee shops, with books and libraries and stuff. What’s going to happen to all that. I’ve never felt so repressed in my life. We are being made to feel like outsiders in our own land. We are being made to feel that Kashmir doesn’t belong to us. I came from the Valley, yesterday… you are being stopped after every two minutes with the barricades and spools of wire. It’s unprecedented, it’s inhuman and it’s infuriating. It feels like collective punishment... read more:

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Sandeep Sahu - Gagging dissent? Two FIRs filed against Gandhi Peace Foundation chief Kumar Prashant

NB: The Sangh wants to criminalise historical interpretations that contradict their view of history. Have they not been spreading their version of history, demonising Gandhi and Nehru for decades? In 2014, did their mouthpiece Kesari not publish the view that Godse should have murdered Nehru? Their wish to prosecute Kumar Prashant, an outstanding activist for peace and communal harmony, shows that they are bent upon imposing ideological conformity upon Indian society. Madhu Limaye had warned us about them decades ago. Let there be an open debate on the doings of the RSS. What will the courts decide? That the RSS is the repository of historical truth? DS

Two FIRs have been lodged in two different police stations in Odisha over the last two days accusing Gandhi Peace Foundation (GPF) chief Kumar Prashant of spreading falsehoods about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and ‘conspiring against the nation’ and calling for action against the eminent Gandhian thinker.

Citing media reports on the three-day ‘Gandhi Katha’ Prashant addressed in Bhubaneswar from August 16 to 18, both the FIRs charged the Gandhian thinker with spreading falsehoods about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and inciting the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The first of the two FIRs was lodged at the Adarsh police station in Phulbani, the headquarters of the communally sensitive Kandhamal district, on Monday while the second was registered at the Lalbag police station the following day.

Addressing the ‘Gandhi Katha’ at the invitation of the organising committee set up by the Odisha government for the sesquicentennial celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, Kumar Prashant had said the RSS played no role in India’s freedom struggle. Vinayak Damodar (‘Veer’) Savarkar actually collaborated with the British to get out of the Cellular jail in Andaman, he had said. On abrogation of Article 370, the Gandhian thinker had said it was an ‘undemocratic’ measure taken without taking the people of the trouble-torn state into confidence. He also likened the move to what Mohammed Ali Jinnah did to partition the country.

“Gandhi Peace Foundation chief Kumar Prashant has sown the seeds of discord by denigrating ‘Veer Savarkar’ whose portrait adorns the Central Hall of Parliament and describing Udham Singh, who laid down his life for the country, as a ‘criminal’,” the identical FIRs said. The FIR in Phulbani was signed by Bhagaban  Mohaty, advocate while the one in Cuttack was signed by Biswarajan Swain, advocate... read more:

see also
1948: Assassination of Gandhi
कुमार प्रशांत - तो राष्ट्रीय स्वंयसेवक संघ ने एक बार फिर गांधी से दो-दो हाथ करने का मन बनाया है // Bharat Bhushan: BJP icon S P Mookerjee complicit in raising funds for defending Gandhi's assassins
Mario Candeias: Understanding the Rise of the Radical Right

Kerry Eleveld: Psychiatrist warns Trump may be ‘at significant risk for deteriorating into full-blown psychosis

Donald Trump’s verbal outbursts and Messianic claims of being “the second coming” and “the chosen one” have once again reignited a controversy over just what exactly is wrong with the pr*sident of the United States. Not only did he compare himself to Jesus several times in a single day, Trump also had a lot of trouble with the basic enunciation of words like “obstacle” and “applicable,” called the prime minister of Denmark “nasty” for declining to sell Greenland to the U.S., and declared all Democratic American Jews “disloyal to Israel.”

Whatever Trump’s diagnosis, it’s particularly bleak and dangerous that this man is running the country and in possession of the nuclear codes, among other forms of recourse. Still, people are debating whether Trump is actually psychotic or narcissistic with delusions of grandeur or perhaps suffering from rabid dementia eating away at his brain and making him particularly irritable.

One mental health professional and contributor to the updated version of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump argued Wednesday that Trump isn’t technically psychotic. “Trump is narcissistically irrational & grandiose w paranoid traits. His reality is defined by how he feels, not objective facts (“impressionistic thinking’),” tweeted Dr. David Reiss. But according to the psychiatric diagnostic manual known as the DSM, Trump is not psychotic. “He is dangerously racist, impulsive, irrationally self-centered; not clinically psychotic,” Reiss concluded.

That said, later in the tweet thread, Reiss added, “he is (at least theoretically) at significant risk for deteriorating into full-blown psychosis.”.. read more:

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Lisandra Paraguassu: Wildfires Raging Across Amazon Rainforest Hit Record High

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest have hit a record number this year, with 72,843 fires detected so far by Brazil’s space research center INPE, as concerns grow over right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policy. The surge marks an 83% increase over the same period of 2018, the agency said on Tuesday, and is the highest since records began in 2013.

Since Thursday, INPE said satellite images spotted 9,507 new forest fires in the country, mostly in the Amazon basin, home to the world’s largest tropical forest seen as vital to countering global warming.
Images show the northernmost state of Roraima covered in dark smoke. Amazonas declared an emergency in the south of the state and in its capital Manaus on Aug. 9. Acre, on the border with Peru, has been on environmental alert since Friday due to the fires.

Wildfires have increased in Mato Grosso and Para, two states where Brazil’s agricultural frontier has pushed into the Amazon basin and spurred deforestation. Wildfires are common in the dry season, but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching.

The unprecedented surge in wildfires has occurred since Bolsonaro took office in January vowing to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation. Asked about the spread of uncontrolled fires, Bolsonaro brushed off criticism, saying it was the time of the year of the “queimada” or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land... read more:

An appeal for Kashmiri students

Dear All,  
The situation in Kashmir has deteriorated. It’s been almost two weeks since the communication blackout has been going on. Although, there has been partial removal of the blockade, it remains extremely difficult, if not impossible to get across to people there. Meanwhile, we have been receiving conflicting news about the level of the violence in the region.
For a lot of the people from the region living elsewhere in the mainland, these have been trying times, so to say. Almost none of them has been able to establish any real contact with family, friends and loved ones back home. For the students of the region, it has been even more difficult, since this is precisely the time of admission and re-admission to many educational institutions.
Countless students are also unable to pay their rents or everyday expenses, because of the lack of contact with their families. Since the blockade was instituted during the beginning of the month, many families had not been able to send their children the monthly expenses from home. Moreover, many students from the region, have faced harassment in their social lives and the women students are facing misogyny specifically directed towards them.
To address these issues, some students from various Universities have got together under the aegis of "Students with Kashmiri Students" to help out our fellow students from the region in their times of crisis.  We are currently offering financial, legal, and emotional support.
We are also in touch with a few therapists and lawyers who have agreed to help in times of need.
We request you to donate to our cause of help students from region, who are doing their level best to continue their education as peacefully as possible during these trying times. All funds will go towards providing for their admission fee, educational expenses, monthly and everyday expenses, and travel expenses. They will also be used to provide legal aid and psychological support to these students. 
So far, we have been able to help a number of students from the donations that we have received so far. While we are extremely grateful to those who have donated, we need more. We are getting at least two requests for help every hour, and nothing we get from you, in this regard, is too small.
So, please consider donating, and also spread the word.
The funds can be transferred to the bank account of Moksha Sharma, a law student, who is handling the finances. Details of the account can be found below:  
Name: Moksha Sharma
Account Number: 22750100006374
Branch: Bank of Baroda, Hauz Khas 
We will provide a receipt of your donation.
Also, if you have access to other resources, and would like to volunteer, please let us know. We are in need of more lawyers, therapists and folks who would just like to provide emotional support to the affected students.
If you would like to reach out to us for queries or assistance, our contact information is as follows: 
Instagram: studentswithkashmiristudents 
Facebook: Students With Kashmiri Students 
Twitter:  studentswithkashmiristudents

2084? Is Trump the one who Takes us into the Age of Big Brother? TOM ENGELHARDT

I, Winston Smith… I mean, Tom Engelhardt… have not just been reading a dystopian novel, but, it seems, living one - and I suspect I’ve been living one all my life.

Yes, I recently reread George Orwell’s classic 1949 novel, 1984. In it, Winston Smith, a secret opponent of the totalitarian world of Oceania, one of three great imperial superpowers left on planet Earth, goes down for the count at the hands of Big Brother. It was perhaps my third time reading it in my 75 years on this planet.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a certain fascination for dystopian fiction. It started, I think, with War of the Worlds, that ur-alien-invasion-from-outer-space novel in which Martians land in southern England and begin tearing London apart. Its author, H.G. Wells, wrote it at the end of the nineteenth century, evidently to give his English readers a sense of what it might have felt like to be living in Tasmania, the island off the coast of Australia, and have the equivalent of Martians — the British, as it happened — appear in your world and begin to destroy it (and your culture with it).

I can remember, at perhaps age 13, reading that book under the covers by flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep; I can remember, that is, being all alone, chilled (and thrilled) to the bone by Wells’ grim vision of civilizational destruction. To put this in context: in 1957, I would already have known that I was living in a world of potential civilizational destruction and that the Martians were here. They were then called the Russians, the Ruskies, the Commies, the Reds. I would only later grasp that we (or we, too) were Martians on this planet.

The world I inhabited was, of course, a post-Hiroshima, post-Nagasaki one. I was born on July 20, 1944, just a year and a few days before my country dropped atomic bombs on those two Japanese cities, devastating them in blasts of a kind never before experienced and killing more than 200,000people. .. read more:

Bernie Sanders: Criticizing the Israeli Gov’t is not anti-Semitic & Palestinians Deserve Rights

US Democratic candidate and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has said that criticising Israeli government policy is not anti-Semitic. Speaking at a town hall meeting in the state of New Hampshire, on the US’ east coast, Sanders told the crowd that “as somebody who is proudly Jewish”, to be critical of a right-wing government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not to be anti-Semitic”.

Sander’s comment came in response to a question from one audience member who described herself as previously “feeling really let down by politicians who only represent a Jewish voice that is completely uncritical of Israel” and as belonging to “a generation which understands that opposition to the [Israeli] occupation [of Palestinian territories] is a Jewish moral imperative”.

Asking Sanders directly “why does it matter to you to fight to end the occupation,” the Vermont Senator responded: All that I have ever said about this issue is that US foreign policy should be even-handed. We respect Israel. Israel has every right in the world to live in peace and security, but so do the Palestinian people... read more:

Monday, 19 August 2019

Harsh Bora - UAPA Amended: The Govt Is Stealing Our Liberty From Under Our Feet

Understandable concern over the events in Jammu and Kashmir have meant that the Indian government’s recent amendments to the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) have passed relatively unnoticed. 

While a provision that gives the Central Government the power to declare persons as ‘terrorist individuals’ was the subject of heated debate in Parliament, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduced two more amendments that should give all citizens cause for concern. Both amendments vastly expand the already bloated powers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and by extension the Ministry of Home, and further entrench the problematic trend of the unfettered centralisation of power, through extending the political executive’s rein entirely unchecked.

The Government claims these amendments will strengthen the anti-terror law by removing legal obstacles to combating terrorism and terrorist activity. But a closer glimpse at speeches in Parliament and the pronouncements of government representatives suggests the UAPA is likely to be used against the government’s critics, rather than those who actually pose a threat to the nation... 
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Russian history gives America an ominous warning

Russia is often in the news these days – corrupt and repressive at home, aggressive and malevolent in relation to neighbors and rivals. Yet this Russia is heir to a country that shaped the twentieth century and had a formative impact on the cultural and political history of the modern world. It cannot be dismissed as a plaything of Vladimir Putin’s arrogant ambitions. Over the past hundred years, Russia has been a bellwether, not an exception. We should take heed.

Russia has more than once demonstrated the ease with which complex societies can fall apart. It has shown how difficult it is to uphold the legitimacy of nations and to install and sustain democratic regimes. The country we know as the Russian Federation changed names, borders, and political systems twice in the course of the twentieth century. We remember the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. A megapower suddenly vanished–the ideology that sustained it deflated like a punctured balloon. The periphery defected – fourteen former Soviet republics emerged as independent nations. Nevertheless, Moscow remains the center of a multiethnic territory that continues to span the Eurasian continent. Democratic in form, authoritarian in practice, Russia is still a major player on the international stage.

This recent transition – by now thirty years old – was not the first time the center held, against all odds, and the promise of liberation was disappointed. Seven decades earlier, between 1917 and 1921, an entire civilization collapsed and a new one was founded. In 1913 Tsar Nicholas II celebrated the three-hundredth anniversary of the Romanov dynasty; in August 1914 he took Russia into World War I on the side of the Allied powers. In March 1917 mutinies in the imperial armed forces, bread riots by working-class women, industrial strikes in the key cities, and peasant revolts in the countryside led to the defection of the military and civilian elites. 

For years, a burgeoning civil society and a disaffected radical fringe had been dreaming of change – the one of the rule of law, the other of socialist revolution. When Nicholas renounced the throne, a seven-month experiment in democratic politics ensued – at the grass roots in the form of elected soviets (councils), on the scale of empire in the form of elections to a Constituent Assembly. Millions voted at every level; democracy was in the air. Yet, the Provisional Government, which honored Russia’s commitment to the Allied cause, could not cope with the same war that had proved the monarchy’s undoing. In October 1917, the Bolshevik Party, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, arrested the liberal ministers, took control of the soviets, and heralded the installation of the world’s first socialist government... read more:

Book Review: Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India by K. S. Komireddi

What Komireddi’s pithiness belies - like those of so many current politicians and commentators who invoke History - is the complex subjectivity of historical data that cannot be captured in brevity… Komireddi ought to have considered that ‘Europeans’ are ‘imperialists’ because they never settled in India and made it their home; the Muslims did. And it is that choice of settlement in what was to Muslims initially a foreign land that what Komireddi sarcastically calls a ‘cultural exchange programme’ occurred. History is not for bytes, nor for the present; it is a discipline to study the past. Perhaps this is too fine a point to make here, but in a world where non-historians invoke History and its ‘wrongs’ to disaggregate the present to justify victimhood, and downward spirals of violence and discrimination against co-citizens, a case ought to be made for greater responsibility by all.

In Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India, author K. S. Komireddi examines the rise of the BJP and Narendra Modi, and the impact of his right-wing Hindu nationalist government on India. While the book offers an open and unabashed critique of the recently re-elected Prime Minister, Nilanjan Sarkar finds an informative, pithy and attention-grabbing book that also offers a trenchant critique of the Nehru-Gandhi ‘Dynasty’.

Not much is left to expectation when a book has ‘malevolent’ and ‘New India’ in its title. As the world lives through a civilisational turn towards majoritarian insecurity and its politics thereof, Komireddi’s book is an open and unabashed critique of the right-wing Hindu nationalist government in India, led by its poster-boy Narendra Modi, ‘the worst human being ever elected Prime Minister’ (p. 211). But before one castigates the author for his prejudiced perspective, it should be noted that the book begins approximately from 1964 (the death of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru), and more concertedly from the time of India’s period of political Emergency (1975–77) that was unleashed by the Congress.

The book is in 2 unified parts: the first 4 chapters comprise the ‘Antecedents’ to the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party/Narendra Modi, while the remaining 6 chapters are on ‘India under Narendra Modi’. A final ‘Coda’ apprehends the national elections of May 2019 (the book was published before the elections, which has brought the BJP back to power with a greater majority for another 5-year tenure). Whilst seemingly about Modi, the book in fact is also a trenchant critique of the Nehru-Gandhi ‘Dynasty’- beginning with the matriarch Indira (and her lawless son, Sanjay), then Rajiv, Sonia, Rahul (and a bit of Priyanka/Robert), a singular line of political leadership made motley by the interregnums of stooges Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, the only two non-Gandhis to have been made Prime Minister in 40-odd years.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Sickular Libtard: The power of positivity

Whenever people have gotten upset with the Modi-led NDA, Narendra Modi has told them to “be positive.” In a ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address, he said, “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power,” and encouraged everyone to create hashtags like ‘#PositiveIndia’ and ‘#ProgressiveIndia’ (or, as he didn’t say but probably wanted to, PI-PI). 

When everyone was screaming at him about the economic slowdown, he told them to “stop spreading negativity.” Asking Indians to “make positivity viral,” he constantly reinforces the message that there’s no such thing as bad policy or governance, only bad attitude... read more: