Showing posts from July, 2021

Thijs Lijster: The commons versus capitalism

Although every proprietor knows his own, … all things, so long as they will last, are used in common amongst them: Thomas Morton regarding the Five Nations in North America    Once referring to natural resources and collectively managed land, the notion of the ‘commons’ has expanded across cultural, scientific and digital realms. Can commonality dodge the threat of capitalist exploitation and develop into an organizational principle for complex societies? Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the concept of the ‘commons’ has steadily ascended in significance in activist circles, scientific literature and in fields ranging from political philosophy and economics to jurisprudence and cultural theory. Traditionally, the commons were the natural resources that belonged to no one, which everyone could use: the forests where wood was gathered, the fields where cattle grazed or the wells where clean water could be drawn. According to current economic and political theory, over th

MUZAMIL JALEEL - From majority to disempowered minority’: Politics of Delimitation in J & K

It is never an event. It is always a process of several steps, at times far from one another, that slowly progress towards the goal. And the process is always difficult to comprehend in real time. It’s deliberately built to confuse. One step leads to the next but each step is crafted in a manner that it seems an end in itself and not connected to the whole. Around each step a discourse is created that hides its real purpose. The steps being taken today are an essential part of one single process, a process of political disempowerment and permanent subjugation. This has been true right from 1939. Also see:  MAGAR # 40 This is why it is important to see this latest move – the delimitation process – in its right perspective. It is an essential part of the process that was accelerated by Indian government’s cataclysmic move on August 5, 2019. The removal of J&K’s semi autonomy, downgrading it into two Union Territories directly ruled from New Delhi, while Kashmir was put under an unp

The appointment of Rakesh Asthana as new Delhi Police chief is brazen overreach by Centre / Modi and Shah are out to destroy our institutions

NB: My only caveat to these two excellent comments is that the Modi government is an RSS government , and executive actions such as this exemplify the programmatic intentions of a cabal conspiring in broad daylight. DS Meeran Chadha Borwankar: Why appointment of Rakesh Asthana as new Delhi Police chief is brazen overreach by Centre    During various national and state-level conferences, we as police officers have discussed the Supreme Court-mandated police reforms of 2006. We have talked of the damage that politicians have done to civil services, including to the police, by encouraging a crony culture. We have welcomed the Court’s directions about the formation of Establishment Boards in the states and the involvement of the UPSC in selecting state police chiefs. We have also welcomed “fixed tenures” for officers who are otherwise at the mercy of local political leaders for postings, transfers and continuation.  And yet we, the retired and in-service police officers, are quiet today. 

A floating device created to clean up plastic from the ocean is finally doing its job, organizers say

A huge trash-collecting system designed to clean up plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean is finally picking up plastic, its inventor announced Wednesday. The Netherlands-based nonprofit  the Ocean Cleanup says its latest prototype  was able to capture and hold debris ranging in size from huge, abandoned fishing gear, known as "ghost nets," to tiny microplastics as small as 1 millimeter. "Today, I am very proud to share with you that we are now catching plastics," Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat said at a news conference in Rotterdam. The Ocean Cleanup system is a U-shaped barrier with a net-like skirt that hangs below the surface of the water. It moves with the current and collects faster moving plastics as they float by. Fish and other animals will be able to swim beneath it. The new prototype added a parachute anchor to slow the system and increased the size of a cork line on top of the skirt to keep the plastic from washing over it…. https://edition.c

JYOTI PUNWANI: How 5 Reliance Workers Fighting For A Better Deal Found Themselves In Jail On Terrorism Charges

Saidulu Singapanga’s most vivid memory of  the 1185 days he spent in custody,  since he was  arrested in February 2018 under the  Unlawful Activities Prevention Act  (UAPA), 1967, was when his wife and three children came to visit him in a police lock-up a few days after his arrest. It was the birthday of his daughters, aged 11 and 9. The two girls and their brother came towards him eagerly, saw his handcuffs and drew back in fear.  Singapanga, 39, was the last of five Reliance Energy Ltd (now Reliance Infrastructure Ltd) contract workers from the densely packed working-class eastern Mumbai neighbourhood of Kamraj Nagar in Ghatkopar detained that year—the other four were arrested in January, a month before he was. Singapanga’s four colleagues were granted bail in December 2018 because the Maharashtra police’s anti-terorrism squad did not file a chargesheet within 90 days, as they were required to under the UAPA. An extension to this period was   set aside  by the Bombay High Court

Book review: Pleasure Domes and Postal Routes - How the Mongols Changed the World

Two millennia ago, in his  Records of the Grand Historian , the Chinese scholar Sima Qian concluded that no empire could be ruled from horseback, and later histories seemed to confirm the view that imperial authority must be vested in cities. The great fourteenth-century scholar Ibn Khaldun developed a now familiar theory that “the rulers of a state, once they have become sedentary, always imitate in their ways of living those of the state to which they have succeeded.”  So barbarian conquerors would be culturally conquered, and absorbed into the static civilizations they had once invaded.  The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World : by Marie Favereau The Mongol Century: Visual Cultures of Yuan China, 1271–1368 : by Shane McCausland Reviewed by Colin Thubron Yet even as Ibn Khaldun was writing, the largest contiguous empire ever known stretched from Hungary to the Pacific: a Mongol realm of nomad herders, whose leaders governed their vast domain with the institutions and adaptive

More livestock, more carbon dioxide, less ice: the Climate Crisis is Worsening despite Politicians’ “Commitments”

Back in 2019, more than 11,000 scientists  declared a global climate emergency . They established a comprehensive set of  vital signs  that impact or reflect the planet’s health, such as forest loss, fossil fuel subsidies, glacier thickness, ocean acidity and surface temperature.  In a new  paper  published today, we show how these vital signs have changed since the original publication, including through the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, while we’ve seen lots of positive talk and commitments from some governments, our vital signs are mostly not trending in the right direction.  So, let’s look at how things have progressed since 2019, from the growing number of livestock to the meagre influence of the pandemic…. Aseem Shrivastava: An Age gone blind // Mallika Bhanot - Char Dham Pariyojana: A High Risk Engineering Exercise JOHN BUELL: Living on a Newly Unrecognizable Planet Earthly Anecdotes: an alternative to

‘Hopeless And Dissatisfied’: Growing Anger At Iranian Officials As Khuzestan Water Protests Spread

Analysts say economic desperation and growing frustration in Iranian society have led to angry demonstrations around the country that began with people protesting water shortages in the southwestern province of Khuzestan. “If the society wasn’t hopeless, it wouldn’t take to the streets. It wouldn’t react. Its dissatisfaction wouldn’t result in protests and it wouldn’t be able to raise its voice,” Tehran-based sociologist Saeed Madani  told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda . Thousands of people have protested water shortages in recent days caused by a severe drought and exacerbated by years of state mismanagement of Iran’s natural resources and poor planning in oil-rich Khuzestan, where residents — including its large ethnic Arab minority — have long complained of second-class treatment…. More posts on Iran

Homa Hoodfar & Mona Tajali: Taliban ‘has not changed,’ say women facing subjugation in Afghanistan / Geeta Pandey: The Indian girl killed for wearing jeans

The Taliban insurgents continue their deadly war to seize control of Afghanistan after the departure of United States and NATO forces. As they close in on major cities that were once government strongholds, like  Badakhshan and Kandahar , many Afghans – and the world – fear a total takeover. Afghan women may have the most to fear from these Islamic militants. We are academics who interviewed 15 Afghan women activists, community leaders and politicians over the past year as part of an  international effort to ensure that women’s human rights  are defended and constitutionally protected in Afghanistan. For the safety of our research participants, we use no names or first names only here. “Reform of the Taliban is not really possible,” one 40-year-old women’s rights activist from Kabul told us. “Their core ideology is fundamentalist, particularly towards women.” From subjugation to Parliament:  The Taliban ruled all of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Everyone faced restrictions under t

Robert Bociaga - David and Goliath: Myanmar’s Armed Resistance at the Crossroads

Since the coup was launched on February 1, the country has been witnessing attacks on civilians by the military on an unprecedented scale. Tatmadaw soldiers are resorting to burning whole villages to terrorize the population, raping and torturing wherever they go. In response to that, People’s Defense Forces (PDF) were formed in many areas to counter the junta forces. According to some estimates, hundreds of thousands of mostly young people have been receiving underground training in secret locations in the borderlands. It cannot be verified how many are really being trained. Also, some report that joining the PDF is very hard as the groups are fearful of spies. The PDF has its successes but pays a high price for it. In a clash against raiding military forces, a couple of military officers were recently gunned down in Mandalay before soldiers captured around 10 PDF members…. More posts on

George Monbiot - Asymmetric force: Pegasus spyware is the latest tool autocrats are using to stay in power

Democracy depends on an equality of arms. If governments acquire political weapons unavailable to their opponents, they become harder to dislodge. They now possess so many that I begin to wonder how an efficient autocracy, once established, might ever again be overthrown. The  Pegasus spyware , whose widespread use by governments the Guardian has helped reveal, is just the latest variety of asymmetric force.  The ability to peer into someone’s life from a distance, to track their every movement, word and intention, grants autocrats an unprecedented power. It turns us into informants against ourselves. No one subject to this spying can now plan, however peacefully and democratically, to replace a government without those plans being known in advance and in all likelihood thwarted…. "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever" - George Orwell

Indigenous Americans demand a reckoning with brutal colonial history

As statues of  queens  and  conquistadors  are tumbled amid protests across North and South America, Indigenous people are pushing for a region-wide reckoning with colonialism’s bitter legacy of massacre and cultural erasure. From the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, Indigenous Americans have taken aim at the Catholic Church, national governments and other powerful institutions. In Canada, the horrifying discovery of the  unmarked graves of Indigenous children  near former Catholic boarding schools has prompted widespread calls for  a reassessment of the country’s colonial history  and the structural inequalities that persist today.  This Canada Day, let’s remember: this country was built on genocide In Chile and Colombia,  uprisings over social inequity  have also been accompanied by demands for a reconsideration of national narratives and the lingering aftermath of conquest. And while contexts and histories vary drastically across the region, a common experience of marginalization,

Tom Engelhardt: Biden's indirect admission highlights the steady decline of American empire

It was all so long ago, in a world seemingly without challengers. Do you even remember when we Americans lived on a planet with a recumbent Russia, a barely rising China, and no obvious foes except what later came to be known as an " axis of evil ," three countries then incapable of endangering this one? Oh, and, as it turned out, a rich young Saudi former ally, Osama bin Laden, and 19 hijackers, most of them also Saudis, from a tiny group called al-Qaeda that briefly possessed an " air force " of four commercial jets. No wonder this country was then touted as the  greatest force , the superest superpower ever, sporting a military that left all others in the dust. And then, of course, came the launching of the Global War on Terror, which soon would be normalized as the plain-old, uncapitalized "war on terror." Yes, that very war — even if nobody's called it that for years —  began  on September 11, 2001. At a Pentagon partially in ruins, Secretary of

Margaret Atwood: The Moment

The moment when, after many years of hard work and a long voyage you stand in the centre of your room, house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, knowing at last how you got there, and say, I own this,   is the same moment when the trees unloose their soft arms from around you, the birds take back their language, the cliffs fissure and collapse, the air moves back from you like a wave and you can't breathe.   No, they whisper. You own nothing. You were a visitor, time after time climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. We never belonged to you. You never found us. It was always the other way round More poetry/posts on poetry My Friend

JOHN BUELL: Living on a Newly Unrecognizable Planet

Germany is a wealthy nation. Its business and political leaders accept the reality of climate change and have made at least modest progress to prepare for and mitigate its effects. How then to respond to such events as a family moving to the roof of their house to escape the flood—only to have a surge of water so vast as to sweep them off the roof to their demise? Such pictures are terrifying, but of more long term importance is the questions raised by such mega storms. These ae not just big storms following relatively ordinary albeit destructive paths. In an effort to gain some perspective on these disturbing events I have drawn on recent work by two influential contemporary theorists, William Connolly and the late French philosopher Michel Serres . I have attached my own comments in brackets. My hope is that this will contribute to dialogue and action on a vital subject….   The Critical Zone of Science and Politics: Steve Paulso

Marie-Eve Loiselle & Ayelet Shachar: Borders, bodies and see-all technologies / Nasim Ahmed: Calls to hold Israel and NSO Group Accountable for hacking scandal, as UAE role bulks large

Use of high-tech surveillance is on the rise: in a moment when controlling the spread of COVID-19 is paramount, a global regime of technologically enabled exclusion has been bolstered. But what might be the long-term implications of accepting being tracked before we even move? ‘Draw me a border, if you please’. What image comes to mind? Most of us might think of walls or barbed wire fences planted firmly on frontier locations. From the Great Wall of China to the Berlin Wall, fortified barriers have long served as symbols of sovereign control. Today, however, a new trend has emerged: the growth of invisible borders. These are borders that rely on sophisticated legal techniques to detach migration control functions from a fixed territorial location. The unmooring of state power from a fixed geographical marker has created a new paradigm: the shifting border.... Calls to hold Israel and NSO Accountable for hacking scandal

Xi Jinping set out to save the Communist Party. But critics say he made himself its biggest threat

As general secretary, Xi has returned the CCP to the center of Chinese life. Citizens celebrate the party's much-edited history en masse at  packed Red tourism sites , its founder Mao Zedong enjoys a new reverence, and once-dormant grassroots party cells have been revitalized. Since 2015, Xi has embarked on a widespread program of military  reforms and modernization.  But as Xi moved to consolidated the party's power, he took great lengths to guarantee his own. He has axed the two-term limit on the Chinese presidency, introduced in 1982 to prevent the rise of a dictatorship, accumulated more titles than any CCP leader in recent decades, and created his own eponymous ideology, instilled in the party constitution. Now experts in elite Chinese politics are warning that in trying to revitalize the CCP, Xi conflated himself with the party so totally he created another threat to its existence: himself….