Showing posts from April, 2022

RICHARD SEYMOUR - Musk & Twitter: the first lab rat to take over the laboratory

Social media platforms are devised by a Californian tech scene committed to competition and social hierarchy. Twitter’s protocols treat us as wannabe celebrities, striving to produce storms of admiration and rage. It is a complex evolutionary system that selects the vacuous grandstanding and sniggering boorishness of adolescent personalities... So much the better if, like Musk, they have a record of sociopathic behavior... What Twitter has done is (to) automate this tendency...  A public sphere dominated by this lurid publicity mechanism is structurally committed to stupidity.  And in that world, Musk is king...   users are not citizens of a representative democracy, but lab rats governed by incentives and controls: Musk is simply the first such rodent to take over the laboratory. No plutocrat has ever so drastically de-sublimated his own mystique as has Musk, merely by tweeting his thoughts into the eternal void. His online persona -variously dull, boorish, self-pitying, whimsical and

Book review: Day of the Oprichnik, 16 Years Later

'This rhythm in Russia, of repression and violent revolution, is well known to Sorokin, who first emerged as a writer under Soviet rule in the 1980s, when he was no less irritating to the Kremlin. He’s not just a satirist but also a speculative fantasist, and he became angrily political after Putin came to power. Day of the Oprichnik has almost nothing in common with the earnest Soviet protest novel echoed in its title, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s masterful One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; instead it’s a fierce political cartoon painted in lashing strokes. Putin himself has been erased from this fictional world, but the pointed humor will be apparent to any Russian...' IN HIS SARCASTIC NOVEL Day of the Oprichnik (translated by Jamey Gambrell), Vladimir Sorokin imagines a wealthy, dominant, ultra-modern but revanchist Russia in the distant Year of Our Lord 2028. A tsar-like monarch has been restored, Communism is remembered as a time of the “Red Troubles”; Red Square, in fac

Frequent gas accidents threatens safety of Chinese workers

From 2017 to 2021, gas pipeline leaks averaged more than 200 a year. In most cases, leaking gas either ignites at the construction site or passes through a confined space underground and enters nearby premises before exploding.  For example, one of the most deadly accidents in recent years in terms of casualties was a gas explosion that occurred at a   community market   in the city of Shiyan, in Hubei province. On June 13, 2021, gas leaking from an underground pipe gathered under the market building. When the gas encountered a spark from the exhaust fume pipe of a restaurant, it ignited. The explosion killed 26 people, injured 138, and left the market in shambles.  Similar explosive accidents due to gas pipe leaks have occurred in hospitals, restaurants, and supermarkets... More  posts on labour 1938: the year Indian workers fought for themselves China Labour Bulletin Alessandra Mezzadri

Big Oil, Rising Authoritarianism and worsening climate. By Eve Darian-Smith

Around the world, many countries are  becoming less democratic . This backsliding on democracy and “ creeping authoritarianism ,” as the U.S. State Department puts it, is often supported by the same industries that are escalating climate change. In my new book, “ Global Burning: Rising Antidemocracy and the Climate Crisis ,” I lay out connections between these industries and the politicians who are both stalling action on climate change and diminishing democracy. It’s a dangerous shift, both for representative government and for the future climate. Corporate capture of environmental politics:  In democratic systems, elected leaders are expected to  protect the public’s interests , including from exploitation by corporations. They do this primarily through policies designed to secure public goods, such as clean air and unpolluted water, or to protect human welfare, such as good working conditions and minimum wages. But in recent decades, this core democratic principle that prioritizes

The rotting carcass of English conservatism (+ the certifiable lunacy of the American variety)

Marina Hyde: For this NSFW government, it’s the last days of Rome    How long were the last days of Rome? By some estimates, about 200 years, so I hope you’re sitting comfortably after a week in which: a female MP was  baselessly branded an exhibitionist ; a male MP was  accused of watching porn in the Commons  chamber; it was reiterated that  56 MPs  are reportedly under investigation for sexual misconduct (three of them in the cabinet); and an MP recently convicted of child sexual assault was revealed to have put in a  forward-dated resignation letter , ensuring he’ll collect his full April salary. Meanwhile, the prime minister remains under police investigation over a number of allegations that he broke his own laws to attend parties. Rome-wise, we could have another few thousand weeks of this. Don’t worry – it’ll feel longer.  Still, let’s kick off with the Conservative MP accused by two of his own female colleagues of watching porn in the chamber (and also in a select committee). 

Crispin Sartwell: Truth is real

Taken together, the continental and analytic meltdowns indicate that truth is either an evil authoritarian force or that it is nothing at all. That just about does it, doesn’t it? In one way or the other, then, and through the whole century, truth seemed to be in collapse, a scene of puzzlement and despair, a land from which philosophers had emigrated. But we haven’t stopped needing to figure out what’s true, or stopped arguing about it as though we know what we mean. Questions about what is true are, putting it mildly, no less urgent now than they were in 1900. Truth, that is, has proven as hard to eradicate as it is to elucidate. We keep finding we need the notion… Crispin Sartwell: Truth is real It is often said, rather casually, that truth is dissolving, that we live in the ‘post-truth era’. But truth is one of our central concepts – perhaps our most central concept – and I don’t think we can do without it. To believe that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to take it to be tr

Global warming risks most cataclysmic extinction of marine life in 250 million years

Global heating is causing such a drastic change to the world’s oceans that it risks a mass extinction event of marine species that rivals anything that’s happened in the Earth’s history over tens of millions of years, new research has warned. Accelerating climate change is causing a “profound” impact upon ocean ecosystems that is “driving extinction risk higher and marine biological richness lower than has been seen in Earth’s history for the past tens of millions of years”, according to the study. The world’s seawater is  steadily climbing in temperature  due to the extra heat produced from the burning of fossil fuels, while oxygen levels in the ocean are plunging and the water is acidifying from the soaking up of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This means the oceans are overheated, increasingly  gasping for breath  – the volume of ocean waters completely depleted of oxygen has  quadrupled since the 1960s  – and becoming more hostile to life. Aquatic creatures such as clams, mus

Female suicide bomber kills three Chinese teachers at Karachi university / KU attack ‘final wake-up call’ on crisis in Balochistan

KARACHI, April 26 (Reuters) - A suspected female suicide bomber killed three Chinese teachers in Karachi on Tuesday, police and officials said, drawing strong condemnation from Beijing, in the first major attack this year against nationals of long-time ally China working in Pakistan. The three were among passengers on a minibus returning to Karachi university after a lunch break when the bomb exploded at the entrance to the university's Confucius Institute, killing the Chinese teachers and a Pakistani national, police and officials said. A separatist group, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) based in southwestern Balochistan province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, claimed responsibility for the blast, adding in an email to Reuters the attack was carried out by a woman suicide bomber. It shared in the email a photo of her clad in a long shawl sitting with two children. The photo could not be verified independently by police or other officials... The bombing was the first major atta

Your Silence in the Face of Enormous Societal Threat Is Deafening: Former Civil Servants to Modi

More than 100 former civil servants have said that the recent instances of “hate violence against [India’s] minority communities, particularly Muslims” represent the “subordination of the fundamental principles of our constitution and of the rule of law to the forces of majoritarianism”, accusing the state of being “fully complicit” in this process. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the former civil servants – under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Groupe – said the “frenzy of hate filled destruction” that the country is witnessing is not just targeting minorities, but the constitution itself. Though they criticised the prime minister’s silence on these incidents as ‘deafening’, they hoped that he would “call for an end to the politics of hate that governments under your party’s control are so assiduously practising”. Former Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, ex-foreign secretary Sujatha Singh, former home secretary

Elon Musk is the king of trolls in an age of troll politics / What better owner for Twitter than master of the ill-advised tweet?

Even while hammering out the final details of his £35bn ($44bn) purchase of Twitter, Elon Musk took some time out this weekend to tweet. He likes tweeting, does the world’s richest man, usually from what he calls his “porcelain throne” (that detail disclosed on Twitter, naturally enough). This one was a  photo of Bill Gates , zeroing in on the 66-year-old’s modest paunch and placing it next to a cartoon of a pregnant man. To that ensemble, Musk added this sentence of supreme wit: “in case u need to lose a boner fast”… Elon Musk, master of the ill-advised tweet? by Marina Hyde Quite where we’ll be in six months’ time as far as Twitter is concerned remains tantalisingly unclear, but it seems difficult to imagine it will be either a more or less pleasant space. It’s a social media platform. I’m not sure what further evidence humanity needs before we cotton on to the idea that such a t

The Beatles and India - a film by Ajoy Bose


Govt Agency Confirms Centre's Auctions Allowed Millers To Corner Pulses Meant For The Poor

The Union government’s auctions to provide pulses to the poor and armed forces, worth more than Rs 4,600 crore, were rigged to benefit a few big millers, findings from the National Productivity Council, headed by commerce minister Piyush Goyal, have revealed. The council presented its preliminary findings on October 11, 2021, to a committee overseeing the price stabilisation of pulses and other commodities in India. The  Reporters’ Collective  accessed this presentation. The council is an autonomous government research agency that studied the auctions held to pick millers who turn raw pulses into their ready-to-cook form and distribute them. The council found that the terms of these auctions allowed the millers to fleece the government of tonnes of pulses and sell them at a profit in the open market, as well as allowing them to supply poor quality pulses. The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED), under the Union agriculture ministry, developed the auction

Hedges: Alice Walker and the Price of Conscience

Should I be banned because I admire Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s masterpieces  Journey to the End of the Night ,  Death on the Installment Plan,  and  Castle to Castle , despite his virulent anti-Semitism…? Should I be banned for liking Joseph Heller’s  Catch-22,  which is rabidly misogynistic? Should I be banned for loving William Butler Yeats, who, like Ezra Pound… was a fascist collaborator? Should I be banned because I revere Hannah Arendt, whose attitudes towards African-Americans were paternalistic, at best, and arguably racist? Should I be banned because I cherish books by C.S. Lewis, Norman Mailer and D.H. Lawrence, who were homophobic? And let’s not even get started with the Bible… God repeatedly demands righteous acts of genocide, transforming the Nile into blood so the Egyptians will suffer from thirst. God sends swarms of locusts to torture the Egyptians, along with hail, fire and thunder to destroy all plants and trees. God orders the firstborn in every Egyptian household kill

Narayani Gupta: The problem with cherry-picking facts from history

NB : A timely reminder of the vulnerability of historiography to ideology. There are some among us who wish to 'rectify' history; whose resentment at the past can never be satiated, neither by revising textbooks nor by bulldozing the homes of the poor. Their emotional affliction is best described by Friedrich Nietzsche: The will cannot will backwards… That time does not run backward, that is his wrath; ‘that which was’ is the name of the stone he cannot move. And so he moves stones out of wrath and displeasure, and he wreaks revenge on whatever does not feel wrath and displeasure as he does. Thus the will, the liberator, took to hurting; and on all who can suffer he wreaks revenge for his inability to go backwards. This, indeed this alone, is what revenge is: the will’s ill will against time and its ‘it was.’   “Verily, a great folly dwells in our will; and it has become a curse for everything human that this folly has acquired spirit : Thus Spake Zarathustra . Thanks are due t