Colonial rule, however, is corrosive in its effects. Since the Second Intifada, Palestinian citizens in Israel have been reminded at every turn that they are not welcome, from the police killing of 13 demonstrators in October 2000, to Benjamin Netanyahu’s election day warning last May: ‘Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organisations are busing them out.’ The spectre of ‘Arab voters’ was hardly new: the Israeli right has never looked fondly on Arabs exercising their voting rights, unless they can be presented as evidence of the virtues of ‘Jewish democracy’. What is novel is the intensifying campaign inside Israel against those ‘left-wing organisations’ Netanyahu mentioned: human rights NGOs and their (mostly) Jewish leaders. The campaign has been launched both in the Knesset and on the street, with an apparently high level of co-ordination between state officials and ultra-nationalist militants. Israel is increasingly ‘Jewish towards Arabs’, as Tibi said, but it’s also on its way to becoming less and less democratic for Jews.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Helen Fisher in Nautilus:
George Bernard Shaw knew the power of romantic love and attachment. Both, I will maintain, are addictions—wonderful addictions when the relationship is going well; horribly negative addictions when the partnership breaks down. Moreover, these love addictions evolved a long time ago, as Lucy and her relatives and friends roamed the grass of east Africa some 3.2 million years ago.
Take romantic love. Even a happy lover shows all of the characteristics of an addict. Foremost, besotted men and women crave emotional and physical union with their beloved. This craving is a central component of all addictions. Lovers also feel a rush of exhilaration when thinking about him or her, a form of “intoxication.” As their obsession builds, the lover seeks to interact with the beloved more and more, known in addiction literature as “intensification.” They also think obsessively about their beloved, a form of intrusive thinking fundamental to drug dependence. Lovers also distort reality, change their priorities and daily habits to accommodate the beloved, and often do inappropriate, dangerous, or extreme things to remain in contact with or impress this special other.
Even one’s personality can change, known as “affect disturbance.” Indeed, many smitten humans are willing to sacrifice for their sweetheart, even die for him or her. And like addicts who suffer when they can’t get their drug, the lover suffers when apart from the beloved—“separation anxiety.”
Trouble really starts, however, when a lover is rejected. Most abandoned men and women experience the common signs of drug withdrawal, including protest, crying spells, lethargy, anxiety, sleep disturbances (sleeping way too much or way too little), loss of appetite or binge eating, irritability, and chronic loneliness.
Lovers also relapse the way addicts do. Long after the relationship is over, events, people, places, songs, or other external cues associated with the abandoning partner can trigger memories. This sparks a new round of craving, intrusive thinking, compulsive calling, writing, or showing up—all in hopes of rekindling the romance. Because romantic love is regularly associated with a suite of traits linked with all addictions, several psychologists have come to believe that romantic love can potentially become an addiction.
Why is “Laborism” an increasing influence within the Democratic Party even though union density continues to decline?
Rich Yeselson over at Crooked Timber:
A few days ago, Matt Yglesias wrote me an email which asked a great question about American politics and the seeming movement to the left of the Democratic Party. In the wake of Bernie Sander’s landslide victory in New Hampshire over Hillary Clinton, Matt’s question seems even more pressing and interesting. With his permission, I quote it below:
What’s your theory as to how the labor-liberal forces inside the Democratic coalition seem stronger than every (Hillary is now against TPP and facing a fierce challenge from a socialist) even as actual labor unions seem weaker than ever. This is 180 degrees the opposite of the trajectory that I and everyone else were forecasting 10 years ago where either there would be a labor revival (card check, etc.) or else Dems would drift right without an anchor.
Here’s how I responded to Matt, with a bit of editing and revision to convert it from private e-mail prose into something a bit more formal:
One should note, too, regarding the context of your question, Obama’s recent executive orders, which have benefited millions of workers. And, of course, the Sanders campaign. It’s a fascinating thing, isn’t it? I think it’s a case of something about which Marx would have been skeptical: a powerful cultural superstructure constructed on top of an emaciated base which, in turn, becomes grounded in a nascent materiality of its own. Even theorists of the base-superstructure divide like Raymond Williams did not imagine that “residual” cultural formations would influence “emergent” ones without themselves passing through a “dominant” ideological stage—but that seems to have happened here in the case of the “old unionism” presaging a “new laborism” atop a weakened contemporary labor movement. So unions and a kind of union ideology have spawned this laborism even as labor’s own political, cultural and economic power continues to wane. Unions have succeeded not in organizing a greater percentage of workers into union members, but, instead, in organizing a significant sub-sector of the educated elite into becoming advocates for labor: academics and writers, and the students that become not only academics and writers, but also go on to work directly for unions. We also see this dynamic in the organizing drives taking place throughout the “new media” landscape, something I wrote about in TNR last year:
For about 30 years, a goal of the most sophisticated sectors of the labor movement has been to import the talents and commitment of the college educated middle class onto union staffs, and to export, via programs like Union Summer, the Organizing Institute, and organizing campaigns on college campuses, the ethos of unionism to colleges and other precincts of the professional liberal elite. One milestone in this effort, for example was the union-intellectuals conference at Columbia in 1996, for example, which called for an explicit alliance between leftist intellectuals and unions and featured keynote addresses by Betty Friedan, Richard Rorty, and Cornel West and John Sweeney, then president of the AFL-CIO. And this strategy worked!
Meghan O’Gieblyn in the Boston Review:
There are two kinds of technology critics. On one side are the determinists, who see the history of technology as one of inexorable progress, advancing according to its own Darwinian logic—the wheel, the steam engine, the autonomous car—while humans remain its hapless passengers. It is a fatalistic vision, one even the Luddite can find bewitching. “We do not ride upon the railroad,” Thoreau said, watching the locomotive barrel through his forest retreat. “It rides upon us.” On the opposite side of the tracks lie the social constructivists. They want to know where the train came from, and also, why a train? Why not something else? Constructivists insist that the development of technology is an open process, capable of different outcomes; they are curious about the social and economic forces that shape each invention.
Nowhere is this debate more urgent than on the question of artificial intelligence. Determinists believe all roads lead to the Singularity, a glorious merger between man and machine. Constructivists aren’t so sure: it depends on who’s writing the code. In some sense, the debate about intelligent machines has become a hologram of mortal outcomes—a utopia from one perspective, an apocalypse from another. Conversations about technology are almost always conversations about history. What’s at stake is the trajectory of modernity. Is it marching upward, plunging downward, or bending back on itself? Three new books reckon with this question through the lens of emerging technologies. Taken collectively, they offer a medley of the recurring, and often conflicting, narratives about technology and progress.
While the constructivists have gained ground in scholarly circles in recent decades, a strain of determinism persists, particularly among those most animated about the future. In fact, the determinist history lessons of Ray Kurzweil, Ramez Naam, and Andy Clark seem to have become a token of new books about technology. No exception is Malcolm Gay’s The Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Man and Machine, which traces the development of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), electrodes surgically implanted in the brain. In an early chapter, Gay looks to history to assure us that BCIs are merely the latest instance of a very old trend: “In some essential sense, we’ve been enmeshing our lives with tools ever since Homo sapiens emerged from the hominid line some 200,000 years ago.”
Robert Paxton in The New York Review of Books:
One needs also to ask what the main purpose of resistance was. De Gaulle took a predominantly military view of it. He wanted the movements to prepare a secret underground force within France whose aid to an eventual Allied landing would be so important that France would emerge from the war as a significant power, with Free France as its undisputed ruling force. The general, who always looked ahead, was determined to prevent the German occupation from being replaced by either an American or a Soviet protectorate. But this strategy, in the judgment both of de Gaulle and of the Allies, required the “secret army” to lay low until the Allies arrived.
The Communist Party, by contrast, favored immediate action, to prepare a national revolutionary insurrection at the moment of liberation. But the Party did not come to this position right away. Between the outbreak of the war in September 1939 and the German invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941, the French Communist Party was, as a result of the Nazi–Soviet Pact, a de facto ally of the Germans. Communist propaganda called for fraternization with German soldiers and for immediate peace, since it should not matter to workers whether the Germany of Hitler and the Krupps or the Britain of Churchill and the City won the capitalist duel.
This policy was immensely unpopular with the Communist rank and file, whom Vichy pursued even more vigorously than did the Nazis. The Party could later claim to have resisted Vichy from the beginning, but only some individual Communists engaged in anti-German activity in these early days; their high point was a great strike in the northern coal fields in May 1941. The Communist leaders expected in 1940 to be tolerated by the Germans, and notoriously tried to publish their newspaper L’Humanité in occupied Paris.
There’s an especially bitter irony in Sade’s image as a cheap pornographer: he was not in any recognizable sense creating pornography at all—nor can he be neatly pigeonholed into any other literary tradition. Sade was an astonishingly prolific writer who produced an enormous oeuvre covering a huge variety of genres. Much of it is mediocre to the point of being unreadable, particularly his conventionally sentimental or comedic dramas and stories. There seems little doubt that without his notorious “libertine novels,” most notably Justine, Juliette,Philosophy in the Boudoir and, especially since its rediscovery in the early twentieth century, 120 Days of Sodom, Sade would have been quickly forgotten. Instead, these works, and a few others, have assured him of a profound—albeit highly contested and unstable—artistic and intellectual influence.
Because of the centrality of his erotic novels to his legacy, later critics have often caricatured Sade as not only a pornographer, but as the arch-pornographer, representing either the worst or the best of the genre. But this is deeply misleading. Insofar as pornography is a commodity of mass-marketed and stylized representations of sexual practices, Sade is better seen as an anti-pornographer. His work is unquestionably obscene, and transgressive in the extreme, but its impact is neither conventionally pornographic nor erotic. Although much of his fiction bears a great deal of similarity to the Gothic novel genre (of which he was a noted and serious critic), his best work, in the “libertine” series of fiction, is sui generis.
There’s a steel vein running through the Andes from east to west, a warm, hollow line that sucks out the guts of the jungle, four hundred thousand oil barrels at a time. It is known as SOTE (Sistema de Oleoductos Transecuatoriano), but for those who live close to it, the roughly three-hundred-mile-long pipeline serves more immediate purposes. María de los Ángeles Criollo uses SOTE, which can reach body-heat temperatures, to keep her chickens warm at night. Lilia Melendres has turned the pipe into a TV stand.
Thick as a young kapok tree, the pipeline slinks along the Papallacta highway, twines around the Great Divide, scales the freezing heights of the páramo, near the Virgin of Our Lady of the Moors, and drains in a delirious gush into coastal Ecuador, a chemical reflux resurrecting the route first opened by conquistador Francisco de Orellana, who starved along with an army of forty-nine men in his attempt to reach the golden city of El Dorado. Although for most of its trajectory the pipeline creeps belowground, now and then its rusted spine surfaces to lurk under the sun, resting on a silent skeleton of H-shaped metallic trestles.
Between 1972 and 1974, SOTE spilled more than one hundred fifty thousand barrels of poisonous crude over untouched territories in the northern Amazonia and the Andes, the Ecuadorian rivers and the coast—and that was just one quarter of what it would eventually hemorrhage over the next four decades.
Books on resource wars are ten a penny and usually focus on oil or water conflicts. David Abraham’s attractively written book is unusual because it deals with commodities lurking in plain sight within cars, planes, fibre-optic cables, structural steels, LED lights, cameras, computers, televisions, MRI scanners, military night-vision goggles, missile guidance systems and smart phones – the rare metals.
Take niobium. When Gustave Eiffel built the tower that bears his name, he needed seven thousand tons of steel. With the addition of a pinch of niobium to each ton of steel, a modern replica could be built using five thousand tons fewer. A Boeing 747 has six million components per plane, including about seventy earth metals, such as rhenium, which enables jet engines to run at high temperatures, and titanium, which lightens the fuselage. Both of these reduce the amount of aviation fuel burned.
With little exaggeration Abraham speaks of ‘a war to control the periodic table’, for these ninety-four naturally occurring elements are not evenly distributed and they have very obvious military applications. For example, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is like a flying periodic table, containing 920 pounds of beryllium, gallium, lithium and tantalum, not to mention the titanium used for a quarter of the airframe.
—After Faiz Ahmed Faiz's Kuttey
Not even dogs
Go as quietly as these men
Battered and bruised
Idle and begging
Homeless and hearthless
Stabbing each other for scraps
Starving in silence
What myth is it
That keeps you
That keeps you
To your strength
by Anjum Altaf
Davide Castelvecchi in Nature:
Peter Holley in The Washington Post:
A Virginia school district has banned the use of an educational video about racial inequality after some parents complained that its messaging is racially divisive. The four-minute, animated video — “Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race” — was shown last week to students at an assembly at Glen Allen High School, in Henrico County, as a part of the school’s Black History Month program. The video contextualizes historic racial disparity in the United States using the metaphor of a race track in which runners face different obstacles depending upon their racial background. It has been shown hundreds of thousands of times at schools and workshops across the country since it was created more than a decade ago, according to the African American Policy Forum, which produced it.
“The video is designed for the general public,” said Luke Harris, co-founder of the African American Policy Forum and an associate professor of political science at Vassar College. “We produced something you could show in elementary and secondary schools or in college studies courses.” He added: “We found that the video has a huge impact on the people that we’re showing it to. Most of us know very little about the social history of the United States and its contemporary impact. It was designed as a tool to throw light on American history.” But in Glen Allen, about 14 miles north of Richmond, some parents complained, calling it a “white guilt video.” Henrico County Public Schools officials initially defended the video, saying it was “one component of a thoughtful discussion in which all viewpoints were encouraged.” But after the story began to spread nationally, school officials switched gears, labeling the video “racially divisive” two days later.
More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Nika Knight interviews Brian Boyd in Guernica:
The author on what evolutionary science can teach us about art and literature, his enduring interest in Nabokov, and why a good joke never dies.
Why do we tell stories? According to Brian Boyd, author and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Auckland, evolutionary science has the answer. In On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, published in 2009, Boyd argues that recent advances in evolutionary psychology and evolutionary biology can help us not only to better understand our greatest and most enduring works of art, but also to make an empirical claim for their importance. “An evolutionary understanding of human nature has begun to reshape psychology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, economics, history, political studies, linguistics, law, and religion,” Boyd writes. “Can it also help explain even art, even human minds at their freest and most inventive?” Boyd defines art as “cognitive play with pattern,” characterizing a piece of artwork as “like a playground for the mind.” Our urge to play—shared with all mammals—is not a waste of energy or a simple frivolity but, in fact, a seminal method by which we ensure our own survival. Fictional narratives, Boyd claims, lend insight into how others experience the world, and thus aid in establishing and developing our capacity for empathy, a necessary precursor to cooperation—an ability not only unique to humans but also critical to our continuity as a species.
Vinson Cunningham in The New York Times:
On an unnervingly balmy November day, the scene at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn was restless and expectant. Ta-Nehisi Coates was scheduled to appear on campus for a discussion about his best-selling book, ‘‘Between the World and Me.’’ Evers has a student body that is over 80 percent black, and interest in the event was palpable. Outside, on Bedford Avenue, a diasporic survey of music — reggae, soca, R.&B., trap — flew out the windows of rusted sedans as a slow parade of students filed into the building: a group of young men in near-identical oxfords and knit ties; a woman in a knee-length camouflage hoodie, black tights and Timberland boots; kids wearing mohawks, flattops, cornrows and uncountable Afros. Coates was running late, and the director of the school’s Center for Black Literature, a stocky man with yellow-brown skin, closely cropped hair and a heather gray goatee, was worried about the time. He turned to the man standing next to him: Chris Jackson, Coates’s book editor. ‘‘When do you think he’ll get here?’’ he asked. ‘‘We set up a greenroom for him to relax and have some water before the talk, but we’ve only got so much time.’’
‘‘He’s . . . ’’ Jackson said, trailing off. ‘‘He’s on his way. He had a thing right before this, and he’s got a thing right after. It’s crazy these days.’’ That was perhaps an understatement. That year, Coates won a MacArthur ‘‘genius’’ grant, was tapped to write a new installment of Marvel’s ‘‘Black Panther’’ comic series and saw ‘‘Between the World and Me’’ nominated for the National Book Award. Coates’s book — and his ongoing tour of the country to promote it — was the latest peak in Jackson’s career. Over the last decade and a half, Jackson has ushered into being the works of category-defying novelists like Victor LaValle and Mat Johnson, polemicist-experientialists like Coates and the civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson and pop-cultural vanguardists like the chef-memoirist Eddie Huang and the rapper-entrepreneur Jay Z. To the extent that 21st-century literary audiences have been introduced to the realities and absurdities born of the phenomenon of race in America, Jackson has done a disproportionate amount of that introducing.
More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)
Nicola Twilley in The New Yorker:
Just over a billion years ago, many millions of galaxies from here, a pair of black holes collided. They had been circling each other for aeons, in a sort of mating dance, gathering pace with each orbit, hurtling closer and closer. By the time they were a few hundred miles apart, they were whipping around at nearly the speed of light, releasing great shudders of gravitational energy. Space and time became distorted, like water at a rolling boil. In the fraction of a second that it took for the black holes to finally merge, they radiated a hundred times more energy than all the stars in the universe combined. They formed a new black hole, sixty-two times as heavy as our sun and almost as wide across as the state of Maine. As it smoothed itself out, assuming the shape of a slightly flattened sphere, a few last quivers of energy escaped. Then space and time became silent again.
The waves rippled outward in every direction, weakening as they went. On Earth, dinosaurs arose, evolved, and went extinct. The waves kept going. About fifty thousand years ago, they entered our own Milky Way galaxy, just as Homo sapiens were beginning to replace our Neanderthal cousins as the planet’s dominant species of ape. A hundred years ago, Albert Einstein, one of the more advanced members of the species, predicted the waves’ existence, inspiring decades of speculation and fruitless searching. Twenty-two years ago, construction began on an enormous detector, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Then, on September 14, 2015, at just before eleven in the morning, Central European Time, the waves reached Earth.
Dennis Overbye in the New York Times:
A team of physicists who can now count themselves as astronomers announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.
More generally, it means that scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.
Conveyed by these gravitational waves, an energy 50 times greater than that of all the stars in the universe put together vibrated a pair of L-shaped antennas in Washington State and Louisiana known as LIGO on Sept. 14.
If replicated by future experiments, that simple chirp, which rose to the note of middle C before abruptly stopping, seems destined to take its place among the great sound bites of science, ranking with Alexander Graham Bell’s “Mr. Watson — come here” and Sputnik’s first beeps from orbit.
Paul Halpern in Medium:
The LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) project was proposed by physicist Rainer (Rai) Weiss of MIT, along with Kip Thorne, Ronald Drever, Rochus Vogt and other researchers at Caltech. Born in Berlin in 1932 to a politically active family, Weiss emigrated with them at a young age to the United States to escape the terrors of the Nazi regime. Weiss received his PhD at MIT, in the field of atomic physics under the supervision of Jerrold Zacharias.
Zacharias had dedicated himself to building high-precision timepieces based on the predictable rhythms of atoms, an extraordinarily important endeavor with broad implications for a variety of scientific fields. As Weiss related, even Einstein in his final years, while engrossed in the search for a unified field theory, expressed interest in the MIT project to develop such clocks. If such devices could be perfected, one of their possible applications would be precise measurement of the effects of gravitation on time. This would help provide further confirmation of general relativity. Zacharias proudly introduced his project to Weiss.
“Jerrold said to me,” recalled Weiss, “that he had made himself a clock called the ‘fountain clock,’ which was a brand new idea involving tossing atoms high into the air and timing them. The idea was to get a long observation time on the atom. He kept telling me that if we could get the clock running, I would travel to the Jungfraujoch, a scientific observatory high in the Swiss Alps. He would be with his clock in the valley and we would measure the Einstein redshift. That’s what set the bee in my bonnet about relativity. But the clock didn’t work; it was a total failure.”
Nevertheless, Weiss’s interest in experimental tests of general relativity only grew.
There is a lot of talk now, in the United States at least, about political poetry and even revolutionary poetry, and what these are, and how to write them. The discussants should consider the work of a young Russian poet, Galina Rymbu.
I first came across a poem of hers shortly after she posted it on LiveJournal, a social network popular in Russia, on February 27, 2014. It was the day that Russian troops started operating in Crimea, and several days after the victory of the Maidan Revolution in Kyiv and the tawdry close of the Sochi Olympics. Russian media fanned the flames of patriotic hysteria and the Kremlin was clearly going to exploit Maidan to crack down on domestic dissent.
It felt strange that a work of this artistic sophistication and power could be composed and posted on the Web simultaneously with the events it responded to. Its viewpoint was that of the minuscule and very young Russian Left—roughly the same political alignment as those of the poet-activist Kirill Medvedev and of Pussy Riot, to cite figures known to some Western readers. But the poetry was different. It was Big Poetry, very much grounded in tradition but also propelling it forward, into the terra incognita of the now. It’s been a while since I read a poem that felt so real.
That poem has since appeared in English translation by Jonathan Platt. It can be read here, the middle one, starting with “the dream is over, Lesbia, now it’s time for sorrow…” I want to talk about the Russian original a little, and then say a few things about the present publication of Rymbu’s work in Platt’s translation in Music & Literature.
It is hard to formulate to an English-speaking audience why the Lesbia poem spoke to me so personally. The practices and traditions it incorporates are either alien or have a different significance than in the US. In Russia the “Western” “classics” that Rymbu alludes to are associated with Enlightenment values, and are consequently politically anti-government. For various cultural reasons, self-publishing on the Internet carries no opprobrium: the point of poetry is not to bulk up the author’s résumé. A poem, if it’s good, belongs to everybody.
Q: So you’ve written a book in defense of thinking? Where’s the argument? Nobody is really against thinking.
A: Are you serious? Anti-intellectualism is virtually our civic religion. “Critical thinking” may be a ubiquitous educational slogan—a vaguely defined skill we hope our children pick up on the way to adulthood—but the rewards for not using your intelligence are immediate and abundant.
As consumers of culture, we are lulled into passivity or, at best, prodded toward a state of pseudo-semi-self-awareness, encouraged toward either the defensive group identity of fanhood or a shallow, half-ironic eclecticism. Meanwhile, as citizens of the political commonwealth, we are conscripted into a polarized climate of ideological belligerence in which bluster too often substitutes for argument.
There is no room for doubt and little time for reflection as we find ourselves buffeted by a barrage of sensations and a flood of opinion. We can fantasize about slowing down or opting out, but ultimately we must learn to live in the world as we find it and to see it as clearly as we can. This is no simple task. It is easier to seek out the comforts of groupthink, prejudice, and ignorance. Resisting those temptations requires vigilance, discipline, and curiosity.
What fascinates Copenhaver is the overlap between magic and science. His anthology probes the moment when “the author of a scientific encyclopedia wrote that the skin of a hyena will ward off the evil eye”. Drawing on Max Weber’s idea of a “disenchanted world”, Copenhaver uses the unusual form of the anthology to trace the arc of disenchantment. Magic, Weber thought, was ritual while religion is ethical; magic coerces, but religion supplicates. Yet, by Weber’s standards, Moses and Jesus were magicians (as Christopher Marlowe also noted, allegedly saying that “Moses was but a juggler, and one Harriot, Wat Ralegh’s man, can do more than he”). Copenhaver seems unaware of other recent responses to Weberian thinking, notably Morris Berman’s The Re-enchantment of the World (1981), which takes a hard and critical look at Cartesian rationality and materialism.
Yet Copenhaver’s choice of texts does little to unsettle the assumption that Protestants are sceptical. While Protestant polemicists went to inordinate lengths to portray their Catholic opponents as either jugglers or as actual Satan-worshippers, these endeavours did not make them appear rational, but simply fearful. Later, the idea of Catholic demon-worshippers was turned into the equally fictive idea of Catholic witch-hunters, even though many of the worst witch-hunts took place in Protestant-dominated places. For Whigs, magic eventually collapses into science, and alchemy into economics and mercantilism, while household theurgies are displaced by insurance policies and the welfare state. But what about all the people for whom this doesn’t appear to have happened?
Year of the Fire Monkey
Ho you Fire Monkey
Adorable Familiar of blessed places
Cunning when need be
Your chatter flattens the dolts of ignorance
When you take
Charge in a carpe diem kind of way
Your ballast of confidence
Lifts our spirits
Seer of the future
Interlocutor to lost opportunities
Let’s take to heart
the ease of your swing from here to there
Always awake in the fire
by Jaqueline Gens
from Poetry Mind
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Adam Shatz in the LRB:
Ahmad Tibi, a long-standing Arab member of the Knesset, once remarked that ‘Israel is democratic towards Jews, and Jewish towards Arabs.’ For many years, that soundbite nicely captured the contradictions of ‘Jewish democracy’: fair elections, press freedom, cantankerous debate and due process for some; land theft, administrative detention, curfews, assassinations and ‘muscular interrogations’ for others. Tibi meant to call attention to the hypocrisy of Israel’s claims to be a democratic state, but as he effectively admitted, Jewish democracy did work for Jews – even Jews radically opposed to the occupation and indeed to Zionism itself. For as long as it did, liberals in Tel Aviv could tell themselves that things weren’t so bad behind the Green Line, the border between Israel and the territory it captured in the 1967 war. Indeed, the resilience of Israel’s democratic institutions helped sustain the illusion that the Green Line was still a frontier, even as it vanished under the weight of the settlement project, launched when Labor was in power and subsidised by every subsequent government.
Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft in the Los Angeles Review of Books:
In Delhi and in four other locations across northern India stand the “Jantar Mantars,” clusters of giant astronomical instruments built by an 18th-century Maharaja, Jai Singh II, many of them so tall they seem to challenge the sky. Here’s an exercise in counterfactual history: If the German Jewish literary critic Walter Benjamin had carefully explored all the possible routes out of Nazi-occupied Europe in the late 1930s, and if he had been quicker to flee Europe than he actually was, he might have escaped via the unusual route of the British-controlled subcontinent. And had he done so, he might have stood in one of the Jantar Mantars during the twilight years of the Raj and experienced the stars (a recurring and powerful motif scattered across Benjamin’s writings) anew. He probably would have reached the Jantar Mantar in Delhi or its counterpart in Jaipur, Jai Singh’s Rajasthani capital, neither of which city, incidentally, would have offered him the same culture of pedestrian flâneurship he had loved in Paris. As compensation, at night he could have looked up at the constellations, or examined the tiles depicting signs of the zodiac, which are pressed into the clay walls of the instruments. He might have appreciated Jantar Mantar’s combination of astronomical and astrological devices, and he surely would have noted the lack of conflict between astronomy and the belief in the influence of planets and stars on human fortune — indeed, the way these practices were still united on these historical instruments. The real Benjamin did not escape Europe; as is very well known, his fate was to commit suicide on the Spanish border during a failed escape to flee occupied France. It was 1940; he was 48. But try to forget this real Benjamin for a moment, and instead follow his counterfactual twin to the subcontinent.
Carl L. Hart in Vice:
The long subway ride from DC's airport to Silver Spring was unusually pleasant. It had been about an hour since I had taken a low dose of methamphetamine. It was my 40th birthday—October 30, 2006—and I was headed to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-sponsored meeting.
A friend, who had a prescription for the drug, had given me a couple of pills as a gift, knowing that I was an expert on amphetamines but had never actually taken any myself. I sat on the train feeling alert, mentally stimulated, and euphorically serene.
And when the effects had worn off after a few hours, I thought, that was nice, worked out, and enjoyed a productive two-day meeting. Well, maybe not enjoyed—it was a NIDA meeting after all. But I didn't crave the drug or feel the need to take any more. I certainly didn't engage in any unusual behaviors—hardly the stereotypical picture of a "meth head."
So why is it, then, that the general public has such a radically different view of this drug?
Perhaps it has something to do with public "educational" campaigns aimed at discouraging methamphetamine use.
Eric Michael Johnson interviews Fritjof Capra in Evonomics:
The role of systems thinking in economics has grown in prominence throughout the late 20th Century—much of it due to the pioneering work of Fritjof Capra, whose writings and movies have inspired a generation of young scholars and practitioners to view economics and politics through the lens of ecological (living) systems.
We are delighted to share this exclusive interview, conducted by science journalist and Evonomics advisor Eric Michael Johnson (EJ), with Dr. Capra (FC) about the implications this approach has for the new paradigm of complexity and evolutionary economics. He is offering a new course on this topic that begins in April 2016, which we highly recommend.
EJ: In your latest book, The Systems View of Life, you emphasize the need to shift from the concept of “quantitative growth,” as economists use it, to that of “qualitative growth” that you say is more akin to evaluating the health of ecological systems. How do ecologists measure this qualitative growth and how would it be translated to economics?
FC: Growth in nature always balanced and multi-faceted. While certain parts of organisms, or ecosystems, grow, others decline, releasing and recycling their components which become resources for new growth. I have called this kind of growth, well known to biologists and ecologists, “qualitative growth” to contrast it with the concept of quantitative growth, measured in terms of the undifferentiated index of the GDP, used by today’s economists.