Which is the greatest threat to globalisation: the protesters on the streets every time the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organisation meets, or globalisation’s cheerleaders, who push for continued market opening while denying that the troubles surrounding globalisation are rooted in the policies they advocate?
A good case can be made that the latter camp presents the greater menace. Anti-globalisers are marginalised. But cheerleaders in Washington, London and the elite universities of north America and Europe shape the intellectual climate. If they get their way, they are more likely to put globalisation at risk than the protesters they condemn for ignorance of sound economics.
That is because the greatest obstacle to sustaining a healthy, globalised economy is no longer insufficient openness. Markets are freer from government interference than they have ever been. Import restrictions such as tariff and non-tariff barriers are lower than ever. Capital flows in huge magnitudes. Despite barriers, legal and illegal immigration approaches levels not seen since the 19th century.
The nation’s suspended chief justice received a hero’s welcome from some 2,000 lawyers Wednesday as he gave his first address since President Pervez Musharraf removed him from the bench nearly three weeks ago. The Supreme Court judge, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, was showered with rose petals and greeted with boisterous chants of “Go, Musharraf, go!” by supporters who have rallied to Chaudhry’s side and want Pakistan’s president to resign.
The clash between Musharraf and Chaudhry has riveted the nation since the judge was suspended on March 9, and many here feel it represents the most serious domestic challenge to Musharraf since he came to power in a military coup eight years ago. Critics say the decision to suspend Chaudhry was an attempt by Musharraf to crush the judiciary ahead of elections planned for later this year.
I write this on the fifth day of January in the year of our Lord 2007. Here in Vermont we’ve just come through the most snowless and warmest December in our history. The lakes are wide open, and the radio just forecast sixty degrees and pouring rain for tomorrow.
Norman Thomas, the great democratic socialist leader of the twentieth century who ran six times for president, used to say, “There are no lost causes, only causes not yet won.” Which has always struck me as a useful credo. And indeed, Thomas saw most of the outlandish ideas of his youth (Social Security, the eight-hour day, the five-day week) eventually enshrined not only in law but in conventional wisdom as obvious common sense. As Martin Luther King often observed, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Sometimes, too, King would quote James Russell Lowell’s “Once to Every Man and Nation”:
Truth forever on the scaffold
Wrong forever on the throne
Yet that scaffold sways the future
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.
Predicting the future of technology is a mug’s game, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to do it. I still enjoy looking through my 1902 copy of The Romance of Modern Invention, which devotes as much space to the telautograph as to the telephone, and predicts that the horseless carriage will solve the problems of city congestion. The two very different books by Martyn Amos and Robert Frenay share the premise that biology is going to be extremely important in twenty-first-century technology, taking over from the electronics that has dominated recent decades. There are good reasons for expecting change, one of these being that there are physical limits to how small silicon-based electronic circuits can be made. Smaller means better in the world of computing, and computers have been shrinking in size for the past forty years. Moore’s Law states that the number of components that can be packed onto a given silicon chip doubles every eighteen months, but the end is in sight for this steady progress. In contrast, biological systems manage to store and manipulate information more compactly than any silicon-based device can achieve. In particular, DNA holds information in digital form, just like a computer, and uses fewer than fifty atoms to store one bit.
more from the TLS here.
When you title an exhibition after the ramblings of a deranged schizophrenic convinced that Russian clones are controlling the government, and that a disease spread by cannibals is flooding the nation, and that a ‘Ruby Satellite’ that manipulates time may be the last best hope in defeating these cannibals and clones – well, you’ve got a tall order already. The sad, real-life denouement of this bizarre tale is that two Capitol police officers (mistaken for cannibals) were fatally shot by Russell Eugene Weston Jr. in 1998 as he stormed the United States Senate in search of the controls to said satellite. As crazy as this story is, it does contain all the elements of what this exhibition, curated by Ciara Ennis, was all about: compulsion and power – how they are played out and how we navigate the spaces in between.
more from Frieze here.
While ferociously pious, Jonathan Edwards was also way into metaphysics. Thanks to Jeremiah Dummer’s gift of five hundred volumes, which began making their way into the Yale library in 1714, the undergraduate Edwards enthusiastically discovered Descartes, Arnauld, Locke, and—most crucially for Joan Richardson’s A Natural History of Pragmatism—an edition of Isaac Newton’s Opticks (1704), which Edwards read time and time again. From the repetition of Samuel Clarke’s Latin translation of Newton’s English version of Opticks, Richardson finds etched into Edward’s later sermonic rhetoric a prismatic network of “light” (lumen), and from this link, she distills her fascinating premise: Attention to these sorts of lexical echoes will get us from the cadences of Calvinism to the experiments of Wallace Stevens and Gertrude Stein.
more from Bookforum here.
The captive; the fugitive; the lost, the found: the story of Natascha Kampusch – of an abducted girl who disappears at the age of ten and who returns a grown-up woman – became a worldwide sensation. Even before the public had seen her “new” face it was already visible to all as a digital identikit, and in one of the numerous front pages featuring the pro-ordained “face of the year”, even given a Warholian makeover, stylized as a pop icon. After the pale star had completed, to the dissatisfaction of all voyeurs, her first interview, Austrian public television announced the third highest ratings in broadcasting history: a blockbuster in the time of postmodernism, when blockbusters have long since ceased to exist, because no story sounds “incredible” any more. Why this one? What was it about the story of K. that made it so good, so fascinating, so attractive to the masses? Why, especially at first, did it seem more exciting than any thriller, more gripping than Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs and all the other artificial hells produced by the culture industry? And – to stick with stories that really happened – why did it also seem more interesting than the Dutroux case in Belgium? Lastly, why was the event just a flash in the pan, in so far as media enthusiasm fizzled out after just a few weeks?
more from Eurozine here.
3 Quarks Daily’s own Ram Manikkalingam, and Manan Ahmed, joined William Dalrymple to discuss Dalrymple’s latest book The Last Mughal on the nationally syndicated NPR program Radio Open Source, with Christopher Lydon. This is Chris Lydon at the Radio Open Source website:
William Dalrymple, the Scots historian who’s “gone native” in Delhi and written brilliantly about Delhi, City of Djinns, and its English denizens in the Raj, White Mughals, has rewritten the story of the Sepoy Mutiny from the largely untapped Indian National Archive. It brings the perspective of innumerable private and individual tragedies to one of the critical upheavals of modern history. For American readers in 2007, Dalrymple’s fresh telling of 1857 finds a startling parallelism in the “clash of civilizations” thinking that paved our way into Iraq and the British attitudes that had hardened through the 19th Century in a toxic brew of racism, cultural contempt and Christian evangelicalism.
Although it had many causes and reflected many deeply held political and economic grievances – particularly the feeling that the heathen foreigners were interfering in the most intimate way with a part of the world to which they were entirely alien – the uprising was articulated as a war of religion, and especially as a defensive action against the rapid inroads that missionaries, Christian schools and Christian ideas were making in India, combined with a more generalised fight for freedom from occupation and western interference.
… as we have seen in our own time, nothing so easily radicalises a people against us, or undermines the moderate aspect of Islam, as aggressive western intrusion in the east: the histories of Islamic fundamentalism and western imperialism have often been closely, and dangerously, intertwined. In a curious but very concrete way, the extremists and fundamentalists of both faiths have needed each other to reinforce each other’s prejudices and hatreds. The venom of one provides the lifeblood of the other.
William Dalrymple, “The last Mughal and a clash of civilizations”, The New Statesman, 16 Oct 2006
There are clear lessons here, as Dalrymple says. I am at the half-way point in his book, racing through it with the encouragement of reviews and commentaries in, for example, the indispensable 3 Quarks Daily and The Guardian.
Read more and listen to the program here.
Peter Rothberg in The Nation:
The reality is that after eighteen years and countless false promises, ExxonMobil has still not paid the billions of dollars in punitive damages that the courts have determined it owes the spill victims–this despite the fact that the company posted the most profitable year in 2006 of any corporation in history. In 1994, a federal court in Anchorage, Alaska, awarded $5 billion in punitive damages to fishermen, Native Alaskans, and other plaintiffs in a class action suit against the oil giant. But rather than accepting its obligations Exxon has been fighting the verdict, employing hundreds of lawyers, filing countless appeals and effectively buying science that supports its claims.
This has added injury to injury as more than 30,000 people whose lives and livelihood were disrupted by the spill have now been dragged through years of litigation. During this time, according to the advocacy group ExposeExxon whose excellent mailing prompted this column, 6,000 plaintiffs have died waiting for compensation.
Mohsin Hamid in the New York Times:
I was one of the few Pakistanis who actually voted for Gen. Pervez Musharraf in the rigged referendum of 2002. I recall walking into a polling station in Islamabad and not seeing any other voter. When I took the time required to read the convoluted ballot, I was accosted by a man who had the overbearing attitude of a soldier although he was in civilian clothes. He insisted that I hurry, which I refused to do. He then hovered close by, watching my every action, in complete defiance of electoral rules.
Despite this intimidation, I still voted in favor of the proposition that General Musharraf, who had seized power in a coup in 1999, should continue as Pakistan’s president for five more years. I believed his rule had brought us much-needed stability, respite from the venal and self-serving elected politicians who had misgoverned Pakistan in the 1990s, and a more free and vibrant press than at any time in the country’s history.
Lindsay Borthwick in Seed Magazine:
Scattered throughout the human genome are thousands of mutations that biologists have treated mostly as footnotes. They’re hardly few in number—in coding regions of the genome, there are as many as 15,000—but biologists regard them as mutations that simply don’t change the way a cell functions. Both in name and effect, they have been accepted as “silent.” Now, however, new discoveries are showing that silent mutations appear to play an important role in dozens of human genetic diseases, a fact that is forcing biologists to discard a long-held evolutionary theory and to reexamine the very rules governing the transfer of information from DNA to proteins.
To understand the importance of this realization, it’s necessary to review how infrormation is transfered from genes to proteins…
From Tony Mora’s blog, So Bad It’s Good:
By day I work on cartoons, by night I take pictures of murals…I mean, by day I take pictures of murals….I mean, on the weekends I take pictures of murals…
Jonathan Raban reviews The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back by Andrew Sullivan, in the New York Review of Books:
Like so many parties that go on past their proper bedtime, Karl Rove’s Republican Party has lately begun to break out in fights, as neocon theorists, Goldwater-style libertarians, the corporations, and grassroots Christian fundamentalists come to the aggravating discovery that they’re more defined by their differences than by what they hold in common. On climate change, government spending, stem-cell research, reproductive rights, and the Iraq war, to name just a few of the triggering issues, self-styled conservatives find themselves at loggerheads with other self-styled conservatives, each claiming the mantle of true conservatism for himself. As both symptom and diagnosis of this interesting—one might say promising—development, Andrew Sullivan’s The Conservative Soul is as engaging as it is provocative.
Sullivan is an odd duck. Born in England in 1963 to an Irish immigrant family, he grew up in East Grinstead, a town long associated with a cho-leric, class-based brand of reactionary Toryism.
Via Matthew Yglesias:
Greg Ross interviews Douglas Hofstadter in American Scientist:
There’s a popular idea currently that technology may be converging on some kind of culmination—some people refer to it as a singularity. It’s not clear what form it might take, but some have suggested an explosion of artificial intelligence. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Oh, yeah, I’ve organized several symposia about it; I’ve written a long article about it; I’ve participated in a couple of events with Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec and many of these singularitarians, as they refer to themselves. I have wallowed in this mud very much. However, if you’re asking for a clear judgment, I think it’s very murky.
The reason I have injected myself into that world, unsavory though I find it in many ways, is that I think that it’s a very confusing thing that they’re suggesting. If you read Ray Kurzweil’s books and Hans Moravec’s, what I find is that it’s a very bizarre mixture of ideas that are solid and good with ideas that are crazy. It’s as if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can’t possibly figure out what’s good or bad. It’s an intimate mixture of rubbish and good ideas, and it’s very hard to disentangle the two, because these are smart people; they’re not stupid.
Ray Kurzweil says 2029 is the year that a computer will pass the Turing test [converse well enough to pass as human], and he has a big bet on it for $1,000 with [Lotus Software founder Mitch Kapor], who says it won’t pass. Kurzweil is committed to this viewpoint, but that’s only the beginning. He says within 10 or 15 years after that, a thousand dollars will buy you computational power that will be equivalent to all of humanity. What does it mean to talk about $1,000 when humanity has been superseded and the whole idea of humans is already down the drain?
A technically exciting videogame of a film, 300 loses touch with a critical and moving event in Greek history.
Eugene N. Borza in Archaeology:
Herodotus, the “Father of History,” told many good stories, but there are few tales in his repertoire that surpass his narrative of the last-ditch stand of the Greeks against numerically superior forces at the pass of Thermopylae in August, 480 B.C. A huge military force led by Xerxes, the Persian King of Kings, crossed the Hellespont from Asia into Europe, intent on the subjugation of Greece. Whether Xerxes intended this invasion as revenge for the Athenian victory over the Persians at Marathon a decade earlier or whether his expedition had been planned all along as the natural extension of Persian rule into Europe is still a matter of debate among modern historians. The Greek city-states were aware of the movement of Asian land and naval forces through the areas north of them. Greek representatives met and attempted to plan a defense against an army that may have numbered hundreds of thousands (precision in numbers is impossible). A dispute among the Greeks regarding their best defense was resolved thus: the Peloponnesians, led by Sparta, would build a wall across the Isthmus of Corinth in order to protect the cities of southern Greece. Athens, which was vulnerable, would be evacuated, and the powerful Athenian fleet would be used to engage and destroy the Asian naval forces, thereby depriving Xerxes of necessary support. But time was short, and an attempt to delay the relentless advance of Xerxes’ army was necessary to enable the Athenians to abandon their city and the Peloponnesians to build their defensive wall.
From The New York Times:
A COMMUNITY nonprofit organization tucked away in the vibrant Mission District is a living example of a museum interacting with its environment — a stated goal of the most prominent architects these days. The organization, the Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center, has a modest storefront on 24th Street where visitors can learn about making murals and buy art supplies and postcard pictures of some of the most famous murals in the city’s history. But the Precita Eyes experience stretches well beyond the confines of the tiny shop, and out into the bustling neighborhood that surrounds it.
Take Balmy Alley, a narrow street lined with 30 colorful and larger-than-life murals on garages, fences and buildings.
In 1988 Benazir Bhutto became the only head of government ever to give birth while in office. Here, the former Pakistani prime minister tells the extraordinary story of her three pregnancies, of how a new mother took on a military dictatorship – and of her painful separation from her children
“I didn’t choose this life; it chose me. Born in Pakistan, my life mirrors its turbulence, its tragedies and its triumphs. Once again Pakistan is in the international spotlight. Terrorists who use the name of Islam threaten its stability. The democratic forces believe terrorism can be eliminated by promoting the principles of freedom. A military dictatorship plays a dangerous game of deception and intrigue. Fearful of losing power, it dithers, keeping the forces of modernisation at bay while the flames of terrorism flourish.
Pakistan is no ordinary country. And mine has been no ordinary life. My father and two brothers were killed. My mother, husband and I were all imprisoned. I have spent long years in exile”.
Stephen Greenblatt in the New York Review of Books:
In 1998, a friend of mine, Robert Pinsky, who at the time was serving as the poet laureate of the United States, invited me to a poetry evening at the Clinton White House, one of a series of black-tie events organized to mark the coming millennium. On this occasion the President gave an amusing introductory speech in which he recalled that his first encounter with poetry came in junior high school when his teacher made him memorize certain passages from Macbeth. This was, Clinton remarked wryly, not the most auspicious beginning for a life in politics.
After the speeches, I joined the line of people waiting to shake the President’s hand. When my turn came, a strange impulse came over me. This was a moment when rumors of the Lewinsky affair were circulating, but before the whole thing had blown up into the grotesque national circus that it soon became. “Mr. President,” I said, sticking out my hand, “don’t you think that Macbeth is a great play about an immensely ambitious man who feels compelled to do things that he knows are politically and morally disastrous?” Clinton looked at me for a moment, still holding my hand, and said, “I think Macbeth is a great play about someone whose immense ambition has an ethically inadequate object.”
I was astonished by the aptness, as well as the quickness, of this comment, so perceptively in touch with Macbeth’s anguished brooding about the impulses that are driving him to seize power by murdering Scotland’s legitimate ruler. When I recovered my equilibrium, I asked the President if he still remembered the lines he had memorized years before. Of course, he replied, and then, with the rest of the guests still patiently waiting to shake his hand, he began to recite one of Macbeth’s great soliloquies…
A new biography of Albert Einstein.
John Updike in The New Yorker:
When youthful and frisky, Albert Einstein would refer to himself as “the valiant Swabian,” quoting the poem by Ludwig Uhland: “But the valiant Swabian is not afraid.” Albert—the name Abraham had been considered by his unreligious parents but was rejected as “too Jewish”—was born in Ulm, in March of 1879, not long after Swabia joined the new German Reich; he was the first child and only son of a mathematics-minded but financially inept father and a strong-willed, musically gifted woman of some inherited means. A daughter, Maria, was born to the couple two and a half years later; when shown his infant sister, Albert took a look and said, “Yes, but where are the wheels?” Though this showed an investigative turn of mind, the boy was slow to talk, and the family maid dubbed him der Depperte—“the dopey one.”