Weekend Edition

August 23rd, 2019

Racist Steve King – 50% correct but …

August 23rd, 2019

by B. R. GOWANI

U.S. Congressperson Steve King (Republican from Iowa) speaking at the Westside Conservative Club on August 14, 2019. He told that humankind might not have survived if not for incest and rape. PHOTO/Des Moines Register

Congressperson Steve King is a racist to the core

he says Obama is a Muslim

he is anti-abortion

He said:

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?”

“Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages taken place and whatever happened to culture after society? I know I can’t certify that I’m not a part of a product of that.”

he’s right

how?

he’s Catholic Christian so let’s clear his thick head biblically

Jewish God created man; then woman out of man’s rib or side

woman disobeyed God; ate/shared with man the wisdom fruit

God was angry like hell; threw them both out of the Garden of Eden

(this Jewish myth is also part of Christian and Islamic traditions)

woman/Eve and man/Adam inhabited earth; gave birth to Abel/Cain

Cain was mad at God, so he killed his brother Abel

and he married his sister

thus humanity began with incest

wars, conquests, invasions, patriarchy all contributed to rape/incest

of course, many of us are products of rapes/incest

but then King gets off track totally:

“I’ve got 174 people who say they don’t want exceptions for rape and incest because they understand it is not the baby’s fault, to abort the baby, because of the sin of the father, and maybe sometimes the sin of the mother too.” “And so I refused to do that.”

rapes/incest of the past

lack of awareness of human rights/LGBTQ rights

unequal treatment of women for long long time

does not justify King’s racism/sexism/bigotry/…

nor can there be any rational justification of his anti-abortion stance

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Notes on Marx’s “General Law of Capitalist Accumulation”

August 23rd, 2019

by ANDY MERRIFIELD

If someone were to ask me what my favourite bit of Marx’s Capital is, I’d tell them Chapter 25, on “The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation.” Not that anybody has ever asked me; but I suspect I wouldn’t be alone in selecting this pinnacle performance, the beginning of the climatic unfurling of Volume One. For here those “laws of motion” that Marx had been trying to lay bare throughout Capital, really do motor before the reader’s very eyes, in all their disturbing fluidity. Hitherto, Marx had been attempting to piece together the intricate “inner mechanisms” of capitalist society. By Chapter 25, he’s ready to analyse these inner mechanisms as a giant well-oiled whirring machine.

And he’s mesmerised by the prodigious power of this machine, by capital accumulating, bursting through every historical and geographical restriction, conquering the entire world of social wealth. Yet, at the same time, he’s appalled by the ruthless force it unleashes, by the horrors the machine inflicts upon its cogs. Meanwhile, its normal functioning soon takes on a spiralling dynamic all its own, operating beyond the control of any single capitalist master. After a while, the enviable freedom of the capitalist gets transformed into a die-hard necessity, into an infamous historical mission:

Accumulation for accumulation’s sake, production for production’s sake.

The drive to accumulate capital dramatically pits capitalist against capitalist, capitalist against worker, worker against worker. Accumulation fuels competition, and competition, Marx says, “subordinates every individual capitalist to the immanent laws of capitalist production, as external, coercive laws.” Thus, as capitalists strive to accumulate, as their actions become mere functions of capital, they inevitably clash with other capitalists seeking to do likewise. What erupts is a fratricidal war; different fractions of capital jostle one other, struggle to corner markets, to control and monopolise markets, to control and monopolise labour; a zero-sum accumulation mania transpires and conspires. Accumulation is the centrifugal impetus of “capital in general.” But competition hastens a splintering of capital, just as it hastens a splintering of labour, compounding each side into many “aliquot parts.” Thus, as capital accumulates, the formation and intensification of class structure manifests itself as a paradoxical obliteration of class structure.

Before long, the hullabaloo of accumulation is “supplemented” by concentration and centralisation, by big capitalist fishes gobbling up little fishes and sharks chomping on big fishes. Marx says this enhances the scale of operations, accelerates the overall effects of accumulation, but in uneven ways, for capitalists and workers alike. Trouble and strife brood. For, on the one hand, competition and the obligatory development of a credit system become powerful levers of centralisation—of the formation of joint stock companies, trusts and conglomerates, mergers and acquisitions—and of expanded accumulation; on the other hand, though, the “organic composition of capital”—the ratio of dead to living labour, of machines to workers, of constant to variable capital—gradually starts to creep upwards, diminishing the relative demand for labour.

Before long, too, the system breeds a new species: Marx labels them “a new financial aristocracy, a new variety of parasites in the shape of promoters, speculators and nominal directors, a whole system of swindling and cheating by means of corporation promotion, stock issuance, and stock speculation.” Could Marx be talking about us? By God yes. Nowadays, we know these people by name, by sleazy reputation; we know, too, that within the overall accumulation process this new financial aristocracy has a stake very different to that of productive capital’s.

The former plays a extremely limited, if any, enabling role for valorisation: stock exchanges are now billion dollar markets for speculating on already existing stocks and shares. Little activity here actually raises money for new productive investment. Businesses generate money by selling stock and shares, relinquishing part of the company to shareholders; but little of the accruing booty gets recycled into future investment. Invariably, it’s doled out as dividends, and/or creamed off through inflated CEO salaries.

Monthly Review Online for more

The future of gravitational wave astronomy

August 23rd, 2019

VIDEO/You Tube

Actions of India’s PM are a concern

August 22nd, 2019

by NYLA ALI KHAN

Security personnel patrol along a street in Srinagar, Indian-occupied Kashmir PHOTO/AFP/Dawn

The recent unilateral decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to revoke Article 370, which guaranteed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, is a flagrant violation of India’s sovereign constitution. The curbing of political and civil liberties in Jammu and Kashmir is questionable.

A little history: In October 1947, the monarch of Jammu and Kashmir signed the “Instrument of Accession” to India, officially ceding to the government of India jurisdiction over defense, foreign affairs and communications.

In January 1948, India referred the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations. Prime Minister Nehru took the dispute beyond local and national boundaries by bringing it before the U.N. Security Council, and seeking a ratification of India’s “legal” claims over Kashmir. The U.N. reinforced Nehru’s pledge of holding a plebiscite in Kashmir, and in 1948 the Security Council established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan to play the role of mediator in the Kashmir issue.

The UNCIP adopted a resolution urging the government of Pakistan to cease the infiltration of tribal mercenaries and raiders into Jammu and Kashmir. It also urged the government of India to demilitarize the state. The resolution proclaimed that once these conditions were fulfilled, the government of India would be obligated to hold a plebiscite in the state to either ratify or veto the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India.

In the meantime, the government of Jammu and Kashmir negotiated with the central government to ensure that it would be allowed to function as a fully autonomous unit within the federation. Article 370 ensured that apart from defense, foreign affairs and communications, decisions with regard to other matters would be determined with the consent of the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

India’s constitution seeks to guarantee respect for the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of the electoral process. But time and again, provisions of the constitution have been breached in Kashmir, and the ideals that it enshrines have been forgotten. In Kashmir, rights relating to life, liberty, dignity of the people and freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution have been flouted. The revocation of Article 370, without consultation and following legislative processes, makes it clear that the much-lauded parliamentary democracy in India has been unable to protect a genuine democratic setup in Kashmir.

Kashmir has been under a lockdown, communication blackout and information blackout since Aug. 5. Modi cannot avoid his ethical and moral responsibilities toward the peoples of states in a federal country. The lives of people cannot be torn asunder by paramilitary forces and other “upholders” of the law.

(Nyla Ali Khan, a visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma,
teaches at Rose State College and is a member of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team. She is also a member of the Scholars Strategy Network. Khan earned her PhD in Post-colonial literature from OU. She has written several books including The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism (Routledge, 2005), Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), Parchment of Kashmir: History, Society, and Polity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), and The Life of a Kashmiri Woman: Dialectic of Resistance and Accommodation.)

(The above article first appeared in The Oklahoman of August 21, 2019.)

White power

August 22nd, 2019

by THOMAS MEANEY

VIDEO/Democracy Now/You Tube

Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew

Revolutionaries for the Right: Anti-Communist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War by Kyle Burke

In the spring of 1975, as America’s war in Vietnam drew to its grim conclusion, a new magazine targeted readers who did not want it to end. Soldier of Fortune was founded by Robert K. Brown, a former Green Beret based in Boulder, Colorado, who made the profitable discovery that his publication could double as an employment agency for mercenaries and a weaponry catalogue. The magazine’s classified ads offered an eclectic menu of ‘professional adventure’. You could enlist in Portugal’s war against anti-colonial guerrillas in Mozambique or sign up for the sultan of Oman’s counterinsurgency against the communist Dhofar rebellion. More sedentary readers could buy a ‘Free Cambodia’ T-shirt, donate to an anti-Sandinista relief fund, support the search for POWs, stock up on Confederate paraphernalia, get a TEC-9 assault pistol, hire a hitman or order dynamite by the truckload.

The popularity of a magazine like this, which at the height of its circulation in the early 1980s had 190,000 subscribers, testifies to the global reach of the paramilitary American right. You could learn more about certain corners of the world from its pages than you could from the Economist. Soldier of Fortune featured ‘participant’ despatches from unofficial war zones, interviews with European colonial rogues, and a sense of drama that cast the US as the last bulwark against the communist tide. Confederate ‘lost cause’ pathos alternated with a buoyant sense of America’s chosenness.

Brown himself led death squads in El Salvador and tours with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. By the late 1970s, American mercenaries were advertising their services in Rhodesian phonebooks. Twenty years later, a handful were serving in Croatian nationalist battalions in the Yugoslav wars, with underground American white power organisations promoting wider recruitment – and seeking out and funding East German neo-Nazis. More recently, some 15 American freelancers have joined gonzo-fascist Ukrainian units in the Donbass to fight ‘Putin’s communists’, though others see the Russian president as a knight for the white power cause.

For more than a century, anti-communism was a reliable binding agent on the American right. Disparate factions, from tax protesters and libertarians to fundamentalist Christians, from anti-abortion activists to the Ku Klux Klan and white power terror cells, could share a common enemy. For much of the 20th century, the struggles against communism and black progress were close to indistinguishable. In the late 1930s, local law enforcement waged war on the Alabama Communist Party and the 12,000 black members of the Sharecroppers Union; in the 1970s, right-wing US politicians actively supported white supremacist Rhodesia and South Africa against anti-colonial insurgencies, which were simultaneously demonised as black uprisings bent on white submission and as communist movements in hock to the Soviet Union. When Dylann Roof murdered nine black Christians in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, he demonstrated the continuing overlap between white power at home and pro-colonial anti-communism abroad: in his profiles online he could be seen proudly displaying Rhodesian military regalia.

London Review of Books for more

Sapiosexuals: Are some people really only sexually attracted to intelligence?

August 22nd, 2019

THE GUARDIAN


Marlène Schiappa … a self-confessed sapiosexuelle. PHOTO/Corbis/Getty Images

Marlène Schiappa, the French equality minister, says she is one of those attracted to others solely according to how brainy they are

Name: Sapiosexuals.

Age: Mid 30s.

Appearance: not important.

Why not important? Because it’s all about what’s on the inside.

What’s on the inside? Brains, baby.

I don’t get it. Am I missing something? I’ll keep it simple for you: we sapiosexuals are sexually attracted to highly intelligent people, regardless of looks.

What do you mean “we”? There are lots of us. The French equality minister, Marlène Schiappa, confirmed that she is “sapiosexuelle” in an interview.

How did the subject come up? She was being asked about a novel she had written, in which the heroine finds the former French prime minister Alain Juppé unbelievably sexy.

This is nonsense, surely. No. The term was apparently coined in 1998, “sapiens” being the Latin word for “wise”.

I knew that. Sapiosexuals are sexually aroused by intellectual debate, deep thinking and long conversations about literature.

No they aren’t. Don’t knock it just because you’ve never experienced it.

Are you calling me stupid? Never mind … you have lovely eyes.

Is anyone seriously suggesting that this qualifies as a sexual orientation? Well, it’s as much an identity as autosexuality.

It sounds like a pretentious excuse for having an ugly boyfriend with no sense of humour. The term has attracted some criticism in the past from people who say it reinforces simplistic and outmoded definitions of intelligence, and that it discriminates against neurodiversity.

I’m pretty sure that’s more or less what I was saying. But the term has definitely caught on in recent years. About 0.5% of users on the dating website OkCupid identify as sapiosexual.

I suppose this emphasis on the mind over outward appearance is refreshing, but I’m still suspicious. Because you think the distinction says more about the person claiming it than the people they’re attracted to?

No, it’s just that, clever as I am, I would rather that someone loved me for my cheekbones. Don’t worry, I’m sure the right shallow idiot will come along one day.

Fingers crossed. Anyway, you probably don’t need to be a sapiosexual in order to love a sapiosexual.

Maybe not. Are they taller than me? I’ll check and let you know.

Do say: “You should message me if you like 19th-century novels, quantum mechanics, opera and politics. And have never seen Love Island, like I never have.”

Don’t say: “What’s the word for being sexually attracted to people with lots of money?”

The Guardian for more

A conversation with Aijaz Ahmad: ‘The state is taken over from within’

August 21st, 2019

by JIPSON JOHN & JITHEESH P.M.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won a landslide victory in the 2019 general election, after the swearing-in ceremony on May 30. With him are President Ram Nath Kovind (centre), Home Minister Amit Shah (extreme right), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Ram Vilas Paswan and Ravi Shankar Prasad and other members of his team. PHOTO/PRAKASH SINGH/AFP

Interview with Aijaz Ahmad.

Aijaz Ahmad is a Marxist thinker of Indian origin and an internationally renowned theorist of modern history, politics and culture. He has taught in various universities in India, Canada and the United States and currently serves as Distinguished Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine, where he teaches critical theory.

A large part of this interview concerns questions of Hindutva communalism, fascism, secularism and possibilities for the Left in the Indian context. In other sections, he reflects on globalisation, global prospects for the Left, the uses and misuses of Antonio Gramsci’s thought, and the relevance of Karl Marx in our time. The interview was conducted before the recent general election in India and updated after the election results were out.

Narendra Modi again won the people’s mandate in May 2019. How do you look at his comeback? What are the main factors that contributed to the BJP’s return to power with a historical mandate? How do you foresee India’s future under the RSS-BJP’s second term in office?

Led by Narendra Modi, the BJP has certainly scored an electoral landslide. Whether this can be called a “people’s mandate” is very doubtful. In order to give their mandate, people have to have the benefit of a rational political debate based on strict respect for facts, not to speak of calm and clear enunciation of alternative policies by the contending political parties. Even if political parties are able to offer rational alternatives based on facts, the people today no longer have access to any of that because the corporate media in India are aligned almost exclusively with the Sangh machine and are no longer committed to public civility and unbiased reporting of facts and policies. A democratic exercise through which the people can give their mandate further requires strict observance of ethical, constitutional and legal norms by all the institutions involved, notably the Election Commission, the highest judiciary, law enforcement agencies—which is no longer the case. There once was a time when the Indian polity observed these democratic norms to a very remarkable degree. But a civil compact of that kind has been fraying in India for some decades now, getting increasingly more corrupted as years go by. By “corrupted”, I don’t mean just the massive use of money, which is itself a big factor in determining electoral outcome. I mean an all-encompassing erosion of what could reasonably be called a democratic process. 2019 seems to have been the point when any relation between the size of the electoral victory and the basics of the democratic norm has disappeared altogether.

Indian politics has been Americanised to an astonishing degree. The cult of the great leader—the messiah, the saviour—on the one hand, and the systematic production of fear and hysteria on the other, have become quite the norm. Politics are now driven by 24×7 TV channels, opinion polls, and immense campaign extravaganzas staged with billions of [rupees of] corporate financing, much of it secret and untraceable. The escalating hysteria about citizens and non-citizens, which is likely to reach hysterical proportions with Amit Shah as Home Minister, is itself a carbon copy of [U.S. President Donald] Trump’s racist, virtually genocidal policies toward the South American economic refugees crossing into the U.S. All of this the Sangh conglomerate has imbibed from the U.S., with three differences: outright hysteria is much more the norm in virtually all the TV channels in India; sources of the money that went into the oiling of the BJP machinery in 2019 were more opaque while the amounts were even greater than in the U.S.; and the low-intensity but unremitting violence that the Sangh deploys so routinely, without fear of judicial reprisal, is far ahead of Trump’s savageries.

Did the 2019 results surprise me? Yes, as did the 2014 results. I am not a student of day-to-day electoral politics. My personal expectations in any election are shaped very much by estimates that I receive from sources on the Left and the liberal Left. And you know what those estimates were: narrow margins on either side, possibly a hung Parliament. Once I recovered from those immediate expectations, I returned to the very premises of my structural analysis.

Secularism, a minority position always

Frontline for more

Profiling a novel: On the 70th anniversary of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’

August 21st, 2019

by MINI KAPOOR

As endeavours in biography-writing, books about novels are particularly intriguing — the takeaway is usually much more, and sometimes much removed, from the original text. They are not simply aids to reading and understanding the novel in question — for that, an annotated text would perhaps do just as well. As the recently published, The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by London-based writer Dorian Lynskey shows, at their best they provide the reader with a specific vantage point to return to the novel.

And surveying some biographies of novels, this becomes quite clear. Peter Hopkirk’s Quest for Kim: In Search of Kipling’s Great Game located the biography of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim in the geographical landscape — trying to see if he can find the 3.25 a.m. train from Lahore to Ambala as mentioned in the book (he can’t); barrelling down the Grand Trunk Road; searching for Lurgan Sahib’s curio shop in Shimla; basically, finding echoes of Kipling’s story in a present-day (almost) journey.

Nudging us

In Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece, Michael Gorra, an American professor of literature, too heeds the geography of The Portrait of a Lady. But the key to reading the classic and the writer’s mind in this case lies in understating the structure of the novel and restlessness of James and his revisions of the drafts (“he lived in a world of second thoughts”).

In The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses, Kevin Birmingham foregrounds the fight against censorship. Ulysses was, by some reckonings, the best novel of the 20th century. But it was a heroic fight against censorship that brought it to readers, with Sylvia Beach of Paris’s Shakespeare and Company taking on censorship by publishing it, and Random House subsequently legally challenging the seizure of the book by the U.S. customs.

In a sense, Casey Cep’s debut, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, published this year, is the biography of a novel that was never written. In the 1970s, Lee had reportedly been working on a book based on a series of murders in Alabama, but, by all accounts, never wrote it.

Furious Hours tracks the details of the murders and the times, nudging us to think of the book that could have been in Lee’s writing — it also loops us back to To Kill a Mockingbird, to try to understand afresh why Lee did not publish a subsequent book. (Though sometimes construed as a sequel to Mockingbird, and published in 2015, Go Set a Watchman was, in effect, a lost pre-Mockingbird draft.)

Orwell’s message

Now, for his part, Lynskey does not limit his biography of Nineteen Eighty-Four to Orwell’s life and times and the writing of the novel, which was published 70 years ago. Certainly, he tracks how Orwell’s ideas developed, starting with his decision to fight in the Spanish Civil War, and tracing the arc to his work on the book in Jura in the Scottish Hebrides in the late 1940s, by now suffering from tuberculosis. To appreciate the novel is to get a measure of its resonance today. As Lynskey reminds the reader right in the beginning, within days of Donald Trump taking the oath of office as President of the U.S. in January 2017, sales of the book rocketed by almost 10,000%, and it became the number one bestseller in that country. Nineteen Eighty-Four, he suggests, illuminates our times as much as our times illuminate the classic.

The Hindu for more

El-Shifa: A forgotten war crime

August 21st, 2019

by KARIM F. HIRJI

This article recounts a major war crime committed against the people of Sudan in August 1998. Reflecting on the rationale and unfolding of this crime, it examines the veracity of the official claims, the reactions and implications of the deed. The importance of remembering our past in an accurate and unbiased manner is underscored.

You have to know the past to understand the present. Carl Sagan

Missiles out of nowhere

Twenty-one years ago, on 19 August 1998, the then largest country in Africa was the scene of a grave war crime. I talk of Sudan, a nation that has been on the front news pages of recent. But I do not refer to Darfur, the civil war in the south or other oppressive acts of the regime. I have in mind the sudden destruction of a factory in Khartoum that was producing essential medicines needed by the people.

On that day, United States President Bill Clinton ordered cruise missiles attacks on two nations, Afghanistan and Sudan. A total of 79 missiles were dispatched. In a televised address, he justified the strikes with one key word:

Our target was terror. Our mission was clear. President Bill Clinton, 20 August 1998.

On 7 August 1998, two US embassies in Africa were bombed within minutes of each other. Two hundred and twenty four people perished, and about 4000 were injured, mostly nationals of Kenya and Tanzania. The US State Department laid the blame for the bombing on a group led by Osama Bin Laden, a shadowy Saudi Arabian dissident. It was not noted that this group was a progeny of the paramilitary groups that had received lavish US financial, material and diplomatic backing barely a decade earlier. 

The targets of the missile attacks in Afghanistan were declared to be Bin Laden, his followers and facilities. Four missiles went off course, landing in the newly nuclear armed Pakistan. Independent information on these targets is scarce, but at least 25 civilians died and more than 50 were injured in the attack (Ahmad 2001; Read 2003). 

On the other hand, much is known about the target in Sudan, at which 14 missiles were fired. It was the El-Shifa industrial facility adjacent to a residential area in Khartoum. It was reduced to rubble. Senior US and British officials, including the American Secretary of Defence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave a specific rationale for selecting the target, depicting it with ‘high confidence’ as a tightly guarded secret plant for the manufacture of chemical ingredients that could be used to make the deadly nerve gas, VX (Healy 1998).

A minute amount of VX absorbed through the skin blocks the nervous and respiratory systems, causing death from suffocation and vomiting. Relatively inexpensive and easy to produce, it was first manufactured in the 1950s by the British military. The production method alleged to have been used by Sudan was devised by chemists working for the US Army (BBC 1999d; Zorpette 1998). 

US officials slated it as an act of self-defence to thwart future terrorist attacks. According to the Secretary of State, the strike heralded the wars of the future. Editorials in major media across that nation chimed in their loyal support.

The United States has demonstrated its readiness to act unilaterally against terrorists if need be, exercising its right to self-defence. Editorial (1998a).

To declare that Sudan is involved in the production of VX is a serious charge. It calls for a United Nations initiated investigation and sanction, if true. The two key issues were: (i) What was produced at the plant? (ii) Who owned and financed it? A further question is: Even if the allegations were true, was the US justified to act unilaterally as it did?

What did the factory produce?

Despite calls from respected domestic and foreign quarters, the US did not make public its evidence that a precursor of VX was produced at the plant. Knowledgeable experts queried the accuracy of the tests used to identify the chemical. They said that available pesticides and herbicides have ingredients similar to the one in question (Hitchens 1999). It was conceded that the US case rested on a single soil sample supposedly taken near the plant (Risen 1999). Hence, the room for error was wide. A closed-door session held by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) scientists to explain the strike to other analysts within the US government was deemed unconvincing by the attendees (Whitelaw, Strobel and Duffy 1999). When asked to submit the incriminating sample for independent analysis, the inimitable answer was: It had been used up in testing. In October 1998, the owner of the factory hired the head of the Chemistry Department of Boston University to collect a set of ‘carefully catalogued samples’ from the plant site and the vicinity. No trace of chemical weapons material was detected (Risen and Johnston 1999). As the technical loopholes in the official rationale mounted, a stony silence became the ultimate response. 

Pambazuka for more