Weekend Edition

July 19th, 2019

Trump’s extreme rhetoric & hatred

July 19th, 2019


President Donald Trump
Congresspersons (from left) Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley VIDEO/PBS News Hour/You Tube

the nature of cult leaders, bigots and fascists

is to provoke and incite the masses

they can fill people’s hearts and minds very easily

with hatred and anger in no time at all

by their charisma, faulty rhetoric and more

their goal is to gain increasing power

by taking control over the minds of the populace

Trump is trying to do the same

what he probably fails to understand is that

once the anger and hatred are unleashed

these emotions will not die silently

but will look for outlets

very possibly can create tragedies of

death, destruction, and disaster on a grand scale

that Trump will not be able to control, as history shows us

the fascists, the cultists, the racists,

the misogynists, bigots, and nationalists of yester-years

Trump sees himself as the US white supremacist emperor

and openly and vociferously exhibits this when

he targets racist tirade against 4 congresswomen of color

he tells them, to go back to their countries

Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, AOC, Ilhan Omar

all of them are US citizens

who have put their life on the line for the people

and have responded strongly and fearlessly

in spite of being the recipients of unbelievable vitriol

from the powerful leader of their country

they have not let fear keep them from doing what is right

in a rally, Trump lets loose his hatred against Omar

his supporters shouted: “send her back,” send her back,” …

he paused his speech until the chants died down

his white color permits Trump to spew hatred

against mainly minorities that he targets

the majority of the population is white in the United States

majority is considered right – even if it is totally wrong

one cannot help but wonder …

what will happen to these congresswomen

nothing very good can be seen on the horizon =

how will such hate and anger subside

will it, as it often does, lead to violence?

will it subside after acts of tragedy?

or will run its natural course of immense harm?

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

The most important black radical you’ve never heard of

July 19th, 2019


Hubert Harrison, seated left, and International Workers of the World leaders Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Bill Haywood, seated right, organized the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike. PHOTO/American Labor Museum

Hubert Harrison was one of the first black socialists in the United States, a fierce champion of racial equality, and a pioneering analyst of how capitalists use racism to divide the working class. He deserves to be remembered.

Hubert Henry Harrison is the most important black radical you’ve never heard of. While other leading figures in the black freedom movement, from W. E. B. Du Bois to Ella Baker to Malcolm X, have been honored with everything from street names to postage stamps, Harrison remains in the shadows, largely unknown except to specialists in black history. In his day, however, Harrison was a figure who stood alongside giants like Marcus Garvey, Ida B. Wells, and A. Philip Randolph.

Harrison was also one of the earliest black socialists in the United States. In his time in the Socialist Party, Harrison developed an analysis of how capitalism produces racial inequality and pressed the labor movement to directly confront that inequality. A supporter of the party’s radical left wing, Harrison was pushed out during factional struggles before World War I. He went on to form his own newspaper and lead the black radical upsurge in Harlem that followed the war.

Throughout his brief life, Harrison insisted on linking the fight against racial oppression with the fight against capitalism. His life’s work is a vital resource for radicals today attempting to join those two struggles.

Linking Anti-Racism to Socialism

Harrison was born in Saint Croix, a small Caribbean island, in 1883. By the age of seven, he was working as a domestic servant. When his mother died in 1898, Harrison immigrated to New York, finishing high school there and taking a job in the post office. He quickly established himself as an intellectual leader, organizing political discussion groups among his coworkers and throwing himself into New York’s vibrant scene of street lectures and debates.

A fierce advocate for racial equality, Harrison soon ran afoul of the most important black political figure of his generation, the accommodationist Booker T. Washington. Harrison had written a letter to the New York Sun in response to Washington’s recent contention that “the Southern States of the Union offer the Negro a better chance than almost any other country in the world.” In his reply, Harrison excoriated Washington for his silence about the outrages of American racism and accused him of holding his position as race leader “by grace of the white people who elect colored people’s leaders for them.”

Washington never deigned to respond to Harrison in print, but instead replied with action. Using his position as a distributor of patronage jobs to black Americans as part of the Republican Party machine, Washington had Harrison fired from the post office.

Yet if Washington’s intent was to silence Harrison, his plan failed miserably. Less than a month after losing his position, Harrison found work again, this time as a lecturer and organizer for the Socialist Party.

The Socialist Party was a formidable organization, particularly in New York, when Harrison joined it in 1911. Across the country, socialists were winning election to city councils and state assemblies; in Wisconsin, socialist leader Victor Berger even secured a seat in Congress. The party was less successful organizing black workers, despite considerable debate since its founding over the “race question.”

Jacobin Magazine for more

The nation that never rests: Japan’s debate over work-life balance and work that kills

July 19th, 2019


Summary: After 1973, employers in Japan who had been promising to adopt a weekend system began to withdraw those plans. Thus began a yet-unfinished debate in Japan about how to balance need for employee rest with the demands of employers to increase economic output. The Liberal Democratic Party’s current approach to the overwork problem, including its recent labor reforms—which emphasize granting legal flexibility to employees without creating firm regulations to prevent employers from demanding excessive labor—reflects the continued refusal of employers and political leaders to accept the need for employee work-life balance.

In 2014, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo promised foreign investors in London that he would “reform labor market regulation[s] in order to make working conditions more flexible.”1 After Abe released a proposal which included a so-called “white collar exemption,” the Asahi Shimbun pushed back with a front-page story suggesting that the new law removed the existing limits on the amount of work employees could be called upon to do. In the beginning, trade unions also resisted. Shintani Nobuyuki, director of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), stated bluntly: “we don’t need this new system.”2 Resistance failed to prevent the reforms that passed the Diet on June 29, 2018.

Tokyo Review, 2017

A battle over Abe’s proposed reforms occurred in the spring of 2018. By this time, the bill revising the Labor Standards Act—the core of the then-current work time rules—had been stalled in the parliament for two years. Opposition to the bill, from activists including family members of karoshi (death by overwork) victims under the banner of the Zenkoku Karoshi wo Kangaeru no Kai (The National Association of Families Reflecting on Death by Overwork), cracked in June when Rengo accepted the introduction of a merit-based pay system for “highly professional” jobs. Drafters of the bill defined this group as employees with annual salaries of at least 10.75 million yen (approximately $96,000) in fields such as research and development, securities analysis, and investment consulting—or about 10 percent of all employees. Rengo and its allies did secure concessions. This salary threshold was much higher than the 4 to 7 million yen ($35,500 to $62,000) proposed by business groups, which would have included up to 40 percent of all workers. The bill also included language guaranteeing 104 days off annually for those subject to a merit-based pay system. Still, the most glaring flaw in the June 2018 law is the new 100 hour monthly cap on overtime—20 hours higher than the limit previously prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.3 Although this cap only applies to large companies, at the moment, the cap refers to all employees during special busy times (up to six months per year), which are determined by companies themselves. Moreover, the highly professional jobs mentioned above are essentially exempted from caps on and compensation for overtime.4 Critics such as president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Zenroren) Rikio Kozu have repeatedly lambasted the administration, Rengo, and Keidanren (The Japanese Business Federation) for refusing to take seriously the need for reduction in work time and realization of work-life 5 balance for all Japanese employees.6 The vice chairman of Zenroren, Iwahashi Yuji, went so far as to call the professional system in the bill “modern slavery.”7

The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus for more

How a husband-and-wife team proved Leif Erikson beat Columbus to Norse America

July 18th, 2019
The Vinland Mystery

‘In this great ocean, many have found still another island, which is called Vinland, since there grow wild grapes. But beyond, everything is filled with intolerable ice and terrible fog.’ – Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (c1070)

Up until the 1960s, the existence of a pre-Columbian Norse settlement on the North American continent had long been hypothesised but never proven. That finally changed when a Norwegian husband-and-wife team – the explorer Helge Ingstad and the archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad – pieced together historical hints that led them to pursue the fabled settlement on the island of Newfoundland in present-day Canada, far north of where other historians believed Norse ruins might be found. This 1984 National Film Board of Canada documentary tells the remarkable story of how the Ingstads were eventually able to confirm that mysterious mounds in this remote stretch of Newfoundland were indeed Norse in origin, forever reshaping modern perspectives on European and North American history.

Aeon for more

An app using AI to ‘undress’ women offers a terrifying glimpse into the future

July 18th, 2019


The world certainly isn’t ready for the DeepNude app, but we’d better start getting ready. PHOTO/Broker/Alamy Stock Photo

Unless we start taking online misogyny seriously, we are going to face a future where women may not be able to exist online

‘The world is not yet ready for DeepNude’

Want to see Taylor Swift naked? There’s an app for that. It’s called DeepNude and it uses AI to “undress” photos of women and produce a realistic nude image.

Or rather, there wasan app for that: the creators of the horrifying program took it down on Thursday after a Vice article about DeepNude catalyzed widespread outrage. “We created this project for user’s entertainment a few months ago,” the app’s creators tweeted. “We never thought it would become viral and we would not be able to control the traffic. Despite the safety measures adopted (watermarks) if 500,000 people use it, the probability that people will misuse it is too high. The world is not yet ready for DeepNude.”

The world certainly isn’t ready for DeepNude, but we’d better start getting ready. One creator may have had a crisis of conscience and taken his program offline, but apps like this are going to continue to pop up – and they will only grow more sophisticated. Not to mention, DeepNude is far from the only program that lets you create realistic fake nudes. Plenty of women are already being digitally inserted into porn photos or videos without their consent – a problem we’re not talking about nearly enough.

“The harm done to women when it comes to this kind of sexual objectification is happening now,” Mary Anne Franks, president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, told the Huffington Post earlier this year. “It’s almost like people have forgotten that this is what this technology really started out as, and the conversation around women has fallen away.”

In recent months there’s been increasing concern about “deepfake” technology, which allows people to produce realistic-seeming photos or video content. But, as Franks noted, a lot of this discussion has revolved around the implications for politicians and powerful people. It ignores the fact that the motivation behind a lot of this tech is to control and humiliate women. DeepNude, for example, didn’t let you undress dudes; the app was specifically focused on women. When Vice tried to use it on a man it apparently “replaced his pants with a vulva”.

If you become the victim of a deepfake there’s very little you can do; our laws simply haven’t caught up to the technology. It’s also basically impossible to protect yourself from becoming the subject of a deepfake. As Franks told the Huffington Post: “There’s nothing you can really do to protect yourself except not exist online.”

The internet can be an incredibly toxic place for women. According to Amnesty International, 29% of American women have experienced threats of physical or sexual violence online. Amnesty International also found that an abusive or problematic tweet is sent to a woman every 30 seconds, on average, with black women being 84% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive tweets. Social media platforms have done very little curb to their abuse problem – leading women to censor themselves online or leave social media altogether. The rise of deepfake technology is going to make the internet exponentially more difficult for women. Unless we start taking online misogyny seriously, we are going to face a future where women may not be able to exist online.

Alabama is waging a full on war against women

Marshae Jones, a 27-year-old Alabama woman, was shot in the stomach last year; she lost her five-month-old fetus as a result. On Wednesday, Jones was indicted on a manslaughter charge for the death of her unborn baby. “The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,’’ a police officer said. “She had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection.” Meanwhile, the shooter went free. This case is nothing short of terrifying; it treats women as nothing more than walking wombs. What next? A woman who trips and has a miscarriage gets sent to prison? It’s a very real possibility.

Florida woman arrested for turning in her husband’s guns

A 33-year-old woman from Florida was afraid her husband, who had attempted to run her over, was going to kill her. So she took his guns to the police. The police then promptly arrested with her grand theft of a firearm and armed burglary. Remember when Brian Stelter told women they were being hysterical for saying America was a few steps away from The Handmaid’s Tale? Guess what, Brian? We weren’t.

Two women go on record to corroborate Trump rape allegations

After initially downplaying E Jean Carroll’s account of Trump raping her in the 1990s, the New York Times is now taking it seriously. On Thursday it spoke to two of Carrol’s friends who corroborated her allegations. So, yeah, just a reminder that the most powerful man in the world has credibly been accused of rape and is seemingly not facing any repercussions.

Could cervical cancer be eradicated?

Some good news! Scientists believe that the success of the HPV vaccination means there’s a chance cervical cancer could be eradicated in the next few decades. That’s assuming the anti-vaxxers don’t take over the world, of course.

Praying for a hot Dalai Lama

In 2015 the Dalai Lama told the BBC that a female Dalai Lama would have to be good looking or she wouldn’t be “much use” as nobody would want to see her face. He apparently still holds these views; in an interview with the BBC this week, the 83-year-old reiterated that a female Dalai Lama would have to be attractive. Never thought I’d say this, but I guess the Dalai Lama is cancelled.

The Guardian for more

In case brought by school speech pathologist, Texas federal court becomes the third to strike down pro-Israel oath as unconstitutional

July 18th, 2019


VIDEO/Kelly West

A federal court in Texas issued a ruling on Thursday afternoon preliminarily enjoining enforcement of Texas’ law banning contractors from boycotting Israel. The court ruled that the law plainly violates the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment. Following similar decisions by federal courts in Kansas and Arizona, the ruling becomes the third judicial finding – out of three who have evaluated the constitutionality of such laws – to conclude that they are unconstitutional attacks on the free speech rights of Americans.

.he case was brought by Bahia Amawi, a longtime elementary school speech pathologist in Austin, Texas, whose contract renewal was denied due to her refusal to sign an oath certifying that she does not participate in any boycotts of Israel. In December, The Intercept was the first to report on her case and the lawsuit she brought, and also produced a video documenting her story.

Amawi, a U.S. citizen and mother of four U.S.-born children, was required to sign the pro-Israel oath due to a new law enacted with almost no dissent by the Texas State Legislature in May 2017, and signed into law two days later by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. When signing the bill, Gov. Abbott proclaimed: “Any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy.”

But this was precisely the mentality, along with the virtually unanimous pro-Israel sentiment in the Texas State Legislature, that the Texas federal judge identified when explaining why the pro-Israel oath so blatantly violates the free speech guarantees of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment:

In Texas, only five legislators voted against H.B. 89. (Texas Resp. Mots. Prelim. Inj., Dkt. 25, at 4). Texas touts these numbers as the statute’s strength. They are, rather, its weakness. “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” W. Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943). “[T]he purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular[,]” is “to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation—and their ideas from suppression—at the hands of an intolerant society.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995).

Thus, “our citizens must tolerate insulting, and even outrageous, speech” in public debate. Boos, 485 U.S. at 322. They must do so “in order to provide ‘adequate breathing space’ to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment.” Id. (citing Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 56 (1988)). With H.B. 89, Texas compresses this space. The statute threatens “to suppress unpopular ideas” and “manipulate the public debate through coercion rather than persuasion.” Turner, 512 U.S. at 641. This the First Amendment does not allow.

The ruling, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman, categorically rejected each of Texas’ justifications for the law. Judge Pitman was particularly emphatic that the law was not merely “government speech” in defense of Israel, but rather a classic embodiment of what the First Amendment, at its core, was designed to prevent: punishment imposed on those who disagree with the majority’s political opinions on hotly contested political topics. The attack on free speech, explained the court, was manifest from the text of the law itself:

The Intercept for more

Black feminism and black Moses (part I)

July 17th, 2019


W. E. B. Du Bois’s poignant words in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line,” is scripture for Black folk in America. Citizenry after three centuries-plus of bondage ain’t been no crystal staircase. Black folks have navigated feral and diabolical racialized hostility since European contact, invasion, occupation, conquest, and colonization. To be clear, the systemic violence of theft of bodies, culture, identities, and histories; foreign rule; forced African dispersal; the trans-Atlantic slave trade; and the European scramble for African territory, caused not only alienation between people, land, and culture, but laid claim to the spirit of African diasporic being, identity, independence, and thriving. 

Today, when we think of the slave trade in America, many think of a system long gone that ended over a century and half ago. We think of what was, not what yet still is. We think of the magical Civil War that ended slavery and gave everyone shared access to the American Dream, not the reality that the same demonic colonial tools, political structure, and economic system that captured, enslaved, and traded an estimated 12 million Africans from Central and West Africa between the 15th and 19th centuries to be “slaves for life,” along with any offspring, still exists. Many of us are the offspring of Africans interpreted not as humans, but legal property aka cargo aka merchandise and sold to people who owned cocoa, cotton, coffee, tobacco, and sugar plantations. We are the descendants of domestics and field hands whose bylines, last names, diaries, testimonies, secrets, and seared flesh serve as reminders of our unique connection – to each other, land, experience, and the color-line. As Aimé Césaire reminds us in Discourse on Colonialism (1950), the dehumanizing, poisonous, and barbaric nature of coloniality, was distilled into the veins of our society. While we no longer live in a colonial context and “the official apparatus may have been removed…the political, economic, and cultural links established by colonial domination still remain.”

America is replete with colonial artifacts. Policing, mass incarceration, Black death, immigration laws, the juridical system, and the maintenance of socioeconomic class lines tell us this much. Neocoloniality is evidenced in and through a number of social hierarchies and forms of power and control intended to strip the Black diaspora of any semblance of freedom, justice, humanity, equity, or citizenship. And it means to stifle not only our liberation but our image. The collective battle for political freedom and from representational fabrication as darkness, evil, monsters, criminal, immoral, lazy, hyper-sexual, and so on, is real. The quest to be seen as ends rather than exploitable means to an end is real. And in the unyielding face of forced labor, joblessness, intimidation, police brutality, taxation, racial terror, theft, rape, incarceration, and murder, the 1960s signage and what came to represent the collective call of the social movement for humanity, “I Am A Man,” still rings true. In many ways, “I Am A Man” became a sublimation and lynchpin for naming Black oppression beneath the veil of the color-line.

The Feminist Wire for more

Sex robots are coming, with a host of concerns

July 17th, 2019


A female sex doll lies in a room of the sex doll brothel Unique Dolls in Helsinki, Finland. Hidden behind a supermarket the brothel offers sex with scarcely dressed dolls. Photo: Steffen Trumpf/ dpa

The robots are here. Are the “sexbots” close behind? From the Drudge Report to The New York Times, sex robots are rapidly becoming a part of the conversation about the future of sex and relationships.

Behind the headlines, a number of companies are currently developing robots designed to provide humans with companionship and sexual pleasure – with a few already on the market.

Unlike sex toys and dolls, which are typically sold in off-the-radar shops and hidden in closets, sexbots may become mainstream. A 2017 survey suggested almost half of Americans think that having sex with robots will become a common practice within 50 years.

As a scholar of artificial intelligence, neuroscience and the law, I’m interested in the legal and policy questions that sex robots pose. How do we ensure they are safe? How will intimacy with a sex robot affect the human brain? Would sex with a childlike robot be ethical? And what exactly is a sexbot anyway?

Defining ‘sex robot’

There is no universally accepted definition of “sex robot.” This may not seem important, but it’s actually a serious problem for any proposal to govern – or ban – them.

The primary conundrum is how to distinguish between a sex robot and a “sexy robot.” Just because a robot is attractive to a human and can provide sexual gratification, does it deserve the label “sex robot”?

It’s tempting to define them as legislatures do sex toys, by focusing on their primary use. In Alabama, the only US state that still has an outright ban on the sale of sex toys, the government targets devices “primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.”

Asia Times for more

Capitalism, populism & crisis of liberalism

July 17th, 2019


Interview with Akeel Bilgrami.

Akeel Bilgrami is an Indian philosopher of international eminence and scholarship. He graduated from Elphinstone College, University of Bombay, in 1970 and went to the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Thereafter, he moved to the United States and earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1983. He currently holds the Sidney Morgenbesser Chair in Philosophy at Columbia University, New York. Bilgrami was the chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1994 to 1998. He was the director of the Heyman Centre for the Humanities at Columbia from 2004 to 2011 and was the director of Columbia’s South Asian Institute from 2013 to 2016.

Bilgrami’s main intellectual interests are in the philosophy of mind and language, and in political philosophy and moral psychology. His PhD thesis, titled “Meaning as invariance”, was on the subject of the indeterminacy of translation and issues concerning realism. Among his books on the philosophy of language and mind are Belief and Meaning (1992) and Self-Knowledge and Resentment (2006).

His writings in the other central area of his intellectual interests, political philosophy and moral psychology, have significantly influenced and continue to influence the public discourse on politics, ideology, religion, modernity, culture, history, and so on. It is Bilgrami who has exposed and provided high-ranging criticism of liberalism and its limitations as a political ideology in contemporary times. According to Bilgrami, liberalism and liberal politics have got their own limitations and could not save us from the savagery of capital. In this way, he intellectually provokes us to go beyond liberalism and reimagine an alternative political vocabulary. Here his philosophy rejects the ideology of capitalism and envisions an alternative as the way forward for humanity. This alternative is, of course, left centric and socialistic in perspective, and he sympathises with Left politics in his home country and others.

His writings and philosophical ideas on the themes of secularism, modernity, Marxism and Gandhi have produced new perspectives on these subjects and significantly contributed to intellectual debates (see Frontline issues dated March 30 and April 13, 2018). His highly influential essay “Gandhi the philosopher” provides a fresh reading of Mahatma Gandhi, and Bilgrami unearths the integrity in his ideas contrary to the popular notion of their inconsistency and fragmentation. As a philosopher, Bilgrami, despite being an atheist, does not completely reject the scope of religion in playing a critically instructive role in our times. He says: “Religion is not primarily a matter of belief and doctrine but about the sense of community and shared values that it can sometimes provide in contexts where other forms of solidarity—such as a strong labour movement—are missing, and it sometimes provides a moral perspective for a humane politic as it did in the liberation theology movement in Central America.”

Bilgrami’s attempt to provide a fresh look at modernity is also noteworthy. Pinpointing the basic weaknesses and Eurocentric nature of modernity and its domination by liberal politics, Bilgrami seeks to find a theoretical framework by which one can go past the constriction of possibilities that liberalism and the merely regulatory constraints of social democracy have forced on modern societies.

Bilgrami is influenced by thinkers such as Karl Marx, Bertrand Russell, Donald Davidson and Noam Chomsky. His important works in this area include a vast number of essays and the books Secularism, Identity and Enchantment (2014), Marx, Gandhi and Modernity (2014) and Democratic Culture (2011).

In this long interview with Jipson John and Jitheesh P.M., Akeel Bilgrami speaks at length on the concepts of populism, liberalism, fascism, postmodernism and post-truth.

Frontline for more