Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

An artist of the law

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019


Novelist Franz Kafka PHOTO/Wikipedia

Kafka was a lawyer by training. At the age of 25, two years after getting his law degree, he began work at the Kingdom of Bohemia’s Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute, where he devoted himself to the implementation of the law on statutory occupational insurance, adopted by Austro-Hungary in 1887—three years behind Germany and eleven years ahead of France.footnote1 Kafka specialists are divided as to whether his legal career hindered or helped his literary work. His diaries and letters offer evidence to support both views, which should not be surprising, since there is barely a single affirmation from his pen that is not immediately reconsidered from another point of view. Thus he famously wrote that his legal studies involved living on sawdust, already chewed over by thousands of mouths—but promptly added that, ‘in a certain sense’, this was exactly to his taste.footnote2 This way of turning over the cards, not stopping at the first meaning of a fact or symbol but always examining them from the reverse perspective, is the hallmark of the legal mind—or, more precisely, of the art of the trial, which is entirely governed by the rule of audi alteram partem: hear the other party.

This first rule of the art of law is known today as the adversarial principle—in French, the principe du contradictoire. It is an ambiguous term, since consideration of the opposite point of view doesn’t annul the first viewpoint but puts it to the test of truth, allowing the party defending it to rebut in turn the arguments made against it. In other words, the principle is valid only to the extent that it is at the service of the law of non-contradiction: that a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time. In the course of legal proceedings, the play of these successive ‘speaking againsts’ thus takes place on a terrain of rules that cannot themselves be contradicted and which are based in law. The parties have to submit to the same law for the trial to proceed; it is this common submission that allows them to exchange words, rather than blows.

New Left Review for more

Italian Billionaire Luciano Benetton and the Aga Khan Museum partner to create cultural dialogues

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019


Houda Terjuman’s work Bridges not fences
Casa Arabe _Laura

What does it mean when you are asked: “Where are you from?” This often innocuous question provides information to identify the historical background of a person but, more often than not, also pigeon-holes migrants based on biases and stereotypes. The project, Fondazione Imago Mundi, a project founded by Italian billionaire Luciano Benetton, has partnered with the Aga Khan Museum to launch a new project changing the narrative of identity for migrants. The partnership has kicked off with an exhibition in Italy called “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From.”

The project channels the experiences of artists who are first, second, and third-generation immigrants–a growing body of people raised in a culture other than their parents–in a series of several works exploring cross-cultural artistic realities. Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From features new works by 15 artists, representing 25 different countries. From Italy, the exhibition will travel to the Aga Khan Museum in March 2020 and then to venues across Canada, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

Forbes for more

(Thanks to reader)

Capitalism’s failures ignited worldwide protests

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019


While the spark for each protest might be different, it is not about left and right but the failure of neoliberalism

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News, folks. This is Marc Steiner. Good to have you with us.

Bob Dylan wrote a song many moons ago, and one of the lines went something like this: “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you?” And I won’t say the rest, but that song was called Ballad of a Thin Man. And we used to sing that song to the establishment back in the 60s when the world was being rocked by liberation movements and worldwide demonstrations. Now, from Colombia, to Hong Kong, to Haiti, Bolivia, Egypt, and Iran, and a dozen more countries, are exploding with demonstrations.

They’re not all erupting for the same reason, at least not the same obvious reason, but the underlying causes may be connected; from the failure of the neoliberal policies, to international finance rules that benefit the elite and the wealthy but leave the masses behind struggling in their wake, to capitalism’s inability to answer the social and then the economic needs of the people themselves. But given that, and how the right may support Hong Kong, but the left may decry the coup in Bolivia–though I might add this whole radical kind of supports both of them. But seriously, how do we connect those dots, understand what is going on in this planet and how these revolts may be confronting and defining the future for the 21st century. 

Ben Ehrenreich wrestles with this in his latest article for The Nation called Welcome to the Global Rebellion Against Neoliberalism. And Ben, welcome. Good to have you with us.

BEN EHRENREICH: It’s good to be here, Marc.

MARC STEINER: And let me just add before we start that Ben’s most recent new book is The Way to the Spring, which is based on his reporting from the West Bank. And next July we’ll see his next book, Desert Notebooks: A Roadmap to the End of Time, which may be appropriate for this conversation. Maybe not.

Well Ben, good to have you here. But I think as you look first of all in a broader sense at these rebellions taking place across the globe–and we covered some of this when we covered Hong Kong. I had some people kind of writing on YouTube that they thought I was being too liberal in supporting and having these people–calling them socialists on the air, these people who were part of the Hong Kong demonstrations. And then other people getting upset because of the coup in Bolivia. And they seem really disparate in terms of their political underpinnings. But in some ways, all these things–from there, to Haiti, to the Sudan, to throughout the world–there’s a connection here that is really hard for most people to kind of put their hands around.

BEN EHRENREICH: Yeah. I think for a lot of them there is. And I’ve been grappling with this for a few weeks, as one after another country just sort of explodes into protest trying to figure out why this is happening now; what, if anything, they all have in common. Eventually, I just started making a list, and the list was long. I mean, as you said, it’s more than a dozen countries that are now in the last… since September have been thrown into turmoil by popular uprisings. Some of them started a lot earlier than that. Hong Kong did, and Haiti certainly did. And I started trying to make lists of what in each country set them off, and the commonalities quickly began to stand out. In most of them, whether it was a hike in a fuel tax or a hike in transit fare as in Chile that set them off, it was austerity policies of one kind or another that pushed people into the streets.

In other words, people are in all of these countries getting more and more squeezed, which means the daily life is harder. There is fewer and fewer social services available to them from the government and they see in pretty much all of these countries a corrupt, unaccountable elite, which is enriching itself while the lives of most people become more and more difficult.

And I think in most of these countries, this has been happening for some time. And there was some small spark like in Chile, the hike in transit fares that pushed a few people into the street and then many more people. And then of course governments tend to overreact to these things with considerable brutality. And that pushes even more people in the streets. And then within a few days you have a vast movement happening.

MARC STEINER: So I mean, when you look at these things… I mean, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about were these rebellions taking place, riots taking place, street demonstrations across the globe. To me, there’s a connection between that and the rise of the populist right. I’m not saying the populist right is behind the demonstrations at all. But the connection is, it seems to me–and I’d like to see what your thoughts on this–is the inability of this neoliberal capitalist world to answer the questions of people’s lives, so for people to survive. And I think that’s the connecting dots, but it’s being used politically across the spectrum and I think that’s what’s confusing people so much. How do you put your finger on it?

BEN EHRENREICH: Yeah. I mean, I think you’re right. I think in a lot of places, unfortunately the US being one of them, people have turned to nationalists and various kinds of ethnos chauvinist right-wing responses to some of the same challenges, right? That people are more and more shut out of their own societies. That people have a harder and harder time getting by. One case that was pretty interesting, I think, was France, which just marked it’s 12 month anniversary of the yellow vest protest, which of course were set off when Macron decided as a good green European centrist to try to discourage fossil fuel use by imposing a tax on fuel. Right? And he did this, everyone noticed, shortly after slashing taxes on the very rich.

So it was really clear that whatever transition was going to happen to agree in economy was going to happen on the backs of ordinary people. And this sent people out into the streets. Those protests were extremely tumultuous and have been long-lasting, and there’s been a lot of hair-pulling over what that means, I think among people on the left as well as the right… Because there have been far right elements, antisemitic elements out in those protests as well as folks on the left and the far left, and sometimes they’ve gotten along and sometimes they haven’t. But I think you’re right. I think the people on both sides of the spectrum are responding in different ways to increasing social insecurity.

MARC STEINER: Yeah. And it seems to me that one of the things you are wrestling with in your article which is really important I think for us to wrestle with in a much broader and deeper sense as well, is people can be so dismissive so quickly. What I was alluding to earlier was when I did a piece with socialist activists who were involved in the Hong Kong demonstrations, I get all these comments from YouTube saying, “You’re a tool of the Western governments. This is all being fomented by the United States deep state,” and all the rest. When no… for us to understand that these things were erupting because people have a deep discontent with their societies. And I think that it’s something that has not happened before like this, and people on the left especially are kind of grasping for how to define it and how to respond to it. I think that’s part of the dilemma most people are having. You haven’t seen very many articles like yours that are trying to connect the dots.

BEN EHRENREICH: Yeah, I don’t… The U.S. has been quite good historically at fomenting coups–

MARC STEINER: Absolutely.

Real News Network for more

Fact and friction: Reporting on Hong Kong’s protests

Monday, December 9th, 2019


Mass protests in Hong Kong put a team of journalists to test as they face intimidation and growing pressure from China.

In June 2019, a controversial new extradition bill in Hong Kong – which would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial – sparked mass protests, with millions of citizens taking to the streets.

But as China is seen to flex more influence over the semi-autonomous territory, Hong Kong’s media also face pressure.

Among those covering the protests is Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), an independent news outlet whose journalists put themselves on the line to cover the story – running a news website and streaming events on social media as they navigate clashes between protesters and police and keep up with the latest developments.

But they are up against an increasingly murky media landscape; HKFP’s founder Tom Grundy believes press freedoms have eroded since 1997 when Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese rule from Britain.

“The big problem when it comes to truth and accuracy is, they [news outlets] tend to be either outright owned by China or they’re run by tycoons with business interests in the mainland. Almost everybody it seems is touched by if not outright censorship, but self-censorship. And that’s the cancerous thing that has been spreading in Hong Kong for some years,” says Grundy.

And as advertisers withdraw from media critical of the establishment and the government increases control of all media, journalists in Hong Kong operate in a period of intimidation and uncertainty.

Still, the team is determined to maintain its independence in the face of biased media.

“I felt that it’s right that journalists reporting on Hong Kong should have a very deep engagement in the fate of Hong Kong,” says Holmes Chan, an HKFP reporter.

“I hope that people can see that we care.”

Al Jazeera for more

Michelle Obama slanders black men in her book, adds to the Obama family’s long anti-black tradition

Monday, December 9th, 2019


Michelle Obama Slanders Black Men in Her Book, Adds to the Obama Family’s Long Anti-Black Tradition

The Obamas are cashing in on their lifelong project to further the destruction of Black people, while blaming the victim.

“When it comes to imperialism, it pays to be anti-Black.”

Black Agenda Report has spent over a decade analyzing the numerous manifestations of the Obama family’s hatred of Black America. Michelle Obama is currently on a book tour of her latest release, Becoming. The overpriced book is but another addition to the post-Obama Presidency family fortune. Barack and Michelle Obama have been busy building a billionaire brand with book deals and speaking arrangements with Wall Street. As Paul Street noted, the Obama Foundation is putting the donations of Wall Street corporations to good use by opening a “library”in the heartland of Black Chicago. Just as during its tenure in the White House, the Obama family is profiting from the promotion of white supremacist policy and ideology directed against Black America.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the very words that have come out of the mouths of both members of the Obama “power couple.” At a recent speaking event at the Barclay’s Center in New York City, Michelle Obama had this to say about Barack Obama:

“I had never met a black dude like Barack Obama. Not only his background and where he had traveled and who is parents were and he was always very introspective and he had been a community organizer. I hadn’t met a Harvard black dude who had been a community organizer in neighborhoods on the far south side where most people in the firm didn’t know those neighborhoods, he had been all up in those neighborhoods and those churches. So he understood the community in a full way but he was not arrogant, he was humble. I also liked the way he treated others.”

“The Obama family is profiting from the promotion of white supremacist policy and ideology directed against Black America.”

Michelle Obama uses her husband’s falsified credentials as a weapon against all Black men. Her statement that she had never met a “black dude”like Barack Obama represents but another racist dog whistle to please white America. The former First Lady of the United States has met plenty of Black men; she was raised for a period in the South Side of Chicago after all. However, as the Obamas have so plainly demonstrated, it isn’t where you are from but who you serve that matters. Few things please white America and its allies in the Black political class more than the criminalization and demonization of Black men. True to U.S. history, Michelle Obama invokes the image of the pathological, criminal, and lazy Black male who could not possibly live up to the standards of her “cultured” yet humble husband.

Texas A&M professor and scholar Tommy Curry is fighting for the creation of Black Males Studies precisely because the demonization of Black men is central in the shaping race, class, and gender politics in the United States. Curry argues quite convincingly that contemporary theories about race and gender are formulated around the extermination of Black men , especially poor Black men. Black men suffer from disproportionate rates of intimate partner violence, state violence, unemployment and incarceration but are often considered to be sexual deviants and criminals who possess “toxic masculinity.” Black men hold progressive views on gender and poll higher on these views than white women but are often thought to obsess over the patriarchal power of white men.

“As the Obamas have so plainly demonstrated, it isn’t where you are from but who you serve that matters.”

The legacy of mass Black enslavement, now manifested in the incarceration regime, is the foundation from which anti-Black attitudes against Black men and all Black Americans are nourished. One of Michelle and Barack Obama’s signature achievements for the ruling elites of the United States was the creation of massive amnesia in the Black polity around this fact. Black Americans as a group became more pro-warand pro-state surveillancethan at any point in its history. Black Americans were further unable to muster any demands on the Administration around issues like forcing the Justice Department to indict murderous police officers or for the state to address the theft of Black wealth, even at the height of the Black Lives Matter insurgency. Not only were the Obamas able to move Black America to the right, but they were able to insult Black America every step of the way.

Michelle Obama’s racist dog whistle against Black men wasn’t the first time that the Obama duo attacked Black people. In 2008, then Presidential candidate Barack Obama castigated Black men as absentee fathers . Obama didn’t mention that data suggests Black men are the most committed fathers of any other group studied in the nation. But Obama’s comments are not about respectability. The myth of the absentee Black father is but a trope for the criminalization of Black men, where massive levels of exploitation and oppression by way of discrimination, police violence, incarceration, and poverty faced by Black people can be erased in favor of the Reaganite mantra of personal responsibility.

“Not only were the Obamas able to move Black America to the right, but they were able to insult Black America every step of the way.”

Once in office, the Obama Administration made it clear that it was the Presidency of all people, not Black people. Of course, what Obama meant was that he was the President of Wall Street, the ruling elites, and the white Americans who do their bidding. In a 2013 speech at Morehouse College, Barack Obama lectured Black men about personal responsibility. He told new graduates to stop blaming slavery for their problems and focus instead on being good fathers. Thus, the Obamas are no stranger to hurling insults at Black people whenever the opportunity arises. This was an especially useful skill during the Black insurgency that developed in the wake of the police state murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Obama made sure to repeat the mantra of demonic Black men by criminalizing the victims as violent, drug-induced thugs and labeling the righteous rebellion of Black people as “excuse making” and “criminal behavior.”

Black Agenda Report for more

Oxygen bars are surely not a solution for pollution

Monday, December 9th, 2019


New trend : A user breathes in oxygen mixed with perfume at an oxygen bar in New Delhi. PHOTO/ANUSHREE FADNAVIS

No medical community has come forward to spread awareness on this captivating yet unscientific business

The popularity of packaged air began around four years ago when a Canadian company launched ‘canned air’ for people in China when air pollution in many cities became alarmingly high. The newer addition — oxygen-bar — a recreational parlour or cafe which serves ‘pure oxygen’ is becoming a more attractive destination, particularly in cities with dangerous levels of air pollution. At times, the oxygen comes in different scented flavours.

In cities with highly polluted air, the business of ‘canned oxygen’ or ‘oxygen-bar’ is flourishing. The recent launch of such a recreational oxygen parlour in Delhi amidst the city’s infamously bad air condition has caught significant media attention. But how safe are they and are any benefits at all?

First, do we really need this extra oxygen? The simplest answer is no. Unlike conventional oxygen therapies used in respiratory conditions that is administered for a short or long period in hospital or at home, people take oxygen for an ultra-short period in these bars (30 minutes or less). As per the standard clinical procedure, oxygen supplementation can be administered only in case of hypoxemia (lowering of oxygen saturation in the arterial blood below 95%) and it does not have any consistent beneficial effect on non-hypoxemic patients.

Placebo, at best

It must and should be remembered that the oxygen level does not alter in the air even when the pollution level is high. The same applies to our health — oxygen saturation in blood remains unchanged in healthy people in normal conditions, and such recreational oxygen cannot provide any health improvement. It can at best have a placebo effect. Though users and proponents of purified oxygen claim several benefits such as relieving stress, headache and migraine, and help in achieving better energy and mood, there is no clinical evidence available so far in support of the beneficial effects of recreational oxygen use.

The Hindu for more

Weekend Edition

Friday, December 6th, 2019

Corporations dictate”family values”

Friday, December 6th, 2019


CARTOON/Sidewalk Bubblegum/Duck Duck Go

in the US, discussions on “family values” abound

many definitions now exist on what constitutes a “family”

a “traditional family” in the United States is a nuclear family

i.e., husband, wife, and children

worldwide, though, the norm had been the extended family

family values are principles/ethics families follow and teach kids

they consist of good or bad things or both good & bad things

depending on the outlook and biases of heads of the families

but for the creation of a just society that runs smoothly

and allows all its members to utilize potential to maximum

existence of certain things are very necessary, of course:

  • a 3-day work-week for a total of 20 hours work,
  • pay should permit people to afford all necessities
  • like education, healthcare, shelter, food, clean water
  • nothing should be open after 5 or 6 pm, except emergency services

this will enable people

  • to spend time with their families, friends, relatives
  • have time to read and play,
  • discuss important national/international issues, etc.
  • children will have the love & care of the family members
  • greater number of people will have employment

however, the reality is extremely different and horrifically ugly

  • corporations have grabbed immense power and wealth
  • government and people have become pawns of business
  • the corporate goal is to sell as much as possible to people & government,
  • and make people work more and more hours at lesser pay

they have succeeded in turning people into work slaves and dumb consumers

and turning executive/legislative/judicial branches into their pimps

the work of the pimps is to keep the workers/consumers functioning

and to screw the family values

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

How Mengzi came up with something better than the Golden Rule

Friday, December 6th, 2019


Family Training, unknown artist, Ming (1368-1644) or Qing (1644-1911) dynasty. PHOTO/the Met Museum, New York

There’s something I don’t like about the ‘Golden Rule’, the admonition to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Consider this passage from the ancient Chinese philosopher Mengzi (Mencius):

That which people are capable of without learning is their genuine capability. That which they know without pondering is their genuine knowledge. Among babes in arms there are none that do not know to love their parents. When they grow older, there are none that do not know to revere their elder brothers. Treating one’s parents as parents is benevolence. Revering one’s elders is righteousness. There is nothing else to do but extend these to the world.

One thing I like about the passage is that it assumes love and reverence for one’s family as a given, rather than as a special achievement. It portrays moral development simply as a matter of extending that natural love and reverence more widely.

In another passage, Mengzi notes the kindness that the vicious tyrant King Xuan exhibits in saving a frightened ox from slaughter, and he urges the king to extend similar kindness to the people of his kingdom. Such extension, Mengzi says, is a matter of ‘weighing’ things correctly – a matter of treating similar things similarly, and not overvaluing what merely happens to be nearby. If you have pity for an innocent ox being led to slaughter, you ought to have similar pity for the innocent people dying in your streets and on your battlefields, despite their invisibility beyond your beautiful palace walls.

Aeon for more

Pakistan’s Shia dynamics

Friday, December 6th, 2019


Shias in Pakistan reputedly account for about 20 percent of the population — or 42 million out of the population of 210 million — making it the second largest Shia population in the world outside Iran. Although the subject has not attracted academic attention to the extent it deserves, two very detailed and highly impressive books published in the last few years by German academics Andreas T. Rieck and Simon Wolfgang Fuchs have made enormous contributions in filling the gap.

In his pioneering 2015 book, The Shias of Pakistan: An Assertive and Beleaguered Minority, Rieck — a German researcher who has served in both Pakistan and Afghanistan — focused on the history of Shias in Pakistan, the growth of Shia organisations and their conflictual relationship with the Pakistani state. In his meticulously researched and stimulating book titled In a Pure Muslim Land: Shi’ism between Pakistan and the Middle East, Fuchs — a lecturer of Islamic and Middle East Studies at the University of Freiburg in Germany — discusses in detail the fundamental transnational transformation of Shia thought and religious authority in Pakistan.

Detailing the growth of the Shia population in today’s Pakistan with specific focus on Punjab, where there was no Shia religious seminary till 1915 (as Lucknow was the pre-eminent city for Shia seminaries in India) and only two till 1947, Fuchs argues that the number of seminaries have increased since the creation of Pakistan and received an impetus after the Irani revolution. By 2004, there were 374 Shia seminaries for male and 84 for female students in the country, with 218 and 55 respectively in Punjab alone.

Apart from the long list of books that the author has made use of during his extensive research in Pakistan, India, Iran and Iraq, Fuch relies extensively on three Shia journals published in Pakistan: Al Hujjat, Payam-i-Amal and Al Muntazar. He examines the role of Shia political organisations in the run-up to Partition, conflict between traditional and reformist Shia ulema after Partition, linkages between Pakistani Shias and the Grand Ayatollahs in Iraq and Iran before the Irani revolution, the impact of the Irani revolution on the Pakistani Shia landscape, and increasing Sunni-Shia sectarianism against the backdrop of growing local and transnational linkages.

The role of Shia politicians in the creation of Pakistan can be described as not only undeniable but, in fact, decisive. Sir Aga Khan III, an Ismaili Shia, was the first president of the Muslim League. The first provisional committee of the Muslim League consisted of four Shia members. Shia politicians played an important role in the Muslim League in its initial decades and some — such as Syed Ameer Ali, Syed Wazir Hasan, Raja Sahib Mohammad Ali Mohammad Khan of Mahmudabad, Sir Ali Imam etc — became its president. Raja Sahib stepped down in 1930 and helped Allama Muhammad Iqbal become president ahead of Iqbal’s famed Allahabad address.

Dawn for more