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Psychocandy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/06/2022 - 10:59pm in

Art versus the algorithm.

Garbage literature. Little

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/06/2022 - 8:58am in

Garbage literature. Little free library, with bins. Glebe.

Bruised Fruit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/06/2022 - 11:30pm in

Uncrowding the mantel of gay saints.

RIP: Rob Brouwer 1938-2022

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/06/2022 - 8:27pm in

In a few weeks, Neglected Classics of Philosophy 2 (OUP, 2022) will appear. As you can see at books.google, it's dedicated to "Anneke Luger-Veenstra, Jan Stronk, and Rob Brower, my learned high school teachers, who encouraged a love of the classics." Two days ago my high school classmate, Jorine Lamsma, called my attention to an announcement in the newspaper that Rob had died June 1, 2022. The memorial service and funeral are today.

Rob was my high school Latin teacher for four years at Amsterdam's Vossius Gymnasium. My class (1c, 2c, 3c) was known to be 'trouble' and quite a few teachers fought trench warfare with us, as we found ever more creative ways to prank and be disruptive. But not in Rob's classroom. We called him "Mijnheer Brouwer," of course. He was not on first name basis with his charges.

Rob commanded our instant respect not because he was strict (which he was) and unperturbable (which he was), but because he somehow managed to convey that he instantiated the promise of bildung (without having to say so); he wasn't aiming to reach some learning target decomposed in weekly grammar, vocabulary, and syntax acquired. But rather he always made clear that whatever task of memorization and repetition we were assigned was in the service of our introduction to the classics and, without veneration, their wider cultural significance. As another classmate, Max Rosenberg, put it, each class was part of a much broader whole. And as the years passed, I slowly grasped -- hence my use of 'bildung'  --, these classics in turn would be good friends accompanying me in a life-time of imperfect self-cultivation.

Once, I was fourteen or so, a classmate pushed his button, and the unfathomable happened: the boy (no, not me) got sent out of class, with the archaic, 'gaat heen' and Rob, visibly steadying himself, pointing a finger at the door. For years we could get a good laugh trying to mimic that 'gaat heen,' but we had to acknowledge simultaneously that we were in awe of him. 

Not just because of his formal language and dress, Rob seemed like a character from a different age -- his classroom had the surprisingly bittersweet smell of his pipe --, he was the subject of myths: his son had died tragically (which turned out to be true), he suffered from Leukemia (which turned out to be true), he had studied to be a Jesuit (possible), and he was dating the German teacher, Erika Langbroek (which also turned out to be true). 

I had a very checkered high school career; I should have flunked out at the end of my third and fourth years (ninth and tenth grade). Mevrouw Luger played a big role in bending the rules my way each year. But I always passed my Latin, and to this day, I recognize that I have built a scholarly career on the years Rob put into me. (And I often regretted he was not my Greek teacher.) 

I forget if it was my junior or senior year, but I got wind that Rob was doing a reading group in philosophy with some interested class-mates at his home not far from the school in an apartment on the Beethovenstraat. (At this point he wasn't my teacher anymore, but it was before he moved into a different apartment with Erika also on the Beethovenstraat.) I invited myself along for the wine and the mystique. They were reading Die Kritik der reinen Vernunft (in German). I would like to say it got me excited about philosophy, but I suspect the main effect of the reading group was to make me excessively and irresponsibly fearless in the face of any text. 

Some time after college, I got back in touch with Rob. I suspect in order to brag to him that I had been taking philosophy classes with Dan Dennett (he was underwhelmed) and Martha Nussbaum. Rob, it turned out, was a real fan-boy of Nussbaum who, in graduate school, was one of my supervisors of my qualifying paper on the puppet image in Plato's Laws. Alongside E.B. England's commentary, Rob's wisdom became instrumental in helping me figure out the nuances of Plato's Greek and thought.

But perhaps I had simply bumped into him with Erika at the kleine zaal at Concertgebouw. Even long after he was struck by an increasingly visible Parkinson, he was a transfixed presence in the little balcony. I didn't share his love for nineteenth century Lieder, but we often discovered that we (or, in my case, my mum) had acquired season tickets for the same chamber music series.

We started to see other more frequently during my Summer visits back home while I was in graduate school. I am also unsure of the exact sequence of events that led to our first reading group with Martin Claes, then a Jesuit getting a PhD (now a pastor and a scholar), on Augustine's De Magistro. I  never asked Rob if he identified with Augustine's loss of his son. He never spoke of him to me, but he often expressed pride in his daughter (a lawyer). It was the start of numerous partially overlapping, reading groups with Rob in varying combinations with people from his life -- often people who adored Dante or choir (or both) -- or my own circle of Dutch academics and friends. 

Meanwhile, we started corresponding and as I look through our letters, I see that he never stopped trying to broaden my horizon. His letters reflect his curiosity, even an excessive strain of enthusiasm; he offered a never ending stream of suggested novels or works of scholarship. While in his own work, he had an exacting low tolerance for minute error, in his reading habits he was primarily searching for bold and expansive interpretations. As I advanced in academia he relished keeping me informed of scholarly fashion that had somehow captured the imaginations of the culture and book sections even editorial pages of the Dutch broadsides.

In addition to being a teacher, Rob was a scholar, translator, and poet. His translations of Dante's Divine Comedy, Statius' The Thebaid, Lucan's Bellum Civile, Virgil's Bucolica/The Eclogues combine vast erudition with linguistic and poetic sensitivity. He also translated Epictetus. He would probably be very amused to hear me claim modest credit for triggering his renewed interest into Lucan just as he was completing his stupendous Dante translation. But it's true: while teaching the Treatise in my first seminar at Wesleyan in 2002, I was confused by the way the motto of book 3 of Hume's Treatise had been translated in the then new 'student edition' published by OUP. (The motto is from Lucan.) We started a correspondence about it, and I date to it the start of my interest into Seneca.

When I heard Rob had died, I looked at our correspondence to see when we last had written. I noticed to my horror he had never acknowledged my word that I had dedicated the forthcoming Neglected Classics volume to him. I had not registered this silence at all during the depths of my own illness.

Before I close, I don't want to suggest Rob was an ethereal personality only. He was happy whenever he could talk about Erika or Sabine. And our reading groups were carefully planned around not just his choir practices, but also his cycling holidays.

I also don't mean to suggest he was above name-dropping. Once he asked me slyly if I knew who Henny Vrienten was. They had met swimming their laps in de Zuiderbad. Later Vrienten became involved in the recording of Rob's Dante.

Near the end of De Magistro, Augustine suggests that when we praise a teacher, we're really praising ourselves and this never seems to me more true than in the Academy during the many, lovely ritual practices of acknowledging the roles of supervisors in one's education. Self-praise does not strike me as a sin, but I have to admit that all of these academic practices (fests, collections, memorial conferences, etc.) seem, however sincerely felt and expressed, a bit tainted by the multiplicity of self-advancing roles they play in our prestige hierarchies and zero-sum political economy. (Perhaps this also accounts for the sincerity.)

We encounter our high school teachers through their words, their curriculum, their classroom, and features of their personality as well as the school yards myths about them. The older, and more experienced I get in the classroom, the more it seems to me they -- I mean all true teachers -- use a feature of their personality, perhaps made excessively visible to the student, to find a way to connect with the longings and desires, perhaps vanity even (as Adam Smith claims), of their students, and turn this connection, however tenuous, into the engines of shared enquiry. This also means that not every teacher is the right fit for each student.

The reason why when we praise a teacher, we're really praising ourselves according to the closing lines of De Magistro is that teachers are kind of puppets or actors speaking thoughts of others and that it's the student's reason or intuition that is doing the real work of understanding even if the words of the official teacher trigger or guide such understanding. The Platonic idea with which De Magistro closes, that nobody teaches another anything, has, thus, generated learned philosophical commentary that betrays non-trivial professional anxiety.

Augustine does make an exception to this quite general claim at the start of De Magistro, which I doubt is retracted during the dialogue. He suggests that when we ask questions we're really teaching something about our needs or our plans. The latter includes, of course, the path of inquiry, as Augustine explicitly notes. Rob was magisterial in asking questions that directed our gaze to the inner, guiding light that we need on life's path.

 

 

Pepe Escobar on ‘the ultimate handbook’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/06/2022 - 10:49am in

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Pepe Escobar REVIEW of DESTINY

In his latest book, economist Michael Hudson pits socialism against finance capitalism and tears apart the ‘dream civilization’ imposed by the 1 percent.

By Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

Michael Hudson’s new book on the world’s urgent global economic re-set is sure to ruffle some Atlanticist feathers.

With The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism, Michael Hudson, one of the world’s leading independent economists, has given us arguably the ultimate handbook on where we’re at, who’s in charge, and whether we can bypass them.

Let’s jump straight into the fray. Hudson begins with an analysis of the “take the money and run” ethos, complete with de-industrialization, as 90 percent of US corporate revenue is “used to share buybacks and dividend payouts to support company stock prices.”

That represents the apex of “Finance Capitalism’s” political strategy: to “capture the public sector and shift monetary and banking power” to Wall Street, the City of London and other western financial centers.

The whole Global South will easily recognize the imperial modus operandi: “The strategy of US military and financial imperialism is to install client oligarchies and dictatorships, and arm-twist allies to join the fight against designated adversaries by subsidizing not only the empire’s costs of war-making (“defense”) but even the imperial nation’s domestic spending programs.” This is the antithesis of the multipolar world advocated by Russia and China.

In short, our current Cold War 2.0 “is basically being waged by US-centered finance capitalism backing rentier oligarchies against nations seeking to build up more widespread self-reliance and domestic prosperity.”

Hudson presciently reminds us of Aristotle, who would say that it is in the interest of financiers to wield their power against society at large: “The financial class historically has been the major beneficiary of empires by acting as collection agents.”

So inevitably the major imperial leverage over the world, a true “strategy of underdevelopment,” had to be financial: instrumentalizing IMF pressure to “turn public infrastructure into privatized monopolies, and reversing 20th century pro-labor reforms” via those notorious ‘conditionalities’ for loans.

No wonder the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), established in Belgrade in 1961 with 120 nations and 27 observers, became such a threat to US global strategy. The latter predictably fought back with a slew of ethnic wars and the earliest incarnations of color revolution – fabricating dictatorships on an industrial scale, from Suharto to Pinochet.

The culmination was a cataclysmic Houston get-together in December 19, 1990 “celebrating” the dissolution of the USSR, as Hudson reminds us how the IMF and the World Bank “laid out a blueprint for Russia’s leaders to impose austerity and give away its assets – it didn’t matter to whom – in a wave of ‘shock therapy’ to let the alleged magic of free enterprise create a neoliberal free-for-all.”

Lost in a Roman wilderness of debt

To a large extent, nostalgia for the rape-and-pillaging of 1990s-era Russia fuels what Hudson defines as the New Cold War, where Dollar Diplomacy must assert its control over every foreign economy. The New Cold War is not waged only against Russia and China, “but against any countries resisting privatization and financialization under US sponsorship.”

Hudson reminds us how China’s policy “followed almost the same path that American protectionism did from 1865 though 1914 – state subsidy for industry, heavy public-sector capital investment…and social spending on education and health care to upgrade the quality and productivity of labor. This was not called Marxism in the United States; it was simply the logical way to look at industrialization, as part of a broad economic and social system.”

But then, finance – or casino – capitalism gained steam, and left the US economy mainly with “agribusiness farm surpluses, and monopolies in information technology (largely developed as a by-product of military research), military hardware, and pharmaceutical patents (based on public seed-money to fund research) able to extract monopoly rent while making themselves largely tax-exempt by using offshore banking centers.”

That’s the current State of Empire: relying only “on its rentier class and Dollar Diplomacy,” with prosperity concentrated in the top one percent of establishment elites. The inevitable corollary is US diplomacy imposing illegal, unilateral sanctions on Russia, China and anyone else who defies its diktats.

The US economy is indeed a lame post-modern remake of the late Roman empire: “dependent on foreign tribute for its survival in today’s global rentier economy.” Enter the correlation between a dwindling free lunch and utter fear: “That is why the United States has surrounded Eurasia with 750 military bases.”

Delightfully, Hudson goes back to Lactantius, in the late 3rd century, describing the Roman empire on Divine Institutes, to stress the parallels with the American version:

“In order to enslave the many, the greedy began to appropriate and accumulate the necessities of life and keep them tightly closed up, so that they might keep these bounties for themselves. They did this not for humanity’s sake (which was not in them at all), but to rake up all things as products of their greed and avarice. In the name of justice they made unfair and unjust laws to sanction their thefts and avarice against the power of the multitude. In this way they availed as much by authority as by strength of arms or overt evil.”

Socialism or barbarism

Hudson succinctly frames the central issue facing the world today: whether “money and credit, land, natural resources and monopolies will be privatized and concentrated in the hands of a rentier oligarchy or used to promote general prosperity and growth. This is basically a conflict between finance capitalism vs. socialism as economic systems.”

To advance the struggle, Hudson proposes a counter-rentier program which should be the Global South’s ultimate Blueprint for responsible development: public ownership of natural monopolies; key basic infrastructure in public hands; national self-sufficiency – crucially, in money and credit creation; consumer and labor protection; capital controls – to prevent borrowing or denominating debts in foreign currency; taxes on unearned income such as economic rent; progressive taxation; a land tax (“will prevent land’s rising rental value from being pledged to banks for credit to bid up real estate prices”); use of the economic surplus for tangible capital investment; and national self-sufficiency in food.

As Hudson seems to have covered all the bases, at the end of the book I was left with only one overarching question. I asked him how he analyzed the current discussions between the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Chinese – and between Russia and China, further on down the road – as being able to deliver an alternative financial/monetary system. Can they sell the alternative system to most of the planet, all while dodging imperial financial harassment?

Hudson was gracious enough to reply with what could be regarded as the summary of a whole book chapter:

“To be successful, any reform has to be system-wide, not merely a single part. Today’s western economies have become financialized, leaving credit creation in private hands – to be used to make financial gains at the expense of the industrial economy… This aim has spread like leprosy throughout entire economies – their trade patterns (dependency on US agricultural and oil exports, and IT technology), labor relations (anti-unionism and austerity), land tenure (foreign-owned plantation agriculture instead of domestic self-reliance and self-sufficiency in food grains), and economic theory itself (treating finance as part of GDP, not as an overhead siphoning off income from labor and industry alike).”

Hudson cautions that “in order to break free of the dynamic of predatory finance-capitalism sponsored by the United States and its satellites, foreign countries need to be self-sufficient in food production, energy, technology and other basic needs. This requires an alternative to US ‘free trade’ and its even more nationalistic ‘fair trade’ (deeming any foreign competition to US-owned industry ‘unfair’). That requires an alternative to the IMF, World Bank and ITO (from which Russia has just withdrawn). And alas, an alternative also requires military coordination such as the SCO [the Shanghai Cooperation Organization] to defend against the militarization of US-centered finance capitalism.”

Hudson does see some sunlight ahead: “As to your question of whether Russia and China can ‘sell’ this vision of the future to the Global South and Eurasian countries, that should become much easier by the end of this summer. A major byproduct (not unintended) of the NATO war in Ukraine is to sharply raise energy and food prices (and shipping prices). This will throw the balance of payments of many Global South and other countries into sharp deficit, creating a crisis as their dollar-denominated debt to bondholders and banks falls due.”

The key challenge for most of the Global South is to avoid default:

“The US raise in interest rates has increased the dollar’s exchange rate not only against the euro and Japanese yen, but against the Global South and other countries. This means that much more of their income and export revenue must be paid to service their foreign debt – and they can avoid default only by going without food and oil. So what will they choose? The IMF may offer to create SDRs to enable them to pay – by running even further into dollarized debt, subject to IMF austerity plans and demands that they sell off even more of their natural resources, forests and water.”

So how to break free from dollarized debt?

“They need a critical mass. That was not available in the 1970s when a New International Economic Order was first discussed. But today it is becoming a viable alternative, thanks to the power of China, the resources of Russia and those of allied countries such as Iran, India and other East Asian and Central Asian countries. So I suspect that a new world economic system is emerging. If it succeeds, the last century – since the end of World War I and the mess it left – will seem like a long detour of history, now returning to what seemed to be the basic social ideals of classical economics – a market free from rent-seeking landlords, monopolies and predatory finance.”

Hudson concludes by reiterating what the New Cold War is really all about:

“In short, it is a conflict between two different social systems, each with their own philosophy of how societies work. Will they be planned by neoliberal financial centers centered in New York, supported by Washington’s neo-cons, or will they be the kind of socialism that the late 19th century and early 20th century envisioned – a ‘market’ and, indeed, society free from rentiers? Will natural monopolies such as land and natural resources be socialized and used to finance domestic growth and housing, or left to financial interests to turn rent into interest payments eating into consumer and business income? And most of all, will governments create their own money and steer banking to promote domestic prosperity, or will they let private banks (whose financial interests are represented by central banks) take control away from national treasuries?”

The post Pepe Escobar on ‘the ultimate handbook’ first appeared on Michael Hudson.

California Says Insects Can Be Protected as Endangered Species

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/06/2022 - 12:48am in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Bee happy

In a decision one advocate hailed as “a win for all imperiled invertebrates in California,” the State Supreme Court has ruled that insects are eligible for protection under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

The decision rests on a bit of legalese. As the law is written, only “birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants” can be protected by the CESA. However, the California Fish and Game Code defines “fish” as any “mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate or amphibian.” As insects are invertebrates, they are now considered akin to fish for the purposes of legal protection.

The ruling couldn’t have come soon enough. Already, 28 percent of North American bumblebees are at risk of extinction, and one-third of food production relies on pollinators like bees. Since the ruling, conservation groups have moved to have several species of bees declared endangered in California — they’ll be granted interim protections while their official designation is processed.

Read more at Reuters

A new chapter  

Mass incarceration, the history of the KKK and the n-word — these were all topics discussed between California students as part of a virtual literacy society known as Black is Lit. Through weekly video chats, the program is creating a safe space where Black kids can fall in love with books and interpret literature that reflects the Black experience. 

 

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A California teacher created Black is Lit after noticing a decline in reading and language arts scores. Focusing on a book each year, the selections hone in on a social justice topic that impacts the Black community. Some students have found that analyzing the texts has allowed them to translate those skills to other classes, while others have said it has made them more empathetic to others’ lived experiences. In the fall, the program will be expanded to more public schools in California. 

“This was one of the first clubs that I felt connected to or that I could relate to,” said one student. “We were able to just express ourselves, and that’s not something that a lot of students get on campus.”

Read more at Word in Black

Harvesting change

On a 13-acre permaculture farm in rural North Carolina, formerly incarcerated women are rebuilding their lives in a place where post-prison opportunities are often hard to come by.

 

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Even though they have less crime than urban areas, rural communities have higher growth in incarceration rates due to rising rates of pretrial detention and financial incentives to jail more people. Benevolence Farm has been striving to change that by providing safe housing, a guaranteed agricultural job, career-building classes, health appointments, and transportation for formerly incarcerated women since 2008. The need is particularly acute in these regions, where basic needs like health care, jobs and housing can be scarce. As of May, the farm has helped 32 residents, 84 percent of whom continue to live freely in Alamance County. 

“They literally saved my life. And not only that, they helped me rebuild a relationship with my children,” said a mother of four who stayed at the farm for nearly 14 months before moving into her place. 

Read more at Southerly 

The post California Says Insects Can Be Protected as Endangered Species appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Fuel for Thought: Climate Change as Class War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/06/2022 - 12:55am in

Huber is essentially correct that the climate crisis is for all intents and purposes a class war, that of the transnational national capitalist class against the rest of us...

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Black Archive 59: Kill the Moon

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/06/2022 - 6:25am in

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Books

 Obverse Books)<\/a>

The next release in the Black Archive series will be the Twelfth Doctor story Kill the Moon. 

A contentious episode provoking passionate responses, Peter Harness's 2014 story straddles the divides between science fiction and fantasy, optimism and pessimism, masculinity and femininity. All these tensions extend into its ambiguously metaphorical conclusion. 

In addressing complex issues of personal and political choice, Kill the Moon asks fundamental questions about structures of power and responsibility in Doctor Who, and about the evolving relationship between the companion and the Doctor.

With access to seven different drafts of the script, plus 3 early pre-script outlines, Darren Mooney dissects a story that has been described at various times as ‘something truly special’ and ‘nonsensical pseudo-science’ and wonders why its reputation has become worse over recent years.

Mooney is a pop culture critic and author living on the east coast of Ireland. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and the Dublin Film Critics’ Circle. He features regularly on Irish radio, publishes a twice-weekly column at The Escapist, runs his own blog and shares a podcast. He has also written other books on The X-Files and the films of Christopher Nolan.

Kill the Moon is available now in paperback and electronic formats, direct from Obverse Books <\/a>and from selected online retailers.

Cartoon: Summer book blowout

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The Irreconcilable Fanny Howe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/05/2022 - 10:44pm in

Fanny Howe’s oeuvre embraces unknowingness.

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