“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Ivory Cage and the Ghosts of Academe: Labor and Struggle in the Edu-Factory

Truthout | News Analysis  Wednesday, 30 April 2014 

By Max Haiven

Recognition of the deteriorating state of academic labor in anglophone universities on both sides of the Atlantic is at an all-time high. Thanks to the tireless work of precarious university employees and their representative organizations (from formal trade unions to informal collectives, from lobby groups to activist knowledge-production outfits and blogs), the story of the exploited adjunct, the glut of hopeless doctoral candidates, and the legions of overworked teaching assistants have graced the pages of many fine books and journals and many leading newspapers and periodicals. Indeed, these stories have become a regular feature of publications like the Chronicle of Higher Education and Times Higher Education supplement and increasingly appear on the agenda at large scholarly gatherings, including the Modern Language Association. Even lawmakers are taking notice. Protests are becoming more emphatic and militant. We are amidst a great thaw, where the taboo topic of academic exploitation, once privatized and blamed on "failed" individual scholars, is being rendered unavoidable and recognized as a systemic and pervasive problem. More accurately, the university's most vulnerable academic workers are fighting back against the "externalization" of the crisis of higher education onto their shoulders: the downloading of a systemic and structural crisis onto the lonely, precarious individual.

Read more....

White-Collar World What the office 
has done 
to American life

By Nikil Saval

The Chronicle of Higher Education - April 14, 2014

But this white collar book: ah, there’s a book for the people; it is everybody’s book. … It is all about the new little man in the big world of the 20th century. It is about that little man and how he lives and what he suffers and what his chances are going to be; and it is also about the world he lives in, has to live, doesn’t want to live in. It is, as I said, going to be everybody’s book. For, in truth, who is not a little man?
—C. Wright Mills, 
letter to his parents (1946)

In or around the year 1956, the percentage of American workers who were "white collar" exceeded the percentage that were blue collar for the first time. Although labor statistics had long foretold this outcome, what the shift meant was unclear, and little theoretical work had prepared anyone to understand it. In the preceding years, the United States had quickly built itself up as an industrial powerhouse, emerging from World War II as the world’s leading source of manufactured goods. Much of its national identity was predicated on the idea that it made things. But thanks in part to advances in automation, job growth on the shop floor had slowed to a trickle. Meanwhile, the world of administration and clerical work, and new fields like public relations and marketing, grew inexorably—a paperwork empire annexing whole swaths of the labor force, as people exchanged assembly lines for metal desks, overalls for gray-flannel suits.
It’s hard to retrieve what this moment must have been like: An America that was ever not dominated by white-collar work is pretty difficult to recall. Where cities haven’t fallen prey to deindustrialization and blight, they have gentrified with white-collar workers, expelling what remains of their working classes to peripheries. The old factory lofts, when occupied, play host to meeting rooms and computers; with the spread of wireless technology, nearly every surface can be turned into a desk, every place into an office. We are a nation of paper pushers.

Read more.....

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The white tourist’s burden

Growing Western demand for altruistic vacations is feeding the white-savior industrial complex

By Rafia Zakaria

Al-Jazeera - April 21, 2014

My friend Jack likes to tell his favorite story about a summer he spent volunteering in Colombia. He recounts that story anytime he’s handed the opportunity, at parties, lunch meetings and airports. He highlights varying facets of the story on different occasions — the snake he found in his tent, his camaraderie with the locals and his skills at haggling. The message to his audience is clear: I chose hardship and survived it.

If designer clothes and fancy cars signal material status, his story of a deliberate embrace of poverty and its discomforts signals superiority of character. As summer looms, many Americans — college students, retirees and others who stand at the cusp of life changes — will make similar choices in search of transformational experiences. An industry exists to make these easier to make: the voluntourism business.

A voluntourist is someone like Jack, who wishes to combine exotic vacation travel with volunteer work. For anyone interested in being one, a dizzying array of choices awaits, from building schools in Uganda or houses in Haiti to hugging orphans in Bali. In all of them, the operational equation is the same: wealthy Westerners can do a little good, experience something that their affluent lives do not offer, and, as in Jack’s case, have a story to tell that places them in the ranks of the kindhearted and worldly wise.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wealthy Chinese are turning to American surrogates to birth their children

By Lily Kuo

Quartz - April 23, 2014

The familiar image of international surrogacy until now has mainly involved Americans and Europeans crossing the world to find women to birth their children. Now, wealthy Chinese couples are seeking surrogates in the US. The practice—a new version of Chinese “birth tourism”—offers a solution to rising infertility in China, a way around Chinese population controls, and even the added bonus of US citizenship for babies born in the States.
For years, pregnant Chinese women have come to the US, mainly to the West Coast, to give birth to baby US citizens who can, at the age of 21, sponsor their parents for green cards. In a new wrinkle, some are instead paying American women to carry their children—a way of getting citizenship as well as dealing with the fact that more Chinese couples are facing trouble having children. (Other surrogacy destinations for wealthy Chinese include Thailand, India, and Ukraine, but the US is still the favorite.)

Hagel’s Visit Highlights Greater Chinese Military Transparency

By Richard Weitz, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute

China and US Focus - April 23, 2014

One of the most positive developments regarding China-U.S. relations in recent years has been how the military-to-military relationship has expanded in size, broadened in scope, and persisted without interruption despite the inevitable disputes and disagreements that always trouble such a complex relationship. In addition to the many reciprocal visits of senior military officers and the joint interactions on exercises and other projects, the last few years have seen a welcome Chinese effort to become more transparent in military capabilities and activities. Although China, like other countries, continues to withhold much information on national security grounds, we should acknowledge this positive trend.

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The DOJ Wants to Hack Your Webcam

By Dan Massoglia

Truthout | Report - Wednesday, 23 April 2014

At a meeting April 7 and 8 in Louisiana, a group of lawyers and academics prepared the rules for when law enforcement is allowed to hack people's computers for a dramatic, and troubling, expansion. Government hacks - the FBI's secretly accessing your hard drive, email, webcam, and more - which have unfolded in headlines as a push and pull between privacy-concerned judges and activists and secrecy-obsessed law enforcement, appear poised to see the strict judicial restrictions on their use loosened. As is often the case with wide-reaching changes to the criminal law, the law at issue is not a big-name bill, like the Affordable Care Act, but rather one more closely held to the legal system - here, Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The Federal Rules are the procedural guidelines for courts, lawyers, and investigators guiding important parts of investigations and trials. They determine, for example, who gets to take a plea, and how, or who gets screwed, and how, by a federal grand jury. Currently, they place limits on warrant authority in addition to constitutional protections and other restrictions, generally requiring that for the FBI to receive a warrant to perform a domestic hack, computers to be infected must be inside the jurisdiction of the court issuing the warrant and must each receive a warrant. This concern for place and emphasis on conservativism in warrant authorizations is one of the many ways a colonial memory abhorring general warrants has refracted into the set of legal protections that, inadequate as they are, provide safeguards on privacy today.

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The Privatization Backlash

For decades, city and state governments have seen contracting as a cost-saving panacea. But past experience has left some of today's policymakers more skeptical.

By Molly Ball

The Atlantic - Apr 23 2014

A few years ago, Chicago residents accustomed to parking on the street got a rude shock. Parking-meter rates had suddenly gone up as much as fourfold. Some meters jammed and overflowed when they couldn't hold enough change for the new prices. In other areas, new electronic meters had been installed, but many of them didn't give receipts or failed to work entirely. And free parking on Sundays was a thing of the past.
The new meter regime sparked mass outrage. People held protests and threatened to boycott. But there was little recourse: The city had leased its 36,000 meters to a private Morgan Stanley-led consortium in exchange for $1.2 billion in up-front revenue. The length of the lease: 75 years.
If the meter situation seemed like a bad deal for Chicago's parkers, it would soon become clear that it was an even worse one for the city's taxpayers.

Read more....

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest

By David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy 

The New York Times - APRIL 22, 2014

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.
While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.
After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.
The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

Read more....

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Corruption of Mainstream Media

By Danny Schechter

Truthout, Consortium News | Op-Ed - Sunday, 20 April 2014

The United States' mainstream media still pretend they are custodians of "serious journalism," but those claims continue to erode as the corporate press shies away from its duty to challenge propaganda emanating from various parts of the US government.
First the good news: The Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was not only the best covered of its awards this year, but it recognized a series of disclosures that made many media outlets nervous, if not adversarial – the publication of National Security Agency secrets leaked by Edward Snowden.
The award recognized the reporting by the Guardian in England and also Bart Gellman’s work in the Washington Post even as they, did not recognize the work directly of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras whose independent reporting appeared in many newspapers.

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Global Views on Morality

PEW Research - April 20, 1014

The Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey asked 40,117 respondents in 40 countries what they thought about eight topics often discussed as moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and the use of contraceptives.1 For each issue, respondents were asked whether this is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue. The chart below displays the median responses for each question across the 40 countries.

Read more....

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Respect the Sovereignty of Nations

Gerald Sussman

The New York Times - April 15, 2014

Recent reports of U.S.A.I.D.’s covert involvement in a Twitter-like propaganda project in Cuba, obviously intended to help overthrow that country’s government, once again undermine that agency’s claims to supporting economic development and giving humanitarian assistance to poor countries. However, this comes as no real surprise to anyone familiar with its past support of antidemocratic and regime-change efforts in various parts of the world.

In the 1960s and early 70s, U.S.A.I.D. was involved, in close collaboration with the C.I.A., in funding police training programs (Office of Public Safety) and similar efforts for right-wing forces or military juntas in a number states in Asia (Taiwan, South Vietnam, Laos), Europe (Greece) and Latin America (Uruguay, Brazil, Guatemala). Until it was shut down by Congress in 1974, the O.P.S. was found to be engaging in torture training techniques. More recently, U.S.A.I.D., involved in what it calls “democracy promotion,” has encouraged local efforts to overturn governments in various parts of the world, including financial support for the “color revolutions” of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which clearly were designed to both open markets for transnational capital in the region and extend the reach of NATO closer to Moscow's doorstep.

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The Private Lives of Public Bathrooms

How psychology, gender roles, and design explain the distinctive way we behave in the world's stalls

By Julie Beck

The Atlantic - Apr 16 2014

When Oprah Winfrey served on a Chicago jury in 2004, she couldn’t go to the bathroom attached to the jury room unless her fellow jurors sang to drown out the noise. One of the songs they sang was Kumbaya.
When Alexis Sanchez used the bathroom in her college dorm, she brought her iPod with her.
“I would blast it,” she says. “I would play 'D. A. N. C. E.' by Justice, and some Maroon 5 song. That was my poop playlist. It had to be a ritual or else I would focus too much on if there were other girls there who could hear or smell what was happening.”
Sanchez, now a 22-year-old front-end web developer for the Tampa Bay Times, has since abandoned her poop playlist, but is still incredibly anxious about using public bathrooms—for both numbers one and two. “It’s definitely a problem,” she says. “It affects my life.”
Many people, like Oprah and Alexis, suffer some degree of anxiety about going to the bathroom when others are present. Paruresis, or “pee-shyness” is classified as a social anxiety disorder in the DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic guide. It’s a sort of performance anxiety, a fear of being scrutinized by others while you go.


Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

By Brendan James

Talking Points Memo – April 18, 2014

Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.
Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.
"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they write, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

Read more....

Capitalism Studies: A Manifesto

By Julia Ott and William Milberg

Public Seminar - April 17th, 2014

It seems odd now to recall that up until a few years ago, the concept of capitalism largely had fallen out of favor as a subject of academic inquiry and critique. Most scholars in the humanities and social sciences regarded the term as too broad, too vague, too encumbered by associations with either Marxism or laissez-faire. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, capitalism could be taken for granted, it seemed. No person or nation could escape the discipline of efficient, spontaneous, self-regulating, globalizing markets.
Economists cut economies loose from society, institutions, culture, and history. They repositioned their discipline upon models that assumed that rational, utility-maximizing individual parts represented and explained the behavior of the economy-as-a-whole. Many social scientists — especially in political science — embraced these rational-actor models. Others joined historians and humanities scholars in the “cultural turn.” They struck out for new worlds of culture, those ever-shifting systems of language and meaning, symbols and signifiers, identity and consciousness that produce and reproduce power. In doing so, however, these academics largely abandoned questions of class and ceded the terrain of economics.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Ike the Winter Soldier

Eisenhower's glowing foreign-policy reputation ignores his tragic post-White House cheerleading for escalation in Vietnam.

By Dominic Tierney

The Atlantic - Apr 18 2014

Today, everybody likes Ike. Liberals see Dwight Eisenhower’s foreign policy as a model of strategic restraint. Conservatives view him as a tough but shrewd warrior president.  But there’s another side to Ike, one that’s often ignored: The story of his political life after leaving the White House. Ike in winter became a ferocious hawk on Vietnam who helped propel America deeper into the quagmire.
Eisenhower was the son of pacifist Mennonites who fretted about his love of military history. He became a hero of World War II and the architect of D-Day. And Ike also understood the price of war. After becoming president in 1953, he hammered out a truce in the Korean War. In 1954, Eisenhower resisted entreaties to intervene in Vietnam following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu. Indeed, during the last seven-and-a-half years of Eisenhower’s presidency, only a single American service member was killed by hostile fire (in Lebanon in 1958). Eisenhower famously left the White House in 1961 warning about “the military-industrial complex.”


DARPA producing sea-floor pods that can release attack drones on command

Russia Today - April 19, 2014

The Pentagon’s research arm, DARPA, is developing robot pods that can sit at the bottom of the ocean for long stretches of time, waiting to release airborne and water-based drones to the surface upon an attack command.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently called for bids to complete the final two phases of its Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program. The UFP operation is an effort to position unmanned systems around far-flung regions of the sea floor. The housing pods would be left in place for years in anticipation of the US Navy’s need for non-lethal assistance.
The UFPs would come equipped with electronic and low-power laser attack capabilities, surveillance sensors, and airborne and aquatic drones that would have the ability to act as decoys or offer intelligence and targeting data, Ars Technica reported.

Read more....

Ethnic America, mapped: Your county’s biggest ancestral populations

By Reid Wilson

The Washington Post - April 18, 2014

The history of European colonization of the Americas is still evident today in most of the United States. This very cool map shows which ancestries make up the largest population in each of the country’s 3,144 counties:

Some highlights to note: The Irish really do run Boston. People of Irish ancestry make up the largest contingent of counties in Massachusetts, and in parts of Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire and eastern New York. The only counties outside the Northeast where the Irish make up the biggest share of the population are in southern Oregon.
The legacy of slavery still shows up in many rural Southern counties, where African Americans make up dominant slices of the population. Mexican Americans are dominant in border states, and in rural areas where agriculture is a big slice of the economy in places like eastern Washington and southern Idaho.

Read more....

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nato's action plan in Ukraine is right out of Dr Strangelove

From China to Ukraine, the US is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass   

By John Pilger            

The Guardian, Thursday 17 April 2014

I watched Dr Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news. When Major TJ "King" Kong goes "toe to toe with the Rooskies" and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it's left to General "Buck" Turgidson to reassure the president. Strike first, says the general, and "you got no more than 10-20 million killed, tops". President Merkin Muffley: "I will not go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler." General Turgidson: "Perhaps it might be better, Mr President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books."
The genius of Stanley Kubrick's film is that it accurately represents the cold war's lunacy and dangers. Most of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs. There is no equivalent to Strangelove today because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant, yet the dangers are the same. The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same "invisible government", as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

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Academic Inequality and the Star System

By Christopher Shea

The Chronicle - April 14, 2014

Which professors become highly visible may have changed since the 1990s, but the business side of the academic star system is still going strong: Universities that hope to move up in the graduate-program rankings target top professors and offer them high salaries and other perks. Against the backdrop of a rampant reliance on adjuncts, that strikes some people as even more ethically questionable than the famously high pay of Duke University English professors that scholars griped about in the 1980s and 90s.
The New York Times reported last June that New York University, which has faced protests from graduate students and adjuncts over pay and benefits, was helping to buy second homes in desirable places like the Hamptons for some of its most-valued faculty members and administrators. When word leaked last summer that David H. Petraeus, the former CIA director who has a Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton, was going to earn between $150,000 and $200,000 for teaching a single course at the City University of New York’s honors college, students protested, and Mr. Petraeus agreed to teach for $1. Columbia University bought the economist Jeffrey Sachs an $8-million townhouse when he moved from Harvard in 2002 (although, in fairness, the first floor was reserved for the Earth Institute he heads, and he pays rent).

Read more....

Why Allende had to die

The writer has died at the age of 87. Read his classic piece for the NS on the 1973 Chilean coup. 

By Gabriel García Márquez

The New Statesman - 3 April, 2013

Forty years have passed since the Chilean president Salvador Allende died in La Moneda Palace in Santiago, attempting to defend himself with an AK-47 he had been given by Fidel Castro. Here, in a piece from the New Statesman published in March 1974, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez explores Allende’s record in Chile, his rivals’ dealings with the United States and the rise of his successor – the army general Augusto Pinochet.

It was towards the end of 1969 that three generals from the Pentagon dined with five Chilean military officers in a house in the suburbs of Washington. The host was Lieutenant Colonel Gerardo López Angulo, assistant air attaché of the Chilean Military Mission to the United States, and the Chilean guests were his colleagues from the other branches of service. The dinner was in honour of the new director of the Chilean Air Force Academy, General Carlos Toro Mazote, who had arrived the day before on a study mission. The eight officers dined on fruit salad, roast veal and peas and drank the warm-hearted wines of their distant homeland to the south, where birds glittered on the beaches while Washington wallowed in snow, and they talked mostly in English about the only thing that seemed to interest Chileans in those days: the approaching presidential elections of the following September. Over dessert, one of the Pentagon generals asked what the Chilean army would do if the candidate of the left, someone like Salvador Allende, were elected. General Toro Mazote replied: “We’ll take Moneda Palace in half an hour, even if we have to burn it down.”

Read more....

Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel laureate writer, dies aged 87

Person close to family confirms death of author who became a standard-bearer for Latin American letters          

By Richard Lea        

theguardian.com, Thursday 17 April 2014

The Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, who unleashed the worldwide boom in Spanish literature with his novel 100 Years of Solitude, has died at the age of 87, a person close to the family has said. García Márquez had been admitted to hospital in Mexico City on 3 April with pneumonia.

Matching commercial success with critical acclaim, García Márquez became a standard-bearer for Latin American letters, establishing a route for negotiations between guerillas and the Colombian government, building a friendship with Fidel Castro, and maintaining a feud with fellow literature laureate Maria Vargas Llosa that lasted more than 30 years.

He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1982, the Swedish Academy hailing fiction "in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts".

Putin's Brain

Alexander Dugin and the Philosophy Behind Putin's Invasion of Crimea

By Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn

Foreign Affairs - March 31, 2014

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has searched fruitlessly for a new grand strategy -- something to define who Russians are and where they are going. “In Russian history during the 20th century, there have been various periods -- monarchism, totalitarianism, perestroika, and finally, a democratic path of development,” Russian President Boris Yeltsin said a couple of years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, “Each stage has its own ideology,” he continued, but now “we have none.”
To fill that hole, in 1996 Yeltsin designated a team of scholars to work together to find what Russians call the Russkaya ideya (“Russian idea”), but they came up empty-handed. Around the same time, various other groups also took up the task, including a collection of conservative Russian politicians and thinkers who called themselves Soglasiye vo imya Rossiya (“Accord in the Name of Russia”). Along with many other Russian intellectuals of the day, they were deeply disturbed by the weakness of the Russian state, something that they believed needed to be fixed for Russia to return to its rightful glory. And for them, that entailed return to the Russian tradition of a powerful central government. How that could be accomplished was a question for another day.

Read more....

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Innovation: The Government Was Crucial After All

By Jeff Madrick

The New York Review of Books - April 24, 2014

“The great advances of civilization,” wrote Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom, his influential best seller published in 1962, “whether in architecture or painting, in science or literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government.” He did not say what he made of the state-sponsored art of Athens’s Periclean Age or the Medici family, who, as Europe’s dominant bankers but then as Florentine rulers, commissioned and financed so much Renaissance art. Or the Spanish court that gave us Velázquez. Or the many public universities that produced great scientists in our times. Or, even just before Friedman was writing, what could he have made of the Manhattan Project of the US government, which produced the atomic bomb? Or the National Institutes of Health, whose government-supported grants led to many of the most important pharmaceutical breakthroughs?
We could perhaps forgive Friedman’s ill-informed remarks as a burst of ideological enthusiasm if so many economists and business executives didn’t accept this myth as largely true. We hear time and again from those who should know better that government is a hindrance to the innovation that produces economic growth. Above all, the government should not try to pick “winners” by investing in what may be the next great companies. Many orthodox economists insist that the government should just get out of the way.

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‘Born in Flames’: Feminist terrorism in a post-capitalist dystopia

Dangerous Mind - April 4, 2014

It’s been a hot minute since I watched a movie that really blew me away with its concept and vision, and I I have no idea how I only just discovered 1983’s Born in Flames. Everything about it is in my wheelhouse. Set in an alternative New York City, Born in Flames is a feminist telling of the injustices plaguing society after a socialist revolution. It goes without saying that a theoretical “post-capitalist patriarchy” is the subject of much debate among socialist feminists—the more “vulgar Marxist” of us believe that capitalism is the very foundation of oppression, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a socialist feminist proclaiming that the abolition of capitalism will be a silver bullet to end all sexism.

Of course, in Born in Flames, the “revolution” has actually changed very little in regards to the state or social order. Police still exercise an absurd amount of power, often wielding it violently, communities are still reliant on mutual aid for essential services like childcare, ghettos remain dilapidated, and meaningful work is scarce. A workfare program has been instituted to alleviate unemployment, but this triggers a macho backlash. Now, exacerbating the sexism and misogyny that pervaded pre-revolution, men are rioting, under the impression that women and minorities are taking all the “good jobs.” It’s by no means an unheard of scenario—phony revolution fails to placate the people, and the reactionary tendency is to blame the marginalized for social and economic woes.

Read more....

Ernesto Laclau, 1935-2014

 By Robin Blackburn

Verso / 14 April 2014

It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Ernesto Laclau, the outstanding Argentinean political philosopher, at the age of 78. Ernesto had a heart attack in Seville where he was giving a lecture. He was the author of landmark studies of Marxist theory and of populism as a political category and social movement. In his highly original essays and books he demonstrated the far reaching implications of the thought of Antonio Gramsci, probed the assumptions of Marxism and illuminated the modern history of Latin America, rejecting simplistic schemas linked to notions of dependency and populism.

After studying in Buenos Aires, Ernesto came to Britain in the early 1970s, where he lectured at the University of Essex and later founded the Centre for Theoretical Studies. The Centre ran a very successful postgraduate programme, attracting students from around the world. In the 1970s Ernesto made his mark with his critique of the so-called ‘dependency school’ of Latin American political economists such as Fernando Enrique Cardoso.

In 1985 Ernesto published the best-selling Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, a book co-authored with his Belgian wife Chantal Mouffe whom he met at Essex. His latest book, The Rhetorical Foundations of Society, is due to publish in May 2014.

Read more....

The rise and fall and rise again of inequality: an interview with Thomas Piketty

By Jonathan Derbyshire

Prospect / April 14, 2014 

It’s hard to think of a work of economics—certainly not one published in the past 30 years or so—that has had as extraordinary and instantaneous an impact outside the guild of professional economists as Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century“. An early review of Piketty’s book—which was published in his native language, French, in 2013, and appeared in a luminous translation by Arthur Goldhammer in March this year—declared it to be “one of the best books in economics written in the past several decades”. Robert Skidelsky, reviewing it for Prospect, called it a “timely intervention in the current debate about inequality and its causes”, while the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman asserted that “Piketty has transformed our economic discourse; we’ll never talk about wealth and inequality the same way we used to.”
Although the book is voluminous (it’s nearly 700 pages long), data-heavy and densely researched, its thesis is easy to summarise: capitalist economies have a natural tendency to incubate highly unequal distributions of income and wealth. And capitalism’s “Golden Age”, stretching roughly from 1913 to 1975, in which inequality went into a relatively steep decline, turns out to have been a historical anomaly that was the product of external factors—specifically,two world wars, the Great Depression, the power of organised labour and progressive taxation. Over the past 30 years or so, that decline has gone into reverse. In the early 21st century, private fortunes, Piketty writes, “seem to be on the verge” of returning to levels last seen in the late 19th century, the heyday of “rentier” capitalism.


Kosher Jews and Halal Muslims: Representations of Ritual Slaughter and the Voices of Young People

By Shanza Ali and Ben Kasstan

Huffington Post - 15/04/2014

Whilst some insightful articles have been written about the calls for 'reform' in the kosher and halal meat industry, notably those published in The Guardian, there remain issues in the representation of who a ban would affect. The images of 'ultra-Orthodox' Jews or observant Muslims in their visible insignia lead the 'general' public to believe that perhaps only a minority of people in these faiths abide by the religious laws of eating kosher and halal meat. This representation of 'kosher Jews' and 'halal Muslims' does little to challenge (mis)understandings of what Judaism or Islam entails or how these diverse communities are perceived, and instead offers an inaccurate image of ritual food production being upheld by tightly-knit religious and devout groups who live in enclaves and at the fringes of society.
The language used when representing kosher and halal slaughter is equally damaging, especially when terms such as 'ritual' slaughter, 'slashing' of the throat and 'bleed to death' are used to describe a sacred practice, as seen in a recent article in The Independent. It is no wonder that unease is aroused amongst the public when kosher and halal slaughter is framed in a way that resembles a scene from Sweeney Todd. The irony lies in the fact that all animals, even those killed systematically in abattoirs, have their throats 'slashed' and bleed from the throat - even whilst conscious as a shocking percentage of animals are ineffectively stunned according to research by Compassion in World Farming and the European Food Safety Authority. Despite the differences of religious slaughter in Judaism (shechita) and in Islam (Zabiha), experienced and licenced slaughter-men bring the immediate loss of consciousness which acts as a stun in itself and brings a 'painless' end to an animal (see Shechita UK 2009). These practices must meet the strict demands of religious law which consists of forbidden techniques and explicit requirements; all performed with a view to respect the life of animals.


Catalonia School Trains Students for Shepherd Jobs

By Joan Alvado

Bloomberg - April 03, 2014

Sheep have grazed mountainous northeastern Spain for 6 million years, but 20th century industrialization led to a dramatic decline in the number of shepherds who tended them. For the last six years, Catalonia’s School of Shepherds has worked to keep the ancient profession from disappearing.
Students start with a month of classroom study in a rural home in the Pyrenees. Then they undergo four months of practical training with a veteran shepherd, who gradually gives them responsibilities with a herd. About 80 percent of students complete the course, and more than 60 percent go on to work in livestock farming.
A new shepherd on a farm that provides food and lodging earns about €680 ($936) a month, and €900 to €1,200 without room or board. A mountain shepherd—who may tend thousands of animals in a busy summer—earns as much as €2,000 a month.

Read more....

My First Year of Teaching

A new Ph.D. adjusts to a faculty job and to a foreign classroom 

By Rachel Herrmann

The Chronicle of Higher Education - April 14, 2014

I didn’t know what to expect of my first year in the classroom. And as an American teaching U.S. history in England, I didn’t know what to expect of British students. Last fall I walked into a room ready to talk about 19-century diet reform by citing Sylvester Graham’s invention of the graham cracker only to learn that most of the students had never eaten one. Even with many such small differences, I think that my initial year as a faculty member would have surprised me no matter the location.
At the same time, my first few months on the job have sometimes provided a lesson in rediscovering what I already knew. For example, I’ve had to remind myself that although the substance of a lesson plan may look the same from course to course, each class unfolds differently depending on the composition of students present. Last semester my "Revolutionary America" course had two seminar groups, one in the late afternoon, and another with fewer students at 9 a.m. on a Friday. Some weeks the afternoon group was better, and some weeks, the Friday group was more engaged. Techniques that worked for one group didn’t always work for the other, and I had to always be on my toes in the event that discussion fell flat.

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A New Book: Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture

By Justin McGuirk

Verso, 2014

A colorful journey through Latin America—a crucible of architectural and urban innovation
What makes the city of the future? How do you heal a divided city?

In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the activist architects, maverick politicians and alternative communities already answering these questions. From Brazil to Venezuela, and from Mexico to Argentina, McGuirk discovers the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving.

Ever since the mid twentieth century, when the dream of modernist utopia went to Latin America to die, the continent has been a testing ground for exciting new conceptions of the city. An architect in Chile has designed a form of social housing where only half of the house is built, allowing the owners to adapt the rest; Medellín, formerly the world's murder capital, has been transformed with innovative public architecture; squatters in Caracas have taken over the forty-five-storey Torre David skyscraper; and Rio is on a mission to incorporate its favelas into the rest of the city.

Here, in the most urbanised continent on the planet, extreme cities have bred extreme conditions, from vast housing estates to sprawling slums. But after decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalised architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Harrison Ford Explained The Story Behind The Best Scene In 'Indiana Jones'

By Steve Kovach 

Business Insider - April 13, 2014

Harrison Ford held an AMA question and answer session on Reddit Sunday, where he discussed the story behind one of the most famous scenes in the "Indiana Jones" films. 
In the first movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Indiana Jones is being chased through the streets of Cairo by a bunch of goons. He comes face to face with a scary swordsman who brandishes his weapon, preparing for what seems to be an epic duel. Instead, Indiana shoots the swordsman.  Genius. 
In the AMA, Ford said the scene was actually supposed to be a lengthy sword fight. But he was suffering from dysentery at the time, and he could only film scenes in 10-minute increments before having to run to his trailer to, uh, take care of business. Instead, Ford and director Steven Spielberg decided it would be better to have Indiana shoot the swordsman, considering the scene would've taken an extra three days to shoot. 


Slowdown puts 1bn middle class at risk

By Shawn Donnan and John Burn-Murdoch in London

Financial Times – April 13, 2014

Almost a billion people in the developing world are at risk of slipping out of the ranks of a nascent middle class, according to FT analysis, raising questions about the durability of the past 30 years’ remarkable march out of poverty.

Rising inequality and slower global growth raise issues for businesses that have been investing heavily in emerging markets.

One of the biggest questions confronting governments is what slower growth will mean for the creation of a solid middle class in countries such as China and India, which many are counting on to drive the global economy in the 21st century.

Read more....

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This Machine Can Tell Whether You're Liberal or Conservative

John Hibbing and his colleagues are pioneering research on the physiological underpinnings of political ideology.

By Chris Mooney

Mother Jones | Fri Apr. 4, 2014

Thomas Jefferson was a smart dude. And in one of his letters to John Adams, dated June 27, 1813, Jefferson made an observation about the nature of politics that science is only now, two centuries later, beginning to confirm. "The same political parties which now agitate the United States, have existed through all time," wrote Jefferson. "The terms of Whig and Tory belong to natural, as well as to civil history," he later added. "They denote the temper and constitution of mind of different individuals."
Tories were the British conservatives of Jefferson's day, and Whigs were the British liberals. What Jefferson was saying, then, was that whether you call yourself a Whig or a Tory has as much to do with your psychology or disposition as it has to do with your ideas. At the same time, Jefferson was also suggesting that there's something pretty fundamental and basic about Whigs (liberals) and Tories (conservatives), such that the two basic political factions seem to appear again and again in the world, and have for "all time."

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Meet the First Companies Working on the Military’s ‘Iron Man’ Supersuit

By Dan Lamothe    

Foreign Policy - APRIL 9, 2014

 Will Tony Stark wear Air Jordans? Almost anything seems possible now that the United States military has been in discussions with companies ranging from Nike to Boeing as it works to develop a new space-age suit for elite Special Operations troops that could include super-human strength, sophisticated sensors that respond to brain functions, and an exoskeleton made of liquid armor.  The system is commonly known as the "Iron Man" suit, a nod toward the futuristic technology worn by the wise-cracking comic book hero popularized in a series of hit movies starring Robert Downey Jr. With no public notice, the military's Special Operations Command just unveiled a list of collaborators on the project that includes traditional defense contractor titans like Lockheed Martin, athletic apparel companies like Under Armour and Adidas, and a bevy of smaller firms whose specialties range from developing robotics to producing underwater breathing equipment for divers.  The list appears on a new website for the program, formally known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS. The site's development is part of a broader effort to actively recruit companies, universities, and other organizations with high-tech experience to participate in the project. Adm. William McRaven, SOCOM's commander, wants to begin testing prototypes of the suit by this June, with a high-powered version of the suit fielded to U.S. commandos by 2018.

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Book Review: Why We’re in a New Gilded Age

Reviewed By Paul Krugman

The New York Review of Books - May 8, 2014 

Issue Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 685 pp.

Thomas Piketty, professor at the Paris School of Economics, isn’t a household name, although that may change with the English-language publication of his magnificent, sweeping meditation on inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Yet his influence runs deep. It has become a commonplace to say that we are living in a second Gilded Age—or, as Piketty likes to put it, a second Belle Époque—defined by the incredible rise of the “one percent.” But it has only become a commonplace thanks to Piketty’s work. In particular, he and a few colleagues (notably Anthony Atkinson at Oxford and Emmanuel Saez at Berkeley) have pioneered statistical techniques that make it possible to track the concentration of income and wealth deep into the past—back to the early twentieth century for America and Britain, and all the way to the late eighteenth century for France.
The result has been a revolution in our understanding of long-term trends in inequality. Before this revolution, most discussions of economic disparity more or less ignored the very rich. Some economists (not to mention politicians) tried to shout down any mention of inequality at all: “Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution,” declared Robert Lucas Jr. of the University of Chicago, the most influential macroeconomist of his generation, in 2004. But even those willing to discuss inequality generally focused on the gap between the poor or the working class and the merely well-off, not the truly rich—on college graduates whose wage gains outpaced those of less-educated workers, or on the comparative good fortune of the top fifth of the population compared with the bottom four fifths, not on the rapidly rising incomes of executives and bankers.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How Anti-Jewish Jokes Hurt the Palestinian Cause

An Arab student born in East Jerusalem explains why there's nothing funny about the hatred that drove Jews out of Europe.

By Nuzha Nusseibeh

The Atlantic - Apr 3 2014

It happens every time I visit the U.S., and it’s happened increasingly over the last five years. I say I’m Palestinian (usually after trying out the less inflammatory “I’m from Jerusalem” and then being pressed for detail). There’s a pause, and then—“Oh, so... is it a problem for you that I’m Jewish?”
There it is. The assumption that because I am Palestinian, I harbor animosity toward Jews—and not just Israeli Jews, but all Jews, all the time, everywhere. It was one of the first questions I got asked when my new roommate met me at the beginning of my college career, and again as I mingled at my first-ever internship lunch. It was what made a Jewish kid switch seats and move across the room from me during a seminar—he was worried, I was later informed, about sitting next to a Palestinian. It’s happened time and again, yet it still takes me by surprise.
Despite this initial hurdle, I’ve formed close relationships with many Jews—and that, in turn, often inspires condescension from others. It’s adorable that one of my closest friends is Jewish; it’s inspiring to see us eating together and making jokes. Such comments may be meant benignly, but they deftly reduce a 60-odd-year struggle for political independence to a squabble between siblings.

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A New Book: Leo Strauss and Anglo-American Democracy: A Conservative Critique

Leo Strauss and Anglo-American Democracy: A Conservative Critique

By Grant N. Havers

Northern Illinois University Press, 245 pages

Table of Contents
1—Saving Anglo-Americans from Themselves
2—Athens in Anglo-America
3—Leo Strauss, from Left to Right
4—Churchill, the Anglo-American Greek?
5—The Anglo-American Struggle with Strauss
6—Leo Strauss and the Uniqueness of the West

Reviewed By Anne Norton

The American Conservative • April 8, 2014

Grant Havers, a professor at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, has written an erudite and thoughtful study of Leo Strauss and the philosophical and political forces he fathered in the new world. As the title promises, Havers examines Strauss’s legacy in the context of Anglo-American democracy. Havers argues that Strauss is not the conservative that writers on the left and right have taken him for, but an honest and avowed friend of liberalism.
Yet Strauss’s turn to the ancients, especially the pagan philosophers of Greece, is a hazard for an Anglo-American democracy built on Christian foundations, Havers contends. The search for timeless truths and natural rights has led to reckless efforts to spread democracy. Strauss’s rejection of historicism and commitment to the universal made him blind to the importance of the English and Christian cultural foundations of Anglo-American democracy.
In any revelatory study, there is always the moment when the reader thinks “That’s true. I should have seen that.” For me, that moment came with Havers’s account—learned, subtle, and occasionally surprising—of Strauss’s liberalism.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Highest-ranking NRI at the Pentagon joins US think-tank Press Trust of India

Indian Express | Washington | February 22, 2014

Vikram Singh, the highest-ranking Indian-American at the Pentagon, is joining an eminent US think-tank after serving the Obama Administration in various positions for over five years. Singh, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, is joining the Center for American Progress (CAP) as its vice president for National Security and International Policy and will oversee its work on national security around the globe, while continuing his focus on Asia.
He will officially join CAP in March. “Vikram is a leading foreign policy thinker of his generation and has tackled the country’s greatest foreign policy challenges during his time at the State Department and the Pentagon,” CAP president Neera Tanden said in a statement. “As we continue to shape a pragmatic foreign policy strategy over the next decade, Vikram’s insights, sharp strategic mind and experience will guide our work,” Tanden said.

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China-Israel relations are bound to blossom


The Jerusalem Post - 04/03/2014

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “Amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states.”
On April 8, President Shimon Peres will embark on a state visit to China. It will be the first time President Peres has paid a visit to China since 2008 when he attended the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games. It will also be the first time an Israeli president has paid a state visit to China since 2003.
Peres is going to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The leaders of the two countries will exchange views on bilateral relations, as well as regional and international issues. The visit is of great significance, and will promote a new high in China- Israel relations.
As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “Amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states.”
Read more....

Joseph Stiglitz: Inequality an Equal Concern for China, U.S.

Both countries pay a price for their wealth gaps, the Nobel-winning economist says, something that should worry Chinese and American policymakers alike

By staff reporter Wang Liwei

Caixin Online - April 1, 2014

(Beijing) – Countries will pay high price for their social inequality, both economically and politically, says economist Joseph Stiglitz.
The Nobel laureate argued in his latest bestseller The Price of Inequality that inequality will hinder dynamic economic growth, but more importantly, it will undermine the public's confidence in a country's institutions and erode trust in politicians.
China has done very well in poverty alleviation over the past three decades, Stiglitz told Caixin in an interview, but inequality has emerged because some have grown much wealthier than others.
Thus, instead of pursuing GDP growth, it is critical the Chinese government assess its economy by employment figures in order to create enough jobs. Other factors such as air quality should also be taken into account to ensure growth benefits the broader population, the 71-year-old economist says. He also suggested the Chinese government make more efforts to support research and education.


Rebounding Dubai Wants to “Prove the World Wrong”

By Nicolas Parasie

The Wall Street Journal - Apr 8, 2014 

Dubai Inc.’s top brass traveled to London this week, claiming vindication in the way it handled the financial crisis and confident its current growth story will avoid the pitfalls of past years.
Government officials and representatives from Dubai’s leading businesses sought to allay the concerns of an audience consisting of a few international investors and (event sponsor) Deutsche BankDBK.XE -0.39% executives that the emirate’s recent rebound bore the characteristics of its previous boom.
The Dubai delegation made its case at a time when the emirate appears to be in good shape again: gross domestic product is expected to expand at about 5% this year, its main stockmarket is one of the world’s best performing, while trade and tourism -the emirate’s main economic pillars- are flourishing.

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The Limits of Muslim Liberalism

By Zaheer Kazmi

Los Angeles Review of Books - April 4th, 2014

IN HIS semi-fictional account of Barbary Coast Pirate Utopias, Peter Lamborn Wilson traces the unwritten dissident history of a communion of outsiders — heterodox Muslims and Christian renegades. Unanchored from the conformist dictates of law and organized religion, “temporary autonomous zones” like the Coast flourished for a time between the 16th and 18th centuries, and they were the embodiment of a mode of engagement between Islam and the West detached from interreligious conflict or any dialogue patronized by power. Wilson aims to show how radical forms of religious liberty can be the harbingers of progress and understanding between civilizations, creating the space to experiment with novel forms of cross-cultural exchange. “[O]nly later,” he laments, “do the Orthodox Authorities arrive to straighten everyone out and make them toe the line.” The practice of stamping out the dual sins of radicalism and heterodoxy has continued to color the character of religious practices. Today, it is most evident in the largely state-sponsored strategies of moderate or liberal Muslims in an age of resurgent militancy and sectarianism in the Muslim world.

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Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability

By Henry A Giroux

Truthout | Op-Ed - Tuesday, 08 April 2014

Under the regime of neoliberalism, especially in the United States, war has become an extension of politics as almost all aspects of society have been transformed into a combat zone. Americans now live in a society in which almost everyone is spied on, considered a potential terrorist, and subject to a mode of state and corporate lawlessness in which the arrogance of power knows no limits. The state of exception has become normalized.  Moreover, as society becomes increasingly militarized and political concessions become relics of a long-abandoned welfare state hollowed out to serve the interest of global markets, the collective sense of ethical imagination and social responsibility toward those who are vulnerable or in need of care is now viewed as a scourge or pathology.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Google’s Scientific Approach to Work-Life Balance (and Much More)

By Laszlo Bock

Harvard Business Review - March 27, 2014

More than 65 years ago in Massachusetts, doctors began a longitudinal study that would transform our understanding of heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study, which started with more than 5,000 people and continues to this day, has become a data source for not just heart disease, but also for insights about weight loss (adjusting your social network helps people lose weight), genetics (inheritance patterns), and even happiness (living within a mile of a happy friend has a 25% chance of making you happier).
Upon reading about the study, I wondered if the idea of such long-term research could be attempted in another field that touches all of us: work. After more than a decade in People Operations, I believe that the experience of work can be — should be — so much better. We all have our opinions and case studies, but there is precious little scientific certainty around how to build great work environments, cultivate high performing teams, maximize productivity, or enhance happiness.
Inspired by the Framingham research, our People Innovation Lab developed gDNA, Google’s first major long-term study aimed at understanding work. Under the leadership of PhD Googlers Brian Welle and Jennifer Kurkoski, we’re two years into what we hope will be a century-long study. We’re already getting glimpses of the smart decisions today that can have profound impact on our future selves, and the future of work overall.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fighting the Militarized State

Truthdig - Mar 30, 2014  

By Chris Hedges

The Barack Obama administration, determined to thwart the attempt by other plaintiffs and myself to have the courts void a law that permits the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and indefinitely detain them, has filed a detailed brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to refuse to accept our petition to hear our appeal. We will respond within 10 days.
“The administration’s unstated goal appears to be to get court to agree that [the administration] has the authority to use the military to detain U.S. citizens,” Bruce Afran, one of two attorneys handling the case, said when I spoke with him Sunday. “It appears to be asking the court to go against nearly 150 years of repeated decisions in which the court has refused to give the military such power. No court in U.S. history has ever recognized the right of the government to use the military to detain citizens. It would be very easy for the government to state in the brief that citizens and permanent residents are not within the scope of this law. But once again, it will not do this. It says the opposite. It argues that the activities of the plaintiffs do not fall within the scope of the law, but it clearly is reserving for itself the right to use the statute to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.”
The lawsuit, Hedges v. Obama, challenges Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It was signed into law the last day of 2011. Afran and fellow attorney Carl Mayer filed the lawsuit in January 2012. I was later joined by co-plaintiffs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O’Brien, Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla.

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Philip Pilkington: Misdirection – Galbraith on Thomas Piketty’s New Book on Capital

Naked Capitalism - April 3, 2014 

By Yves Smith

Yves here. The best review so far on Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twentieth Century is by Jamie Galbraith, and we’ve featured it in Links. But the article itself is long and a bit wonky, so Pilkington’s recap is a useful distillation of Galbraith’s piece.
By Philip Pilkington, a writer and research assistant at Kingston University in London. You can follow him on Twitter @pilkingtonphil. Originally published at Fixing the Economists
I’ve been waiting for this for some time but now Jamie Galbraith has come out and provided an extensive discussion of Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twentieth Century. While I haven’t yet read Piketty’s book its difficult not to have heard about it given how much of a response it is getting among economics types.
The moment the hype started I thought that something was amiss. In 2012 Galbraith and his team published an extensive empirical investigation of income distribution using new datasets that they constructed. Beyond the interview I did with Galbraith and a few other articles and the like the release of the study didn’t get much play among economist types. The reason should be obvious: whereas Galbraith arrived at heterodox conclusions, Piketty’s are mostly orthodox.

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Academic ghostwriting: to what extent is it haunting higher education?

Students are paying agencies to write their essays. Julia Molinari asks whether it can ever be considered ethical – and what universities can do to detect and stop it      

By Julia Molinari    

Guardian Professional, Thursday 3 April 2014

If you Google "academic proofreading," you will see a list of sites offering to "proof" your work. What they are also offering, however, is to write your assignments for you. How do I know this? There are two main reasons.
The first is that I occasionally assess ghost texts: I teach English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Where I work, students don't sit traditional exams. Instead, they write research papers and at the end of the process (which we scaffold), they sit a viva voce exam to extend and defend their research. Both the paper and the viva are assessed. This, we believe, provides several opportunities to get to know the writers and their texts. In the end, we are reasonably confident that final papers are genuine.
Now and then, however, a student will submit a piece of beautifully polished and referenced work that is clearly at odds with evidence from our day-to-day interactions. It is usually sufficiently and artfully peppered with inaccuracies to be attributable to a novice writer, but we know it is not the student's work. When a piece of work is plagiarised, we can usually prove it – but in cases where the student has paid someone else to write the piece, we can't.

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In search of ‘Chineseness’

By Ben Chu

The Prospect / October 3, 2013  

Attempts to define the Chinese character often lead to lazy stereotypes and a failure to engage with the complexity of this vast nation

“Chineseness”. What is it? Don’t ask me. I’m half-Chinese myself but I confess I find that an impossible question to answer. If I close my eyes and think about my Chinese family members, friends and acquaintances I still can’t see a clear picture. Indeed, the more Chinese people I see in my mind’s eye the harder the job becomes. They’re all different you see: different ambitions, different natures, different personalities. I can no more describe the typical Chinese character than I can define the typical British character.
And my uncertainty is based only on the “Han” Chinese people that I’ve come across. This is a land with at least 56 different ethnic “nations” ranging from Manchurians in the North East, to Uighurs in the far West to Miao in the South. If you can sum up what all these people from manifestly different cultures have in common you’re smarter than me.
Yet a remarkable number of people feel that they’re equal to the task of nailing down Chineseness. Tim Clissold, a British businessman who worked for many years in the country and who wrote a lively tale about his experiences in 2004 called Mr China, tells us that Chineseness is “innate, something that you are born with”. Apparently “it can’t be changed by something as ephemeral as a passport or a mere lifetime spent abroad.” So what exactly is it? Of central importance, according to Clissold, is the character-based writing system that provides “a link with the past quite unlike that provided by European languages”.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

John Kerry and Washington's decades-long fight over releasing Israel's controversial spy

By Shane Harris and John Hudson    

Foreign Policy - APRIL 1, 2014

In January 1999, a bipartisan group of senators sent a strongly worded letter to President Bill Clinton urging him not to commute the prison sentence of Jonathan Pollard, who was then in the 12th year of a life sentence for spying for Israel. Freeing Pollard, the lawmakers said, would "imply a condonation of spying against the United States by an ally," would overlook the "enormity" of Pollard's offenses and the damage he had caused to national security, and would undermine the United States' ability to share secrets with foreign governments. Among the 60 signatories of the letter was John Kerry, then a senator from Massachusetts. Fifteen years later, Kerry is singing a very different tune.

Now, as the secretary of state, Kerry has supported using Pollard's potential release as a bargaining chip in the Obama administration's attempts to salvage the flailing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The outcome of those talks was in doubt Tuesday as President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority opted to press for statehood through the United Nations, a move that Israel has long said would as a deal-breaker. A planned meeting between Kerry and Abbas was canceled as a result. Abbas said he'd made the move because Israel hadn't released a fourth round of Palestinian prisoners. The Obama administration had envisioned potentially releasing Pollard -- who is seen as a national hero by many Israelis -- to help persuade Jerusalem to let those Palestinian prisoners go.

Read more....

A New Book: @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex

By Harris Shane 

Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 11, 2014)

A surprising, page-turning account of how the wars of the future are already being fought today
The United States military currently views cyberspace as the “fifth domain” of warfare (alongside land, air, sea, and space), and the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, and the CIA all field teams of hackers who can, and do, launch computer virus strikes against enemy targets. In fact, as @WAR shows, U.S. hackers were crucial to our victory in Iraq. Shane Harris delves into the frontlines of America’s new cyber war. As recent revelations have shown, government agencies are joining with tech giants like Google and Facebook to collect vast amounts of information. The military has also formed a new alliance with tech and finance companies to patrol cyberspace, and Harris offers a deeper glimpse into this partnership than we have ever seen before. Finally, Harris explains what the new cybersecurity regime means for all of us, who spend our daily lives bound to the Internet — and are vulnerable to its dangers.

There are fewer than 100 black professors in Britain - why?

It is hard to think of an arena of UK public life where the people are so poorly represented and served on the basis of their race. 

By William Ackah

New Statesman - 28 March, 2014

It is a shocking statistic that there were just 85 black professors in UK universities in 2011-12. In stark terms, this means that there are more higher education institutions than there are black British, African and Caribbean professors actually teaching in them. The latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency put the number of UK academic staff from a known ethnic minority at 12.8%.
In contrast, black and minority ethnic students are well represented. In some institutions, such as City University, they make up nearly 50% of the student population. Yet even in these universities black academics are a rarity, particularly those in senior positions.
It is hard to think of an arena of UK public life where the people are so poorly represented and served on the basis of their race. Yet this scandalous state of affairs generates little by way of investigation, censure or legal scrutiny under the 2010 Equality Act.

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