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Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

UK Mass Surveillance Bill: The Return of a Bad Idea by Cindy Cohn

In copyright, law, politics, privacy on June 18, 2012 at 22:01

 

From: UK Mass Surveillance Bill: The Return of a Bad Idea by Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org

This week the British government unveiled a bill that has a familiar ring to it. The Communications Data Bill would require all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone network providers in Britain to collect and store information on everyone’s internet and phone activity.  Essentially, the bill seeks to publicly require in the UK what EFF and many others have long maintained is happening in the US in secret – and what we have been trying to bring to public and judicial review since 2005.  Put simply, it appears that both governments want to shift from surveillance of communications and communications records based on individualized suspicion and probable cause to the mass untargeted collection of communications and communications records of ordinary, non-suspect people.

This shift has profound implications for the UK, the US and any country that claims to be committed to rule of law and the protection of fundamental freedoms.

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Hegel on Marriage by Slavoj Žižek

In gender, humanities, philosophy, sexuality, sociology, writers on June 18, 2012 at 21:58

 

From: Hegel on Marriage by Slavoj Žižek, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com/

The limitation of Hegel’s notion of sexuality is clearly discernible in his theory of marriage (from his Philosophy of Right), which nonetheless deserves a close reading: beneath the surface of the standard bourgeois notion of marriage lurk many unsettling implications. 1 While a subject enters marriage voluntarily, surrendering his/her autonomy by immersing him/herself into its immediate/substantial unity of family that functions with regard to its outside as one person, the function of family is the exact opposite of such a substantial unity: to educate those born in it to abandon (their parental) family and pursue their path alone. The first lesson of marriage is that that the ultimate goal of every substantial ethical unity is to dissolve itself by way of giving rise to individuals who will assert their full autonomy against the substantial unity that gave birth to them.

This surrender of autonomous individuality is the reason Hegel opposes those (Kant, among others) who insist on the contractual nature of marriage: “Though marriage begins in contract, it is precisely a contract to transcend the standpoint of contract, the standpoint from which persons are regarded in their individuality as self-subsistent units. The identification of personalities, whereby the family becomes one person and its members become its accidents (though substance is in essence the relation of accidents to itself), is the ethical mind.”

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VIDEO: Sexual Abuse: Burden of Silence

In gender, law, sexuality, society, video on June 17, 2012 at 16:36

 

From: Sexual Abuse: Burden of Silence, Documentary.net, http://documentary.net

One in three Native American women will experience sexual abuse at some point in their lifetime. That is more than twice the national average. And for the women of Alaska, the US state with the highest incidence of rape, the situation is particularly bleak. Donna Erikson is a Native Alaskan woman and a survivor of sexual abuse. She, and those who share this devastating history, are now embracing the transformative power of lifting the burden of silence within their community by speaking out about sexual assault. In Burden of Silence we hear her story and see, through the work of a Native Alaskan state trooper, the challenging reality of law enforcement for a crime that is so frequently hushed up by victim and victimiser alike.

Watch the video

Disclaimer from the website: Yes it is free and legal. Films are provided by the filmmakers or rights-holders themselves. Or they claim their copyright protected contents on YouTube and monetize it (like National Geographic).

 

The end of the belief in education (Peter Sloterdijk, 1983) by Philippe Theophanidis

In academia, philosophy, politics, society, universities on June 17, 2012 at 01:21

 

From: The end of the belief in education (Peter Sloterdijk, 1983) by Philippe Theophanidis, aphelis, http://aphelis.net

The message was simply that one has to learn something real so that life will be better later. A petit-bourgeois belief in schooling had dictated the slogan. This belief is disintegrating today. Only for our cynical young medicos is there still a clear link between study and standard of living. Almost everyone else lives with the risk of learning without prospects.

The somehow provocative remarks of Peter Sloterdijk about the actual state of our systems of education shouldn’t come as a surprise for at least two reasons. First, he’s a well trained provocateur and has the reputation of producing uneasy thoughts. The publication in 1999 of his conference Règles pour le parc humain (Rules for the Human Zoo1) provoked a significant controversy in France and Germany intellectual circles (it is known in French as “l’affaire Sloterdijk”).

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The Forbidden History of Unpopular People by Topher

In ethics, history, media, philosophy, politics, video on June 17, 2012 at 00:40

 

From: The Forbidden History of Unpopular People: Why Free Speech is Worth the Price by Topher, The Forbidden History, http://theforbiddenhistory.com/

In episode #1 of the ‘Forbidden History’ trilogy Topher takes a stand on freedom of speech, using some of history’s most unpopular people to show that free speech is worth it, no matter what the price.

Watch on the website

War minus the shooting: Russia vs Poland at Euro 2012 by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski

In history, news, politics, society on June 16, 2012 at 00:19

 

From: War minus the shooting: Russia vs Poland at Euro 2012 by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, openDemocracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net

‘War minus the shooting’ was George Orwell’s definition of sport, unpleasantly brought once more to mind during the recent battles between Russian and Polish football fans. There is a long history of animosity over sporting events between the two countries, but there could be a way forward, says Zygmunt Dzieciolowski.

The streets of Warsaw turned into a battlefield on Tuesday night, as Russian and Polish football fans clashed before, during and after a Euro 2012 group stage match. The scale of the violence was such that Vladimir Putin took the unusual step of phoning Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to appeal to his sense of responsibility, and to remind him that, as host country, Poland was under an obligation to guarantee the safety of all football fans who came to watch the championship. Putin also sent his special envoy, Mikhail Fedotov, to Poland to help Polish authorities investigate the clashes.

No other match at Euro 2012 has produced such tensions and emotions as this clash between Poland and Russia. But that perhaps is of little surprise, given the often unhappy history between the countries and the fact that for weeks before the game the Polish media had been so full of speculation about it.

After the match, Poles had many questions. Why were Russian fans allowed to use old Soviet symbols on their flags and t-shirts? Should the hammer and sickle motifs not be read as incendiary communist propaganda? And should the Russian fans be allowed to organize a patriotic march on their way to the Warsaw National stadium to celebrate Russia’s Independence Day (the anniversary of the Russian Supreme Soviet declaration of Independence passed on 12 June 1991), which unfortunately coincided with the match day?

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A Theater Full of Bikers: What Would You Do? by Jay Livingston

In psychology, society, sociology, video on June 15, 2012 at 22:34

 

From : A Theater Full of Bikers: What Would You Do? by Jay Livingston, The Society Pages, http://thesocietypages.org

So sociological point one is that we are social animals.  Excluded we feel fear, accepted and included we feel comfort.  Point two is that laughter is social.  Here (and in many other situations) it’s a kind of tension-meter.  There ad had no joke that I was laughing at.  It was just a release from tension.  No tension, no laughter.

The ad also illustrates “definition of the situation.”  The rigged set-up shatters the couples’ standard definition of going to the movies. They are anxious not just because they are different but because they nave no workable definition and therefore no clear sense of what to do.

Finally, the ad raises the issue of stereotypes.  Stereotypes may actually have some general statistical accuracy.  The trouble is that the stereotype converts a statistical tendency to absolute certainty.  We react as though we expect all members of the stereotype to be that way all the time or most of the time.  Is it reasonable when you see 148 bikers to be fearful even to the point of leaving (I think some of the couples didn’t take the available seats)?

Read more & watch the video here

Frontline Debates “Four Horsemen” by Jim Treadway

In economics, film, politics, society, video, visual arts on June 13, 2012 at 22:56

 

From: Frontline Debates “Four Horsemen” by Jim Treadway, Frontline Club, http://www.frontlineclub.com (watch the debate on the website)

Daniel Ben-Ami journalist and author of Ferraries for All: In Defense of Economic Progress, argued that the documentaries biggest mistake was to underestimate the role of the state in today’s crisis. Emeritus economics professor Victoria Chick, meanwhile, commented on the documentary’s suggestion that we return to the gold standard.

“I sort of flinched,” she said. “Everything I’ve always known about the gold standard was so repressive, and it was a very deflationary regime. [I] like the courageous quality of Minsky who said, ‘alright, I know banks are unstable, but they’re worth it, because they provide productive investment.’ Well that was when they did lend for productive investment. And now they no longer do.”

Giving voice to the sentiment of the evening, Mark Braund author of Four Horsemen: The Survival Manual complained,

“We have democratic institutions which aren’t delivering democratic outcomes. And that’s because I think too few people are interested enough to engage with what are quite complex ideas about how the ecomony works.”

“X-box, cheap lager, and mass media” were Ashcroft’s culprits for the public’s malaise in the face of a system that he believes is increasingly stacked against them.

At several points, panelists emphasized that change would have to come “from the bottom up,” but as one audience member regretted, what change “from the bottom up” really meant seemed hard to elucidate.

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How religion promotes confidence about paternity

In anthropology, gender, religion, sociology on June 10, 2012 at 21:39

 

How religion promotes confidence about paternity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Phys.Org, http://phys.org/

In the traditional religion, menstrual taboos are strictly enforced, with women exiled for five nights to uncomfortable menstrual huts. According to Strassmann, the religion uses the ideology of pollution to ensure that women honestly signal their fertility status to men in their husband’s family.

“When a woman resumes going to the menstrual hut following her last birth, the husband’s patrilineage is informed of the imminency of conception and cuckoldry risk,” Strassmann said. “Precautions include postmenstrual copulation initiated by the husband and enhanced vigilance by his family.”

“The major world religions sprang from patriarchal societies in which the resources critical to reproduction, whether in the form of land or livestock, were inherited from father to son down the male line,” Strassmann and colleagues write. “Consistent with patrilineal inheritance, the sacred texts set forth harsh penalties for adultery and other behaviors that lower the husband’s probability of paternity. The scriptures also place greater emphasis on female than on male chastity, including the requirement of modest attire for women and the idealization of virginity for unmarried females.”

Read more here

America’s Problem of Assimilation by Bruce Thornton

In civilisation, culture, ethnicity, history, immigration, politics on June 8, 2012 at 21:08

 

America’s Problem of Assimilation by Bruce Thornto, A Hoover Institution Journal, http://www.hoover.org

The melting pot metaphor arose in the eighteenth century, sometimes appearing as the “smelting pot” or “crucible,” and it described the fusion of various religious sects, nationalities, and ethnic groups into one distinct people: Ex pluribus unum. In 1782, French immigrant J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur wrote that in America, “individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.”

A century later, Ralph Waldo Emerson used the “melting pot” image to describe “the fusing process” that “transforms the English, the German, the Irish emigrant into an American . . . The individuality of the immigrant, almost even his traits of race and religion, fuse down in the democratic alembic like chips of brass thrown into the melting pot.” The phrase gained wider currency in 1908, during the great wave of Slavic, Jewish, and Italian immigration, when Israel Zangwill’s play The Melting Pot was produced. In it, a character enthuses, “America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming!”

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Toward a Dissident Architecture?

In architecture, civilisation, philosophy, politics on June 8, 2012 at 21:02

 

Toward a Dissident Architecture? by Thomas de Monchaux, n + 1, http://nplusonemag.com

In the kind of rapid development we see in China, architecture as understood by architects can be seen as a nicety, not a necessity. It may be that, in such a context, Wang’s most instrumental building to date is his least precious: the Vertical Courtyard Apartments in Hangzhou, produced between 2002 and 2007. With an articulated plane that folds up and across the building’s façade and section, and slight alternating rotations to every other floor plate through that section, the building reads more like a stack of house-sized objects than a seamless monolith. In a recent interview with the Architect’s Newspaper, Wang recalled, “I wanted even those people living 30 meters high to still feel like they were living in a small house where they could live around a small courtyard and plant their own trees. From below they can tell people on the ground that ‘those are my trees and that’s my house.’ It provides an identity for people to feel like it’s their own house. It’s more than just blank windows in apartment buildings that can’t separate neighborhoods. It’s a basic right for people.”

What is the relationship between architecture and people’s basic rights? By the standards of human rights held to be universal by those who believe in them, much of what prevails in China falls short. What are the possibilities and responsibilities of design in such a context? We can see, perhaps latently, one possible answer in the language the Pritzker citation uses to describe Wang’s work: “frank,” “collaborative,” “message-sending,” “unpredictable,” “careful,” “spontaneous,” “responsible”—these are all qualities that one would want in, say, the lively and free citizenry of a functional democratic republic.

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Land of My Dreams – Martha C. Nussbaum

In culture, philosophy, politics, sociology on June 4, 2012 at 10:34

 

Land of My Dreams: Islamic liberalism under fire in India – Martha C. Nussbaum – Boston Review

It was not the first time India’s Muslims have demonstrated a peaceful embrace of the country’s founding values. The personal experience of Mushirul Hasan exemplifies the same commitment. A leader of the community, Hasan has been at the center of controversy for his liberal, secular views and has weathered attempts to force him out of his job as Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, a pluralistic university closely linked to Muslim contributions in India’s struggle for nationhood. His story illustrates three aspects of Indian and Muslim life that concerned Western observers regularly ignore.

First, the values we associate with classical liberalism—such as the defense of the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and procedural due process—are not exclusively Western values. During the independence movement in India, they were reinvented by a colonized people who had seen just how little their Western masters honored such norms.

Second, these values are not tepid and centrist, as we sometimes hear, but rather, truly radical in a world of nations increasingly under pressure both from external violence and from internal quasi-fascist forces.

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Intellectuals and power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze

In interview, philosophy, society on June 2, 2012 at 07:34

 

Intellectuals and power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze – Joseph Kay – libcom.org

DELEUZE: Precisely. A theory is exactly like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself (who then ceases to be a theoretician), then the theory is worthless or the moment is inappropriate. We don’t revise a theory, but construct new ones; we have no choice but to make others. It is strange that it was Proust, an author thought to be a pure intellectual, who said it so clearly: treat my book as a pair of glasses directed to the outside; if they don’t suit you, find another pair; I leave it to you to find your own instrument, which is necessarily an investment for combat.

FOUCAULT: Isn’t this difficulty of finding adequate forms of struggle a result of the fact that we continue to ignore the problem of power? After all, we had to wait until the nineteenth century before we began to understand the nature of exploitation, and to this day, we have yet to fully comprehend the nature of power. It may be that Marx and Freud cannot satisfy our desire for understanding this enigmatic thing which we call power, which is at once visible and invisible, present and hidden, ubiquitous. Theories of government and the traditional analyses of their mechanisms certainly don’t exhaust the field where power is exercised and where it functions. The question of power re- mains a total enigma. Who exercises power? And in what sphere? We now know with reasonable certainty who exploits others, who receives the profits, which people are involved, and we know how these funds are reinvested.

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