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"To say her work is unique and special is to understate its ability to tell truths the world would rather not know." THE ANIMALS' VEGAN MANIFESTO in KIM STALLWOOD

February 17, 2017
Often times words are not enough when I consider animal cruelty. Words fail me. No words describe animal exploitation. No words say how I feel. No words could possibly express how I imagine what the animals suffer. This is when I turn to Sue Coe. To say her work is unique and special is to understate its ability to tell truths the world would rather not know. Now, we have her new book, The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto, to explore and inspire us further to act for social justice regardless of species. Get the full story here.

"Very few people live to tell the tale under such circumstances." REMEMBERING AKBAR in READARA

February 13, 2017
A major exporter of oil with a large and young population, Iran became the hotbed of revolutionary action in a sequence of dramatic events. The Shah’s regime, which had been installed by U.S. and British spy agencies at the expense of a democratically elected government, was equally replaced by a brutal theocracy whose political aspirations focused solely on its own survival, mostly with the help of imprisonment of all political opponents.In an interview with Readara, author and scholar Behrooz Ghamari, a former political prisoner between 1981 and 1985, recounts his experience of what it was like to be on a death row in a suffocatingly overcrowded prison. Packed with 25,000 other prisoners, Ghamari spent four years in a building with the capacity to contain only 1,200 people, knowing well that any day might prove to be the last. Yet, he never gave up hope. Very few people live to tell the tale under such circumstances, but Ghamari, in an emotional and well-balanced narrative, describes the daily struggles of a group of political prisoners in Tehran’s most infamous prison. Remembering Akbar tells the story of incredible strength, courage, unlikely humor, and, above all, optimism. Get the full story here.

"Corbyn withstood parliamentary blackmail." ALEX NUNNS in TNS

February 13, 2017
Jeremy Corbin’s unexpected rise to lead the Labour party in 2015 has been the subject of many rushed books. While Rosa Prince’s Comrade Corbyn: A Very Unlikely Coup was an account of “ex-girlfriends, [and] the state of his flat” Richard Seymour’s Corbyn: The Strange Birth of Radical Politics is a more serious account of the Corbyn phenomenon. Alex Nunns’ book The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn’s Improbable Path to Power is a much more detailed study of the Corbyn-mania and the forces that propelled it into being. The book maps, in great detail, how Corbyn became the unlikely candidate and how his equally improbable rise was organised and managed against the powerful trio of the hostile media, the parliamentary labour party and the Labour party machine. The Candidate locates the rise of Corbyn in a number of related developments — the election of Ed Miliband as the leader of the Labour party was the first sign of a coming rupture with the new Labour. And it was this that paved the way for Corbyn’s rise. Get the full story here.

"Most people recognise that Corbyn was in a tricky position." ALEX NUNNS in NOVARA MEDIA

February 13, 2017
There’s no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn has faced a backlash from supporters for instructing his parliamentary party to vote for Article 50, although it may not be the catastrophic split in the movement that commentators have delighted in talking up. Having spoken to a fair few Labour members and supporters in real life over the last week—from a Momentum meeting, to a local party branch, to the infamous doorstep—my sense is that while there are a range of strong views on Article 50, most people recognise that Corbyn was in a tricky position. Get the full story here.

"Sue Coe is one such artist of integrity. " THE ANIMALS' VEGAN MANIFESTO in GOOD READING COPY

February 13, 2017
This week in the New Yorker (or on the website anyway – it may be in print as well), Evan Ross writes about “Making Art in a Time of Rage.” You’d be forgiven for immediately hesitating to accept the insights of such a staid publication on matters of rage. “What is the point of making beautiful things,” Ross asks, “or of cherishing the beauty of the past, when ugliness runs rampant?” It’s a valid question, but it also proceeds from a limited view of art’s means and purposes. This is unfair to Ross, though, for the question is a mere jumping off point. Later he observes that, “not only are intensity, beauty, and devotion insufficient to halt violence, they can become its soundtrack,” and later, “Ultimately, artists of integrity will have no choice in how they respond to the Great Besmirchment. Those who thrive on politically charged material will continue in that vein.” Sue Coe is one such artist of integrity. The world and its injustices are a constant forge for her work, and unfortunately we’ve beached ourselves in an era that’s providing her with more stimulus than usual. I say “unfortunately” and feel sure she’d agree; there’s never yet been a shortage of inequality or injustice for an artist who’s moved by these things to respond to, and I feel sure she’d readily forego the need to produce whatever art comes in response to this more extreme version of events. Get the full story here.

"Fascinating" FINKS in THE NEW YORK TIMES

February 13, 2017
In 1955, the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with several big Hollywood players to talk about getting the idea of “militant liberty” into movies. John Wayne was eager. That anecdote is told in Joel Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.” It may not surprise that the Duke was on board with Uncle Sam, but Whitney’s primary focus is on the government’s relationship with a less likely band of double agents: writers and editors at The Paris Review. Get the full story here.

"Fascinating" FINKS in THE NEW YORK TIMES

February 13, 2017
In 1955, the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with several big Hollywood players to talk about getting the idea of “militant liberty” into movies. John Wayne was eager. That anecdote is told in Joel Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.” It may not surprise that the Duke was on board with Uncle Sam, but Whitney’s primary focus is on the government’s relationship with a less likely band of double agents: writers and editors at The Paris Review. Get the full story here.

"Warning sounded by man who helped bring Trump to power." THE GOSPEL OF SELF in FREE THINKER

February 10, 2017
Terry Heaton, above, once a key figure in televangelist Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club, recently announced that he was about to publish a book that would show how right-wing Christian zealots succeeded in hijacking the Republican Party. He wrote here: As political events began to take shape last year in the US and specifically with the candidacy of Donald Trump, I began gathering all of the documents from my days as Pat Robertson’s producer in the 1980s. I could sense what was happening and felt a sense of responsibility for at least some of it, for as producer of The 700 Club, I had played a key role in our efforts to influence Republican Party politics. Lamenting the period in which he helped sow the seeds that led eventually to the flourishing idolatry of the venomous Trump creature, he warned: The people addicted to Donald Trump are ushering in something they really don’t understand. Trump supporters represent a serious and significant threat to freedom, and the sad thing is that most of these people formed the core of our audience target back in the early 80s. The fears they express were planted by us, and while I’m not saying it was insincere, cynical, or corrupt, I am stating that it was a deliberate attempt at social engineering. People need to know this, for we preached what I’m calling ‘the gospel of self’. Get the full story here.

"Our data is increasingly the province of large corporations." OURS TO HACK AND TO OWN in INNOVATION HUB

February 10, 2017
The internet is pretty cool. After all, where else could you order super-fancy organic tea at 3 in the morning? Or look up who played the main conquistador in Aguirre, The Wrath of God? But, as cool and world-changing as the internet is, Nathan Schneider thinks there are some major flaws in it. Namely, that we don’t have a stake in most of the services we use. Schneider is the editor of Ours to Hack and Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, a New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet, a New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet, and he talks with us about making the online world more equitable. Three Takeaways: According to Schneider, we don’t own nearly enough of the internet. Our data is increasingly the province of large corporations, while “sharing economy” apps that we use may not have our best interests at heart. Schneider wants to rethink the internet by making it more co-operative, taking a page from co-operative farms, the Associated Press, electric co-ops, and lots more. He essentially wants the internet’s platforms to work with us in mind. What would this new internet look like? Well, not all that different from the internet of today, just less focused on cutthroat capitalism. Schneider points out that in Colorado, the largest taxi service in the state (by number of taxis), edging out Uber, isa taxi co-operative. And there are many more examples. Get the full story here.

Long before #DELETEUBER, skeptics of the "sharing economy" questioned the "uberization of everything"

February 3, 2017

Uber CEO's withdrawal from Donald Trump's economic advisory council is a rare shot of humility for the so-called "sharing economy"—longtime antagonists of communities, cooperatives, and basically anyone suspicious of old-school capitalism


Travis Kalanick once likened his business to an election in which “Uber is the candidate and [its opponent] is an asshole called Taxi. I’m not totally comfortable with it but we have to bring out the truth of how evil Taxi is.”

“Uber isn’t a taxi company; it’s a lobbyist, a loan shark, a labor broker.” —Melissa Hoover, Ours to Hack and to Own

Kalanick's 2014 swipe at Big Taxi took on a particularly nasty shade last week when the ride-sharing giant attempted to defy the New York Taxi Worker's Alliance hour-long strike to protest Trump's Muslim ban. The response was swift: in less than a week, #DeleteUber had gone viral and up to 200,000 people had ditched their accounts in response.1 By Thursday, Kalanick had resigned his position on the President's economic advisory council.2 But those familiar with the tech juggernaut weren't surprised: Uber has a history of indifference to the rights of workers. Many experts regard the "sharing economy"—once hailed as the vanguard of a rethinking of capitalism—as simply an escalation of the same old free-market practices that reward the few on the backs of the many.

Two recent books, What's Yours Is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy by Tom Slee, and Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, a New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet, edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider, together lay bare some of the shortcomings and hypocrisies of the Uber economy:

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Nathan Schneider on democratizing the incumbents—in a world where more and more people rely on ride-sharing, #DeleteUber made it clear Uber needs us as much as we need them:

This also means thinking differently about the incumbents. The Facebooks, Googles, and Ubers aren’t just regular companies anymore. Their business models are based on how dependent so many of us are on them; their ubiquity, in turn, is what makes them useful. They’re becoming public utilities. The less we have a choice about whether to use them, the more we need democracy to step in. What if a new generation of antitrust laws, instead of breaking up the emerging online utilities, created a pathway to more democratic ownership?

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Trebor Scholz on why Uber is not above the law:

Many of the business models of the “sharing economy” are based on strategic nullifications of the law. Companies knowingly violate city regulations and labor laws. This allows them to undermine the competition and then point to a large customer base to demand legislative changes that benefit their dubious modus operandi. Firms are also activation their app-based consumers as a grassroots political movement to help them lobby for corporate interests. Privacy should be a concern for workers and customers, too. Uber is analyzing the routines of its customers, from their commutes to their one-night stands, to then impose surge pricing when they most rely on the service. Navigating legal gray zones, these deregulated commerce hubs sometimes misclassify employees as independent contractors. They are labeling them “turkers,” “driver-partners,” or “rabbits,” but never workers. Hiding behind the curtain of the Internet, they would like us to believe that they are tech rather than labor companies.

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Dmytri Kleiner on why the "sharing economy" is just capitalism as usual:

Sharing economy companies like Uber and Airbnb, which own no vehicles or real-estate, capture profits form the operators of the cars and apartments for which they provide the marketplace.

Neither of these business models is very new. Media businesses selling audience commodity are at least as old as commercial radio. Marketplace landlords, capturing rents from market vendors, have been with us for centuries.

Rather than subvert capitalism, “sharing” platforms have been captured by it.

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Tom Slee on the effect of Uber on communities:

Uber enthusiasts attribute the company’s success to its technology and the efficiency with which it matches drivers and rides, but this misses much of the story. Uber’s success also owes a lot to avoiding the costs of insurance, sales tax, mechanical vehicle inspections, and providing an universally-accessible service. Its ability to provide a cheap and effective service for consumers comes from its ability to run at a loss while pursuing its lavishly-funded quest for growth. Uber’s success comes from being parasitic on the cities in which it operates.

Further Reading

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what's yours is mine cover ours to hack and to own cover pocket piketty cover

1 The Verge, published 2 February 2017
2 Business Insider, published 2 February 2017

"A manifesto." OURS TO HACK AND TO OWN in OPEN SOURCE

February 3, 2017
Where open source fits in At or near the core of any platform cooperative lies open source; not necessarily open source technologies, but the principles and the ethos that underlie open source—openness, transparency, cooperation, collaboration, and sharing. In his introduction to the book, Trebor Scholz points out that: In opposition to the black-box systems of the Snowden-era Internet, these platforms need to distinguish themselves by making their data flows transparent. They need to show where the data about customers and workers are stored, to whom they are sold, and for what purpose. It's that transparency, so essential to open source, which helps make platform cooperatives so appealing and a refreshing change from much of what exists now. Open source software can definitely play a part in the vision of platform cooperatives that "Ours to Hack and to Own" shares. Open source software can provide a fast, inexpensive way for groups to build the technical infrastructure that can power their cooperatives. Mickey Metts illustrates this in the essay, "Meet Your Friendly Neighborhood Tech Co-Op." Metts works for a firm called Agaric, which uses Drupal to build for groups and small business what they otherwise couldn't do for themselves. On top of that, Metts encourages anyone wanting to build and run their own business or co-op to embrace free and open source software. Why? It's high quality, it's inexpensive, you can customize it, and you can connect with large communities of helpful, passionate people. Not always about open source, but open source is always there Not all of the essays in this book focus or touch on open source; however, the key elements of the open source way—cooperation, community, open governance, and digital freedom—are always on or just below the surface. In fact, as many of the essays in "Ours to Hack and to Own" argue, platform cooperatives can be important building blocks of a more open, commons-based economy and society. That can be, in Douglas Rushkoff's words, organizations like Creative Commons compensating "for the privatization of shared intellectual resources." It can also be what Francesca Bria, Barcelona's CTO, describes as cities running their own "distributed common data infrastructures with systems that ensure the security and privacy and sovereignty of citizens' data." Get the full story here.

"If ‘we the people’ own and democratically control the platforms we use we all get a better deal." OURS TO HACK AND TO OWN in RESILIENCE

February 3, 2017
"At its’ simplest, the platform co-op concept is pretty straightforward; if ‘we the people’ own and democratically control the platforms we use we all get a better deal; without external investors syphoning off funds every quarter any value created can be recycled within the platform; workers get paid more (and, most importantly, a real liveable wage), customers get better value and together we set the rules. The profit motive, of conventional ‘platform monopolies’ like Uber, Airbnb and Deliveroo is replaced in favour of ‘benefitting the community the platform serves’." Get the full story here.

JOEL WHITNEY in LEFT BUSINESS OBSERVER

February 3, 2017
Get the full story here.

"The legendary publisher." ROSSET in NATIONAL POST

February 3, 2017
"When Rosset was growing up in Chicago under the Hoover administration, John Dillinger was a hero of his – much like the Russian Communists. In fact, Rosset and some of his classmates petitioned the government to replace President Hoover with Dillinger. Rosset’s family lived close to the movie theatre where Dillinger was shot and killed by the FBI. This was not Rosset’s closest brush with the Bureau, which would investigate him thoroughly, all the way back to his school years." Get the full story here.

"It hard not to admire the absolute, single-minded urgency of her mission." THE ANIMALS' VEGAN MANIFESTO in My AJC

February 1, 2017
"It’s rare to see impassioned, furious, shocking art displayed locally these days. But the powerful exhibition of noted British illustrator and artist Sue Coe’s work at Georgia State University gallery may single-handedly remind you of the power of art to bear witness, perhaps change the world, or at the very least shake up your perspective. The 65-year-old artist is featured at Georgia State University’s Ernest G. Welch School of Art & Design Gallery in a selection of 77 black-and-white woodcut prints (with traces of blood red) from her book “The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto.”" Get the full story here.

Nobel Prize winner KENZABURŌ ŌE was born on this day in 1935

January 31, 2017

From early in his career, a defiant literary voice


Honoring one of twentieth century literature’s most extraordinary figures, Kenzaburō Ōe, born this day in 1935.

 

Ōe with publisher Barney Rosset, as Ōe is made a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City, May 21, 1997. Photo by Astrid Myers Rosset.

 

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Kenzaburō Ōe was born in 1935 on a remote part of Japan’s Shikoku island. He is credited in part with the modernization and internationalization of Japanese intellectual tradition in the latter half of the twentieth century. Storytelling played a prominent role in Ōe’s childhood. In particular, his grandmother provided an early, defiant framework for the novellas for which he gained recognition early in his career, including Seventeen and The Death of a Political Youth. Her stories were an antidote to the strong imperial influence of his elementary education—crucially, during the period of Japan’s descent into the Second World War. Propelled by his belief in democracy’s viability and necessity following the war, he left for Tokyo to study Rabelais and quickly became enmeshed in the cultural life of the city. He began publishing while still a student and gained a name as a stylist even more accomplished than Yukio Mishima, ten years his senior. In 1994, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ōe’s distinguishing quality in Tokyo’s literary landscape is his internationalism: his preoccupation with French and American theory; his travels to meet luminaries including Sartre and Mao Zedong. Preoccupation with oppositions is manifest in his work as well—commitment and disavowal, action and inaction, imperial and democratic, political and personal (particularly sexual) life, to name a few—but equally recurrent is his explicit faith in the healing power of the practice of art, and his conviction in writing as a means to survive personal hardship. Politically engaged, he has consistently spoken out over the years on behalf of pacifism and against nuclear power.

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Further Reading

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seventeen and j cover eleutheria cover rosset cover

"A timely book." OURS TO HACK AND TO OWN in PEACE NEWS

January 30, 2017
"This timely book explores how industrial co-operatives can be made relevant in our digital age. Co-operatives founded by nineteenth-century factory workers revolutionised working practices. This book proposes that digital workers must establish similar mutuals to bring about democratic governance and shared ownership of the internet’s levers of power – its platforms and protocols. (The term ‘platform’ refers to the places where we hang out or work after we switch on our phones or computers. Likewise, the word ‘hack’ in the title refers not to intercepting other people’s email, but to the DIY culture of open source, where software – and perhaps the way we work – can be customised. ) Ours to Hack and to Own brings together contributions from 40 authors, who ask whether technology which disrupts industries could be harnessed to disrupt the operating system of our economy. Addressing social rather than technical challenges, it will appeal to readers regardless of their level of computer expertise." Get the full story here.

"A unique voice." FOLDING THE RED INTO THE BLACK in PEACE NEWS

January 30, 2017
"Government should subsidise a small set of basic foodstuffs, so that: ‘For the most basic amount of money, loose change someone could earn bringing in glass bottles for reclamation, any man or woman could feed themselves and their dependents.’ (The US government already spends billions of dollars a year on corn subsidies alone, he notes, so why not ‘alter the already existing system to benefit the living, breathing bodies that could use the sustenance’?) Likewise, it should also provide basic public housing to which every citizen would have access for 10 percent of their salary, ‘no matter what that salary is’. Such measures – almost unimaginably radical by current standards – would, Mosley believes, go a long way to eliminating many of capitalism’s evils. On the capitalist side though, he also wants to continue to permit people to accumulate vast wealth (he advocates ‘a flat rate of taxation on every citizen’s income’, an idea more commonly associated with right-wing libertarians), and to protect the right of ‘[e]very person in America... to compete against the goliaths of big business’ (in reality, one suspects, the right to be crushed by the same). He has little to say about how these changes could be brought about, though he rejects violence. ‘I believe that if violent revolution were necessary for the blossoming of a truly human system of governance... I would, albeit with a heavy heart, support violence on a twentieth-century scale’ he writes. However, ‘luckily for us, [such] action would be counter-productive’, as ‘violence buries its spear in the soul of history’, never-ending once initiated." Get the full story here.

"Corbyn’s candidacy was initially given 200-1 odds." CORBYN in PEACE NEWS

January 30, 2017
"Though there have now been a number of books published about Jeremy Corbyn’s election as the leader of the Labour Party, including Richard Seymour’s impressive Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics (reviewed in PN 2596-2597), The Candidate is arguably the definitive account of those exciting days. As the political correspondent of Red Pepper magazine, Alex Nunns is perfectly placed to chart Corbyn’s 2015 leadership campaign, writing a detailed, journalistic and engrossing account. He ends with a short afterword about the 2016 coup attempt and second leadership election – in which, amazingly, Corbyn increased his vote share to 62 percent. All this feels a long way from Labour’s defeat in the May 2015 general election. With the Labour left believing itself to be in an extremely weak position – journalist Owen Jones didn’t think the left should run a candidate because they would likely be ‘crushed’ – Corbyn’s candidacy was initially given 200-1 odds by Ladbrokes, the bookmakers. However, as Nunns explains, three large political forces came together to create the mass movement Corbyn rode to victory: the shift to the left by Labour Party members; the trade unions’ rejection of New Labour; and grassroots campaigners like the anti-war movement and Occupy." Get the full story here.

"A powerful argument" WEAKNESS AND DECEIT in Counterfire

January 30, 2017
"If some practices proceeded from the past, some others seem to point forward to some of the methods that would be used later in places like Abu Ghraib (p.283). Indeed, the 2015 preface makes reference to ‘talk of the “Salvador option” in Iraq’ during the Bush administration (p.xix). Bonner’s new epilogue notes simply in conclusion: ‘No American official has been held to account for the crimes committed by the American-backed governments in El Salvador, or for the deceit emanating from Washington’ (p.328). The evidence of this book provides a powerful argument that the claims made by the US, or other Western states for that matter, to be acting in good faith for good reasons anywhere else in the world, should be regarded with grave scepticism at all times." Get the full story here.