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"US sanctions are devastating in ordinary times. But with the COVID-19 pandemic raging, they’re killing more people than ever.” — THE WRONG STORY author Greg Shupak writes for Jacobin

March 30, 2020

US Sanctions Must End Now

Sanctions are war. They may not instantly shred flesh the way bombs and bullets do, but they kill and maim nonetheless. Subjecting people to such cruelties is indefensible in ordinary times: in the pre-COVID-19 world, America’s economic warfare was killing cancer patients in Iran, keeping Syrian children with cancer from getting necessary medicines, and, according to an estimate by two US economists, killing perhaps forty thousand Venezuelans. But collectively punishing entire populations during a global pandemic is perhaps an even more ruthless form of barbarism.
Read the full op-ed here.

"Biggest threat COVID-19 epidemic poses is not our regression to survivalist violence, but barbarism with a human face.” — PANDEMIC! author Slavoj Žižek writes for RT

March 25, 2020

Slavoj Zizek: Biggest threat Covid-19 epidemic poses is not our regression to survivalist violence, but BARBARISM with human face

The impossible has happened and the world we knew has stopped turning around. But what world order will emerge after the coronavirus pandemic is over – socialism for the rich, disaster capitalism or something completely new? These days I sometimes catch myself wishing to get the virus – in this way, at least the debilitating uncertainty would be over. A clear sign of how my anxiety is growing is how I relate to sleep. Until around a week ago I was eagerly awaiting the evening: finally, I can escape into sleep and forget about the fears of my daily life. Now it’s almost the opposite: I am afraid to fall asleep since nightmares haunt me in my dreams and make me awaken in panic – nightmares about the reality that awaits me. What reality? Alenka Zupancic formulated it perfectly, and let me resume her line of thought. These days we often hear that radical social changes are needed if we really want to cope with the consequences of the ongoing epidemic (I myself am among those spreading this mantra). But radical changes are already taking place. The coronavirus epidemic confronts us with something we considered impossible. We couldn’t imagine something like this to really happen in our daily lives – the world we knew has stopped spinning around, whole countries are in lockdown, many of us are confined to one’s apartment (but what about those who cannot afford even this minimal safety precaution?) facing an uncertain future in which even if most of us survive an economic mega-crisis lies ahead... What this means is that our reaction should also be to do the impossible – what appears impossible within the coordinates of the existing world order. The impossible has happened, our world has stopped, and now we have to do the impossible to avoid the worst. But what is that ‘impossible’? I don’t think the biggest threat is a regression to open barbarism, to brutal survivalist violence with public disorders, panic lynching, etc. (although, with the possible collapse of health and some other public services, this is also quite possible.) More than open barbarism I fear barbarism with a human face – ruthless survivalist measures enforced with regret and even sympathy, but legitimized by expert opinions.
Read the full op-ed here.

"Are your decisions made by your brain, or via the experience of the world relative to your body?” — DIALOGUES ON CONSCIOUSNESS excerpted in Aeon

March 23, 2020
You Are the World
For any materialist vision of consciousness, the crucial stumbling block is the question of free will. A modern, enlightened person tends to feel that he or she has rejected a mystical, immaterial conception of the eternal soul in exchange for a strictly scientific understanding of consciousness and selfhood – as something created by the billions of neurons in our brains with their trillions of synapses and complex chemical and electrical processes. But the fact of our being entirely material, hence subject to the laws of cause and effect, introduces the concern that our lives might be altogether determined. Is it possible that our experience of decision-making – the impression we have of making choices, indeed of having choices to make, sometimes hard ones – is entirely illusory? Is it possible that a chain of physical events in our bodies and brains must cause us to act in the way we do, whatever our experience of the process might be? In my conversations with Riccardo Manzotti, professor of theoretical philosophy at the IULM University in Milan, we have explored his mind-object identity theory, a hypothesis that shifts the physical location of consciousness away from the brain and its neurons. In Manzotti’s version of events, the brain does not ‘process information’ coming from the senses to create illusory representations of an external reality that it can never really know (the hypothesis supported by most neuroscientists and many philosophers); rather, the encounter of the body (brain and senses included, of course) with the world allows the world to occur in a certain way, to become an object relative to the body; and that occurrence, that relative object, is what we call perception, consciousness, and it remains exactly where it is, outside our body. Our experience, our mind, is the world as it is in relation to our body. And the ‘I’ is identified neither with the brain, nor more extensively with the body, but with our experience which is the world in relation to the body. However, if this is the case, if subject and object, or rather mind and relative object, are one in experience, does this not make it all the more difficult to explain our impression of free will? Isn’t it precisely our moment-by-moment awareness of making decisions that proves that we are separate and sovereign subjects moving in a world of objects that remain quite distinct from us and over which we seek to have mastery?
Read the full excerpt here.

HATE INC. author Matt Taibbi wins 2020 Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media

March 11, 2020
2020 Izzy Awards Honor Journalist Matt Taibbi, News Inside and The Center for Investigative Journalism
The 2020 Izzy Award “for outstanding achievement in independent media” will be shared between three recipients: journalist Matt Taibbi, the publication News Inside and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism. Longtime reporter Matt Taibbi has focused on media bias, government misconduct, and the presidential campaign, calling into question corporate and so-called liberal media coverage of politics. He is the author of the book “Hate Inc.” and co-host of the “Useful Idiots” podcast. News Inside was launched by The Marshall Project in 2019 and provides reporting on criminal justice issues for prisoners with articles written by current and former inmates. Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published 900 pages of damning messages last year between then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló and other top-level officials, triggering a mass uprising that led to his resignation. The Izzy Award is presented by the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and is named for legendary dissident journalist I.F. Stone.
Read the full announcement here.

New Video: I ACCUSE! author Norman Finkelstein outlines the obstacles to holding Israel accountable for war crimes at the International Criminal Court on The Real News Network

March 9, 2020
I ACCUSE! author Norman Finkelstein outlines the obstacles to holding Israel accountable for war crimes at the International Criminal Court on The Real News Network  

"A devastating personal denunciation… a thunderbolt in the form of a legal document." — I ACCUSE! review published by Jewish Voice for Labour

March 4, 2020
I Accuse! – Letting Israel Off the Hook
In his previous book, the monumental Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom (2018), Norman Finkelstein depicted the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, on the night of May 31, 2010, as an integral part of the recent story of Israeli atrocities against Gaza, ranging from Operation Cast Lead in 2008 to Operation Protective Edge in 2014 – massacres committed against an imprisoned population already suffering from a humanitarian crisis caused by a blockade imposed in 2007. Finkelstein described the victims of the assault on the Mavi Marmara – ten murdered, scores injured — as “the first casualties of the interment of the Goldstone Report” on Operation Cast Lead – referring to the backpedalling from that Report by the human rights community, including Goldstone himself, that had taken place even before his recantation on April 1, 2011. In its turn, Finkelstein claims in his Conclusion to I Accuse!, the refusal of Fatou Bensouda, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC ) — who evidently feared the vilification campaign experienced by Goldstone — to launch a full investigation into the Flotilla Incident “paved the way” for the atrocities committed against peaceful civilian demonstrators in the Great March of Return that began in the spring of 2018. It is precisely because the Prosecutor (as Bensouda is referred to in the book) does NOT situate the Flotilla Incident within the ongoing agony of Gaza that Finkelstein has launched against her, in his new book, a devastating personal denunciation. Essentially, the book is a thunderbolt in the form of a legal document.
Read the full review here.

New Video: LUCID DREAMING author Pamela Cohn interviewed on TRT World's Showcase

February 27, 2020
Pamela Cohn's Lucid Dreaming

"By depriving the WikiLeaks founder of his freedom, prosecutors in the US and Britain are intimidating journalists—and abetting torturers, war criminals, and kleptocrats everywhere.” — IN DEFENSE OF JULIAN ASSANGE contributor Charles Glass writes in the Nation

February 26, 2020
Free Julian Assange!
I declare an interest: Julian Assange is my friend. But I do not defend him because he is a friend. He is a friend because he is worth defending, because he disclosed vital information to the public on actions taken in our name and because he has sacrificed his freedom to do it. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has visited Assange in Britain’s high security Belmarsh prison and concluded that he is suffering “full-fledged psychological torture.” In addition, Spanish contractors working for the CIA have monitored privileged lawyer-client discussions with his defense team. Assange is not receiving a fair hearing in Britain. He is unlikely to receive a fair trial in the United States, when the prosecution knows all about his legal strategy while he knows nothing of theirs. The criminals who perpetrated war crimes revealed in their own communications documented and made public by WikiLeaks did not want you to know about them. Nor do they want you to know about those they commit in the future. To conceal the truth, they will put the truth-teller in an oubliette where he will never again discover and reveal anything. By depriving Julian Assange of his freedom and thus intimidating his journalistic colleagues, US and UK prosecutors are abetting criminality by spies, secret policemen, torturers, and kleptocrats everywhere. If they succeed in putting Julian Assange in a concrete cell for the rest of his life, it will give them a long breathing space to commit more crimes and amass illegal wealth in secret.
Read the full article here.

"Finley’s voice rages on, whether she’s tackling Trump and right-wing America in her performances, eulogizing the friends she lost to AIDS, or teaching performance to a new generation” — GRABBING PUSSY author Karen Finley interviewed in Interview

February 26, 2020
The World According to Karen Finley
Karen Finley had already made a name for herself as an artist in San Francisco when she moved to New York City in 1983. I remember her arrival on the East Village art scene—all of us do—because her work instantly stood out for its bravery, punk-rock vitality, and breakthrough radicalism. I saw her perform on stage at the downtown club Danceteria one night in the mid-’80s and was blown away by her ability to inject passion, humor, honesty, and aggravation into one of her signature monologues, set to a disco beat. Finley has always been able to turn up the temperature of the room to boiling. Of course, it wasn’t just New York artists who took notice of her raw, uninhibited performance works, which covered politics, sex, and feminism, and which often involved her stripping down to her bare skin. In 1990, in a piece called “We Keep Our Victims Ready,” she famously smeared chocolate on her nude body at Lincoln Center to prompt questions about sexual violence and the degradation of women. Soon after that, Senator Jesse Helms went on a full-scale attack of her work, and that of three other NEA grant recipients, leading the National Endowment of the Arts to rescind her grant with the charge of “indecency.” This attempt by Washington to censor the arts forever changed the structure of public funding in the United States. Over the next eight years, Finley fought her way to the Supreme Court. She lost that suit but championed the freedom of artists and their voices and bodies the entire way. (She even posed, covered in chocolate, for Playboy in 1993 to draw attention to the hypocrisy coming out of the nation’s capital.) Finley was an early pioneer of interdisciplinary art, working as she did in performance, music, graphic texts, sculpture, installation, poetry, and drawing—all in the spirit of a public conversation. In 1990, she mounted her poem, “The Black Sheep,” cast in bronze right at the corner of Manhattan’s First Avenue and Houston Street. “We are the sheep with no shepherd,” she wrote. “We are the sheep with no straight and narrow. We are sheep who take the dangerous pathway thru the mountain range to get to the other side of our soul.” This was the first time I had witnessed an experimental artwork taken seriously by the general public. Everyone who rode the subway on the Lower East Side engaged with her piece, and we were its subject—all of us who came to New York City in the late 1970s and early ’80s looking for a place to belong. We had, she was telling us, found it. Today, Finley’s voice rages on, whether she’s tackling Trump and right-wing America in her performances, eulogizing the friends she lost to AIDS, or teaching performance to a new generation of New Yorkers at NYU. I have always thought of her work as a kind of panacea for society. It’s fitting, then, that we met at a place called Remedy Diner on Houston Street to have this conversation.
Read the full interview here.

"One of the most poignant, searing, and, at times, deadpan critiques of the United States and its mass media that I have ever read... An extraordinary and unorthodox travelogue.” — EXILE reviewed by the Los Angeles Review of Books

February 12, 2020
A Personal Journey: On "Exile: Rejecting America and Finding the World"
ONE WAY TO LOSE a popularity contest in the United States is to mention in polite company — who may be chatting about, say, the impeachment or the Mueller investigation — the numerous ways the United States has meddled in the affairs of other countries throughout many years. Rigging elections might be the most benign offense on a list that includes engineering military coups, forcing economic policies beneficial to corporations, or blasting another country to bits. And if you mention any of these truths, and the wrong person is in the crowd, there is a chance that the rebuttal will be the following old insult: if you don’t like the country, why don’t you just leave? Belén Fernández did just that. And it was no whim. As she explains in her book Exile: Rejecting America and Finding the World, she left because the United States is, as she writes, a “large-scale lab experiment on how to best crush the human soul.” The book carries the momentum of that very sentence, as Fernández relates more than 15 years spent journeying through Lebanon, Honduras, Turkey, Italy, and other places. The result is one of the most poignant, searing, and, at times, deadpan critiques of the United States and its mass media that I have ever read. Fernández begins by describing her upbringing in the United States, including debilitating panic attacks that persisted into her university years. She attributed the panic attacks to “the fear that no one would help me — hardly an irrational sentiment in a system predicated on individual isolation and general estrangement from humanity.” This led to her 2003 departure from the United States, for good, with no other plan but just to get out. She left and never came back. The result is an extraordinary and unorthodox travelogue.
Read the full review here.

"The justice system has been perverted for blatantly political purposes and a neoliberal social and economic agenda is now being imposed on the Brazilian people." — IN SPITE OF YOU editor Conor Foley quoted in the Humanist

February 6, 2020
Dreams of Dictatorship and the Nightmare of Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro
A collection of essays titled In Spite of You: Bolsonaro and the New Brazilian Resistance edited by Conor Foley, a professor of Law and International Relations at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, was published by OR Books in 2019. Foley told the Humanist there were two urgent goals for the book, which was conceived and published within a span of only five months. First, to “tell an English-speaking audience what had actually happened in 
Brazil, to contextualize Bolsonaro’s victory and discuss its significance.” Second, “to give a voice to those involved in the fight against him: political activists such as Dilma Rouseff and Fernando Haddad, feminists such as Marcia Tiburi, and others in the anti-racist movement, land rights and indigenous rights activists, human rights campaigners, and those working for justice reform.” The book’s title was inspired by the protest song “Apesar de Você” (“In spite of you” when translated from Portuguese into English) by Brazilian musician and poet Chico Buarque. The song criticizes the country’s military dictatorship, the same regime Bolsonaro so fondly reminisces about. “[‘Apesar de Você’] became a rallying cry for the campaign for the return of democracy, and its message of defiance—in spite of you there will be another day—seemed appropriate to the mood of the time that we were thinking about producing the book,” Foley says.
Read the full article here.

"How do you balance the importance of sharing our experiences with the system—giving it a human face—with fear of putting our loved ones at risk?” — ABOLISH ICE author Natascha Elena Uhlmann asks Selena Gomez about immigration activism for DAZED

February 6, 2020
A new decade, a new Selena Gomez: Back with a new album, the pop star goes deep on immigration activism, Latin identity, and her favourite karaoke song, with questions from the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Jim Jarmusch, and Yara Shahidi—plus, her biggest fans in the world
Natascha Elena Uhlmann: Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your own family’s experiences with immigration. My family has felt the pain of borders and it terrifies me how hostile the world has become since then. How do you balance the importance of sharing our experiences with the system—giving it a human face—with fear of putting our loved ones at risk? Selena Gomez: It’s definitely frightening, but I think sometimes you have to do the things that scare you in order to shake people up. My goal was to simply humanise my people, because they were being called aliens, criminals, and I can’t even imagine what these kids being separated from their families are going through. It’s something that is going to traumatise them for the rest of their lives. And it just seems animalistic; it is scary but I think it needs to be talked about, so that’s where my heart was coming from when I signed on to do a project (Living Undocumented) that addressed such a big issue.
Read the full interview here.

"Labour’s rival factions do share common ground, which is where the party’s future lies” — PEOPLE GET READY! coauthor Christine Berry writes in the Guardian

February 5, 2020
Labour's rival factions do share common ground, which is where the party's future lies
Despite Labour’s intensely factional politics, there’s a consensus quietly brewing in the party. It looks something like this: our economy and our politics are broken, but we can’t respond by resurrecting the models of the past. Instead, Labour must take seriously the sense of disempowerment that drove the Brexit vote and embrace more localised, participatory ways of running the economy and doing politics. Rather than imposing change from above, this new politics must be built through grassroots organising and imaginative local government, paving the way for national success. You could call this consensus “participatory socialism”.
Read the full piece here.

"'In Spite of You' lays bare the dire consequences for [Brazil] following Jair Bolsonaro’s election” — IN SPITE OF YOU reviewed by Morning Star

January 29, 2020
Troubling times in Brazil
"In Spite of You" provides a valuable insight into the rise of Bolsonaro and the state of Brazilian politics in 2020. For those seeking to avert the global upswing of the racist, xenophobic, socially conservative and neoliberal far right, these are crucial topics to explore.
Read the full review here.

"At this moment I am reading Ariel Dorfman’s extraordinary new novel, 'Cautivos.' Even though it is set in the final years of the 16th century, in the world of Cervantes, it is a novel about today and the discovery of song in the dark times.” — Colum McCann recommends CAUTIVOS in the Chicago Tribune

January 27, 2020
Feeling overwhelmed by the news? Authors recommend books to read as we enter a new decade
Bertholt [sic] Brecht once asked if there would be singing in the dark times and he concluded that yes there would be singing, because we would have to sing about the dark times. I think it is one of the primary jobs of literature to excavate the heartbreak of the world around us. In the course of that excavation we, as readers, try to find some beauty in the rubble. We sift through and find consolation, sometimes in the smallest, most unlikely moments. I find this music in just about every book I read. At this moment I am reading Ariel Dorfman’s extraordinary new novel, “Cautivos.” Even though it is set in the final years of the 16th century, in the world of Cervantes, it is a novel about today and the discovery of song in the dark times. Great books open up the lungs of the world for us. We are never the same when we read the right words put down in the correct order. I constantly turn to writers like Michael Ondaatje, John Berger, Louise Erdrich and so many others. Literature is where I find my faith. — Colum McCann, author of “Apeirogon”
Read the full list of recommendations here.

"Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks Debate the Internalist View of Consciousness” — DIALOGUES ON CONSCIOUSNESS excerpted on Lit Hub

January 24, 2020
How, Exactly, Does Neuroscience Account for the Way We See Color?
There are no colors out there in the world, Galileo tells us. They only exist in our heads. In the first of our dialogues about the mind, Riccardo Manzotti and I established that by “consciousness” we mean the feeling that accompanies our being alive, the fact that we experience the world rather than simply interacting with it mechanically. We also touched on the problem that traditional science cannot explain this fact and does not include it in its account of reality. That said, there is a dominant understanding of where consciousness happens: in the brain. This “internalist,” or inside-the-head, approach shares Galileo’s view that color, smell, and sound do not exist in the outside world but only in the brain. “If you could perceive reality as it really is,” says leading neuroscientist David Eagleman, “you would be shocked by its colorless, odorless, tasteless silence.” What Riccardo and I want to do today is ask how, in the neuroscientists’ opinion, we see color. What are the implications of believing that this experience is all inside our heads? And how have scientists reacted to the difficulties they have encountered verifying this theory?
Read the full excerpt here.

"O’Neil opens up a space to redirect the energies of anger and guilt away from ourselves and toward the systems of oppression.” — WELCOME TO HELL WORLD reviewed by Full Stop

January 22, 2020
Welcome to Hell World – Luke O’Neil
The result, if you really dig down to the very core of that what-the-fuck moment that happens again and again throughout the book, is not a sense of morbid delight or nihilistic surrender but rather a fragile, translucent shard of hope. It’s small and it’s tender and I certainly wouldn’t go digging around too hard just yet in the hope of holding it in your hands, but it’s there all the same. And at no time is this pathetic little scrap more apparent than in that brief moment when O’Neil lays out a story about baby jails or the Sackler family or fucking Amazon and it hits you, yes, this whole thing is unbelievable. You’re not weak or subpar or unfit for the game, it is being played under conditions objectively terrible and cruel. Moreover, the rules are designed to hide the fact, to pathologize the suffering as a failure of the individual. In acknowledging this, O’Neil opens up a space to redirect the energies of anger and guilt away from ourselves and toward the systems of oppression. Which is to say, O’Neil might have no answers here, but at least he’s figuring out what, and more importantly who, to ask.
Read the full review here.

New Video: SURF, SWEAT AND TEARS by Andy Martin

January 22, 2020
Coming Soon: SURF, SWEAT AND TEARS by Andy Martin

"Radical demystification of Daniel Defoe’s iconic work” — CRUSOE AND HIS CONSEQUENCES reviewed by Morning Star

January 22, 2020
Radical demystification of Daniel Defoe’s iconic work
Dunkerley delivers an informative contextual account of the author of this fictional autobiography. The “hyperactive” Defoe turned his prodigious energies to mercantile trade as wine merchant, brickyard owner, journalist, novelist and as both government critic and spy-provocateur. For his Whig masters he was “a radical star.” In appraising what is unquestionably Defoe’s finest poem, his Satyr on The True-Born Englishman, where, after describing the mixture of races that fuel our “native” bloodline, he concludes: “From this Amphibious, ill-born mob began/That vain ill-natured thing, an Englishman,” Dunkerley believes he mirrors not only his own times but “the age of UKIP, the DUP and Brexit.”

Read the full review here.

"A lot of times you have to censor yourself if you’re writing for a big outlet, you can’t literally just say 'This is fucking terrible. These people are vampire ghouls and they deserve to die,' you know?"—Luke O'Neil, author of WELCOME TO HELL WORLD, interviewed by The Alternative

January 22, 2020
Interview: Luke O’Neil Author of ‘Hell World’
"Luke O’Neil is one of my favorite writers and journalists. I guess that’s not a mainstream pick because he hasn’t written any famous novels or won any big journalism awards (yet), but he has gotten hate from the MAGA chuds because he wrote that people should piss in Republicans’ food in a major city’s newspaper, so I think that’s equivalent as far as I’m concerned. Luke is a longtime writer about issues in social justice, criminal justice, financial inequality, and American war crimes. Occasionally his articles are featured in big outlets like (insert corporation #1) and (insert corporation #2), but more recently he has been writing a weekly newsletter called Welcome to Hell World which presents stories and research about the many different issues and injustices that make living in America in the 2020’s such a hellscape, and delivering it direct to his readers himself. Just a few months ago, he compiled the best of the first batch of newsletters into a truly touching and emotional read of a book, which is also hilarious in the dark humor sort of way that the title, Welcome To Hell World, illustrates."

Read the full interview here.