— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for August, 2015

Counting the Cost – Black Monday: The great fall of China

‘This week, China, the world’s second largest economy suffered massive financial losses when trillions of dollars were wiped from the country’s stock markets. On Monday, Chinese stocks suffered their steepest fall in one day, with Shanghai’s main share index closing down at 8.49 percent. Dubbed ‘Black Monday,’ the effects were felt globally, with indices nosediving one after the other. Before Monday’s rout, more than $3.2 trillion had already been wiped off China’s stock market after investors, worried about slow growth, embarked on a selling frenzy. Chinese authorities have intervened by supporting stock prices, but despite spending some $200bn to stimulate the economy, Beijing has failed to stem the crisis. On Counting the Cost, we have always said that stock movements don’t tell the real story, and that the link between markets and the real economy is broken. On this week’s episode, we speak to Steve Tsang, a professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, to discuss how China’s economy is divorced from the real economy. Since China’s devaluation of the yuan earlier this month, an estimated $5 trillion has been wiped off global stock markets. Jolting financial markets, emerging and developing nations have been the hardest hit and have seen their currencies fall to multi-year lows. Albert Essien, the CEO of the pan-African bank EcoBank joins the programme to discuss the impact on African economies. Published on Aug 30, 2015′.

Het grote conflict gaat over mensbeelden

Jan Blommaert: “Een korte reflectie op de rampenzomer van 2015. Het mensbeeld dat ik hier centraal stel vind je vanaf de radicale Verlichting bij zowat elke gelijkheidsdenker, en dus ook (en wellicht in de meest heldere formulering) bij Marx. Het is ook het mensbeeld van de antislavernij beweging, van de vakbonden en van zowat alle echte bevrijdings- en emancipatiebewegingen”. (29 augustus 2015).  


‘Tariq Ali introduces and shares a programme he made about the life and work of Eduardo Galeano. Published on Aug 4, 2015’.

Electrosmog: How WiFi & other EMFs Cause Biological Harm

At the moment, Prof. Emeritus Martin L. Pall is a lone voice in the vast global desert of wireless connectivity . . . ‘Pall’s extensive research over recent decades (some of his peer-reviewed studies on this subject are listed in the final two minutes of this presentation) shows that: 1) Microwaves damage humans at levels far below present radiation limits, through mechanisms at the cellular level. 2) These biological mechanisms can – completely or partially – be behind growing “unexplained illnesses” like sudden cardiac death, ME, weakened immune system, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress, and increased DNA breakage, etc. 3) The effects can in principle affect all multicellular animals, and is proven, for example, in mussels. 4) You need neither New Age, tendentious science or conspiracy theories to justify this. The video is footage from Arne Naess seminar 18th October 2014 Oslo’.  

‘The conclusion to be drawn from Pall’s findings is that we face a new and increasingly present environmental pollutant. Some have called it the “21st century environmental bomb”, with implications for the environment, human health, construction of mobile towers, computers in schools, and handling of individuals presenting with symptoms of EHS. Martin Pall, Prof. Em. at Washington State University, has an impressive body of work. His first article on EMFs and their role in VGCC activation earned a place in the “Global Medical Discovery” list of the most important articles in medicine in 2013’.  

Capitalism is failing, and it’s time to panic . . . Postcapitalism

Paul Mason | Comment is Free: “The neoliberalist capitalist model has resulted in civil wars and economic disaster, and it’s only going to get worse”.

The English journalist and broadcaster Paul Mason makes a persuasive case . . . still, people in hell want ice water . . .  or, is Mason merely promoting his latest book???  In the Independent, John Rentoul writes that “Mason seems to me like the Martian in Bogdanov’s Red Star, stranded on Earth with a clear view of a different and better way of organising society, but with little idea of how to get there”.[1]

Rentoul’s reference to Alexander Bogdanov’s 1908 science fiction novel about a communist utopia on Mars seems somewhat facetious at first sight, but probably does Mason some justice. In his new book, Mason posits that “Neoliberalism is the doctrine of uncontrolled markets: it says that the best route to prosperity is individuals pursuing their own self-interest, and the market is the only way to express that self-interest. It says the state should be small (except for its riot squad and secret police); that financial speculation is good; that inequality is good; that the natural state of humankind is to be a bunch of ruthless individuals, competing with each other”.[2]  A succinct and straightforward description of the cut-throat world we live in today . . . Mason explains his thinking to Rentoul as follows: ” I think there are two belief systems inside the neoliberal elite. The one they converse with, tempered by social responsibility [and the one they use in private]. Blair and Clinton were neoliberalism: the pursuit of financial profit, combined with the trickle-down of some of the surplus down to the poor”.[3]  And going down to the nitty-gritty, Mason elaborates: “Neoliberalism opened up a technological revolution but it has created a dead end. Financialisation, which has too many syllables but is a new and controversial analytical category in economics, understands the creation of revenue streams to capital direct from people through interest, through credit cards, store credit cards. Our lives are financialised. Once you do that, and then you pump the system full of money at every crisis – elites decided there could not be a crisis, every crisis had to be met by expanding the money supply. So Greenspan meets every downturn with money expansion. They understand implicitly the system depends on the removal of social solidarity, so if you were now to have a Thirties-style depression, it would be much rougher than the Thirties. I covered Hurricane Katrina and what was striking was how quickly society broke down. If you pump money into a financialised system you raise asset prices to extreme proportions and wages don’t have to rise – that’s what creates the boom-bust pattern but it’s not a steady state, it destroys another part of the state. So my critique of it is beyond moral it is practical. That can’t go on and it doesn’t work”.[4]

[1] John Rentoul, “‘A Martian stranded on Earth’: more of the Paul Mason interview” The Independent (09August 2015). http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/a-martian-stranded-on-earth-more-of-the-paul-mason-interview-10446940.html.

[2] John Rentoul, “‘A Martian stranded on Earth’: more of the Paul Mason interview”.

[3] John Rentoul, “‘A Martian stranded on Earth’: more of the Paul Mason interview”.

[4] John Rentoul, “‘A Martian stranded on Earth’: more of the Paul Mason interview”..

Climate Change is a Hoax: Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms

Some time ago a research article entitled “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms” was published; its authors include such crazy climate luminaries like James Hansen and Eric Rignot: “Abstract. There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1 °C warmer than today. Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 200 years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge. Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability. Ocean surface cooling, in the North Atlantic as well as the Southern Ocean, increases tropospheric horizontal temperature gradients, eddy kinetic energy and baroclinicity, which drive more powerful storms. We focus attention on the Southern Ocean’s role in affecting atmospheric CO2 amount, which in turn is a tight control knob on global climate. The millennial (500–2000 year) time scale of deep ocean ventilation affects the time scale for natural CO2 change, thus the time scale for paleo global climate, ice sheet and sea level changes. This millennial carbon cycle time scale should not be misinterpreted as the ice sheet time scale for response to a rapid human-made climate forcing. Recent ice sheet melt rates have a doubling time near the lower end of the 10–40 year range. We conclude that 2 °C global warming above the preindustrial level, which would spur more ice shelf melt, is highly dangerous. Earth’s energy imbalance, which must be eliminated to stabilize climate, provides a crucial metric”.[1]

Talking about this new research article in Rolling Stone, Eric Holthaus declares that “[h]istorians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide”.[2]  Holthaus then explains that “Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, ‘This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding’. Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still ‘unclear’ whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon”.[3]

Michael Mann is the climate scientist behind the famous hockey stick analogy: “The hockey stick is a famous historical temperature plot that shows for the past 2,000 years global temperatures moved up and down very slightly (hockey shaft) but in the past several decades the temperature has rapidly risen (hockey blade)”, as expressed by the meteorologist Scott Mandia.[4]  In response to Hansen et al.’s new research paper, Professor Mann e-mailed this missive to the Washington Post: the authors’ “case is most compelling when it comes to the matter of West Antarctic ice sheet collapse and the substantial sea level rise that would result, potentially on a timescale as short as a century or two”, adding however that “[t]heir climate model scenario wherein Greenland and Antarctic meltwater caused by warming poles, leads to a near total shutdown of ocean heat transport to higher latitudes, cooling most of the globe (particularly the extratropics), seems rather far-fetched to me”, nevertheless conceding that “[w]hether or not all of the specifics of the study prove to be correct, the authors have initiated an absolutely critical discussion”.[5]  Hansen himself then merely stated that “[y]ou can see a lot of different points in this paper, and it’s going to take a while for the community to sort them out, but actually, the story is clear”, namely that sea level rise is “the big impact of human made climate change”.[6]  And, taking into consideration that about 71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and that the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all the earth’s water, Professor Hansen’s words may seem a bit trite but also alarmingly ominous.

[1] J. Hansen, M. Sato, P. Heart2, R. Ruedy, M. Kelley, V. Masson-Delmotte, G. Russell, G. Tselioudis, J. Cao, E. Rignot, I. Velicogna, E. Kandiano, K. von Schuckmann, P. Kharecha1, A. N. Legrande, M. Bauer, and K.-W. Lo, “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming is highly dangerous” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (23 July 2015). http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/20059/2015/acpd-15-20059-2015.html.

[2] Eric Holthaus, “The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here”Rolling Stone (05 August 2015). http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805.

[3] Eric Holthaus, “The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here”.

[4] Scott Mandia, “BOOK REVIEW: The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” Planet3.0 Beyond Sustainability (10 February 2012). http://planet3.org/2012/02/10/book-review-the-hockey-stick-and-the-climate-wars/.

[5] Chris Mooney, “The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future “The Washington Post (20 July 2015). http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/07/20/the-worlds-most-famous-climate-scientist-just-outlined-an-alarming-scenario-for-our-planets-future/.

[6] Chris Mooney, “The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future “.

The Construction of Nationalism and the Invention of the Jewish People

This is an old blog post, dating back to the heady days of MySpace Blogging . . . first posted on 19 November 2009.

The concept of nationalism has held sway over people’s imaginations for a long time now, to some it might even appear that the notion of nationalism has been around since time immemorial. But, people should realise that the French Revolution (1789), the subsequent upheaval in Europe and the emergence of the Industrial Revolution are the events that have ultimately led to the formulation of the ideological position known as nationalism. Far from being primordial social units, harking back to time immemorial, nations are fairly recent cultural constructs which organise a society and enable the state, not coincidentally also known as the nation state, to exert control and impose rules and regulations on people’s thoughts and actions. Thinkers such as Ernst Gellner (1925-95) have produced insightful analyses of the processes which have given rise to the shape of the world we live in today as a collection of nation states. Gellner’s now-classic text Nations and Nationalism (1983) should really stand at the outset of any inquiry into the phenomenon.

Gellner says that ‘nationalism is primarily a political principle that holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent’.[1]  But rather than turning this blog entry into an academic discussion of the merits of Gellner’s argument, I would now like to call upon the work of another author. Namely Benedict Anderson, who coined the phrase “imagined communities” in 1983. A Wikipedia entry states that ‘Anderson defined a nation as “an imagined political community [that is] imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign”’.[2]  Another Wiki entry explains that an ‘imagined community is different from an actual community because it is not (and cannot be) based on everyday face-to-face interaction between its members. Instead, members hold in their minds a mental image of their affinity. For example the nationhood you feel with other members of your nation when your “imagined community” participates in a larger event such as the Olympics [or football matches]. As Anderson puts it, a nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” Members of the community probably will never know one another face to face; however, they may have similar interests or identify as part of the same nation. The media also create imagined communities [such as the Tea Party-goers], through targeting a mass audience or generalizing and addressing citizens as the public’.[3]  The point that I am trying to get at by referring to such authors as Gellners and Anderson is that “nations” cannot be perceived as “natural” or even “organic” phenomena, but rather as contrived and constructed social units consisting of individuals who willingly become part of a larger artificial whole through the manipulation and management of larger forces and structures – leaders of men and their organisations.

This is the intellectual background against which Shlomo Sand’s unexpected bestseller The Invention of the Jewish People has to be evaluated: a ‘bestseller in Israel and France, Shlomo Sand’s book has sparked a widespread and lively debate. Should the Jewish people regard themselves as genetically distinct and identifiable across the millennia – or should that doctrine now be left behind? And if the myth of the “Jewish state” is dismantled, could this open a path toward a more inclusive Israeli state, content within its borders?’.[4]  Bellow is a clip of the somewhat clueless George Galloway interviewing Shlomo Sand on his show on Press TV (posted on 8 November 2009).

As mentioned by Shlomo Sand in the interview, many Israelis and Zionists alike regard themselves as the descendants of King David and his subjects. On the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Zionist author Daniel Gavron does indeed state that ‘most Israelis [regard it as] axiomatic that the celebrations for the 3,000th anniversary of the conquest of Jerusalem by King David mark a real and tangible event’, even though he himself doubts the authenticity of the event.[5]  In other words, the purely artificial unit of a “nation” in most cases relies on history to supply its base and justification. The French thinker and writer Ernest Renan (1823-92) supplied an intellectual framework for this phenomenon in delivering a lecture at Sorbonne on 11 March 1882: Qu’est-ce qu’une nation? or “What is a Nation?”.

A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One lies in the past, one in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form. Man, Gentlemen, does not improvise. The nation, like the individual, is the culmination of a long past of endeavours, sacrifice, and devotion. Of all cults, that of the ancestors is the most legitimate, for the ancestors have made us what we are.[6]

As a result, Leaders of Men cunningly manufacture and exploit “history” to mobilise their following, to mislead the hapless populace into thinking that they constitute a “nation” rather than a random collection of individual men and women arguably sharing some traits in common. For, we should not forget, that “history” as such does not exist either, but is constructed by historical narratives aided by material artifacts and imaginary memories of a past . . . In the twentieth century, two new nation states emerged in the Middle East, which exemplify Renan’s axiomatic proclamation: Turkey and Israel. The first is supposedly a nation state of Turks with a culturally and ethnically homogeneous population, going back centuries to the year 1071, the year when Turkish tribes first entered the Anatolian peninsula under the Seljuq Sultan Alp Arslan. So, it is claimed that Turkey’s population has an ethnic composition which is purely Turkish – “genetically distinct and identifiable across the” centuries. Still, for centuries after the Turkish conquest of Anatolia, its population was mixed, ethnically as well as religiously And, as I’ve explained somewhere else, ‘during the Great War, which subsequently became known as the First World War (1914-18) . . .  the Ottoman heartland, Anatolia, [still] had a population which was an uneven mix of many religious [and ethnic] groups, with the Muslim section being in the majority. These Muslims were however not all [ethnically] Turk[ish], even though [the Turks] constituted a slim majority. Anatolian Muslims consisted of Kurds, Arabs, Lazes, Muslim Georgians, Greek-speaking Muslims, Albanians, Macedonian Muslims, Pomaks, Serbian Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Tatars, Circassians, Abkhazes, and Daghestanis among others’.[7]  The historian Justin McCarthy, who is much-loved in Turkey for providing academic support for genocide denial, correctly states that ‘Anatolia remained a mix of Muslim and non-Muslim communities until World War I’.[8]  During the Great War, the Ottoman government instituted a policy of “ethnic cleansing”, which “purefied” the peninsula from non-Muslim ethnic groups. The most notorious case being the Armenian Ottomans who were removed legally by means of a ‘Temporary Law of Deportation’ (Tehcir Kanunu), issued on 29 May 1915 and in effect till 8 February 1916.[9]

Following the end of the Great War and the defeat of the Allied occupiers of Anatolia in 1922, a ‘”Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations” was signed at Lausanne, Switzerland, on the 30th of January 1923, by the governments of Greece and Turkey. The exchange was based on religion, and involved the Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey and the Muslim citizens of Greece’.[10]  There still remained other Christian minorities in the land, but the remaining population of Anatolia was subsequently nearly uniformly Muslim, but not necessarily of Turkish stock. The Republic of Turkey nevertheless emerged as a Turkish nation state in 1923. Government propaganda and social engineering subsequently transformed these Anatolian Muslims into Anatolian Turks, happily living in a Turkish nation state. This cursory descriptive analysis of the origin of the current Turkish Republic shows how the Leaders of Men in the case of Turkey employed a “a rich legacy of [constructed] memories; [and] present-day consent” to manufacture a population which was meant to be ethnically homogeneous. The religious component was cunningly  transformed into an ethnic qualifier – Muslim became Turkish.

The parallelism with Israel is striking, particularly if one follows Shlomo Sand’s reasoning. Jewish immigrants into Palestine, primarily sharing a religious affiliation but not necessarily an ethnic one, were moulded into a population group supposedly harking back to the Hebrews of ancient times – again “a rich legacy of [constructed] memories; [and] present-day consent”. King David and Sultan Alp Arslan providing historical precedents while at the same time being heroic forebears. In this instance, I would again like to quote Renan, whose words prove to be instructive and enlightening:

a nation relies on a ‘heroic past, great men, glory (by which I understand genuine glory, this is the social capital upon which one bases a national idea). To have common glories in the past and to have a common will in the present; to have performed great deeds together, to wish to perform still more-these are the essential conditions for being a people. One loves in proportion to the sacrifices to which one has consented, and in proportion to the ills that one has suffered. One loves the house that one has built and that one has handed down’.[11]

Zionists like to claim King David as their hero and true forebear. Dr. Edward D. Brotsky,  himself a proud Christian Zionist, for instance, states self-assuredly that ‘Jerusalem itself had become the religious centre of the Jewish nation when King David conquered the Jebusite fortress of Zion in the 10th century B.C.’,[12] elaborating on the myth of Jewish purity and seniority in the nation state of Israel which is at present illegally occupying east-Jerusalem.

[1] Ernst Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (1983), p. 1.

[2] “Benedict Anderson” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedict_Anderson#cite_ref-ic_0-0.

[3] “Imagined communities” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagined_communities.

[4] “Shlomo Zand, Author of “The Invention of the Jewish People”, at UC Berkeley” Palestine | East Bay http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/10/13/18625361.php.

[5] Daniel Gavron, “King David and Jerusalem: Myth and Reality” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (06 September 2003). http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2003/9/King%20David%20and%20Jerusalem-%20Myth%20and%20Reality.

[6] “What is a Nation? (Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?)” Nations & Nationalism. http://www.tamilnation.org/selfdetermination/nation/renan.htm.

[7] Abu Cihan, “Turkey, Armenia, and the Issue of Genocide” MySpace Blogs (19 December 2008). http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=95425702&blogId=463027851.

[8] Justin McCarthy, Muslim and Minorities: the Population of Ottoman Anatolia and the End of the Empire (New York: NYU Press, 1983), p. 1.

[9] “Tehcir Kanunu” Vikipedi. http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tehcir_yasas%C4%B1.

[10] “Population exchange between Greece and Turkey” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_exchange_between_Greece_and_Turkey.

[11] “What is a Nation? (Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?)”.

[12] Edward D. Brotsky, “Part Five: Religious” CHRISTIAN ZIONISM. http://christianactionforisrael.org/judeochr/radio.html.