Heads of state of 15 Caribbean nations will gather in St Vincent on Monday to unveil a plan demanding reparations from Europe for the enduring suffering inflicted by the Atlantic slave trade.

In an interview with the Guardian, Sir Hilary Beckles, who chairs the reparations task force charged with framing the 10 demands, said the plan would set out areas of dialogue with former slave-trading nations including the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. He dismissed claims that the Caribbean nations were attempting to extract vast sums from European taxpayers, insisting that money was not the main objective.

[…]

One of the most important, and most contentious, demands will be for European countries to issue an unqualified apology for what they did in shipping millions of men, women and children from Africa to the Caribbean and America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Beckles was scathing of European leaders who have issued statements of regret about slavery, including Tony Blair who in 2007, as UK prime minister, said the slave trade was a matter of “deep sorrow and regret”.

“It was disgraceful to speak of regret rather than to apologise,” Beckles said. “That was a disrespectful act on Blair’s part as it implied that nothing can be done about it – ‘Take our expression of regret and go away’.”

Ed Pilkington, “Caribbean nations prepare demand for slavery reparations,” The Guardian, March 10, 2014

This is great. We’ve done a lousy job in colonial nations of addressing the legacy of European invasion and brutality, but, for the most part, we do tend to acknowledge the existence of a continuing problem. Back in Europe, however, it looks a lot like the states that began it all and profited most from it are happy to pretend that colonialism is ancient history, and that their role and responsibility lies in times long since passed. 

Also, we get this charming anecdote:

For Beckles, a historian who is pro-vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies in Barbados, the reparations issue is personal. His great-great-grandparents were slaves on the Barbadian plantation owned by ancestors of the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Beckles’s great-great-grandmother was herself a Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch, who plays a plantation owner in the Oscar-winning film 12 Years A Slave, has said he took on a previous role as the abolitionist William Pitt the Younger as a “sort of apology” for his family’s involvement in the trade.

Gosh, that was big of him. 


ANNOUNCEMENT!
Official tour dates:
May 5: Seoul
May 8: Fukuoka
May 11: Hiroshima
May 13: Kochi
May 15: Okayama
May 16: Osaka
May 21: Kyoto
May 23: Nagoya
May 25: Tokyo
June 3: Sydney
ENDS

ANNOUNCEMENT!

Official tour dates:

  • May 5: Seoul
  • May 8: Fukuoka
  • May 11: Hiroshima
  • May 13: Kochi
  • May 15: Okayama
  • May 16: Osaka
  • May 21: Kyoto
  • May 23: Nagoya
  • May 25: Tokyo
  • June 3: Sydney

ENDS


I really wish, instead of carrying articles about hicks in the middle of nowhere acting like idiots, foreign press would run stories like:
Australian Man Is Complete Pussy: Currently Hiding In Other Room Because He’s Afraid Cockroach Might Be One Of The Flying Ones
Australian Man Is Glad Winter Is Here Because Now He Can Wear That Nice New Sweater He Bought And Drink Hot Cocoa
Australian Man Worries About The Future And Constantly Wonders Whether He Is Doing The Right Thing
(Story here, if you must read it. But don’t.)

I really wish, instead of carrying articles about hicks in the middle of nowhere acting like idiots, foreign press would run stories like:

  • Australian Man Is Complete Pussy: Currently Hiding In Other Room Because He’s Afraid Cockroach Might Be One Of The Flying Ones
  • Australian Man Is Glad Winter Is Here Because Now He Can Wear That Nice New Sweater He Bought And Drink Hot Cocoa
  • Australian Man Worries About The Future And Constantly Wonders Whether He Is Doing The Right Thing

(Story here, if you must read it. But don’t.)


There was the general squalor of the ghetto, which got aired out in early songs like Run-DMC’s first hit, “It’s Like That,” or “The Message” by Melle Mel. But over time, rappers started really going in on specific issues. Crooked cops were attacked by groups like NWA. Drug dealers were targeted by KRS-One. Drug addicts were mocked by Brand Nubian. Ice Cube called out Uncle Toms. Groups like Poor Righteous Teachers denounced shady churches with bootleg preachers. Queen Latifah was pushing back against misogyny. Salt ‘N’ Pepa were rallying around safe sex. Public Enemy recorded manifestos on their albums addressing a dozen different issues. You could name practically any problem in the hood and there’d be a rap song for you.

Jay-Z, Decoded (2010)

Peep the reference to Queen Latifah; the thing about Jay-Z and sexism is that it’s always kinda been like his relationship with regional music. You know, whatever Jay’s embrace of feminism (which is real but not real enough to preclude him from “pull ya skirt down" lyrics) it really feels like it’s equally the result of business acumen as it is conscience. Just like Jay did songs like "Big Pimpin’" and "Snoopy Track" because he genuinely liked UGK and Timbo, but also because he recognized there was a new market opening up. And yeah, this is how this sort of thing happens. The Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson because of money as well as cause it was the right thing to do.

Who was it that first noted that you can tell the precise moment at which Jay’s perspective on gender began changing? (I remember seeing this in a specific review/essay/whatever.) Skip to 1:38 in “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)”:

Yeah, save the narrative: you savin it for marriage;
Let’s keep it real ma, you savin it for karats.
You wanna see how far I’mma go,
How much I’mma spend, but you already know:
Zip, zero, stingy with dinero.
Might buy you Cris’, but that about it.
Might light your wrist, but that about it.
Fuck it, I might wife you and buy you nice whips.


Wow, Bill turned out kinda cool, Sam grew up huge, and Neil… is exactly the same.

Wow, Bill turned out kinda cool, Sam grew up huge, and Neil… is exactly the same.


[M]ost conservatives are not libertarians, even if they like to use libertarian rhetoric now and then.

Think about it: the modern Republican party may be the party of deregulation and low taxes, but it’s also the party of social illiberalism. Someone like Rick Santorum firmly believes that the government has no right to tell business owners what they can do in the workplace, but has every right to tell ordinary citizens what they can do in the bedroom. William Buckley’s God and Man at Yale was in large part a diatribe against the notion that colleges were teaching students about unemployment and how to fight it; but what Buckley wanted was, in effect, for those colleges to get back to their proper role, which was religious indoctrination. In its heyday National Review was a staunch supporter of free markets; but it was also a staunch supporter of Jim Crow — which wasn’t just about the right of white business owners to discriminate against blacks, it was about a system of laws designed to protect white privilege.

All of this makes no sense if you think of liberalism versus conservatism as a simple argument about the size and role of the state

Now, there are some real libertarians out there, particularly in the realm of economics bloggers, but they have no real power base. Even when politicians claim to be libertarian, there are telltale giveaways: the two R. Pauls, father and son, may be unusual in questioning the national security state, but they both have a remarkable tendency to cater to and/or employ white supremacists.

Paul Krugman, “Conservatives Are (Mostly) Not Libertarians,” The New York Times, August 17, 2013

This is really important in two ways. First, no, there are actually really very few libertarians in existence. They are entirely marginal to mainstream politics and very few people are interested in their ideas. The purest, most honest libertarians are fairly hostile to democracy, both because they recognize that democratic systems of governance are designed to act as a counterbalance to the power of the propertied (and therefore with the best opportunity to exploit property rights) and because the demos is actively hostile to their prescriptions, regardless of any conservative fantasies regarding “libertarian populism.” 

It’s no mistake that, of all the wacky ideological minorities out there — libertarians, communists, Five Percenters, LaRouchers — the only ones to get real play amongst the punditry are those who predominantly belong to the same social caste as political reporters: white, urbane, male, upper-middle class.

The other important point is that it’s easy to exaggerate the crossover between libertarianism and conservatism by pretending conservatism actually cares about the dorky philosophical arguments libertarians have regarding what freedom really means. It doesn’t. Our collective persuasion that it does is both a credit to conservative rhetoric and symptomatic of the way too many academics and political journalists think that just because they have libertarian friends, so does everyone else.


When we assume that boys won’t read books with girls on the cover, and then institutionalize that assumption by leaving the “girlie” books out of award nominations (as well as school wide reads, story times, etc.), we insult them. By suggesting that on the whole our boys have a limited capacity for empathy, an inability to imagine a world beyond their own most obvious understanding, and an unwillingness to stretch.

In the same stroke, we neglect our girls. Not because they can’t read “boy books” (they do and will). But because when they see those awards, they also learn something — to accept a world in which they are rarely the central players. They learn, at a formative age, that the “best” books are the ones about boys.

Laurel Snyder, “Boys Will Be Boys, and Girls Will Be Accomodating,” Medium, February 12, 2014

I don’t know a lot about what to do with children, which is one of the reasons I don’t have any, but I have been a boy who was keenly aware of the contours of gender, how fiercely regulated they can be, and how these lines don’t vanish at the bookshelf. That is, I don’t know how to make adult men believe they don’t lack the capacity for empathy, to understand and be interested in stories by and about people who don’t share their gender. How can I expect mere boys to do the same — boys who, unlike their adult counterparts — are not shaping the world so much as trying to understand it and sometimes, in a way I know well, trying to inure themselves from its binaries? 

The answer to that is, well, the plain answer is what Snyder says: essentially that adults shouldn’t be pushing children into conforming to geographies they are very cognizant of anyway, that maybe they can blur those boundaries. But the real answer is in the title of the piece: boys will be boys and girls will be accommodating. Which is true, and true in ways that extend far outside the library and far beyond childhood. “How can I expect mere boys…” I asked, and the proper response is we do so the same way we expect mere girls. And if I can’t expect children — boys or girls — to defeat the tyranny of gender normativity, we can at least suppose boys can be accommodating — in the way that girls and women are always called to be.


Bir Tawil or Bi’r Tawīl (Arabic: بير طويل‎ Bīr Ṭawīl or بئر طويل Bi’r Ṭawīl; meaning “tall water well”) is a 2,060 km2 (795 sq mi) area along the border between Egypt and Sudan, which is claimed by neither country, making it the only current terra nullius outside of Antarctica. When spoken of in association with the neighboring Hala’ib Triangle, it is sometimes referred to as the Bir Tawil Triangle, despite the area’s quadrilateral shape; the two “triangles” border at a quadripoint.

Its status as unclaimed territory results from a discrepancy between the straight political boundary between Egypt and Sudan established in 1899, and the irregular administrative boundary established in 1902. Egypt asserts the political boundary, and Sudan asserts the administrative boundary, with the result that the Hala’ib Triangle is claimed by both, and Bir Tawil by neither.

Bir Tawil,” Wikipedia

Anyone interested in starting a new country?

6
Mar 05

1
Mar 01

Yes with a but…

probably unanswerable question: does mandatory voting cause people who would be otherwise disinterested to engage with political issues?

Not altogether unanswerable, I don’t think; I’m aware, for instance, of a PhD candidate whose research suggests Australian swing voters (swing voters tending to be the least engaged with politics) know more about issues than one would expect. I do believe that mandatory voting does encourage a low level of political engagement from citizens who would usually have none. I think, though, that this is counterbalanced by a much lower rate of deep engagement in politics. By my read, Australia is more likely than many other polities to have citizens with a superficial knowledge of politics, but I think it also has a much smaller proportion of its population deeply engaged. This is a problem because deeply engaged people are the ones that actually exert power and come up with new ideas, and while it is a good thing for a political system to make it easier for the average citizen to be marginally involved, there are huge problems with one that discourages deeper engagement.

My argument is an institutional one, but I acknowledge that the causes are also cultural. I maintain that if Australia abandoned mandatory voting our turnout rates would not fall by that much because we’ve established voting as a cultural norm. Also, as I’ve written elsewhere, Australians strongly associate democracy with the act of periodically voting for representatives. I’m not saying we’re wrong about that, but it does mean we give short shrift to other important aspects of democracy, such as party membership or citizen engagement with policy formulation between elections. 



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